17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether or not the Wages Board negotiations which were designed to settle the coldstorage dispute in Victoria have broken down? If so, has the honorable gentleman taken further steps to have the dispute settled?
– The Wages Board yesterday, because of legal technicalities, failed to deal with the matters in dispute. I have since had a conversation with a judge of the Arbitration Court, who is calling this afternoon a conference of the parties concerned. I hope that a solution will be found before nightfall to-day.
Position of Service Personnel Overseas - Departmental Investigations
– Will the Treasurer advise as to what grade of income tax is imposed upon servicemen and servicewomen overseas? Howmany taxes so assessed have been paid? In view of the difficulties experienced by these persons in meeting their assessments, what relief is proposed by the Government?
– I shall have the matter examined, and a statement supplied to the honorable gentleman.
– At an inquest held recently at Moree into the circumstances surrounding the death of C. D. L. Leeds, the evidence disclosed that the deceased had shot himself during a surprise visit by officers of the Taxation Department. Will the Treasurer state what justification that department had for taking the steps which, apparently, provoked Leeds to take his own life? If there were reasons for it, were they anonymous or valid ?
– Honorable members understand that the administration of the law relating to taxation is vested in the Commissioner of Taxation, who acts in conformity with the legislation passed by this Parliament. The duty of ascertaining whether or not payment of tax is being evaded falls upon that department. I understand that the death of Leeds was the subject of a coronial inquiry, and that officers of the Taxation Department were absolved from any blame in connexion with the tragedy. I do not attempt to examine the tax files of individuals or companies unless they make special representations to me. I am not aware of the reasons for the investigations in this case. I assume that the officers of the department were seeking information which would enable them to decide whether or not the payment of tax had been evaded. I am totally unaware of the reason which actuated the deceased when he shot himself.
– As strainers of the type prescribed by doctors and baby health centres for the preparation of food for infants are almost unprocurable in South Australia, will the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping endeavour to make such arrangements as will rectify the shortage?
Discharge of Sufferersfrom Venereal Disease - Penalties - Home Leave from New Guinea.
– I have received from one of the largest sub-branches of the
Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in my electorate a letter stating that at a recent meeting of the sub-branch concern was expressed at the apparent practice of discharging members ofthe forces back into civilian life while they were still suffering from venereal disease. I ask the Minister for the Army whether or not this is a fact. If it is, does he not consider that it would be better to retain such members in the forces until they had been cured? If the honorable gentleman is sufficiently interested, I shall give to him the name, rank and number of a man who, according to this letter, was discharged from the Army while suffering from syphilis.
– I am not aware that discharges are made from the Army of men who aresuffering from venereal disease. I am assured that the invariable practice is to have sufferers treated and cured before being discharged. If the honorable gentleman will give to me the name of the soldier concerned, I shall have the case investigated and acquaint him of the result.
– Will the Minister for the Army review the cases in which fines of £10 were imposedupon nine members of the Australian Imperial Force who were due to return to camp in North Queensland from Brisbane but refused to board a train because they would be expected to remain on it three days and two nights in a suburban carriage without conveniences? These men, I understand, have been subjected to other penalties. I also ask the Minister whether he will consider the possibility of providing omnibuses for soldiers who desire to return to their camps from Brisbane late at night? This is done for members of the American Forces. Such action would greatly relieve the congestion on trams and show reasonable consideration to our soldiers returning after leave.
– I shall consider the report of the cases referred to by the honorable member, and will keep in mind his representations. I shall also sympathetically consider his question regarding the provision of omnibuses.
– Will the Minister for the Army ascertain why 50 members of a certain unit who had had service at operational centres in New Guinea recently had their home leave cancelled, notwithstanding the fact that they had been in New Guinea for periods ranging from sixteen to 23 months?
– If the honorable gentleman will give to me the name of the unit, I shall have inquiries made. I am in a position to say that leave to all troops in New Guinea is being expedited as much as possible. Many troops who were up there for a considerable time are now being brought ou.t, and others will be brought out as fast as shipping can be made available and relief troops sent in to take their places.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that, although a constituent of mine obtained from his department a permit to purchase olive oil for medicinal purposes from a large shipping firm in Sydney, that firm refused to supply it except at the blackmarket price of £5 a gallon although the fixed price is £1 10s. 6d. a gallon ? Will the honorable gentleman compel this firm to supply this health-giving oil to those members of the public who produce permits entitling them to purchase it?
– I am astonished to hear that ^victimization has been practised on those who hold medical certificates for the purchase of olive oil. I shall instruct the Controller-General of Food to institute inquiries immediately. If necessary, I shall consider the freezing of all supplies of olive oil in the interests of public health, thus preventing further victimization and ensuring equitable distribution.
– Will the Minister for Transport state the reason for the refusal to allow school children attending the Armidale school to travel to their homes in Brisbane during the mid-winter vacation, whereas other children were permitted to travel twice that distance?
– Travel of school children interstate, where parents desire them to attend interstate schools, was reviewed very carefully at the inception of the priority regulations. It was recognized that, in view of the large number of school children concerned, and the urgent demand for important priority travel in connexion with the war effort, regular interstate travel at the conclusion of each school period could not be agreed to. Accordingly, it was decided that, if parents desire to continue the education of their children at schools in other States, they must restrict their travel to and from their homes to once per annum, and it was laid down that this should apply to the Christmas vacation, which is normally the long vacation period. It must be pointed out that the travel involved by school children is not only that which represents a journey between two States, but also involves many journeys from Queensland to Victoria, Queensland to South Australia, New South Wales to Western Australia, Victoria to Western Australia, and vice versa. In connexion with the Armidale school, the position was previously discussed thoroughly with the headmistress in Melbourne, when the decision was made clear and she was requested to advise all parents of children attending her school that travel to and from their homes would be permitted only in connexion with the Christmas vacation. The Armidale school is concerned not only with short-distance travel from Armidale to stations in Queensland south of Brisbane, but also with travel to stations as far north as Townsville and intermediate points. It is extremely difficult to obtain to-day on the limited train service, accommodation for essential defence requirements. The Commissioner for Railways iu Queensland admitted that in respect of travel to points north of Brisbane, when the children got to Brisbane they would have to wait there and take their chance of being transported farther north. The Armidale school is not differently situated from all other schools of its kind in the various States of Australia, and a preferential arrangement in its case would be impossible. Many other schools which are similarly situated have made similar requests. These have been declined, and cannot possibly be handled under the railway transportation conditions that exist to-day. In correspondence with my department, the headmistress of the Armidale school admitted that she had been duly informed of the position, and stated that she had also duly informed all parents of children attending her school.
– According to a memorandum of the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Government has decided to release a ‘few thousand saddles, and supplies of other harness. Is the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that the fixed price to the purchaser represents an increase of 50 per cent, on the price charged by the Government to the trade) What justification is there for “slugging” the producer to such a degree? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that the profit allowed to the trader shall he reduced to a reasonable amount?
– I am not aware of the facts mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries. The honorable member will understand that the fixation of prices comes within the jurisdiction of the Prices Commissioner. I shall find out the basis upon which the prices were fixed, and communicate with the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Air received communications from the Government of New South Wales or from other sources drawing attention to the serious disability suffered by deaf, dumb and blind children in New South Wales, whose education has for some years been suspended because of the impressment by the Department of Air of the building at Newtown, in which their education was previously carried on? If he has not received any such communication, will the Minister look into this matter in the interests of these greatly afflicted children ?
– I have received communications from several sources urging the release of the school building referred to, and I have stated in reply that it will be done at as early a date as possible. I point out, however, that before we oan give up this building, another will have to be found in which to house those now occupying the school building. As man-power and materials are not available for the erection of buildings, I cannot undertake to release the school immediately, but I shall fulfil my promise to do so as soon as .possible, because I appreciate the disabilities under which the children are suffering.
Report or Public WORKS Committee.
– As Chairman,- I lay on the table the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed erection of a hostel at Canberra.
– Will the Prime Minister table the interim report of the Parliamentary Committee on Censorship, and will he also, make a statement to the House regarding the steps which have been taken to give effect to the committee’s recommendations ?
– I propose to table the interim report immediately the debate on the Address-in-Reply is completed. I have approved of the six recommendations in the interim report and’ have directed the departments concerned to give effect to them.
– Will the report be tabled this week?
– Yes. As the result of a consultation which I had with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), it has been agreed among us that the work of the committee shall be continued, and that certain provisions shall be made so that its work may proceed more smoothly and rapidly.
– Shall we have a report before the end of next year ?
– I shall table any subsequent report after I get it.
– In view of the hardship and inconvenience caused to a great number of families by the rationing of clothing, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to the granting of additional ration coupons to housewives for the purchase of household linen when necessary?
– The honorable member’s submission will be conveyed to the Rationing Commission.
Award to Medical Personnel
-Is the Army journal Salt correct in stating that no Australian medical personnel, doctors or stretcher-bearers, have been recommended for the Victoria Cross in the present or the last world war? Is it also correct, as stated in Salt, that the Victoria Cross is an award by His Majesty, and that no one has any authority to place conditions upon its award? Does the Minister consider that no Australian doctors or stretcher-bearers have earned the Victoria Cross in either of the two wars, and, if he does not think so, will he demand the reason for this high-handed and presumptuous interference by military authorities.
– I shall peruse the statement in Salt, and I hope to make a full statement onthe matter to-morrow.
Voting by Service Personnel - Lectures by Captain C. E. Martin - Scrutineers - Royal Australian Air Force Publicity -B Class Broadcasting Stations - Address by Professor K. H. Bailey - Mr. Rankin, M.P. : Political Activities in Uniform.
– In view of the suggestion made yesterday that soldiers had voted on the referendum without having been given an opportunity to consider the “ No “ case, is the Minister for the Army able to make a statement on this matter setting out the arrangement which has been made for affording soldiers an opportunity to consider both sides of the question before voting?
– by leave- Neither the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Turner, nor I has any information that servicemen in the South-West Pacific Area have yet cast their votes in the referendum. The position regarding voting by soldiers is as follows : - Last week, quantities of voting material and many copies of the official pamphlet setting out the case for and against the referendum were despatched to the Army in New Guinea and the Northern Territory. I am informed that sufficient time has not elapsed for the ballot-papers and the “ Yes “ and “ No “ cases to he distributed to the units. Generally speaking, soldiers in New Guinea and the Northern Territory will vote during the second week in August. Soldiers in the States - that is, Queensland, Now South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia - will vote on polling day, the 19 th August.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Turner, suggested to Army Returning Officers, Major H. C. Thompson for New Guinea, and Major J. J. Farquharson for the Northern Territory, that it would be convenient for units located within reasonable distance of head-quarters to vote during the second week in August, which would allow sufficient time for the ballot-papers to be returned for counting but at the same time it was well to ensure that voting should take place in units so that the ballot-papers would not be returned too late to be counted. All ballot-papers will have to be returned three days after polling day - that is three days after the 19th August. Mr. Turner advised that, where conditions safely permitted, voting should not take place undulyearly.
It will be seen, therefore, that it is not likely that any soldiers have voted so far, because the machinery has only recently been set in motion, and sufficient time has not elapsed for votes tobe taken. It is possible that some units far removed from head-quarters in New Guinea and the Northern Territory will vote fairly soon, because of the time taken in returning their ballot-papers. On the other hand, the vast majority of troops in the Northern Territory and New Guinea will not vote before the second week in August, and those in the States of Australia will vote on the 19th August. Every endeavour is being made to ensure that soldiers will have an opportunity to study the official case for and against the referendum before they cast their votes. An Army order has instructed commanding officers to ensure that this shall be done. In addition to the official case being distributed by the electoral authorities, a full “ Yes-No “ case as officially set out is published in the Army journal Salt of the 17 th July, which is now being distributed among the troops.
– Does the Minister for the Army deny that some months ago Captain C. E. Martin, Attorney-General of New South Wales, lectured troops in New Guinea in favour of the Government’s proposals for increased powers? If not, will the Minister inform the House who instructed Captain Martin to deliver such lectures? Was not the action of a serving Army officer in delivering lectures of a political character, grossly improper ?
– I have no official knowledge of any lectures having been delivered by Captain Martin. I do know that he was posted to New Guinea some considerable time ago. I have been told unofficially that while there he was invited to deliver some lectures to troops who were anxious to get information, and that he fully satisfied them.
– I have received communications from various parts of Australia on the question of whether scrutineers will be appointed on the “No” side during the forthcoming referendum. Whether these inquiries relate toscrutineersatthetimeofthe taking of the vote or the counting of the vote, I am not clear. I ask the Prime Minister to ascertain the position-
– Are not scrutineers appointed by State governments?
– I do not know.I am asking the Prime Minister to have a short statement prepared on this subject so that we may answer these inquiries.
– The law on this subject has stood for a number of referendums. It has not been amended for this particular referendum.
– I was not suggesting that it had.
– That is so. When referendums have been held in the past, neither the “Yes” side nor the “No” side found it necessary to have scrutineers. The law, I believe, provides that the Governor-General may appoint a scrutineer, or at the request of a Governor of a State, he may appoint scrutineers. However, I shall have a statement prepared clarifying the position.
– As the AttorneyGeneral knows, a weekly Australian newsletter circulates among many thousands of Royal Australian Air Force personnel overseas. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether both sides of the referendum case have been placed before those men, who, I understand, are now voting in Great Britain?
– I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Air.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral yet in a position to advise the House whether there has been an infringement of the Electoral Act and the Post and Telegraphs Act by reason of the fact that, on Sunday night last, certain B class broadcasting stations broadcast, by direction, referendum propaganda prepared, I understand, by the Department of Information, and unaccompanied ‘ by any announcement of the authority for broadcasting, such as is required by law to material calculated to affect the decision of the electors?
– I have asked for a report upon the subject, which will have to be furnished by another department, and I have not yet received it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that Professor Bailey, who is associated with his department, recently addressed the Australian Institute of Political Science, and placed before it the Government’s case in favour of increased power for the Commonwealth Parliament? If Professor Bailey did so, was it by direction of the Attorney-General, and is it a fact that his expenses in that connexion were borne by the Government?
– This is the first I have heard about Professor Bailey having attended such a meeting.
– We want the facts, not what the Minister knows.
– Professor Bailey is entitled to his own views on that subject just as are other citizens.
– Is he being paid by the Government ?
– I cannot imagine that on this occasion he was. However, I shall look into the matter.
Return of Men Serving Overseas
– During last session, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and I made representations regarding the possibility of bringing back to Australia, either on leave or on rotation of service, members of the Royal Australian Air Force who had served for long periods overseas, particularly in the Middle East. The Minister for Air stated at the time that there were certain difficulties in the way, although he himself was sympathetic. I now ask him whether it has yet been found practicable to do as we suggested?
– Yes, arrangements have been made for the return of a quota of men serving as ground staff of -the Royal Australian Air Force overseas. The men are to ‘be returned as far as is practicable in accordance with the length of their service abroad. The difficulties which previously existed were overcome during the visit of the Prime Minister to London. Because of shipping problems, it will not always ;be possible for the men to return exactly according to the quota arrangements, hut it will he done as far as possible.
– -Would the Minister for the Army be surprised to learn that during a recent by-election campaign in Victoria, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), then a highranking officer in the Volunteer Defence Corps, was seen on the premises of the Australian Country party in the full dress uniform of a general, and that subsequently he was seen in the street talking to electors, and no doubt endeavouring to influence them as to how they should vote?
-Order ! That is not a personal explanation.
– The explanation is, that I was not in the office of the Victorian Country party or the United Country party from the date of the issue of the writs to the date of election.
– If the honorable gentleman was, he does not remember it.
– -The honorable gentleman who has interjected, and who came from a sewer in East Sydney-
– Order I
– He, too, does not remember events very well.
– The honorable gentleman was in the campaign committee room. I saw him there.
– Order! The honorable member for Bendigo is making a personal explanation.
– I was not in the office of the Victorian Country party from the date of the issue of the writs until the date of the elections. I do not want to tell the honorable member exactly what he is; there is no occasion for me to do so. He was born like that.
– Thank God I was not born as* was the honorable gentleman.
– I was not in the party rooms. I know exactly what a soldier and an officer of His Majesty’s forces is entitled to do, and where he is entitled to go, in uniform, and I have abided by that. Such people as these-
– I do not need to say more.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, following the question he was asked yesterday in regard to Government contracts with vegetable growers, he will cause an investigation to be made of the vegetable contract position in the Robertson electorate? Where he finds that there is no conflict between the dairying industry and vegetable growing, will he request the State Department of Agriculture to review the position with a view to the Government entering into contracts of a total amount at least equal to the total amount of contracts last year, thereby preventing any hardship to growers that would be caused by decrease of the amount of contracts?
– I shall ask the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture to confer immediately with the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales and as far as possible, give effect to the desires expressed by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether it is the policy of his department that all new housing shall be carried out by the Commonwealth Housing Commission or that private enterprise shall be allowed to share? If the latter is the case, why has permission been refused to private interests to embark on housing schemes which have been submitted to the department for approval?
– There are three aspects of housing: first, current building undertaken by private people for themselves; secondly, current building undertaken by government departments; and, thirdly, the housing programme envisaged by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Individuals who desire to build houses for themselves must make application to my department. Each application ia investigated and decided upon its merits. There is nothing to prevent private enterprise from erecting bouses for , people at present, provided that their case is sufficiently good to warrant a permit being granted. The Government housing programme which is now being undertaken is an entirely different matter. That is done by cooperation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. I hope that that makes the position clear to the honorable member.
– Could the AttorneyGeneral tell the House the reason for suspending investigation by the National Security Department of the conditions of entry of aliens into Australia? Is it a fact that some of the aliens who were admitted to this country were immediately interned? If this investigation is not to go on, will the right honorable gentleman lay on the table of the House for the information of honorable members generally the contents of the reports made so far?
– I am not aware of the precise reports to which the honorable member refers or whether they come within the purview of my department. If they do, and the honorable gentleman gives me particulars, I shall look into the. matter.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether or not certain naturalization proceedings which are being conducted at present are in respect of aliens who were sent to Australia under an agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom in the year 1940-41 ? Is not the naturalization of those aliens in contravention of an agreement that was entered into between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom at that time?
– The subject of the naturalization of aliens does not come within my province. However, I shall look into the matter that has been raised by the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for the Army that both the “ Yes” ease and the “No” case have received equal presentation in the Army publication Salt, will the Minister tell me if he has seen the issue of Salt of the 27 th May last, containing “ a guide to the New South Wales elections “, which sets out that the seat of Bondi includes Botany and La Perouse, when it is well known that there is already a State seat of Botany, and that Botany and La Perouse are not included in Bondi? Such a statement may have vitally affected the result of the election in the Bondi constituency at the recent State general elections. Does the Minister now consider that Salt is so impartial that it can be trusted to set out the referendum issues impartially?
– Salt is strictly impartial in the handling of these questions.
– What about that blunder?
– I submit that no fairminded honorable member will say that a mistake of that kind shows partiality on the part of the paper. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has an out-of-date issue of Salt. I refer him to the issue of the 17th July, and suggest that he should read pages 1, 2 and 3 very carefully.
Attitude of Greater Brisbane Council
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the fact that the Greater Brisbane City Council, when re-employing discharged soldiers has issued a questionaire and asked that they present their certificates of discharge, with the result that men who, through no fault of their own, have not had the opportunity to go to operational areas are being discriminated against and denied the privileges of their mates who have gone into operation areas. I ask the Attorney-General whether that is contrary to National Security Regulations ?
– Broadly speaking, the rights given by the war service regulations, which are administered by my department, extend to the serviceman whether or not he has served outside Australia. I shall inquire whether the rights which were denied in the case mentioned by the honorable member are included in the rights which both classes of Australian servicemen should enjoy under the regulations.
-Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture reach a decision without delay regarding the petition which I sent to him for the removal of the Commonwealth embargo on the export of clover seed to New Zealand? Before doing so, will he take the opportunity to discuss with the Minister for the Army the fate of a similar embargo upon the export of sheepskins during the term of the previous Labour Government?
– I have been approached regarding the embargo on the export of clover seed to New Zealand. The first intimation which I received from the Director-General of Agriculture and the Seeds Committee which is handling this matter, was that there is a definite shortage of clover seed in all the areas in Australia which require it. Therefore, the Director-General of Agriculture considered it necessary to ensure that Australian primary producers, who depend upon clover seed, shall have their requirements supplied. Indeed, the whole of the requirements of land which has already been prepared for clover, would not he fully met. Consequently, I commend the Director-General of Agriculture for reaching this decision. The embargo has been placed upon the export of clover seed, not because of any glut but because of the scarcity here if the seed were not retained here, some primary producers would be placed in a difficult position.
Red Cross Recreation Hall
– Will the Minister for the Army give permission to the Red Cross to build a recreation hall, at its own expense, at No. 112 Australian General Hospital, Greenslopes, Brisbane? The conditions there for entertaining disabled servicemen are the worst in Australia.
– Prompt consideration will be given to any application from the Red Cross in that regard, and the honorable member’s representations will receive attention.
– Will the Acting
Minister for Supply and Shipping make a statement to the House before this sessional period ends regarding reserve stocks of coal in hand, especially in New South Wales, and the possibility of the further rationing of train services and electricity and gas supplies in the metropolitan area? Has the Government considered the possibility of obtaining coal by the “open-cut” method, especially at Lithgow? It is understood that the open-cut can be operated by comparatively unskilled labour. Has this method been suggested to the Government by a practical coal-mining authority from overseas, and will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the matter?
– The honorable member’s suggestion for obtaining coal by the “ open-cut “ method is soundly based, and the Coal Commissioner, assisted by the Coal Production Manager, Mr. Jack, has already commenced to use that method. To the present, good results have been obtained, and it is hoped that a further improvement will be achieved. I shall let the honorable member see figures relating to coal stocks, but it has never been the practice to make this information public. Sufficient has been said by the Prime Minister and other Ministers to show that the position of the coal reserves is serious, and that for a considerable period, consumption has exceeded production. That has been reflected in the position of the stocks.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House regarding the International Monetary Conference which is being held in the United States of America, setting out the possible effects upon Australia of any of its decisions? As those decisions may well be of vital import to this country, will the right honorable gentleman give an assurance that before Australia is committed to any such international agreement, this Parliament will be consulted ?
– Before this country accepts any agreement, the Parliament will be consulted. A bill will be introduced for the purpose of either ratifying an agreement tentatively made, or authorizing an agreement. I cannot say at what stage it would be proper to consult the Parliament. The present position is that the conference in the United States of America has almost concluded its deliberations. A great deal of preliminary investigation has been conducted by experts, who have decided to make recommendations to their respective governments. A full account of the nature of the discussions has not yet reached the Commonwealth Government, although we have received reasonably full reports of the conversations. Australia is represented by Professor Melville. Among the things which the world needs in order to have stable conditions after the war is international concert in regard to credit and the provision of the capital necessary to enable countries which have been overrun or whose resources have been exhausted to have purchasing power, so that producers in those countries capable of supplying them shall be paid. Having regard to the statement which I made earlier in the week, I consider that agreements of this nature are to be welcomed for the prevention of war, for rehabilitation and relief, and for collaboration in the improvement of world standards. Unless any proposed monetary agreement impinged grievously upon the interests of the country in some way, I would be quite prepared - and I say it unhesitatingly - to give the most sympathetic consideration to it.
– Yesterday, the Attorney-General informed the House that the inquiry into the internment of members of the Australia First Movement had been postponed at the request of certain internees. Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the statement in this morning’s press to the effect that Mr. Justice Clyne had postponed the inquiry in order to investigate certain charges made by the Crown Solicitor of South Australia, Mr. Hannan, concerning the censorship of mail matter? I ask the AttorneyGeneral which statement is correct - the one he made yesterday, or the one reported in this morning’s press? Is it intended that the inquiry into the internment of the members of the Australia First Movement shall be postponed, and that Mr. Justice Clyne shall be provided with other work to do, until after the 19th August next?
– What 1 said yesterday was that the adjournment of the inquiry into the Australia First movement had been granted by Mr. Justice Clyne on the application of counsel for the internees, or certain of them. I have ascertained this morning that the reading of certain documents by counsel assisting the Commissioner had surprised counsel for the internees and that, consequently, the inquiry had been adjourned to a date which, I think, is some time next week. The Prime Minister appointed Mr. Justice Clyne, the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy, to investigate certain matters raised by the Crown Solicitor of South Australia, and His Honour decided, on his own initiative, that he would complete that inquiry first. I understand that it will be a short inquiry, whereas the Australia First inquiry, which will be of a much broader and more general character, will involve a large number of persons, and may take a long time. The Government would have preferred the Australia First movement inquiry to have to have proceeded without adjournment, but Mr. Justice Clyne is the Judge, and has reached the opinion that the Hannan investigation can be disposed of without delay. I am most anxious, as I informed honorable members recently, that the report of the judge on these cases shall be presented without delay, but the matter is out of my hands and is in the hands of the Security Service and His Honour.
– Why was the Hannan case referred to Mr. Justice Clyne?
- Mr. Hannan made charges affecting the opening of mail and other matters, and it was considered, apparently, that a decision could be reached rapidly.
– We have a censorship committee.
- Mr. Hannan objected to the Censorship Committee, or to some members of it, and asked for a judicial inquiry. I hope that the inquiry into the Australia First Movement will be carried through to its conclusion, so that those who complain that they have been unjustly treated may obtain a vindication, and that those who His Honour may think were justly interned may know where they stand also.
– No direction was given to Mr. Justice Clyne to suspend the Australia First Movement inquiry in order to deal with the censorship charges by Mr. Hannan.
– It was inevitable.
– It was not inevitable.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether he will make personal inquiries from his officers in New South Wales concerning the refusal to permit the transfer of the business of Taylor Brothers, bakers, of Beecroft, to a certain individual? One of the present proprietors of the business is on active service. I understand that permission to transfer the business has been refused solely on the ground that the proposed purchaser had offended against the zoning regulations in another district. If that is the only reason for refusing the transfer, I ask the Minister to take immediate steps to reverse the decision in order that the person concerned may not be called upon to pay a double penalty for a breach of the National Security Regulations, particularly in view of the fact that thousands of offenders against the regulations are escaping without any penalties whatever?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with the full facts of the case I shall make a thorough investigation of it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral lay on the table of the House the full terms of settlement arrived at between the Government and the press arising out of the recent censorship controversy ?
– The specific terms of settlement were finally embodied in the National Security Regulations. Those, I believe, cover the whole ground.
– There were no secret clauses?
– There were no secret clauses. If there are in existence any additional documents I shall make them available to the honorable member.
Employment in Civilian Prosecutions.
– In a telegram that I have received, I am advised that a corporal in the Royal Australian Air Force has been used by the Rationing Commission as a decoy in connexion with a breach of the rationing regulations which was unconnected with a service matter. The matter was reported in the Melbourne press. In response to a request by my informant, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs on whose authority service provosts are employed in this way?
– I shall obtain the information and shall advise the honorable gentleman as soon as possible.
– The CommonwealthGazetteofThursday,the22nd June, publishes a list of bank deposits which have been transferred to the
Depositors’ Unclaimed Fund. I understand that when there have been no operations on a deposit for a period of four years, the deposit is transferred to this fund and, after the expiration of seven years, it is transferred to Consolidated Revenue. I have learned that many persons who established trust accounts for their children in the early days of childhood, and have not since operated on them, are not aware of this practice. Thus, many accounts may be lost to their founders without their knowledge. Will the Treasurer endeavour to ascertain the originators of accounts before these are finally dealt with?
– I shall discuss the matter with the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank, in which the accounts are held, and shall examine the request of the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report published in a Temora newspaper that the Government is getting a. rakeoff of from 3s. to 4s. a bushel on wheat now being sold?
– It has been brought to my notice that some country newspapers have published statements to that effect, but they are absolutely untrue. In every instance the growers receive the full net return after the wheat in the various pools is sold. In no circumstances has the Government attempted to take for itself one farthing of the realization money. Far from that, the Government has contributed between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 as a subsidy to bring the realization price up to the guaranteed price, and it has also paid direct subsidies of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 on commodities used in the production of wheat.
– Will the Minister seek an early opportunity, preferably this week, to make to the House a detailed statement of the actual f.o.b. prices realized for wheat lately, showing the difference between this price and the price at which the Government has disposed of wheat for power alcohol purposes and for stock feed, so that the true position regarding the wheat pools may be placed before the growers who art the real owners, instead of this information being confined to a little coterie who are running the pools?
– I ask the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper, but I take this opportunity to point out, in answer to his gibe about the Australian Wheat Board, that this organization was, for the first time in the history of Australia, selected by the direct vote of the wheat-growers, who thus have full control over all marketing arrangements, something previously unknown in this country.
Appointment of Committees - Order of Business
– Has the Prime Minister made any decision regarding the reappointment of those parliamentary committees which expired upon the prorogation of Parliament? Can he also say what are the intentions of the Government regarding the business to be placed before Parliament before it adjourns ?
– When the Standing Orders permit, I propose to move for the re-appointment of the War Expenditure Committee, and I am awaiting the receipt of certain names from the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party before moving for the re-appointment of the Social Security Committee.
When the Address-in-Reply is adopted, I propose to ask that the House should adjourn in order to enable honorable members to take part, as I understand is their wish, in the referendum campaign, and to permit of the preparation of the budget. I shall ask Parliament to reassemble towards the end of August, when the referendum will have been taken, and we can proceed uninterruptedly with the consideration of legislation. I do not know how long the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply will take, but it affords the widest scope for honorable members to deal with matters which they deem to be of importance, and I have no desire to curtail the debate.
– Only one opportunity to speak is afforded.
– One opportunity, used well, would, I think, be quite adequate for all of us. After that, I shall table the papers in regard to which I gave an undertaking to the Leader of the Opposition earlier to-day.
– Will the Prime Minister consider fixing a time within which parliamentary committees should be required to furnish their reports? I know that parliamentary committees have done extremely good work; but some are able to complete their inquiries more quickly than others, and if a time limit were fixed, it should result in a saving of transport.
– I think it would be very wrong for the Government to limit in any way the deliberations of committees appointed by Parliament. I am certain that members of parliamentary committees conscientiously discharge their duties, and that they present their reports as soon as is possible, consistent with the need to hear evidence and adequately investigate the subject-matter of their inquiry. I should not like to introduce the precedent of imposing upon committees appointed by resolution of Parliament anything in the nature of duress.
– It would not he a precedent; it is done in the House of Commons.
– A time limit has been imposed in the terms of reference of royal commissions, but in regard to parliamentary committees, Parliament itself could impose a time limit if it so wished, but I, as Prime Minister, certainly would not,
Debate resumed from the 18th July (vide page 137), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Listening to the Governor-General’s Speech, one could not help but have a feeling of deep regret that it was the last time on which we should hear Lord Gowrie address this Parliament. His Excellency and Her Excellency, the Lady Gowrie, will soon leave Australia and my good wishes will go with them. I have had very great pleasure in knowing their Excellencies. I know full well that their humaneness has never been excelled by that of any of their predecessors. I say that quite definitely because, in the depth of the depression, they visited the coal-fields district. Conditions were very, very bad there at that time and the people there had little sympathy extended to them. Starvation was rife. People were evicted right and left from their homes and forced to live in wretched hovels. Lord and Lady Gowrie went to the coal-fields to sympathize with the miners. They walked from door to door and spoke with the miners and. their womenfolk, leaving a few shillings here and there. When one realizes that a lady of such high qualities as Lady Gowrie possesses is soon to leave this country, one can only say that it is Australia’s loss. I can say for the coalmining community that its sympathies will accompany Their Excellencies. We extend to them our good will and wish them many years of happiness. Every one felt deeply for Lord and Lady Gowrie when they gave their only son in this war. For myself, I say that I hope that they will be long spared to enjoy the rest that they have earned by their labours and services not only to this country, but also to the whole British Empire.
This debate has been conducted on a high level and has not descended in any way to personalities. Honorable members have spoken with sincerity. Some, of course, have mixed with that sincerity a great deal of propaganda for the forthcoming referendum. It is my intention to try to keep the debate on an equally high level. During the last European war, those who participated in it were promised all sorts of things. Such flowery terms as “ a world fit for heroes to live in “ were used. We all know what happened to those promises. I hope that at least the European section of this war will terminate very shortly, perhaps before the end of this year. When victory comes, we shall have to face great difficulties. I think one of those difficulties is forecast in a question asked in the British House of Commons by Commander Rhys Davies, M.P., of the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, in which he asked - I do not quote the exact words - whether, if Germany turned Communist as a prelude to the peace, the allied nations would continue to fight Germany in the same way as they fought Russia at the termination of the last war. So, one can see the problems which are exercising the minds of people to-day and the great difficulties that those who will represent the allied nations at the peace table will have to face. We must learn our lessons from the mistakes of the past. In precivilization times heavy toll was extracted from the defeated tribe by the victors. The women of the defeated were the price of defeat. From then on harsh indemnities have been exacted from the vanquished. Such penalties are the seed of further wars. Undoubtedly, it was the harsh toll exacted from Germany after its defeat in 1918 that sowed the seeds of this war. If one reads the life of Herman Goering one can see the doctrine of hatred that was implanted in the minds of Germans through propaganda directed towards the smashing of the Treaty of Versailles. That is on the one hand. On the other we have the problem of the German character. The Germans have been a problem for hundreds of years, from the time when, as the Goths and the Huns, they overran Europe. The Germans have always been a belligerent tribe, ever quarrelling and fighting. We find the same querulousness and ‘belligerence dominating German life to-day. This is demonstrated in to-day’s press account of a German soldier preferring death rather than accept a transfusion of British blood. On account of his hatred of the British, he died. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was speaking last night, he said something which prompted another honorable member to ask whether he thought it was necessary to exterminate the Germans. On the impulse of the moment, I felt like saying, “Yes, exterminate them”, but we all know the impossibility of such an inhumane act as that. The very thought of it is revolting. It would cause revulsion throughout the world. Yet unless something be done to curb Germany our children will be fighting Germans again within the next twenty years. What to do is the problem that will be pondered by those who will be given the authority to deal with Germany at the conference table when the war ends. I believe that the German nation should be so smashed up as never to be ‘able again to ‘become an aggressor. There have been nations that have been scattered to the four corners of the globe. Probably it would be a good thing to scatter the Germans in like manner. We have the example of the way in which Germany itself has scattered and massacred the Jews. I believe, however, that Germany will rise again. Its people are highly intelligent. Their inventive genius is amazing. I think it would be a great thing if we adopted suggestions which have been made from time to time that orphan children from not only Germany, but also the countries the Germans have devastated, should be brought here in order to build up the population of this country. During the last century, when the United States of America was seeking population, it encouraged people of all nationalities, even of the coloured races, to migrate there. One characteristic of Americans, which has been of great interest to me since their troops began to arrive here at the request of the Commonwealth Government, is their intense love of their country, regardless of their colour or heredity. First and foremost, they are American citizens. Australia must endeavour to populate its vast empty spaces. This war has taught us a valuable lesson which we should never forget. When Japan threatened us, Great Britain was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Germany, and could not come to our assistance. If Japan, instead of striking at Pearl Harbour, had pressed south to Australia, this country would have come under the domination of the yellow man.
– Does the honorable member think that the yellow streak in the Americans would have shown up, and that they would have written a note to Japan ?
– No. I say quite clearly that the Americans came into this war, as every other nation did, to defend themselves. They were attacked. Soviet Russia became involved in the war when Hitler attacked it. I do not admit that there is a yellow streak in the Americans. That remark was most uncalled for, particularly in view of the great sacrifices that the Americans have made.
– It was the honorable member’s suggestion.
– That is not true. Side by side with our own boys, the Americans have shown that they have the courage to sacrifice their lives in a just cause. I am sure that I express the sentiments of most Australians when I say that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the United States of America. When Great Britain was beset by powerful enemies, and could not help us, the United States of America came to our aid. After this war, a better understanding will exist between Australia and America. What we should not forget is that at least 50 per cent, of the citizens of the United States of America come from British stock. It was political stupidity that caused Great Britain to lose its American colonies. When I listen to Americans speak our language, and hear their good English names, I cannot understand why we differentiate between the United States of America and Great Britain in our fiscal policy. Speaking in this House on this subject, I have declared that the British preferential tariff should be enjoyed also by the United States of America. A reference to Hansard will show that- 1 contended that if ever Australia required a friend in the Pacific, the United States of America would be that friend. By their actions, the Americans have now proved their friendship for us. I hope that the United States of America will not be treated in future as a “ foreign “ country in our tariff schedules.
When this war ends, trade barriers may be swept away. Many wars can be attributed to trade rivalries. One nation has possessed an abundance of commodities which other nations have lacked, and instead of bartering them has demanded excessive prices for them, or withheld them. When poorer countries have not been able to pay for them, the goods have been destroyed. That policy creates great animosity between countries.
Although on a smaller scale, that policy has been given effect in Australia. During the depression, we destroyed food while denying our citizens access to it. Because the unemployed lacked purchasing power, they went hungry and the food was dumped. Never again should that happen in this country. The United Nations will certainly win the war, but we must ensure that we do not lose the peace. A tragic position would be created if ex-servicemen returned to conditions similar to the dark days of 1929-32. If that should occur, internal revolution will break out in this country. The Peace Conference cannot come too quickly, and we trust that it will produce a just peace. After the last war, some of the victors shared the spoils. One country wanted this territory, and another country wanted that territory. I feel a great admiration for President Wilson, who sought no territorial aggrandisement for the United States of America. In that attitude he was alone. After this war, Australia will not seek territories, but there is some merit in the contention of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who emphasized the necessity for preserving an island bastion in the north for our defence against future aggression. The honorable member agreed that to France should be restored its possessions adjacent to Australia, whilst Portugal should recover Timor. Australia does not covet those possessions for economic reasons, but should have an interest in them for strategical purposes. After having participated in four wars, Australia has never yet played an active part in drawing up peace treaties. After this war, foreign nations will resume possession of their territories adjacent to Australia. Unless we acquire an interest in them, we may be exposing ourselves to danger. When France collapsed in 1940, Japan seized some of its possessions, which were yielded without a fight. I consider that we have as much right to a Gibraltar in the Pacific as Great Britain has to a Gibraltar in Spain, but I hope that, if it should be provided, it will be stronger than the Singapore base proved to be.
I wish now to refer to the important subject of migration. I am favorable to child migration. Schemes developed in the past through the Barnardo Boys’ Homes and other similar institutions have been applied in Australia to some degree and some fine Australian citizens have been gained from them. Orphan children could be received into this country in substantial numbers. I am not so pessimistic as to think that we shall not obtain as many migrants as we desire, because we have something to offer those who come here. Mothers and fathers in the Old Country are sick and tired of rearing children to be - used as fighting forces on the battlefields of Europe. Fighting is always going on in Europe, and we can well understand the desire of parents in the Old World to rear their children in a land where peace may be expected to be the natural order of things. I hope that peace and goodwill to all men will follow this war. Given proper developmental measures we could carry a population of perhaps 160,000,000 people in this country. I would welcome to our shores all people of the European races. I am forced now, however, to make some remarks which may be severely criticized because of their possible effect upon the White Australia Policy which I have always advocated. I fear that I shall never make a shrewd and cunning politician, who can say what he does not think. I say what ] think, although some people have told me that I do not often think. I am quite sure that I shall never be able to control my remarks in order to save myself from unpleasant political repercussions. I have always said what I think, and I shall continue to do so. I believe that when I owe a debt I ought to pay it. When people do me a good turn I consider that I ought to do them a service in return. In connexion with the problem that is in my mind now it mav be said, “ You accepted black, brown, yellow, and brindle races into Australia when it was necessary to defend this country, yet you say now that because of the White Australia Policy such people cannot remain here and live with you. They may shed their blood for you, but they may not live with you “. I feel rather inclined to reject the idea of any people of a different colour coming to defend me, unless I am prepared to say afterwards, “ Welcome, brothers “. We have to ask ourselves some questions about our White Australia policy.
Another aspect of the migration problem should receive careful consideration. In my electorate probably 80 per cent, of the people are from the Old Country, or else they have a recent Old Country background. Admittedly, most of them are miners. I have seen mothers of young families trying to accumulate enough money to go back to England to see their dear old parents again. If they have been able to save enough for the purpose it has been paid to wealthy shipping companies in fares, and this has meant that it has not been available for the purpose of buying a home and providing for the welfare of their own families. When such people have gone home the second parting, when they have had to return to Australia, has frequently been worse than the first one. The people who come here never want to return permanently to England. I believe that it would be a good thing for Australia if the Government would negotiate with the authorities in Great Britain with the object of arranging a pensions reciprocity scheme, so that people in the Old Country who were nearing residential eligibility for pensions, on either a contributory or a non-contributory basis, would be able to come to Australia without risking the surrender of their pension rights. I have advocated this policy on previous occasions, because I believe that its adoption would tend to encourage desirable migration to Australia. We have arranged a reciprocity scheme with the Government of New Zealand, and have even provided that residence in New Zealand may be regarded as qualifying for pensions in Australia. For example, a person who has lived five years in New Zealand, and later lived for fifteen years in Australia is regarded as having twenty years’ residential qualification for the Australian pension. I would warmly welcome a similar scheme in relation to Great Britain. I had a sad experience in relation to my own mother, who told us frequently that she had buried her parents alive. There were eleven children in our family, and my mother was never able to return to Great Britain to see her dear old parents. She felt that the break with them had shortened their lives. Had she spent money to go to England she would have been unable to do what she did for her own children. I am sure that negotiations with the object of arranging reciprocity with Great Britain in relation to pensions would be beneficial to Australia, for it would mean, in many instances, that “ mum “ and “ dad “ would be able to come to this country with their children. “We should then have the happy family life in a new land and not hear the moaning that we sometimes hear from people who are unhappy because they have had to leave their parents behind. The money they earn here would be used to build new homes, thus creating assets for themselves instead of augmenting the assets -and dividends of overseas shipping companies.
I wish to say a word about the planning of post-war reconstruction. If we are ever to have a greatly increased population we must undertake comprehensive public works. Water conservation in Australia has scarcely been touched. Many of us can remember the days before the Burrinjuck Dam was built and the Leeton irrigation area established. At that time the country around Leeton was scarcely capable of growing saltbush, but since it has been provided with water by irrigation, it has been developed into one of the most fertile areas in Australia. The best of our citrus fruits, table and wine grapes, and other fruits, grow there in profusion. Other water conservation and irrigation works should be put in hand.
Some time ago I was censured for issuing a warning to the Government on a certain subject. I trust that I shall not be censured now for referring to it again, because the danger is not so great now as it was then. There is a transport bottleneck at Hexham, where the main railway to Queensland by the old route and the new branches off to Maitland and is called the Kyogle route. The main northern railway, the main roadway, and the Hunter River converge at Hexham and are within a distance of from 30 to 35 yards of each other. I believe that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) knows the locality.
– I know it too well.
– If only one bomb were dropped on that spot, the effect would be to interrupt the whole of the coal and rail transport to the northern State. In the vicinity also is the pipe line carrying the water supply to the great industries of Newcastle. At one time, I proposed the building of a railway of only 3 miles in length to link up the J. and A. Brown AbermainSeaham line with Cockle Creek, but no action was taken to give effect to it. The construction of that line would have safeguarded us not only in the emergency to which I have referred, providing a rail connexion at Cockle Creek via Kurri Kurri to West Maitland, but also against the effect of a flood in the Hunter River. Floods in that river have been frequent We have been blessed in that, during this war, there has not ‘been a flood in it. Should one occur before the end of the war, the whole of the coal output of the northern district would be cut off for the duration of the flood which might be a.long as six weeks. In order to provide against such an eventuality, the railway that I have advocated should be constructed. I admit that it would pass over rough country, and that tunnels would be needed; maybe one 2-mile tunnel or three 1-mile tunnels. That would not matter. The Allied Works Council could do the job. I have approached Mr. Theodore in connexion with the work, but his reply was that it would be necessary for the Minister to issue an instruction before it could be undertaken. I have also written to the Minister. I am not moaning now without having first taken other steps. My reason for raising the matter is that I wish to have my views on record should there bc a flood in the Hunter River. [Extension of time granted.] When I approached the Minister, I was told that the State Public Works Committee of New South Wales had reported against the construction of the line. That committee has not sat for about ten years. It held an inquiry approximately twenty years ago, and then reported adversely on the proposal, probably because of the existence of two privately-owned railways. I am not criticizing the State Government. Twenty years ago, no one expected that this country would be attacked and would be in danger. An attempt to “pass the buck “ to the State Government is of no use. The responsibility for the defence of Australia must be shouldered by this National Parliament. This is a defence measure purely and simply. In Queensland there has been considerable development, from which that State will benefit. Naturally, works had to be undertaken in it because of the approach of the enemy to our shores. If the Public Works Committee ofNew South Wales were to hold another inquiry to-day, I am sure that it would recommend the immediate construction of this railway. We cannot say that we are responsible to the people of Australia as a whole for the defence of this country, and then endeavour to saddle a State with a defence project for which it is not responsible. This is our job and we must do it at once as it is of paramount importance for defence. In the peace that is to come we should be guided by the mistakes of the past. Can we expect our boys to accept what their fathers accepted after the last war? They and their fathers will join in a revolt.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and members of all parties that have occupied the treasury bench, have advocated wider powers for the Commonwealth than those that it now possesses. When we sat opposite, we opposed proposals that came from this side of the House. Objection to proposals of this kind is actuated by party political “ cussedness “. Even a good argument put up by those on one side of the House will, for purely political reasons, be opposed by those on the other, but I am not concerned with the political aspect. I know that promises made during the last war were never honouredbecause we could not achieve co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth handed over money galore to the States, including many millions of pounds for soldier settlement. Still more money was spent upon the erection of war service homes. The Commonwealth kept control of this undertaking, but most of the other schemes for the repatriation of soldiers were handed over to the States, and most of them were failures. One soldier settlement was established in my own district, and if any one can see a sign of it there now I will shout for him. The white ants have not even left the blocks of the houses. Nothing was done to protect the timber from white ants, and as for the land itself, it was just sand, that willnot even grow salt bush. On this scheme many thousands of pounds were wasted because the supervision of contracts was questionable. After the war, as during it, money was poured down the sink. If we propose to do the right thing by the men in the fighting services, we must not be content to “ pass the buck “ fromone government to another. The soldiers who have been prepared to risk their lives in defence of their country are surely entitled to a fair deal after the war. Let us not be placed in the position of having to say to them : “ Don’t blame us. We tried to get the powers which would have enabled us to help you, but we failed. The State Government is now administering your affairs. It is of a different political kidney, and we cannot get it to cooperate with us “. Let us take our courage in our hands now, and just as we have been able to do a good job during the war, let us see that, when peace comes, the Commonwealth Parliament will have adequate powers to solve the problems which the peace will bring with it. This can be achieved by all parties being united in a “ Yes “ campaign for greater powers to be given to this Parliament. We owe this first to the men who gave their lives and their blood for this country,and,secondly,totheirchildren and ours, who will benefit from Australia’s development.
.- Before referring to the speech of the Prime Minister, I wish to thank the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), my medical colleague in the House, for the compliment which he paid me upon my housing scheme. I wish to inform him that this housing scheme was put into cold storage by the Scullin Labour Government, and I hope the honorable member for Denison has sufficient influence with his party to haveit taken out again, and put into operation. No further legislation is needed. It is only necessary that money should be provided, and then the Commonwealth Bank Housing Authority can proceed with the construction of houses without delay.
I welcome the Prime Minister upon his return to Australia, and congratulate him upon having called Parliament together to hear his report upon the Empire Conference which he attended. The Prime Minister’s speech was largely a recapitulation of known events, hut it was instinct with the realization that the downfall of the British Empire would have meant the end of civilization as we know it, and the destruction of the Australia that we love. It seems to me that the Prime Minister, having looked upon stark reality and naked truth in Europe, and having talked with the men who kept the flag flying in Britain for the last four and a half years with almost no weapons except a few aeroplanes, will never be able to return to the illusions of isolation which he cherished in 1939.
We are fighting for much more than victory - we are fighting for permanent peace. Victory will come from complete co-operation, and permanent peace will be dependent upon a full measure of collaboration. Australia, of itself, cannot do much among the great nations of the world, but it can give a lead to Empire thought, and we can make sure that Australia’s case is put strongly before the councils of the nations, and with all the force of the Empire behind it.For that reason, it is imperative that Australia and Great Britain should understand each other perfectly, so that Mr. Churchill should speak for the whole Empire, if that is possible; but, in any case, always with Australia’s point of view known to him. Two inescapable revolutionary facts of history must shape the pattern of the age to come. They must be in our mind continually in any discussion of the post-war position. The first is that when the news flashed around the world that Germany, despite the League of Nations, treaties, or any gentleman’s agreement, had invaded Poland, no one stirred, save France in Europe, but Great Britain. Without pacts, or legal fetters, the Dominions came from all over the world to fight at Great Britain’s side. The second historical fact isthat between the fall of France and the attack on
Russia, the British Empire, for a whole year, stood alone between mankind and a return to barbarism. If we survive this war, the future of the world will manifestly depend upon the British Commonwealth as the solid core of any future organization that ensures the peace of the world. The organization of the British Empire must be the pattern for other nations. A third notable fact is that two world wars have underlined the lesson that, without Anglo-American cooperation, there can be no peace. If in 1939 the world had been certain of full co-operation between the two great naval powers, this terrible war might not have come. These two democracies have the great navies of the world. Navies can maintain peace, but cannot become the instrument of tyranny as can the Army. The maintenance of a very large effective navy requires a much smaller proportion of the man-power of a country to be abstracted from civilian duties than would an army relatively as powerful. For permanent peace we must therefore do four things. We must organize our own internal empire relationships, then our relationships with the United States of America, then our joint relationships with those nations having similar ideals and, finally, develop a world system. It may be that such a system would coalesce, not through any deliberate framing of a complete world federal structure, but through the gradual admission of the citizens of all its constituent nations to its administrative services. I shall later examine, step by step, the method of such progressive organization.
The most fundamental and insistent of mankind’s problems is, how can wars he prevented ? No international police force can permanently keep the peace. Peace must rest upon justice, not force. The beginning of world peace lies in mutual understanding of each other’s culture and problems rather than on a paper charter. Our democracies are fighting, not merely for victory in the war, but also for permanent peace. The antidote to war, and the essence of peace, will not be found in the restoration of the status quo. They will only be found in an order that permits of perpetual change, of adjustment and growth in continuous and impartial review. Such an order depends on the full collaboration ultimately of all nations of the world, each making its special contribution in culture, political machinery, resources, &c. The greatest danger of such collaboration would come from meetings between statesmen unable to understand each other’s point of view through the absence of a necessary background. The system of interchanging officials, which places citizens of all the United Nations at the disposal of the statesmen of every country in their administrative services dealing with international relationships, could give that background. Their advice could ensure consideration of the use of all that is good in the past, or in different cultures and countries, and a continuity of policy impossible otherwise with frequent changes of political personnel.
The democratic countries, to prevent war, must solve fairly the economic problems that lead to war. To give a pattern for world co-operation, we must show that we can solve the problem of competition between the English-speaking peoples who have the same background and representative institutions, the same historical past, and individual outlook. Co-operation inside the single political unit of the British Commonwealth of Nations must form a core of any new world order. Therefore, we must solve the problem between the Mother Country and Australia, between Australia and New Zealand, who are practically our own people insofar as language, origin, traditions, aspirations, problems and political outlook are concerned. We must solve it between Australia and South Africa, Australia and Canada, and Australia and India. If we cannot establish sufficiently intimate liaison machinery to iron out all our difficulties inside the Empire, then the prospect of world cooperation looks hopeless.
War has added to the world’s difficulties by bringing a special development of productive capacity which will be able to turn out more peace-time goods than ever the world dreamed of. The answer to the problem of how to maintain and consume this production is not the same in every country. In one, goods will be exported ; in another, people will be imported to consume them; in others again, there will be a mixture of both policies; in every one, the raised standard of living and consumption will help.
Other countries may find it necessary to encourage immigrants, or export or import goods, or have a combination of the policies of exporting and importing goods and encouraging immigrants. Involved in the solution of this problem will be the raising of the standards of living and comfort, because that will enable an increased consumption of goods.
In war-time, when we do not know exactly how or when the struggle will end, a blue print of a complete plan of action or international machinery is not practicable. But we can work in a definite direction towards attaining a world of plenty, of great expansion, of opportunity for every one to develop his talents and enjoy the rewards of success, and built with a moral purpose based on belief in the progressive uplift of mankind. If we cannot believe in that, it is futile for us to fight wars and suffer the terrific hardships that they impose. However, as no national economy will expand sufficiently to absorb limitless, unregulated output, the representatives of countries must meet for the purpose of exchanging ideas, and their plans for carrying on production. It would be senseless to produce tremendous quantities of a certain commodity if it could not be consumed, while neglecting to produce sufficient quantities of the necessaries of life. The solution is to have a full interchange of trained officials, so that one country will be able to keep “ tab “ on the plans and policies of other countries. The practice of interchanging trained departmental personnel would give a proper sense of perspective and enable the representatives of each country to keep in constant mutual touch when policy is being discussed. Each policy would then be taking into account other national policies and decisions. This administrative set-up could collect data and plans for the immediate future, leaving the ultimate political form of control to be determined later. This machinery would be flexible enough to help our immediate problem and yet allow, future generations to work out their own development.
The application to our relationships “with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and other members of the British Empire of this policy of interchanging officials will improve the harmonious development and progress of the Empire itself. It will also help us to fit more aptly into the scheme of Anglo-American, and ultimately of international, cooperation. The great central problems of Empire foreign policy - defence, finance and international communications - can no longer remain the sole responsibility of Great Britain. The Dominions must have a voice and take responsibility. A permanent administrative foundation for Empire consultation and policy must be tested against a background of general Empire interest. The ability of the Empire to speak with a single voice would assist greatly in allied and international consultations.
I deeply regret that the Prime Minister, when attending the Imperial Conference, did not persist in advocating a full discussion of his scheme for establishing an Empire secretariat. Whilst I do not consider that his scheme is a solution of the problem, it might easily have proved to he of great assistance. A full-dress discussion of the scheme by the Prime Ministers would have been of value, and would have enabled us to discover the greatest common denominator upon which all the Dominions could agree. The British Dominions are so widely scattered that it is difficult for them to exert influence on policy in the fluid and formative stages. They must have a full knowledge of the essential facts and trends of policy. They must also obtain this knowledge in time to enable them to express their views before decisions are mia de. They must also have a full opportunity to discuss with the British Prime Minister and his Cabinet, before the decision is taken, their suggestions for a new policy or an alteration of an old policy. The Prime Minister stated that the High Commissioners for the Dominions will have daily discussions with the Secretary of State for the Dominions and .monthly discussions with the British Prime Minister. But, I point out that the discussions with the British Prime Minister deal only with decisions that have already been taken. What we are concerned with, is the making of decisions. It is at that stage that we desire to get into the ring. My experience while 1 was in Great Britain for eleven months was that, no matter what arguments I submitted to the British’ War Cabinet, I found extraordinary difficulty in securingthe reversal of a decision that had been made, or even of a recommendation submitted by a Chief of Staff or a high departmental official, because a reversal of the considered views of a Chief of Staff or senior officer tended automatically to destroy his authority. ‘ He would nolonger be regarded as a person who could be confidently trusted to make correct decisions. Consequently, even if I convinced the British War Cabinet of the necessity for reversing a decision, it could not be carried into effect.
The remedy for this position is to ensure that the fullest information shall be sought and exchanged at a stage when foreign policy and strategies are still in a fluid form. My suggestion, which was ultimately adopted by the British Government, and offered to the other dominions, was that we should place men at crucial points in various departments. They would have access to all the relevant facts before a matter was forwarded to higher officials for decision. Then, if we could not get a satisfactory decision in the department, we could fight the case in War Cabinet with as much information as any British Minister would have, and with a reasonable prospect of success. I happened to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister of one of the Dominions, and he told me that his objection to meeting in London was based on the fact that he did not have with him all his advisers, whereas British Ministers had the benefit of the presence of their advisers. He contended that he might easily make a decision without knowing all the facts, and would be glad to reverse it on returning to his own country. Since the outbreak of war, Empire clearing houses have been established for the assignment of munitions, and the handling and allotment of raw materials. The system that I have explained has already been developed. All we need to do is to carry it over into the post-war period. The president of the British Board of Trade told me that he was quite prepared to receive into his department an Australian industrialist and a high customs official, and to send to Australia British officers of similar attainments, so that there would be available always to both governments full information as to policy trends and the like. That procedure can be adopted in relation to agriculture, it can be adopted also in relation to social security and other subjects. We are all aware that revolutionary action has been going on in Great Britain during the last 40 or 50 years in regard to social advancement. If we desire to receive a strong flow of migrants from Great Britain it is essential that we shall be an fait with social conditions in the Old Country, and that British leaders shall be au fait with social conditions here. Changes should be made every two or three years in personnel engaged in these matters so that all information in both countries would be kept up to date. The Prime Minister may not have been able to obtain approval of some of his proposals, but I hope that we shall not give up the effort to reach a high degree of co-operation in affairs that affect all parts of the Empire. It we can prove by our own relations with Great Britain that the policy we have in mind is practicable, other dominions will adopt it in due course. We may, first of all, obtain the co-operation of New Zealand, and if we prove that such co-operation is effective, I have no doubt that a general development will follow. In order to make progress in this important matter I consider that Australia should take a definite lead. I suggest that an all-party committee of three or five members be appointed to examine the whole subject, and to recommend to the Parliament a practical scheme for improved Anglo-Australian co-operation and consultation. The Parliament could then debate the subject on its merits, and subsequently the Government could submit a definite proposal to the British Government. We must keep on making recommendations to the Imperial Government on this subject. If we can get the support of first one dominion and then another, we shall soon prove that Empire co-operation has no terrors for any dominion, and our sister dominions will not be afraid of the novelty of the idea. Progress must be made step by step until some improved plan is universally accepted. If we can get only one brother, as the Prime Minister has said, we ought to get him and make a start. We shall soon find that there will be three or four brothers in the group. The Prime Minister may not have been able to gain the approval of the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. MacKenzie King, to his whole scheme, but I have no doubt that if we keep on the job we shall soon win converts. The relations of Australia with New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India, can be improved, if we all will pull outweight.
In the endeavour to secure AngloAmerican co-operation, we were fortunate in having already a very vital and active link in Canada’s intimate connexion with America. During the war numerous fresh developments have occurred in official affairs in the relations between Canada and the United Stated of America. The strong friendship between President Roosevelt and Mr. MacKenzie King has developed friendship between departmental officials of the two countries. In these days talks between Ottawa and Washington are frequent and cordial. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the Governments in Ottawa and Washington confer much more effectively and frequently than do State governments in Australia which are located at relatively the same distance from each other. It is wise that we should do our utmost to secure the maximum Anglo-American co-operation. I believe that when the history of this war is written it will indicate that the immediate pooling of AngloAmerican resources, after the entry of Japan into the war, was decisive in winning the war. Mr. Churchill lost very little time in going to America to confer with President Roosevelt, and the result was that an agreement was reached to pool all resources. This action ensured maximum supplies to Russia during its most critical period, and it also guaranteed the continuous movement of supplies to the Pacific and the Middle East. All supplies were made available according to strategic needs. The whole Allied production effort was streamlined to its present enormous volume. This pooling system has since been extended to include the total resources of all the United Nations. In connexion with the pooling of raw materials, it is interesting to know that the operative committee acted under the chairmanship of Sir Clive Baillieu, of Melbourne. Food supplies were controlled by a committee of which Mr. Brand, a British official who was born in Sydney, was the chairman. The men in charge of these various activities were assisted by competent staffs with vast knowledge at their command.
During the last two years increased supplies of munitions of all sorts have been flowing into Russia, the Pacific, India and China. The resources of the Allied nations, in other words, have been completely mobilized. The point that we must continually keep in mind is that the distribution of all available commodities has been made according to priorities determined on strategic grounds. The over-riding consideration has not been sentiment, but need. Can we base this war-time co-operation and understanding on intimate departmental contacts in order to make it permanent and continuous? The existing organization has been decisive in bringing us to our present position, in which we confidently look for victory. I believe that a similar organization would be decisive in winning the peace. If such an organization could operate on a permanent basis in the years ahead of us, it would have an incalculably good effect in the five or six years immediately succeeding the cessation of hostilities, and I believe it would result in a superstructure which we would never abandon.
Three important features of the pooling system make it invaluable for projection into the post-war period. The first of these is the spirit of the organization, which has caused all associated countries to make the maximum contribution of which they are capable to the common pool, and to agree to draw their needs from that pool on a scientific basis of strategic priority. Every nation has put in all that it had, and it has taken out supplies according to the recommendations of a completely impartial tribunal. The second feature of the organization is that a specialized administrative body has been established in which the best minds and the best organizing capacity of the private and public activities of each nation have been mobilized into a common effort. Those concerned with the development of this organization have been actuated by the highest form of patriotism and it will be all for the good of the nations if that spirit can be continued after peace is attained. The third feature is that the organization has been continuous and independent of temporary political changes. We all are well aware that governments come and go, but this organization hasbeen developed during the régimes of successive administrations. We have had different governments in Australia but they have all joined in the development of this pooling procedure. It is worth noting also that the organization has functioned smoothly in international collaboration without any interference with the sovereign rights of the nations concerned, and its existence has seemed to render less necessary than formerly frequent full-dress conferences of the heads of various governments. [Extension of time granted.]
I do not disguise the fact that during the war the main function of this organization has been to deal with articles and commodities in short supply. In the post-war period it will be required to deal with commodities and articles in excess, as well as in short, supply. I believe that the success that has been attained in. the war years gives every reason to hope for similar success in the post-war period. Those organizations, which have been in operation during the war, have strong executive functions and have brought together the best minds of many countries. In them we have already established a means whereby the knowledge of citizens of all the United Nations could be placed at the disposal of the statesmen of every country. We could thus deal automatically with most of the urgent post-war problems immediately the war was over, without creating a new political superstructure. The world would then have time to consider the whole of the” problems presented by postwar conditions, before taking final decisions in regard to future action. Close international co-operation by many countries could also be secured by means such, as were employed in securing and implementing the International Wheat Agreement. That agreement was brought into being as the result of the concurrence of producer and consumer countries. Consumer countries said ‘ that they were prepared to pay a reasonable price for their wheat, and producer countries said that they were prepared to accept a reasonable price, and to submit to certain limitations over the whole of their field of operations in order to prevent gluts and depressions.
I regret the defeatist attitude which the Prime Minister has adopted with regard to our influence on the major powers. The right honorable gentleman considers that every matter of importance must be decided by the Great Powers. That may be true ultimately. But it seems to me that we can make ourselves such an active and strongly functioning part of the great British Empire that although we may be small in number and relatively distant from the place at which decisions may be made, we shall be able to influence the determination of vital matters. In my profession, every factor counts. The surgeon who performs the operation gets most of the credit and the fee; but if he did not have aiding him the nurse, the bactereologist, the theatre sister, and the assistant to hand to him the instruments that he needed, the operation would not be nearly so successful. There must be some support of the final view put forward by the British Empire, and what we do will have a strong influence on the decision. This is particularly true of the Pacific war. That war is peculiarly an Australian war. Our men have fought all over the world for the cause of freedom. The majority of the soldiers whom we sent overseas have returned to fight in the Pacific theatre. This is our war and we have to pull our whole weight in it. Tho matter is not merely one of supplying a certain number of men, a certain quantity of munitions, or a certain volume of food. We have to make certain that what we send in total will be so balanced as to achieve the greatest result. The fullest weight of Australia’s resources should be supplied at the right moment and at the right place. The new science of logistics makes certain that a sufficiency of men, material, equipment, transport and food shall be at the right place, at the right time. We should not allow sentiment to be a determining factor, because it has no real place in a fight to the death. We have to bring the war to the speediest conclusion by throwing into it the whole weight of our resources, thus saving lives and making the repair of the world as easy as possible. Australia will have to make a full naval and air contribution. Our Army could be represented by having two brigades in each of two divisions, one brigade from each of the existing Australian Imperial Force divisions. I am satisfied that if there were four fighting brigades to represent the four Australian Imperial Force divisions, we could be absolutely certain of keeping them fully reinforced and superbly equipped. The men could then be given ample leave, and not be kept in the fighting to the end. In the final thrust, if an appeal were made for volunteers, it would be responded to with extraordinary enthusiasm by many young men, who would be able to relieve members of the Australian Imperial Force who have so far been engaged in hard fighting for four years and have reached the stage at which they ought to be given a spell. Simultaneously, we must make certain of getting the best out of our principal industries. The Government should concentrate to the maximum degree on the production of our land industries. The Prime Minister may say that Great Britain and the United Nations may be short of shipping. A temporary shortage should not cause us to lessen production. If we cannot send overseas immediately everything that we can produce during the next few years, we should be able to store it, and thus be in a position to feed and clothe other nations when the war is over. We shall be able to organize a new and better world only by making certain now that we shall be able quickly to feed and clothe the starving people of the world when the war is over. The position in relation to shipping in 1941 was similar to that of to-day. The British Government said that it could not supply more than 400,000 tons of shipping for the carriage of food, compared with the 1,600,000 tons that it had been supplying up to that time. Yet within six months the picture had altered. “We had stored a lot of produce, yet more ships were available than we could fill. I am sure that history will be repeated. The gallant deeds of our sailors, soldiers and airmen will give to us a right which no one will be able to dispute, to express our view at the peace table. We would be much more effective if the history of the gallantry and success of our arms could be reinforced by efficient and ample immediate assistance in the feeding of the people of the world. The fact that we were supplying butter, meat, eggs, wheat and other foods would bulk very largely in the minds of other nations. Memory quickly fades, and what had been done during the war would soon be forgotten. The provision that I have mentioned would tend to smooth out many international difficulties, and would enable us to secure satisfactory trading agreements from grateful people. Nothing will sweeten argument more than feeding the people before negotiating with them. That has been the traditional British method of making a deal - give a man a good dinner, and you will be more likely to get on well with him. Let us try this on the world after the present war. Let us see whether, by removing the spectre of starvation for the first two years after the war, we can remove for all time the spectre of war itself which has haunted the men and women of two generations.
.- I commend the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for the report which he presented to the House upon his mission overseas, a report which, I believe, has the approval of all honorable members, including those of the Opposition. I desire to address the House on the two major issues confronting the country at the present tim’e - the winning of the war, and the winning of the peace which is to follow. All Australian citizens will agree that the successful prosecution of the war is our primary concern ; and after that, the next most important thing is the winning of the peace. To win the war and to lose the peace would be simply to waste the blood and sweat which have been poured out in the prosecution of the war itself.
I propose to confine myself to a discussion of the forthcoming referendum which, in my opinion, is bound up with the winning of the peace. Those directing the fight against the referendum are trying to frighten the people by hinting that the additional powers sought are merely for the purpose of enabling the Government to keep in force such regulations as those providing for industrial conscription, rationing, &c. The opponents of the proposals are using the same old tactics which have always been used to oppose legislation which they consider detrimental to their own success. They are now warning the working people to beware of what is proposed because, they say, it will adversely affect the working people themselves. They are following the tactics employed in 1911, when the bill to constitute the Commonwealth Bank was introduced by the Fisher Government. The present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was AttorneyGeneral in that government, referred to this sort of opposition in the following terms : -
Whenever it is proposed to tax the rich man there goes up a wail from honorable gentlemen opposite, not on behalf of the rich main, but on behalf of the poor man, who is warned to beware of the Labour party. It is the little land-owner who is ‘ told to look out for the land tax. It is the man with £100 in the bank who is told to beware of the Commonwealth Bank. Is it the little man who provides the powder and shot for these attacks on Labour legislation? No, it is the man with plenty of money against whom the legislation is directed. I say emphatically that the honorable member has endeavoured to divert the attention of the people from the true object, purpose and function of the bank, and he has done so in order to make people believe that those who will suffer most from the operations of the institution are not the other banks, but the poor, unfortunate people.
It would have been a sad thing for Australia had success attended the efforts to prevent the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank which was so vehemently opposed by the same class of people as are now opposing the Government’s referendum proposals. Already, pamphlets have been issued, by or on behalf of those controlling the finance and industry of Australia, telling the people that if they grant these additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, they will be confronted with industrial conscription after the war. That statement is a deliberate lie. The Government has definitely stated that the mass of regulations now in force, and designed for the winning of the war, will be swept away when the war ends, and that every man and woman will be free to choose his or her own job.
It should be noted that one of the powers sought relates to profiteering and prices, matters now dealt with by regulation. No one can fairly deny that power to deal with these matters is necessary. The people of Australia are entitled to ask themselves at this stage what are the motives behind the Government’s decision to submit to the Australian people proposals for the granting of additional powers to the National Parliament. They are also entitled to ask themselves what are the motives of those who oppose the granting of additional powers. I believe that the fourteen powers sought for the National Parliament are necessary if we are to avoid chaos during the period of transition from war . to peace, and if we are to avoid another depression such as that which followed the last war. I hope that none of us will ever forget what things were like then. Let us be clear on this point : The returned men and women of Australia’s fighting services are entitled to something better than the dole; yet many ex-soldiers were on the dole after the last war. Indeed, it is probable that, but for the fact that a. Labour government is in office, many of the men returning from this war would be living in a condition little better than starvation.
It is quite clear whence the opposition to the granting of these powers is coming. “Without doubt it comes from those quarters which were able to cause many of those who, at the Canberra Constitution Convention, supported the granting of additional powers, to change their tune a short time later. The source of this opposition is big business, and its principal mouthpieces are the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden), and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay), all of whom attended the Constitution Convention, and approved of the proposal to seek addi tional powers. The vague promises, the purely destructive criticism of our opponents, and the definitely defensive attitude followed by those attacking the Government’s proposals, make it abundantly clear that a “ No “ vote will be a vote for a return to depression conditions. It follows then that a “ Yes “ vote is a vote for Australia, a vote for the employment to which every man is entitled, a vote for economic security, a vote for justice to those who have fought and worked for victory. Lest we forget, I repeat that we should not lose sight of the fact that the fourteen powers were unanimously declared necessary at the Canberra Convention, which comprised representatives of all parties from all States, as well as all parties in the National Parliament. Those powers were declared to be the minimum, additional to those already existing under the Constitution, required to do justice to Australia’s fighting forces. These constitutional alterations are sought not for any particular political party, but for the National Parliament of Australia, whichever party controls it, in order that the government of the day, whatever its political complexion, may achieve a speedy and safe transition of the Australian economy from a wartime to a peace-time basis, after the war is won. Those who care for the future of Australia and who love the land of their birth will, without doubt, vote “ Yes “. The men of the fighting forces, who have every right to expect security of employment, a home and social justice, also will vote “ Yes “. Those who are selfish and indifferent to the claims of our fighting men, those who hope for a return to bigger and better profits in the post-war world, numbering many who profited in the past from lowered wages and standards of living, will vote “ No “ ; they are already pouring thousands of pounds into the “ No “ campaign to achieve their anti-Australian objective. The people of Australia voted out the forces of reaction on the 21st August, 1943. They will be asked on the 19th August, 1944, to give to the National Parliament, not any political party, the power to steer the ship of State through the difficult and dangerous years that will follow the cessation of hostilities.
Every Australian is asked to vote for the granting of minimum additional powers for a limited period of five years from the time the war ends. No intelligent Australian, no self-respecting Australian, no Australian, who realizes that his salvation and his present security depend so largely upon the magnificent efforts of his fellow Australians in the fighting forces, will express his lack of appreciation by voting as the controllers of Australia’s powerful trusts, combines and monopolies would have him do - that is by voting “ No “. I am quite sure that all true Australia.ns will vote in the spirit of real patriotism, and that their votes will be “ Yes “.
If the war has taught Australians one thing, it has taught them the value of united national effort and national thinking. The whole matter has been summed up admirably by the late Ernest Scott, formerly Professor of History at the Melbourne University, in his historical writing on earlier movements towards a national Australian sentiment: The Australian people had to become conscious of the weakening effect of particularist aims. They had to be taught by events that though it was quite a good and honorable thing to be a Tas.manian or a Queenslander, it was a very much finer, prouder thing, and one that signified very much more, to be an Australian. A “ Yes “ vote is a vote for Australia ; a “ No “ vote is a vote against Australia.
Throughout the world to-day runs one unbroken thread - the desire of ordinary people, like you and me, for a better life. It is more than a desire for a better life - it is a firm resolve and determination that the sacrifices that have been made during the war, the lives that have been lost, the havoc that has been caused, must not go for nothing. So strong has been that feeling among the common folk of the world, that the national leaders have put it into phrases that crystallize the hopes and aspirations of us all. Roosevelt speaks of the Four Freedoms - freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Churchill has named the triple goals of post-war plans - work, food and homes. Sir William Beveridge, creator of the Beveridge plan, declares that the giants of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness must not be allowed to block the path to those freedoms. The drive towards a better and more just world has been bom among the people, and the impetus of that drive cannot be stepped by the stupid and stagnating doctrine that what was good enough for your father should be good enough for you. Men and women the world over have seen nien, money and material poured out like water for destruction. Because we believe in the cause for which we are fighting, we Australians have contributed our full share of power to help crush and destroy the freedom-killing doctrines of Nazi-ism and Fascism. We have seen how Australia - a nation young in years - has grown into a world power through the united efforts of its people. We have seen what the people of Australia can achieve by way of a war effort. As we look ahead to the peace, we can picture what Australia can achieve by way of a peace effort. To-day Australia looks ahead to inevitable victory. While continuing with its every effort fo- speed the day, Australians are envisaging the golden dawn of a new peace. Although young in years, Australia is old in experience. Twice within one generation, Australia has been plunged into a world war and has tasted the bitter fruits of a disordered peace. In 1918 Australia found relief from its first taste of total war. At first there was general relief and rejoicing and, for two years, our war-weary people paused to recover their breath. Then began the series of economic changes that led inevitably to the crippling depression of 1929. First, prices began to sky-rocket. There was a wild urge to spend and a shortage of supplies, till by the end of 1920, retail prices had risen by 70 per cent, over their pre-war level. In 1921 the spending boom exhausted itself, and Australia groped for a new basis for peace-time employment. For eight years the nation slowly found its feet. A period of uneasy prosperity was followed by the depression. Every one will remember it. Those who were starting in life, those who were establishing themselves in business, housewives who had homes to maintain and children to keep at school, will never be able to forget it. The depression swept tens of thousands of people out of employment, wrecked businesses, and caused hunger, want and homelessness. In 1932 unemployment reached a record level. Thousands of men and women sought work but could not find it. About 30 per cent, of the nation’s working population became unemployed, and 700,000 men, women and children were living on the dole in a land of plenty. That occurred after the last war, but it must not occur again. I urge the people, if they desire social -justice and social security, to vote “ Yes “ on the 19th August. By so doing they will enable the Government to proceed with closer settlement, and water conservation and irrigation schemes, the extension of electricity supplies, housing, and the improvement of roads and railways.
.- The Address-in-Reply provides honorable members with an opportunity to make some appreciation of and comment upon, the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) last Monday. We welcome him back, and applaud much of the commonsense and sentiment that recurs through his speech. In particular, we agree with the following passage: -
The relationship of the Dominions to each other and to the Mother Country may even now not be fully understood by the rest of the world, but our influence, historically great, is at this stage greater than it has ever been, and I am confident that it will not grow less.
That is a text for us in this Parliament to observe. At various times we have lauded the efforts of Great Britain. We know the trials that the people of that country are undergoing. Great Britain has taken the lead in the war, and has the ability and the wherewithal to assume the lead in peace. We may well be in tune with Great Britain in most of its activities. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) regretted that the Prime Minister did not persist with his advocacy of the creation of an Empire secretariat. Because the Prime Minister did not achieve his object, he did not go on with other factors in the same direction. If we turn to history, we shall find that Alfred Deakin made a similar proposal at the Imperial Conference in 1907. Although that suggestion was not approved, the conference discussed the principle of Imperial pre ference, proposed by Australia and supported by New Zealand and South Africa, which later- was adopted. Australia should persist in putting forward its view, but at all times realizing that Great Britain is definitely in touch with nations great and small, has a great record of experience in government, has valuable contacts, and has given a magnificent lead in becoming the defender of democracy, because it entered the war of its own free will. We should remember that proud record, because, we have had lapses in the past, when we were not so enthusiastic about the policy of the Homeland as we are to-day.
The suggestion which the right honorable member for Cowper made for an interchange of public servants with other dominions is a good one. On more than one occasion I have advocated that the system of exchange, which prevails in the fighting services, might well be adopted by the civil services of the Dominions. Members of the Commonwealth Public Service should be able to go abroad in order to gain wider experience in similar departments in other dominions. We might with advantage throw open the Department of External Affairs, as Great Britain would be asked to do in our favour. Some of the most brilliant young men in the Public Service of the United Kingdom would then come to Australia. I recall that Mr. Yencken who unhappily was killed recently in Spain, was the greatest British influence in that country, and the closest “ contact “ to Franco. Mr. Peter Garran, a son of a distinguished citizen of Canberra, has played a fine part in Roumania, and more recently in Portugal. Therefore, an interchange of civil servants appeals to me as being an excellent idea. I hope that the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper for the establishment of a committee to watch overseas affairs will also be approved. We run a danger of isolation by not keeping sufficiently in touch with developments in other countries. The world owes a great deal to the British Empire, and should not be allowed to forget it.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, referred to a resolution adopted at the Imperial Conference -
We affirm that after the war a world organization to maintain peace and security should be set up and endowed with the necessary power and authority to prevent aggression and violence.
That was the pious hope after the last war. The League of Nations was established, but, unfortunately, its sponsor, the United States of America, did not support it and the league lacked sufficient power to deal with aggressors. I hope that this time, the Council of Nations, which Mr. Churchill has forecast so often, will have that necessary power. Australia will have to play its part in supplying the punitive means for policing such a scheme. In that force, the Royal Australian Air Force will necessarily find a prominent place. I have always preached that aviation, by a strange paradox, could be the means of ending wars. Thirty years ago, when I learned to fly, aircraft had to be carried for long distances on wheeled vehicles when we first went on service, because their range was small. Now, crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific by air is commonplace. During a lifetime, we have seen immense advances in aviation. The possibilities of the bomber were never foreseen even ten years ago, but now it is the most hideous and dreadful weapon in the paraphernalia of war. With mass bombing raids, cities can be destroyed. A strong bomber force at the disposal of the Council of Nations would definitely deter a potential aggressor because he would know that his capital city and mobilization centres could be obliterated in a night. With the knowledge of that threat, a potential aggressor would be chary of going to war. Consequently, Australia will have its part to play in keeping aviation to the forefront.
I am a little surprised that the Prime Minister’s speech does not contain any mention of aviation. To-day, I read in the press, although the source of the report was not stated, that quick air travel is planned for Australia, and that there will be international and local transport on a grand scale. On many occasions, I have asked the Government to inform me when the inter-departmental committee’s report on civil aviation will be presented to Parliament. It is high time that this document was laid on the table, and a definite statement made on the subject, in fairness to those splendid air crews who have taken a place second to none in the skies over enemy countries.
Many of our young men will look to aviation to provide them with a career. Some of them are flying in Transport Command in Great Britain, and in transport squadrons in Australia. They are as au fait with aviation as any pilots in the world. In addition to them, we must consider the interests of transport companies which, within Australia, are prepared to increase the network of their air services. To leave the matter in abeyance, notwithstanding the interest of Lord Knollys and Sir Oliver Simmonds, and the visits of officers of our Civil Aviation Department to Great Britain, would be unjustified. It is time that a policy was announced. I have no doubt that matters are in train, but some statement should be made without delay.
– The honorable gentleman is the champion of private enterprise.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has just entered the chamber, but, as the Minister for Declamation, he must say something! I did not say that I was the champion of private enterprise. I believe that international services should be controlled, though not necessarily owned, by the nations but within particular countries air services should be maintained, as far as possible, apart from governmental interference. In 1922, Australia had the longest civil air services of any part of the Empire. Those services were subsidized. I have advocated in this House that the long-distance services should be on a government-cum-private enterprise basis. I recommended to the Government of which I was a member that such a service should be maintained between Australia and New Zealand, and that the composition of the controlling authority should be similar to that of the directorate of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Short-distance services should be left to private enterprise and subsidized if necessary.
If we are not careful we shall be left lamenting in this matter. The United States, with its great ability to manufacture and concentrate on the production of the largest civil aircraft, has designs, and rightly so, on world transport. If Australia does not link up with some
Empire scheme air transport in this country will stagnate. There are great opportunities for air travel within Australia. I believe that every member of this Parliament should be flown to Great Britain and back again as a part of his education. Distance has been annihilated in these days and we should encourage longdistance international travel. The more we can see of life in Great Britain, and the more the British people can see of life in Australia, the better it will be for both countries. I believe,’ also, that we should be in closer, and more frequent, contact with the members of the British Parliament.
I am surprised that there was no mention of civil aviation in the Prime Minister’s speech. Last September, when I spoke on the Address-in-Reply, I advocated the use of air services to encourage migration. In passing, let me say that I. deeply regret that when Captain Taylor was here recently, with the object of doing something in the interests of civil aviation in Australia, he had such a poor reception that he said, “ I am off. They do not seem to want me here “. Captain Taylor, let me remind honorable members, was one of the principal participants in what is still the greatest singleengined flight. He flew across the Pacific with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, and he also pioneered the flight from Western Australia to Africa. It i.-i deplorable that there is no post for him in this country, notwithstanding that he is world-renowned. I believe that if Hie Government took effective steps to encourage migration many members of air crews in the South African, Canadian and British Air Forces would be attracted to this country. They are men of the adventurous type who have made friends with many of our boys overseas, and they would be glad to come here if they w.ere encouraged, for they have learned to admire our men as our men admire them.
– Migration must have an objective. How many millions of people would the honorable gentleman encourage to come to Australia?
– I agree that migration plans should have a long range. British people who come to this country should be enabled to bring their equity in social services with them. We must face the fact that at our present rate of population deterioration, we shall reach stagnation point in 1955, for, in that year, the birth-rate and the death-rate will be approximately the same. We will stave off defeat in this war and achieve victory, but unless we take steps to develop this country we shall face ultimate defeat. After the war we shall be responsible for populating our wide open spaces.
We should welcome English children to Australia. I have talked on this subject with Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare, the British Minister in charge of child migration, who told me that many British children had gone to Canada and some had come to Australia. Unfortunately, the scheme had to be abandoned after the sinking of the City of Benares, which resulted in the drowning of many children. Sir Geoffrey told me that Australia would take many more English children. We should welcome British orphans here. The British Orphans Adoption Society has placed many British orphans in Australian homes, and the Fairbridge scheme, and others similar to it, have done useful work in settling British children in this country. We must, however, encourage every move in that direction. Now that the flying bombs have become such a menace in the south of England the need for action is more urgent. We all must have read in the press a few days ago of a queue of women and children being killed while waiting to be evacuated. The Prime Minister, during his visit to England, must have seen many of the underground stations equipped with tiers of bunks for the safety of the women and children of London. I am quite sure that British people would welcome an invitation to come to Australia, and we should encourage them to come here. English people are proud, and will never ask for a haven, but as we have room and food sufficient for many more than our present population, we should be doing our utmost to bring British migrants to our shores.
– The shipping position is very difficult.
– I am aware of that, but we should take steps to overcome the difficulties. British women who have married Australian soldiers in Great
Britain should also he brought here as soon as possible.
– The shipping companies demanded exorbitant fares for the British wives of Australian soldiers.
– If exorbitant fares cannot be avoided they should be paid, for the wives of our men should be brought to this country. Australia is a participant in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to which 44 nations have subscribed, and we should take our full part in that scheme. I issue this warning, however, that if our people continue to squabble and fight about hours of work in coal mines; if they continue to strike, as certain individuals did last week in the cold stores industry; if they continue to hold up the shipment of butter to our soldiers and to other people overseas, we shall find ourselves in “ queer street “. We should remember that mass murder is still being committed by the dreadful Gestapo. In the early days of the war the Poles and the Czechs suffered in this way under conditions of indescribable misery, as I learned when I was Australia’s delegate, and acted as chairman of a committee at the Evian Conference in 1938. I heard, at that time, for instance, of the terrible plight of the Jews who were being driven out of Germany and Austria. That dreadful story was only a rehearsal for murder on a grand scale during this war. Australia’s production will be taxed to the utmost in order to cope with the supply situation and to fulfil its obligations.
I conclude by making a few remarks concerning the direction in which we are trending. It is a very dangerous trend. I have not spoken often in this Parliament during the last few years. But in the first week of the war, I suggested that we should register in our minds what the war was about. I pointed out that our form of life was being challenged, and all that we held dear was being threatened; that, during the course of the war, there might be shifts in other directions; that all sorts of theories might be put forward, and that we might forget the original reason. That is what has been happening. “We hear talk of a new world that is to arise after the war. It would be a much different world, if we were to lose. With the Aladdin-like promises of a new world, and the more or less surrealist architects that we have in our own country, there is a definite trend towards national socialism. After all, that is what the Nazi movement is. I know that my friends opposite will pooh-pooh the idea that there is any affinity whatever. I warn them that they are trending in that direction. How often have we heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who is now Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories, and others, tell us that all the wars of the past have been capitalistic wars? Is this a capitalistic war? What nations are a menace to civilization and democracy but socialist nations? What nations have resisted them but capitalist nations, in which freedom still survives?
– The honorable gentleman does not cite Germany as a socialist nation ?
– I do. I was in Germany just before the outbreak of the war, and talked with prominent Nazis, who were as firm in their belief that they were socialists as the Minister for information (Mr. Calwell) is firm in his belief that he is a member of the Labour party. I agree that the Nazis are not a true socialist party. In their eyes, however, their organization was socialist. It contained many of the good elements of socialism. Being a musical nation, the people were provided with opera for the German equivalent of 6d. Athletes were taken in hand and trained to perfection, and cheap sport and other forma of entertainment were provided. But the people were isolated from the other nations of the world. The press, the radio and the film - take warning, Mister Minister for Information - were heavily censored. The sops which the people were given by their one-party government caused them to believe that no other form of government was tolerable. That is the reason for their solidarity to-day. All objectors were placed in concentration camps. I have asked prominent Nazis to explain what difference existed between their form of government and the Russian form of government, and their reply has been “ Very little, except that we are nationalist and they are international ; in other respects, there is no difference “. That may be quite untrue, but at least it comes back to what I have said - that the capitalist nations of the world were those which resisted and bore the brunt of the Nazi and Fascist onslaught. In Great Britain and the United States of America, freedom has survived. The people are not constantly under the thumb of the Government, the bureaucrat, and those who want to regulate their lives. They want to live their lives in their own way. Private enterprise thrives and prospers. In Australia to-day, we are trending, even though unconsciously, in the opposite direction. I know that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will say that this is leading up to the referendum. Let me quote a man whom I know he admires. I shall quote two opinions and the right honorable gentleman can take his pick. Winston Churchill has said -
We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except a politician or an official.
Professor Mouat, a British economist ani historian, has said -
The fundamental difference between bureaucrat or expert government and democratic government - which is not expert-
You see that when you leave official Germany and enter untidy Belgium or France, but you also feel the weight fall from your shoulders because you feel free - is in respect of freedom. In bureaucracy the people is something to be directed. In democracy, it is expected to direct itself. The bureaucrat aims at forming the opinions of the people. Democracy keeps their activities and minds free.
The referendum proposals contain some good points. I have stated emphatically that I am a constitutional reformer, and am prepared to support some of the points. But the Government has refused to separate the different items, and one must take the lot or have nothing. The Government wants to have complete power in relation to employment and unemployment. If that be granted, the existing man-power ideas will continue, the Minister for Information will still control the newspapers, the radio will continue to play Advance Australia Fair, whether one likes it or not - that, I admit, would not be a very great infliction - and propaganda will be issued on behalf of one side and not the other.
– It is done in the national interest.
– The honorable gentleman has tried to excuse a film that was screened recently at a picture theatre; he said that the theatre management had agreed to it. I recognized in that film, among the actors who were soldiers, an officer whom I knew. Is it not strange that the Government can obtain special concessions from the newspapers for the publication of its views, and that it can state its case in a leading article in the Air Force publication Wings, whereas the opposing side cannot do so? It cannot be said whether or not the 20,000 members of air crews in Britain have ever been told of the “ No “ case. Do not all the matters that have been brought up in the last few days point to the fact that the Government is leaning very heavily in the direction of national socialism?
– According to the press, the Royal Australian Air Force is voting “ Yes “.
– If the honorable gentleman believes that he is very gullible. I have been in their company for the last four and a half years, and know that they have a contempt for most politicians, because they see the way in which politics are trending in Australia. It would be a tonic to any honorable member to go overseas to-day, sit in the House of Commons, and witness the decorum with which the Mother of Parliaments conducts its proceedings. Through every blitz, it has discharged its parliamentary functions. In Australia, we have government by regulation. Every day, we receive in the mail a few more regulations. We study them, and not having the acts beside us, are unable to comprehend the effect of them. They are made by a public .servant, with the best of intentions. The public servant becomes the master of the destinies and the liberties of every individual who is concerned in the particular activity with which the regulations deal. Ministers aid and abet him, often without understanding what the particular regulations are about. Some occasions might be good for the issue of regulations, but others might not be. Here is the opinion of Mr. C. G. Fallon-
It would be impossible to deny that our war effort was governed by the intention to implement the extreme left-wing planks of the
Labour platform . . . We are making use of the war to implement our Labour policy.
The Government is certainly making use of the war to implement Labour policy. Every member of it is committed to the socialization of all the means of production, distribution and exchange. Every one has signed a pledge to that effect. Let the Prime Minister or any other Minister deny that. Their aim, in the fourteen points and the additional three items in the referendum proposals, is principally the implementation of a socialist policy. They have been forced by the left wing of the party into much of the extreme thought in those points. They should shake off that wing, and get back to sanity, to the mild policy of the British Labour party. That would react to the good of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
.- Honorable members listened with great attention to the statement of the Prime Minister on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. While the Prime Minister was speaking his words struck a chord of remembrance in my mind, and this so interested me that I afterwards got hold of a copy of the statement and read it through carefully. This confirmed my first impression that I had heard it all before, because it became evident that almost everything in the statement had previously been published from time to time in the newspapers, or broadcast over the air. As a result, I was somewhat disappointed with the Prime Minister’s statement. I expected something more specific. The Prime Minister had been overseas attending a meeting of the leading statesmen of the Empire. I have no doubt that he discussed with them very many weighty problems. Both Mr. Churchill and Field Marshal Smuts had described the conference as one of the greatest importance, yet when our Prime Minister returned he summed up his experiences in a statement filled with generalities, a statement which was, in reality, a summary of what ‘we had read in the press over and over again. Let me quote the following from the statement itself: -
There was also a discussion on commercial policy, which had been considered earlier in the year on the official level, but the matter has not been advanced sufficiently to enable a public statement to be made at the present time.
The conference reviewed the stage which had been reached in regard to post-war arrangements for civil aviation. As they are still the subject of international discussion, it is not possible to make any useful public statement at present.
The conference discussed post-war shipping policy, and agreed on certain principles as a basis for further inter-governmental discussions as occasion arose.
That is typical of a great deal of the statement. There is nothing specific in it. It does not tell us to what the Prime Minister has committed the country, nor does it give us any information regarding the Government’s post-war rehabilitation policy. The right honorable gentleman certainly had something to say about man-power and defence, but he did not reveal certain other matters about which the National Parliament should be informed. If such information can be given only at a secret meeting of Parliament, then let such a meeting be held. The Prime Minister should give in more specific terms a full account of his stewardship while overseas.
No information has been given to us about the position of industry in Australia after the war. Yesterday, I addressed a question to him on this subject, and he simply looked blank. Obviously, he has not yet caught up with what has been happening while he was away. In another part of this statement, the Prime Minister said -
Finally, there are functional bodies of a technical nature, such as those relating to labour, health and transport, which will require to be related to the world organization.
I know that he was speaking in general terms, but the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) made some definite statements at the International Labour Organization Conference on employment and unemployment. It would appear that the Prime Minister has been “ sold “ on a scheme which might be described, in the words of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), as the old body clothed in different rags. Are we to be bound by an international agreement under which a body outside Australia will be able to frame the whole of our economic and industrial policy?
We want to know what obligations Australia is being asked to assume as a result of these discussions.
I come back to the question which I asked yesterday. “We know that a committee has been appointed consisting of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and that this committee has already received a report from the Secondary Industries Commission on the proposal to take over all munitions annexes and war factories for the production of domestic commodities in competition with private enterprise. We know something of the effect which this proposal has already had upon those who were disposed to invest money in Australia. One big concern, which was considering the investment of millions of pounds, is now hesitating because it has become alarmed at the evident trend towards the socialization of industry. It would appear that there will be no place for private industry in Australia after the war. Dr. Lloyd Boss and Mr. Jensen are advising the Government on these matters, and it may be that the blank stare with which the Prime Minister met my question yesterday will change to a look of alert intelligence after he has had time to consider the proposals which have been before this Cabinet committee.
Matters bearing upon the future peace must have been discussed at the Imperial Conference, and we want to be assured that Australia will have a place at the peace table. We should like to be informed, if not in open Parliament, then at a secret meeting, what plans have been prepared regarding the use of man-power. It is not enough that the Advisory War Council should be told. There is a body higher than the Advisory War Council, and higher than any Cabinet committee, namely; that is Parliament itself. The honorable member for Denison said yesterday how necessary it was that we should, after this war, achieve a lasting peace. He stressed the fact that science had made such progress towards making possible the release of atomic energy, and towards the projection of rays, that the next war, if there is to be one, might well result in the complete annihilation of our civilization. These are not light matters, and therefore I am surprised that the Prim© Minister should have placed before Parliament a statement containing only generalities, a statement empty as the wind. The House is not content to be fobbed off with generalities. The Prime Minister should take it into his confidence.
I come now to something which has received a great deal of publicity, and which is causing grave concern throughout Australia, namely, the many glaring abuses in the administration of justice. Honorable members are well aware of the discrimination exercised by this Government in the initiation of prosecutions, and of the methods employed in obtaining evidence for prosecutions. The newspapers are filled with instances of the kind, and the public are becoming increasingly alarmed because of the totalitarian methods employed. Discrimination has been shown even in regard to the treatment of persons convicted of subversive activities. I refer- in particular to the discrimination exhibited in the Ratliffe-Thomas case a3 compared with the internments of members of the Australia First Movement. I do not wish to say anything which might prejudice the inquiry into these internments, but I point out that this is a matter which affects the liberty of every member of this House, and of every citizen of Australia. Honorable members who support the Government should be just as jealous to preserve the liberty of citizens in general as they are to preserve their own. The House should be informed of the facts in regard to these matters so that the public may be assured that the inquiry now being conducted will be adequate in scope. The whole story of these unfortunate internments should be sifted, and the complete facts made public. Moreover, having regard to developments during the last few days, I desire to be assured by the AttorneyGeneral that there will be no further delay of the inquiry into the Australia First Movement. It is now common knowledge that the judge appointed to conduct the inquiry has told counsel that he cannot proceed on the date fixed because he has to give his attention to the inquiry into the Hannan allegations concerning censorship. The men involved were interned more than two years ago. One of them is still interned. The remainder were interned for several months, and some of them secured their freedom only at considerable expense. All of them for two years and more have been under the shadow of the accusations of treason and plot to murder which were levelled at them in this House by the Minister for the Army. Since the 4th May last, all have also been under the shadow of the extraordinary accusations levelled against them by the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security, that they had been associated with a quisling, subversive, anti-Australian, antiBritish group which had been prepared to stab Australia in the back at the moment of its greatest peril. It is imperative in the interests of justice that the whole matter should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment, especially since counsel assisting the commission has already cleared several of the men of any lack of patriotism. That is an extraordinary happening so early in the inquiry.
– It is true, too, that the Attorney-General gave an undertaking to establish an inquiry, and did establish it.
– I shall deal with the matters as they come forward, and I shall not be diverted by interjections from the treasury bench. Whenever this matter is discussed, Ministers try to draw a red herring across the trail by means of interjections, indicating that they have something to hide.
One of those cleared by counsel, Matthews, is a returned soldier. He was a correspondent of the late General Brudenell White, and he served as the model for Epstein’s “ Spirit of Anzac”. He was badly wounded on Gallipoli, was mentioned in despatches, and was generally well and favorably known in Sydney. Though he was not a member of the Australia First Movement, he was taken in the dead of night, interned for months, and released only after his business was ruined, and considerable pressure had been used in this House to have his case inquired into. He has since, I believe, been offered miserable compensation. Counsel told the Commissioner that he would find difficulty in adducing reasons for his internment.
Another man, Sergeant Watts, was a returned soldier from the 1914-18 war, badly wounded in the lungs, who was employed at the time of his internment as guard of a large munitions factory, and had taken the oath of allegiance a week or two before. He was a military medallist of the last war in which he was also recommended, so I understand, for the Croix de Guerre. He was interned for several months. When he was cleared by Mr. Justice Pike’s tribunal he returned to his place of employment, and I am informed has stated that he was run off the premises by the police who used abusive language to him. He was never formally dismissed. Yet a month after the Attorney-General had said that this man had been associated with a quisling, subversive, anti-Australian group - and he must have been if the Australia First Movement was such a group, because he was a member of its executive - the counsel assisting the inquiry paid tribute to his loyalty, decency, and truthfulness. I regret that this poor man was not present to hear his belated exculpation by the Attorney-General’s agent before the Commissioner. He, at that time, lay dying in the Prince of Wales Repatriation Hospital, Randwick. During the last week he died with all the anguish of knowing that his wife’s life was ruined, and his own reputation under a cloud. It shows the utter callousness of those who are dealing with this matter, that no official word has been said about this matter, and I trust that the very first thing which will be done will be to see that the wife of this deeply wronged soldier shall be looked after and not left in want as well as sorrow. These internments were the results of extraordinarily hasty action taken by the Government which, having made a mistake, was not prepared to admit it. Instead of setting about recovering the position, the Government was prepared to allow the sorry affair to drag on in the hope that it would be forgotten. Two other soldiers were roped in. They are named Cahill and Downe. Both men, when they were netted, asked for a court martial, but the officer in charge said that there was no need for one. They retained their uniforms and were on full pay from the 10th March until the statement was made by the Attorney-General to this House. They were discharged obviously with the full honours of war, on full pay and everything else due to them from the Army. One of them, Downe, was taken back into the Army a fortnight later and is now on active service fighting for this country.
I hope also that the inquiry will be proceeded with at once on the due date which was fixed by the Commissioner - the 24th July. I understand that steps have been taken by the Attorney-General to give preference to the inquiry into the allegations by Mr. Hannan, K.C., into the alleged wrongful opening of his mail. Mr. Hannan’s charges were made only recently and are not of two years’ standing like those relating to members of the Australia First Movement. And I would stress that the Australia First Movement inquiry becomes a matter of urgency, because of the circumstances. These men are going among their fellows with the gravest kind of charges that can be made against a man hanging over their heads, charges which, on the facts, are in some cases palpably absurd. One young man, who is a director of the Summer School of Political Science at Canberra, which the Attorney-General himself frequents, has been held up as an admirer of Nazi-ism by the counsel assisting the Commissioner, but this did not prevent his being invited to Government House with the AttorneyGeneral during the last Summer School of Political Science in January. Moreover, a few days before the inquiry opened in Sydney, he was asked to deliver lectures under the Army education scheme.
One man, C. W. Hooper, a former Union Bank branch manager, is 75 years of age, and in poor health. His wife died three weeks before he was interned. Not merely was he interned, but this old man and his associates declare that on one occasion he was placed in solitary confinement and sent under armed guard to an internment hospital where he was kept during an illness under fixed bayonets and in the company of Japanese and Italians. He had given £25 to the H.M.A.S. Sydney fund a few days before he was interned.
He is in precarious health. So also is another man, Salier, who has virtually been cleared, and who was for over 40 years an employee of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. This old man is in a state of nervous breakdown as the result of his terrible experience, and was unable to attend the inquiry for that reason. I am sure the House will agree that in these circumstances there should not be a minute’s delay in seeing that the characters of these men shall be cleared, if they can be cleared. I need say no more of what is in my mind on that point.
The other question which I wish to raise also involves points which call for urgent treatment. It concerns the scope of the inquiry. The terms of reference are limited to the actions of military intelligence, and to the individual cases of the men. True, the Commissioner has great power to widen the inquiry; but it is a power that commissioners are reluctant to use. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral, particularly in view of the peculiar circumstances of these cases, that the Commissioner be asked to probe the whole matter to the very bottom, and that he request those concerned not to allow parliamentary privilege or any other consideration to prevent Ministers or anybody else concerned from going into the witness box to enable the Commissioner to give a full finding as to all the circumstances of the internments, some of which may be open to the most peculiar interpretations. One peculiar fact is that from the first meeting of the Australia First Movement in November, 1941, before the J apanese struck at Pearl Harbour, the internment of the leaders of the movement was demanded by only one set of people - by the leaders of the Communist party, at that time and for twelve months afterwards a banned organization suppressed for its subversive activities. Another is that those who implemented the demand were the very persons who were involved in securing the release of the two Communists, Ratliffe and Thomas, a few weeks before. It will be remembered that on that occasion the release was demanded by the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales, whose heads were later revealed as members of the Central Committee of the
Communist party. The two members of the Labour party who were publicly involved in doing the bidding of these powerful union officials were the present Attorney-General and the Minister for the Army, who had these two convicted seditionists freed a fortnight after their party came into power. On the one hand, action had been taken to free men who had been convicted on charges of having been involved in subversive activities.
– By an independent tribunal.
– That is so. But no action was taken to clear the names of the members of the Australia First Movement. A large number of them have already been released, and others have been offered compensation by this Government. But the Government did not adopt towards members of the Australia First Movement the same attitude as it adopted towards the other group. The Trades and Labour Council, at the instance of the same Communists, passed a resolution demanding that members of the Australia First Movement should be interned. The Minister who apparently dealt with the matter on the 6th March was the Attorney-General, but later the Minister for the Army was imported into the proceedings. As early as the 26th November, 1941, a Communist newspaper in Sydney, Progress, was able to state that the Attorney-General had the matter in hand. Every public demand by the Communists was followed by some step by the Government.
InWestern Australia, a single police agent, a convicted person, was used to try to secure evidence of a leakage between the so-called conspirators there and members of the Australia First Movement in Sydney. You, Mr. Speaker, described this man’s character in picturesque language. He was a strange character indeed. He admitted friendship with several Communists, though he declared that he had joined the Communist party only as a police agent. He was a voluntary member of the Left Book Club, branches of which had been dealt with by the police during the previous two years because they were used as cover for Communist party meetings. He showed, on his own evidence, a great zest for his work in trying to make out a case against the Australia First Movement in Sydney. There seems to have been a remarkable coincidence of thought and action between government authorities and the heads of the Communist party in this matter. Not the least strange fact is that, whereas the AttorneyGeneral in the case of Ratliffe and Thomas, took a certain stand regarding the internment of Australians and the unsatisfactory nature of secret tribunals, he took exactly the opposite stand in regard to the Australia First cases. In fact, in the two sets of cases, he was consistent in only one thing, namely, he followed a course of action which would best satisfy the heads of the Communist party and the great trade union leaders.
The Attorney-General told us that short-hand notes were taken of the proceedings of all meetings of the Australia First Movement in Sydney. I inform him that there was at least one meeting at which no notes were taken. That was a meeting held on the 19th February, 1942, in the Adyar Hall, Bligh-street. This meeting was selected as the venue of a disgraceful demonstration by an organized gang of ruffians armed with improvised weapons. These ruflians invaded the hall, destroyed furniture, damaged fittings, threw down the speaker of the evening and kicked him while he lay on the floor, and were able to decamp with papers from the table after a riot which lasted, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, for about an hour, before the police arrived. It was rather significant that a riot could take place in Sydney so close to the police station and yet an hour elapse before any action was taken by the police.
When the Minister for the Army made his statement to this House on the 26th March, it was singular that the Communist party should be able to obtain the names of the internees and publish and placard them in an illegal paper, printed in defiance of the National Security Regulations and the censorship, apparently with impunity, under the heading, “ These are the Spies “. [Extension of time granted.] There is only one other coincidence to which I need refer.
It concerns the statement which the Minister for the Army made in this House on the 26th March, 1942. That statement electrified Australia with its charges of high treason and plots to assassinate prominent persons. So far as the Australia First Movement internees are concerned, those charges have since been proved to be without foundation.
– Who said so?
– It has been proved because a number of internees have already been cleared, and the Government has offered compensation to others. On examination, the statement made to the House by the Minister for the Army proves to be nothing more or less than a paraphrase of the indictment of Bukharin and other Rightists and Trotskyites at the Moscow trials of 1938. The phrasing is so close that it is difficult to believe that the man who wrote the statement of the Minister for the Army did not have a copy of the official report of the Moscow trials on hie table for reference. In some instances, actual phrases tally. The Moscow indictment relates how the “leaders of the bloc of Rights and Trotskyites accused in the present case carried on their criminal activities (i.e., plots to sabotage war industries and to assassinate public men) in accordance with plans widely conceived and elaborated by the general staffs of certain foreign States”. The Minister for the Army spoke of “ elaborate plans for sabotage”. The Moscow indictment spoke of the accused “ establishing contact with governments hostile to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics “. The Minister for the Army spoke of how the Australia First internees supposedly intended to “ make contact with the Japanese Army at the moment of invasion of Australia”. The Minister’s charge that it was planned in Australia to commit “ sabotage at vulnerable points “ and to “ use methods which would render resistance to the Japanese impossible” was merely a paraphrase of the Moscow charge that “ in the event of war “ the conspirators planned “ blowing up and destroying the decisive enterprises in our socialist fatherland. They set themselves the task of paralysing the whole economic life of the country, of paralysing the food and munition supplies of the Army “.
The Moscow indictment charge, “ Murder of Soviet public men “, whose names were given, is paraphrased in the statement of the Minister for the Army in reference to the Australia First internees in the words, “Plans to assassinate prominent people are set out”. It turned out that the “ prominent people “ whom the Australian “ conspirators “ were alleged to propose torturing, included prominent Communists. I do not know the motives,but evidently some persons associated with the Communist party, and other friends and supporters of the Government, very badly wanted some of these men to be ruined. There are some who obviously hate them, and desire to damage them to the utmost of their ability. The whole proceedings are associated with a violence uncommon in countries which live according to British law and traditions, and the Government’s proceedings in the matter have been accompanied by delay, threats intended to prevent political discussion and unsupported statements, for which, so far, no ground has been shown, calculated to prejudicepublic opinion. Those who demanded an inquiry, which one would have imagined even honest enemies of these men would have welcomed, have been subjected to vile abuse and libel. It was suggested that the house of one of them, a returned soldier and now a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps, whose four children are in the forces, should be searched for Japanese secret wireless sets. That man was Mr. Prior, managing director of the Bulletin,. Every step that violence can dictate seems to have been taken by some interest, which is not yet disclosed, to intimidate those connected with the inquiry.
It is reported in Sydney that one of the former internees has, since the inquiry opened, been the victim of a brutal and obviously planned assault by a gang of roughs. He was leaving his place of business one Saturday afternoon when they set upon him.
– Who was that?
– Mr. Bath. The Minister may know something about it. One of the counsel representing him and the dead soldier, Watts, and others, has received an anonymous threat, couched in Communist jargon, and associating a warning to “ beware death “ with that counsel’s part in the Australia First cases. A counsel for others, who have been virtually cleared, has been telephoned in a threatening manner by somebody who appears to have been trying to compel him to drop the cases. I do not know whether these things are as they are represented. I have learnt of them from what appears to be a thoroughly reliable source. The AttorneyGeneral should make an immediate inquiry and inform this House whether the statements are correct. I do not propose to mention the names of the counsel publicly, but will make them available to him.
If these threats have been made, they are probably intended to frighten witnesses rather than experienced counsel, but they seem to be very serious, and require official attention. The internee who says that he was attacked, is one whose character the Attorney-General himself, after two years’ delay, decided to clear. He has reported that since the inquiry opened, he has been waylaid in the street and severely assaulted by a gang of ruffians.
This man, a former alderman of the Manly Council and an Australian of the fourth generation, received from the Taxation Department the week before the Attorney-General announced the appointment of Mr. Justice Clyne to hold the inquiry, a notice saying that the tax which he owed on income derived in the nine months of the year 1941-42, during which he was not interned, had been remitted in toto. It amounted to £2,371. His wife’s tax also was wiped off. When compensation for a miscarriage of justice is offered to some of the internees, whilst the Government seeks to bribe another member of the Australia First Movement by remitting the whole of his taxation obligations just prior to the inquiry, there are some grounds for suspicion regarding the department’s dispensation of justice. That man is now working for the American Army, by whom he was employed after his release, but while he was still under restriction by the security police. That in itself is rather significant. I do not know who is responsible for the threat of violence, but I remind the House that one organization, and only one, has pressed for the internment of these men. It has used the most abusive language about the Australia First Movement internees in recent issues of its official journal. Certainly this journal, and those who subscribe to it and were members of an organization that at one time was declared to be subversive, were the mainspring of the agitation for the internment of these unfortunate men.
I trust the Attorney-General will concur in my view that the fullest possible inquiry is needed, and that it should be held as promptly as possible. There is much to explain. An explanation is needed as to why, if the Australia First Movement was the quisling, subversive anti-Australian body that the AttorneyGeneral says it was, its secretary and other members of its committee were not interned. Explanation is needed, too, of why its mail was not seized - and I am informed that it was not - after its president and treasurer had been arrested. It should be explained why the paper managed by the principal internee, Stephenson, who is still interned, was not even banned after his internment. It needs explanation, also, why the Minister for Information personally intervened, as he says, I believe, “ in the interests of justice “ to secure the release of a man whom the Attorney-General has declared was a friend of Japan. That man, it was said, hoped to gain personal advantage from a Japanese victory. I should also like to know why special consideration was given to the overtures of the Minister for Information if the man was all that the Attorney-General alleged him to be. The sooner the matter is cleared up the better. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of a prompt and full inquiry.
I ask the Attorney-General to take steps to ensure that the inquiry shall proceed on the 24th July as was originally intended, and that the Commissioner shall be asked to make the fullest inquiry not merely into individual cases, and into the behaviour of individual officials, but also into the whole source and origin of the arrests and the subsequent events both in Sydney and Western Australia. I view the matter so seriously that I suggest that if Mr. Justice Clyne is overburdened with work, and is unable to proceed with the inquiry without relief, another judge should be appointed to relieve him of the Hannan inquiry, and of other duties, until this matter is out of the way. What obligation, if any, was on the AttorneyGeneral to appoint Mr. Justice Clyne as the royal commissioner for this other inquiry? In my opinion, nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the immediate completion of the Australia First Movement investigation. We should know for certain whether the action taken against these individuals was justified. If it was, they should be called upon to suffer the fullest rigours of the law. We should take any action that is necessary against those who are guilty of subversive action. They should not be treated with any compassion, but, first, their guilt should be proven. The Attorney-General has claimed that he is deeply concerned about this matter. I point out that some of these individuals are old men whose health has been seriously affected. They should not be allowed to remain unjustly under a cloud for longer than is necessary. We should have the verdict made available to us without a minute of unnecessary delay.
– The Attorney-General has acted with fairness, and in a humanitarian spirit, throughout these proceedings.
– The matter to which I have referred is only one that could be mentioned which calls into question the administration of justice by this Government, whose Attorney-General was previously a shining light of the High Court. Other injustices that have been perpetrated will be discussed at some length by some of my colleagues. We should like to know why there has been discrimination in the launching of prosecutions. It would appear that individuals have only to break the law in the company of 200 or 300 others in order to “get away with it”. If isolated individuals break the law they are prosecuted with the utmost rigour. The whole weight of Commonwealth authority is brought against them. [Further exten sion of time granted.] The withdrawal of certain prosecutions is another matter which the Attorney-General should explain to the country. Why have penalties been remitted in respect of persons found guilty of absenteeism? Why have prosecutions which have been launched against miners, in the mass, been withdrawn ? What threat has caused the withdrawal of the prosecutions ? What threat has been used to cause the remission of penalties? Why was there discrimination in respect of Ratliffe and Thomas? We know very well that they were treated less harshly than were certain other individuals. These are questions in relation to the administration of justice in Australia which should be answered without delay.
. - I have prepared certain observations which I desire to make in reply to statements made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I shall deal, first, with the remarks made to-night by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) concerning the Australia First Movement ex-internees. The facts of the case have been stated to honorable members on previous occasions, and I have no wish to repeat what has already been said. Shortly, however, the position is that Mr. Justice Clyne, of the Commonwealth Court in Bankruptcy, was appointed by me as a special commissioner to make an inquiry into and report upon every aspect of these internments. The original internments were made by the Army authorities, and subsequently the men were detained until they were released either subject to restrictions or unconditionally. There are no limits to the scope of the inquiry which Mr. Justice Clyne will make. Five specific matters are referred to in the terms of reference, but His Honour has also been authorized to deal with all matters which, in his opinion, as special commissioner, are relevant to any of the five matters mentioned or which, in his opinion, should be dealt with and reported upon by him. At the opening of the inquiry quite recently in Sydney His Honour is reported to have said - and I ask honorable members to consider these words closely - “I have very wide powers,” said the Commissioner, Mr. Justice Clyne. “ Talk about the Commissioner being restricted is all nonsense, i. can investigate any matter that I. think should be gone into.”
The terms of reference are such as to enable His Honour to investigate any matter that he thinks should be inquired into. If, upon inquiry, it is found that any of the internees have been wrongfully dealt with, their names will be cleared, and they will be compensated, but if they have been rightly dealt with, that also will be published to the world. The inquiry will in the discretion of the judge be of the fullest possible scope. His Honour will hear sworn evidence and will deal with the cases one by one, and report upon each of them’ to the Government. In these circumstances I ask what honorable members think, and what people throughout the country will think, of the action of an honorable member of this House who is not a private member, but is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, discussing the whole subject here and prejudging -the issues after the inquiry has actually commenced. If this were a judicial inquiry on specific charges, and the honorable gentleman had taken similar action in this Parliament - or in almost any Parliament in the world - every member would have risen in protest. I shall not accept the invitation of the honorable gentleman either to justify the conduct of any one of these ex-internees or to condemn it. I shall not interfere with the course of justice. The matter will be fully investigated by Mr. Justice Clyne, and I shall not take any steps to tell His Honour how he should conduct his own business, or when he shall sit. It is within His Honour’s judgment to determine these matters, and he will do so in his own way.
– These people have been waiting for two years.
– If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will listen to me for two minutes I shall satisfy him. First, I was not in any way responsible for the original internments. These individuals were ordered to be interned in March, 1942, in the blackest days of the war, when the enemy was at our very gates. The recommendation for their internment was made by high and responsible Army officials. At that time I was abroad on a supply mission for this country. I did not return until four months after the internments, yet within a few weeks of my return I had directed that certain of the men who had been interned should be released. I remind the House that I called for a special report on the subject. The matter was debated in this chamber, and certain honorable gentlemen, including the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) paid tribute to me for my just and fair actions. I had a special committee appointed to investigate every aspect of the matter, and when its report was made available to me, I took prompt action. Honorable gentlemen opposite may criticize, but history will record that I acted in the best interests of the country and in defence of civil liberties. I have done everything possible to protect the civil liberties of the people. But it has also been my duty to ensure that the security of the nation should not be endangered in any way. Whenever I have had any reasonable doubt at all on the subject, I have invariably leaned in favour of freedom, and have endeavoured to protect civil liberties. My appointment was made in August or September, 1942, and almost simultaneously, Brigadier Simpson, a well-known member of the New South Wales bar, and a gentleman who served with, distinction in the Middle East, was appointed DirectorGeneral of ‘Security, and entrusted with very great powers.
– Was he a legal officer in the Middle East?
– I am not sure, but I know that he was a returned soldier of the last war, in which he served with distinction. All know that he is a lawyer who is held in high esteem. Over and over again when these matters have come before this House, honorable members on both sides of the chamber have paid tribute to my handling of them. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did so in the last debate on the subject and so, also, did the honorable member for Warringah. Mistakes are inevitable, but whenever I have ‘intervened and have had any reasonable doubt in my mind, I have leaned towards the preservation of civil liberties. In some cases, I have taken the responsibility of releasing men, whenever special occasion arose, but I have also taken the responsibility of acting contrary to the advice of security officers. I never acted less favorably to an internee than was recommended. I do not intend to go into details in relation to these cases at this stage. I have dealt justly and humanely with the subject of internments. Let me illustrate: When I assumed office there were 6,174 persons interned in Australia. Under the administration of the Director-General of Security and myself, that number has been gradually reduced until to-day only 1,180 are. interned including persons of enemy origin. This number is steadily decreasing as the war danger ‘becomes less. The process of review is going on all the time. Cases are always being reconsidered. I could repeat the facts with relation to the Australia First Movement but why should I do so? They will come before Mr. Justice Clyne. He will decide each individual case on the evidence submitted to him. I am fearful lest, at this stage, one word of mine might prejudice the case either in favour of or against these men. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his concluding remarks .practically admitted that different verdicts should be returned in different cases. That surely indicates that the whole of the cases should be investigated carefully and separately by the tribunal that has been appointed for the purpose.
– I have asked that there should not be any more delay.
– The honorable gentleman could have made his request as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) did this afternoon. There was no need for his long and prejudicial review. Reference has been made to the cas© of Sergeant Watts who has since died. It might be thought that his death had some relation to his internment, but Sergeant Watts was released nearly two years ago, and within one hour of the time his papers came before me. Mathews also was released promptly. I considered his case, and gave an immediate order that he should be released.
I would not take the responsibility of his detention for a moment longer than was absolutely necessary. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Wentworth has said, that later he made a claim for a large amount by way of compensation. That matter was investigated by the appropriate officers, who considered that he should be offered an ex gratia payment. Such a payment was offered. This has been treated as though it colours the cases of a very different character. It does not, but merely forms a part of the facts. The country was in deadly peril. Could we take a risk at that time? Why should we care for the feelings of any individual when we were guarding the safety of our women and children at home and our soldiers abroad?
– What about Ratliff e and Thomas?
– That was a Cabinet decision, for which my colleagues and I accept responsibility. Ratliffe and Thomas were convicted men, but they had served their sentences. In June, 1941, Russia came into the war on the side of Britain. Immediately Mr. Churchill greeted Russia as an ally. The beliefs of these men consisted mainly in the development of close friendship with Russia.
– They believed in the defeat of this country.
– H the honorable member will let me make my point, he can then form his own judgment. The Curtin Government came into office in October, 1941. Russia had then been our ally for a period of five months. These two men had been kept in internment. In the view of the Government, and of those whose judgment we accepted, it was wrong to keep them in detention any longer. The main justification put forward for their detention was that they were allied with the Communists of Russia, which was our ally at the moment.
– Then why not release all Italians now?
– I am giving the reasons for the decision that was reached. Honorable members may differ from the decision, but I affirm that the reasons are proper ones. The situation at that time cannot be compared with the situation in 1942, when this country was in imminent clanger of invasion. It is a matter of notoriety that in the cases in “Western Australia to which the honorable member for Wentworth has referred, some of the persons concerned were convicted. I said to the House two years ago that I could see no direct evidence of guilty association between the persons who were interned in New South Wales, and the conspiracy in Western Australia. All the facts have been placed before the House and a record of them is to be found in Hansard. Hardly a person who has debated the matter has not paid a tribute to the way in which I have dealt with it. The scope of the inquiry is broad, but I shall broaden it further if it be found to be too narrow. Honorable members should not come into this House with hearsay evidence obtained from counsel, solicitors, or interested parties, but should give evidence before the tribunal. If the judge says that the scope of the inquiry is too narrow, it will be broadened.
– When will the inquiry be resumed?
– I have already said that 1 will not interfere with the fixation of the date for presumption of the inquiry. It Ls perfectly true, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said this afternoon, that he appointed Mr. Justice Clyne to inquire into the allegations that had been made by Mr. Hannan. I informed the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to-day that that matter, because of its very nature, should not last more than a few days. The Australia First inquiry was commenced in Sydney three or four weeks ago. The request for an adjournment was made, not by army officers or those who had been concerned originally in ordering the internments, but by counsel for the internees. Most improperly and most unfairly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to interfere with the course of an inquiry before a federal judge. I ask the House to leave the matter to the judgment of His Honour. He may say that some of these persons should be vindicated and compensated. If he does so, as I have already explained publicly, the Government will give effect to that decision. I cannot examine the cases individually, nor would it be proper to do so.
The honorable member has dragged in the coal-miners. As my colleagues know, the withdrawal of prosecutions that had been instituted against certain coalminers was authorized not by me personally, but by the Cabinet, which came to the conclusion that the mass prosecution of hundreds of men was not satisfactory, that it was ineffective, and that it did not obtain an extra ton of coal. Indeed, it was almost impossible to find the persons who had been responsible for a stoppage. There is an apparent anomaly, I admit, but the difficulty of following the wisest course in every case is overwhelming. I ask for the sympathy of honorable members rather than the captious tendency to take a narrow party attitude.
I submit, whatever may be the judgment of His Honour in individual cases, that it is clear that from beginning to end unremitting care has been exercised to see not only that justice shall be done but also that the dictates of humanity shall be observed. For the reasons that I have given, I leave the cases where they stand; that is, with the tribunal which has been properly appointed to inquire into them and to come to a just decision. The Government will honour its decision.
– Do not delay.
– His Honour has already said that there will not be undue delay, and I am sure that there will not be. The sooner the inquiry is finished, the better will it be for everybody concerned. It is wrong that the cases should be tried again in this House.
It is satisfactory that the debate initiated by the Prime Minister’s report of his most successful mission has raised discussions on general aspects of our foreign affairs, including Australian participation in measures affecting the peace settlements and post-hostilities planning. With most of what was stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) I am in agreement.
I do not regard the reference by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to the Australian-New Zealand Agreement as representing much more than a somewhat querulous complaint that the Australian Government had taken the initiative in a matter vitally affecting our Pacific neighbours and British interests in the Pacific and southeast Asia. The honorable member has completely failed to analyze the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement clause by clause. Had he done so, he would have discovered that it contemplates and postulates not mere regionalism, but security plans which are to be part and parcel of a general system of world security. Whether or not one agrees with every clause of the agreement, it is necessary to get rid once and for all of the idea that Australia’s international status is not a reality, and that we are to remain adolescent forever. I shall again refer to this topic, but I can say this now - that the agreement is in full force, it is working smoothly, and it has been a help not only to Australia and New Zealand but also to Great Britain, the United States of America, and our other Pacific neighbours.
I propose to give to the House an account of some aspects of the Government’s foreign policy. These should serve to answer one or two minor criticisms, and also to keep the House fully informed as to the progress of certain international matters which are now pending. The criticisms only bring into relief the large measure of agreement that there is and should be, in our general approach to international affairs.
We agree, of course, with the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition that almost everything depends on continued comradeship between the great Allies in the post-war period. But much has happened and is happening which justifies an attitude of guarded optimism as to the probability of continuing very close collaboration in the post-hostilities period.
Let me refer shortly to the relevant agreements. In August, 1941, President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill made the joint declaration known as the Atlantic Charter. That has since been formally adhered to by all the United Nations. Therefore, the British Commonwealth, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and China, are all committed to its general principles. The honorable member for
Warringah said that the charter must not be read too literally. But I have never receded from the view that it contains a clear and comprehensive expression of the main post-war objectives of the United Nations. For present purposes, there are three vital points in the declaration: - First, that the aggressor nations shall be disarmed until there has been established a permanent system of general security (clause 8) ; second, the general rule that countries forcibly deprived of sovereignty shall be restored to sovereignty (clause 3) ; and, third, the declared international objective in clause 5 of securing “ improved labour standards, economic advancement, and social security “.
It was the present Leader of the Opposition who announced the declaration to this House on the 20th August, 1941. He then said -
This declaration sets out in .plain language the fundamental aspirations of all the libertyloving peoples of the world . . . It is a reminder to us that the new order for the world, of which we have from time to time spoken, is now in the making, and the war must bc regarded not merely as a great struggle in which evil things must be overthrown, but as something from which positively good things for men and women must emerge.
In short, the Atlantic Charter was, in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, an assurance or guarantee of “ a new order for the world “ if the United Nations prevailed over their enemies. My view is that, if you promise a new order, you should try to redeem that promise.
It is also obvious that the principles set out in the Atlantic Charter are of general application, that they are not confined to Europe or Atlantic countries, but cover also the Pacific as well as every other part of the post-war world.
The Atlantic Charter is now strengthened by other great international instruments. One of the most important is the pact of mutual assistance between Britain and the Soviet Union. Under this pact, both powers assumed an obligation to collaborate closely with one another, as well as with the United States of America, at the peace settlement and during the ensuing period of reconstruction; and, accepting the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter, both undertook to unite with other like-minded States in adopting proposals for common action to preserve peace and resist aggression in the post-war period. They also agreed to work together in close and friendly collaboration after the re-establishment of peace for the organization of security and economic prosperity.
The third great international instrument was the Declaration of General Security resulting from the Moscow Conference of last October. Two relevant principles then recognized by the four great powers were: - First, the necessity for establishing, at the earliest practicable date, a general international organization based on the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States and open to membership by all such States, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security; and, second, pending the inauguration of such a system of general security, the four powers became bound to consult with each other and, as occasion required, with other members of the United Nations, for the purpose of maintaining international peace, and with a view to joint action on behalf of the United Nations. With regard to the Anglo-Soviet Pact and the Moscow Declaration, the Australian Government was not only kept informed day by day of the negotiations, but in some cases also made suggestions which were accepted by the British Government and incorporated in the final agreement.
The Moscow Conference led to the establishment of the European Advisory Commission, which provides machinery for consultation between Britain, the United States of America, and Russia. As the result of the exchanges of views on this commission, the Secretary of State of the United States yesterday announced that further three-power talks will be held for consideration of the future world organization. The Australian Government is familiar with the general plans that have been put forward. It is clear that the underlying principle of such a world organization as is proposed will bo the sovereign equality of States. This is not a new but a very old doctrine of international law, and the explicit reference to it in the Moscow Declaration excluded any fear of a super State comprising the Big Three or the Big Four.
At the same time, it is obvious that these great Powers must take the lead in any organization that is established, as they have taken the lead in destroying the aggressors. Any other view lacks realism. With reference to the League of Nations, my opinion is, not that the League failed the world, but that some of the great Powers who were the leaders of the League, openly departed from the principles of the League, while retaining active control of the organization. Whether that is sound or not, it is plain that the underlying condition of leadership or membership of the organization to be established shortly should be the determination to make it work as an organization not only for the purpose of preserving peace, but also for the equally important purpose of maintaining and improving standards of living in accordance with the clause of the Atlantic Charter, which I have cited.
The account I have given of what has actually been achieved in defining both the principles and the general methods of post-war organization shows that progress has been and is still being made. I am inclined strongly to the view that it is not by international force alone that peace will be made secure in a world torn almost apart by two world wars. You can only be sure of peace if you remove the temptation of national leaders to embark on acts of aggression against other countries because of internal social discontent.
I now lay stress on the fact that a practical beginning has been made in important phases of post-war organization. The position is quite different from that during the last war. Today the United Nations are not waiting for a Peace Conference to create at one stroke an elaborate machinery for international co-operation. Already certain positive measures have been taken and post-war hostilities planning is going on continuously.
There are important organizations which have been created to deal with problems caused by the ravages of war. The most notable of these is the United Nations Belief and Rehabilitation Administration. In November last, fortyfour United Nations and other associated nations signed the agreement establishing this administration, which is now organizing for the achievement of the great humanitarian task indicated by its name. I am introducing a bill on the subject, and all I need say now is that a voluntary organization has already been formed in this country to assist the Government in the discharge of its international obligations under the agreement by providing personnel and, in some instances, supplies. As may be supposed, the Bed Cross is taking a prominent part. This new body represents 40 organizations engaged in relief work abroad, including nearly all missionary and religious organizations. They have formed a council for the purpose of assisting the Government.
I should here mention the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes. From the inceptionof the commission last October Australia was represented by a very distinguished Australian and a very great judge, Lord Atkin, and it is with great regret that we have read of his recent death. Another most distinguished judge, Lord Wright, has accepted the invitation of the Australian Government to fill Lord Atkin’s position. I propose to appoint an Australian jurist to assist in these deliberations.
The War Crimes Commission meets in London. Its function is to investigate and record the evidence of war crimes, identifying where possible the individual responsible, and to report to the governments concerned cases in which it appears that adequate evidence may be expected to be forthcoming. These two activities are essential preliminaries to ensure the just and orderly trial of war criminals.
In order that offences against Australians may be suitably dealt with, a commission has been given by the Government to Sir William Webb, Chief Justice of Queensland, to inquire into and report to the Government on any war crimes committed against Australians, and to make recommendations to the Government concerning such cases as should he brought to the notice of the United Nations Commission. Sir William Webb had previously carried
Out comprehensive inquiries concerning atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare committed by the Japanese armed forces in New Guinea, and his report is now in the hands of the Government. The question of its publication is now the subject of discussion with other governments of the United Nations.
A third body is the Inter-governmental Committee on Refugees. Co-operating with that inter-governmental committee in planning for refugees is the committee of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration on displaced persons. The Committee on Displaced Persons will be primarily concerned, during the period of relief operations in arrangements for the return of the unfortunate war victims to their homes. The Inter-governmental Committee on Refugees will care for the refugees who have escaped from war areas and will make arrangements for their transfer to a place of permanent refuge. Australia will participate actively in the work of both bodies.
Then there is the great task of preparing measures to cover the period between the re-occupation of enemy-held territory and the final settlement. These measures include the drawing up armistice terms, the administration of those terms, and civil affairs administration during the period of military occupation. These matters are receiving attention, and in Papua and New Guinea my colleagues, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for External Territories, are actively assisting with a view to the resumption of full civil administration of all our own liberated territories.
I next refer to the development of organization in the field of economic collaboration. The draft Convention for an International Wheat Agreement agreed to at the International Wheat Meeting in Washington in April, 1942, was one of the first measures of this kind. In a memorandum of agreement the four principal wheat exporting countries - Argentina, Australia, Canada, and United States - and the United Kingdom as a wheat importer, have undertaken to present the draft convention to an international conference after the war, and also to take measures to prevent disorganization and confusion in the wheat market immediately after the war and pending the conclusion of a comprehensive international wheat agreement. . These measures in which Australia has taken an active part, give some promise of a stabilized market for wheat, an end which, if achieved, will be of great value to Australian wheat-growers and our economic stability generally.
Another measure of special importance is the plan for a United Nations Pood and Agriculture Organization which was put forward at the Hot Springs conference in May and June, 1943. An account of its purposes was given to the House in October last. Since the conference, an interim commission has been at work formulating a plan for a permanent organization in the field of food and agriculture. It has drafted a formal declaration to be submitted for the acceptance of governments pledging them to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living of their own people; to improve the efficiency of agricultural production and distribution; to co-operate with other nations for the achievement of these ends ; and to exchange information on progress made. Throughout its work, the Australian representative, Mr. F. L. MacDougall, has been one of the leading spirits of the commission. The work is reaching its closing stages, and the draft constitution for the organization will shortly be placed before governments for approval. As a country which has a vital concern in both agriculture and the raising of nutritional standards for its own people and the people of other lands, Australia is deeply interested in the successful outcome of these measures.
Another vital subject - civil aviation - is at present the subject of discussions between the United States of America and various other governments, with a view to concluding an international convention. A preliminary and noncommittal exchange of views between representatives of the United Kingdom and British Dominions took place in London on this subject last October. The Australian Government is keeping in touch with developments in all these and kindred matters. Our own policy on international civil aviation was expressed in the Australian-New Zealand
Agreement of January last,where we agreed to try to secure a system of international air-trunk routes regulated and also operated by member governments or governmental instrumentalities.
Another group of international organizations is concerned mainly with political questions. The progress in this regard has not been so obvious as in the case of economic organizations. In most instances the setting up of political machinery must await the terms of the peace settlements. But, as I have indicated, exchanges of views are now taking place regarding the machinery of the future world security organization.
The Australian Government holds strongly that, after this world war, the final peace settlement shouldbe made in respect of all our enemies after hostilities with all of them havebeen concluded. There is ground for fearing a patchwork or separate peace which may prejudice the settlement in those regions of the world where hostilities may still be raging, for example, the Pacific.
Subject to what I have said about the necessity for leadership of the great powers, we consider that all the United Nations should actively participate in the armistice and subsequent arrangements, and in the peace settlements. Small nations as well as great have a part to play and a responsibility to discharge in the drawing up of peace terms and the planning of future world organization, particularly in respect of those subordinate but important regional councils which Mr. Churchill considers should be set up within the framework of the world body.
It will be noticed that, during this war, a new procedure has been adopted in post hostilities planning. While there have been general declarations setting out aims and objectives, important aspects of international collaboration have been tackled subject by subject and separately. Thus there is an agreement on relief and rehabilitation, a provisional agreement dealing with wheat, a United Nations Food and Agricultural Commission and, at present, the subjects of a monetary fund and an international hank are being discussed. Draft proposals on other subjects are now under consideration. For instance, the recent meeting of the International Labour Organization recommended to the United Nations the holding of a conference aimed at an international agreement on full employment. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of our absent colleague and friend, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who represented Australia at that convention.
Most of this planning has developed as a result of war-time collaboration. The present is quite different from the last war, for nothing of this sort took place during the actual course of hostilities from 1914-1918. The result was that after 1918 the whole plan had to be put into one series of international documents negotiated in the three or four months prior to July, 1919. But now, step by step, progress has been made, and that represents a very important achievement and is, I think, as I suggested before, a ground for optimism. Allied war-time planning has itself been designed, not merely to avoid difficulties during the war, but also to make a positive contribution to post-war international economic relations. Thus mutual aid and reciprocal lend-lease were introduced not only in order that there could be a pooling of all allied resources during the war, but also that there should not be a piling up of huge war debts. War debts plagued the relationships between the Allies in the great victory of 1918. That will not occur after this war.
The Australian Government has contributed something to all the discussions on these great topics, and I believe that the Government’s record in this respect compares favorably with that of any other nation of Australia’s status and stature. The Australian officials whom we. are able to allocate to this work have also shown themselves able and energetic in the discharge of their duties, and responsible positions have been assigned to them in almost every conference. That, too, augurs well for the future. The work has been done under tremendous difficulties. We have not the staff. The Department of External Affairs, as honorable members know, has been enlarged to some degree, but it has not the personnel which the older countries have readily available. We are in constant contact with the United Kingdom Government, with other dominions and with the countries with which we have exchanged missions. Representing a country which has a large and vital export trade, we have a point of view to put which might on occasion be overlooked. Further, we are from time to time, the spokesman for the interests of other small nations.
Throughout discussions on all subjects we have adhered to the principle that domestic policies are of increasing concern to other nations. We believe that domestic policies, and in particular policies to maintain high levels of employment, should he the fundamental basis of all international economic collaboration.
The need for international economic collaboration often arises from domestic policies. A primary objective of governments should be to raise living standards. Increased living standards and increased consumption should lead to increased trade both within and between countries. Living standards in advanced countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America and our own are most affected by the level of employment. Therefore, we regard high levels of employment as a fundamental principle in international economic collaboration. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) last night instanced the depression, but, whilst no increase in trade could of itself have abolished mass unemployment during the years of depression, even a slight reduction of unemployment would have greatly increased trade. For that reason, full employment is the pivotal part of our policy in the great subject of international economic collaboration.
Further, the domestic policies that the main countries of the world follow often determine the attitude of other governments to each proposal. Economic collaboration embraces a whole series of particular proposals: commercial policy, commodity agreements, monetary proposals. These separate proposals cannot readily be accepted by governments without knowing the broad outlines of thegeneral plan.
For instance, it is difficult for a country to give up its freedom to adjust exchange- rates without knowing something of its future trade balances. After this war we in Australia will, no doubt, pursue a policy of full employment. Full employment means increased demand for goods, and therefore increased imports. If other countries do not have full employment and do not likewise increase their demand for our exports, how shall we pay for our imports? It can be seen that the demand in other countries, and therefore the level of their employment, is a factor of critical importance to us.
At this moment the Monetary Conference is being held at Bretton “Woods, United States of America. There will be no commitment at this conference, and the Parliament of Australia, must make the final decision as to whether any proposals shall be accepted. The main concern of the Australian representatives at this conference is to see that the aim of exchange stability does not in any way conflict, as it did under the gold standard, with the predominantly important aim of maintaining high levels of employment.
– Is that conference not dealing with the gold standard? That is one of its points.
– The honorable member will, I imagine, agree that the test of the value of any proposed monetary fund or international bank should be, not so much their indirect effects through trade on employment, as their direct assistance in helping to maintain high levels of employment. There will be no commitment in this matter at that conference. A matter of such supreme importance must be and will be referred to this Parliament.
Whilst I do not wish to overstate or appear too optimistic the fact is that there has been far more post-war planning during this war than during the lastwar. Certainly we have made substantial progress. The Australian Government has maintained a consistent principle and advocated a new approach. It has been so described by expert observers in. the United States of America. We believe that it is vital to accept the principle that domestic policies are of international concern, and that governments should accept obligations concerning their employment policies.
Therefore our foreign policy must at all times be integrated with our domestic policies. Full employment should be regarded as vital to both. In practice this means that our foreign policy must be to secure export markets, to obtain supplies necessary for housing and other works, to provide for a steady development of our secondary industries and to assure us of supplies of strategic materials. .
I now propose to deal with several matters referred to by honorable members. The first relates to the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. I find it difficult to accept the validity of criticism which appears to be based - I submit that it is - on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the agreement and a misreading of its contents. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) actually suggested that such a bilateral agreement between two countries in advance of the general peace conference was unique. I need only remind the House of the AngloSoviet Pact, the Polish-Soviet Pact, the Czechoslovakian-Soviet Pact, the GrecoYugoslav Agreement, the three-power declaration on the future of Austria, and of such regional arrangements as the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, which all indicate that the publication by two countries of their common interests and aims and the conclusion of arrangements to serve those aims and interests is quite regular and proper in international affairs, and may, indeed, contribute something of importance to the final settlements.
The terms of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement have been widely published. The agreement has been well received, and has been described by nearly every British newspaper as a notable contribution to the post-war settlement in this region. The principles declared in that agreement regarding security and defence, the sovereignty of dependencies and territories, and the welfare and advancement of the native people are in complete harmony with all the public declarations of the United Nations, whilst the plan for regional collaboration and co-operation in handling matters primarily of regional concern is of great value. The one proviso is that regionalism must be linked - as is expressly contemplated - with the general plans for worldsecurity.
The Government has no apologies to make for the agreement. I think it will turn out tobe an historic agreement. We believe that Australia andNew Zealand have a duty to make a positive contribution to the future of the Pacific. They are the two great dominions which must uphold British civilization inthispart of the world. TheWestern Pacific has long been an area of international instability and economic backwardness. It was our duty to take the initiative. The abstract principle of participation by members of the British Commonwealth in a regional arrangement is not new. Indeed, it was approved at the Imperial Conference of 1937. But, between 1937 and the recent -agreement, nothing was done to applythe principle. It may be fairly saidthat the absence of any such regional arrangement contributed greatly tothe danger of Australia, New Zealand and neighbouring territories after Japan enteredthe war. Then, under the stress of war, we had to improvise arrangements for regional co-operation, but, under circumstances which made successful co-operation impossible. Honorable members willremember how, through the force of events and the danger to our country, the arrangement known as “ A.B.D.A.”was made between Australia, Great Britain, the Dutch and the United States of America. That arrangement was made only after war had been declared. What should have been done, every one now agrees, was to have arrangements of that kind effective before the war. Suchunpreparedness should notbe allowed to recur if planningcan prevent it.
The Australian-New Zealand Agreement is not isolationist. Nowhere in the agreement is it possible, on any honest reading, to find evidence of an isolationist approachor an attempt to exclude other powers from their proper position in the area. The whole agreement contemplates a regional arrangement which, from beginning to end, is made subject to a system of world security. The AustralianGovernment has a duty to its own people; it has a duty to the British Commonwealth and Empire; it has a duty to the Pacific Region ; it has a duty to theworld. [Furtherextentionoftime granted.] Those various responsibilities are an extension one from another, and in serving them all our several responsibilities need notconflict. All of them are expressedor implicit in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement.
The agreement invites collaboration with all other countries having interests in this quarter of the globe, including France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and above all, Great Britain and the United States of America. I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he did not think that sufficient had been said in the Prime Minister’s speech about the Netherlands East Indies. Our relations with the Netherlands East Indies are of the most intimate character. We have received great aid from them in the war in the Pacific, and we have, in turn, rendered great aid to them. Theepic deeds ofour troops north of Australia are sufficientevidence of that. There is in Australia to-day the nucleus of the Government of the Netherlands East Indies, which will resume occupation of its territory after the war. But we do not talk about these things every day, because the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies is so close, so friendly and so accepted. The success of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement will be ensured if countries like the Netherlands and Prance, and, of course, the greater powers, take an active part in implementing its objectives.
Portugal, with its interests in Portuguese Timor, and above all, Great Britain, which has a great interest in this part of the world, and the United States of America, are other countries with which the Agreement envisages increasing collaboration. The Agreement was criticized as though it was aimed at the United States. The criticism was false. The Agreement was not aimed against the United States. Indeed, Australia owes a tremendous debt to America, and we shall never forget it. But in the demarcation of post-war authority in the Pacific, it has always appeared to me that in the post-war period the United States interests will lie predominantly in those islands, formerly Japanese, which lie north, of the equator. A set United States authority or control in those areas will give it stepping stones from its own great base of Hawaii to the Philippines and Asia. Whether or not that is so, and however the settlement works out finally, I want to say in answer to the implied criticism by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the relationship of this country with those Pacific powers which I have mentioned, could not be more friendly, close or satisfactory than it is at present.
The Australian-New Zealand Agreement is a reality. It works. The joint secretariats established both in Wellington and at Canberra collaborate day by day, facilitating the exchange of information, ‘hammering out views between the two governments and assisting them to. make their joint contribution not ‘ only to the solution of Pacific questions, but to all questions of foreign affairs. Over and over again, the Australian and New Zealand Governments have presented joint views to Washington or London. Later, it will be possible for me to illustrate in detail how often the joint approach has- contributed to the solution of questions in which we are vitally interested.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred to New Caledonia, Timor and the Netherlands East Indies. Regarding New Caledonia, I remind him of the assurance given by the Menzies Government, and reaffirmed by the present Government, that Australia is bound to recognize French sovereignty over the island. We do not intend to depart from that pledge. New Caledonia is vital to Australia’s interests in the sense that the possession of New Caledonia by an enemy would be utterly disastrous to this country. But France will be a firm friend. When the crisis occurred in New Caledonia, it was surmounted successfully because of the loyalty of the Free French in New Caledonia, and their determination to take a stand -quite different from that which the Vichy French took in Indo-China. Australia sent to New Caledonia not only troops but also workmen to construct aerodromes. From an air strip constructed by Australians sent to New Caledonia at a critical stage in the history of that territory flew many aeroplanes which played an important part in the successful battle of the Coral Sea. I believe that the interests of Australia can be protected only through the friendliest co-operation with France. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I have an absolute faith in the resurgence of France. I look forward to the day when, with the. restoration of full French sovereignty, an even closer and more intimate relationship between Australia and New Caledonia will be developed. ‘ In the near future the existing French representation in this country will be strengthened by our reception of a new representative of the French National Committee of Liberation, who will enjoy diplomatic status.
I noted with interest the statement of the Leader of the Opposition about the reasons, or the possible explanation, for the fall of Franco in 1940. Whatever the explanation, the fact is that the debt that mankind and civilization owe to France and to the French ‘people can never be repaid. The causes of the disaster in 1940 will have to he examined later. But I have every faith that the French people will be greatly restored after this war, and that, once more, France wil become a great power in Europe. Then it will continue its contribution to so much that is best in literature, art and science. To the things that make life itself worth living, France has contributed much.
From the Netherlands Indies, Australia bias received much assistance during the war, and in turn our servicemen have been proud to render them great help. Australia’s participation in the recovery of their territories from the enemy will lead to even closer relations in peace-time. I shall elaborate that no further.
The honorable member for Warringah referred also to Portuguese Timor. The Atlantic Charter declares that we are bound, as Great Britain is bound, in regard to the Azores, to favour the restoration of Portuguese sovereignty. With Portuguese Timor,, we contemplate very close post-war relationships covering mutual security, close economic ties, and improved facilities in connexion with aviation and the like. Honorable members will recall that Australia had a representative in Portuguese Timor prior to the outbreak of the war with Japan, and we desire to extend those relationships after the war.
For more than two years, special studies in preparation for meeting postwar problems have been proceeding in the Department of External Affairs. I am endeavouring to speed-up the diplomatic cadet system which was established with the approval of this House. A special section of the department has been created to carry out these researches and inquiries, collate relevant information, and , propose solutions of all post-war problems of international significance. Close collaboration has taken place between the Department of External Affairs and other departments, particularly the Departments of the Treasury, Post-war Reconstruction, Trade and Customs, and Commerce and Agriculture. The results of this collaboration have appeared in the valuable and elaborate documentation made available to Ministers and officials attending preliminary and exploratory discussions on international subjects. Above all, a great deal of work of post-war significance is performed day by day as a part of the routine conduct of foreign policy. The number of decisions that have to be given is increasing, and includes matters of great importance. They have to be dealt with speedily, and they are. The variety and complexity of the questions are made sufficiently evident in the statement which I am making to the House. In all our work, we have received from the United Kingdom Government, the fullest information and assistance.
I have now given a brief outline of the progress already made in the collaboration of the United Nations for the tasks of peace and reconstruction, and have referred to the part taken by the Australian Government, and to the policy we have pursued. The Government is fully aware of the grave international issues to be faced. We have a policy and are proceeding steadily towards carrying it out. We cannot hope to have our views always accepted, but we always receive assistance and encouragement from the Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs (Mr. Eden) and the American Secretary of State (Mr. Cordell Hull). What we can do is to relate all our decisions to a consistent policy and to endeavour to convince the United Nations, (particularly the United Kingdom and the United .States of America, of its soundness and expediency. All that we are doing. I am glad that on the present occasion we are having an opportunity for a full discussion by the House of some of these great matters.
I have made many statements on international affairs to this House, and I regret to admit that some of them have not been sufficiently debated. The Government welcomes debates upon international affairs. The Department of External Affairs, in particular, welcomes them. I thank the House for the patience with which it has heard my description of the part that Australia has tried to play in the vital matter of post-war planning. It is of supreme importance to our people. It is not merely a question of policing the world. We must have a positive policy; and carry out, to the best of our ability, the promise contained in the Atlantic Charter, to ensure improved standards of living. In order to do that, we must relate domestic policy to international policies. In its repeated emphasis on full employment, expanding production and expanding consumption, the Government is trying consistently to do all this. Such is the very kernel of our foreign policy.
.- This i3 one of the strangest debates to which I have listened in this House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) opened it on Monday with a general statement relating to his mission abroad. We appreciated that statement. But the speech of the right honorable gentleman was not followed by any authoritative speaker from the ministerial bench until the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) took the floor to-night. For two days, Ministers avoided taking part. I am at a loss to understand the reason for this strange departure from our debating practice.
I am gratified with the report that the Prime Minister has submitted to the House, relating to his mission abroad. Although its scope is wide, it does not give as much information about decisions that were reached. In fact, the right honorable gentleman stated that there were practically no decisions for him to convey to the House. He declared that most of his time was occupied in discussions with the other Prime Ministers for the purpose of enabling each one to understand the views of the others, and great decisions were not generally made. This was the first occasion on which the Prime Minister went abroad, and I hope that in future he will make regular visits to other countries. Indeed, during the course of the war, every Minister should undertake missions, particularly to allied countries, because such visits broaden their vision in a manner which ultimately benefits the nation. In addition, private members should visit the United States of America and Great Britain more often than they do. If they did so, there would be less recrimination between Government and Opposition members in this chamber, and greater attention would be paid to national affairs instead of to petty parochial matters. I congratulate the Prime Minister upon his valuable work. I know that it will be followed by even more valuable work. At one period, in the early stages of the war, I criticized the Government because I considered that its policy was tending to loosen the ties binding Australia to the Old Country. I believed that the utterances of Ministers, at that time, showed an insufficient appreciation of the magnificent war effort of Great Britain, which for a long while had to bear, single-handed, the assaults of the enemy. The report which the Prime Minister has now made to us indicates clearly that the British people have played a magnificent part in defending civilization, and also in serving the best interests of the outposts of the Empire, including Australia. But I should not like to see, at this juncture, a swing to the other extremity. Many unthinking people in Australia to-day show an inclination to undervalue the magnificent assistance which the United States of America has rendered to Australia, and without which we should not have been able to survive as a nation. I have heard many people in different parts of the country complaining that the American troops have too much money to spend, that they receive unjustified priorities, that they are favoured by taxi-drivers, and the keepers of restaurants and hotels. Recently, I have travelled through North Queensland as far as Cairns, and as I have inspected line upon line of bombers and fighters on the great airfields in that area, all of which carry the American Star, I have said to myself, “ Well, they can have the beer and whatever else they like in this country, so long as they keep those aircraft here to defendus “. We should endeavour to preserve a proper sense of proportion when we compare the contributions to the war effort of Great Britain and the Empire with those of our Allies across the Pacific.
I come now to consideration of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. I was in our sister dominion in the early stages of the war, before Japan entered the conflict. I found in New Zealand the utmost willingness to co-operate with Australia, and I believe that that would be in evidence whether an agreement existed between the two Governments or not. I visited New Zealand as the representative of the Australian Government, and was quite convinced that the people there knew that they were dependent upon us just as we knew that we were dependent upon them, if Japan should assail us. New Zealand depended upon Australia and other outside countries for its armaments as it had no armaments industry of its own. It depended upon the products of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited just as we depended upon them. The allocation of our naval and other armed forces was made in close consultation with the Government of New Zealand and, irrespective of the signing of the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement, in Bang’s Hall on. the table on which the commission authorizing the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament was signed, New Zealand would have continued to co-operate with Australia. The degree of co-operation would not be one whit less or one whit more because of the agreement. The making of bilateral agreements of that kind could possibly lead to misunderstanding between ourselves and our great neighbours across the Pacific. Any such agreements, to be of value, would need the endorsement of the
United States of America. However willing and however valorous our troops might be, they would be powerless against a foe as powerful as Japan unless they had outside help. The only outside power from which we can obtain help speedily is America. I consider, therefore, that nothing should be done which would tend to create misunderstanding with America. Whether agreements of the kind to which I have referred will do damage or not will not be revealed until peace returns to us. I believe that the respective governments acted with the best of intentions. I do not criticize the Attorney-General for what he has tried to do to increase the good relations of the two countries, but I fear that the ultimate results may be damaging to us.
I wish now to refer to the internment of members of the Australia First Movement. A good deal has been said on this subject to-night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), and some of his remarks have been answered by the Attorney-General. I believe that these individuals were properly interned in March, 1942. If a government composed of honorable members on this side of the chamber had been in office at that time and responsible Security officers had recommended the internments in view of the fact that Japan had entered the war against us, the Government would undoubtedly have adopted their recommendations. Up to that point I agree with what this Government did. [ disagree with its subsequent inaction. One of the advantages of living under the British flag is that, generally speaking, justice is speedy. No one could say that speedy justice has been meted out to the Australia First Movement internees. The original action was taken against these persons in March, 1942, but in July, 1944, more than two years later, they are still under a cloud. Such a happening turns our minds back to darker days in British history. Neither British justice nor Australian justice has been given to these men. The Government has moved at a snail’s pace in this regard. I know several of the individuals who were interned. One of them was a highly respected citizen of Sydney, the deputy mayor of a suburban municipality, and father of a family. The stigma still rests on his children that their father was a potential traitor to Australia. These internees have been ruined in reputation and also financially.
It has been suggested by the AttorneyGeneral that the whole matter is sub judice. I might have been content to remain silent on the matter were it not for the fact that after a judge had been appointed to inquire into the whole subject, and had actually begun his inquiry, he was suddenly switched off, without justification, to another inquiry which seemed to be far less important than that which he had already begun. Many people throughout Australia believe that this action was taken because the Government desired to avoid publicity in regard to the Australia First Movement until after the 19th August. That may be an unkind statement to make,but many people believe it to be true. I hope that the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be adopted that Mr. Justice Clyne be relieved of all other work to enable him to proceed at once with the Australia First inquiry. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who is sitting at the table, should press for immediate action, for he called the Australia First internees potential assassins and traitors to Australia. He, at least, should favour expedition.
The Attorney-General referred, in his speech, to the important subject of postwar planning and reconstruction. Many people in Australia, other than economists, professors and members of the Government’s brain trust, desire to have a hand in formulating our post-war policy. I refer in particular to our successful business men and leaders of private enterprise, who have been responsible for the founding of our great industrial undertakings. These persons have reared an industrial superstructure which has made possible the employment of between 600,000 and 700,000 persons in private industry in this country, but they are unable to take any effective part in the formulation of a post-war programme because the Government has not announced what will be its attitude to private enterprise when national security regulations lapse. These leaders of industry want to know whether they will be allowed to resume their norma] manufacturing enterprises under private management as soon as hostilities cease. The chairman of Emmco Limited stated recently in his annual report that the company was unable to develop a post-war programme because it did not know whether the Government intended to engage in the manufacture of refrigerators and other electrical equipment which before the war were produced only by private enterprise. We should have the co-operation of people other than Dr. Coombs, Dr. Lloyd Ross and professor this and doctor that, a great many of whom probably need the help of their wives to manage their own financial affairs. If we are to build this nation as it must be built when the war is over, we shall have to look a long way farther ahead than is indicated by the restricted thinking of the Government. All the pronouncements of the Government would appear to indicate that when the war is over we shall enter into a planned existence. We are to be told how to manage our own affairs, what we are to produce, where we are to work, and the kind of employment in which we are to be permitted to engage. For the purpose of giving to the Government an opportunity to either contradict or give some meaning to expressions that were used by the Attorney-General in relation to post-war reconstruction at the Summer School of the Institute of Political Science, held last March, I shall requote them. The right honorable gentleman then said -
There are a lot of other differences between man and beast.I do not think that to-day, with the enormous development of industry and industrial organization, and corporate control of finance, there is any longer areal right of every person to choose his own vocation in life.
The right honorable gentleman admitted to me in this House that that was a fair presentation of his remarks. Others say that ho went even farther than that. I notice that my esteemed friend, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is on the front ministerial bench. In view of his learned colleague’s remarks, I presume that if the Minister should be in office when the war is over, and the referendum should be carried, he will have the pleasant respon sibility of telling everybody where he has to go and how he is to proceed. If that be not the intention of the Government, the obligation and responsibility rest upon it to say to private enterprise now, so that it, too, will be able to begin its post-war planning, exactly what it intends to do and what liberties it intends that private enterprise shall be permitted to have. If the Government is not willing to say either “ Yea “ or “ Nay “, but proposes to leave the matter in the air, that will be prima facie evidence of its intention to continue after the war the system of direction and control that we have today, even though it earnestly denies that that is the intention. Perhaps there is a great deal of truth in the statement which the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) made last night by way of interjection, namely, that this information will be vouchsafed to us after the 19 th August next.
– The honorable member and his colleagues will have to make their own case in opposition to the referendum. The Government does not propose to make one for them.
– I appreciate that the Government will sit tight until after the 19th August. It will not disclosein any particular what it proposes to do, but will tell a gullible public that if an affirmative vote be recorded on the 19th August, thus giving to it a blank cheque, all life will be rosy and beautiful, there will be no depression, primary industry will have guaranteed prices, and a millenium will be guaranteed to everybody. Every one is interested to know, and the Minister for Labour and National Service might tell us, by what route the Government proposes to get to Heaven. Does it propose to make use of Mohammedans or Turkomen to conduct us along the route?
My last reference will be to the speech of the Minister for External Affairs, and the possessions which Australia will hold in the Pacific, and elsewhere in the neighbourhood of Australia, when the war is over. It has been suggested that we should hold New Caledonia, and that we might hold Timor. I emphasize that, whatever the outcome of the war may he, and however much we may preen ourselves on our contribution to the victory, we shall never be able to forget that, without the help of the United States of America, it will not be possible forus alone to defend Australia should another war threaten us from the East.If the United States of America, as has been rumoured and suggested, requires bases in North Queensland, Thursday Island, Timor and New Guinea, by all means let it have them. Such a concession is never likely to be a danger to us, and probably it will be the greatest safeguard which this country could have, because America would have a direct personal interest in the preservation of our shores from violation.
I rose merely to answer a. few of the observations of the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs. I conclude by again expressing appreciation of the result of the Prime Minister’s visit a broad. I hope that he will pay another visit overseas within the next twelve months, and that other Ministers also will go abroad from time to time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Morgan) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Compensation for Compulsory Acquisi tions - Petrol Allowance to Soldiers on Leave - Royal Australian Air Force : Reductions in Rank - Glenelg Private Hospital - Dental Service at Alice Springs.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I regret that, at this hour, it is necessary to raise a matter so important as that to which I propose to allude. But as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) indicated earlier to-day that the parliamentary proceedings this week will be confined to the debate on the Address-in-Reply, honorable members will have limited opportunities to speak on the wide variety of important subjects which have come to their notice since the House last met.
The matter that I raise is of very great importance, not only to the Government, but also to the people generally. At a time when there are so many laws that the citizen findsdifficulty in obeying all of them because of lack of knowledge of some of them, there is apt to develop in the community a casualness, almost a cynicism, towards the observance of the law, which cannot be regarded as a healthy development. It is, therefore, a matter of concern when, as the instances which I shall recite will show, the Government itself has contributed to that cynicism and casualness by the attitude which it has adopted in its commercial dealings with the people of this country.
Under emergency war-time powers, the Commonwealth has found it necessary, from time to time during the progress of the war, to acquire compulsorily from people in the Commonwealth assets of various kinds - property, land, ships, and commodities of different types - and has been called upon, under the terms of the Constitution, to make just payment on account of such acquisition. Instances have been brought to the knowledge of all honorablemembers by persons in their electorates, of the indignant rejection of what have been regarded as totally inadequate offers of compensation by the Government. It is illuminating to examine some of the more important cases which have reached even the highest courts of the land before a final determination has been made. There was a reference yesterday to the Peterson case. That was a case in Tasmania, in which the Commonwealth compulsorily acquired blue peas held by the gentleman whose name has been given to the case. I believe that the High Court was the final body to deal with it, and that the ultimate decision was in favour of Mr. Peterson, the effect of it being to increase the price from the 15s. a bushel which had been offered to him by the Government to the 22s. 6d. which the court decided was just payment at the time at which the peas were acquired.
– The Government is considering an appeal, which will put him to more expense.
– That is news to me. There was an earlier case, which will be familiar to most honorable members because it has been regarded as the leading case in this connexion determined since the outbreak of the war - the Tonking case. Mr. Tonking proceeded against the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board. He was an apple and pear grower, and his apples and pears were com.pulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government under a national security regulation. The total proceeds of the sale of those apples and pears amounted to £2,040 6s. Id., after deducting the commission of the selling agents. I shall not recite all the details of the case; it is reported in volume 66 of Commonwealth, Law Reports, and can be there studied in greater detail if any honorable member should be sufficiently curious to do so. The final decision of the High Court - I believe it was the decision of the full Bench - was to increase the amount of compensation that had been paid to Mr. Tonking by £715 9s. 6d. That will indicate the degree to which the Commonwealth erred in assessing the just compensation which should be paid to this individual.
Perhaps even more striking in its details is the case of the cargo ship Corrimal, which was impressed by the Department of the Navy, for the use of th=. services, on the 10th November, 1942. In April, 1943, the Department of the Navy made an offer of £10,000 to James Patrick & Company, the owners of the vessel. This was not accepted, whereupon ihe department increased its offer to £12,000, but that also was rejected. The department then decided to refer the case to the Naval Compensation Board set up under National Security Regulations to deal with such matters. This board awarded James Patrick & Company £$6,000 as value for the ship, and £71 S for the coal, water, stores, &c. Just before the matter went to the board, an offer of £22,000 was made by the department, but this also was rejected. The board was set up by the Department of the Navy, but the department appealed to the High Court against the decision of its own tribunal. The company, hearing that an appeal was to be lodged, also appealed against the decision. The matter came before Mr. Justice Williams, who awarded the company £28,600, plus interest at the rate of 5 per cent., the result being that the owners will now receive £32,000, or more than three times the amount originally offered by the department. The company will have to pay its own costs before the Compensation Board, but only 20 “per cent, of its costs before the High Court, the remainder being paid by the Commonwealth.
Those cases illustrate the difficulty experienced by Australian citizens in their endeavours to obtain just compensation for assets compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth. In the cases cited, the persons concerned had sufficient financial resources, or sufficient spirit and courage, to challenge the Government, even at some expense to themselves, when they knew or believed the Government to be very much in the wrong. However, 99 per cent, of the persons concerned are not able to afford this hazardous and expensive procedure. I turn now to a class of case with which honorable members are only too familiar - the acquisition by the Commonwealth of vacant blocks of land for defence purposes. Every Victorian member knows of a host of cases in which the dispossessed land-owners are disgusted with the treatment meted out to them by the Commonwealth.
– It is not confined to Victoria.
-No, I believe it is a fairly general experience. Is it expected that these persons should adopt the costly and almost desperate expedient of suing the Government in respect of a block of land which, on their own claim, may be worth not more than £200 or, as an alternative, accept a wholly inadequate offer from the Department of the Interior? This matter was ventilated by members of all parties in the House in March last, and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) himself took part in the discussion. Let me recall to honorable members’ minds what was said on that occasion by the right honorable5 member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who is listened to with respect by member? of all parties. He said :
I lack faith in the system of valuations that has been pursued in connexion with these blocks of land. I do not support anybody who wants to “ soak “ the country in time of war. But when a department makes a valuation in respect of a block of land, and changes its offers, first, from £15 to £20, and then from £20 to £30, I lose faith completely in the genuineness of the offer or the soundness of the valuation. So far as I can learn, that is what has happened in connexion with many blocks of land in this area.
The Prime Minister listened to the debate, and we all believed that something was to bo done to remedy the position, but the old practice is still being followed.
– Was not the Government to appoint a special valuator?
– That was the understanding, but later the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) made a statement on behalf of the Minister for the Interior in which it was made clear that nothing further was to be done. Only yesterday I received two further letters touching on this matter. The first, which is dated the 14th July, was from a woman, who wrote in these terms -
Some time ago I purchased land at North Essendon, adjacent to the Essendon aerodrome. Recently I received a notification from the Ministerfor the Interior intimating that the Commonwealth Government bad decided to acquire this land and requesting me tosub- mit a claim of compensation in respect of my blocks. In response to my claims for £400, I received a ridiculous offer of £35. I purchased these blocks “ 88 and 89”onthe Triangle Estate situated at Vaughan Street (S side) North Essendon, Victoria, on July 17, 1924, and finished paying on 30 August, 1933. I have paid over £400 including rates and taxes. 1 am a teacher and earn very little, but when I was asked at the beginning of the war for the loan of my land, free of charge, as I am too poor to give toward the war, I lent my land freely as my contribution toward it, but I cannot give my land for nothing.
In order toemphasize how unfair is the offer made, I would point out that the Commissioner of Taxes assessed land tax on the purchase price and the municipal authorities rated the property on an almost similar valuation. I am reliably informed that land in the vicinity has been sold recently at prices considerably higher than that offered bythe Government.
Would you be good enough to take the matter up on my behalf with the Minister for the Interior with a view to obtaining a reasonable offer”.
I emphasize the point made by my correspondent that, although she had been assessed for land tax - presumably State tax - at the amount which she paid for the land, she was offered by the Department of the Interior the ridiculous sum of £35. [Extension of time granted.] My other correspondent said that, for land which cost him £120, the department offered him £40, and when he refused to accept it the offer was increased to £50, which bears out the statement of the right honorable member for Yarra. Can the Government be surprised that a cynicism and casualness towards the observance of the law has developed on the part of so many people in this country when they are treated in this way by a body whose judgment should be based on equity and fairplay? Incidents of this kind are bringing the law and the administration of justice into contempt, and creating a spirit of revolt among manylaw-abiding and decent citizens. When, on top of all this, government officials appeal to people to spy and pimp on their neighbours, it is no wonder that a general feeling of disgust is spreading throughout the community. This protest is not confined to honorable members on this side of the House. Yesterday the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) raised the same matter, and on the last occasion on which this subject was debated in this House the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr.Scullin), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) protested against the system being invoked in connexion with dealings of this kind. The remedy lies entirely in the hands of the Government. The Minister says that he relies upon valuers to provide a valuation based on values as at the 1st January, 1943. What possible valuation could any man make on land as at that date when no sales have occurred in this area or in any other area since the outbreak of the war. We know that if the present restrictions on such transactions were removed these people who paid what the Government now regards as inflated prices in boom days would recover those prices. They are not asking to be allowed to make exorbitant profits, nor do they deny that they have been foolish, perhaps, in paying such prices for the lands in question. However, they take the view that the Government should either leave them in possession of their land, or, should the Government insist on taking it, it should ensure that the owners are not out of pocket on transactions which they entered into some years ago, and for the realization of which they have waited patiently ever since. If the Government expects to maintain respect for the law and observance of its requirements in respect of loan investments and the payment of taxes, and to win a ready response to its appeals generally, it will not do so by treating citizens in this fashion. Therefore, I urge it to remedy the situation of which I have complained.
– Recently I requested the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping to grant to soldiers who have returned on leave from overseas service an increase of their petrol ration, which is now from two to four gallons, according to the horse-power of their cars, to double that quantity. I addressed a request along these lines to the Minister and . the Chairman of the Liquid Fuel Board in Brisbane. These men are not asking for a gift, but merely for tickets to enable them to buy the additional quantity. The request was refused. After serving for eighteen months or two years overseas these lads are worthy of fairer treatment. This request has not been refused because of any shortage of petrol in this country. We have abundant evidence that petrol is being used quite freely, and not always for essential purposes. An increase of the present allowance may not be necessary in the case of soldiers taking their leave in cities; but it is essential in country districts, because many of these men have to travel considerable distances to visit properties or relatives. The present allowance is often insufficient to enable them to travel half the distance they wish to go. I ask the Government to reconsider my request on the subject, and at least to double the quantity of petrol now allowed these men. In doing so, I am only asking for something which these men can claim as a right in return for the valuable services they have rendered to the nation.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) with regard to the unfairness of the prices being paid by the Government for properties acquired from private persons. With other honorable members, I have received much correspondence from various individuals on the subject, particularly from owners of land at Essendon. I took up the matter with the Minister for the Interior when it was last debated in this chamber. In several cases the reply I received from the Minister was not only unsympathetic, but also in some respects most improper. I quote the following paragraph from a letter I received from him only yesterday : -
It appears that the letter received by you is a copy of a letter being distributed by some organization to all owners of the laud acquired at Essendon on the 17th December. 1943, who then forward the letter to Ministers, senators and members. I have received numerous similar letters recently.
I regard that remark as being most improper, because it implies that owners of Essendon land are conspiring to get something out of the Government to which they are not entitled. The contrary is the case. All the evidence I have been able to obtain on the subject shows that the Government is acquiring land at prices well below its proper market value. The honorable member for Fawkner has pointed out that no land sales have taken place since the outbreak of war except under the control of the Prices Commissioner, or the Department of War Organization of Industry. ‘Consequently, no open market exists to-day. In such circumstances, how is it possible to fix a true value? Furthermore, it is well known to honorable members that, whilst money has- increased in quantity, «and therefore decreased in value, prices expressed in paper money remain to-day, except in respect of certain articles, exactly what they were two or three years ago. However, the price of land remains fixed. It is significant that, when Crown leases are sold, the prices fetched are far above those paid by the Government in transactions of this kind to private owners of comparable land. The Government should remedy this anomaly. These people have no redress. Under the Lands Acquisition Act, if they do not agree to the terms offered by the Minister for the Interior, the only alternative is to have recourse to the court. Such proceedings may be initiated by either the Minister or the individual. Most of the persons concerned in such cases are old and in straitened financial circumstances and, naturally, theyare fearful of embarking upon a course which will entail considerable cost should they lose their case. The Government might very well adopt the procedure already applied by the Army authorities in the matter of compensation for goods and land. It should set up an arbitration tribunal to which disputes can he referred. This matter is of great importance; it affects the morale of the people. From time to time they are called upon to subscribe to war loans or to render other forms of financial assistance to the war effort. The natural reaction is, “If the Government does not play fair with us, why should we help it? “. I hope, therefore, that justice will be done to those people.
– I bring forward a matter of great importance to certain members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Great Britain and others who have returned to this country from Great Britain. While in London last year, I met several airmen who reported to me that, on being “ grounded “ for medical reasons, they had been treated in a manner contrary to regulations. It was stated that some defect had been found in them, although some of them had actually qualified for a commission. They were then stripped of all their distinguishing markings, their flying badges and their chevrons, greatly to their detriment. On my return to Australia, about September, I wrote to the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) reporting the matter to him. Having received no reply after about two months, I handed another communication, addressed to the Minister, to one of his officers. Again I received neither a reply nor any acknowledgment. The same fate awaited a further communication which I sent to the Minister. I know that it is contrary to the general practice of the Minister for Air to neglect to acknowledge communications sent to him by honorable members. However, having endeavoured to elicit a reply from him on three occasions, I made a statement to the press in which I gave them to understand that I had that day sent by air mail to the Minister the names, numbers and reason for grounding six of the number of Australian airmen returned to Australia, after having been “ grounded “, stripped of their flying badges, crowns and chevrons, and having been degraded from the rank of sergeant to the position of “ A.C.H.G.D.”, which are the initials of an air force term denoting ground duties. In my communications to the Minister for Air, I set out the reasons why these young men had been “ grounded “, and told him that they had all passed the intermediate or leaving certificate examinations, or their equivalent, in their home States, and had had no difficulty in passing the various examinations qualifying them for flying rank in the Air Force. Some of them were not commissioned after they had passed the final examinations because they were not 25 years of age. I am telling honorable members what I was told by these young fellows in London, and what I have been told by their mates since their return to Australia. Had these lads been commissioned, when they were “ grounded “ they would have had the right to continue to hold their rank, but not having been commissioned, they were stripped of all their insignia and demoted to the A.C.H.G.D. class, which meant that, instead of receiving 12s. 6d. sterling plus the amount of the allotment, they received only 3s. 2d. a day. I am raising this matter on behalf of those who were grounded “ for medical reasons. I include the unfairness to any grounded man whether he had yet qualified for his commission or not. Of the six young men whose cases I reported to the Minister without acknowledgment from him, one was “ grounded “ for ear trouble, one for a back disorder, one because of air sickness, one as the result of a crash while finishing his training as a sergeant, one for defective eyesight, and one for nasal trouble. Not even when this matter was ventilated in the press did any reply come from the Minister to explain the procedure, but I am informed that there are no Air Force orders or Air Board orders in existence in England which say that a member of the Royal Australian Air Force shall be stripped of his rank for medical reasons for which he is not responsible. Air Ministry orders in the United Kingdom show that no such stripping is permitted of a grounded member of the Royal Air Force, and neither Canada nor New Zealand allows it. When these young lads were reduced in rank and stripped of their badges in Great Britain they were placed in a false position with mates with whom they had trained, and others. They were treated, as it were, as criminals in the community. They could not explain to every one why they had been degraded. In order to show the harshness with which the Australian authorities have treated these young men, I need only cite the fact that a young New Zealand airman who was “ grounded “ for a crime committed in England was allowed by the New Zealand authorities to travel home with his “ wings “ and other distinguishing marks intact so that he should not be harassed on the journey, whereas, our lads were forced to come home stripped of the marks for which they had been trained and had qualified, except for late-found medical reasons, to wear. They have not been discharged from the Air Force. Instead, these lads, equal to the cream of our youth, have been given jobs in the laundry, at picketing bake houses and in the officers’ mess. Those are the occupations which the Royal Australian Air Force finds for such young men. Other Empire air forces, I am told, permit similarly placed young fellows to qualify as instructors. Some of them told me that they had joined instructional schools with the object of becoming instructors, if they were not fit for operational flying but that they were prevented from continuing by the supreme commander, who, I. am told, issues orders himself regardless of the fact that no orders sent to England from Australia say that airmen shall be strapped of their rank for medical reasons. Some young men whom I met in Sydney after my return - I had not met them before - confirmed what I was told in London. In view of the fact that I have received no acknowledgment from the Minister of the three communications sent to him, I consider that I am justified in taking this opportunity to bring the plight of these lads and other members of the Royal Australian Air Force in England before honorable members. I notice that Smith’s Weekly referred to them in its issue of the 17th June last in the following terms: -
There is a navigator in Sydney at the moment, previously a flight-sergeant who, after an operation in England, was marked medically unfit for flying and returned to Australia. He has been refused a re-muster to special ground courses which would enable him to requalify for rank of sergeant or higher, on the ground that he was not fit enough.
Yet R.A.A.F. refuses to discharge him and he is now washing floors, &c.,intheofficers’ mess.
His wife was overpaid when he was demoted - and he now receives1s. a day until he makes up the deficit.
Worse still, his wife has had to go out to work to keep herself. . . .
These men arc being shabbily treated and anomalies which exist show that no proper attention has been given to the matter. . . .
A group of trainees may leave Australia together, one may be commissioned, all may be injured in the same crash, yet, while N.C.O.’s are demoted, the commissioned man retains his rank, pay, and privileges.
In last week’s issue of the Brisbane Courier-Mail which was sent to me to-day there is published a letter from a parent reading as follows: -
My son, after three years service with the Royal Australian Air Force, having obtained his pilot’s wings here, has returned to Australia and for medical reasons only has been grounded.
I told the Minister that I am referring only to -those who are medically grounded. The letter continues -
He has now been informed that he will be posted to a station with rank of A.C.I. ground staff in lieu of his flying rank of Plight Sergeant - this after being captain of Wellington and Stirling bombers with many operational flights over enemy territory, for which service he is holding the 1939-43 star. I know for a fact that he has not committed any breach of discipline.
It is hard enough for a lad to be grounded after being a pilot; but to be reduced to the lowest rank and probably pushed around by a corporal who has never left the country is hard tounderstand. I am anxious to meet any otherfather whose son has been similarly treated.
I notice that the newspaper inserts a footnote to that letter to the following effect : -
An AirForce spokesman said last night that no airman would be reduced from his temporary rank in the Air Force except for disciplinary reasons.
In view of the statements that I have made, the number of young fellows I have seen, and the six or more cases with numbers and reasons that I have given to the Minister, I assure him that there is something wrong if he still believes that these young fellows have committed some crime and are not being grounded merely because of the fact that it is found at the last moment that their eyes arc wrong, or that they cannot stand the strain, or become air-sick. I sincerely hope in the interests of these young men that the Minister will make some explanation which I have not been able so far to secure by means of correspondence - a fact which has led me to take this opportunity to bring the matter forward here in their interests.
– There are two matters concerning the Department of Health which I desire the Minister to examine. The present Government has been in office for nearly three years - although, there is a tendency on the part of many people to forget that it is nearly three years old -and during that period it has attempted to build up for itself a reputation as the apostle of social services, and to claim credit for looking after the downtrodden; but its lack of policy in regard to hospitals is most disappointing. After certain negotiations with Mr. Frank Smith, a member of the South Australian Parliament, the Mayor of Glenelg, the town clerk of Glenelg, and the Man Power Department in Adelaide. I saw the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) here, and put to him the very difficult situation which will prevail in a large part of my electorate, not far from the metropolitan area, and extending as far south as Victor Harbour, if the owner of a private hospital in Glenelg is allowed to proceed with her published intention of closing that hospital down because nobody is prepared to buy it at the price she wants to charge for it, and she is not prepared to rent it at any figure at all. On my consultation with the Minister, he said he thought it was a matter for the Department of Medical Co-ordination in South Australia. I saw those people, and they were most emphatic that they had not the power. They said that the power they had until recently in regard to the provision of staff has been taken away from them and handed over to Man
Power. I had already seen Man Power, so I knew that before I went to the Minister. This was a fortnight ago and nothing has happened since. This is a hospital in which 60 or 70 maternity cases had been booked up for the next three or four months, but it is to be closed because this great government of ours is not disposed to take any action under National Security Regulations, although it could make any regulation it liked, to see that the hospital was kept in being and staffed for the benefit of the .people of that district while the war continues. This is the type of case which the Government must take into consideration - it is not the only one, but I am simply referring to my own electorate for the time being, because I know most about it - as in my opinion no owner of a private hospital under war conditions should be allowed to close it down just because he or she happens to take a dislike to the staff, the patients, the district, the City Council or anything else. People who undertake that vocation and have carried on throughout the war until now should be obliged either to carry it on to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth Health Department or rent it to somebody who will do so until the war is over. For various Commonwealth purposes, men and nurses have been called into the service, which is a justification for the Commonwealth intervening in this case. I do not think one is asking anything impossible or even unreasonable in putting that request to the Government.
The other matter is a dental one arising in the Northern Territory, the constituency which I am looking after in the absence of its member. I came hack from Alice Springs on the 1st July. I discovered last January that there was only one civilian dentist in the town. On my last visit there, I found that, although the fat cattle are on the move at this time of the year, and men are coming in from the stations who only appear in Alice Springs when they have fat cattle to drove, yet this noble gentleman has chosen this juncture to decide to take a couple of months off, so that there is no dentist there except the Army dentist. The people of Alice Spring* are very grateful to the Army Medical and Dental Corps for the work they have done, but it was not the responsibility of the Army to look after every body a,t Alice Springs. I recently had a statement from official sources that the Army would be unable to attend to any more dental work in the town. In that case, the request I made was that the Army dental authorities should look after the dental welfare of the children of Alice Springs until proper arrangements could be made. The conditions in the Territory are unusual. There is no group of professional men on whom people can draw in order to satisfy their dental and medical requirements. Therefore, here is a case in which the Department of Health should intervene and, either in conjunction with the Army make arrangements to carry on, or else take steps to see that somebody who is competent goes up there and stays in the district or provides a locum tenens while he takes a holiday. So far as the people of the Territory are concerned, I say particularly to the Minister for the Army that they have no objection to paying for the service which the Army Dental Corps renders to them. They do not want anything for nothing. They are only too happy to pay if the work can be done. I put this particularly to the Minister for the Army, who has had outback experience, that when you see the cattle on the move and mon with them who only come into the town perhaps once a year, it Ls very difficult to tell those men that they must go back to their stations for another twelve months and not have a chance of seeing a dentist. I regard that as another matter which the Department of Health can take up. These things may not appear very ‘ important to honorable members, but they should remember that under present conditions in the Territory there are in Alice Springs some 700 children up to the age of sixteen years. In addition, there is the mining and pastoral population, and it is not very satisfactory to find that there is only one civilian dentist in the town. The Department of Health should if necessary strain a point to see that professional men are attracted into that country, even if we have to keep them there under some sort of contract for the duration of the war. When peace is restored conditions can take their normal course, and I have no doubt that young men will be attracted there. But for the time being, perhaps the Department of Health and the Department of the Army can consult on the matter and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has again referred to land resumptions at Essendon, and to allegations that unfair prices were being paid.
– I really raised the question of compensation generally.
– I realize that. The honorable member referred to cynicism that has developed as the result of the Government not complying with the law.
– Not acting fairly.
– The honorable member suggests that the Government could, if it chose, remedy the position by passing amending legislation, because he must know, being a lawyer, that these valuations have been made in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1906. It is true, as the honorable member said, that when I sat in opposition I protested against what I considered to be inadequate payments to people whose land had been resumed. When I last spoke I quoted from statements, which I had made earlier, in order to show that I was in sympathy with the view that those people should receive greater compensation than they had. But I desire to make it clear that no government would be doing its duty if it were prepared to pay for the land more than the amount provided for on the basis laid down in the act.
– The act provides for an agreement by the Minister.
– The act provides that the value of the land shall be ascertained as at the 1st January preceding its actual resumption. That has been done in this case. A large number of blocks have been resumed. Some of the people concerned live in my electorate.
– How can one determine precisely the value for land in January, 1943, when land transactions have been prohibited by National Security Regulations for nearly the duration of the war?
– The land at Essendon was resumed, after I became a Minister, for aerodrome purposes, but transactions had taken place in that area, to my knowledge, some time before that. Because of the lack of facilities, the prices at which the land was sold were very low. As usual, the honorable member for Fawkner has put a. good case - I do not say that he put it unfairly - but I remind him that he entirely overlooked the fact that similar representations were made by me and other members of the Opposition when he was a Minister in a previous Government. But nothing whatever was done on those occasions to remedy the position.
– I am not quarrelling with the legislation. It provides that the Minister may reach an agreement. I ask the Minister to make a fair agreement.
– I remind the honorable member that the Menzies Government, in which he was a Minister, had the opportunity to remedy the defects in the act, but it made no attempt to do so, despite the fact that I, among others, brought before the House on numerous occasions the matter of land resumptions, not for the aerodrome, but for the purposes of civil aviation. A radio beacon had to be erected, and some blocks were resumed. The same kind of offers were made on that occasion. The honorable member criticized the fact that the Department of the Interior, which deals with these matters, first offers a sum of £15 ; and when representations are made that the amount is not sufficient it offers an additional £5. That occurred in instances that I brought to the notice of the House when I was a member of the Opposition, and on a number of occasions an additional payment was made to the sellers. If the practice was wrong then, why did not the government of the day attempt to remedy it? I do not say that the practice is right now, but I object to the implication that this Government’s actions are creating a spirit of cynicism, whereas, in fact, it is doing exactly what the previous Government did. I have never attempted to make it appear that what I considered to be unfair when I sat in opposition, I believe to be fair now that I am a Minister.
I am very sorry if the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has not received the courtesy of replies and consideration from my department in connexion with matters that he has raised. I do not propose to-night to deal with the subject in detail, because I have not been able to follow his contentions clearly. In fact, I cannot recollect having received in detail the representations to which he has referred. That he raised them, and with the best of intentions and in a, fair and reasonable manner I do not doubt; but there are other aspects which he has not had an opportunity to consider, because apparently he has not been supplied with the departmental opinion. I assure him that we have no intention of dealing unfairly with men who are unable to carry on in the Air Force. Some men who undergo training for air crew, are not able to stand up eventually to the strain involved and, consequently, they cannot be retained in that branch of the service. This is a rather delicate subject on which I hesitate to touch. Some men who have received their “ wings “ reach a stage when for some reason or other they are unable to continue their flying duties. I do not wish to put. it more strongly than that. Because they do not continue flying, they are not permitted to wear their “wings”. But men who have done operational or instructional tours and who have been placed in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, are permitted to retain their “ wings “. I believe that when the matter is presented to the honorable member as I think it can be presented, he will take a different view of the position. However, the question will be examined closely in the light of what the honorable member has said, and a reply will be supplied to him. I regret that any delay has occurred in answering his representations.
– ‘Certain aspects of the case presented by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.- Holt), and supported by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) have already been answered by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). All I desire to say is that the Government will give consideration to their representations.
– The Minister for Air thought that the present proceedings were unfair, even if the previous Government did not deal with the matter as adequately as he considered it should have done.
– The Minister for Air has been consistent in his attitude on this matter. He took the previous Government to task for having failed to correct the position. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is considering the problem at the present time, and the matter has been before Cabinet. The Minister will re-submit it to Cabinet at some future date. The Government desires to deal expeditiously and justly with all claims made upon it. However, it must take into consideration, not only the claims of persons whose land has been resumed, but also the interests of the taxpayers. I assure the honorable member for Fawkner that this matter will not he forgotten.
Mr.Guy. - Inordinate delays occur in arriving at settlements.
– The honorable member may hold that opinion. In the perilous times through which we have passed, many very important problems required the attention of the Government, so that matters of lesser importance had to wait. The Government has tried to reduce the period of delay as much as possible. I shall bring the matter of dental service at Alice Springs mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) as it affects the health of the people of the Northern Territory, an area in which the honorable member for Barker has taken a keen interest in the unfortunate absence of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). We all trust that the honorable member for the Northern Territory will be back with us before many months have passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Coniston, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Press and broadcasting censorship.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Order - Control of pharmaceutical chemists.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of recent further announcements that more liberal assistance is to be extended to the dairying industry by releases from the Army, is it proposed to moderate existing Government directions which to-day prohibit such releases and the provision of the assistance necessary.
– A survey is being made of the man-power requirements of the armed services in relation to those of munitions production, primary industry and essential civil needs. The War Commitments Committee gave some consideration to this matter on the 17th July, 1944. The report of the committee will be considered by WarCabinet at the earliest practicable date, and decisions reached will beannounced. publicationsbygovernment Department.
n. - Yesterday the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Harrison) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440719_reps_17_179/>.