17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
MEMBERS of Parliament - Censorship of Mail Matter
– I request a little latitude in addressing a question to the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding the debate in regard to censorship which took place in this House a fortnight ago, a letter delivered to me a few minutes ago had been opened by the censor. I submit to the Prime Minister that this exceeds a breach of privilege and is downright contempt of Parliament by the censorship. This air-mail letter, which is addressed “ Mr. Archie Cameron, M.P., Parliament House, Adelaide.”, has been approved by a military censor, and has been opened hy the base censor. This has happened fairly recently, certainly within the last fourteen days. The Prime
Minister might inform the censor that this Parliament is supreme. The submission of a motion calling upon the censor to appear at the ‘bar of Parliament to answer for his impudence would not exceed the bounds of order.
– This House has constituted a Privileges Committee, to which has been referred, by resolution of the House, the matter of privilege raised by the honorable gentleman a fortnight ago. I understand that the committee held a meeting last night. My view has been, and is, that it was not my business to interfere with whatever practice was operating, until the Privileges Committee has reported to the Parliament and the views of the Parliament have been expressed in relation to the report.
– The right honorable gentleman made a similar statement in connexion with the royal commission that was appointed to inquire into the allegations in regard to “ the Brisbane line “
– The honorable gentleman is endeavouring to connect two subjects that are not related.
– The same state of mind was applied to a consideration of that matter.
– The honorable gentleman would do well not to have a static state of mind. I have only to say to the honorable member for Barker that I considered that, as a matter of parliamentary duty, the Privileges Committee was the body that should recommend whatever changes might be regarded as necessary. T shall consider it a duty to endeavour to have implemented whatever the committee may recommend.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that in the meantime the censor should . hold his hand?
– The question before the Privileges Committee is, whether or not what the censor is doing in respect of the mail matter of members of Parliament, is proper. I do not intend to be a judge, to determine, before the report of the committee has been presented, whether or not what the censor has been doing is a breach of privilege. That has not yet been established. It may be established; but until it is, I do not consider that I should give any direction to the censor. I ask the Parliament to have regard for the fact that it has constituted an authority to deal with this matter, by which act it has, temporarily at least, taken the matter away from the executive Government. I consider that, until a decision has been reached by the committee, I ought not to issue any directions which might effect any alteration. But I do undertake that, immediately a report is available, I shall endeavour to have Parliament give effect to it. Whatever the Privileges Committee may consider to be the privileges of this Parliament, I shall most certainly see that they are respected insofar as it may be within my power to do so.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the comment by the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Martin, in the Melbourne Age of Tuesday last, that shortage of machinery and lack of confidence among farmers have retarded production? Can the honorable gentleman say whether or not the Government of Victoria has asked his department to establish machinery pools in that State?
– I have read the comment in the Melbourne- Age. Any blame for shortage of machinery or lack of machinery pools in Victoria rests with the Minister of Agriculture in that State. All other Ministers of Agriculture have availed themselves of the Commonwealth machinery .pool scheme, and pools are operating very successfully and to the satisfaction of the primary producers in many of the States. Any backwardness in that respect in Victoria is due entirely to lack of foresight, or absence of desire, by the authorities to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the establishment of machinery pools.
Prices in Tasmania - Rationing.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture learned that, at the stock sales held at Latrobe this week, batchers offering prices in accordance with those fixed by the Prices Commissioner were unable to obtain supplies of mutton, and sheep had to be returned to the farms from which they had been consigned? Is the honorable gentleman aware that this position arose because the prices offering were as much as 6s. a head less than those that had been paid for the sheep, when bought three months ago, as stores for fattening ? If so, as in Tasmania alone of all the States the sale of lamb on the local market is prohibited, is the honorable gentleman prepared to suspend the operation of the price-fixing order in relation to mutton in that State, until a review can be made of the whole situation?
– I was not aware that the facts were as they have been recited. I shall ask the Meat Industry Advisory Committee to furnish a full report immediately, and shall do everything possible to improve the position.
– Will the Minister in control of meat rationing consider varying the relative values of beef and mutton coupons in order to ensure a greater use of mutton? At present, the coupons required for the purchase of 4 lb. of beef are sufficient to purchase only half a leg of mutton, of which a considerable quantity is bone, with the result that the public are encouraged to buy beef which we are trying to save for export.
– Honorable members will agree that the rationing system is settling down reasonably well, but I have no doubt that there is room for adjustment from time to time. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has just informed me that the Controller of Meat Supplies has been instructed to examine the very phase mentioned by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received numerous representations from producers, particularly wheat-growers, for increased supplies of superphosphate? What quantity of superphosphate is likely to be available to producers this year?
– The matter of supplies of superphosphate is linked with the problem of shipping. I shall obtain a full sta’tistical report from the ‘Superphosphate Commission, and shall then supply the details which the honorable member requires.
Coalcliff Colliery - Development of Leigh Cheek Deposits
– I ask the Prime Minister -whether or not, as the press has reported, the Government has permitted the Coal Commissioner to bring Coalcliff Colliery under national control. If SO, may the miners’ federation regard this action as an indication that strikes which it originates in any colliery will result in that colliery being brought under national control? Does not this exercise of national control signify complete capitulation by the Government to the demands of the miners, who have threatened industrial unrest unless the coal mines are nationalized?
– It is not the policy of the Government to nationalize the coal mines. Where warranted by the circumstances, in order to increase coal production, the Coal Commissioner will take steps to establish control of coal mines.
– He is now responsible to the Minister, is he not?
– He is, as is the head of every department. After all, responsible government in this country can be carried on only on the basis of ministerial responsibility to the Parliament. The series of questions which the honorable gentleman has put to me may be best answered in this way: The Coal Commissioner has exercised the powers vested in him by the statute in order to control the Coalcliff mine. That does not represent a capitulation by the Government to the Coal and Shale Employees Federation or to anybody else, but is merely action in accordance with the law of the land to permit the doing of that which is essential to the conduct of the war.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it is a fact that representations regarding the development of brown coal deposits at Leigh Creek in South Australia have been referred by him to the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner? If so, can he say to what degree the Commissioner has interested himself in the matter?
– During my illness my colleague received correspondence on this subject, whereupon he requested the
Commonwealth Coal Commissioner to take steps to carry out further investigations in connexion with Leigh Creek coal. His Chief Combustion Engineer is now in Adelaide, and is proceeding to-day to Leigh Creek with the Premier of South Australia. Tests have been carried out in connexion, with a nev/ seam which promises better results than have previous tests. Those tests were conducted at the depot of the Municipal Tramways Trust. The Coal Commissioner also had tests carried out at Newport and Yallourn in special boilers which had been converted for the purpose. I have thought that the report in the press this morning may not have correctly interpreted what the Premier of South Australia said in what appeared to be a somewhat contemptuous reference to the Coal Commissioner. It is only fair to that officer to say that be has given very close attention to this matter. The Prime Minister reminds me that involved in the matter of the development of the Leigh Creek deposits is the construction of an extensive water scheme, in respect of which I understand the Government of South Australia has asked for financial aid from the Common-^ wealth. No doubt that application will reach the Treasurer in due course.
“Pacific Stab” for New Guinea Forces - Africa Ribbon - Call-tip : Area Officers.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the issue of a “ Pacific Star “ to those members of the Australian Army whose service in New Guinea helped to save Australia from invasion, yet who are not eligible for the Africa Star?
– Consideration is being given to the matter.
– I have received a letter from a constituent, who was a former member of the Australian Imperial Force, in relation to the ribbons that are being issued to men who served in the Africa zone between June, 1940, and December, 1943. The writer states that men who have been discharged from the forces are not receiving the ribbons. Will the Minister for the Army look into this matter, and see whether the ribbons cannot be supplied to all men who served in that zone, whether they are still serving or have been discharged ‘(
– From the informationgiven by the honorable member it seem? evident that the person to whom he has referred is entitled to a ribbon. Instructions have been issued that discharged men- should apply for the ribbons to the Lines of -Communication Officer in the district in which they live. As soon as the ribbons are available they will be made available to discharged men who are eligible to receive them.
– Can the Minister for- the Army say whether it is a fact that a large number of men who were recently called up by the Army came fromArmy Head-quarters ? If so, does he consider that military area officers have now fulfilled their original function, and does he propose to disband them or reorganize their duties?
– The time has not yet arrived when area officers can be disbanded. -Consideration will be given to the representations’ of the honorable member.
– I ask the Attorney-General why it is now thought necessary to place freedom of religious worship, and freedom of the press, which British peoples have enjoyed for 150 years, in a state of constitutional purgatory for a five-years’ trial? If the Government regards these fundamental freedoms as being in danger of being assailed, will it consider the advisability of making a separate issue of them, and on a permanent basis, at the proposed referendum? Will it also consider the application of effective constitutional safeguards against the parliamentary abdication of control of regulations, to the whole field of regulations, instead of limiting them, as the projected amendment of the bill intends, and have them, too, placed on a permanent basis?
– I am upset that the right honorable gentleman should have asked this question. I had thought that he would welcome the inclusion of these safeguards, for which he had previously asked. The matter can best be discussed at the committee stage of the bill.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior : What is the total amount of salary paid to Mr. G. A. Gahan since he was first appointed to the position of Commonwealth Railways Commissioner? When does the present term of office of Mr. Gahan expire?
– I shall place the questions before the Minister for the Interior, and shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I have received from the general secretary of the Commercial Motor Users Association of Victoria, a telegram which reads as follows : -
Federal Cabinet in January, 1942, granted permission to transport operatorswhose vehicles were fitted with gas producer units to continue to operate under National Security Regulations. Victorian Director, Emergency Road Transport, has withdrawn permit to Victorian operators without any notice. We strongly protest this action, and urge these Operators being permitted to continue. Because coal shortage, railways unable carry many goods. Roads service carrying those goods thereby supply needs primary producers and aiding important food production. Strongly recommend recent recision of Cabinet minute 160 be held in abeyance.
Can the Minister for Transport give the reason for the withdrawal of the permission referred to, and the alteration of the original policy?
– I have received numerous telegrams similar to that read by the honorable member. The matter has been referred to the Director of Road Transport for a complete report, and I hope to be able to give a reply next Tuesday.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is a fact that members of cadet corps are at present required to pay for their own uniforms, at a cost of about £3 10s. each? Can he say whether representations have been madeby the Headmasters’ Association on this subject, and is it a fact that the Adjutant-General has recommended that acommando type of uniform, costing about £2 10s., shall be provided for members of the corps by the Government? If so, has a decision been reached?
– I think that I am right in saying that the cadets are allowed a very small sum, which does not cover the cost of the uniform. The matter is being reviewed, and I hope to be able to give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question on Tuesday next.
Alleged Breach of Regulations at Bankstown.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry yet conferred with the Attorney-General on certain aspects of a matter relating to the construction of buildings at Bankstown which I raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Tuesday night?
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is correct that hospitals are not receiving the benefit of the subsidy paid on the price of tea ? If so, will the Minister reconsider this matter with a view to the subsidy being paid to hospitals ?
– It seems rather strange that such a state of affairs as the honorable member’s question indicates should exist. I shall bring his representations to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs..
– The Stanthorpe Hospital is not receiving the subsidy.
– As the honorable member has mentioned a specific instance, I shall have it looked into.
– Can the Treasurer state why there is discrimination in regard to the price of milk in the various capital cities of Australia ? Can he say why producers in South Australia are paid less for milk delivered to Adelaide than is paid to producers in the other States? As it is rumoured that the lower price in ‘South Australia for milk is due to the quality not being so high as inthe other States will the Treasurer say who tendered such advice ?
– The price of milk in Adelaide had always been lower than in the capital cities. One reason is the specially favorable conditions under which milk is produced in South Australia. Another reason is that, generally speaking, the quality of the milk in Adelaide is lower than in the other States. Representations have been made to have the standard of milk supplied to the Adelaide metropolitan district improved. In the discussions that have taken place between Commonwealth and State Departments that fact has been pointed out. Recently, an application was made for a subsidy in respect of milk delivered to the city of Adelaide, and the Stabilization Committee recommended a subsidy of 2d. a gallon all the year round. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and I agreed to that recommendation. One condition was that an attempt should be made to raise the quality of the milk. It was also agreed that an extra1d. a gallon should be paid during the winter months. Although certain standards have been set down for milk delivered in Adelaide, I understand that they are not enforced. The contacts which the Commonwealth Government has made in this connexion have been with the State Department of Agriculture, rather than with the South Australian Government. I understand that consideration has been given to the appointment of a controlling authority with a view to improving the quality of the milk delivered in Adelaide, but I cannot say whether the Government of the State has considered it. Should that proposal be adopted, the Commonwealth Government will give further consideration to the granting of an increased subsidy.
– According to cable grams in the press, Australia has not been invited to the Aviation Conference, which, I understand, is to be a prelude to a further conference of representatives of the United Nations relating to civil aviation. Although Australia is vitally interested in this subject, it has not been invited to participate in the conference. Can the Minister for
Air say why Australia was not invited, and will representations from Australia be placed before the conference, especially as we have complete reports in regard to aviation generally, from an inter-departmental committee, which have not yet been made public.
– On the noticepaper there is a question which covers practically the same ground as that covered by the question of the honorable member. “Without anticipating an answer to that question, which is in the name of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), I can inform the honorable member for Balaclava that the matter is receiving the consideration of the Government, and that a full answer will be given probably next week.
Priorities - Adelaide-Melbourne Express -Sydney-Albury Trains
– Is the Minister for Transport in a position to advise the House of any decision which may have been arrived at as the result of the inquiries which he indicated he intended to make respecting priorities in travel between Melbourne, Albury and Sydney?
– Certain tests were to be carried out in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. A report has been received from the Commissioner in New South Wales, but we are still awaiting reports of the tests made in the other States. These reports are expected to be received at any time. There will be a meeting of the War Railways Committee next Tuesday, when it is hoped that consideration will be given to this matter in the light of information received from the Commissioners in the three States referred to.
– Is the Minister for
Supply and Shipping in a position to say whether his department has made, or will make, preliminary inquiries into the possibility of producing petrol and fuel oil from brown coal? I have here a full report from London of an inquiry into this subject, in which it is stated that oil can be produced from brown coal at a cost of about1s. a gallon. In view of the great possibilities of oil being obtained from brown coal, I ask the Minister whether some investigation of this matter can be made.
– I believe in pursuing all kinds of investigations along the lines suggested by tie honorable member, but I have to remind the House that the Government already has its hands full in connexion with the Newnes oil shale deposits. The Government has embarked upon a venture there which, as the honorable member knows, involves the expenditure of considerable sums of money. We have not yet reached a satisfactory -stage in connexion with that undertaking, and therefore I am reluctant to commit the country to expenditure in another sphere until I am convinced that we have made some real progress in connexion with oil from shale. Nevertheless, I shall refer the proposal to the technicians. In the meantime, I should be pleased if the honorable member would supply me with any reports in his possession. The matter will be kept under constant review.
– Has the Prime Minister read a statement by the migration authorities in Great Britain that they are ready to co-operate with the Australian Government in the sending of’ child migrants to this country? Has he also seen a statement by the Premier of Victoria on the subject, and will he bring these statements to the notice of the departmental committee on migration, so that arrangements may be made for bringing to Australia a large number of children of deceased servicemen?
– I shall do so. However, some better arrangement will have to be made for the transport of those children than we have been able to make for the wives of Australian servicemen. The prices charged for passages at present rule out the transport of children. Unless the Commonwealth Government, and the Government of Great Britain, by the acquisition of ships, or the establishment of a Stateowned shipping line, or by some other means, are able to check the rapacity of persons who are in the position to charge the highest prices for passages to Australia, it will be impracticable to do much in the way of encouraging migration. I am wholly in favour of the honorable member’s suggestion, and I am anxious to ensure that people will be able to travel in safety and at reasonable cost.
– Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity, when he is in Great Britain, to discuss the whole subject of child migration with the authorities controlling Dr. Barnado’s Homes and the Fairbridge Schools?
– It will not be possible for me to discuss every subject of importance to Australia during the time I shall be away. I shall have discussions with Ministers of State only on matters which involve inter-governmental relations. I do not propose to make myself merely an agent for eliciting the views of various organizations and institutions in the United Kingdom. The basic purpose of my visit is to discuss. matters with the Prime Minister and Government of Great Britain. The views of the various bodies referred to by the honorable member can be ascertained through the Australian High Commissioner and other Australian officials in the United Kingdom. I assure the honorable member that the policy of child migration to Australia has the warm support of the Government, and we are extremely anxious to. give effect to it at the earliest opportunity.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping favorably consider requests for making available more motor tyres and tubes to primary producers? In one place in my own electorate 5,000 cabbages were ploughed in recently because the grower had no way to transport them to market. At the same time, motor cars were being used to convey people to race meetings. In the case which I have mentioned, the grower applied over seven months ago for permission to buy tyres, but has not been able to get it.
– I am mindful of the difficulties of primary producers in this regard. As I said yesterday, the Government does not, unfortunately, control supplies of raw rubber, and those supplies are much restricted. I agree that primary producers, particularly those engaged in the production of food, should receive high priority in the distribution of tyres and tubes. I have asked departmental officers in Queensland, where the problem seems to be most acute, to give special attention to the applications of primary producers.
Debate resumed from the 9th March (vide page IISS), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - (vide .page 1027).
.- The question before the Chair is a motion by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that the Constitution Alteration (Postwar Reconstruction) Bill 1944 be read a second time. The object of the measure is, through the constitutional machinery of the referendum, to amplify and extend, for a limited period of five years after the war, the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. I have to admit with some regret that hitherto proposals for the extension of Commonwealth powers have not been favorably received. In fact, as one honorable member said only yesterday, the history of the Commonwealth is littered with the dead bones of rejected proposals. They have been resolutely submitted, they have been attacked, and as resolutely defended. Victory has more often than not gone to the “ cons “, but the honours of combat have gone to the “ pros “.
Some referenda, with which we need not immediately concern ourselves, have, in a manner of speaking, been carried on the voices by common consent, but that does not apply to proposals for the extension of Commonwealth powers. The inference seems to be that, in connexion with such proposals, the less that is said the sooner the matter is mended. It seems clear that argument provokes opposition, and opposition tends to bring about the rejection of the proposals. Prom one point of view that is not surprising - though it is regrettable. Every year new electors are enrolled on the register. Young men of 21 years -little more than boys - and at a later stage in the history of these appeals, young girls of the same age, were enrolled. It is natural that they should come to regard these matters of constitutional arguments as being outside the realm of their experience, and, therefore, as matters which they should not be called upon to decide. Acting on the wellknown principle that when in doubt one should vote in the negative, large numbers of youths, and others who were not youths, feeling perhaps that they lacked the skill to analyse the proposals, have voted in the negative, and for safety. Those who, with greater knowledge, have opposed constitutional elaboration have not failed to exploit that feeling. They have made all possible use of it. They have harnessed it to their propaganda, and with some success. Many people feel that an amendment of the Constitution is a matter for technicians. I do not say that I agree entirely with that view, but it is a very widespread opinion. To some degree, it is under’ standable; and it even has a logical basis, because the blasts of argument, meritorious and other, for and against amendments of the Constitution often baffle good judgment. There are other reasons why it is difficult to obtain an amplification of federal powers. One is the persistent opposition ,by State parliaments, and especially State governments. And this opposition on the part of State governments has not been confined to non-Labour governments. There have been cases to the contrary. On this point, I recall a cartoon which I once noted in a weekly paper. The cartoon represented an Irishman - why an Irishman I do not know - of somewhat bedraggled appearance in the early hours of the morning, saying, “ It is a strange and peculiar thing that you don’t feel the same vivacity in the morning that you do in the night previous before “. I say that it is no less strange and peculiar that when tuen are foisted unexpectedly into positions of authority in State governments, they do not seem to retain the same enthusiasm for amendments of the Constitution to amplify the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament as before. Another reason why it is difficult to obtain an amplification of federal powers is that the press generally is deeply Stateconscious. This is not surprising either. Newspapers, strangely enough, are usually little known outside the States in which they are published. Even members of this Parliament, although we meet at Canberra, and are under an obligation to keep ourselves more or less familiar with federal politics in other States, tend to confine our reading of newspapers to those published in the capital city of the State from which we come. Newspapers published outside our home State are scarcely known to the ordinary elector even by name. I should like to refer inquirers, who desire interesting reading with regard to the press, to the very illuminating speech delivered the night before last by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). “With this not very encouraging background the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) essays the gargantuan task of winning the approval of a majority of electors in a majority of States for the granting of extended powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. “Whilst I have much to say in approval of the Attorney-General’s effort, I cannot say that in this race he got away to a good start, although he is now running well on the rails, and is likely to win. He introduced a bill in this House which was not entirely free from platitudes. It gave an airing for the first time in history, in statute form, to the Atlantic Charter. It would appear that vague generalities like those appearing in the Atlantic Charter may be employed in an act of Parliament, if they have been popularized by people in such high stations that even their lightest word is deemed to be inspired. But that was not this bill; it was the first of three. Then came the Constitution Convention. Seldom have so many men been assembled in one gathering who knew so little about the subject to be discussed. In this respect the AttorneyGeneral displayed something of the wisdom of the serpent. He, not unnaturally, decided to have the appearance of representation, but not too many competitors in the actual field of knowledge. His own pre-eminence, of course, could not be challenged. The one man who could possibly challenge it, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), was likely to be found hovering in the wings, determined not to commit himself whatever happened. Possibly, there is something of the wisdom of the serpent in evidence here, too, because he has now committed himself to an amendment as long as a wet week, his clear objective being to destroy or discredit the bill. As a matter of fact he has moved that the bill be withdrawn; and such withdrawal usually means the destruction or, at least, emasculation of the bill. The Leader of the Opposition seems to hope that the cataclysm of the 21st August last may be bridged in part by the referendum. There is ample precedent for that hope, because in 1910 the Labour party was returned by a very large majority, but its subsequent efforts to obtain endorsement by the people of amplified powers for the Commonwealth Parliament were none the less unsuccessful. To all of these appeals, at least in so far as they were clear and unequivocal requests for an amplification of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, I have consistently given an equally unequivocal answer in the affirmative. I shall do the same with respect to these proposals. I should have preferred the Government to seek fuller powers, not merely temporary in character. However, although the powers now sought are temporary and limited, they are, if I may quote the resolution submitted to a conference of the Government party, at least substantial steps in the right direction. Hansard has been rendered fragrant in parts, just in parts, by the speeches which for many years I have delivered in favour of amplified powers. I have delivered speeches also in various parts of the city, and country audiences who listened to me with rapt attention, and then went home, to put the horse between the shafts of the buggy in order to take the family down to vote against the proposals which I had made. I hope that the proposals of the AttorneyGeneral will have a better fate.
The question arises for answer, why? Well, the answer is simple, and it is not a matter for technicians; because I believe in an Australian Government. I do not believe that the part is greater than the whole. I do not believe that the tail should wag the dog. I do believe that somewhere in Australia, at all events, there should be a sovereign parliament, and at present there is no sovereign parliament anywhere in Australia covering Australia. It has taken much less than 44 years to prove that the Constitution is ripe for amendment. Many abortive efforts have been made to give expression to the desire of the people that legislation should proceed on certain given lines. On many occasions the High Court has pondered the Constitution and decided that the people could not have the things which they desired. In vain we have pointed out that the British Parliament exercises and enjoys these wide powers ; in vain we have shown that the New Zealand Parliament exercises these wide powers. In vain we have pointed to the South African Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, and certainly to the Parliament of Eire. It is probably true, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) stated, that in Australia, more than in any other parliament of this Commonwealth of Nations, the power of the federal or central body is restricted. I am a supporter of the bill for the reasons mentioned, but also because I accept the platform of the Labour party, and on this subject it is clear -
To invest the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited legislative powers and authority to create or re-order States or divisions with delegated powers.
That is the policy of the party. The Attorney-General had the honour of bringing before a recent conference of the party his own proposals, less ambitious than those introduced into this Parliament by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when he was head of a government, to make this Parliament of the Commonwealth the sovereign parliament with, of course, due respect for the functions of local government subordinate to those of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Attor- ney-General brought his proposals before the conference of the Labour party and the conference adopted this resolution - This conference, recognizing the importance of early consideration being given to the question of post-war reconstruction, welcomes the Commonwealth constitutional proposals introduced on behalf of the Labour Government by the Attorney-General on the 1st October, 1042.
We regard these as important steps forward for the necessary revision to the Constitution and the implementation of Labour’s platform, especially in relation to the winning of Labour’s ideals of peace, prosperity and security.
That was not the whole resolution, but it is sufficient for my purpose. I have no intention in the course of these observations to split straws as to how far we have power under the defence placitum. I have no intention to argue whether or not we have complete power in regard to repatriation or taxation. Although I may say that I think that sooner or later, through the process of taxation and other processes that are available to this Commonwealth Parliament, alteration of the Constitution will be forced upon the people, whether they are willing or not. The tendency will be to so strain the powers that the Commonwealth possesses as to make local government, as at present employed, impossible. I hope that we shall not be driven to that. That is not the way constitutions should be amended and powers amplified; such changes should follow not from stern necessity, but from exercise of applied reasoning to obvious developmental processes. I do not intend to go into those points. I make one remark in. regard to the High Court, not in regard to individual justices, because that would not be proper, but in regard to the court as a department of government under this federal system. I say that it has shown that it is not less influenced by the hysteria of war than are other persons in less highly placed offices. Thrown from its high perch by the blasts of passion and prejudice in times of war, it has not viewed the defence power in in the plain meaning of language; but under this influence of fear - or, worse still, politics - has attenuated the word “ defence “ much beyond its natural meaning. I would place it, if I had my way, out -of the court’s power to do that again. It is not my view that the Constitution should be interpreted passionately or with prejudice in exceptional circumstances. It should have plain words appealing to the understanding of plain and ordinary people who are not necessarily lawyers. The Leader of the Opposition says, “ Oh ! Of course that is natural. The honorable member for Batman is a unificationist. I am a federalist “. As to these phrases I am not affected by them. I am not a slave of words; I use them for expressing my thoughts. What I do want is effective government. I want rapid and reasoned response to popular will, and I want with it efficient local government also. I desire that Australia, which now enjoys a status of complete nationhood, should have a Parliament appropriate to its status. I do not underrate the importance of efficient local government. We have, as a matter of fact, throughout Australia a very efficient system of local government already in existence. It could be improved, I admit. If the Labour party had its way, that local government which we have would be extended into States or provinces, or whatever name you like to give appropriately to logically defined areas of the Commonwealth. I should like to say something about these States. They are very illogical. They are very absurd as a subdivision of this island continent. If we were subdividing Australia afresh, certainly nobody suggests, I take it, that we should follow the lines of the present States. It would be absurd to do so. Sooner or later, it should be obvious, the State boundaries will have to be varied. In the march of history the large States, notably Western Australia, and probably Queensland and New South Wales, will require to be reduced. We must build for the future, and deal consistently with the fact that future generations will make their own decisions and divisions; but at least we should not, as we have in connexion with the railway gauges, make it difficult, highly expensive, or even impossible for future generations to correct the obvious errors which we have made. When one looks at the map it is perfectly obvious that these changes will have to come.
The proposals which the AttorneyGeneral has introduced are submitted, and ought to be attractive, on the basis that they are, in the first place, to repatriate and rehabilitate our servicemen in various parts of the world when they return to their natural avocations. It may be that planning for post-war reconstruction is a little premature. We do not and cannot know what the issue of the war will be. We cannot tell how long this dreadful thing will last, but at all events some day, however remote, this tragedy will come to an end. I do not share the views of some others as to the transition period. I feel that, whatever we may do, some day in some way the price of human folly will have to be paid. Some day in some way it will be exacted from suffering humanity. If it is not grappled with by men of vision and ideals, if Christianity plays no part in this reconstruction, the suffering will be great and will be extended over a longer period. Upon this subject let me quote Professor Joad, an eminent English Doctor of Literature, who has written a great many interesting and stimulating works. In his stimulating and well-reasoned work Why War? he says -
It is difficult to resist the temptation to suppose that some ironical deity, having listened to the professions of statesmen in the summer of 1914, jotted down one by one the aims for the sake of which they announced their willingness to go to war, with a view to ensuring not only that these aims were not achieved by victory, but that their precise opposite was achieved. He may have wished to demonstrate the impotence of human beings; He may have wished to warn us against securing our ends by slaughtering our fellow men or He may have wanted merely to make fun of our statesmen. To facilitate a comparison between what occurred and what it was proposed and promised should occur, let us consider the war aims professed by this country. We fought and won the war to make England a land fit for heroes to live in, with the result that, once peace was concluded, heroes by the thousand started to rot in idleness on the dole; we fought and won the war to protect the rights of small nations, with the result that portions of nations were lopped off the parent stem to which they belonged, and arbitrarily grafted on to the bodies of other nations, the stresses and strains, grievances and resentments, engendered by this arbitrary operation, having bedevilled Europe ever since-
This was shortly before the present war. [Extension of time granted]- -
We fought and won the war to make the “world safe for democracy, with the result that democracy is to-day everywhere in eclipse, and in Germany, in Italy, in Russia, in Rumania,, in Yugoslavia, in Hungary, in Poland and two-thirds of Spain, three-quarters of the inhabitants of Europe are living under the rule of more or less open dictatorships; finally, we fought and won the war to put an end to war with the result that, in the year of writing, Great Britain alone has spent £370,000,000 on preparations for the next war, which is some £270,000.000 more than she spent in any single year before she finally put an end to war by winning the war to end it.
I may add that those quoted millions are the merest flea-bite compared with the annual expenditure which has occurred in Great Britain on this war as it has progressed. I mention that to illustrate the importance- of having in charge of the work of post-war reconstruction men of vision, with Christian ideals and a determination to do justice to suffering humanity. Let us hope and pray that the present Labour party will face the giant task ahead of it in the spirit and with the courage of the old Labour party. It is in order that we- may make ready to grapple with these problems as they arise that the Government asks the House to accept the bill. I hope that the motion will be carried.
.- The debate serves to turn the searchlight upon what surely must he the greatest anomaly in this democratic age so far as Australia is concerned. We find the members of this Parliament once again informing each other of the necessity for an amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution, and 74 of us substantially without ground for dispute that there exists a necessity for material alteration of that instrument. And we represent the whole of the people of Australia! We are their chosen representatives, and yet we know that those who have chosen us, no doubt aware that we hold these views, have time and again refused to give effect to that which we. as their spokesmen declare to be necessary. We know also that each one of us in his heart regards it as at least a possibility that the people will again, ou the occasion of this referendum, reject what all their chosen representatives, individually and collectively, say is necessary to be done. It would perhaps require a psycho-analyst to explain the extraordinary anomaly, but there it is. Surely there have been in recent years - in my experience in Parliament, something less than ten years - enough events of nationwide consequence to disclose this National Parliament as without full authority to deal with emergent affairs of great importance. The widespread suffering of the depression years, the terrible unemployment, the great financial stringency experienced by many thousands of Australians during that period, revealed this Parliament as without full authority to grapple with such situations. Our experiences of war have revealed this Parliament as not having done many of the things that ought to have been done in a world where war is still a possibility. The explanation of the failure to do some of these things, at least in part, is to be found in the incomplete authority of this Parliament and in the conflict of authority between it and the parliaments of the six sovereign States of this continent. As a representative of a sectional party, I know that thousands of primary producers have endured untold hardships, which were avoidable if certain steps could have been taken to organize the primary industries, and to correct the state of affairs which produced those sufferings. Notwithstanding the arguments of some that many things could have been done under the appropriation power or some other power, I know that in the days of those emergencies there were to be found enough people in sufficiently important positions to convince those in authority that this Parliament lacked the power to grapple with the problems. Surely, if democracy is to exist, if the system is to have an opportunity to function, it is essential that the chosen representatives of the people shall be able to deal with their affairs in the manner that the people would wish and know is necessary. The clearly expressed will of the people should be reflected in legislation; but often the Commonwealth is powerless to act. Countless times Commonwealth and State Ministers have acknowledged that certain proposals should be carried out, but that nothing could be done because either the Commonwealth or the State legislature lacked the necessary authority. Perhaps the Commonwealth could not undertake a project because the authority reposed in a State Parliament; and the State could not venture upon it because the Commonwealth alone could finance it. Often, when the Commonwealth Parliament has agreed that a national proposal should be given effect, constitutional limitations have barred the way. It is ridiculous to claim that we have a functioning democracy if the distribution of authority between the Commonwealth and the States makes it impossible for the people to express their will through their chosen representatives.
At this stage of the debate, it will not be necessary for me to examine the fourteen proposals in detail. Some of them, if granted, will enable the Commonwealth to provide fully for the security of this country and the needs of the people.. All honorable members agree upon the necessity to provide social security for members of the forces during the period covered by the umbrella expression “ post-war reconstruction “. Therefore, it remains only for us to examine an alternative method for securing the additional powers for the Commonwealth. The Constitution itself provides it. For a long time, the Constitution has been inadequate to enable the Government to control the life of this nation. Born in an atmosphere of controversy and indecision, the Constitution was bound to be incomplete. It emerged before many honorable members, including myself, were born. Those who advocated federation saw the need and the opportunity for Australia to grow to full nationhood, whilst their opponents retained the colonial outlook. The mind of the colonist is still clearly imprinted upon the Constitution. But the founders of federation did realize that the document would require alteration, and, therefore, they provided for the holdwig of referenda. Unhappily, the majority vote of the people is not sufficient, in itself, to alter the Constitution. A proposal must be approved by a majority of the people in a majority of the States.
Another method by which the Commonwealth may be clothed with greater powers is for the State Parliaments to refer some of their sovereign rights to the Commonwealth Parliament. No doubt, recourse to that method sprang from the rejection by the people of a long succession of referenda.
The Government decided to explore the opportunities offered by consultation with the States. Its first idea had been to hold a referendum, but wiser counsels prevailed. In November, 1942, there assembled in Canberra what has been described as the most representative convention since those which formulated the Constitution. All the Australian Parliaments sent delegates, and every shade of political thought found expression there. The delegates were not called upon to make a snap judgment, as the citizens will be asked to do if the referendum is held. The delegates were persons who had made it their business to participate in the government of this continent, in either the National sphere or the State sphere. The Commonwealth Government - the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) particularly - deserves congratulation upon the progress that was made at that Convention, because there was a spirit of sweet willingness to see each proposal from the other fellow’s point of view and to compromise. From that Convention emerged the fourteen points that are now embodied in the bill. They do not cover all the powers that I should like to see granted to the Commonwealth. They do not include all the powers that this Government would like to possess. And I am certain that they do not wholly satisfy the diehards of the Labour party. But when they finally emerged in an atmosphere of unanimity, the delegates from the States agreed to recommend them to their respective Parliaments. I cannot emphasize too strongly my conviction that the summoning of the ‘Convention was the proper course to adopt in war-time. Even if the country were not engaged in a struggle for existence, the record of the numerous rejections by the people of proposals for the alteration of the Constitution existed as a powerful factor to be weighed on this occasion. In addition, Australia is now encountering extraordinary circumstances. Hundreds of thousands of our men and many thousands of our women are in the fighting services, and their minds are completely turned away from the consideration of ordinary civil matters. Many thousands of people are distracted by the worries of war, including the safety of their kinsfolk. The war has completely upset the ordinary way of life. Those circumstances make it clear beyond argument that this is a time not to hold a referendum but to negotiate with the States with the object of achieving the desired goal. Honorable members are well aware of what occurred when the delegates of the States submitted the fourteen points to their Parliaments. Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria agreed to the proposals without amendment, although the Parliament of Victoria attached a condition that the act should not have effect until substantially similar legislation had been passed by the other States.
– That condition practically killed the whole scheme.
– I disagree.
– It did, because, in effect, Victoria reserved its decision until every other State had made its decision. Therefore, Victoria was banking on another State holding out. That happened.
– The AttorneyGeneral is entitled to his view, but I am entitled to state the facts. The Parliament of Victoria passed the bill without amendment, but attached a condition which it was entitled to attach.
– Victoria already knew that Tasmania had rejected the bill.
– The Parliaments of Western Australia and South Australia, on which the Attorney-General casts no reflection, did not accept the recommendations of their delegates.
– No, but the moment one State failed to pass the bill, the Victorian act could not come into operation.
– That is arguable because the condition imposed by the Parliament of Victoria was that the act passed by the other States should be “ substantially “ the same as the bill to which the Convention agreed. It is arguable whether the amendments made by Western Australia and South Australia were substantial variations.
– I am satisfied that after they were inserted the bill was not substantially the same.
– I have my own opinion. The obstacle occurred in the
Tasmanian Parliament. After the House of Assembly had passed the bill without amendment, the Legislative Council, by ten votes to seven, rejected it.
– Victoria knew that South Australia would not pass the bill.
– I still contend that South Australia did not substantially amend it. The amendments inserted by Western Australia and South Australia do not . preclude the Victorian act from becoming effective. The facts of the matter are too well known and too clearly defined to bear argument. The whole progress of lengthy and skilful negotiation in an atmosphere of compromise was nullified by the failure to convince two members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania that they should support the bill. The Attorney-General will agree that if two more members of the Legislative’ Council of Tasmania had voted for the measure, the condition attaching to the Victorian act would have been measured merely against the amendments made by South Australia and Western Australia, and would not have proved decisive. In those circumstances, it would have been politically impossible for the Parliament of Victoria so to interpret the condition, as to prevent the bill from becoming law. The whole scheme has been baulked by two representatives of the Legislative Council of Tasmania. Of course, they were elected by the people to make decisions according to their own judgment; it would be improper for me, in this chamber, to criticize their attitude and I do not propose to do so, although I disagree with it. But the defeat of the bill was probably the most extraordinary occurrence in modern political history. Tremendous progress had been made on a most difficult subject, bringing the Government within grasp of success, and the whole plan failed “by a whisker”. Now the Government has decided to stake all upon a gambler’s throw, by submitting the matter to the people who have rejected submission after submission. In the course of 40 years the Commonwealth has never carried a referendum on a proposal to widen the legislative authority of this Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the ‘bill was submitted three times to the Legislative Council of Tasmania.
– I know also that the Premier of Tasmania fought valiantly for the bill. The House of Assembly passed the measure without difficulty, and he persuaded the Legislative Council to permit him to address it in session. That occurrence was without precedent, and redounded to his credit. I greatly regret that his advocacy failed, but I am not convinced by any means that that failure’ must be regarded as the last word in the negotiations. I cannot conceive of business men engaged in important business negotiations getting so close to the attainment of their objectives, and then,’ at the last minute of the eleventh hour, turning away from those objectives and following a course, which, if the record of history be any guide, is foredoomed to failure. I put it to the Government that it is not too late to entertain second or even third thoughts about this matter, and to re-open negotiations. For the past decade negotiations have been going on between the Tasmanian Parliament and Commonwealth authorities in regard to many matters. When the late Mr. Lyons was Premier of Tasmania, he, with great skill, brought to the notice of the Commonwealth authorities the disabilities suffered by that State under federation, and although he, as Premier, had a comfortable majority in the Tasmanian Parliament, he presented his case not as the case of the Tasmanian Government, but as the case for Tasmania. On every occasion when Mr. Lyons approached, the Commonwealth authorities, he was accompanied by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian House of Assembly. It was recognized that the matter was of such importance that an approach was justified, not by the leader of the Government, but by the leaders of the Tasmanian Parliament, to another parliament which had superior financial resources. It seems to me that as the negotiations which already have taken place in regard to this matter have met with such a great measure of success in mainland States, it is only common sense to re-open discussions in an endeavour to reach an agreement with the Tasmanian Parliament. The members of the Tasmanian Upper House who, acting according to their lights, were responsible for the rejection of the Commonwealth proposals, were not members of the political party to which the Premier of Tasmania belongs; they were members of the party to which the Leader of the Opposition in this House belongs, and it seems that there is an opportunity for the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Attorney-General, who has played such a great part in this matter, to join with the Leader of the Opposition, and perhaps, the Leader of the Australian Country -party (Mr. Fadden), together with some representatives from the Senate, in making a more direct approach to the Tasmanian Parliament. It may be that further discussion, conducted with the skill and willingness to see the other fellow’s point of view, which characterized the Canberra Convention, will meet with the complete success which on the previous occasion was missed by such a narrow margin. I am sure that if the representatives of the Parliaments concerned were brought together in this way, the problem could be solved in the manner best for Australia, having regard to all the circumstances. Without seeking to reflect upon the Government, I seriously urge the Prime Minister and his supporters to consider the advisability of adopting this course of action.
What have we before us at the present time? We have before us proposals which have emerged from discussions between the representatives of the State Parliaments and of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am quite sure that no Commonwealth representatives, from either side or both sides of this chamber could regard these proposals as the complete category of powers which would be decided upon if the decision lay solely with Common.wealth delegates acting upon their own judgment and in the light of their knowledge and experience. These proposals do have the virtue of having been agreed to by the representatives of the State Parliaments; but the State Parliaments will not be the jury to which these proposals will be submitted. It was quite right that the compromises which this measure represents should have been submitted to the State Parliaments, because undertakings were given by representatives of the State Parliaments to recommend these proposals to their respective legislatures; but I am sure thatno one in this place would pretend that this bill represented a comprehensive list of necessary alterations to the Commonwealth Constitution. The bill does not propose to submit the list to a jury of the State Parliaments; it proposesto submit this categoryto the jury of the Australian people, and I believe that these are not the things that should be submitted tothe Australian people. This measure has a virtue only if it is to go before the State Parliaments; but according to the present attitude of the . Government, that phase has passed. This is not a category of amendments which has been found to be acceptable to the State Parliaments; it is not a category of amendments that would emerge from an all-party consideration of this matter, and I am quite sure that it is not the category of amendments that would emerge if expression were to be given to the Labour party’s policy. So, what on earth is the justification for thisbeing the formula for constitutional amendment? There is no justification for it. As a representative of an agrarian community, I find that there is no provision inthis measure for the exercise by the Commonwealth of any control whatever in respect of primary production. What primary producers need, above all, is an assurance by a competent authority that there will be a full disposal of all commodities produced, at priceswhich have direct relation to the cost of production.
– The honorable member means that the question is one of price at the point of distribution? I point out that both distribution and price are covered by the bill. There are many ways of so controlling prices that production can be controlled indirectly.
– I strongly deprecate the suggestion by the Attorney-General that production should be controlled by means of price fixation, because prices can control production only if they are moved between profitable and unprofitable levels.
– Not at all. The wheat stabilization scheme is an illustration of what I mean.
– Production can be stimulated by increasing prices, but it can be controlled in reduction only by fixing unprofitable prices. The AttorneyGeneral has mentioned the wheat industry, but how is control being exercised in that industry? It is being exercised in a twofold manner; first, restriction of acreage under war-time authority, and secondly, reduction of incentive to grow wheat by. fixing what unquestionably are unprofitable prices for wheat produced in excess of a certain quota. I shall not stand for a bar of that, nor will the primary producers of Australia agree that there is any justification for controlling production through the medium of price fixation. What the primary industries require to put them on a stable foundation, and to give to those employed in them that social security which, quite rightly, is sought to be given to the wage-earning section of the community, is an assured disposal of all commodities produced at prices profitable to the producer.
– The honorable member believes in stable prices for primary products ?
– That can be achieved under this measure.
– The point I am endeavouring to emphasize is that a stable price must necessarily be a profitable price.
– Of course.
– We can control the measure of proiit, but prices must be profitable to some degree. Once we establish under our system of freehold ownership of land, profitable prices the volume of production will be limited only by the physical capacity of the people to produce, and the Treasury will not stand up to that.
– Apparently the honorable member does not favour increased production.
– That is not whatI said. I do not wish the Attorney-General to twist my words.
– The honorable member favours the limitation of production.
– In this land there should be maximum production by rural industries, which, after all, are our natural industries and the foundation of our economic structure. I advocate profitable production. Of course, it would benefit me more politically if I were to advocate profitable production without limitation, but to do that would be dishonest. Once a certain volume of production is exceeded the excess must be exported, and, in respect to many of our industries, the producer cannot recoup himself adequately at prevailing export prices. A guaranteed price for total production goes hand in hand with the inevitable necessity for some control of the total volume of production. We cannot expect to give to the primary producers of this country security through the medium of stabilized prices, unless we have associated with such a scheme some form of control over the volume of production. In respect of certain great export industries, such as wheat-growing, the Treasury could not bear an unlimited obligation to pay a guaranteed profitable price for a vast uncontrolled production for sale for export at a time when world prices were very low. This measure does not permit that. That, unfortunately, was lost at the Convention. Had the original proposals been agreed to by the State Parliaments we should have been faced with the necessity to devote our ingenuity to the best means of improving an almost impossible position. Perhaps the wit of lawyers might have assisted us to overcome the difficulty. This category of amendments of the Constitution, which this bill aims to place before the people, will not meet the requirements of post-war reconstruction, and, speaking as a representative of primary producers, T contend that it omits something that is absolutely essential. It is a hybrid scheme. Whilst it may be very important to compromise with the State Parliaments, I reiterate that this proposal is not to be submitted to the State Parliaments ; it is to be submitted to the people. It does not meet what may be regarded as our own requirements, and I am sure that it does not meet the wishes of the
Labour party, or embody the requirements of the Labour policy; so what on earth does it meet? It is very foolish indeed to submit proposals such as these to a referendum. They should again be the subject of negotiation, as 1 still hope they will be.
– The honorable gentleman is saying, in effect, “ You are taking it to the States ; it is good. You then take the same thing to the people; it is bad”.
– I am saying nothing of the sort. The Attorney-General should not twist my words like that.
– That is what the honorable gentleman’s words mean.
– In the field of human negotiation one has always to consider the other fellow’s point of view. In the field of negotiation with sovereign authorities if one authority says, “ We will not accept control of primary production”, and another authority holds a different view, it is necessary to use persuasion to attempt to reconcile the two. The AttorneyGeneral knows, and I know, that that has to be done very frequently. But in making a clear appeal to a jury the Government can say, “ These powers are necessary to deal with post-war problems “. In such circumstances it is practicable to wipe the slate clean of compromises which may have been necessary in an entirely different set of circumstances.
It has been said, in this debate, that certain inadequacies in the referendum proposals should be remedies and that it is practicable for this Parliament to remedy them ; but whenever such views have been expressed the AttorneyGeneral has said, “No, there can be no additions or subtractions from the fourteen points agreed to by the Convention delegates, who, however, agree to them no longer”. Hitherto the Government, has considered itself anchored to the decisions of the Canberra Convention. It has declined to accept any fresh proposals, including some which are fundamental to the policy of the Labour party. Now, however, a break has been made with the Canberra Convention decisions, for certain amendments have been circulated by the Attorney-General which introduce completely new issues. One of these, which sounds attractive, is, in effect, that there shall be no abridgment of the freedom of speech. I have never noticed any such abridgment in this country. As one who has endured even the licence of speech on occasions, I say that there have been times when I would willingly, for the time being, have approved some limitation of freedom of speech.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– Interjections are distinctly out of order.
– My remark was, of course, jocular. This amendment is just so much “ boloney “. We have freedom of speech in this country and we have always had it. This proposal is just so much grease applied with the intention of launching this ship with the least degree of friction. I do not believe, however, that the people of Australia will “ allow their legs to be pulled” in this fashion.
– Is the freedom of speech to be for only five years?
– Yes, apparently as a kind of try-out. This is a most extraordinary proposal. The second amendment is to the effect that Executive actions which may follow the conferring of this additional authority upon the Parliament are to be conditioned by an opportunity for parliamentary review. Why on earth the exercise of the new powers should be restricted while the exercise of existing power is unrestricted passes my comprehension.
– The honorable member must object to the views of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I realize quite clearly that these two amendments have been drafted for purely political purposes. One of them is intended to snare the unthinking public into believing that under a Labour government we shall have freedom of speech for the first time in the history of our country. The people will not be misled in that way. The other amendment is designed to counteract a growing realization on the part of the people that bureaucratic control - I hesitate to use the hackneyed phrase - will be. continued after the war, only with the approval of the Parliament. That provision is put in lest the revulsion of the people against war-time controls should result in the defeat of the refer endum. We know that many controls are inevitable in war-time; but the people who suffer so greatly know better than we do that some of the controls have been exercised in an unconscionably harsh manner. Countless scores of people who will vote on these proposals will judge them not on their merits, but on personal experiences of war-time controls. The farmer who has been debarred from sowing as great an acreage of wheat as he desired to sow will say, “ The Commonwealth Government would not allow mp to sow all the wheat I desired to sow, so I shall vote ‘ No ‘ at the referendum “. The business man who has endured wartime controls and has been obliged to fill in thousands of forms will say “ The Commonwealth Government forced me to fill in these forms ; therefore, I will not -vote in favour of giving it more authority - not for even five years.”
– That is not what the people said at the last general election.
– The honorable member and his colleagues are doomed to disappointment if they expect that the people -will vote in favour of this referendum because they voted in favour of Labour candidates at the last elections. 1 know perfectly well that fathers who have sought the release of their sons from the Army will ,be disposed to vote “ No “ at the referendum. Those who desire the defeat of the referendum will exploit all these resentments.
– I do not believe that the honorable member for Indi will do so.
– I give the AttorneyGeneral and the House my assurance that I shall not exploit them.
– I suppose the honorable member is not doing so now?
– I am stating reasons which, in my opinion, will cause people to give a negative vote. This referendum will not be submitted to a court of qualified judges, or to communities which will bring informed minds to the duty of making a clear decision. The matter will be subjected to very human human beings who, day and night, have endured the war-time controls of a war-time administration. [Extension of time granted.]
– If the honorable member will support the proposals, I am sure that they “will be carried in every State.
– I am describing the atmosphere in which this issue will be determined. It is an atmosphere which, in my judgment, will produce a negative vote. Thousands of people will vote unthinkingly as I have suggested. But another very large section of thinking people, whilst acknowledging the necessity for substantial alterations to the Constitution, and perhaps alterations along these lines, will also decide to vote in the negative because of their basic political and sociological convictions, and because they believe fundamentally in the private ownership of property, and in private enterprise as distinct from the government control of enterprise, and government participation in industry. They will vote in the negative also, not because they do not believe that this Parliament should be vested with greater authority, but because they know that in the ranks of this Cabinet are men who have made it perfectly clear that their political ambition is to socialize this country as rapidly as possible. This section of the community realizes, too, that among the chosen advisers of this Government are people who, quite recently, expressed in terse form, at the Summer School of Political Science in Canberra, the opinion that many of our activities should be nationalized. I refer particularly to Professor Copland, who gave a whole category of activities which should he dealt with in that way.
– He did so on his own authority and as an individual, and not on the authority of the Government.
– That may be so.
– Then why attribute the views to the Government?
– These gentlemen are the chosen advisers of the Government.
– Numbers of them were chosen by the previous Government.
– True, but advisers have a habit of endeavouring to make their advice appropriate to the circumstances in which they find themselves; and some of these gentlemen have adjusted their advice accordingly. I have in mind opinions which have been ex pressed by Dr. Coombs and Dr. Lloyd Ross. The latter has said quite clearly that no man in the New South Wales Railways ever protested about being transferred from one place of employment to another, because he realized that he had security of employment. That, to his mind, was sufficiently important to cause him to accept compulsory transfer. Dr. Lloyd Ross applied that principle to the whole range of industry and said that in the post-war world those who desired assurance of employment and social security would have to endure a state of affairs under which they might be sent anywhere. Even the Attorney-General has been reported, rightly or wrongly-
– Wrongly !
– As expressing identical views. If the right honorable gentleman was not accurately reported I have no doubt that he will take appropriate steps to correct any wrong impression. Thinking people in the community, whose basic political convictions are against ‘any such policy, will reject the proposals at the referendum, not because they are opposed to the vesting of the greater power in this Parliament, but because they fear the manner in which any extra power will be exercised. For the reasons I have given I consider it highly probable that if the referendum be taken a negative vote will be recorded. It will be a stark tragedy if, at a referendum, this Parliament should be denied essential additional authority after the process of negotiation had carried us to within touching distance of almost complete success. I cannot put it too strongly to the Government that if, even after the passage of this bill, it would follow the course of action urged upon it by honorable members on this side of the House, and exhaust the still remaining opportunities for negotiation, calling to its assistance the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition representatives, it would discover that even the Tasmanian Parliament could be prevailed upon to change its views and that, thereby, success would be achieved. I urge the Government most strongly to adopt this course of action.
– The questions to be decided by this Parliament upon this bill are few, and simple. The first is this: Is it necessary that the Commonwealth Constitution should be altered so as to include powers additional to those already provided in section 51, in order that, in the immediate post-war period, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be able to deal fully and adequately with all the problems that will be associated with the transfer of a nation from a war economy to a peace economy ? The answer is in the affirmative. Every speech that has been made on both sides of this House has indicated that there is unanimity of opinion on that issue.
The second question follows naturally. It is this: What are the minimum powers that are necessary to enable the post-war Commonwealth Parliament properly to carry out its functions and discharge its responsibilities? The bill that we now have before us contains the answer to that question. It is not the bill which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) originally introduced to this Parliament last year. That bill went to a Convention of Premiers and Opposition Leaders from every State Parliament, together with the leaders of both sides in this Parliament. After due deliberation and minute consideration the Convention, notwithstanding what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said on the matter, unanimously decided upon a draft for a bill to be submitted to the State Parliaments of Australia, in order that power might be referred under the relevant section of the Constitution to the Commonwealth Parliament for a period of five years after the cessation pf hostilities. That reference of power was to be effected by the passage of uniform legislation through every State Parliament. The Premiers and Opposition Leaders of the State Parliaments undertook to give full effect to the decision of the Convention. We know the result of their efforts. I do not need to elaborate any of the facts, except to say that the bodies which prevented the reference of requisite powers to the Commonwealth Parliament were the Legislative Councils of three States. The Legislative Council of Tasmania declined even to read the bill a second time, whilst the Legislative Councils of South Australia and Western Australia badly mutilated it.
– Mangled it.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) prefers the expression “ mangled “. They certainly did mangle the bill. The members of those chambers are beyond the reach of the majority of the electors. They are the representatives of vested interests, and are elected on restricted franchises. A person who is eligible to vote for the election of a member to this Parliament is not necessarily eligible to vote for the election of a member to the Legislative Council of any of those States. As a matter of fact, the number of persons eligible to vote for the election of members to those Legislative Councils is approximately one-third of the number of persons eligible to vote for the election of members to the popular chambers of those States. The bill which the Premiers undertook to have passed through their Parliaments was passed by the popularly elected chamber in every instance, but was mutilated in the upper houses.
– It was amended in the lower houses.
– In South Australia, some amendments were made in the lower house. The mutilation, or mangling, occurred in those citadels of wealth, the Legislative Councils.
– Why notdescribe it as an improvement?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may, if he wishes, so describe it; his views generally being in reverse, it would be natural for him to adopt that attitude. I have said that there is unanimity of opinion that the Commonwealth Parliament ought to have increased powers. There has certainly not been- unanimity of opinion among Opposition members as to the degree to which the powers ought to be increased. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) approves of the bill, but disapproves of the taking of a referendum in time of war. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that certain guarantees should be provided. The Leader of the
Opposition is opposed to most of the bill, although he approves the taking of a referendum in. time of war. His amendment actually proposes taking- a referendum on the subject of granting the additional powers which he considers that this Parliament ought to have. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have pretended to support the bill, but actually their desire is to destroy it and prevent the passage of the referendum, for the reason that they will not go down in history as the persons responsible for this necessary and desirable alteration of the Constitution. The utterances of these two gentlemen, are but the dismal dissertations of disappointed diehards. They say that they will not use the arguments they have advanced here when the bill goes to the electorates, but they are giving to all the opponents of the measure the leads which they consider ought to be given in order to achieve opposition to the passage of the referendum. They would be far more honest were they t» say that they are opposed to the- bill, giving reasons for their opposition. To pretend that they support it, whilst providing every possible argument for opposition to it by the anti- Australian elements in our community, is not a proper or reasonable attitude to adopt. The Attorney-General argued the case from a non-political point of view. He said that, in the post-war years, the Commonwealth Parliament, by whomever it may be controlled, must have the power to deal with the change-over of our national economy from a war to a peace-time basis. Those will be very dangerous years ; they might be years of social, political, and industrial unrest; and if the central government of the nation has not the power to deal on a nation-wide basis with the problems that then arise, the position of this country might be as bad as though, it had suffered the evils of an invasion. It is because this party and Government are conscious of their responsibility to the nation that they desire to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament of those years with powers that will enable it successfully to bridge ‘ that difficult and dangerous period. We believe that, if the Commonwealth
Parliament has not the powers which we seek to have conferred on it, there will be nothing to prevent a depression occurring which will be much worse than the last. There will be no power in this Parliament to regulate prices when world markets fall catastrophically. Therefore, there will be nothing to keep the farmer cn the land, and’ nothing to ensure to him a reasonable return for hi3 products. Thus once again, as occurred after the last war, if this Commonwealth Parliament has not adequate powers, suffering, sorrow and starvation will stalk every street in every city and town in Australia. We want to prevent that; every good Australian, wants to prevent it. That is why we want to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power to regulate prices, prevent inflation; to control employment, prevent unemployment, and to give social security and economic justice to every person in this country. If we cannot do those things there is no future for Australia;, all our hopes of a happy and contented people will never be realized; all our dreams of a populous and industrially strong Australia will come to naught. To achieve our goal of a population of 20,000,000 people in Australia, this Parliament must of sheer necessity be clothed with additional power. Prom the earliest days of federation no one has ever doubted that the powers vested in this Parliament were inadequate. The point is . that certain honorable gentlemen opposite have played politics; they have gambled with the fate of the nation. They talk about gambling with the referendum, but they are prepared to gamble with the fate of the nation in the hope that they will get back on the ministerial bench. That is an unworthy . motive. They were scratched off the treasury bench like barnacles off a ship’s bottom, and now, in an atmosphere of disappointment and frustration they, or some of them, have set out to destroy the possibility of the Government’s referendum proposals being accepted by the people. I am not alone in saying that the Opposition is playing the game of politics. I have here a journal which, by no stretch of the imagination, can be said to be edited by a Labour journalist : nor is it the organ of any democratic opinion in this country. I refer to the Australian Industrial and Mining Standard, which honorable members opposite will recognize as a journal published by a section of people who support their interests at election time. This journal takes a more clear-sighted view of this problem than do some honorable gentlemen opposite, notably the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). In a leading article entitled, “Power3 Transfer Necessary”, in the issue of the 1st March the following appeared : -
It must be remembered that all the powers now asked for for the Commonwealth have always been vested in the States, which have exercised them freely since the establishment of responsible government. The transfer of the powers to the Commonwealth will not create any new despotic authority, but merely pass them to the one government which can exercise them uniformly and with an Australia-wide scope, instead of their being applied piecemeal and in restricted areas of our continent by six administrative bodies.
No new powers will be created by the passing of this legislation because the powers that it seeks to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament have been held since 1856 by the Parliaments of Victoria and New South Wales, and from later dates by the other Parliaments of the then colonies which now form the Australian federation.
– Did they have power to ensure freedom of speech and freedom of religion?
– There was no such power in their constitutions. In this century of dictatorships, the people need guarantees against the abuse of power by persons like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). It is because of the rise .of totalitarianism in Europe, that the Government believes that the people of this country need some protection against an abuse of authority by Parliaments, Commonwealth and State, and for that reason certain amendments to the bill have been proposed. However, let me continue with the quotation from this journal, in the hope that it will enlighten the honorable member for Wentworth -
It has not been seriously contended that the Commonwealth does not need these powers.
The quibbling has all been as to whether the present Ministry might use them in a way politically hostile to some bodies of electors. If another government were in power presumably the opposition would be withdrawn.
– Hear, hear !
– By his interjection, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) indicates that he is prepared to give additional powers to this Parliament, provided that his party is in power, but not otherwise. My attitude on this issue is different from his. I first voted at a referendum for increased constitutional powers in 1919, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister. He submitted certain proposals to the people, one of which had as its aim the inclusion of industrial powers under section 51 of the Constitution. I voted for that proposal.
– How did the Minister vote at the referendum on aviation and marketing?
– If the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) will restrain his natural impetuosity for a while, I shall tell him the whole story. In 1926, when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, he submitted a number of proposals to the people, one of which was to give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court control over industrial matters. There was a division of opinion in the Labour party regarding those proposals; one section opposed them because the powers were to be vested in the Arbitration Court, not in the Parliament, whilst another section supported the proposals on the ground that any increase of power, either to the Commonwealth Parliament or to any instrumentality of the Commonwealth, was desirable. I held the latter view, and I not only voted for the proposals but also spoke in favour of them. At the same time, I believed that this Parliament itself ought to have that power, and I knew that sooner or later a Labour government would be in office and would have an opportunity to use it for the benefit of the nation. Later, in 1937, when proposals to vest the control of marketing and aviation were submitted to the people, I spoke in favour of a grant of those powers to the Common- wealth. I voted for them, and also urged other people to do so, and I greatly regret that those proposals were not carried. I have voted for every referendum proposal for which I was qualified to vote notwithstanding that it had been submitted by my political opponents, because I have always believed that the Commonwealth Parliament should have additional powers. On the same principle I shall vote for this bill. For too long have these additional powers been denied to the Commonwealth Parliament. Should the present proposals not be agreed to, a great disaster may befall this nation in the difficult and dangerous years that lie ahead. Unless the Commonwealth Parliament has these powers it cannot lay the basis for that large increase of population which will be so necessary to the security of this country twenty years hence. Some honorable members have spoken of a population of from 20,000,000 and 50,000,000 in Australia as a necessary prerequisite to our continued holding of this continent. I agree entirely with what they have said as to the necessity for such an increase of population, but again I point out that unless the Commonwealth Parliament has the additional powers it is now seeking it will be impossible for it to plan effectively for that bigger population. In that event, we shall continue with a population of from 7,000,000 to 10,000,000 for another twenty years, when again the blizzards of war will blow over this continent. It will then be too late to act. Australia was lucky that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour instead of coming south to Australia, for had they done so, Australia would now be a Japanese colony. I have no illusions as to the future of Australia in the South-West Pacific Area. Seven million people will not he allowed to hold 3,000,000 square miles of territory while there are hundreds of millions of people in the islands adjoining us demanding living room. Only by filling this land can we establish a title to hold it, and we cannot attract immigrants, nor perform the works essential for the support of a large papulation, unless a reorientation of powers takes place.
The founders of federation were not satisfied with the document that eventu ally became the Constitution of Australia. It was a compromise from beginning to end. New South Wales would not federate unless the national capital was in New South Wales. The other States would not agree unless the capital was more than 100 miles from Sydney. Western Australia would not federate unless a guarantee was given that the east-west railway would be constructed. Some of the other States would not federate unless equal representation in the Senate was provided for all States. The Constitution was an imperfect document when it was framed, and its imperfections have become clearer with the passage of time. I am indebted to the Hon. D. L. McNamara, M.L.C., of Victoria, who wrote a brochure on the Constitution of the Commonwealth, for the following quotations. The first is from a speech delivered on the 28th June, 1901, by Mr. H. B. Higgins, a member of this House for Northern Melbourne. He is reported as follows: -
I move, “That in the opinion oi this House it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to accept (if the State Parliament see fit to grant it, under section 51 sub-section 37 of the Constitution Act full power to make laws for Australia as to wages, hours and conditions of labour. . . .”
That was within six months of the first meeting in the first session of this Parliament. Mr. Higgins, who was afterwards a very learned and very distinguished judge of the High Court of Australia, opposed federation on the ground that the Constitution as drafted did not give enough power to the Commonwealth Parliament. My predecessor in this Parliament, the late Dr. Maloney, supported Mr. Higgins. They were both members of the Victorian Parliament at that time. Strangely enough, Mr. Higgins was supported in his opinions by the first member for Wentworth, and he was incidentally a vast improvement on the present representative of that constituency. This is what he said -
Anything that enters into the national life - the industrial life of the individual - anything that may affect a man’s liberty or his industrial interests ought to be relegated to this Parliament. On that understanding - and I think that is the understanding of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne - I hail with delight this motion; and I trust the Government will have sufficient influence to get the States to surrender powers which they have now, so that we may deal with those “great and farreaching subjects.
Forty-three years afterwards we are still struggling to get the States to surrender those powers. Now, when it is proposed to ask the people to agree to what those deceased parliamentarians asked for, we find the present honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and others putting forward all sorts of “ phoney “ arguments for the preservation of the status quo. There was another eloquent and distinguished member of the first Parliament who supported Mr. Higgins’s proposal, namely, Sir Edmund Barton, the first member for Hunter in this House. This is my third quotation from Mr. McNamara’s book. Sir Edmund said -
The grant of inter-State free-trade, which follows the adoption of a uniform tariff is likely, in many respects, to be crippled unless the ‘Commonwealth has power to deal uniformly with the conditions of employment throughout Australia. The conditions of employment and the prices of articles are inseparably interwoven, and those conditions and prices are also inseparable from the nature of the tariff, whether it operates externally only, or externally and internally among the States.
I doubt whether the honorable member for Wentworth was aware, until I told him just now, who was the first member for Wentworth in this Parliament. I am sure that he and some other honorable members could profitably spend a good deal of time studying the history of federation. If they did, they might change their attitude to questions of this kind.
This is the fifty-sixth bill that has been submitted to Parliament for the alteration of the Constitution. Of that number, eighteen have been submitted to the people, and only three of the proposals have been agreed to. The difficulties associated with altering the Constitution are very real. They arise from the innate selfishness of many people; they arise from fear and from ignorance. The people’s fears can be, and should be, dissipated by propaganda from honorable members who really love Australia. Only one of the proposals agreed to was of major importance, that relating to the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
I am hopeful that the present proposals will receive as much support from the people as that one did when submitted by the Bruce-Page Government.
Tha Australian Industrial and Mining Standard had something else to say which is apposite to this discussion. I commend it to those honorable members who say that, rather than hold a referendum, the Government should again ask the States for increased powers, that it should make another appeal to the Legislative Councils of the State Parliaments to change their minds. The publication says -
Responsibility for the referendum being necessary rests on the States which refused to honour the agreement come to in their name at the Canberra Convention. They then agreed that the powers were necessary to the Commonwealth, but State parliamentarians^ seemingly jealous of any of their authority in a restricted area being consolidated under one central body, contrived to have the agreement upset. What inconsistency, then, for some of them now to urge a. further conference with the States! That merely would mean a further attempt to stave off what seems the inevitable, in the hope that it would never happen.
Many State parliamentarians are so fearful for their tinsel and their little glory that they blind themselves to the needs of the nation. They speak of the need for sacrifice by the workers, and by men of military age, but they are not prepared to sacrifice any of the powers of their State Parliaments, even though they seemed to be convinced when their representatives attended the Convention in Canberra, that it was essential to the welfare of Australia that the powers sought should be transferred. Evidence that the representatives of the States were of that opinion is provided in the record of the proceedings at the Convention. The Convention met from the 24th November to the 2nd December, au:l it reached a unanimous decision in support of the draft bill brought down by a committee of the Convention and which constitutes the major portion of the measure now before us. The draft bill was recommended to the Convention by the Attorney-General, and the motion for the adoption of the drafting committee’s report was seconded by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The record of the Convention’s proceedings states on page 166 that the motion was agreed to, Senator McLeay dissenting. Senator McLeay did not vote against the resolution. He simply said he would not vote one way or the other. Therefore, we are as much entitled to say that the resolution was adopted unanimously as others are to claim that it was adopted unanimously with Senator McLeay not expressing an opinion. The Leader of the Opposition also was a representative at that Convention, but strangely enough, although many sessions were held, he contrived to absent himself from proceedings on the last three days.
– That is not fair.
– The record for Monday, the 30th November, says, “ All members were present except Mr. Menzies The record for Tuesday, the 1st December, says, “ All members were present except Mr. Menzies “, and the record for Wednesday, the 2nd December, says, “All members were present except Senator Keane and Mr. Menzies “. The Leader of the Opposition was present at proceedings during the early stages of the Convention, and took part in the debate. Therefore, he knew what had been put forward by the drafting committee, but, conveniently enough, was not present when the vote was taken. Consequently, he can plead some justification for moving an amendment to the measure now before us. His amendment has been described as an omnibus amendment, but it could be better described as a rigmarole. There is not much substance to it. He does not want to give very many powers to the Commonwealth; but just as he was missing from the Canberra Convention when it decided upon these proposals, he has had a change of mind since, as Attorney-General in the Lyons Government, he made a speech in this House on the 22nd November, 1938, in support of constitutional reform. On that occasion he argued in favour of reference to the Commonwealth of complete power over trade and commerce, health, companies, industry, transport, the fishing industry, agriculture and unemployment insurance. He has said that he has never desired that the Commonwealth take over control of trusts, combines .and monopolies because he does not understand those terms. His Deputy
Leader, the right honorable member for North Sydney, knows what they mean, because both as a non-Labour and as a Labour Prime Minister he submitted bills to this House in respect of the granting to the Commonwealth of power to control such corporations and combines. The present attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is plain and understandable. He is the political representative of vested interests, and he certainly does not want trusts, combines or monopolies restrained, or constrained, or in any way interfered with by this Parliament. But even the list of powers which he said in 1938 should be added to section 51 of the Constitution are considerably wider than those proposed in his amendment to this measure. In 1938, when he argued in support of the granting of power to the Commonwealth in respect of health, he said -
Yet the fact is, as I now remind, not honorable members who know it, but the public, that the only power possessed by this Parliament to deal with health is the quarantine power, and a. good deal of the expense that the Commonwealth has had to engage in on health matters in the past is of no constitutional validity. That is an almost humiliating reflection, not for this Parliament, because this is not a problem in which we have individual interests, but for the people of Australia, that they should not have reserved for us that national power to deal with what is essentially a national problem.
He does not want to give to the Commonwealth control over trusts; combines and monopolies which operate to the detriment of the nation. He just wants to regulate company legislation, but he went farther on that occasion than he is prepared to go to-day. 1 He said -
The fabric of modern commercial life has closely woven into it the incorporation and activities of joint stock companies. Yet the Commonwealth Constitution has provided in relation to that all-pervading subject, the most curiously limited authority.
A little later he said -
No general company law can be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. Whether that was ever designed or not, that is the position as the decision of the court now leaves it, and, therefore, I put it forward, and confidently, as one of my serious anomalies, one which I am sure will commend itself as such to anybody who considers this subject.
Strangely enough, he does not argue along those lines to-day. He now says that this is one of the things we need not worry about. He has not said anything in his amendment so strongly in favour of the Commonwealth Parliament having power to deal with transport as he said on this subject in 1938, when he stated -
I do not believe, and I do not suppose honorable members believe, that the problem of transport and all of its allied problems can be dealt with effectively unless they can be dealt with as a whole, yet, curiously, our position as a Commonwealth is that, while we can deal with interstate transport in so far as it is carried by sea to a considerable degree, and by the consent of the States and on reference by them can deal with aviation, our powers to deal with rail and road transport are so shadowy, once they have been subjected to the operation of section 92 of the Constitution, that they are hardly worth discussing.
That is also the view of the Government in respect of those powers. Yet we look in vain for anything in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition which is as unequivocal and forthright as his statement in 1938 which I have just quoted. Unless the Commonwealth Parliament is given power to standardize railway gauges, and greater power over transport generally, it will be impossible for us in the event of another war even to think of defending the northern part of this continent. I am told that it takes about eight days to transfer a division by rail from Melbourne to Brisbane. This problem of rail communications should have been tackled 40 years ago. Had that been done, we should not now be faced with the absurdity of having different gauges.
– It would have been tackled in 1925, and again in 1934, but for the opposition of the Defence Department.
– I am pleased to have that interjection by the honorable member because I am assured that certain generals of that period said that standardized railway communications were not necessary. When the’ Japanese began to come down our coast we found that they were more than necessary. The difficulty which residents of Townsville experienced in obtaining foodstuffs when enemy submarines were operating off the Queensland coast recently was due to the fact that 800 miles of railway connecting that city to Brisbane was but a single track which had to carry not only essential foodstuffs for the population in northern Queensland, but also military forces and equipment required for the defence of Cape York Peninsula, and later New Guinea.
– It is a singletrack government in Queensland.
– There is a very good government in Queensland. It has ruled Queensland for 27 of the last 30 years. If the honorable gentleman wants information about the prospects of the Labour party in Queensland, I can tell him that it will be returned to power next April. The next subject about which the Leader of the Opposition spoke, is agriculture. I wonder how many members of the Country party support the views the right honorable gentleman expressed at that period. They have raised queries about power to regulate prices. They have said that they do not want over-production, that production must be curtailed, and that our economy in Australia is an agricultural one. Presumably they can never think of the day when we shall have a more balanced economy, when our secondary industries will be able to absorb the production of the primary industries, and give full-time employment to the childrenof the farmers who cannot remain on the farms, because there is not enough land for them all. This is what the right honorable member for Kooyong said about the control of agriculture -
Yet, every time the problem in relation to agriculture arises, the aid of the Commonwealth is invoked. Why is this so? It is because the Commonwealth is the only Parliament that has power to impose indirect taxes. One of the recognized means of establishing a home-consumption price or a bounty in relation to wheat, as we shall shortly see, is by the imposition of an indirect tax, an excise, a flour tax, or a Bales tax of some kind, and the distribution of the proceeds of that tax in a certain way.
I am addressing myself now to what suggests itself as an absurdity, that is, that on this problem, which is essentially a unitary problem, of what you are to do about agriculture, and how you can plan the development of agriculture or control its development, the answer is that the only government which hae power to come in in a real financial way is also the only government that has no direct power to deal with agriculture at all.
There is nothing about that in the amendment which he submits to-day, six years after having made that speech. On the question of unemployment insurance he said -
The more I think about it, the more astonishing it seems to me to he that there should be a topic embraced in a phrase consisting of two words, “unemployment insurance”, in which unemployment is primarily a State problem, and insurance is primarily a Commonwealth problem. What happens when the Commonwealth Parliament comes along to a consideration of that problem? We all know that it is important socially and industrially, and we know that it is essentially a unitary problem, and is not the sort of problem that can be broken up and dealt with by sectional authorities.
The right honorable gentleman opposes the inclusion of employment and unemployment in the powers which we ask the people to grant to this Parliament. He said, too -
We are forced to deal with a problem of that magnitude by means of consultations and conferences, and to extort modern bargains in 1938, because of old bargains made in 1900. So the attack on the great social problem is made conditional upon the possibility of arriving at unanimity at a conference between seven governments, all of whom for this purpose are treated as having equal rights.
That speech reminds us very much of what happened in November, 1942, and previous to 1942, and subsequent to 1942 - the haggling and bargaining which has to take place with the State Governments if the Commonwealth Government is to get any power at all. The alternative to- that is the taking of a referendum. Honorable gentlemen opposite, to some of whom I give credit for honesty, hold the view that war-time is not the time to take a referendum. It may not be the most desirable time to take a referendum, but we have to take it because we cannot get the powers in any other way. It is useless to continue to deal with the States. It is hopeless to go back to the eighteen gentlemen who constitute the Legislative Council of Tasmania, and say for the fourth time, “Please, will you pass this bill without mangling it?”. It is impossible to hope that a sweet spirit of reasonableness will prevail with the crusty tories who, for the most part, constitute the Legislative Councils of Western Australia and South Australia. [Extension of time granted.] It is impossible to go back to the Legis- lative Councils and hope that they will be any more reasonable in 1944 than they were in 1942, and it is equally impossible to let this matter drift until the war is over, when it will be too late. We must have plans ready. The Commonwealth must know what its powers are, and what it proposes to do when hostilities cease, and it must have those powers before hostilities do cease. We have to plan ahead. If we cannot plan ahead, how can we hope to put 750,000 men and women back into full-time remunerative employment, when the armistice is signed and they are ready to enter civil employment? The problem to-day, is different from what it was at the end of the last war when the soldiers of Australia were 13,000 miles away. They could not swim back, and they could not get back quickly. They had to be brought back in shiploads. When this war ends, many Australian soldiers will be on Australian soil. They will not stay very long in camps. They will all be back on the hands of the Government within three months after the end of this war.
– A lot of them will be in garrisons. No government would be foolish enough not to have garrison troops.
– .Some will be in garrisons, but the vast majority will be in Australia, and it will be the responsibility of the Government to find them work, or ensure that their former positions shall be available to them. We cannot have the spectacle of men who have fought for the country walking the. streets looking for work when there is no work for them, neither can we have the Government, for lack of the requisite authority, unable to discharge its responsibilities. Therefore, if this central Goverament is to maintain its authority over the nation, and is to have power to deal with the problems that will confront it, the people will have to give this referendum their affimative vote.
– What of preference to returned soldiers?
– This Government will give more than preference to returned soldiers. It will give full-time employment to every returned soldier.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mx. Rankin) knows that preference to returned soldiers for the last 25 years has meant very little to most of them. The only time that the issue of preference to returned soldiers was ever a vital factor in Australian politics was when it was preference on pick-and-shovel jobs with the Public Works Departments of this nation.
– What about the Public Service ?
Mi-. CALWELL. - Comparatively few go into the Public Service. The great majority of the returned soldiers from the last war derived no benefit from preference. I stood on the waterfront in Melbourne in the 1928 strike when there were returned soldiers among the strikers, and among the volunteers, too, and I saw shipping masters’ representatives picking up men on the waterfront. They did not want the burnt-out soldiers from the last war, but healthy human beings, strong young animals between 20 and 30 years of age. They wanted value for their money. They passed over rows and rows of returned soldiers. Those who raise the question of preference to returned soldiers now have never raised it in respect of private employment. What we want to do is to give to everybody in this nation an opportunity for full-time employment. If every one has work, the same urgency mid need for preference does not arise.
I wish to answer one other point made by the Leader of the Opposition, who raised the cry of socialization. He asked, “Why does the Government want these powers over production and distribution? “ and quoted the statement of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) that the munitions factories would be maintained by the Government when the war was over. There is at least £100,000,000 of Commonwealth money sunk in those factories, which we desire to keep intact because they may be needed in another war. If there is another war, and they are needed again, it will be too late to assemble all the plant and get all the equipment ready when we are attacked. We want to keep those munitions plants, and not see them sacrificed, as a previous Govern ment secrificed the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– The Minister’s conversion is greater than that of Saul of Tarsus.
– If the honorable member for Bendigo has not heard the facts, let me tell him what they are. That line of steamers cost the people of Australia £7,500,000. It was sold for £2,000,000 to Lord Kylsant, who was a “ crook “ and went to gaol for doctoring his balance-sheets. The then Commonwealth Government received. £600,000 of the £2,000,000 purchase money, but Australia will get no more of it, so that £7,600,000 of the Australian taxpayers’ money was given . away for £600,000. We want to be sure that in the post-war years the Commonwealth Parliament, no matter who controls it. sha.ll be able to protect assets such a.= munitions establishments and to utilize them fully,’ so that they may be maintained in a state of efficiency in the event of another conflict.
– If the Labour party’ - defence policy had been allowed to operate, it would have cost Australia its very existence.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to sidetrack me. but I remind him that when the present Government came into power we were 300,000 rifles short for an army of half a million men who were to defend us. We were so short of rifles that we had to take 80,000 senior cadet rifles out of vaseline and rags, where they had been for .25 years, and issue them to men guarding vital stores and other places. I am told by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who was serving in New Guinea at the time, that some of them were sent even to Port Moresby. Not only did we have to do that, but we also found that there was no ammunition for them, and the Government had to commence making it. I do not understand how the honorable member for Bendigo can talk about this Government neglecting the defence of the nation, after that exhibition by the Government which hp supported. The honorable member’s line of reasoning is not mine. It may happen in the post-war world - I hope it does not, but it is a remote possibility - that, the honorable member for Bendigo may become Minister for the Army. If he has to administer the defence affairs of the nation he will be thankful if this Government succeeds in putting into the Constitution the powers requisite for the discharge of his responsibilities. We do not ask for these powers for this Government in the post-war world. We do not know how post-war Parliaments will be ((instituted, but we do say that whoever wins the support of the majority of the people should have these powers. Pew of us may be in post-war Parliaments. We are not concerned about this Government having the powers that we seek, so much as we are that the National Parliament shall be enabled to function properly by adding 14 powers to the 39 already in section 51 of the Constitution. We ask for these new powers for five years to enable the Government to undertake post-war reconstruction. Before the end of that period this Parliament, as the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have said, will be given an ample opportunity to consider permanent amendments of the Constitution for submission to another referendum. We do not suggest that any of these powers should be made permanent at this stage. We are keeping -with the States the compact known as the Canberra agreement. We ask the people to vote for that agreement, and for the additional safeguards that we propose. In view of the rise of authoritarianism throughout Europe, many people feel that the Commonwealth Parliament should afford them additional safeguards and protection. We propose to recognize the existence of that feeling amongst the Australian people.
All the dangers and difficulties confronting us in obtaining the amendment of the Constitution arc as nothing compared with the difficulties that confronted the founders of federation in securing a Constitution. Anybody who has read the history of federation knows the difficulties that confronted men like the late Sir Henry Parkes and the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, and, going back to an even earlier period, the late Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who sought .to federate the Australian colonic;. Extraordinarily enough, the opportunity that was eventually afforded to Sir Henry Parkes to take the last stop that preceded the adoption of federation came from a report made by Major General Bevan Edwards, a British officer who recommended to the colonial Parliaments of the time that the military forces of the six colonies should btconsolidated under one command. Sir Henry Parkes asked the late Mr. Duncan Gillies, the then Premier of Victoria and other Premiers, to confer with him again on the question of federation. Mr. Gillies rebuffed him, and said that Sir Henry Parkes should get New South Wales to join the Federal Council. Sir Henry Parkes again sought an opportunity for a conference and waagain rebuffed by Mr. Gillies and other colonial Premiers-. He went to Tenterfield, in New South Wales, in 1SS9, and made a speech that raised the hopes of Australians throughout the whole continent. It rang round Australia, and in 1S90 a conference was held in Melbourne. At a dinner held in connexion with that gathering, Sir Henry Parkes gave us a phrase which is enshrined in our literature. He said, “ The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all “. ft was true then and i3 true now, because we have stuck together since then through two awful Avars. He did not live to see the consummation of his hopes, but another great man, Mr. Alfred Deakin, of Victoria, carried the banner of federation onwards to final victory. Mr. Deakin quoted a striking phrase first coined by the late Sir James Patterson, an earlier Premier of Victoria, who referred to what occurred at the Customs houses on the borders of the colonies as the “barbarisms of borderism “. Some of those barbarisms persist to this day, and are behind many of the objections to the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. Just as our fathersand many of those still alive were intelligent enough to vote on a document consisting of 2S pages, a most complex and involved document embodying the proposed Constitution for the new Commonwealth, and did not require separate ballot-papers to deal with each of the 39 powers contained in section 51, so it’ is not necessary to-day to adopt the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that these fourteen powers should each be submitted separately to the people. As the Attorney-General suggests, the people were then intelligent enough to understand also the other 127 sections of the Constitution, and so to-day their descendants, and those of the older generation who are still alive, are intelligent and capable enough to vote to give to the Commonwealth Parliament of the post-war era the minimum of powers sufficient to enable it to govern effectively, wisely and properly for the well-being of Australia. If we do not give these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament of the post-war years, how can we ever hope to achieve the ideal first voiced by the first honorable member for Hunter, Sir Edmund Barton, whose memory was invoked the other night by the present honorable member for that constituency? That ideal is succinctly expressed in the classical language of Australia’s first Prime Minister, who called for “ One Parliament and one people ; one flag and one destiny “.
– As I am not a constitutional lawyer, I have nothing new to contribute to the debate. I can merely record my impressions, and my own conclusions. All my natural leanings have been in favour of an extension of Commonwealth powers, because I have noticed many times that difficulties might not have arisen had wider powers been vested in this Parliament. After having listened to this debate, I have not found anything to shake my belief that some alteration of the Constitution is necessary. I listened with the greatest care, and tried to keep an open mind on the whole’ subject, and I have found very general agreement in this House that constitutional reform is needed. That fact is very clear in my mind. But just how far that reform should go, and where it should lead, I am not so clear.
One point which impressed me very forcibly was that the only speech which I have heard commended in this House as being strictly non-party in approach was that delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes). Presumably, those who commend that speech as being non-party in approach also commend it as being very fair in approach. I was struck by the fact that over and over again the right honorable gentleman repeated the words, “ I do not know “. He said many times : “ To what degree the Commonwealth has power under this section, I do not know “. I have been forced to the conclusion that most honorable members are in the same plight. Even the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is included, because, after giving particular thought to this matter for two and a half years, and after having introduced the bill, he has now submitted additional amendments showing that even in his mind there is not complete clarity as to what is and what is not necessary. Chesterton once said that “ The only virtue in keeping an open mind was the virtue that there was in keeping an open mouth. You can close it firmly upon something worthwhile “. I have now come to a decision, and I have closed very firmly upon it. The introduction last night of those three amendments helped me to that conclusion. The general impression which I have gained of the attitude of honorable members towards the Constitution can best be summed up by the simile of a worn motor car tyre. You put a sleeve in here and a sleeve in there, but finally the inner tube begins to show. Then it is useless to patch the tyre any more. You must either have the tyre retreaded, or replace it. In constitutional matters, Australia has now arrived at that point. We must retread our Constitution; and the only way in which to do that is to summon a convention. It is not easy for any honorable member to become perfectly clear in his mind as to what is necessary, and I am sure that no government under the pressure of political necessity or of tremendous work and responsibility, as this Government now is, can’ be in a position to bring a truly balanced judgment to bear upon such an important problem. Therefore, the only real solution of the constitutional difficulty is a convention to examine the matter free from the atmosphere of party politics. Another objection to the holding of a referendum is valid in peace-time as well as in war. The people will not only be blown about by the oratory of opponents, but also be misled by all kinds of misrepresentations and imputations. Already in this House some speakers have suggested that certain sinister influences were at work on one side or the other. I strongly deprecate that suggestion. “Wo dare not urge the people to vote for or against the proposals because suchandsuch a person is not to be trusted. That is something which I, for one, do not care to contemplate, and will not countenance. Over and over again honorable members opposite have declared their anxiety as to what .will happen immediately after the cessation of hostilities. [ personally have the greatest anxiety regarding what will take place when the war ends. No one suspects for a moment that any honorable member, regardless of his political beliefs, hopes that problems arising after the war will not be dealt with satisfactorily and capably. No one desires to see unemployment, want or privation. After the war ends, certain restrictions, such as the control of overseas trade and investment, and prices, will have to continue in the national interest. The question that I have heard discussed most frequently during this debate is: Is there, or is there not, sufficient power at present in the defence powers of the Commonwealth to enable the Government to deal with the situation in the immediate post-war period? I have been forced to the conclusion that for the immediate period - I! emphasize the word “ immediate “ - there will be sufficient power. From the cessation of hostilities to the signing of the peace treaty, there will probably elapse a period of twelve months. After that, the Commonwealth may exercise its defence power for a further period of six months. Some constitutional lawyers contend that even that period may be extended. But I reject utterly the idea that the power will continue indefinitely, [f that were so, I for one would feel that all my freedom was at an end, and that we were living in a Fascist State. If those things that are now being done in war-time could be done in peace-time for an indefinite period under the Commonwealth’s defence powers, then we should no longer be a democracy. Therefore, I believe very truly that a convention should be summoned without delay. I believe that all the organization which would be necessary for the holding of a referendum could more advantageously be diverted to the making of preparations for a convention which could be held at least within twelve months of the end of the war while there was still in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, sufficient power to keep in operation all the controls which are necessary to maintain stability and rehabilitate members of outfighting forces. I do not share the fears which have been expressed by some honorable members in this chamber as to the intentions of the Labour Government. 1 hope that I am sufficiently charitable to believe that most people have good intentions; but, however good one’s intentions may be, because of circumstance5 which have been unforeseen, one’s action may be quite undesirable. I do not fear the temporary measures which this Government is likely to put into operation immediately after the war; I do not fear, for instance, the temporary use of munitions plants for the production of civilian goods, although I should definitely oppose any suggestion that these undertakings should engage in that work indefinitely. I believe, probably more vividly and more sincerely than any one else in this chamber, that the greatest danger confronting civilization to-day is the complete mechanization of industry. In fact, I regard mass-production methods as something to be feared, because they lead to mechanization and complete totalitarianism. In my opinion, this Government is in grave danger of considering its plan as the only, possible plan that can save the country when, in fact, other plans may be . equally desirable. Germany began its preparations for this war with a plan for complete economic security for every one under its dominion. The leaders of that country insisted upon efficiency everywhere, and got it, with the result that Germany developed into the highly efficient nation which plunged the world into its present deplorable state. I urge upon the Government the desirability of again approaching the States in regard to this matter if it believes that the Commonwealth does not have sufficient power to tide it over the immediate post-war period. I believe that by negotiation the Government could secure at least sufficient agreement amongst the States to enable it to carry on. In the opinion of the Attorney-General himself it would be possible to carry on both in Queensland and New South Wales, and I have no doubt that the position with regard to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia would be equally satisfactory; but I have no hope to offer in regard to Tasmania. I know Tasmania very well, and I am certain that an approach to that State at present would not be very likely to succeed. However, if the other five States were seen to be co-operating satisfactorily I believe that Tasmania, in the near future, would be prepared to join with them. I fear that if the referendum be proceeded with a grave difficulty may arise for all of us. 1 shall deal now with the three amendments which have been forecast by the Attorney-General. Are those amendments reilly necessary? When the AttorneyGeneral introduced this measure he stated that the fourteen points which it contained had been agreed upon, and therefore must go to the people as a unit;but now he has intimated his intention to move for the addition of three other matters, none of which was considered by the Convention, and therefore cannot, with any justification, be included in the unit. The right honorable gentleman therefore has already destroyed that argument, and, in addition, I believe that he has done a disservice to the whole hill by forecasting three amendments with which we are in agreement in principle. Every one of us believes in freedom of worship and freedom of speech ; but have these freedoms been questioned ? Is it necessary for any of us to re-assert our right to- religious independence? I do not feel for one moment that my religious beliefs are in any danger of government interference. I see no reason to re-assert in the Constitution our belief in freedom of speech. We have had freedom of speech for 150 years, and we shall continue to have it. We might just as well amend the Constitution to provide that no witches shall be burnt in Australia in the future. Freedom of speech and freedom’ of religious belief have been enjoyed for many yeai-3, and to assert our right to them in the Constitution seems to be little short of foolishness unless it is to be done for some reason which is not yet apparent.
We speak of a future which is to bp great not only for Australia but also for every Australian citizen. Every one of us has some kind of dream or vision of the future, and we all are in agreement that the fulfilment of our dreamscan be brought about only if the power? of the Commonwealth are increased. 1 believe that the referendum will he defeated - history suggests that - and if it be defeated, the cause of constitutional amendment will be set back for almost ai generation.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (DameEnid Lyons) has dealt with this measure1 with undoubted oratorical talent, but it is rather disappointing to find the hon, or able member taking a purely party attitude towards a matter which warrants a broad national outlook. The honorable member’ stated unequivocally that an amendment of the Constitution was necessary, and in view of that declaration, I submit that she should support this measure, the object of which is to place certain proposals for constitutional reform before the people. The honorable member would have shown better judgment had she taken a different stand upon this matter. She has advocated the calling of a convention; but what is the position? The original intention of the Government was to submit these matters to the people at a referendum, but subsequently it was agreed to call a convention to consider the proposals. I for one regret that the Convention did not agree to the granting of much wider powers. A more representative convention than that which recently sat in this House could not be convened. It was representative of all parties, and of -all sections of the community in every State. I had the privilege of listening to its discussions, and was amazed at the party political approach, which many of the representatives made to the subject. An elected convention of men who might not have so much interest in, or so close an association with, constitutional matters, law-making, and government, would he less capable of dealing efficiently with the subject. Listening to the proceedings of that Convention, one could be excused for forming the opinion that a more or less defeated army was endeavouring to make terms with a victorious foe. The representatives of the States were definitely opposed to handing to the Commonwealth the powers which it deemed absolutely essential for the proper conduct of the government of this country in the post-war period. Men who would not grant sue-h powers to the Commonwealth should not be called into a convention. The war may end at any time, and preparations for doing what will then have to be done must bp made well in advance. Before the present conflict, this country was not in a condition adequately to defend itself, because it had not made preparations to do so in time of peace. If during the war we do not provide the necessary constitutional authority for the Government, to deal with the post-war period, we may pass into a depression compared with which that which we had to face a few years ago could be described as insignificant. The members of this Parliament should be prepared to accept responsibility, and not endeavour to shelve it. We have been elected by the people of the whole of A ustralia, and should tell the people what powers this Parliament should have in order adequately to deal with the postwar period. The Convention arrived at an agreement as to the minimum powers that should be vested in the Commonwealth. The task of organization in the post-war period will not be adequately performed unless the Government doe3 the right thing now. Let us cease to dilly-dally and waste further time by referring the matter to another convention or to the State Parliaments. The original proposals were accepted .by the Government when it had a small majority in this House, and even though it now has a substantial majority it is prepared to give effect to the decision of the representatives of all the States. They, having supported what is now proposed as the minimum powers which the Commonwealth should possess, cannot now say that those powers are not needed. They undertook to submit the matter to their Parliaments, which failed to authorize the reference of the powers to the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that in the past the States have been the stumbling block to reform of the Constitution. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that it would be almost impossible to expect them to agree to proposals for an alteration of the Constitution. Therefore, the onus is on this Parliament to obtain the judgment of the people upon them.
The first matter submitted to the recent Convention dealt with the demobilization of the fighting services. Let us view this matter from the standpoint of those who are most concerned. I put the case of the average citizen far and wide throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Men in the fighting services, women in national services, and persons who have been diverted from civil occupations to war-time activities, are wondering what will happen to them in the post-war period. Hundreds of thousands of persons whose industrial lives have been dislocated will have to be returned to their former spheres at the conclusion of the war, and if the matter be not properly organized now they will face a depression the like of which this nation has never experienced. Adequate preparations cannot be made unless the Commonwealth has wider power than it now possesses. It would be futile to expect agreement among the States if the Government of the day had to take action urgently. The demonstrations we have witnessed in respect of alterations of the Constitution prove that the States cannot be depended upon to arrive at any agreement. The representatives of the Governments and the Opposition parties in the different States agreed at the Convention to submit certain proposals to their Parliaments, and to support their passage. In Queensland and Kew South Wales these proposals were accepted. Victoria accepted them, but attached -a certain string to its acceptance, knowing that they had been partially rejected by other States. The part which Tasmania has played in the many negotiations for increased powers is rather peculiar. It was the Premier of that State who, at the Convention, submitted the motion for the reference of certain powers to the Commonwealth, yet the Parliament of that State unequivocally rejected the proposal.
The first Commonwealth Parliament assembled on the 9th May, 1901. On the 23rd May, Sir John Forrest threatened to wreck the federation if the trans-Australian railway to Western Australia was not constructed. That was the first evidence of dissension in the dovecot. On the 2Sth June, only 22 sitting day3 after the first clay of meeting, Mr. Higgins moved -
That in the opinion of this House it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it, under section 51. sub-section (37), of the Constitution Act), full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.
That was amended on the motion of Mr. Barton to substitute the word “ accept “ for the word “ acquire and the motion, as amended, was agreed to on the 28th June, 1901 - or 22 sitting days from the meeting of the first Parliament. That showed that the framers of the Constitunon, of whom we have heard so much during this debate, had not made sufficient provision for the government of the country. The granting of those powers was refused by the States. On the 29th August, 1901, Mr. Crouch asked the Prime Minister -
Mr. Barton replied ;
. . .
It will be noted that on the 29th August, 1901, proposals to grant wider powers to the Commonwealth had been rejected definitely by Tasmania, whereas the other States merely acknowledged receipt of the letters. My point is that within 22 sitting days of the meeting of the first Commonwealth Parliament wider powers were deemed necessary by the members of the Commonwealth Parliament a resolution in favour of the granting of wider powers to the Parliament was carried, and that the proposals were later rejected by the States. Members on both sides of the House agree that wider powers are necessary. Therefore, we should appeal to the people by referendum for adequate powers to properly govern this country. Any move to grant wider powers to this Parliament will be rejected by the States. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Australian Army: Dispensing of Medicine - Victorian Bush Nursing Associations Pay-roll Tax and Entertainments Tax - Residential Accommodation - Black Market Liquor - Fish Supplies - Repatriation - War Damage Insurance - Volunteer Defence Corps.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– A few days ago the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) brought to my notice a case in respect of which he sought my advice; it related to matters with which he was not so familiar in some aspects as I was. As a result of going into it, I mention it now, and bring it to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). It concerns the death of a young woman, Amy Olive Adamson, on the 28th October last year at the 62nd Camp Hospital at Portsea. She was attached to one of the services. She had been suffering from measles and was rather run down.. The medical officer in charge of the camp had prescribed for her a strychnine tonic in order to improve her appetite, and she was taking that tonic. At a certain stage her supply of the tonic ran out, and the nurse who was in charge directed that she should be given a further supply. That further supply was obtained from the store attached, to the hospital. It was obtained by a staff sergeant, whose name I shall not mention, but it will be available to the Minister. That staff sergeant, who had no knowledge of dispensing - no technical knowledge whatever - obtained from the store a bottle which he thought was a bottle of strychnine tonic, but it turned out to be a bottle of pure strychnine. The result was that the girl took it and died. At the inquest, which was conducted upon her in Melbourne, the coroner, Mr. Tingate, came to the conclusion, after a long investigation, that the staff sergeant who had procured and handed out the wrong bottle should be committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter. I have read the depositions that were taken before the coroner, and there can be no doubt that this horrible and tragic circumstance arose from either gross negligence somewhere, or a system that is grossly defective, because what happened was that an entirely unskilled man, who might easily have been deceived by some chemical formula appearing on the bottle, had produced the wrong bottle, with the result that I have described. After the staff sergeant had been committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter the matter, following the usual practice, as I have learned, went to one of the Prosecutors for the King in Victoria, and he recommended that the Attorney-General should not file a presentment. Accordingly, no presentment was filed and therefore, so far as the criminal processes of the law were concerned, the matter came to an end. I may say that I have no doubt that the Prosecutor for the King was correct in his advice, because, in the circumstances, a charge of manslaughter would have involved that particularly high degree of negligence that is known as criminal negligence. In view of the fact that he was not skilled, and did not profess to have skill, it would be difficult to persuade any tribunal that his error represented criminal negligence on his part; and so no presentment was filed and the matter ended. But I put this to the Minister - :and I am sure that he will agree - that the incident, as an incident, cannot finish there. The inquest attracted some attention at the time. The parents of the deceased girl are tremendously distressed as are many of their friends. There must be many people with relatives in the forces who wondered, and still wonder, whether a system which permits such a thing as this to happen is still continuing, and whether any steps have been taken, either to deal with those responsible for so grievous a blunder, or to take the necessary action to see that no such blunder can occur again. In order to illustrate the defective quality of the system, I may 3ay that at the hospital to which I have referred a qualified dispenser attends only once a week. Apart from his one weekly attendance, the obtaining of medicines from the store - the selection of the proper bottle, and the pouring out of the proper liquid - has in all cases been done by persons without technical knowledge. In the course of evidence given before the coroner, the medical officer in charge said that, having heard of this incident, and having unsuccessfully taken all the proper steps to deal with the case, he had a conversation, first with the sister, and then with the staff sergeant. I quote his words -
The sister told me that as the bottle of tonic mixture in the hospital was getting low, she had asked Staff Sergeant … to replenish it. Staff Sergeant . . . told me that he went to the drug store and brought up this other bottle (8-oz. bottle) leaving the first one in the drug store, thinking they were the same thing.
He was without knowledge, and yet he was the one man relied upon to attend to this matter. Later, in the course of’ crossexamination, he stated -
Presuming he was sent down to replenish that tonic bottle, there was nothing in the store from which he could replenish it. He might have thought there was; he might have been entitled to think there was. … In the absence of the dispenser we expect the quartermaster to go down and fill up certain bottles, if necessary, from the bulk store. To replenish the bottle of Liq. Strych. tonic, he would have to have some pharmaceutical experience as to the amounts he would have, to put into the bottle. He does not possess, and is not required by Army regulations to possess, that knowledge, and it is not part of his duty to do so.
I do not wish to labour the matter. What I have stated represents a brief summary of an extraordinarily tragic occurrence. What is left in the mind is this fact : In that place - and it may not have been unique - there was, for the greater part of the time, responsible for the handing out of medicines a person with no technical knowledge. In those circumstances, an error which might easily occur where there are compounds, some of them highly poisonous, some not so poisonous and others not poisonous at all, did, in fact, occur. I urge the Minister for the Army to investigate this matter personally. Let him satisfy himself that the procedure permitted in this case will no longer be permitted. It should be established as a fixed rule in the service that those responsible for the obtaining and distribution of medicines in circumstances where some measure of responsibility is involved should be qualified persons, so that an incident of this kind cannot occur again, and the fear of its repetition may be lifted from the minds of the public.
.- I desire to supplement the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The tragedy, which resulted from this regrettable accident through the employment of a person not qualified to handle poisons, resulted in the death of a very bright and beautiful young Australian woman, whose parents live in my electorate. They came to me full of sorrow tinged with indignation because of the treatment they had received from the Army authorities. The only intimation they received was a message stating that their daughter was dead, and some particulars were sought regarding interment. The aged father went to Melbourne, and was a long time in discovering what really had happened. So far as I know, no communication has been received by the parents even yet that would indicate regret on the part of the Army authorities or of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) for what occurred. I hope that I am wrong in saying that, but that is the information supplied to me some time ago. Neither have I heard that any suggestion has been made for making what material amends are possible, though we recognize, of course, that any such amends are a secondary consideration compared with the sorrow experienced by the parents. The attitude of the Army authorities in this case calls for comment. The overriding thought in the minds of the parents is that there are thousands of other parents in Australia with daughters in the services, and they would like to receive some assurance that disciplinary or corrective action has been taken to ensure that there shall be no repetition of the occurrence. When the parents went to Melbourne to inquire into the matter they found the Army authorities were applying a policy of “hush hush”. They could obtain no information from anybody, and eventually they learned only in a roundabout way what had really taken place. I know that the Minister for the Army has a full sense of responsibility, and now that the matter has been mentioned in the House, I am sure that he will see that some satisfaction is afforded to the parents, and that what material amends are possible are made. I hope he will also see that some suitable explanation is forthcoming, and that the regret of himself and of the head of his department are conveyed to the parents for this most regrettable incident.
Mr.RY AN (Flinders) [4.3]. - I wish to bring to the notice of the Government a matter associated with the pay-roll tax paid by the Victorian Bush Nursing Association. The present situation is very unjust. Some time ago, representations were made to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the subject. I do not know what facts were brought before him, but evidently they carried no conviction, because he replied that he was satisfied that the hospitals maintained by the association were not public hospitals. The considerations which led him to that conclusion were -
He then went on to say that there was one essential difference between the Bush Nursing hospitals and public hospitals, in that the latter were specifically prevented from withholding facilities from patients who are unable to pay. Finally, he believes that theextension of this concession to the Bush Nursing Association would require an amendment of the law. I submit that the law is quite clear in this respect, and that institutions conducted by the Bush Nursing Association should be exempt from pay-roll tax and entertainment tax in respect of any entertainments conducted in their aid. Section 15 of the Pay-rollTax Assessment Act reads -
The provisions of this Part shall not apply to wages paid -
by a religious or public benevolent institution, or a public hospital;
Section18 of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act reads -
Where the Commissioner is satisfied that the whole of the net proceeds of an entertainment are, or will be, devoted to -
public, patriotic, philanthropic, religious or charitable purposes;
such funds of a society or association, not carried on for the profit or gain of the individual members thereof, as the society or association sets apart to provide sick, accident, or funeral benefits for or on behalf of any of its members, and that the whole of the expenses of the entertainment do not exceed 50 per centum of the receipts, he shall repay to the proprietor the amount of the entertainments tax in respect of the entertainment.
An examination of the services rendered by Bush Nursing hospitals will not substantiate the views expressed by the Treasurer. The Victorian Bush Nursing Association is a co-operative body which controls 67 hospitals and fifteen nursing homes, all of which are situated in the country. The association was established a number of years ago mainly because at that time no hospitals existed in the majority of country districts in that State. The association sought to fill that very wide gap in the medical services available in country areas. Prior to the establishment of these hospitals, patients who required hospital treatment were obliged to go to one of the large base hospitals situated in the larger centres, such as Sale and Ballarat, or Melbourne. It is recognized that the Bush Nursing Association hospitals are performing a most useful service throughout Victoria, and, in the circumstances now confronting our hospital system generally throughout Australia, these institutions are indispensable. They are established and conducted entirely by voluntary subscriptions. For instance, eight years ago, the residents of Ber wick, where I reside, had no hospital. Local residents who became ill were obliged to go to Dandenong or Melbourne. Therefore, they subscribed over £1,000 to establish a hospital at Berwick. The hospital is supported partly by donations, partly by proceeds from entertainments held in aid of the institution, and partly by subscriptions paid by members to the hospital. Under the rules of the association, no hospital is allowed to make a profit. Members’ subscriptions help to maintain the hospital, and subscribing members are entitled to treatment at a reduced rate.
– They are not public hospitals.
Mr.RYAN. - The fact remains that the members of this association are exactly in the same position as members of ordinary hospital benefit associations, except that instead of paying their subscriptions into a central fund they pay them to the local hospital itself. Therefore, I submit that there is no difference legally between the position of members of the local Bush Nursing Association and that of members of other hospital associations.
– They are not open to all members of the public.
Mr.RYAN. - These hospitals are open to everybody, and in many cases people taken in have no connexion with the hospital at all, and any person who is in destitute circumstances is notcalled upon to pay anything.
– They maintain the right to refuse to accept non-members.
Mr.RYAN- I submit that that fact should not make any difference in this matter.
– Public hospitals must treat indigent patients free of charge, whereas these hospitals reserve the right to refuse treatment in certain cases.
– But they are distinct from trading organizations which pay the pay-roll tax.
Mr.RYAN.- Yes. The fact remains that these hospitalsdo not refuse treatment to any one. Therefore, they should be placed on the same basis as public hospitals. It is true that these Bush Nursing hospitals do not come under the Charities Board Act in Victoria.
– Because they do not want to come under it. They fear that if they did so, their administration would be over-centralized, as local hospitals would have to take orders from headquarters. They believe that such a procedure would interfere with the proper control of the hospitals.
– They want to conduct the hospitals in their own way.
– Yes; and, up to date, that has proved most satisfactory to the community.
– I am not disputing that point.
– I cannot see any ground for this discrimination because these institutions play exactly the same role as public hospitals.
– I did not make the law.
– My criticism is that the law is not being administered in a sensible way. Pay-roll tax is not paid by public hospitals, and I maintain that these institutions are public hospitals in the ordinary sense. Further, pay-roll tax is not paid by large private hospitals situated in East Melbourne, which are closely associated with religious organizations, and which, I understand, are run in certain cases for profit. Pay-roll tax. is not paid by the Bush Nursing Association in South Australia or New South Wales, although in those States it receives a government subsidy, and thus obtains a double advantage. This tax weighs very heavily on the association in Victoria. In that State alone it amounts to £800 a year, which is >a heavy impost for a small organization. Therefore, I submit that further consideration should be given to this matter with a view to exempting these institutions in Victoria from the payment of pay-roll tax.
– The law as placed on the statute-book by this Parliament is administered by the Commissioner of Taxation. He is the man who determines the matter.
– Is there any definition in the law of what constitutes a public hospital.
– There is no definition, but a rule has been laid down.
– The rule may be altered.
– The honorable member is provoking interjections; his time has nearly expired.
– Further consideration should be given to the application of the pay-roll tax to these hospitals. The facts I have given about the pay-roll tax apply equally to the entertainments tax, because the exemption concerns, not only public hospitals, but also philanthropic and charitable institutions. The Bush Nursing Association has carried out a number of those functions. I ask the Government, and the Treasurer in particular, to give further consideration to the facts with a view to the removal of a situation which I believe is fundamentally unjust to those hospitals that perform an excellent work and require the assistance of the Government instead of being mulcted of their moneys.
.- Before I proceed to deal with the subject in which I have special interest at the moment, I should like to support what the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has said about the control of the Bush Nursing Association’s hospitals. I will not say anything about the other aspects of the case.
– Will not the honorable member support me in that regard too?
– I do not wish to come into conflict with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) at the moment, because I may want something from him. The Social Security Committee, of which I am chairman, has examined the representatives of the Bush Nursing Association on oath, and has visited some of its hospitals. Accordingly, I know with what efficiency the hospitals are maintained. I also support the statement that whether or not they have the power to refuse to admit a patient they never refuse to admit any one who desires to be admitted. The bush nursing hospitals perform a useful function, particularly in Victoria, where we inspected them, and I think that every encouragement ought to be given to such worthy institutions.
The subject to which I particularly desire to refer is the disquieting information in a letter sent to me by a former constituent of mine now living in Sydney.
I know the writer very well as a man of high repute. He served in the South African War and the Great War, at which he lost a leg. Handicapped as he is, he is doing his best to make a living and to help in the war effort. That is- why lie is in Sydney. He brought to my notice two particular aspects of the difficulties which are now being experienced in Sydney. The first relates to the renting of rooms, indeed, any place in which to live. He told me that beds are being charged for ‘ at the rate of £3 or more a night and that in some places there are three beds in each room. He regards the present position in Sydney as a scandal. The premises in which he is living with 49 others changed hands, and when the new landlady took possession, she refused to accept rent, saying that she bad consulted the Crown law authorities, and that she had been told that, if she refused to accept rent, she could prosecute the tenants for trespass. He goes on to say-
Here is my own case, only a minor one: the new landlady took possession four weeks ago. [ have had no clean bed linen since and have been told by the landlady that she got her solicitor’s advice, and was told that she need not supply clean linen, and that she could raise the rent of rooms as she liked. Definitely this is so because they are doing it.
The other matter which he mentions is the trafficking in liquor at present. He asserts - I do not know with what truth - that some taxi-drivers in Sydney are working in co-operation with those who are trafficking in black market liquor, and that certain taxis can be obtained to take one to places where liquor can be. obtained at very high prices. He goes on to say -
Bottled ale, too, can be obtained if you know how to go about it. It is being obtained. There is evidence of it in the parks around and about the city.
I have no objection to people having liquor if they desire it. It is a part of our social set-up to brew intoxicating liquors as a beverage, and people who desire it have as much right to obtain it as I have to obtain a glass of milk if I want it. Both are for sale under certain conditions, and it is a matter of individual” taste whether one wants beer or milk. It seems to me, however, that, particularly in Sydney, and perhaps to a lesser degree in other parts of the Commonwealth, trafficking in liquor has become a grave menace to the community. I do not know whether the Minister, under whose control these matters come, has made sufficient efforts to prevent the cause of my correspondent’s complaints. If necessary, more men should be used to track down people who traffic in liquor or exploit the community by charging high prices for room rent. At Manly recently I was told by a friend, a former member of this House, of certain residentials where the tenants were given notice to quit, and where very high rents are being charged to servicemen who stay for only a day or two. I suggest that the appropriate department should take prompt steps to stamp out these two evils.
– I also bring before the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the adverse effect of the payroll tax and the entertainments tax on bush nursing hospitals. The Treasurer ought to be sympathetic because he knows what good work these hospitals do. The only difference between him and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and me is one of degree. As is well known by honorable members, I am opposed to the principle of the pay-roll tax, because I think that it is most curious that a person should be taxed because he benefits the public by employing people. I am aware that the payroll tax was introduced by a government of which I was a supporter, but I expressed my opposition to it then. The tax is bad in principle, but the anomaly of applying it to the Bush Nursing Association should be removed immediately. If the tax is persisted with, it virtually becomes a tax on those who are sick, who in many cases are the needy. The main revenue of the hospitals in question apart from outside help comes from the people who have to go into them. To tax the sick in order to provide a social service for somebody else is a most curious doctrine which cannot be substantiated on any grounds whatever. I do not think that any great amount of revenue is involved.
– But a very important principle is involved.
– I do not know if that is correct or not, hut I should say that the amount derived from this source is small compared with the large amount of revenue the Commonwealth receives. I hope that the Government will no,t perpetuate this shocking practice, merely to obtain a small amount of money which is completely lost in the total revenues of the Commonwealth. I trust that the Treasurer will give much more consideration to this point.
I understand also that the entertainments tax which is charged on receipts from concerts held to help the bush nursing hospitals, because they are not regarded as public hospitals, was not levied on them before September of last year, although the act has been in force for some time. If the Treasurer pleads that he will lose money, my answer is that he will lose very little. In letters which I have received from him, it has been suggested that the bush nursing hospitals discriminate between the needy and those who can pay. I am not in touch with them all over Victoria, but I am with some in my own electorate, and I believe that no such discrimination is made by them.
– Do they have power to discriminate?
– They may have the power, but so far as I know they do not use it. In fact, in certain cases I know that they never have discriminated, but treat every person, no maker what his financial circumstances are. The very big burden which is thrown on the community to maintain these hospitals is increased by the tax, and so is the amount of clerical work thrown on those who conduct the entertainments in an honorary capacity. The bush nursing hospitals are in the main very closely akin to public hospitals; in fact, in the majority of country areas they take their place. Many of them are in remote places, where otherwise no provision would be made for the sick.
– They represent a decentralization policy in connexion with our hospitals.
– The whole organization depends on the principle of decentralization. One can imagine in a country district without any provision for the treatment of the sick under the care of skilled nurses, what a burden is placed particularly on the poorer classes who cannot go to large and distant centres of population for treatment. These hospitals render an important service in remote areas, and without them the health of the community would suffer. I urge the Treasurer once again to take into consideration the views that have been expressed, particularly the fact that no great amount of money is involved, that the entertainments tax was not levied until September of last year, and that the pay-roll tax is most obnoxious, particularly when applied to hospitals which must depend for their finance mainly on the sick, who in many instances are also the needy. I hope the Treasurer will give much more favorable consideration to the subject than he has done.
.- I wish to raise two matters vitally affecting the war effort and the health of the community generally. The first is the need to increase the supply of fish. I am glad that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture .(Mr. Scully) is present, because he should be greatly interested- in the production of foods other than meat, which has now been rationed. In my electorate, which comprises a large industrial centre and includes many war industries, the .workers are taking the rationing of meat in the very best spirit, and trying to assist the Government in that regard. They would like their food supplies augmented in every possible way. I am sure that the Rationing Commission, whose chairman, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), is in the chamber, would also be pleased to know that something was being done to increase the supply of fish. Resolutions have been sent to me by local councils and other bodies in my electorate, asking me to raise the matter in Parliament and take it up with the responsible authorities. Throughout my electorate many empty fish shops can be seen. Since the Department of the
Navy took over the trawlers, the supply of fish has fallen considerably. I do not question the policy of the department in that regard, because when Japan entered the war it had to obtain every vessel it could get for defence purposes. The total quantity of trawled fish marketed in the year prior to the war was 14,000,000 lb., and this has now fallen to a little over 2,000,000 lb. a year. As against that, the production of estuary fish has increased by only a little over 4,000,000 lb.- from 14,000,000 to about 19,000,000 lb. a year. I urge the Minister and his officers, in the campaign to increase the country’s food supplies, to consider the possibility of increasing the fish supplies. That is a very desirable way to augment the nation’s food, because it is a more economic proposition than trying to increase the returns from agriculture. It does not require the planting, harvesting or man-power necessary in connexion with agricultural production, and is much cheaper and more expeditious. While I would not press the Minister to do anything in regard to the trawlers which the Navy has taken over - because only the Navy can decide when they should be returned - I urge him to emulate the example of the Government of Tasmania, which has constructed a trawler for its State’s fishing industry. Plenty of equipment is available, as well as boat-building plant, especially on the south coast, which could be utilized for this purpose. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has been obliged to perform many unpleasant duties in the way of diverting man-power and materials from civil industries, but he now has an opportunity to take action that will earn widespread commendation. He is charged specifically with the organization of food supplies. I direct his attention to this matter, and invite him to follow the example of the United States of America, which has launched a campaign ‘for increasing supplies of fish for the civil population. A newspaper report reads -
While Australia’s fish supplies have been drastically cut by war-time restrictions on the industry, the United States Government has adopted a policy of encouraging a vast increase in fish production.
A new organization, the Committee tor Increased Utilization of Sea Food Resources, is entrusted with the task of organizing the industry to meet “war-time demands. ‘Iiic committee consists of delegates from federal and state fisheries bureaux, the United States Fishermen’s Union, producers’ associations, distributors, cooking schools and various women’s clubs. Mr. Ralph H. Osborn, director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who is a member of the committee, announced recently: “Wo shall be able to put twenty-five million more- pounds of fighting food on the American table each year “.
As part of its work, the committee has launched a campaign to encourage the public to eat fish and shell-fish previously wasted.
Agents of the committee keep in touch with the big trawlers to “ rescue “ fish previously regarded as trash and thrown away.
The committee has carefully planned a programme which will put fish on sale at the right place, at the right time, at the right price, and in right condition.
The programme lias been made possible by nation-wide organization of the fishing industry and maintenance of trawling fleets at pre-war strength.
I hope ‘ that the Minister will coordinate the activities of local organizations for the purpose of increasing the supply of fish to consumers, because this food will have particularly beneficial effects upon the morale of persons engaged in war-time occupations who cannot now obtain a sufficient quantity of meat.
Last year, the Government extensively amended the Australian. Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, with advantageous results, but a case which has since come to my notice indicates that there is room for improvement in the administration. In fact, .a further amendment of the act may be required in the light of this evidence. I have received the following letter from Mrs. A. Bromley, 15 Telopea-street, Punchbowl, New South Wales, dated the 0th March, 1944-
I am appealing to you re my war pension. My entitlement tribunal appeal was heard last Thursday, ai:d this is what I received this morning, the decision of the tribunal stating that the tribunal could not accept that my late husband’s death was attributed to or materially contributed to his war service. The appeal was disallowed.
Mr. Morgan, they tell me that my husband died from cerebral tumour, cause , unknown, and it had all the doctors puzzled until after death, when an autopsy was held. Therefore my point is this, if the cause of this tumour was unknown how on earth could a tribunal or any one else say that it wasn’t caused through war service. .
My husband voluntarily enlisted in the Air Force, was 100 per cent, fit when he entered camp, passed all the Air Force doctors, medical examinations, also the X-ray tests, and was passed as Al. My husband was never sick, and gave up his good job as a glass operator at the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company at Waterloo, a highly skilled trade which he held for 28 years, so that he could do his bit to help to make his country safe for me (his wife) and his children. I have six children dependent on me for their support, and my husband also had three elder sons to his first wife. Two of these boys are in the Australian Imperial Force, one has done service in New Guinea, so you can see that my husband did his duty to his country, both by helping the population and also enlisting. He was never ill in his life until he entered camp and had injections. I’m not attributing the injections to his death, but they had my husband for thirteen weeks in Yaralla hospital until his death, and his illness wasn’t diagnosed. They tell me that science hasn’t found the cause of cancer, growths or tumours, and as my husband’s cerebral tumour didn’t show any signs of pain, &c, before enlistment and not until two months after enlistment, how can the tribunal say that it wasn’t caused through war service.
I am appealing to you, Mr. Morgan, to see what you can do in the matter.
It’s a very poor outlook on life for myself and six children. We lost a good provider and a very, very good husband and father. I’m broken-hearted about losing him, and then to think that I can’t even get some compensation in the way of a decent pension for a decent living for my youngsters. I can’t even go to work. It would mean neglecting my youngsters, and that I’ll never do.
I know that you’ll do all you can, Mr. Morgan. You’re a .good member and that is why we voted for you.
Whilst I appreciate the unfortunate woman’s confidence in me as a member of Parliament, there appears to be little that I .can do on her behalf as the law now stands. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is most sympathetic, but his decisions are governed by the act. I have already written to him about the plight of Mrs. Bromley, and I raise the matter to-day because I believe that certain defects in the act should be remedied. I urge the Minister to bring this matter before Cabinet without delay. When the act was amended last year, honorable members were given clearly to understand that the onus of proof that the injury or death of a soldier was not caused by or attributable to war service would unquestionably rest upon the repatriation authorities. Although Mrs. Bromley has had no legal or medical training, what she has written is plain common sense. If a man is accepted by the Royal Australian Air Force as being in perfect health, that ought to be sufficient. If he dies while in the service, the onus of proof should rest on the repatriation authorities. Mrs. Bromley has pointed out that the doctors themselves are unable to assign the cause of the tumour. I fail to see why the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal rejected the contention that the death of this man was caused by or attributed to his war service. Honorable members believed that they made this provision watertight, and that certain amendments submitted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) placed the issue beyond doubt. The House should consider the advisability of adopting the “ insurance provision “ contained in the Canadian act, that when a soldier is accepted by one of the services, the presumption is in his favour and should be accepted automatically, that any change of his condition in the future arises as the result of his war service. Another provision of the Canadian act ensures that the case for the appellant is properly presented to the repatriation authorities. Although the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has established a legal aid bureau to give advice to discharged servicemen, that does not go far enough. Any person with legal training is debarred from appearing before the tribunals to present the case for the appellant. When complicated medical matters arise, it is essential that a person with legal training should analyse the evidence and present the case. Under existing conditions, that it not possible. Whilst the AttorneyGeneral’s Department may advise the appellant, only a layman is permitted to appear before the tribunals.
– The benefit of the doubt should be given in more cases than it is.
– The appellant gets the benefit of any doubt.
– I know that the Minister is most sympathetic, but comparatively few pensions have been granted recently and many of them are quite inadequate. However, honorable members are not in a position personally to take these cases before the tribunal. I ask the Minister to consider the advisability of adopting the “ insurance “ provision of the Canadian Act, and establishing at the cost of the Government a legal aid bureau, the officers of which would have legal training and be permitted to appear on behalf of the appellant. There could not be any question of outside legal practitioners making a financial gain, because the fee is fixed and the instructions are issued by the department to men possessing legal knowledge who are trained to present such cases in a proper manner to the tribunals. Even medical men have considerable doubt in many of these matters. I read recently that in the Massachusetts general hospital the medical diagnosis was correct in 52 per cent, of 3,000 cases in which an autopsy was made, and in the balance of the cases it was wrong. m There is considerable doubt as to the efficacy of inoculation and immunization. T read not long ago of the death of 30 or 40 children following an inoculation. This man was quite fit up to the date of his enlistment, but, subsequently, was in hospital for a considerable period and eventually died. There must be a certain degree of presumption that his condition was attributable to war service, especially as the medical men were not able to assign the cause of the tumor. The in jections, by lowering his resistance, may have contributed to his death. Provision ought to be made for the payment of a compassionate allowance in such cases. This man gave up a good job, in which he had been regularly employed, and he had never been in ill health. The widow and the six young children, apart from the grown-up children, are now without their breadwinner. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will do what he can in the matter.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have had some correspondence with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) as to the compensation that should be paid to persons whose homes were destroyed by different methods in New Guinea and the Northern Territory. One case which I placed before the honorable gentleman has been referred to the “War Damage
Commission. That man had his place in New Guinea insured for £3,000. Under Army instructions, everything that he had was destroyed, and his wife and children were evacuated from the Wau area by air. Notwithstanding the destruction of hi.3 property, he is still required to pay premiums on .the amount for which it was originally insured. My experience has been that the payment of insurance premiums ceases upon the destruction of the property insured. According to this delightful arrangement the payment of premiums is to continue until the end of the war when the War Damage Commission will decide whether or not any further payment is to be made. This man applied to be granted £500 in order that he might make reasonable provision for his wife and children in the outskirts of Brisbane. Almost since he came out of New Guinea, he himself has been in one of the services; not with an Australian service, because he was told that he was not wanted. He walked out of one office in Melbourne to which I had sent him, having waited six days to be told that there was not a position for a man of his type, and was promptly commissioned by the Americans, with whom he has served in an extremely satisfactory capacity ever since. The Treasurer offered a payment of £50 to set up the family in Brisbane. That is as tough as anything could be. If the honorable gentleman continues in this strain, instead of being described as the honorable member for Macquarie his designation will be the member for Micawber.
The next case concerns a man who is on active service. His place in the Northern Territory, just outside Darwin, was insured for £3,000, and on the instructions of some authority was completely destroyed by fire. A portion of the furniture was removed, and he has since identified it in three different military establishments in Darwin. He says that nothing but the posts of the house are standing; all that remains of his home is the concrete walls. His wife was boarding at Birdum when I saw her recently. He has been advised that he has to continue the payment of premiums until the war is over.
– Does the honorable gen ti om an say that he has to pay the premium for this year?
– I do not know when the year ends.
– The premiums for this year have been completely waived.
– The last premium called for was paid. There is a growing feeling among persons who have been paying these premiums that the Commonwealth Government is doing well out of war damage insurance. I have paid three premiums. There is as much chance of my place being bombed as there is of my being at the North Pole next Christmas; those are approximately the odds of that happening against which we are insuring. The general feeling throughout the country is that war damage insurance is one of the “ niftiest “ financial transactions ever thought out by the Taxation Department. I am not particularly concerned about that at the moment, because it may be “ Exhibit A “ in this House on another occasion. For the time being, my concern is for men who have been forced out of their homes and compelled to provide for wives and families in other parts of Australia. They should, at least, be entitled to some advance of the amount for which they have insured their properties in order that their wives and families will not have to depend upon relatives, friends and others to accommodate them while the husband and father is absent on service either with the Americans or elsewhere.
– Is the honorable gentleman referring to persons who have been evacuated from the islands?
– Yes ; the first case that I mentioned is that of a man who was in New Guinea, if the honorable gentleman regards that as one of the islands. There has been some talk of our taking immediate control of our territories in those areas. According to the experience which some people are having there may not be as much enthusiasm for the proposal up there as the Government down here may imagine that there is. I advise the Treasurer to investigate one or two of these cases. I am not one who asks for what is unreasonable. I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman merely sends the matter on to the War Damage Commission, of which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) is chairman: It is time that the commission exhibited a little sweet reasonableness.
.- Earlier this month I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) whether the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, who, as honorable members know, are mostly old soldiers who have undertaken voluntarily certain military duties, thereby relieving other men for more active service, would be paid for the Easter camp of five and a half days. The regulations provide that payment is made in respect of camps extending for six days or more.- The Minister was impressed with the representations made to him, and said he would try to see that payment was made. Since then he has informed me that payment cannot be made to these men because the regulations specifically provide for a minimum of six days. These men attend parades frequently, some of them being held at night and on Saturday afternoons, whilst their advanced training is done at forts. They are then able to relieve artillerymen for anti-aircraft batteries. The decision to hold a camp of five and a half days’ duration at Easter appears to have been made by some one who saw a way to save money; I do not mean the Minister for the Army. I now ask him to look into this matter with a view to arranging that these men be paid for their services while attending the Easter camp.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has got his facts mixed in connexion with contributions in respect of war damage insurance. He said that contributions were still being paid in re’spect of properties - one at Darwin and the other at New Guinea - which had been destroyed. The Government has extended the contribution period decided on for 1.943 to cover also 1944, without any further payment of contributions whatsoever. No contribution can possibly be payable in respect of a property covered for 1943 beyond that for the present contribution period. If proof of destruction were in the hands of the War Damage Commission in respect of the New Guinea property to which the honorable member referred, there would certainly be no further liability for the payment of contribution; the damage would be assessed and recorded, and interest at 2£ per cent, pier annum on the amount would accrue from the date the damage was .sustained. According to the honorable member for Barker, the property at Darwin was not destroyed by war damage ; yet he expects the War Damage Commission to pay the owner for the damage that has taken place. It is not within the power of the commission to make any payment in respect of other than war damage destruction.
– The honorable member for Barker said that the building was demolished under instructions from some authority.
– He also said that the War Damage Commission should pay the owner. That is not within the power of the commission. That body may make payments to persons from evacuated areas who are not being reinstated for the time being, such payments not to exceed £100 in cases of distress. The commission is paying some people who come within that category.
– If - a building be destroyed by the Army in the course of its preparations, is that destruction not covered by war damage insurance?
– It is not covered by war damage insurance unless it was destroyed in repelling the enemy or in defending any action. If it was destroyed by the Army in order to obtain material for the other buildings, as has happened at Darwin-
– What would be the position if the building were destroyed in order to clear the field of fire?
– If the building were destroyed in expectation of an attack, it would be covered by war damage. Some buildings at Darwin, in the vicinity of the aerodrome, come within that category. In cases in which buildings are destroyed by fire, as has happened in Darwin, the ordinary insurance companies have accepted the liability and are now making their assessments. The owners of the buildings will be paid by those companies. It is not within the jurisdiction of the War Damage Commission to pay for any damage not covered by the regulations. I wish to make it clear that it is not possible for any contributor to be paying contributions for property that was covered in 1943. The honorable member for Barker has been misled in this matter.
– in reply - I have carefully followed the remarks of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) in regard to the circumstances of the tragic death of A.W.A.S. Gunner Amy Adamson at Portsea, in October last. I assure honorable members that this distressing case has not escaped the attention either of myself or of the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the sorrowing relatives. Before dealing with the military measures which have been designed, and taken, with a view to minimizing the possibility of any further tragedy of this nature occurring in the future, I shall state briefly the circumstances surrounding the tragedy itself. The deceased, A.W.A.S. Gunner Adamson, died at No. 62 Camp Hospital, Portsea, on the 28 th October, 1943, as a result of a dose of strychnine administered by mistake for a strychnine tonic. It appears that there was no full-time dispenser at No. 62 Camp Hospital, Portsea, and that a staff sergeant dispenser attached to No. 58 Camp Hospital, Queenscliff, came to No. 62 Camp Hospital once a week to do whatever dispensing was necessary. He would replace any stock used at the hospital, or anything that required renewal in the hospital-, from his dispensary outside the hospital building. It appears that this staff sergeant dispenser had made up a bottle of strychnine tonic from a prescription of the commanding officer of the hospital. This tonic was in a bottle labelled “Poison” and marked “Liq. Strych Tonic, 2 teaspoonsful in water, TDF before meals”, and was kept with the medicines. On the day of the tragedy the staff sergeant dispenser was away on leave. As the supply of tonic was running out, the sister in attendance sent to the quartermaster staff sergeant for a refill, under the impression that it was kept in the bulk store. The quartermaster staff sergeant was not a dispenser, and had no professional knowledge at all with regard to medicines, hut by reason of his duties he had access to the bulk store. He then made available a poison bottle which was of a different shape and bore the label. “Liq. Strych. Hyd BP. ozs. S “. The sister concerned had not previously met the quartermaster staff sergeant and thought she was dealing with a skilled dispenser. She commented on the fact of the bottle being different from that sent down by her and asked if it was the same stuff, to which she received an affirmative reply. She poured a dose from this bottle which was given to the patient, Gunner Adamson, by an orderly, as a result of which Gunner Adamson died. According to the evidence, poisons were kept on a separate shelf in the store, but not in a separate locked cupboard within the store. As was expected, the bulk store was under lock and key, to which the quartermaster staff sergeant had access.
The - coroner’ committed the quartermaster staff sergeant for trial for manslaughter. It was also proposed to give notice of trial to the sister as being the person implicated. The Crown, however, lodged a nolle prosequi against the quartermaster staff sergeant, and took no action against the sister for reasons which were fully set out in an opinion submitted by the Senior Prosecutor for the King in Victoria to the Victorian Attorney-General. With regard to the quartermaster staff sergeant, the Prosecutor for the King reported that the system in vogue at Portsea, which did not prescribe the precaution of keeping all poisons locked in separate cupboards, gave the quartermaster staff sergeant the chance of confusing the concentrated solution of strychnine with the very dilute solution in the tonic. Both had “Poison” marked on them so that the presence of that word would not put him on his guard against the possibility of confusion. Had he given a bottle marked “Poison “ for one which had not borne that word the case would have been different.
With regard to the sister concerned, the Senior Prosecutor for the King, said -
Had she known she was getting it from a quartermaster with no knowledge of drugs, just a storekeeper, in fact, she, I think, would have been grossly negligent not to probe further into the matter before using the medicine, but she thought, she says, and it seems reasonable, that she was dealing with a dispenser - a skilled and qualified man. She had been accustomed .to a camp where there was a dispenser of the rank of staff sergeant. Here was a staff sergeant in charge of drugs. She was new at this camp, and did not know of the visiting dispenser who used to come weekly, but had not come that week.
In the circumstances, the Prosecutor for the King considered that there was no case of criminal negligence against either the quartermaster staff sergeant or the sister in charge at the time. In the course of his summing-up, the coroner stated that he thought the real cause of the fatality was the lack of proper control of poisonous substances, that the standing orders relating to the quartermaster and dispensers did not seem to define sufficiently the responsibility of each, and that the whole question of handling and dispensing of poisons should be revised.
I may here mention that, in accord- ance with custom, a military court of inquiry was instituted to inquire into Gunner Adamson’s death, but after delivering an interim report the court adjourned until after the inquest. A committee specially . appointed by the Commander-in-Chief is making a lengthy investigation into the sufficiency of the standing orders of the Australian Army Medical Services in relation to the control of poisons and dangerous drugs in military establishments. This committee of inquiry is constituted of a senior staff officer and a senior, pharmaceutical officer. The committee reported that the standing orders for the control of poisons in Army hospitals are adequate and, in fact, the precautions prescribed compare more than favorably with those employed in civil hospitals. Although the. existing regulations were considered by the committee to be adequate, additional paragraphs have been added to the regulations with a view to simplifying and explaining certain portions of them.
I am, however, not satisfied, and the matter will not rest where it is. The regulations must be made foolproof so that a recurrence of this incident will be impossible.
– It is not so much a matter of amending the regulations as of ensuring that only qualified persons are permitted to handle poisons.
– That is so. Honorable members have brought to my notice some aspects of this case which are new to me ; and I, as Minister, sincerely regret the circumstances which led to the death of a fine young woman. The usual notification of a casualty or a death does convey an expression of deep sympathy from myself as Minister, and if this form of notification was not used in this case it was an unfortunate omission, and is deeply regretted. The matters raised by honorable members will be further considered, and the House may rest assured that everything possible will be done to render such occurrences impossible in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for In formation, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the following information in respect of each publication, first published after the 1st October, 1941, and now issued regularly at quarterly or more frequent intervals by the Commonwealth Government or any of its departments: -
title of publication;
frequency of issue;
number of copies printed;
average weight of newsprint used for each issue; and
estimated cost for the financial year 1943-44?
– The only publication issued by the Department of Information since the 1st October, 1941, in which newsprint is used is Home News, a weekly news review produced for men of the Australian fighting forces in areas not served by Army newspapers. Details of this publication are -
Frequency of issue - weekly.
Number of copies per issue - 4,500 approximately.
Newsprint used per issue - 2 cwt.
Production cost per annum - £2,000.
Although this is the only Department of Information publication involving the use of newsprint, the department issues other publications designed to give a proper appreciation both at home and abroad of the magnificent war effort of the Australian fighting forces, and the Australian home front. These publications include Facts and Figures of Australia at War, an official account of the nation’s war achievements. Details are -
Frequency of issue - quarterly.
Number of copies per issue - 9,000.
Paper used per issue - 81/4 cwt.
Production cost per annum - £640.
The department also distributes abroad every two months an overseas edition of the magazine Army, retitled South-West Pacific. No newsprint is used. The Army brochure series consists of individual books and these, therefore, are not “ issued quarterly or more frequently”. The one published to date, Battle of
Wau, has run to 70,000 copies, has used 5£ tons of paper (not newsprint) and has cost £750. These brochures will be financially self-supporting.
Information concerning the regular publications of Commonwealth departments is being obtained and will be supplied to the honorable member later.
t asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– I have seen the report referred to and will give the matter consideration, after consultation with the Treasurer, who deals with the matters mentioned.
Wak SERVICE Homes.
e asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Mr. FROST - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The position in relation to materials and man-power is under constant review by the Government, but no indication can be given at the present time when it is expected that building permits can be granted to persons eligible for loans under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act for the purpose of erecting homes.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state the amount of taxation, income and land, outstanding at the 31st
December, 1943, in respect of (a) the Commonwealth and (&) the States?
– The following are the amounts of Commonwealth and State taxation, income and land, outstanding at the 31st December, 1943: -
The amount shown as Commonwealth income tax outstanding includes £698,647 war-time (company) tax, whilst the State. totals include, in addition to income and land tax, various other taxeson income and miscellaneous taxes in the nature of land tax.
It should be borne in mind that most of the tax shown as outstanding at the 31st December, 1943, would not be due and payable until some time later.
N asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.’ CURTIN - I have referred the question to my colleague the Minister for External Affairs, who hopes to make a full statement next week in reply to the honorable member’s inquiry.
n. - Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question, without notice, following a statement made in the House by the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, in regard to the compensation paid for properties at North
Est endon, Victoria, compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth.
When I made my original statement on this matter, I was not fully aware of the detailed procedure followed. As was indicated by the Minister, the Department of the Interior does not determine the assessed value of properties without independent advice. The amount of compensation decided upon is based upon the valuations assessed by valuers of the Federal Taxation Department, and by sworn valuers in private practice in the district where the property is situated. If there is any large discrepancy between the Taxation Department’s valuation and that of the private valuer, arrangements are made for the two valuers to confer with a view to discussing their respective valuations and submitting a final valuation to the Department of the Interior. In many instances, additional valuations are obtained from other qualified valuers. This system of valuation does, I consider, constitute an equitable method of dealing with the acquisition of land.
n.- On the 7th March, 1944, the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Its main object is to urge dairy-farmers to increase milk production by growing more fodder crops and by supplementary feeding, and early advertisements were designed to inform dairymen about releases of man-power, machinery and materials.
The Government attaches great importance to the increased production of milk. Whilst the demand for butter, cheese and processed milk have greatly increased the production of milk has remained relatively static since the outbreak of war.
The campaign to encourage greater production from dairy-farms was undertaken after’ particular attention had been given to the problems of the industry by the Standing Committee on Agriculture which is comprised of State Directors of Agriculture, representatives of Commonwealth Food Control and certain other federal departments.
After the Standing Committee on Agriculture had recommended the course of .action to be taken, publicity officers of the State Departments of Agriculture conferred with the Public Relations Section of Food Control, the Department of Information and the advertising division of the Treasury, and agreed to the form of advertising.
In addition to releases of man-power as indicated in the answer to No. 2, the demand for cheap feed wheat, concentrates, coarse grains, protein meals and cereal hay has substantially increased. These results are considered to be partly in response to the campaign. Demand for concentrates from the record milling programme is so heavy that the Commonwealth has had to issue regulations under the National Security Act to control bran and pollard, and direct’ it to priority industries - dairying, pigs and poultry.
– On the 8th March, 1944, the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked a question regarding a statement reported to have been made by the Commonwealth Food Controller concerning man-power releases for the dairying industry.
I have ascertained that the report in the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 6th March is a correct report of the statement made by the Food Controller (Mr. Murphy). The full text of the statement as it appeared is as follows: -
Mr. Murphy said at the weekend that it had been intended to release 15,000men from the services for primary industry throughout Australia ; 11,000 for dairying and 4.000 for vegetable, meat and poultry production.
Dairy-farmers, however, had applied for less than 8,000, whereas the other industries had sought the release of more than 15,000.
Mr. Murphy was referring to letters from Courier Mail readers, complaining of problems facing dairy-farmers.
It could only be assumed from these figures that dairy-farmers preferred to carry on without additional labour, or it might be that they were not prepared to pay the prescribed rates of wage, he continued. Mr. Murphy admitted that a large percentage of applications made by dairy-farmers had been rejected, either because the local authorities did not approve of the farmers who had applied for releases, or because military authorities could not release the personnel applied for.
y. - On the 8 th March, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked the following questions, upon notice : - 1. (a) In view of the disparity as between States in the matter of loans granted by the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank shown by figures supplied to the effect that, approximately, only 13 per cent, of applicants from Victoria received loans while in New South Wales approximately 47 per cent, of applicants received loans, will he investigate this position with a view to ascertaining whether the valuations in Victoria are being determined on a too conservative basis.
If there is any other explanation, will hesupply it?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Coal-mining Industry: Coal-loading Plant at Carrington.
– On the 1st March, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked a question, without notice, regarding the sale of the coalloading plant which had been established at Carrington, to the Glen Davis Shale Industry.
The position is that the Commonwealth Coal Board, which preceded the Commonwealth Coal Commission, arranged for the purchase or manufacture of plant and machinery to be used for the purpose of stacking and loading coal at Carrington, Newcastle. This plant was recently disposed of by the Commonwealth Coal Commission to the National Oil Pty. Ltd., of Glen Davis. The plant had not been used for some considerable time, because all the coal mined was readily distributed by ship or rail direct to consumers, and no surplus production was available for storage. Without such surplus, there was no use for the plant at Carrington, and it has accordingly been disposed of to an important national undertaking at which it can be placed in useful work.
MrWilson asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n.- Inquiries will be made and a reply furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
– On the 6th March the honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked the following question, upon notice: -
In view of the difficulty experienced by primnry producers in obtaining essential farm machinery, equipment, and petrol, to carry on production, will he (a) have investigated and report to the House on the alleged waste nf petrol and tyres through the non-essential use of service vehicles; and (b) order a stocktaking of tractors and other farm machinery impressed by the Allied Works Council, and, at present, not economically employed, and of barbed wire, piping and other materials, now unobtainable by farmers, which have been stored for a considerable time at service establishments ?
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Barbed wire. - In June, 1943, the Army made arrangements with the Department of Supply and Shipping for the disposal nf all surplus stocks. Substantial quantities have, in fact, already been disposed of by that department.
Piping. - This is in great demand and small supply. The Army at present is short of its requirements.
Other materials. - The Army does not hold any excess stocks of materials, except steel pickets which have been offered to the Department of Supply and Shipping for re-sale; furthermore, all demands for bushfirerelief have been met. lt has been ascertained from the Contracts Board, Department of Supply and Shipping, that 18,500 tons of barbed wire more or less rusted has been handed over to the wholesale distributors at prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner. Of this quantity, 2,200 tons have been disposed of up to date, some of it to the Bush Fire Belief Committee. The Contracts Board also advises that 1,089,500 steel pickets have been made available for disposal in all States, but that the pickets Tequire to be punched before they can be used for fencing purposes, and that the Department of Munitions has arrangements in hand for punching. The Department of Air states that as supplies of barbed wire, fencing, &c., arc obtained from time to time in small quantities to meet specific requirements, stocks of these materials held by the Royal Australian Air Force are negligible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440310_reps_17_177/>.