17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 pm., and read prayers.
.- I move -
That the following papers, laid on the table of the House on the 31st August, be printed: -
Censorship - Postal, Telegraphic and Telephonic - Report of Commissioner appointed under the National Security ( Inquiries ) Regulations.
Hannan, A. J., Crown Solicitor of the State of South Australia - Allegations of official interception of letters and listening-in to telephone conversations - Report of Commissioner appointed under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations.
I believe that censorship is utterly repugnant and abhorrent to the people of every democratic country, and can be justified only by the exigencies of war. The greatest care must be exercised so as to ensure that its operations shall not transcend the necessities of war, or nave characteristics such as those of which we have had bitter examples during the last few years in countries controlled by dictatorships.
The views of the Reverend J. M. Wheller, President-General of the Methodist Church of Australia, may be accepted as a fair sample of the views of the public at large in regard to censorshirp. On the 20th June last, the reverend gentleman is reported to have described the manner in which censorship has been exercised as “ a sure symptom of the Nazi disease breaking out in Australia “. From the pulpit of the Albertn-Street Methodist Church, he said -
From this pulpit I say, in the name of our Church, that we will not tolerate a continuance of this intrusion into the lives of citizens whose regard for the safety of the Commonwealth is above suspicion.
Many people had had their private correspondence opened, he continued. There might be necessity for some restrictions, but Australians were not going to part with any aspect of their sacred heritage. “We are engaged in a light for freedom, but we had better recognize the danger from within,” he added. “When the matter of censorship was raised originally by. the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and subsequently on a motion of privilege by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the almost unanimous opinion of this House was that the matter had to be probed to the depths, in order to discover whether or not there had been misuse of censorship, or a leakage of information from it to other departments of State, with a view to ensuring that its use would be confined to the purposes of war. In the report of. Sir William Webb one is not so much concerned with what he says as with what he has left unsaid. For instance, in paragraph 3 he says -
Upon receiving my commission I perused the proceedings before the parliamentary committee, and their report and recommendations.
He had as his assistant Mr, A. M. Fraser, a member ofthe Victorian Legislative
Council. The” assistance which Mr. Fraser gave seems to have consisted in publishing advertisements throughout the Commonwealth inviting witnesses to come forward with complaints regarding censorship. I once had the honour of sitting on a royal commission with the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), Professor Mills, who, I understand, is employed by the Commonwealth, and Mr. H. A. Pitt, who also has done work for the Commonwealth, and that commission was not content merely to publish notices in the newspapers asking people to come forward and give evidence. We sought evidence from those who we believed were able to give it. However, neither Sir William Webb nor the parliamentary committee - during the limited period which that body had an opportunity to take evidence - made any real attempt to obtain evidence from witnesses who might have been helpful. Sir William Webb called a few departmental witnesses, but he must have seen from the evidence that had been given before the parliamentary committee the extensive demands that had been made by the various Commonwealth departments for information from the censorship authorities, and that such information had been freely supplied to them.
– The honorable member had sixteen witnesses at one stage, and they all ran out on him.
– We must try to be up to date, and therefore I refuse to listen to a. foghorn in these days of beam wireless.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair, and I remind the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) not to interject.
– When this matter came before the House in February. 1944, on a motion by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), many honorable members addressed themselves to it, including the honorable member for Warringah. In the course of his speech the honorable member for Warringah said -
Mail is being opened by the censorship authorities tinder the Post and Telegraph Censorship Order, for reasons that hear no relation to the security of the country. Documents that have no relation to national security are’.i it is freely said, being circulated in Government departments to enable tab to be kept on various persons, and on the financial position and trading operations of firms.
Ill his reply the Prime Minister said -
The practice in regard to censorship has not varied since the honorable member for Warringah was in office.
That statement is diametrically opposed to the evidence of Colonel Ettelson, Controller of Post and Telegraph Censorship, given on oath before the parliamentary committee. He stated that the practice had been altered - that it had, in fact, been extended. He informed the Parliamentary Committee that he had doubts as to whether he was entitled to extract all the information for which he had been asked. It is clear that the Prime Minister must have been under a misapprehension when he said that the practice had not been varied since the honorable member for Warringah was in office. The evidence of Colonel Ettelson, the contents of National Security Regulations No. 16 and Post and Telegraph Censorship Order 1199, all bear out the fact that there have been changes. Arising from, the questions asked by the honorable member for Warringah and the motion of privilege by the honorable member for Barker, a parliamentary committee was set up by the Government on the 14th March to inquire into censorship and to report to the Government. The first meeting of the committee was held on the 5th June, just twelve weeks, less one day, after the Prime Minister’s announcement that the committee would be appointed. I do not blame the Prime Minister because he was engaged on more important business overseas.
– I could be engaged on more important business to-day but for the honorable member.
– The right honorable gentleman may think so, but the liberties and inherent rights of the people are vital. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister stated that the committee would be asked to furnish an early report, it did not begin to take evidence until the 5 th June. Three days later, it adjourned to meet again on the 13th June in Canberra where it sat for four days until the 16th June. Thereafter,, the committee never met again. It was suppressed in the midst of its deliberations. During its sittings, the committee, dissenting, issued an interim report to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). I refused to sign the report, because, in my opinion, no considered opinion could be given nor recommendations made at that stage, owing to the few witnesses examined and the paucity of the material before us.
– Order ! The honorable member may not go into details of that committee’s report. He is well aware that his motion refers to the reports of Sir William Webb and Mr. Justice Clyne.
– I am discussing paragraph 3 of Sir William Webb’s report which says -
Upon receipt of the Commission, I perused the proceedings before the Parliamentary Committee and their report and recommendations.
The parliamentary committee reported-
The object of censorship, therefore, is security, not for a person, or a particular interest, or a corporation, or a section, but for thu nation as a whole. So far as our inquiries have proceeded the Controller of Postal and Telegraph Censorship appears to have exercised skill, judgment and insight in the administration of a very difficult function. The matters subject to complaint appear to have heppened after certain information had left his hands.
It appears that there has been no endeavour whatever to ascertain where that information went after it left the hands of the Censor. The parliamentary committee reported that it had dealt with only one aspect of censorship. It will be noted, if the report is examined, that officers from only two departments were examined before the interim report was submitted to the Acting Prime Minister.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell me who signed that report?
– All the members of the parliamentary committee, except myself.
– The honorable member did not dissent from the report; he merely refused to sign it.
– Yes, I did refuse to sign it, because I said that it was a worthless report, in view of the small amount of information then before the committee. The report goes on to say -
It would appear questionable whether some information supplied to those departments is of much value. In the case of the Rationing Commission, it is clear that the information is used almost exclusively for the purpose of detecting breaches of the Rationing Regulations. In these cases the persons affected are, almost without exception, service personnel or their relatives. The methods employed by the rationing inspectors after obtaining information from Censorship are often clumsy and provocative of. justified resentment, especially as a transaction, forbidden if carried out in one way, could be lawfully accomplished so long as ration coupons do not change hands. The relatives nf servicemen thereby become liable to heavy penalties for what infinitely greater numbers may be doing with impunity. The Committee considers that censorship is a security and not an ordinary police weapon. .
It has been shown that through the medium of departmental liaison officers trade information has been convoyed to government departments.’ These liaison officers, however, arc not the only departmental officers who may have access to the trade information. The number of officers who may acquire this knowledge is dependent ou the practice adopted in each department and the discretion of the departmental head. In these circumstances, it is possible that trade information passed along these channels may reach persons within the department who, in their peace-time avocations, are competitors of the persons from whom the information was obtained.
The report continues -
The extensive use of the liaison system should be immediately reviewed.
So far as I am able to ascertain, the liaison system has not been reviewed. The same practices are continuing, and later I shall cite instances in which some of the recommendations of the committee have been absolutely . violated. The report proceeds-:
As a result of the system some departments appear to be amassing a considerable volume of information which is of little value to them in the discharge of their war-time duties. The censorship authority is in itself very well qualified to decide which information of value to the war effort should be furnished to departments.
The committee made certain recommendations, one being that censorship should not be used to police minor offences such as breaches of the rationing regulations. It is interesting to note that in. Sir William Webb’s report there is no evidence that he either sought or investigated evidence of that nature.
As some honorable members may not understand the nature of the practices of the censorship, I shall refer to them briefly. Liaison officers were appointed by government departments to obtain from the posts and telegraph censor information considered of value to the respective departments. The variety of information which those liaison officers receive is extremely wide. But the witnesses called by Sir “William Webb were not representative of all the departments, as honorable members will see. The witnesses were -
The Controller of Postal and Telegraph Censorship, Mr. P. W. Ettelson; District Censor, Victoria, Mr. G. W. S. Anderson; Officer in Charge, Information Sub-section, District Censor’s Office, Victoria, Mr. 0. W. Massio; Assistant Controller of Materials, Director of Material Supply, Mr. U. R. Ellis; Supervising Engineer of Telephone Equipment, Mr. E. M. Dowse; District Censor, New South Wales, Mr. A. L. Campbell; Director-General of Security, Mr. W. V. Simpson; Inspector of Telegraphs, Mr. J. C. Harrison; Assistant Director of Military Intelligence, Mr. R. A. Little; Assistant Secretary Department of War Organization of Industry, Mr. P. C. Greenland; Flight Lieutenant R. A. Smithers, Lieutenant Z. Cowen; Mrs. H. M. Leckie, wife of Senator Leckie; the Legal Officer of the Rationing Commission, Mr. J. E. Kelly; Mrs. JB. G. McElwee; and the Deputy Director, Department of Information, Victoria, Mr. T. P. Hoey.
The Sydney Morning Herald, on the 16th June last, published the following item-
– Is that the newspaper to which the honorable member gave the secret document?
– This is taken from the documents supplied by the AttorneyGeneral to the newspapers and from the transcript of evidence before the parliamentary committee.
– No !
– I shall place before honorable members the official document which the Sydney Morning Herald used.
– Does the honorable member say that the newspaper extract is founded upon a document which the Attorney-General supplied to the press?
– The AttorneyGeneral, as chairman, with the consent of the committee, made available to the press every day the transcript of evidence.
– The document referred to was made available not to the press, but to members of the committee. It was a “War Cabinet agendum.
– I do not know what the poor little man is thinking about. I am referring to something entirely different. The horse is bolting and the jockey is racing his hurdles. I shall come to the hurdles in good time and give the AttorneyGeneral something that will make him think deeply. What I am talking about now is something entirely different. The baby is over-anxious for his bun. I shall read now from the official transcript of the minutes of evidence given before the Censorship Committee, as supplied by the Attorney-General to the press every evening. Am I right or am I wrong?
– The honorable gentleman said that he was about to quote from the transcript of the evidence tendered to the committee.
– As supplied by the Attorney-General from the committee to the press.
– That is what the honorable gentleman did not say.
– It is all right trying to trap rabbits; I have trapped rabbits myself. I am telling a plain, unvarnished story. The report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 16th June, 1944, says -
Evidence that at one stage the Controller of Post and Telegraph Censorship had been asked to supply the Commonwealth Bank with extracts which would be “ in the interests of good government in Australia “ was given before the committee of parliamentarians inquiring into censorship, according to a transcript of evidence issued to-day.
What on earth that had to do with the war, I do not know. The report also stated -
Evidence was given by the officer who maintained liaison between censorship and the Department of Trade and Customs that information had been sought about “ Mr. Y “, who, the Director of Import Procurement believed, was trying to influence the Government against the policy of the department.
What the Director of the Division of Import Procurement had to do with it, I do not know. We also come to a reference to a “ Mr. X “ in the evidence of Mr. Turner. I asked that the Director of the Division of Import Procurement should be brought before the parliamentary committee.
– The honorable gentleman was not there when he was brought before the committee.
– An officer of the Department of Trade and Customs was brought before the committee, but Mr. Moore, the Director of Import Procurement, was never brought before it. I asked that he be called, but that was never done. , He did not come before Sir William Webb either, although there was probably a mine of information which he could have supplied in telling what was happening to certain documents. I am not the only person in the community who possesses information that documents of a strictly confidential nature were being passed round. They were being given into the hands of ordinary civilians who were temporary employees of the Government without a proper realization of the obligations they were under and who might, therefore, have ‘been careless with such information. In his evidence Mr. Jackson, the Commissioner of Taxation, made some remarks about temporary employees in the Taxation Department. According to the Sydney Morning Herald -
Mr. Jackson disclosed that many temporary employees of the Taxation. Department during the last war had tried after the war to capitalize the knowledge they had gained in the department. -During the present war he had tried to prevent any temporary staff from being utilized by the Taxation Department on the more intimate examination of returns or in the technical work of the department. “ One weakness which we have watched has been in connexion with the Prices Branch,” Mr. Jackson said. “ The act has been amended to give to .the Prices Commissioner authority to obtain taxation information. The Prices Commissioner also has been forced to supplement his staff by the utilization of temporary employees. I have refused to give to such temporary employees open access to Taxation Department records. Only on the. written request of a Deputy Prices Commissioner in regard to a particular matter, and only when my own Deputy Commissioners are satisfied that the- information can legitimately be imparted to these men, is the information supplied.”
Mr. Rusden, the officer in charge of exchange control, Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, said that the Commonwealth Bank was selected to administer regulations now consolidated into the National Security (Exchange) Regulations.
– Where is that reported ?
– In the Sydney Morning Herald, which quoted extracts from the- official transcript of the evidence supplied by the Attorney-General, as chairman of the committee, to the press of Australia.
-Order! I have given the honorable member a good deal of liberty to direct attention to what he regards as shortcomings in the inquiries that have been made, but he is going, far beyond the necessities of the case in making extracts from the reports of evidence given before the committee. That is not the subject of his- motion.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. Sir William Webb recited the authority from which censorship is derived, and drew attention to No. 16 of National Security (General) Regulations in the Manual of National Security Legislation, being the National. Security Act 1939-1943 and regulations and certain orders and rules made thereunder. As that regulation is- fundamental, to the whole of. the inquiry, I quote . it from page 268 -
If it appears to a Minister to be necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, or for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community, he may by order, provide for the censorship of-
It here mentions communications of various types.
Paragraph 7, at page 1201 of the second volume, reads -
A Post and Telegraph Censorship Authority may open and examine all postal articles as defined in the Post and Telegraph Act 1901- 1934, and in the case of any postal article which is considered to bc of an enemy character, or traitorous, or to contain information of a secret and confidential nature . . .
Those are the words which the honorable member for Warringah was anxious to have interpreted when he asked questions on the subject in this House last February. He is still waiting for that interpretation, and for answers to those questions. The information sought under the categories laid down by the Chief Post and Telegraph Censor to his departmental officers goes far beyond what is intended by regulation 16, and involves a considerable scandal. I quote from a document that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the. 20th July, 1944.
– That was the day on which I set up the judicial commission.
– Of course it was. The information published in the Sydney Morning Herald had also been published very largely in the official transcript that had been given to the press of this country during the seven days on which the committee sat. Information on these lines was sought: “ Criticism of administration, if of substance or constructive, of the Department of Trade and Customs; any communication containing financial references of a nature not covered by any of the four headings above “ - that was in relation to the ‘Commonwealth Bank - and “ any reference to banking”. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture asked for information relating to wheat, flour, wool, dairy produce, dried fruits and canned fruits. In case it had forgotten anything it added “ &c. “.
In the minds of the people there is growing the conviction that the Reverend Mr. Wheller may not be far wrong, and that the practice may be developing of compiling dossiers in regard to different persons and obtaining information for purposes far removed from the requirements of war.
For some time, the Minister for Information has been accusing me of having handed this document to the press. I neither affirm, nor deny that accusation. If it were given to the press, the authorities are aware of the journals in which it was published. In the past, there have been no misgivings about handling the press in a masterful fashion. Why was not the thumb-screw applied in order to discover the identity of the person responsible and, if he had acted wrongly, incarcerate him? It was not a War Cabinet minute.
– It was.
– The Attorney-General (“Dr. Evatt), at a meeting of the committee, denied that it was. When carbon copies were supplied to members of the committee, it did not contain any imprint to the effect ,that it was a War Cabinet minute. The document that I received was not even marked “secret”. There are occasions when matters have to be disclosed publicly in the national interests, and the people have to be protected against this species of Nazi-ism which is slowly creeping in under the guise of the necessities of war. Whoever supplied the document deserves the blessings of the people.
In the matter of censorship, the Government has never been honest with the people. Attempts were made to suppress the parliamentary committee. It was not called together until twelve weeks had elapsed after its appointment, and it then sat for only seven days. The endeavour was made to have the whole of the inquiry conducted in camera. That was not right. The Chief Post and Telegraph ‘Censor, Colonel Ettelson, showed a lack of frankness.
– That is most unfair.
– As one who has had long practice in unfairness, the honorable gentleman has probably an international status. ‘Colonel Ettelson showed a lack of frankness in failing to produce copies of the Australian Military Censorship Summary compiled by the Controller of Post and Telegraph Censorship. I am told that that document, which had a fairly large circulation, ceased to be published and circulated after the appointment of the parliamentary committee. Nevertheless, I have had supplied to me certain extracts from it, and I am willing to allow the Prime Minister to compare them with that interesting brochure that we have never been allowed to see.
– Although the honorable gentleman is a former Cabinet Minister, it will be a good thing if he is never one again.
– That is a magnificent statement. I say to the House and the people of Australia that if being >a ‘Cabinet Minister means the sacrifice of my ‘liberty as an individual and the freedoms which the Australian people enjoy, I am miling to divest myself of party affiliations and of any ministerial claim that I may have on that account. This is a letter from– at- to- at
Melbourne, and the following information was extracted : -
I had “Mr. X” with. me for a few weeks, and he is interested in a new dried milk process tried out by “ Y” of the U.S.A. Army.
What has that to do with the law? Here is another letter from a firm in Australia to a firm in England -
Review of plant and machinery for five years after the war being carried out. . Expects to import most of the machinery unless they endeavour to get earlier deliveries by taking the risk of asking Australian engineering firms to undertake work with which they have not been familiar in the past. But an adverse exchange position might compel Australia to restrict imports. If we are forced to develop an arrangement with an engineering firm in Australia we should also provide for New Zealand.
What has that got to do with the security of the nation? Another letter is from a company in Australia to a company in another part of the world. It refers to the accumulation of heavy stocks of trucks, military and civilian, and then goes on to describe what may be the company’s post-war policy, concluding with a description of the position in Australia. Has that got anything to do with the war or the security of the nation ? Another letter is from a large industrial company to its overseas principals regarding a certain process for the manufacture of iron to be undertaken in Australia during the post-war period. Has that got anything to do with the war? Am I doing anything wrong in putting this before the people, in trying to protect their liberties? I say that the Prime Minister dishonours himself when he suggests that I was acting in such a way as to unfit myself to be a Cabinet Minister. Maybe I am unfit. Maybe I am the lowest thing on earth, but the time will come when the people of this country will thank God that I raised my voice against the Fascist practices that arc growing up in Australia. I do not propose to cite any further examples. They are to be found in a document circulated fairlywidely, which does not seem to indicate that any attempt was made to keep such information quiet.
I have already referred to the failure of Mr. Fraser, who was appointed to assist the Commissioner, to summon persons who said that they had evidence to give. A letter was published in the Brisbane Telegraph, of the 27th August last, from Mr. W. T. Hughes, stating that he had endeavoured without success to have certain information placed before the Parliamentary Committee on Censorship. After the appointment of Mr. Justice Webb he advised the secretary that he desired to give evidence, and had twenty witnesses to support him. He was asked to give an outline of his evidence and he did so, but he was never called. I wonder how many others like him offered to give evidence but were not called. I shall never forget the afternoon, when the Parliamentary Committee was sitting, and the Attorney-General read extracts from letters written by soldiers in the front line to their wives in Australia, and from letters written by wives totheir husbands at the front. They were pathetic extracts, full of the love of a man for his wife and of a wife for her husband, yet those letters had been used as a basis of prosecutions. I do not speak with my tongue in my check when I say that the Attorney-General was righteously indignant, and declared that he was not going to stand for that sort of thing. Unfortunately, noble though his sentiments were, the machine seems to have broken down somewhere, because it is reported that prosecutions based on information obtained in censorship of correspondence are still occurring.
– The right honorable gentleman says “No”, displaying his ignorance, because in Truth, of the 14th August, 1944, there appeared the following article: -
“PROSECUTION AFTER LETTER WAS CENSORED.”
Fined for Aiding Airman’swife.
Following the reported censoring of a letter, a Singleton store manager was charged yesterday with having, in July last year, sold butter without coupons to a wife who wished to make a cake to send to her husband serving with the R.A.A.F. in England.
This was stated in the local court when Leslie Reedman, manager of Moran & Cato’s branch, now residing at Wagga, was lined ?2 for the offence.
Mr. C. R. Whitfield, for Reedman, said “ If my information is correct, a letter which was censored started this prosecution. The husband referred to is now reported missing.”
Mr.CURTIN. - But was any evidence tendered that his information was correct ?
– It was not tendered. The prosecuting officer did not deny the fact.
– Ah !
– The Prime Minister says “ Ah ! “, but let me tell him that Mr. Whitfield said that in court.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to know what connexion there is between the letters and articles which the honorable member is reading and the reports made by Sir Wil]iam Webb and Mr. Justice Clyne?
– The honorable member has moved for the printing of the report of Mr. Justice Clyne and the report of Sir William Webb. On the one hand, he is criticizing the findings of’ Sir William Webb, and, on the other, he is stating the shortcomings of the Commissioner. J think he is perfectly in order.
– I knew that I should obtain justice from you, Mr. Speaker. Lest it should be thought that I am speaking on false premises, I cite the fact that in paragraph 3S of his report, Sir William Webb said -
A doubt is raised by Mr. Ettelson as to the scope of the Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation in paragraph 8 (rf) of this report can he readily resolved by a further recommendation from the committee or a direction by yourself.
Members of the committee, like Mahomet’s coffin, are suspended between heaven and earth. The Truth article went on - ft was stated that a summons had been taken out against Mrs. Clayworth, but that this hail not ‘been served and had been returned to the Deputy Crown Solicitor. Leave was being sought to have the case heard in the town nearest the place where Mrs. Clayworth was now residing.
Mrs. Clayworth is serving in the forces at n northern operational base. She joined up after she had received news that her husband was reported missing.
The Magistrate: If this airman had been at Inline, he would have been entitled to the butter, but these offences, under the National Security Regulations, ave regarded as serious. However, under the circumstances, I will impose a fine of £2, with Ss. costs, in default five days’ imprisonment.
I ask the Attorney-General to have a good look into that ca.se to see whether he is being misled, because T believe that tip does not stand for that sort of thing.
On the 20th July, the secretary to the parliamentary committee wrote to me as follows : -
I am instructed by Dr. Evatt to inform you that the Parliamentary Committee on Censorship will meet at Parliament House, Canberra, to-morrow morning immediately after questions to continue taking evidence on mail censorship. It is proposed to sit continuously on Friday and Saturday until the evidence is completed.
If there are any witnesses on mail censorship whom you desire to give evidence I shall be glad if you will let me know before 12 noon to-day so that arrangements may be made to have them in attendance.
I wrote to the secretary submitting the names of certain proposed witnesses.
– Order ! I think the honorable gentleman is trespassing on my ruling. That has no reference to the reports of the two judges.
– In his report, Sir William Webb refers to the list which I sent to the secretary of the parliamentary committee. I refer, Mr. Speaker, to paragraph 5 of Sir William Webb’s report, in which he says -
The Honorable J. P. Abbott, M-.P., tendered to the secretary of the Parliamentary Committee the following names as those of prospective witnesses: -
Mr. Justice Owen, chairman, Central Wool Committee.
The Honorable J. T. Lang
Mr. Lang made a statement in the Century that gramophone records had been made of telephone conversations. Mr. Lang is a responsible person with a following of at least 130,000 voters in New South Wales. I thought that he should be brought before the committee to substantiate his statement, which was published, not lightly, but in a leading article in the Century. Other prospective witnesses were :
Mr. J. F. Murphy, Department of Commerce
I wanted to know where all the information that he was getting from the censorship authorities went -
Sir Clive McPherson, chairman, Australian Wheat Board.
The Director-General, Security, Brigadier W. B. Simpson-
Sir William Webb brought Brigadier Simpson before him -
The officer in the Security Department responsible for receiving extracts from letters.
The officer responsible for the QRD list of persons whose mail is subject to special censorship, and the production of such list of persons in each State.
The chairman of the Morale Committee.
I do not know what the functions of that committee are, but I am told that it was given what amounted to full right to obtain extracts from censored mail in order to judge the morale of the community. [Extension of time granted.] I wanted to learn what action that committee took -
The Director-General, Division of Import Procurement, Colonel Ettelson, for further examination.
– Is the honorable gentleman referring to witnesses whom he desired to call before the parliaimientary committee?
– I am referring to paragraph 5 of Sir William Webb’s report. I desired that the DirectorGeneral of the Division of Import Procurement be called because reports to the press, issued by the Attorney-General, with the consent of the parliamentary comttniittee, showed that the Division of Import Procurement was being given a tremendous amount of material by the censorship authorities. The Attorney-General will recollect that an officer of the Division of: Import Procurement was prosecuted in Sydney recently for having tried to sell to trade rivals information which the division had obtained. I do not know whether that information was obtained from censored letters or not. Anyway, the whole “smelly” thing needed a cleaning up. I also desired the further examination of Colonel Ettelson on certain other matters connected with post and telegraph censorship on which he had not been examined. I do not desire to say any more this afternoon, but I do believe that this matter of censorship cannot be left where it is. Sir William Webb’s report shows that he did not investigate one of the primary questions asked when this matter was raised by the honorable member for Warringah, namely, where does the information go when it leaves the censorship? What is the distribution of it? What use is made of it? Is the information necessary to meet the exigencies of war?Sir William Webb has neither gone into those questions nor reported on them. He did not summon the necessary witnesses. The Government must have this matter investigated further, either by a parliamentary committee or by a royal commission presided over by a justice of the High Court, because the people are worried, and know that this matter goes far deeper than has been suggested in any inquiry made so far.
– I formally second the motion, and reserve my right to speak.
– The motion is for the printing of two papers namely, the reports tendered by Sir William Webb and Mr. Justice Clyne. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has made no reference whatever to the report made by Mr. Justice Clyne. He dealt all the time with the report of Sir William Webb, except when he was engaged in resurrecting the committee of members of Parliament which was set up to deal with matters that had been ventilated in Parliament. On the 25th July, 1944, I issued to His Honour Sir William Flood. Webb, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, a commission to inquire into and report to me -
On all matters relating to post and telegraph censorship (including telephonic censorship) referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Censorship mentioned in regulation 127 of the National Security (Supplementary) Regulations which, in the opinion of the said Commissioner, having regard to the interim report of the committee dated the 14th day of June, 1944, and the decision given to implement the recommendations made therein, require investigation or further investigation; and
The authority given to Sir William Webb was fully as wide as that which hadbeen given to the committee of honorable members, which had not been appointed by Parliament, but had been set up by me in pursuance of an arrangement reached with leaders of the other parties. It was composed of members of Parliament, including some Ministers. When I returned from abroad, I naturally assumed that some finality to a controversial matter would have been reached. I asked for the report, and I received an interim report. I immediately issued directions that the recommendations contained therein should be given effect. It is true that the honorable member for New England did not sign the report, but it is equally true that the other members of the committee did sign it, and that, of course,. it was a report of the committee.
– It was a. non-party report.
– By an all-party committee. I was quite satisfied that the committee should proceed with its deliberations, but I did state in this House, in. reply to questions, that there should be no delay in completing its work. I took steps to facilitate the completion of its work. When I reached the conclusion that 1 should not longer have confidence in the competence of the committee
– That is. a reflection upon those Ministers who were members of the committee.
– It is a reflection upon the committee; and that reflection arose because I read in the newspapers a report which purported to be evidence tendered before the committee, but which, to my knowledge as Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, was an attachment to a War Cabinet agendum.
– That was denied by the A t to rney-General.
Mr.CURTIN. - I am speaking as Prime Minister.
– Well, what is the truth ?
– To my knowledge, there appeared in & newspaper a report the text of which was precisely the text of an attachment to a War Cabinet agendum.
– The Attorney-General denied that.
Mr.CURTIN. - I am speaking for myself, and take the responsibility for what happened. . I consulted with representaitive members of this Parliament, and announced to them my intentions. Government will come and governments will go, but there are practices which, quite regardless of parties, are integral to the maintenance of government in this or any other British community. Thereupon, without in any way minimizing the matters which were to be investigated and reported upon, and without denying the need for investigation, and report, I decided, that I had no confidence in a committee which allowed confidential information to reach other bands…
– Does the Prime Minister consider that it was wrong for portions of that document to be issued?
– I am speaking not of portions of the document, but of the text of the attachment.
– If the whole of the document had been made available in portions, nothing- would have been wrong?
– I must ensure that secret documents are treated confidentially. Therefore, I decided that I could no longer have confidence in the committee, but I considered that all the matters which the committee had deliberated upon, including its interimrecommendations, and all other matters relevant to the original reference to the committee, should be investigated and reported upon. But I considered that the inquiry ought to be conducted judicially by a man of reputation, such as a justice, who was accustomed to weighing evidence. Consequently, I endeavoured to obtain the services of a ‘judge of the highest standing even among his own peers, and I was happy to get the Chief Justice of Queensland. Now, the terms of reference given to His Honour Sir William Webb were precisely the same as those given to the parliamentary committee. The honorable member for New England had the temerity to say that the commissioner did not do his job competently.
– I do not think that I used those words.
– The terms of reference to the commissioner were as comprehensive and complete as were the terms of reference to the parliamentary committee. His Honour has perhaps greater qualifications for investigation than some of the members of the committee have, however competent they may be; Counsel was assigned to him for the purpose of assisting him.
– Did counsel call all the witnesses who desired to give evidence?
– The commissioner is responsible for the report. Counsel only assists the commissioner.
– Who was the counsel? Mr. CURTIN- Mr. A. M. Fraser, a member of the Victorian Bar.
– A member of the Legislative Council of Victoria?
– I do not know.
– Why did he refuse to call Mr. Hughes as a witness?
– Now that the honorable member is no longer able to attack the lion, does he propose to deal with some other member of the animal kingdom ?
– Does the Prime Minister mean the jackal?
– No, and I do not think the right honorable gentleman means that.
– No. I was merely wondering whether that animal was in your mind.
– I do not desire to attack any one. I want to get the truth.
– The honorable gentleman has occupied a great deal of time in endeavouring to show that the report submitted to me by Sir William Webb does not adequately cover the inquiry. He said also that the report does not deal with matters which ought to have been investigated. He accused the commissioner of having furnished to me as Prime Minister a report based upon an inadequate investigation of the matters referred to him. The honorable member cannot escape that. Otherwise, I do not know why the report could have been challenged. If the report covered the ground, why did the honorable member criticize it? The only ground upon which the honorable gentleman rose to attack the report was because the commissioner did not call Mr. Lang as a witness.
– Be fair !
– The honorable gentleman read a list of witnesses in a letter to the secretary of the parliamentary committee and to the commissioner.
– Not to the commissioner. If the Prime Minister had read the commissioner’s report, he would be aware of that.
– The commissioner waa directed in his terms of reference to pay regard to all the matters which were dealt with by the parliamentary committee. Why did the commissioner not call certain witnesses? The explanation is that before calling them he would have to satisfy himself that they had evidence of substance to give. As all commissioners do, he asked for an outline of the kind of evidence that the witnesses desired to present.
– He sought that information from me. How did I know what the witnesses desired to say?
– I do not think that the honorable member knew what they were going to say. Yet, with a complete ignorance of the nature of their evidence, he now suggests that they should have been called as witnesses.
– They might have been hostile witnesses.
– The honorable member was “ fishing “, looking for whatever would come out of a dirty pool.
– I wanted the truth. It was a dirty pool.
– I have only read the findings of the commissioner and that should dispose of the matter, unless some one can show that the commissioner was incompetent, negligent or careless. I am not prepared to make any of those accusations, and I do not think that any one eke ought to make them. The commissioner said -
I have no evidence warranting any adverse finding. On the contrary, Communications Censorship appears to have been exercised solely for the purpose for which it was introduced, that is, for national security and the successful prosecution of the war.
– What happened to the information after it had left the censorship?
– His Honour said that the communications censorship was being used solely for national security and the successful prosecution of the war. That, of course, is the purpose of censorship, and a censorship which has stood a judicial investigation of the highest quality in the land, and has received a certificate of that nature, need not be feared by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott).
– I seconded the motion formally, and I wish now to make a few remarks on the observations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The right honorable gentleman said that the terms of reference to Sir William Webb were exactly the same as those to the parliamentary committee. That is not so, and every member of the Government who has compared the terms of reference to the two authorities must know it. The terms of reference to Sir “William Webb were silent on the subject of publicity censorship, yet that was one of the matters definitely referred to the parliamentary committee for inquiry, but the committee, in the short time that it sat, did not have time to inquire into that subject.
– There was an inquiry into it.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and I have an ostrich to pick on that subject. I refer now to the method by which the inquiry of the royal commission was conducted. I had some misgivings about this royal commission which I expressed at the time of the announcement of its appointment. I said then that I did not think that any royal commissioner could satisfactorily solve the points at issue, because they were not, so far as he was concerned, questions of the Government versus the Opposition, but were administrative wrongs which had to be put right. I said that I did not think that the royal commissioner would be brave enough to tell the Government how its departments should be administered.
Then there is the subject of witnesses. To my mind one of the most amazing statements in the royal commissioner’s report is his declaration that he had perused . the report of the evidence given before the parliamentary committee. I take it that the only purpose he would have in perusing that evidence would be to gain some knowledge of the work the parliamentary committee had been doing. By reading the evidence the royal commissioner would have discovered that certain members of the parliamentary committee were most anxious- that Mr. J. T. Lang, a rather prominent political figure in New South Wales, should be .called before the committee to give an account of how certain reports came to be published in his weekly newspaper, Century. The royal commissioner did not call Mr. Lang. Nor did he call a lady who wrote to the commission from Melbourne to the effect that she was ready to give evidence in regard to interference with communications. She had received a letter of apology from the department because her mail had been interfered with. But all she received from the royal commissioner concerning her offer to give evidence was an acknowledgment of her letter. She was not called before the commission.
Another matter arose just before the appointment of the royal commissioner, of which I think he should have taken cognizance. I saw a report in the Adelaide press - and I have no doubt similar reports appeared in the press of the other capital cities - to the effect that a gentleman who has recently resigned from the .federal presidency of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Fallon, of Queensland, had made categorical charges, as secretary of the Australian Workers Union, in regard to interferences with the telegraphic, telephonic and mail communications of the union.
I do not know what is behind all this. I do not know why Mr. Lang was not called. I know that certain members of the Cabinet wanted to give evidence before the parliamentary committee, but they were not called. The royal commissioner did not do a number of things that might have been done. I do not know why they were not done. I do not know Sir William Webb, and I am not interested in him; but I am interested in the fact that the terms of reference to him were not the complete terms of reference to the parliamentary committee.
– Has the honorable member read the report on his own stupid allegations?
– I had the honorable member as one of my judges; that is enough. Sir William Webb has not given a complete answer to the complaints that were made. One most important happening during the absence of the Prime Minister abroad, which still requires explanation, is why certain newspapers in Sydney were suppressed by the Minister for Information. The terms of reference to the parliamentary committee placed on that body the responsibility to investigate and report on that subject, but it did not do so. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for New
England- that the sittings of the parliamentary committee were altogether too limited ; and that many witnesses who desired to give evidence before it should have been examined by it. But whatever were the shortcomings of that committee, it arrived ait certain tentative conclusions which were submitted to the Prime Minister on his return from England and promptly adopted by him.
From my point of view, and from the point of view of the Opposition, the present position in relation “to censorship inquiries is unsatisfactory. Our complaints have not been alleviated by the statement just made by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman said that he no longer retained confidence in the members of that committee. That statement, of course, must include all the
II i embers of the committee.
– The honorable member knows that no suspicion attached to himself.
– The Prime Minister’s statement must apply to every member of the committee, so I shall know how to .act in the future. I suppose I have held positions in the government of this country as responsible as those held by any other member of the committee. We all must take the Prime Minister’s statement for what it means, and I, at any rate, will act accordingly in the future. The Government may cloak over the censorship deficiencies as much as it likes, but the fact remains that in the minds of the general public, as well as members of the Opposition, the report of Sir William Webb contains no worth-while findings. The only definite conclusions have been those of the parliamentary committee and these, as I have said before in this chamber, were reached in a non-party atmosphere. At no time in the deliberations of the committee was there any sign of party bias. The committee endeavoured to right what, after all, was an administrative wrong, and political considerations never obtruded into its discussions. In my view, the present situation is unsatisfactory. The honorable member for New England has given very good reasons a? to why the matter should not he allowed to rest where it is. However, the Opposition recognizes that it has a numerically inferior force in this House, and that the big ‘battalions are on the other side; even though the government ranks ‘contain some very little men, nevertheless their votes count equally with those of some of the larger men on this side of the House.
I cannot understand the Gazette containing the so-called settlement - the great surrender, I call it - of the Curtin Government and the Sydney press. It is not a National Security Regulation, but an order made under a National Security Regulation.; consequently, I do ‘not know whether or not I am entitled to debate it. In my opinion, the matter badly meeds ventilating in -this chamber. I regret that the terms of reference to the royal commissioner varied so greatly from the terms of reference to the parliamentary committee that the commissioner was not entitled to pay any attention- to the very important matter of publicity censorship.
, and even he did not dissent from it.
– I refused to sign it.
– The honorable gentleman considered that it was premature to issue it, but he did not dissent from it. I .believe that every member of the committee endeavoured to clear up the position in relation to .censorship. Admittedly, there was some delay before it began to function. Originally, another Minister was appointed to act as chairman, and subsequently I was appointed to that position. The interim report, which is embodied in the report of Mr. Justice Webb, is a valuable document. Because of the situation that arose, the committee could not continue to function. At the outset, it was proposed that its proceedings should be in camera, because inquiry into censorship necessarily involved a good deal of- deferred security. Then, the committee decided that a statement should be issued to the press, giving a summary of the proceedings which could be revealed to the public without injuring security. The secretary of the committee issued that statement from day to day. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for New England has pointed out, that incidentally those narratives contained references to matters which, through the censorship, reached one or another Commonwealth department. But at the end, an entirely different situation arose. Colonel Ettelson, the Chief Post and Tele-‘ graph Censor, whose evidence received the endorsement and approval of Mr. Justice Webb, produced for the information of the committee a list of subjectmatters in respect of which information could pass from the censorship to various war departments. That was a very long document, and my recollection is that, although it was not a War Cabinet agendum, it was a supplement to one.
– No ; the right honorable gentleman said that it had nothing to do with War Cabinet.
– It was an attachment and, therefore, was highly secret.
– It was not marked “ secret “’.
– At a certain stage in the proceedings, members of the committee asked for copies of the document, and it was furnished to all of them. It dealt with matters which obviously were important from a security stand-point, as well as with matters that were debatable, such as those which the honorable member has illustrated. There were certain matters which appeared to be not directly related to the war, but the main body of the document certainly affected matters that are of great importance to the war ; for example, it would be of great importance to the Munitions Department to have information concerning developments in connexion with explosives, a subject which was included in that list. It also contained references to new chemicals, which are intimately related to the successful prosecution of the war. The honorable member for New England will know that many of these correspond to the subject-matters which in England are obtained from censorship by the corresponding war department.
– The right honorable gentleman will recall the statement printed on the top of the document that it did not apply to . anything that was concerned with the Departments of the Navy, the Army and Air:
– It did not deal expressly with the Departments of the Navy, the Army and Air. The prosecution of the war is not confined to those departments, but concerns also the Munitions Department and other departments. The honorable member accedes to my point. The great bulk of this long document consisted of matters of knowledge of which would be valuable to a person who was endeavouring to convey information illicitly and contrary to the -war effort. If a person were minded to tell of some war development in relation to a matter that was included in this document, he would know from the publication of the exhibit that it was a dangerous thing for him to do. The revelation in the press of everything which that lengthy document contained, not merely the incidental extracts that were necessary for the examination of witnesses, was really inimical to the country. I have no doubt that it must have been supplied by a member of the committee, because only the secretary and the members of the committee were in possession of it.
– And hundreds of censors.
– Not hundreds of censors’. The Chief Censor would have it.
– And every liaison officer.
– As there were a dozen or fifteen departments concerned, the liaison officer between censorship and a department would know what the list contained in relation to his department; but h& would not be acquainted with what might be called the consolidated list of subjects in relation to the war effort, about which the War Department desired to be informed. The point is, that the information was revealed. I am stating facts, not criticizing. I have no doubt that it was revealed to the press out of a sense of duty. Nevertheless, it was wrongfully revealed, and the action went far beyond what the committee had authorized. On that, it. seemed to me, as chairman, that the committee could not usefully function further. A committee of this kind, representing all parties, could hardly deal with the subjectmatter if an exhibit ‘tendered to it - which, because of its very nature, was of a secret character - were revealed for general information, for the guidance of loyal persons as well as those who were not loyal, with possible damage to the country. At that stage, the matter was reported to the Prime Minister. He consulted the leaders of the different parties, and it was considered right in all the circumstances that the committee should cease to function. Nobody regretted this unsatisfactory ending. I believed that the committee had done useful wark, and tha.t it could complete the inquiry quickly.
– It had not previously shown much evidence of speed.
– I admit that. It was unfortunate that four members of the committee were busy Ministers. I did my best, as chairman. I never missed a sitting.
– The right honorable gentleman was present on every occasion.
– I believe that we did a good job in our interim report, which the Prime Minister ordered ito be implemented. ‘Our work has now been completed by a judicial authority. I say with respect that the criticism of the honorable member is minor in character. Let us suppose that one or other witness might have been called. In connexion with the witness Hughes, we do not know what matter was supplied to the commissioner. It may have been irrelevant to the subject-matter of the inquiry. If he said that he had 21 witnesses to support his statement, the suspicion is raised that perhaps it did not have very much to do with the functions of this particular censorship inquiry, and might have referred to publicity censorship. In all that it did up to the interim report, the committee worked well. I had hoped that the proceedings could be completed at the week-end before Mr. Justice Webb was appointed ; but the honorable member for New England then came forward with a very long list of witnesses, and it did not look as though the committee could continue to function. The revelation of the exhibit in the press before the final report really made it essential that the Prime Minister should act as he did.
Accordingly Mr. Justice Webb was appointed to complete the work, and I now agree that his report should be printed.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has already referred to a great weakness that has been revealed in the appointment of a commissioner to deal with this important matter. From time to time, the Parliament and governments appoint royal commissioners to investigate matters which are in some doubt or are in dispute. The prime purpose of a royal commissioner, however, is to make a finding of fact, to resolve upon evidence, as does a judge in cases which come before him in a court of justice, and to endeavour to enlighten those who have the responsibility of determining policy, as to facts which may be in dispute. The Parliament was, of course, interested in the facts of this matter; but it was even more directly interested in the policy that was to be applied once the facts had been elicited. That is where the shortcomings of the terms of reference to the royal commission were first revealed. Had the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) not raised the matter this afternoon, the Parliament would not have had an opportunity to express its views on the policy which should emanate from the facts disclosed by the royal commissioner. The matter is not one which the Parliament can afford- to treat lightly. It is important to every citizen in this country. The censorship, which is applied for war-time purposes, is necessarily an invasion of the most fundamental private rights of every citizen. In the past, governments have taken the view that the censorship should not go beyond what may be properly regarded as the necessities of a country at war. The sole reasonable and proper test is the security of the country. In my opinion, those who first ventilated these matters in the Parliament have done a service to the nation because, obviously, in the course of the inquiries there have been revealed practices the knowledge of which has come as a shock to most honorable members. It is easy for officers in a government department, when invited to indicate to the censorship authorities matters in which they are likely to be interested, to give a very wide charter. However, I do not think that the Prime Minister, or any other member of this House, would approve of the list of matters which the censorship authorities were authorized to extract from the mails and circulate to the government departments, having regard to the possibility that some of the information might be used in a negligent or improper way.
– The Prime Minister acted upon the interim report of the parliamentary committee which recommended that the list should be revised.
– That bears out my statement that the inquiry has served a useful purpose. The principal objection raised by honorable members has been met, but the Attorney-General’s use of the term “interim report” indicates the weakness of the Government’s position. The committee itself recognized that it had not completed its investigation, and that it might have other recommendations to make after it had heard further evidence, but the committee was not allowed to pursue its investigations. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) pointed out, the highly important matter of publicity censorship has, so far, not been investigated at all.
– Why was that not included in Mr. Justice Webb’s terms of reference?
– The Prime Minister has not told us. There has been no investigation of the extraordinary action of the Government, or of one of its Ministers, in suppressing the Sydney newspapers on political grounds which had nothing whatever to do with security. That is a matter which could well be examined by the Parliament, but it has not been done.
One of the really damaging effects of censorship practices has been that on the minds of individual citizens, including those engaged in commercial undertakings. It was my experience, when serving on one of the parliamentary committees, to find that the representatives of business firms were most reluctant to disclose information that would have been of value to ‘ the community, because they feared that it might be spread through government departments, and that they would lay themselves open to victimization. That is a most unhealthy state of mind on the part of the public. Whether there is justification for the existence of that state of mind, I am not in a position to argue, but I know that it exists.
– The practices to which the honorable member objects were begun by the government which he supported.
– I am not here to justify the past or the present. If we discover the existence of abuses it is our duty to correct them, whether they happen to be our own responsibility or the responsibility of those who succeeded us. There is no certainty that all the relevant facts in. connexion with censorship have been disclosed. Abuses may be persisting which could and should be removed. The public mind will be set at rest only when the people are satisfied that Parliament has properly investigated all alleged abuses connected with censorship. I now invite the Prime Minister to have investigated all charges that censorship is being used for purposes not connected with national security.
Only within the last week or two there was brought to my notice the case of a man who made a business trip from Melbourne to Sydney, where he stayed at the Hotel Australia. He is an optician by occupation, and after he arrived in Sydney his firm sent to him a package containing a pair of spectacles. When he received it, the package was endorsed, “ Opened by Censor “. A little later he received a letter from Melbourne, also addressed to the Hotel Australia, and the envelope of this letter was also endorsed, “ Opened by Censor “. Curiously enough, the envelope contained only a letter from the Minister for Trade and Customs’ addressed to him at his Melbourne office. It had been opened at the office, and the people there, knowing that he was anxious to receive this departmental communication, sent it on to him. There may be some justification for the opening of the parcel and the letter, but I cannot imagine what it could be. Incidents of this kind have a disturbing effect on the minds of honorable members, on members of the business community, and on the public generally. One abuse has already been corrected as the direct result of the complaints made in this House, namely, the use of information extracted from the letters of servicemen as the basis for prosecutions. One cannot emphasize too strongly that, in ordinary circumstances, citizens are entitled to privacy in connexion with their correspondence. Only considerations of national security can justify the Government in departing from this principle. The Government should impress upon departmental officials that in this respect the public enjoys rights which should be respected as far as possible.
– I do not propose to add anything to the discussion on the report of His Honour the Chief Justice of Queensland. That matter has been pretty fully canvassed already. However, I think that, before the debate concludes, it is desirable to say a word regarding the other report which is the subject of this motion - the report of Mr. Justice Clyne upon certain allegations made by Mr. Hannan, the Crown Solicitor of South Australia. I take second place to no one in observing the respect due to members of the judiciary, but no report of a royal commission is excluded from the area of discussion once it has been laid before this Parliament. I confess that the report of Mr. Justice Clyne strikes me as in some ways a curious one. Mr. Hannan made some allegations. Insofar as they amounted to a charge that there had been improper interception of his correspondence, the commissioner has made his report, and I do not propose to discuss it. I do not suppose that, on the evidence before him, it would have been possible for him to find positively that there had been improper interception; but that does not dispose of the real matter at issue. Mr. Hannan gave evidence, which, so far as I can judge, was accepted by the commissioner. At any rate, there was no finding to the contrary. Mr. Hannan stated that, while he was in Canberra at the Constitution Convention, he wrote and posted in this House certain letters to people in Adelaide on days between the 24th and the 29th November. He then returned to Adelaide on the 4th December, and after his return, he spoke to several people to whom he had written - his wife, his daughter, Mr. Abbott, a well-known lawyer and now Attorney-General of South Australia, Mr. Ward, and others - and from each he learned that the letter written to that particular addressee had not arrived. Over a period of a few days after his return to Adelaide, these letters were delivered in due course of post to his wife, to his daughter, to Mr. Abbott, and the other addressees.
– Was there any corroboration that the letters were posted?
– There is Mr. Hannan’s evidence.
– But was there any other evidence?
– If you mean, was there evidence from any one who saw him post the letters, then the answer is “ No “, but he gave evidence himself that he had posted the letters, and the commissioner did not find to the contrary. Indeed, had the commissioner come to the conclusion that Mr. Hannan did not post the letters, then he must have found that the whole basis of his story was false, and his ultimate finding would have been very different.
– Mr. Hannan did not keep the envelopes?
– When one puts letters into the post it is not the practice to keep the envelopes. I always put the envelopes in with the letters, but that, of course, is just an individual idiosyncrasy. There is sworn evidence by Mr. Hannan that he wrote and posted the letters.
– Unsupported and uncorroborated evidence.
– Of course, when the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) makes ‘a statement, it needs to be supported and corroborated, but that does not apply to a gentleman like Mr. Hannan. The position is that the commissioner either accepted Mr. Hannan’s evidence or he did not. If he did not accept it he would not have thought proper when referring to Mr. Hannan’s allegations, to include the following in his finding : -
I believe that these statements were not purposely untrue.
The commissioner’s finding amounted, in effect, to a statement that the inferences winch Mr. Hannan drew from the facts were extravagant and unwarranted. In that regard, I accept what the learned judge said. He was the judge, and it i? his decision that matters. The fact still remains that letters which were posted in Canberra, according to evidence which was not disbelieved, were in some way delayed, either in the post office, in this building, or somewhere else, for a period far exceeding the normal course of mails. Consequently, the finding amounts to this: that, having heard a number ‘of witnesses from the post office, official people, the learned judge finds that. that could not have happened which did, in fact, happen, which is a curious finding to say , 11he least of it.
– When a man writes four or five letters to certain people on a given subject, and not any reach those to whom they are posted, and other people at. that same time write letters addressed to people all over Australia, and the addressees do get them, I rather think that, Mr. Hannan left his letters in his pocket or did something like that.
– What a shame the Prime Minister was not the royal commissioner, because, of course, if, he had been the report would have been different. He has just indicated what the report would have been. But Mr. Justice Clyne does not say that that happened. Mr. Justice Clyne took evidence from Mr. Hannan, Mr. Charles Abbott, and Mrs. Hannan, and a number of other perfectly reputable people. The facts were deposed to. Am I now asked to believe that Mr. Hannan addressed a letter to Mr. Charles Abbott from Canberra, and then went home and later said to himself, “By jove! I did not post that letter to Charlie Abbott. I had better nip it into the post-box to-night “. Is that what is suggested?
– No; but there is a simple explanation, I should imagine, of what happened. He complained of something which no other man attending the Constitution Convention had any reason to suggest.
– Exactly. That is the whole significance of it. J direct attention to the fact that, according to this report, Mr. Justice Clyne received evidence establishing a substantial delay in the delivery of letters, whereas evidence was given by officials that such delay could not have occurred.
– If the letters had been posted.
– Yes, if the letters had been posted, and the learned .judge makes no comment whatever that they were not posted. I begin to think that this report is what is called in the coroner’s court an open verdict.- I call the attention of the public to the fact that an open verdict has been returned in this case.
There is a second comment which I want to make, not so much on the report as on one matter alluded to in it, because it turns out that, in the course of the evidence given to the royal commissioner, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, said that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had telephoned to him about the agitation in South Australia against the proposed extension of the Commonwealth powers, and about the money to be spent on the campaign. Mr. Playford deposed that the Attorney-General had said that he would find out where the money came from and who had supplied it. Mr. Playford told Mr. Hannan of this conversation. That piece of evidence was given by Mr. Playford and, as fiar .as I am aware, was uncontradicted. That evidence was given by him on Monday, the 24th July last, and it referred to a conversation which took place early in 1942.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House what time elapsed before Mr. Hannan asked for the inquiry ?
– It was a long time. I am not discussing that. Mr. Hannan laid himself open to the most severe comment for not- having made his complaint earlier. The royal commissioner deals with that and makes a strong point of it. I think it is a very powerful criticism, but I am not here to discuss that. -I am referring to the piece of evidence given before the royal commissioner by Mr. Playford.
– Was that conversation tapped ?
– No; this was by word of mouth.
– Was it?
– It was a face to face conversation between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the Premier of South Australia.
– That is correct. I suppose we had twenty conversations about that time.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral remember this one?
– I remember the substance of it.
– And, I have no doubt, that the substance was what Mr. Playford said.
– Yes. But it was in no way linked with the Hannan matter.
– I see. The learned judge did not report on it, because he rightly ruled that a finding on that fact was not material to the charges made by Mr. Hannan. I am interested to have the admission from the Attorney-General that the substance of what Mr. Playford said is true. The substance of that being true, we have in this document a reference to something infinitely more important than the question of whether Mr. Hannan’s letters were delayed. We have an indication by the chief law officer of the Crown in the Commonwealth that by some means information is available to him to show how private citizens spend their money. He offers the threat that, if private citizens dare to spend their money on opposing the ideas of this Government, their affairs shall be investigated, and their private .financial transactions disclosed. They are subjected to all the threats in the world.
– We all know where the “ crooked “ money came from.
– I should hate to know anything about crooked money compared with the Minister for Information.
– The right honorable gentleman arranged the spending of that money.
– But that I should be out of order I should like to put a few questions to the honorable gentleman on that matter. I make few bets, but I would wager that any evidence which the honorable gentleman gave would be disbelieved.
.- As I asked questions on the 23rd February this year about the operation of the censorship, I am particularly interested in the report of Sir William Webb. I do not challenge the integrity and ability of the learned judge, but I do challenge the field which he covered. If it was not intended that he should cover all the items of censorship which have been mentioned in this House, why was the royal commission created? I propose to examine the decisions reached by the learned judge. He set out in his report the witnesses whom he called to give evidence in respect of the general position. I have the privilege of being acquainted with a document which went before the War Cabinet and the Advisory Council. It is not my purpose or intention to reveal any portion of the contents of that document, but the Prime Minister knows that there are many fields of censorship which I oppose as being unnecessary in the interests of security in this country.
– The honorable gentleman himself authorized the first disclosure made of information gained in the course of censorship.
– Yes. The honorable gentleman is one of the Ministers who have tried to close my mouth by reminding me that I was responsible, as I have admitted publicly, for the original instruction that any disclosure made in the course of censorship of any defalcation or fraud upon the revenue should be made available to the Treasury.
– That was done at the request of the Premiers of; the States.
– Yes. There is no need for me to justify that. I direct the attention of honorable members to the conclusions reached by Sir William Webb. They are not findings of fact at all. He has, in effect, merely given his views. First he said -
Communications censorship appears to have been exercised solely for the purposes for which it was introduced, that is, for national security and the successful prosecution of the war.
He seems to assume that because in the War Booie there were instructions as to what to do and because similar instructions had been carried out in England they were, therefore, defensible in this country. I thing that is a complete non sequitur.
At any rate, I would resist very much all the practices impliedly upheld by the commissioner. Secondly, he said something which none of us would dispute - The evidence satisfies me that the censorship officers and liaison officers are carefully selected and are capable and trustworthy, and that the methods employed are sound and efficient- but then he went on to add - and not likely to result in leakages or improper disclosures of information.
I agree with the first part, but I am not prepared to accept, on the mere say-so of the judge, that the methods are not likely to result in leakages when there was not sufficient evidence before him to justifiy such a conclusion. Thirdly, he said -
From the evidence it is clear that the defence security or other Commonwealth authorities do not intercept communications by post, telegraph or telephone except through the censorship authorities, who in any case require reasons.
That in itself carries the matter no further. I know that the learned judge’s fourth conclusion is wrong. I say that without hesitation, because his conclusion, as it reads, must be wrong on the information that I and other honorable members have. He said -
There is no general scrutiny or observation of inland mails, telegrams or telephone conversations. Communications to and from persons listed as suspected of espionage, sabotage or other subversive activity are subject to scrutiny or observation.
That, if words mean anything, can only mean that there is no general scrutiny and that there is only specific scrutiny in certain cases which he has set forth. On the 6th July, before the royal commissioner had started his inquiry, I sent to the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) a letter enclosing two letters which were internal communications, and which were shown to have been opened by the censor. I ask then, and I have asked since, why they were opened. I have not had a reply. That is only one instance. I resist any interference with private mail, except for very limited purposes. If it is true that inland mail can be interfered with only if it is to or from persons suspected of espionage, sabotage or other subversive activities, I want to know how it is that a firm which I know does not come within those categories should have had its mail interfered with. What is the use of such a conclusion? I want to know why the Minister or his officers did not bring before the commissioner my complaint about those letters.
On the 23rd February, I asked a series of questions dealing with censorship. After some time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) replied to the effect that since all matters affecting censorship were being referred to a parliamentary committee, that committee could deal with them. I would not now question that answer, if the parliamentary committee or the royal commissioner had dealt with these matters. But they did not. I want findings of fact, not conclusions. My first question was -
Is it a fact that copies of correspondence passing between Australia and overseas, especially between Australian firms and their principals abroad, are being made available by the Censor’s Department to other departments, including Ministers?
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
– I desire to inform honorable members that, consequent upon the departure from Australia of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, Lord Gowrie, His Excellency, Sir Winston Dugan was sworn in on the 5th September, 1944, as the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 578), on motion by Mr. CHIFLEY -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,480 “, be agreed to.
– The task of addressing oneself to the budget this year is not easy, because the budget itself contains very few new features. After all, the main outlines of war finance have been fairly well settled in the last few years, and in my own speeches I have had more than one opportunity to state with some care and fullness my views on these problems. That is true of most honorable members. This time, I desire to rmake some comments on particular aspects of the budget and then to offer some general views on an economic problem, which stands to some extent outside the budget though naturally it is affected by it.
The first comment that I make in relation to the Treasurer’s speech is based upon his reference to man-power and to the increased demand for supplies of all kinds, particularly food. It is not a part of my function to repeat what has been said on the food problem in the last twelve months by many of my colleagues representing country constituencies; but it is quite clear that we are not exporting to Great Britain anything like the quantity of food th at Ave should be. Indeed, that statement is not seriously denied.
– The position is due mainly to climatic conditions.
– I say that the fact is not seriously denied, but there is some difference of opinion, perhaps, when the reasons for it are examined. I would have thought that the reason for it was not mainly shipping, as we have sometimes been told, but predominantly productive man-power in the country industries.
– It is not.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) declares that climatic conditions were responsible for the decline of exports to Great Britain. In certain industries, that factor could have a very big effect indeed. But viewing Australian production as a whole during the last three years, I consider that beyond question the great factor in the inadequate export of foodstuffs to Great Britain is the shortage of productive man-power: That at once gives rise to the need for a drastic reconsideration of our Army position and munitions production. I include in “ munitions “ the general military supply position. Unfortunately, neither of those matters can bc discussed, except in the most general terms, in public debate. The moment we begin to discuss the Army position, it becomes necessary to find out, if possible, how many Australian troops are really designed for fighting overseas in view of the altered war situation, and how many are being retained in Australia for home defence against the local danger which, by now, must be so diminished as to be almost non-existent. I do not propose to invite the Minister for the Army (Mr.
Forde) to discuss that matter in public, because I know that he is not able to do so and I do not desire to embarrass him. That subject would involve a consideration of plans entertained by the High Command, and of the total number of men in uniform, the work that they are performing, and the need for the particular job that they are doing in some particular place. Similar considerations apply to an examination of the munitions and supply position. I have very little affection for secret meetings of Parliament. In the past, my general instinct has been to resist them. But because we shall never, as members of this House, be in a position fully to discuss man-power until we know more than we do about the military, supply and munitions position, the Prime Minister ought to consider whether the two matters should be made the subject of exhaustive exposition and discussion at a secret meeting of the Parliament.
– Has not the right honorable gentleman access to all that information as a member of the Advisory “War Council?
– I have not. Why refer to far-off forgotten things?
– The Leader of the Opposition would not require the secret meeting to be limited to those two subjects?
– No; I am naming two subjects which appear to me, speaking purely for myself, to be in need of authoritative discussion on a basis of fact. I say that, not in a critical spirit, but because there is a wide-spread feeling throughout the country that we have too many men in certain sections of the Army and that some of our munitions establishments are kept going, not because of an urgent demand for the materials that they are making, but for some other reason. So far as that kind of criticism finds an echo in the minds of honorable members, it can be answered in only one way. The Government should say, “ Very well, we shall give to you, as members of this House occupying responsible positions, the facts. If you believe that these facts answer the criticisms, well and good. If you do not, we are prepared to listen to your suggestions “. So, for once in a while, I find myself in favour of a secret meeting of the House.
Every year, when delivering his budget speech, the Treasurer states the case against inflation. He puts it very well, and in terms with which we are now quite familiar. But it is greatly to be feared that many of his subordinates in die Administration of Australia continue even more effectively to destroy it. Inflation in this country, or any other country, is not to be checked merely by a pious explanation in the budget speech. For the financial year ended the 30th June last, loan moneys raised from the public have been surprisingly high. Again endeavouring to state my own mind on the matter, I was pleasantly surprised at the end of the financial year, at the total that had been raised by public subscription. It was a tremendous task, and it was accomplished. T offer my congratulations to every one concerned in the performance of that, task, including myself, because I addressed many meetings on behalf of the various loans. But whilst the totals have been good, the spread of subscribers is still quite inadequate Too few people are taking their share of the responsibility for the raising of war loans in Australia. As the Treasurer said, taxation is, broadly, at its maximum. Because of the larger loan raising, recourse to bank credit in the last financial year was very considerably less than it was in the previous year, but the Treasurer has warned us - and I hope that his warning will be observed by every one and not, only by honorable members of this side of the House - that the volume of subscriptions to war loans during the last twelve months was larger by reason of certain extraordinary circumstances that might not recur. Therefore, in this financial year, we are in real danger of making a recourse to central bank credit bigger than in the last financial year. Consequently, the Treasurer must feel, and indeed that feeling expresses itself in almost every line of this budget, that the growing danger to the currency and to our economic stability of this large unfunded mass of short-term debt cannot be overlooked. It amounts to hundreds pf millions of pounds, to which between £80,000,000 and £100,000,000 may be added during this financial year. The effect is cumulative.
– We shall write it off one day.
–Is that the idea? The honorable member had better not say that to the Treasurer.
– The statement will not bo very helpful iri raising loans in future.
– The Treasurer-, to use a homely phrase, “won’t have a bar of that “. He went to great trouble in his budget speech to explain that we must reduce our demands upon the central bank. But if the Government Whip was right in saying that what is borrowed from the central bank will some day be written off, 1 suppose the more you can get from it the better it will be!
– Make him Commonwealth TreaMirer !
– Either Treasurer or preliminary liquidator in bankruptcy. In the long nin, it may be the same thing. Most honorable members agree that for some time after hostilities cease Australia will continue to have some measure of price control and rationing.
– How will that control be attained?
– There will be no difficulty.
Ml’. Clark, - How will the control be operated ?
– Put me in office and I shall undertake the task -to-morrow. Nothing could be fairer than that. Price control and rationing are two controls which will continue to operate to a greater or lesser degree after the cessation of hostilities. Therefore, we shall have in Australia a high level of taxation, price control, rationing, a continued high level of public borrowing, and a certain amount of recourse to the central bank for credit. But to put it in that form is perhaps to simplify the problem too much. What I fear is the disposition among people to say, “If you use a lot. of central bank credit, it does not matter if you go beyond the limit of prudence, wherever that may be, so long as you have a price ceiling and a rationing of goods imposed bylaw “. It is a great fallacy to assume that d linger or damage from inflation can be completely averted simply by the artificial control of prices and supply of goods. The truth is that we cannot prevent inflation by these means; we can merely conceal it. I have no doubt that the Treasurer had all this in his mind when he said that we must reduce, as far as possible, our demands on the central bank. But how can we do it except by reducing, by pruning, by checking and by scrutinizing expenditure in Australia ? I cannot find, nor do I believe that any one can find, the truth about our spending at present; but by remote hearsay we all are given reason to fear that we are not obtaining value for a great deal of the money that is being spent. I confess that I have been a little disappointed at the results of various parliamentary investigations on this subject, but if any truth is to be ascertained from the summing up of the many thousands of individual experiences that are being recounted in Australia at present, we must assume that we are wasting millions of pounds. The more millions we waste, the more millions we shall have to obtain from the central bank. It is the waste of millions that brings about inflation. Even high taxation, high borrowings from the public, and economic checks and balances, all designed to bring about stability, will fail in their object unless the expenditure of public money is regarded as something which involves real responsibility and a real sense of trust. I am afraid that there is a disposition among a section of the people engaged in spending public money in Australia, to adopt the attitude that, while the war is on and money is cheap, those qualities do not matter. All the protesting of Treasurers and responsible Ministers against undue spending will probably have very little effect unless the point of view of those people can be changed. It is symptomatic of the new economics that have afflicted us like a plague that I have recently received a letter from an extremely well-informed friend in London in which he says that some members of the House of Commons are actually so bemused by these new theories as to believe that exports from Great Britain do not matter. So they say, “ Why bother about exports? We have discovered that only monetary measures matter. We can get as much credit as we want to maintain whatever standard of. living we like “. That is to ignore the elementary truth that standards of living depend on the production and distribution of wealth, and do not depend upon any piece of machinery which may be supposed to produce money. The standard of living in Great Britain will fall irretrievably unless British exports can be kept up.
– That was not so in the depression period.
– I hope that the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) is not denying my proposition?
– During the depression period many thousands of people in Australia were starving in this country in the midst of plenty.
– Although the Minister is disposed to deny anything that I may say, I hope that he does not deny that the standard of living in Great Britain is positively associated with British exports.
– People in Australia starved in the midst of plenty during the depression period.
– I have heard that before. The trouble about the Minister is that he is never too clear in his mind about the second step that has to be taken. He says it is very undesirable that, in a world of plenty, there should be poverty. That is quite true. But when the honorable gentleman is asked how he is going to prevent poverty, he merely says something about the creation of money. I am emphasizing, and I believe that the Treasurer, as a responsible financier in this country, agrees with me, that in the long run the standard of living does not depend upon monetary measures. There is a great danger of exaggerating monetary measures into a prime cause of disaster or a prime instrument of recovery, whereas, in fact, they are subordinate. The important consideration in the maintenance of standards of living is the production of wealth, and the bringing of a share of that wealth to the ordinary people of the country. 1 turn now to a subject which the Treasurer discussed in the budget under the heading “ Mutual Aid “. I wish to make a comment upon it which, probably, neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer could make. In fact, I have given, some thought to whether or not I should make the comment, but I have decided to do so. At present, certain people in the United States of America, and two or three who are members of the United States Senate, seem to think it proper to try to set up as a cause of difference between the United States of America and ourselves and other British peoples and our Allies, a contention that all the burdens of the world are being transferred to’ the shoulders of the United States of America. This disposition is limited to a minority of people whose views are being sponsored by a section of* the American press. The attitude adopted by these individuals is that America is carrying far more of the world’s burden than it should carry, and far more than the people of Great Britain or Australia, or of some ofl the Allied Nations, are carrying. If this contention is to be answered by facts of which we are aware, it can be done by simple inference. Under the heading “ Mutual Aid “ the Treasurer said -
It is contrary to the conception of mutual aid as a common pooling of resources by nations that any monetary comparisons of aid received and given should be made.
That is true, but at the same time certain facts should be borne in mind. The Treasurer pointed out that the value of American’ lend-lease to Australia up to the 31st December, 1943, was 741,000,000 dollars which, converted at the current exchange rate, is approximately £A.&28,000,000. I propose now to refer to certain figures which the Treasurer probably could not state. Reciprocal aid provided by Australia for United States forces was valued, in 1943-44, at £110,000,000. The corresponding figure for the previous year was £59,000,000. The estimate for the current year is £110,000,000. Thus, for the three years that I have quoted, the figure that must be set against the American total of lend-lease aid to Australia, which is £A.228,000,000, is £279,000,000. In this connexion, I direct attention to the well-known fact that the American calculation in respect of aid to Australia is not necessarily based on cost, whereas the Australian calculation of aid to America is commonly based on cost. I may, therefore, be justified in saying that Australian reciprocal mutual aid to America is -greater in money terms than American reciprocal aid to Australia. At any rate, I can say definitely that the figures are not substantially different. In other words, this country, speaking in broad terms, has provided as much reciprocal mutual aid for America as America has provided for Australia. I offer no criticism on this score. I do not believe that the advantages that countries get from mutual aid of this description in a time of war can be expressed in monetary terms. Further, I would be the last person to seek to write down the value of any thing that the United States of America has done for Australia or for the world in thi3 war, because I believe that America has played a vital role in the delivery of the world. No one could believe more firmly than I do that the closest possible association is desirable, in the days to come, between the people of the United States of America, and the people of Australia and other British countries; but if certain mischievous persons are disposed to try to indicate to the world that we are leaning unduly upon the United States ofl America, I say that the answer is to be found in the figures that I have given. We have not leaned unduly, in any financial sense, upon the United States of America. I believe that, if consideration be given to any aspect of participation in this war, we are entitled to say, in the presence of any nation, that we have stood upon our own feet. No one in America can say truthfully that we have not done our share in this fight. I have referred to this subject somewhat reluctantly, because the last thing in the world that we should encourage is argument upon these issues. We should not be talking about who is winning the war or who is doing the real job, and I would not have touched upon it had it not been for the fact that certain tiresome and mischievous persons in the United States of America have been endeavouring to distort and misrepresent the position. I refer to the matter also, at this stage, because I consider that it could more easily be discussed, by a person of responsibility in opposition in this Blouse, as I am, than by a responsible Minister in the Government.
The next subject to which I shall refer briefly is expenditure from the public funds on the recent referendum. I find no mention of> the subject in the budget. I shall not discuss it at any length at this juncture as one point in a long speech on many subjects, because I can deal with it more adequately when the appropriate stage is reached in the consideration of the Estimates, but the Prime Minister knows that a big issue must be thrashed out when this subject comes up for debate. “Without question, very large sums of public money were expended by the Treasurer in propaganda favouring a “ Yes “ vote. Before we can begin to discuss this issue usefully, however, the committee is entitled to the facts, and I, therefore, invite the Prime Minister to inform honorable members of the details of expenditure in this connexion before the appropriate item of the Estimates is called on. I notice that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a valiant effort the other day - on which I compliment him - to create a diversion by saying, “ Let us have an inquiry into cbe expenditure of private moneys in connexion with the referendum campaign “. I do not need to say to the Prime Minister or to the Treasurer that there can be no comparison between - the expenditure of private moneys by a private citizen, as to which there is no right of public inquiry unless it is seriously said that the law has been broken, and the public expenditure of public moneys, as to which citizens always have a complete right of investigation and report.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that the shareholders of a public company have ‘the light to know how the funds of the company have been expended?
– They have. I hope that the honorable member knows that. Surely I do not need to give counsel’s opinion to my learned friend, to the effect that the shareholders of a public company can quite readily obtain such information if they so desire.
The next matter to which I shall refer is conspicuous by its absence from the budget speech. The Government has recently announced the appointment of a Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I approve of the appointment of such a commission; it is palpably quite right. T do not desire to discuss its personnel or ii« method of working - we may have another opportunity to do that - but clearly it is going to handle over the next few years a large quantity of goods and a very large sum of money. One would have assumed that during .the twelve months of the financial year that has begun, some moneys would be received by the commission, yet I see no reference to it in the budget. I invite the Treasurer, at a very early opportunity, to give to the House, in circumstances that will enable the matter to be discussed, some information a.s to the estimated value of the stocks that are to be realized, if that can be stated in round terms; the amount which he expects to get in, year by year; and the purposes to which he proposes to apply the money that comes in. I emphasize that last factor. I recognize that it is not a. ma<tter that can be disposed of out of hand. No doubt, it presents difficulties, and we can all speculate as to what we might or might not do with the money. But it is not a matter to which this House can usefully direct attention until it has an approximate idea of the nature and quantity of the goods involved, the estimated annual return, and the proposal of the Government in relation to that return.
– It could only be an estimate.
– I realize that in all these matters the honorable gentleman chu speak only in the most general terms of estimates. I merely invite him to take an early opportunity to make a statement on the matter. I should like it to be made during the present debate.
– Any estimate would be governed by the date on which the war ended, because that would determine the quantity of goods to be disposed of.
– I agree. At the same time, whatever the quantity may turn out to be, and whatever may be the income from year to year, at least we are entitled to know, when we are considering the general finances of the country, how it is proposed to deal with the proceeds.
The budget speech mentions the suggestion that a parliamentary committee should be set up to investigate the matter of extra recognition for the armed services. Those on whose behalf I speak will most willingly be represented on a parliamentary committee of that kind. I ndeed, it seems desirable that, if possible, what we all wish to do should not be made a matter of competition between contending interests. It would be far better if we members of Parliament, who all are anxious to be generous in paying recognition to the armed services, were to sit down together and agree as to what should be done.
– It sounds to me as though the budget is a good one.
– Like the curate’s egg, it is good in parts. Judging by the nods which I have had from the Treasurer, the best parts are those which he did not say and I have said for him. Indeed, if we continue in this strain much longer we shall be in such a recipro- p.il mood that revolutionary happenings in this Parliament may be visualized.
– We might even reach the stage of mutual aid.
– I am the last person to complain of lack of assistance from the treasury bench; I always get it in full measure.
I turn from that subject to say something about the general post-war economic problem. Here, perhaps, I differ from some of the views that have been expressed on the Government side of the House. In the recent referendum campaign, there was, I considered, a good deal of calamity-howling on the subject of the depression and mass unemployment that were to come upon us when the war was over. Talk at this stage of depression and an immediate unemployment problem after the war is foolish, because the facts have an opposite tendency. We ‘shall have more and more accumulated shortages of civil goods; for example, clothing, household linen, and all the other things which go to make up such a large part of normal annual expenditure. Deferred expenditure of a civil kind, on repairs of homes and property and the maintenance of farms and factory plant, is literally being banked up to-day for the post-war period, and for some time there will be a record demand for goods from our own people, which in the normal course is bound to produce something like record employment; subject, of course, to tem porary dislocations as people are moved from one occupation to another. So I should have thought that our problem was much more likely to be a shortage rather than an excess of man-power for some time, not only during but also after the war. If that is so - and I believe that it is unanswerably so - then the real problem that we face in regard to the period immediately after the war, is that of inflation and not of deflation. Circumstances of the kind to which I have referred do not produce deflation; they produce inflation. It is quite true that, if inflation gets out of hand, we shall have a, boom, and that boom will produce a slump; but the slump will have been produced by our mishandling of the circumstances leading up to the boom, and from no other cause.
Again, the needs of the liberated as well as the defeated countries of Europe and Asia for food supplies, for capital plant, for all those things that will be involved in what we broadly call the reconstruction of Europe or the Far East, will present to the nations of the world, including Great Britain, and to a certain degree, ourselves, large and obvious markets which, nevertheless, will be temporary markets; and the existence of an easy, quick, temporary market may very well distract our attention from the search for a permanent market. I refer to something which, I believe, will present a grave danger in the post-war world, unless we are extremely alert to it. Great Britain, for example - I take its case because it is at the very heart of the economic reconstruction of the British Empire - will find when this war is over that its factories can work overtime for some years in order to supply the immediate demands of Europe. We may find that our farms must work overtime - if they have not chronically done so - in order to supply the foodstuff demands of Europe. Unless we are careful, Great Britain may find that it has sacrificed for this immediate market its prospect of establishing a badlyneeded permanent market in some other part of the world, and we may find what we have found before, namely, that under the pressure of temporary prosperity we have driven up capital values in the farming industries, and have reached out farm production into marginal areas, thus presenting ourselves with the two problems which we came up against in the last depression.
– The right honorable gentleman must not overlook the capacity of those countries to pay for goods.
– I am not overlooking that factor; but as the honorable gentleman realizes, there will be ways and means of coping with that.
– ‘Control of exports also will be involved.
– A very large measure of control of exports will be involved. I have no doubt that those who are thinking about these problems have very much in mind the fact that export control in Great Britain must direct itself to a neat balancing of the immediate, advantageous, quick market, and the long-distance market, which eventually may be the more important. I know, from conversations which I have had, that some of their people are actively engaged in work on that problem. I have referred to it merely for the purpose of saying that we shall need to have in mind all the time, in post-war reconstruction, the fact that, on the whole, the long-distance view is more important than the short-distance view, and that our main task will be to establish not only our local but also our export industries, both primary and secondary, upon a footing which will give to them some permanence; because only upon permanent markets can some real stability for our primary or secondary industries be achieved. The third element in the post-war problem has been very much discussed lately. I confess to being a little disturbed by some of the discussions. Public works are being referred to more and more as though they were the major element in post-war reconstruction. .Conferences are taking place. We are given hints of vast schemes of public works. More and more, I have begun to wonder whether or not there are people who seriously believe that the setting up of great public works in Australia will be a major element in Australian reconstruction; because I venture to say that, if
We omit from those works, or put on one side, such urgent and current matters as housing and power, then I do not believe that public works programmes will be a major .element in post-war reconstruction in Australia. Permanent employment will depend far more vitally upon the general revival of production, the stabilization of price levels in the producing industries, and business conditions generally. We must go back to the old truth. It is very old ; so old that it is occasionally forgotten. It is that public works programmes ought to be planned so as to counteract, and not contribute to, booms. A vast public works programme, if commenced at the wrong time in Australia - at a time when there was a tremendous demand for normal civil goods and for normal re-employment in business - quite plainly would set up competition for labour and materials when both were in short supply, with the result that prices would be forced up and the real purpose of the programme would be defeated. And so I do not think that we should be too ready to put in hand immediately after the war a great public works programme. I believe that all the works should be planned, and planned in detail. We should know exactly where we stand in relation to all proposed undertakings. I do not suggest that we should rush at them like a bull at a gate some day in the future when we are in difficulties. We should have plans, but I emphasize that time as well as place is a very material factor in planning public works programmes. Not only should we undertake the works in the right places, but we should also undertake them at the right time. In a country like Australia we should have no difficulty in using a public works programme to level down the peaks of a boom or to fill up the hollows of depression, and we ought to be able to do it much more effectively in the future than it has ever been done in the past.
I said just now that I hope that long distance marketing prospects would not be sacrificed to short distance marketing and easy advantages of an obvious kind, and in this regard let me refer to the position of countries of the British Empire. I believe that it is high time that British countries got together to do a bit of Empire trade planning, something of which I do not see much evidence so far.
In the past, we had the Ottawa Conference, and later there were trade conferences in Great Britain. Unfortunately, it has become the fashion now to discount the Ottawa Conference, and to discount Empire preference. Influenced by some rather vague expression in the Atlantic Charter, or by some phrase in the lendlease agreement, people are saying, “ Of course, we have finished with preference. After this war all countries must trade on the same footing “. I would not be so sure myself that the days of British Empire preference have gone. I think we should be indeed foolish if we imagined that, because we are looking for a comprehensive world order in which all nations will behave with mutual” reasonableness, we ought to act on the assumption that we have already achieved it. We have not achieved it. There is a long and hard road to travel before we reach that happy condition of affairs. In the meantime, we would do well to realize that the first contribution, in point of time, that we can make to the revival of world trade is to do what we can to bring about a revival of Empire trade.
– Let us be “ wood and water joeys”, I suppose.
– Intra-Empire trading has not meant that we in Australia should be “ wood and water joeys “. Its history is closely associated with the successful development of’ manufacturing in this country. I should like to see the governments of the British Empire establish contacts for the promotion of post-war trade relations, and the effort should not be confined to ministerial contacts. Ministers can do much, but not all. I should like to see more contacts on the official level, and still more on the business level. We should encourage men with a practical understanding of the export problems of Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and India to come here, and we should send our representative to those countries. The representatives of Empire countries should come together in order to work out methods for doing something after the war. We should not, on the assumption that a new world order is beginning, wipe out the advantages which Empire countries give one to another, but should assist one another in every way possible. We should say to Great Britain, “ Our fate is linked with yours. We are interested in your problems, and we want you to. be interested in ours “. We should help one another, and we would then find, not for the first time and, I hope, not for the last, that the great British Empire will be an important factor in maintaining the peace and prosperity of the world.
The Prime Minister said rather hopefully just now, “ This must be a pretty good budget”. Well, no one can take exception to the statements of financial theory made by my friend the Treasurer. I find them impeccable. I have gone back over some of the previous budget debates. I have found a statement by him upon finance, and one by myself, and I put them side by side, and almost instinctively I found myself getting out of my chair to go round the corridor and embrace him, and call him brother. But unhappily, as the Treasurer knows only too well, whatever his own theories may be, they do not always work out, because he has unruly followers, some of them, I regret to say, with the most deplorable financial views. What is much worse, he has also to contend with a few scores of thousands of people who regard war expenditure as an opportunity for a firstclass holiday. I am not blaming him for that, but. I am warning him, as he has no doubt warned himself, that inside this country we must regard the battle against inflation as of infinitely more importance for a few years after the war than the battle against depression, and we should regard a co-operative British Empire, operating in the fields of trade and production, as of first importance in the post-war world.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) dealt with the budget in a way which indicated that there is no substantial criticism of the proposals which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has brought down for dealing with the financing of the war and the Commonwealth during the present financial year. He did make a series of criticisms of certain aspects of the budget, indicating that he would elaborate some of them later, and he made reference, of course, to certain of the basic questions which naturally arise in the consideration of the first item of the Estimates. The right honorable gentleman said that the problems of man-power in this country necessitated the re-assessment which the Government is making of them, having regard to the present stage of the war and what is required of us in order to see it through to a successful conclusion, but he also admitted that it was impracticable, in the nature of things, for the Government to indicate, in any public way, all that is being done or has been done in this matter. He said that the strength of the forces was inevitably related to the availability of manpower for all other purposes in this country. He therefore suggested that it would be perhaps advisable to hold a secret sitting, or a private meeting of members and senators at which this matter could be thoroughly examined. It is a little unfortunate that the direct Opposition is not represented on the Advisory War Council; but I can quite appreciate that, even if it were, many honorable members on both sides of the House would perhaps like to know more about this problem and, in any event, to offer criticism of the way in which it is being handled. Those criticisms would be welcome insofar as they would not trespass upon what is the minimum obligation of this country to maintain to the conclusion of the war a contribution proportionate to our responsibility as one of the Allies, and satisfying our own sense of what is right. The facts that we have been attacked, that there were occasions when our capacity to hold this continent for the British race and ourselves rested almost upon the turn of a hair, and that help has been given to us from overseas make it essential not only that we should be grateful for what has been done for us, but also that there should be no abatement of the obligation that we have incurred. If there is on the part of members of this chamber and the Senate any substantial desire that this matter should be dealt with in the way suggested by the right honorable gentleman, I am prepared to make the necessary arrangements. There are difficulties about a secret sitting of Parliament as such. The only provision in the Constitution for a joint sitting of both Houses is, of course, one which would not cover thi? situation, and, therefore, it appears to me that all that is practicable, having regard to the rules of Parliament, is that there shall be a private meeting of senators and (members.
Since the war began, and up to the 30th June last, the Commonwealth has expended £1,651,000,000 upon the war, and it is very interesting to bear in mind the outline of policy that was given by the Treasurer of the day, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), in outlining his proposals at the outbreak of war. He said that there should be a balanced use of the revenue from taxes and other sources, and of loans from the public and the banking system, and all other provisions which could be made while there were idle resources which could possibly be stimulated by use. Contending that it was preferable to do that than to lessen the capacity of private enterprise to engage in war work itself or to make loans, he resisted proposals that there should be any radical increase of taxes at the commencement of the war. I find now that of the £1,651,000,000 expended by previous governments and the present Government, £529,000,000 came from revenue and £739,000,000’ from public loans, and that the treasury-bill provision to meet the consequent gap amounted to £328,000,000. Treasury balances amounting to £53,000,000 were available, bringing the grand total to £1,651,000,000. I would say at once that that represents the result of a sound and prudent financial policy. Taxation has been increased to the very limit of the capacity of the country to bear taxation. Whether they be rich, or poor, Australian men and women are required by the incidence of taxation to make, for the purposes of the war, a direct contribution, which is not only based upon their relative capacities to pay but also represents the utmost, having regard to all the canons of taxation, which this Government or any government could expect them to pay. We know that war is wasteful and that all the money expended on it which is derived from loan or from any other sour.ce, other than revenue, becomes a debt which not only involves an annual recurring charge until it is redeemed, but also constitutes a bar to the freedom of successive governments to engage in policies of development and expansion. Because war, in itself, is economically wasteful, except in the sense that it is an insurance for the maintenance of the ownership^ of the country by the people of Australia, we should pay as much as we can of its current costs out of our current income. That, I venture to say, is the principle that would be put forward by any treasurer in any country. This Government has not only accepted that principle, but also has applied it to such a degree that the only criticism of taxation which I now hear in Australia, is that it is too high and that proposals should ‘be advanced immediately for (minimizing the burden. “Well, the time has not come for that, because, inevitably, the war involves during the present year, not only the maintenance of our full effort, but also payments, some of which, in their very nature, must be greater than in previous years. Others, of course, will shrink. The first two years of the war, 1939-40, and 1940-41, involved an expenditure of £125,000,000. The expenditure in 1939-40 amounted to £55,100,000 and, in 1940-41, £170,200,000. Those were the two years in which we were engaged in fighting Germany and had to maintain an expeditionary force. In the year 1941-42, Japan struck and the war expenditure for that year leaped to £319,500,000 and in the following year it reached £561,000,000. Last year the amount expended on the war was less than in 1942-43. We had reached the stage at which the total resources that could be made available for war had been so allocated; therefore, the mere expenditure of more money would not have meant the utilization of more resources of men or materials. Certain economies were effected as the result of the manner in which the Government scrutinized public expenditure and also, to a degree, as the result of observations that had been made by the War Expenditure Committee. In the year for which we are budgeting, the amount required for war will be less than last year when the expenditure amounted to £544,000,000. Last year, treasury-bills represented no more than 5.3 per cent, of the Treasurer’s resources and, 1 venture to say, all the observations which have been made from time to time about the dangers of inflation have not been borne out by the facts. There has, of course, been a certain increase of price levels in this and every other country, but last year the Treasurer not only succeeded in reducing the total of the treasury-bill accommodation required to finance the gap below what it had been in the previous year, hut also brought it down lower than the amount in 1941-42, for about seven months of which we were at war with Japan. Any competent observer will acknowledge that the financial policy which the Treasurer has persistently applied during this period of great stress and difficulty, in which there was so much dislocation and necessary improvisation, has been sound. I doubt whether there is any alternative policy which could have been applied in the circumstances. It may be said that here there should have been more and there a little less, but, as we look at the picture broadly, we know that because of what has been done, we still sit here as representatives of a free people who see at least the dawn of victory, even though we know that we have to travel the whole road until victory has been reached. It will be a long and hard road, and, perhaps, in many places there will be grim things to do. Now, the whole character of the war in which we were struggling for so long to survive has been transformed. The cause which we espoused is being vindicated, and we witness the complete discomfiture of evil ambitions which nearly brought the world to ruin. We can say that even though there has been a heavy financial price to pay, it has not been beyond our capacity, and has been equitably distributed over all sections of the community.
Having regard to our resources and the conditions under which we exist, Australia’s fighting effort is as good as that of any other country. What some critics describe as wasteful expenditure is applicable only to certain minor details. I do not believe that the administrations responsible for the conduct of the war have failed to get value for every £1 that has been expended. It is true that here and there, instances may be cited of things which could have been done differently, but a vast difference exists between the post-mortem and the diagnosis. The expenditure has to be authorized in advance, and is based upon a fluid situation. Reliable estimates cannot be prepared, and a careful review of revenue cannot be made, such as would mark the normal peace-time expenditure of governments. Many projects which had to be abandoned, were commenced because the state of the war at the time made it appear that they would be required. Because of some dramatic change in the fortunes of war-changes which we can view happily - those projects were no longer required. Prepared for defence, they were not usable for attack. That condition has arisen in all countries, and has been experienced by all governments in wartime. I have obtained the following information relating to defence and war expenditure in four Allied countries for the years 1939-40 to 1943-44 inclusive: -
I do not know how much our enemies have expended, and I have no information about Soviet Russia. Great Britain bore the impact of war most heavily, and for so long to a greater extent than did certain other countries that its per capita expenditure is higher than that of any other Allied country. Whilst I do not believe that Great Britain has engaged in wasteful expenditure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not deny that certain items of expenditure have occurred in the British budget which, in the light of subsequent military events, would not have been authorized if the result could have been foreseen. Therefore, expenditure will be recorded in this. budget, and in the budgets of our Allies, to which any one may point as expenditure which ought not to have been incurred, but who could have foretold that when the expenditure was authorized? In retrospect, the scene is entirely different. As I have shown, Australia has expended £1,651,000,000 upon the war, and it does not follow from the
Mr. Curtin. fact that we have the lowest expenditure per capita that we have obtained full value for the money. But the table does show that any mistakes that have been made in this country are, in scale and character, the kind of mistakes that probably all governments have made under stress of the same circumstances. In addition to expending this vast sum, we have also received aid. The Leader of the Opposition referred to this subject this afternoon, and I am grateful to the right honorable gentleman for his remarks. Just as our Allies have helped us in actual fighting, and with physical resources, so we have helped them in fighting and with our physical resources and services. Bearing in mind all that has been done by the soldier and the industrial, business, and rural population in Australia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, I believe that the passage in the Treasurer’s statement that “ the service side which wc have mutually rendered to each other cannot be equated in monetary terms “ is not only profound and wise, but will, I predict, be the judgment of history. In any event, we have done our utmost within our capacity not only to defend our own country, but also to assist those who are helping us to defend it in order to meet their needs. If we had not met them, there would have imposed upon them far greater strains and stresses in rendering to us the help that they did. When Isay that they have rendered help to us, I use the expression not in any narrow sense. It is true that we were struggling to hold this continent. It is true also that we were struggling to hold it for ourselves. I say that frankly to-night to this House and to the world. But I contend that in saving it for ourselves we were saving it for the British Empire.
– And for civilization.
– It was as important to civilization to hold this great land mass for those who were resisting aggression as it was to hold any other great strategical bases which the Allied commanders have had to use in order to direct their attack against the enemy.
The economic policy which this Government has pursued during the War has been completely successful. It has more than satisfied our sense of duty to our Allies. I refer to Mr. Stettinius’s book on lend-lease, as representing the judgment of the first architect of lend-lease, in respect of the services that Australia has given under the reciprocal provisions of lend-l’ease. No more generous tribute could have been paid to Australia than that which Mr. Stettinius gave in the book which he wrote before he entered the service of the Department of State. Within the Australian economy, stability has been achieved. Inflation has been avoided in war-time. But I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that inflation must be held in check in the post-war period. It will be obvious that what nas been done in Australia in the form of price control to ensure economic stability has not only been successful here, but also bears comparison in point of efficiency with what has been done by any of our collaborators. Honorable members will find the following table of interest : -
Honorable members will note that when the Japanese struck, the price level in Australia stood at 110. Under the onset of war in this part of the world, it has risen to 123. With the return of our forces from overseas, and the preoccupation of the Government with the military side of the nation’s war effort, it is probable that the momentum of increases of prices became too great, and that checks should have been imposed earlier. Eoi” the greater part of 1942, every effort had to be exerted to produce arms in Australia. That unloosed economic forces which were bound to have an effect on price levels. The United Kingdom introduced a policy of price stabilization, and paid subsidies in order to keep down the cost of certain items that would reflect themselves in the cost of living, and in turn in wages demands. A similar principle has been used in implementing Australian policy. Although the United States of America did not enter the war until December, 1941, the allocation of its resources under lend-lease to the Allied countries affected price levels in that country. However, between September, 1943, and March, 1944, the figure remained stationary at 123. It will be seen that the increase in price levels during the war has brought about a state of affairs in this country which can be compared with similar conditions in the United Kingdom and America. Prices have not gone quite so high here as in the United Kingdom, and they have gone no higher than in the United States of America. Canada has done best of all, for the price level in that dominion has risen from 100 to only 118, which point was reached in September, 1942. The figure fell to 117 in March, 1943, but it returned to 118 in March of thos year, and it has since remained there. Whilst statistics do not convey the whole story, they nevertheless make it clear that general principles have been applied in order to exercise a prudent direction over private enterprise in respect of buying in the lowest market, selling in the highest and making the highest profit possible, all of which are legitimate in peace-time, but all of which must be restrained in war-time, as in fact they have been in all allied countries. « Prices of food and clothing have been the subject of special action in most countries, but in no country has it proved to be possible to prevent clothing prices from rising higher than was considered to be a fair level. Price levels of food and. clothing have risen in all countries in spite of the efforts to keep them under control. We have succeeded in controlling rents, and also the prices of most commodities that are required for domestic use; but the landed cost of imported clothing and textiles has proved difficult to control, notonly in Australia but also in other countries. The increase in the United States of America from 100 to 123 was from a higher level than existed in Australia before the war. My own view is that in the post-war era Great Britain’s capacity to compete in the world’s markets will be helped by the initial advantage of th radical adjustments that will have to be effected in the economy of the United
States of America if the latter country is to sell extensively in countries that will have been impoverished by the war.
– Australia should have an even greater advantage.
– Yes, in some respects. The general trade of the future will depend in the first instance upon the political stability pf the .countries with which it is desired to trade, and to which products will need- to be transferred. I cannot see that such trade will be possible in certain countries unless an economic agreement is made by the Allies, backed by such a plan as is set out in the document that I laid on the table recently concerning international banking and monetary policy. Exports to impoverished countries y ill not be practicable unless the country of origin subsidizes the exporters, dr an international agreement bc made to provide the requisite credit by which the impoverished country which needs the commodities will be given the accommodation necessary to make external payments. Each country will have to make adjustments in its internal trade in order to meet the situation of producers of exportable goods. For example, it is quite easy to say that Great Britain can sell wool to France or to Germany after the war; but without political stability in France and Germany we can have no assurance of any practicable trade functioning. That is the first point I make. My next point is that, given- political stability, a great deal of planning and supervision, and, in some countries, even a degree of direction by the Allies will be required. There will be a necessity also for a pooling of resources on the part of the nations, so that the requisite internal and external trade requirements can be met by a process that will make practicable a final payment. Our exporters, for instance, cannot go on providing food for Europe and Asia unless they are .to be paid for what they produce. The Australian public cannot and should not be asked to meet the whole cost of. the food consumed in thi.? country as well as of the Australian food which is sent to other countries.
– The cost of production is a fundamental factor to producers for export.
– Of course it is, in normal times.
– It will always be fundamental.
– I foresee the spectacle, which I do not regard as fantastic, of impoverished millions in Europe and Asia who will welcome all that we can send to them, but who will not have the capacity to pay. Obviously, therefore, a certain amount of common sense will need to be exercised by the peoples of all countries. Some nations will be able to produce easily certain commodities which other countries will need. Such countries should be enabled to export their surplus of such goods. Owing to the huge cost of the war, Great Britain will need to increase its export trade well beyond pre-war figures. In fact, it will need to export goods to the value of an additional £200,000,000 to £250,000,000 beyond the pre-war figures. Without such an increase of British export trade there will be no possibility of maintaining the standard of living in the United Kingdom. The standard of living is a physical thing. If there are no potatoes, all the money in the world will not enable them to be eaten. But, if there are potatoes and there are idle men willing to work at building a water supply or an electricity supply who cannot buy potatoes because they have no money, then money can and should be found to put them to work and enable them to buy potatoes.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I did not make that statement to win the applause of the Opposition.
– Probably it is to educate the caucus. m-. CURTIN.- I did not make it to educate any one, but merely to point out that Great Britain will need to increase its export trade in order to obtain funds to purchase essential imports such as sugar, petrol, foodstuffs and raw materials for carrying on its manufacturing industries. If Great Britain cannot obtain revenue to import essential goods for manufacturing purposes its exports of manufactured goods must obviously decline, and, if that happens, the British standard of living must also decline. Australia is in the same position. We shall have to import a considerable range of supplies. I mention only tea and petrol from the long list of goods that we have had to import during the last 30 years. We shall have to continue to import many of these items. Will any one suggest that certain countries will continue to buy from us if we decline to buy from them,? The average value of Australia’s imports before the war was about £110,000,000 sterling. The annual value of our imports at present is approximately £A212,000,000. Calculations by the Department of Postwar Reconstruction suggest that an increase of imports will be necessary which will take the figure to about £280,000,000.
An examination of the budget will show that during the war years we have managed to live without serious economic deprivations. We have maintained a reasonable standard of living and, in fact, in comparison with some of our Allies, we have, in many respects, been very fortunate. But we must look ahead into the five or ten years after hostilities cease and take proper steps to keep our house in order. The danger of inflation has to be faced and overcome. We have to bear in mind that our huge accumulations in the savings banks, the big increase of the note issue, and the provision of deferred pay to service personnel, will have an influence upon the spending capacity of the country. It is clear, of course, that certain commodities will continue to be in short supply for some period after the war; the length of that period I shall not attempt to measure. Such goods will also be in short supply in other countries. The volume of money available will outweigh the physical goods available. Therefore, I welcome the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, (Mr. Menzies) this afternoon that price controls and rationing must be continued after the war. The right honorable gentleman offered to give to us his advice on the constitutional, legal and other means which will need to be put into operation to accomplish this end, the only consideration beingthat he should be invited to join the Ministry. That was his pleasant way of putting it.
– I did not offer to join the Ministry; I offered to lead a Ministry.
– The price seems to have gone up since this afternoon. However, I say candidly to the people of Australia that I welcome wholeheartedly the right honorable gentleman’s statement that price control and rationing will need to be continued after the war, and I ask them to notice that both the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition subscribe to this view. [Extension of time granted.]
– What period would the right honorable gentleman fix?
– For as long as was necessary. I take it that price control and rationing will continue so long as the circumstances which necessitate their continuance exist. That is a state of affairs, rather than a period of time. I do not contemplate having to state whether the period shall be six months, five years, or longer. I merely say that the Leader of the Opposition and the head of the Government have acknowledged in this Parliament to-day that a policy of rationing and a policy of price control will be absolutely essential to the well- . being of this country for some period after the war is over. I shall be glad to discuss the details of how that shall be done.
– I am sure the right honorable gentleman will agree that I had said that all along.
– I could’ wish that the right honorable gentleman and I had had a better response. It is quite certain that, in the coming year, there will be a number of important economic and financial consultations between Allied Governments, with respect to problems of trade and. commerce as well as the arrangements whereby various countries may enable trade and commerce to flow freely when the war has ended. World agreements, and if not world agreements, then I hope Empire agreements, will be reached. I agree that Australia, by itself, would not be able profoundly to affect the deliberations of other countries in the making of policies of this kind on an international basis. It is my firm conviction that it is as a member of the British
Commonwealth, that Australia can be strongest in the promotion of its interests or in the articulation of its policies, and thus impress upon the world our views, our interests, and the nature of the contribution that we are prepared to make towards the common welfare. That would involve this Parliament and country in an agreement as to some pooling of resources. It would involve some willingness to give and take in the matter of policy-making. “We cannot always have agreements of the kind that will completely suit us. There will he points in those agreements which doubtless members on both sides will wish were not in them, hut they will have to he included, in the interests of not two or three but a number of countries. The more countries participating in them, most certainly the sounder will be their application, the wider will be their range, and the better will they be for the world at large. This country needs such agreements in order to ensure not only the peace of the world but also that full employment shall be provided throughout the world, so that living standards may be advanced in the countries in which they are low, and thus they may not be unfair or unequal competitors, threatening standards which are higher than theirs. All of these things which far too often appear to us to be academic are the real essence of the problem of the world as we now look forward into the future. Having regard to our debt, to the burden that has been cast upon us by the war, as well as to the fact there can be no certainty of the longevity of any steps which the world may be prepared to take for the avoidance of war in the future, I am convinced that some substantial measure of selfreliance must mark the policy and the outlook of every self-respecting community. This country, in order to be self-reliant, needs a big increase of its population, not only to develop its resources but also to contribute materially to its capacity to withstand attack and to ensure for itself and its people a stronger voice in the affairs of the world at large. These are the hopes and the purpose which have animated the ‘formulation of the economic policy of the Government. “We have had, in war, the sole purpose of resisting an enemy. “We have had, in the economic policy, the whole purpose of serving the people.
– We have had delivered to us to-night a speech of great importance. It has been heard with appreciation by all members on this side of the House; and, judging by the expressions on .their faces, with bewilderment and some amazement, by Government ‘supporters. I hope that the lessons implicit in the speech will find a resting place in their minds, because I am completely in agreement with practically every word of it. It may be said that, in the space of a few years, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has come a long way towards views which, when in Opposition, he strongly resisted. I appreciate that advance very much.
The problem of finance is very important to the community in these days, but it will be much more important in the days following the end of the war. Looking back over the last four or five years, one concludes that, speaking in general terms, the finances of this country, with the incidental controls, have been reasonably well managed. To describe central bank credit as an evil would not be of much use unless means were shown for its avoidance. I intend to direct my attention particularly to problems which will face this country when the war is over. The Prime Minister read from a statement that was’ made at the beginning of the war as to the balanced use of taxation, loans and central bank credit. I believe that it is one that I made. If not, it contains a sentiment that I have used on more than one occasion. It may well be said that that practice has been followed, from the commencement of the war. In the last financial year, 31 per cent, of the war expenditure was borne by revenue. In the preceding year, the figure was 28 per cent. That is a substantial burden for revenue to bear. The problem revealed by the budget is, that there is a gap of £328,000,000. I will assume, for the time being, that the expenditure cannot be brought below the budget estimate. Clearly, we cannot get from taxation and other sources, more revenue than we are getting. Having regard to the experience of last year, it is unlikely that the estimate of revenue will be exceeded; because, for the first time since 1930-31, that estimate was in excess of the receipts by £3,000,000. So it may be said, with fairness and objectivity, that the amount which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has estimated will be received from taxation is not likely to be exceeded. Thus, there is a gap of £32S,000,000 which will have to be bridged. I do not believe that any one will say that, on any occasion throughout the last three years, with expenditure for war purposes so high, we’ could have financed the war without some recourse to central bank credit. Should there be any controversy, it will be wholly as to whether excessive use has been made of central bank credit and, if so, to what amount. Obviously, since the budget gap is the desult of deducting from the total expenditure all that will be received from revenue, it can be narrowed by only what can be raised from the people by way of loans, and, if that should fall short, by the use of central bank credit. I do not quarrel with the method which the Government proposes to employ. However, there are two points that I would make. The first relates to the problem which will face this country after the war; and the second raises the question of whether or not the expenditure is excessive and greater control can be exercised over it. A great deal of central bank credit has been used ; yet it may fairly be said that it is not greatly disproportionate to what has been used by other countries throughout the world to finance the costs’ of war. The point I make is that a serious problem ‘ will arise when the war is over.
I wish to make a few observations about our constitutional powers, and, if I may, the consequences of the denial of powers which is implicit in the result of the referendum; because it is important to consider how we shall solve the problems of inflation. Accepting, as we must, the view expressed by the people, what is the best machinery to create in order to avoid the difficulties with which we shall be confronted? It is known that, since the war broke out, we have had resort to central bank credit to the amount of £343,000,000. Having regard to the fact that the total amount issued before the war by1 way of treasury-bills was approximately £50,000,000- for the States, not the
Commonwealth - we must realize how great a factor this will be in our future economy, and what ill it will work if it be not properly controlled. But that is not the whole of the picture. Treasurybills on a temporary basis have been substituted for unused treasury balances, amounting to approximately £43,000,000. As the Treasurer knows, these temporary issues are apt to become permanent. Treasury-bills amounting to £50,000,000, which were issued many years before the war, were to be temporary at the time of issue but are still being renewed. So we have £343,000,000 worth of treasury-bills, plus £43,000,000, supposedly on a temporary basis. Since the outbreak of war, savings bank deposits have increased by £227,000,000 and trading bank deposits by £220,000,000, to which must be added what will be deposited before the war comes to an end. There is also the problem that is inherent in the funding or meeting of the loans that have been raised during the war and will come to maturity at different periods after the war. That is a problem of great magnitude. Unless proper controls be exercised after the war there is certain to be inflation, which will have a serious effect, not so much upon the people of wealth or those in receipt of considerable incomes, as upon thrifty people who have saved some money or are dependent upon a small daily or weekly wage. After the war this large amount of purchasing power will seek an outlet, and we know that the goods will not all be available with which to meet the demand.
– Why does the honorable member assume that? Why not assume that a lot of people who have saved money will want to keep it, seeing that it is the first time they have ever attained any measure of economic security?
– I have no doubt whatever that if no control be exercised over this accumulated spending power there will be a substantial degree of chaos. That is the belief of other governments. I know the opinions held on this subject in Great Britain and the United “States of America, and they coincide with my own opinion. There is danger that, after the war, there will be a false boom, because money will be . plentiful. We must take steps to ensure that that boom shall not degenerate suddenly into a slump.
We must accept the verdict of the people in regard to the powers bill. I heard the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) say that if the people had been asked to grant power to the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws in regard to price-fixing and rationing it would have been granted. Perhaps, compared with him, I am a neophyte in politics, but, as things are, I am not prepared to believe that it would have been. Anyway, the fact remains that such power does not reside in the Commonwealth Parliament, and is not likely so to reside for a good while yet. We should establish machinery for effective and continuous consultation between the States and the Commonwealth. Already there are conferences of Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers at fairly frequent intervals, and at the same time there are meetings of the Loan Council and the National Works Council. We have in those meetings the nucleus of effective consultation on the expert and political levels, but it. should be developed if we are to avoid the evils which must otherwise befall us. My proposal is to have a permanent secretariat with constant expert discussions between the Commonwealth and States on all problems of national significance. In this manner only will the State and Commonwealth Governments be informed of the others’ viewpoint and permit a common policy to be evolved.
I have heard it said that the defence power of the Commonwealth Parliament can be continued indefinitely after the war, and that under it Parliament can take what action it thinks necessary. I do not accept that view. I have maintained throughout that the defence power will wither quickly, not when peace is signed, but as soon as hostilities cease, though I have no quarrel with those who hold a contrary opinion. It has been said that the National Security Act will continue in force until peace is signed, and for six months thereafter, so that every power now being exercised under the National Security Act will continue for that period. I do not believe this to be so, and in support of my argument I cite one example:
Is any one prepared to say that powers of censorship imposed solely for security reasons in time of war will run on continuously when hostilities cease, merely because the relevant regulations were framed while the National Security Act was in force? Any one who sought after the war to justify before the High Court the continuation of the existing censorship, or even a substantially modified form of it, would have more courage than I possess. It has been said by thos*; who opposed the referendum proposals that a convention should be summoned to consider alterations to the Constitution. I agree Ave should, at the earliest possible moment, set up a committee to consider these matters. I do not favour another referendum during the war, but a committee should be appointed representative of both sides of the Commonwealth Parliament, and of every State Parliament, together with representatives of consuming and producing interests and employers and employees. It would not be an unwieldy body, and the problem is so urgent that something must be done.
My next point is that this Parliament has lost effective control over finance. Of course, if we assume that the expenditure provided for in this budget is the minimum amount that must be spent, then the Treasurer’s budget proposals must be accepted ; but the fact remains that, for a long time past, Parliament has ceased to exercise that control over expenditure which was once regarded as perhaps its principal function. It has been a gradual process, but it has been accelerated during the war years. At one time, Parliament guarded jealously its control of expenditure. Now, the total expenditure for war services, &c.,. is lumped together in one amount of more than £400,000,000.. and no details are given. I can understand the reason for this, but it remains true that the representatives of the people in this Parliament have completely lost control over public expenditure. As a matter of fact, I think the time has come when more particulars might safely be given by the Treasurer regarding defence expenditure. At one time, the disclosure of any details of war expenditure might have given information to the enemy, but I think we might now safely be given many particulars of expenditure by various service departments. I believe that even the
Executive has, in large measure, lost control over the public purse. The Estimates of the various departments are added together, and the information finally passed on to the Treasurer. We know that inter-departmental committees have been set up tq prevent excessive expenditure, but that is not enough. In spite of their efforts, extravagant expenditure amounting .to millions of pounds could and should be prevented.
Here is one example : In the electorate of the Treasurer there is a small arms factory at Lithgow. I want to know whether, in this factory and its satellite factories, rifles are being manufactured merely in order to keep men employed. I want to know whether the rifles are being produced in excess of requirements, and without orders from the Army, and even though adequate reserves have been established. If the answer is as I believe it must be, then huge sums of money arc being wasted merely for the purpose of keeping in employment at the factory men -who could be directed to other occupations. Only the other day we were told by the War Commitments Committee that the minimum man-power requirement of Australian industry was 52,000 men, and that they, could not be found. From the 1st December, 1943, to the 30th June, 1944, approximately £200,000 was paid out in wages at the Lithgow small arms factory. The cost of materials used during that period must have ‘been three times as much. My information is that all this expenditure was incurred to produce rifles in excess of requirements. If we learn the answer- to those questions we shall know whether there is waste. I have reason to believe that there is here and elsewhere. I believe that there are thousands of quite redundant people in the civil services. In saying that, I am expressing, not my own view, but that of men occupying high executive positions in many departments who tell me that they could do with infinitely fewer people than they are given but have no power to rid themselves of the excess. We must have a reply to that with man-power in such short supply as we know it is. I have been told that in the Defence Secretariat there are no less than 100 clerks, and that such a large number is needed to deal with a mass of detail which should never go to the War
Cabinet but should be handled by Ministers who, however, will not take the responsibility of deciding for themselves. These are only small matters, but of these and similar cases which unquestionably exist the aggregate imposes a huge unnecessary burden on the finances of the country. There is no doubt that we are reaching the stage at which there must be more rigid control of finance. That is the only way which I can see to reduce our commitments. I do not criticize the Treasurer personally. Neither he nor any other man could control such a vast expenditure. It is futile to criticize without making practical suggestions, and I intend to make a suggestion, the carrying out of which I believe would be of material benefit. Parliament and the Executive having lost control of finance, my suggestion is that there should be established a statutory committee of this House, sitting permanently, with full authority to investigate all aspects of finance.
– With a staff of trained accountants.
– Yes, and full authority to investigate all accounts and call for information from all sources. I know that the War Expenditure Committee has done good work in this direction, but I am sure that its members will be the first to agree with me that it has not the necessary power or authority. We have reached the stage at which people in this country think that cost does not matter. Why, in the ‘services, it seems to be almost a by-word! The people themselves finally are those who have to pay the cost. Extravagance is such that I say, with great respect to the many efficient men who exercise some control of expenditure in departments, that what is needed is a. permanent statutory committee of this Parliament to supervise all expenditure. In that way, we should recover some of the authority over finance that we were intended to exercise.
I regret that the budget speech contains no reference to the future of industry. From time to time we hear from the Prime Minister and other Ministers ad hoc statements as to the Government’s intentions in respect- of industry after the war. I can understand some statements, but not others, and taken together, they are irreconcilable. It is imperative that, as private enterprise must play the predominant part in reabsorbing about 600,000 men in the armed forces and another 400,000 in the munitions and other war industries, representatives of private industry be invited to co-operate with the Government almost continuously in working out plans for the future. Attention was drawn to-day to the fact that plans are being prepared for the expenditure of many millions of pounds on public works. I believe, with the Leader of the Opposition, that that is the wrong approach. Unquestionably, there are certain public works which must be done and which have a prior claim on men and materials over all other claims. I instance housing, certain hydro-electric works and irrigation schemes. I do not say that that exhausts the list of essential public works - there are many others - but to have a plan of public works to be put into operation in the post-war period regardless of the financial or economic condition of the country is wholly wrong. The first approach should be to have private industry absorb the men, and there should be an elastic public works programme to absorb those whom private enterprise could not absorb. Public works should be put into operation as and when circumstances require. ‘ We have also been told that it is intended to establish a number of new industries in this country. I am entirely in favour of that. The common experience in civilized countries throughout the world is that primary industries, owing to ‘the introduction of more modern means of production, will absorb fewer and fewer workers. That has been our own experience. Moreover, primary industries cannot absorb the same proportion of workers as can secondary industries. Since we are hoping to give full employment not only to the existing population ot Australia, but also to large numbers of people whom we hope to attract here, it is necessary that we expand existing secondary industries and develop new ones. Lately, we have heard that it is intended to establish in this country a motor vehicle industry. I do not intend to say anything of the proposal which the Government evidently is formulating, but I impress upon the Government that the matter requires more thought, than has apparently been given to it. First, more consideration ought to be given to the kind of vehicle that we shall build. I think that if we are to develop an economic industry, we ought to give consideration to the construction of light utility trucks. Secondly, we must have full regard to the cost of the product. If the cost is high, costs of imported cars will have to be relatively higher. Tariff walls which under mutual aid should be lowered will in ‘these circumstances be raised. The problem for the Government to solve is how best to use our men and resources. The Treasurer must hesitate before he adopts what apparently is the idea behind all .the talk about the establishment of a motor vehicle industry. If Commonwealth money is to be used to manufacture motor vehicles,- a company being formed in which the Government shall be a partner with some private entrepreneur, with the Government holding the majority of the shares and being represented on the board of directors, as is the case with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited,
I fear complications. The Government’s partnership in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited can be supported under the communications power of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, under its defence powers, may also, in time of peace, enter into industry for the purpose of maintaining a nucleus to meet the defence needs of the country in time of war. It is questionable, however, whether the Commonwealth has the power to enter into the manufacture of motor vehicles. It cannot do indirectly what it is forbidden by the Constitution to do directly. I venture the opinion that more than one person would challenge its right to expend public money on an industrial undertaking of the sort in view. However, I impress upon the Government that the two things it must consider are the methods to be employed if it has the power and the kind of vehicle that will be produced.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister refer to our export markets and their relation to the Australian standard of living. It is popularly assumed that as long as we are in control of our own economy we can determine our own fate, but, bit by bit, we are learning that we live with other nations and that we cannot determine our course of conduct without regard for them. Ninety per cent, of our exports consists of primary products and 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, goes to Great Britain. Almost half is made up of wool.
– Forty-two per cent.
– Yes. Let there be no mistake about this. “We should be unwise to assume that the market for our primary products will expand to the degree that some people believe. It is easily assumed that after the war there will be expanding markets in Europe for our products. The devastation in Europe has hot been so extensive? apparently, as we thought twelve or six months ago. Husbandry in Europe has been developed and maintained. So the short-term market for which we are hoping is not likely to exist to the extent that we should like. Secondly, expansion of our markets in the countries to our north - the Netherlands East Indies, “Malaya and IndoChina, for instance - is, as the Prime Minister has made dear, contingent on the standard of living in those countries being lifted, and it will take a very long time to lift it to the level needed to assure us of a substantial market there. It is, therefore, unwise to anticipate a large expansion of .trade to the north. So we are driven back, in substance, to the market on which we principally depended before the war, namely, Great Britain. I am all in favour of greater economic ties with the Homeland. We have much to be thankful for that we have had so ready a market as Great Britain, but, when the war ends, there will be factors which will limit that market and force us to look elsewhere. We shall have to contend with, first, the diminishing ability of rural industries to employ labour owing to the introduction of improved means of production; secondly, thu trend in Great Britain towards a diminution of population; and, thirdly, Great Britain’s diminishing income from overseas investments which will have fallen from £400,000,000 a year to an estimated amount of £200,000,000 after the war. Great Britain will have to increase its exports, it is said, by 50 per cent, over the pre-war level in order to maintain its present standard of living.
– Or reduce its imports.
– Yes, but Britain cannot reduce many of its imports very much, because they are fundamental to its standard of living. It must therefore increase its exports by about 50 per cent. That has a direct bearing on our prospects, because it will directly affect Great Britain’s power” to purchase our commodities. Fourthly, we shall have to contend with increased production of primary products in Great Britain. When I was in England two years ago, the Minister for Agriculture provided me with some illuminating figures as to the increase of primary, production, and I have no doubt that United Kingdom production will be stabilized at considerably above pre-war level, thereby limiting the market to which we previously looked. So, apart from satisfying Europe’s immediate post-war requirements, we shall have to depend for increased trade on other countries. I come then to the basic problem in respect of our exports and imports after the war. We shall have to examine our tariff policy. I speak in general terms. Let mc make my position plain : I am wholly in favour of maximum support of secondary industries by. among other means, a proper .tariff under machinery which gives reasonable preference after a proper investigation. But we must re-examine tariffs which are imposed simply for revenue purposes. Much imported plant, which is subject to such tariffs and which is never likely to bc manufactured in Australia, becomes a. part of the capital of the organization which acquires it. Higher cost of plant inflates the capitalization of the enterprise, and, because the company must make profits in order to survive, causes an upward trend in prices. We have a golden opportunity now to examine our tariff problem. I admit that I have no concrete suggestions to offer. I do not pretend to be competent to do so. But an effort should be made to reduce capital costs in Australia. The Rural Industries Commission, which I congratulate upon the thoroughness of its work, concluded that the great problem facing our primary industries is to equate our costs to the purchasing power of other countries. To these problems, we must give our attention. tl have not attempted to criticize for political purposes any portion of the budget, but I have endeavoured to draw attention to some important matters. I hope that the Government will consider my suggestions.
Mr. CHAMBERS (Adelaide) [9.31 J. - I trust that this . will be the last war-time budget during our lifetime and, in fact, in the history of our country. The war has loaded us with a colossal burden of debt, which has been incurred in providing weapons for the destruction of mankind. To the mind of all Englishspeaking peoples, that condition of affairs is a blot on our civilization. During the last few years we have passed through the gravest period in our history; In order that we should survive, sacrifices had to be made. In the main, the sacrifices were made readily. Men and women from all walks of life have been obliged to work harder and longer than ever before, whilst their wages have been taxed more heavily than at any other time. In some instances the burden has been too heavy. Now, the dawn is breaking and we should thant the Almighty that these sacrifices have not been made in vain. Victory is near at hand, and the people who carry the heaviest burden should be the first to obtain relief. I had hoped that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in this budget, would have been able to repeal the tax on low incomes derived from personal exertion. Unfortunately,, that hope has not been realized, but additional medical and dental concessions have been granted. I am sure that the Treasurer will agree with me that some relief from the present heavy taxation m list be given at the earliest opportunity.
At the beginning of my speech, I stated that our sacrifices have not been made in vain. I desire to qualify that statement. To win the war and to lose the peace would be to court disaster. To me it is incredible that some people should sneer at and ridicule suggestions for a new order. During the last war and again in this war, thousands of Australians laid down their lives. Wives were parted from their husbands, and mothers from their sons, and children were left fatherless. What prompted Australian soldiers to leave their loved ones and, if necessary, to bleed and die on foreign fields? Did they not visualize a better world as the result of their sacrifices? A new order is essential if we are to repay our debt to those who made these sacrifices during the last twenty years. Men who fought in the last war and suffered during the depression, were asked to take up arms in this war when the country was threatened by an enemy. They did so willingly. Therefore, honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that a national plan for rehabilitation must be implemented in the near fixture. I propose to submit to the House my ideas of what the new plan should be.
The Social .Security Committee, consisting of three members from each side of the House and representing all shades of political opinion, reported on ways for improving social and living conditions. It declared that Australian social services had tended to develop in a piecemeal fashion ; that we have suffered from the lack of a general plan; that certain services have expanded in some States more than in others; and that some States have expended more money per head than have other States. The committee declared that the campaign against poverty, to be successful, must be seen as a whole. It contended that an Australian outlook and a national policy of development are required. During this debate honorable members have expressed some alarm regarding this national policy. They referred to the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals. I have the good fortune to come from South Australia, which, in August 1943, revealed political wisdom in electing to this Parliament a number of supporters of the Labour party. On the 19th August, 1944, .South Australia displayed a broad national outlook by voting “ Yes “.
– The honorable member would be advised not to go too deeply into that.
– As a South Australian, I am proud to say that the State which I assist to represent exhibited an Australian outlook. South Australia will be prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in introducing a national social policy. My first suggestion regarding a national plan is to encourage early marriages. Italy and Germany, and to a lesser degree France, granted financial assistance to young couples for the purpose of encouraging them to marry, because that would develop a more virile nation. The Australian birth-rate would receive a stimulus if the Commonwealth Government were to grant financial assistance to young persons in. order to enable them to marry. This assistance would relieve them of monetary anxieties. Under the arrangement in Italy and Germany, advances were made to young couples over the age of eighteen years, and 25 per cent, of the debt was cancelled when the first child was born. An additional 25 per cent, was remitted when the second child was born, and so on. “Whilst no Englishspeaking country has yet adopted this system, I believe that Australia must introduce such a scheme in order to increase the birth-rate.
Another subject which should be considered in any national scheme is the necessity to educate our children to love the rural portions of Australia. The present tendency is to make the curriculum in primary and secondary schools in rural areas similar to that taught in schools in the metropolitan area. In that way, children are not encouraged to remain on the land, because they are taught subjects which equip them for earning a livelihood in the city. They should be taught more about the beauty of our land. I do not desire it to be thought that I advocate that children in country districts should be discouraged from making careers for themselves in the cities. But if they were taught to love the land, the present influx into the metropolitan areas of people from country districts would be reduced.
Any national scheme should show greater consideration for the aged and infirm. The fact that we pay a pension to invalids and aged persons is not enough. We have no right to class an old-age pension as a form of charity. Half the sourness, jealousy, and. bitterness in the world would be avoided if, early in life, men and women knew that they would have security in their old age. This security should be described not as an old-age pension or a charity but as a national bonus. Notwithstanding the defeat of the referendum on the Constitution alteration proposals, I hope that the Government will collaborate with the States in evolving a national policy of employment which will ensure work at reasonable wages to the men and women of the services and to other people in the community who have made sacrifices during the past five .years. People should be encouraged to marry at an early age and to rear families, and they should not have to face the spectre of economic insecurity.
I was glad to notice in the budget that the Government intends to provide a gratuity of some description for service personnel. I hope, also, that our repatriation plans will be more effective than those which were put into operation after the last war. Men who go on the land should be provided with good country which will yield them a decent living. After the last war many men were settled on country which was quite unsuited to the purpose for which it was used, with the result that properties had to be abandoned by soldier settlers. History of that kind should not be repeated. Ample areas of land, well suited for soldier settlement, are available in the various States and also in the Northern Territory. I have been through parts of the Northern Territory recently, as has the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Excellent country is available there, much of which is at present in the hands of people who are not using it. Very little of it, in fact, is being used to its full capacity. I hope that our land settlement policy will be wise and generous.
– “The captains and the . kings depart “, so the private members of the committee now have an opportunity to express their minds on various subjects referred to in the budget. I shall be cautious in anything I say, however, for I have in mind the obvious endeavours of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) this evening, to exploit whatever unanimity there may be between himself and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister’s references to rationing and price control after the war cause me to express the hope that the Opposition will not allow itself to be entangled in this spider’s web. I remember the fate of the little fly in the nursery rhyme. One of the unexplained mysteries of recent political history in this country is the small part which the Prime Minister took in the referendum campaign which was so closely related to price control and rationing.
– The honorable member must know that the Prime Minister was in ill health during the campaign.
– I do not come from the banks of the Tumut. I live mostly in the outback areas of Australia, and am not well acquainted with the happenings in our capital cities, nor am I very close to the mighty men of the day. Nevertheless, it is remarkable to mo that the Prime Minister failed, during the campaign, to visit Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, or Tasmania.
– For reasons of which the honorable member for Barker must be well aware.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) may be the Prime Minister’s keeper, in which case I grieve for that right honorable gentleman. My point, at the moment, is that I am suspicious of the manner in which the Prime Minister canvassed the observations made by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon concerning price control and rationing after the war. What has to be considered is net so much agreement on principle on these subjects, as agreement on methods; and I believe it will be found that there will be all the difference in the world between the methods of the Government and those which the Opposition would adopt.
The manner in which the Prime Minister blossomed out on several subjects this evening makes me suggest that his name ought to he “ Mayflower “. The right honorable gentleman made some interesting and unexpected remarks on migration, and what he had to say about international trade revived suspicions I have always held that the right honorable gentleman is_ at heart a free trader. The opinions which the right honorable gentleman expressed on Imperial relations were very different from those he uttered on that subject earlier in the war while he was Leader of the Opposition. I recall to mind the verse in the Scripture, “ Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth”. But the earnest prayer uttered by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) last March, not long before the Prime Minister left Australia for Great Britain, was not answered, thank Heaven!
I come now to a consideration of certain subjects mentioned in the budget which will require the close attention of this Parliament before long. It has been the custom during the last couple of years to “blither and blah” a great deal about the wonderful new world into which we may be projected suddenly after victory. We may be at the dawn of victory, but it may also be only a false dawn. I am one of the “ old narks “ who do not believe everything I read in war communiques. I have had some ‘face-to-face experience with German infantrymen and I know that they have some “ stickability “. I know also that the Rhine is a fairly effective tank barrier, for I have been on it. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) had better not continue to show the whites of his eyes at me, for when he does so he looks almost satanical, whereas we all know that probably his most serious crimeshave been in relation to pink icing and Father Christmas. When the honorable gentleman turns up the whites of his eyes, as he did a moment ago, I think of pictures I have seen of Mephistopheles in Faust. We should not take for granted everything we read in the press. I hope with all my heart that hostilities may soon cease. The saving of life is a far greater consideration to me than the saving of wealth. Our military position is infinitely better to-day than at any other time since the outbreak of the war, and for this reason, even if peace may not be imminent, we should be giving some attention to the problems that will face us immediately the war ends. I shall not discuss foreign relations at any great length at this stage. The frequent statements that have been made on this subject by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) have been interesting, informative and, in fact, rather exhausting to a man of my limited intelligence and understanding. I wish to read carefully the statement made by the right honorable gentleman last week before I make any comment upon it. I fear that, even after reading it, I may be obliged to make some remarks on the subject qf international relations which will not please everybody. I see one or two straws which show which way the wind is blowing. During the referendum campaign, a report appeared in the Adelaide press concerning discussions at’ Hot Springs, in America. I hope that the results will not he too “ hot “ for us later on. The report referred to the need for international financial cooperation and also to the rehabilitation of the conquered and devastated countries of Europe after the war. Even the feeding of the peoples of those countries will be a great task. In dealing with post-war international financial arrangements the report mentioned! the need for control over rates of exchange and foreign investments - two subjects involved in the recent referendum. I was glad to notice, by the way, that my constituents returned a handsome “ No “ majority, though I do not suggest that this was due to my persuasive eloquence. I find it strange that the Prime Minister, who was seeking additional powers for the Commonwealth to deal with these subjects, should have made certain remarks on them this evening. The financial arrangements that will operate internationally after the war call for close consideration. Certain commitments have already been entered into in connexion with the United ‘ Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The Prime Minister’s statements on this general subject this evening brought to my -mind Russell Lowell’s reference to “ low Yankee standard of dollars and cents “, but, whether finance is available or not, we must take our fair share, in accordance with the dictates of Christian charity - which may sound strange coming from me - in assuaging the sufferings of the people of the overrun countries of the world. No statement by me is needed to remind the committee of the dreadful fate which overtook the small country of Greece. There is no need to say more than that that country has stood up to quite a lot during this war.
This international financial set-up is going to have an important bearing on the local financial set-up. While the party that now occupies the Government benches sat in opposition, many of its members talked fluently about the financial position, and gave tongue to a number of fanciful theories in regard to the provision of easy money. There are a few things that we have to get very clearly in our heads. One is, that in the long run in this world one must give value for value. There are no cheap, easy methods of finance, though there are methods which will get the country very quickly into extreme financial difficulties; and that stage having been reached, there are no quick and easy methods of getting it out. One of the first things that has to be drilled into the community is, that a man has to earn the wages that he gets. Whether the industry be big or small, and whether the number of employees be large or small, if men do not earn their wages, the industry ultimately will be unable to carry on. Likewise, it stands to reason that unless a primary or secondary producer gets the cost of production, plus depreciation and something for himself, he cannot remain in production for very long. These are facts that have to be recited time and again for the benefit of some of- my friends on the other side. Let us have a look at our home affairs. After all, whatever may be the foreign position, or the commitments of a military and political character into which the Government will enter at the signing of peace, ultimately this Parliament must legislate ; budgets will be produced, taxation systems will be devised, and governments will function, for the home affairs of this country. We may get a certain degree of satisfaction out of pretending that we are a fairly considerable power in the South Pacific. I am not, at this stage, detracting from anything that has been said or done on that matter. Ultimately, however, that for which this Parliament exists is the peace, order and good government of Australia. On that point, I shall say a few words. -First, there is the matter of foreign trade. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) dealt with that briefly and pointedly. I agree with all that he said on the agricultural situation in England, and on. the situation that will face Great Britain as an overseas investor when this war i3 finished. I have read some publications that have come out of the United Kingdom lately. Material is being produced over there which must give every agricultural member of. this House cause for serious thought as to what may be the agricultural future of Great Britain. The honorable member for Warringah referred to the mechanization of farming in the United Kingdom and other countries. It is quite true that the greater the degree of mechanization introduced, the smaller will be the total number of people required on the farms. But it also follows, as day follows night, that the moment you introduce mechanization, you create employment of other types - for the men who must construct the machines, and for the men who must service them, and provide spare parts for them. So that we do not give the whole story when we say that, by means of mechanization, we have dispensed with the services of a certain, number of agricultural workers. True, we may have dispensed with their services; but at the same time we may have called into being a demand for workers in many other - industries. That point needs to be carefully watched when we are dealing with matters of this type. Take the farming position as it is to-day. I admit that I am trespassing to a certain degree on the good nature of the committee, by referring to what I believe to be one of the most outstanding problems of present-day agriculture in Australia. First, there is the very backward state into which agriculture has fallen as the result of war measures. These are things which would have happened, regardless of what party happened to be in office. They arose out of the very fact that we were engaged in hostilities. Certain requirements have not been available for the farming community ; for example, machinery, wire-netting, piping, and spare parts of all kinds which would normally be purchased. All sorts of improvements which would have been made, and repairs which would have been carried out, could not be executed because of- lack of materials and man-power. Therefore, as soon as the war ends there will be a very strong and steady demand from Australian, agriculture for replacements of various types. The same must apply in a certain measure to secondary industry in Australia. Some industries have been well provided for, the simple reason being that they have been engaged in munitions production of various kinds, or the manufacture of different requirements for the prosecution of the war. But other industries have not been similarly placed, and they will require a good deal of reconstruction, re-machining and general overhaul. -To my mind, the three things that will concern this Parliament before very long are, first, the problems arising out of, perhaps, partial demobilization; secondly, the very difficult and complex problem that will arise out of our repatriation schemes; and thirdly, the subject of reconstruction to which I have already referred briefly. At this stage, I do not wish to say much about partial demobilization. I merely support the view expressed by certain members on this side of the chamber, in regard to what I believe to be the very unsatisfactory position to-day in relation to- the control and allocation of manpower in Australia. My view coincides with views that I heard expressed this afternoon and evening. In the munitions factories, there are thousands of men and women who are contributing nothing that is worth-while to the production of munitions.
– That is “ tommy rot “.
– That is my belief ; and it is founded on what men connected with munitions production have told me from time to time, verbally and in correspondence. I have visited areas where the Allied Works Council is operating, and I. have a strong SUS:picion that, regardless of his party affiliations, any honorable member who goes to those areas must admit that an enormous waste of both man-power and material has occurred wherever . that body has been let loose.
Let us next consider the position in the armed forces of Australia. As one who left those forces not very long ago, I have expressed the opinion, both in this chamber and privately, that the ground staffs of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army are hopelessly overmanned. I have visited the various head-quarters, and I am at liberty to speak on these matters now. I have seen bases which I do not think could be justified before a committee of this House. There must be tens of thousands of men in uniform to-day who have not been outside Australia, and have no chance of getting out, but have no effective job to do for the defence of this country. As my position cannot be very different from that of other honorable members, I suppose that practically all of us have received complaints about this matter from the men concerned. If a committee were appointed to make an overhaul of the use of man-power, that is one of the first things which should be investigated. Honorable members on both sides of the House should support a thorough inquiry into the wicked waste of man-power. In any other country except Australia, such an investigation would have been made long ago. One of the things that annoys me from time to time is the complete lack of touch ‘between the Parliament and the defence forces, the Munitions Department, and bodies such as the Allied Works Council. A. close supervision of war expenditure would have been exercised, had the Parliament been discharging one of its prime responsibilities.
I also support the honorable member for Warringah in drawing attention to the necessity for .parliamentary control of expenditure. The War Expenditure Committee of this Parliament admittedly has been making various inquiries. According to an old maxim, prevention is better than cure; but the War Expenditure Committee neither prevents nor cures, because it is not able to investigate expenditure until the money has already been expended. I cannot recall having seen many of its reports. No doubt they go into pigeon-holes, and some clerk may have nothing else to do but to file and index them, so that in future people may be able to ascertain the degree to which the control of war expenditure by Parliament has failed1. I contend that responsibility with regard to public expenditure should rest on the branch of the legislature which imposes taxation.
Too little time has been spent in this Parliament by the present Government. When Ministers were in opposition in 1940, one of the perpetual cries from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was that Parliament should meet for one week in every month while the war was in progress. The war position at that time was not particularly serious. There had been some reverses, such as that experienced at Dunkirk, but the British, forces have a habit of retrieving the most adverse situations. The opinion of the
Opposition at that time was that not one man should go out of Australia, and that this was an Imperialist war. On the 3rd October, 1941, the Labour party assumed office, and the number of times that this House has met since then must represent an all-time low in parliamentary sittings. This Parliament meets too seldom. We assembled for a few weeks in February and March of this year. I have a strong feeling that, if the Parliament remains in session for a considerable period, we shall witness one or two differences of opinion among honorable members opposite. Members of the Opposition will be making references to some of these matters during the next few days, in the course of debates on formal motions for the adjournment of the House.
– There is solidarity on this side.
– The honorable member is quite right, if he is referring to the “ top pieces “ of honorable members opposite. There is a good Yorkshire saying -that there are two kinds of wood that, should never be used - the kind that is so hard that a nail cannot be driven into it, and the sort that is so soft that no nail will stay in it.
The honorable member should address the Chair.
– I was complaining of a certain degree of ministerial irresponsibility. I keenly believe in formal motions for the adjournment of the House, because they concentrate debate on specific subjects, and the responsible Ministers are called upon to answer the cases that are presented. But I shall not trespass on the special preserves of my colleagues who may be dealing with matters that will form the basis of such motions. The need for parliamentary control of public expenditure is urgent, and much more time than at present ought to he occupied by committees of this Parliament in investigating proposals before expenditure is incurred. As I have already indicated, the present War Expenditure Committee neither prevents nor cures, because it does not. investigate proposed expenditure. Therefore, it is unable to apply a remedy.
A better method of control of the public purse is urgently required in the interests of the people.
I shall have a word or two to say with regard to the raising of public loans. I am one of those unorthodox persons who think that it is beneath the dignity of any government in time of war to have to induce the public to invest in war loans by having bands playing, and soldiers marching through the city streets of Melbourne and Sydney. The Government should take its courage in both hands and tell the people with surplus money how much they ought to put into the war loans. Under the present system, it is the willing horse that pulls the load. It has become a custom for the Treasury to insist, before permitting certain land transactions to take place, that a certain sum of money shall be invested in war bonds. Only those with money to spare can invest in land at the present time, and I cannot understand why such a practice should have been inaugurated by a party which professes to be concerned particularly with the welfare of the under-dog. As a matter of fact, I have always believed that anyone who wants to start a first class, redblooded monopoly should wait until a Labour government is in power. Monopolies never had such a good “ go “ under any other kind of government.
Recently, a local governing body in South Australia was given authority under National Security Regulations to sell by auction certain blocks of land for the non-payment of rates. Two cases were brought to my notice of men being refused permission to buy blocks at this sale. One professional man, who owns a house, wanted to buy one of the blocks for £50, but he was told that he could not have it. The other man wanted to buy a £25 block, but he, too, was refused permission. Both men had very good records in the last war. The only son of one of them is in the Air Force. He sold a 640-acre farm early in the war to enlist, and I am glad to say that he is still going strong; but his father was refused permission to buy a block of land for £50. Experiences of this kind are tending to get under the people’s skin. Their reaction is that, if they are not allowed to buy a block of land when they want to, they will not be so keen to invest in the next war loan. The Prime Minister, who is able to gauge public opinion with considerable success, and even to anticipate it, should realize the effect which practices of this kind have upon the public mind. There should be a review of administrative practices in connexion with land transfers, particularly the practice of demanding that a man shall, as a condition of being given permission to purchase land, put so much cash into the war loan, and in some instances lodge a certificate that the bonds will not be sold during the war. If the investment is not justified, it would be far better to forbid it straight out than to insist upon conditions which have the effect of discriminating between one taxpayer and another. This practice does not even take into account the extent to which a man may have invested in earlier war loans. In some of the cases which have come under my notice I have felt that the Treasury was ill-advised in refusing permission for transfers. No doubt it acted with the best intentions, but we know what Dante had to say about good intentions.
It is surprising how many people are to-day viewing with growing concern the ever-increasing public debt of Australia. They realize that there will be a very big interest bill to meet after the war, and that it can be met only by imposing fairly heavy taxation. At the same time, it will be necessary to encourage private enterprise as much as possible as soon as the war is over, and one of the best ways to do this will be to keep taxation at a reasonably low level. I believe in the profit motive. Therefore, I am not, and never can be, a socialist. On the other hand, I do not believe in allowing private enterprise to run riot, but I do believe in the right of a man to own property, and to do better than the other fellow, if possible. If unduly heavy ‘burdens be placed upon private enterprise the economic stability of the country must be adversely affected.
Therefore, there is an impelling need for the most rigid economy from now on in the administration of public affairs. Before ever this war began, I said that, no matter what Government was in power during the course of a war, there would necessarily be waste. The Government must make provision for contingencies that may never arise. Similarly, it will fail to make provision for other contingencies that do arise, and when the expenditure has to be undertaken the cost will probably be three times as much as if the work had been undertaken earlier. On matters of war expenditure I would be one of the last members of the committee to ask for perfection from any Minister, regardless of the party to which he belongs, but I believe that, with the improved war- outlook during the last few months, we have arrived at the stage when there should be greater economy in war expenditure, and in. normal departmental expenditure than the present budget provides for. I hope that before the Estimates have been passed there will be a close scrutiny of the contemplated expenditure of certain departments, and that Ministers will be able to give more details of the proposed disbursements than can be gleaned from the statement of the Treasurer. .1 hope also that the government of the day will keep seriously in mind the necessity for facing, the difficult and troublous period which I believe will come when we commence the first partial demobilization of the armed forces of this country. There has been too much easy talk of the wonderful paradise to which members of the fighting services will return when the war is over. I do not apologize for repeating my view that after the war there will be, in every branch of industry, need to work harder and longer each day than we have done for a long time. Australia has been a fortunate country during the war. The way that . some people have conducted themselves during the la3t two or three years would lead one to think that the war was a million miles away. People who were guilty of selfishness when the threat to this country was imminent will not be backward in making demands on the government of the day when peace, arrives, or when an armistice has been signed. There will then be a pressing necessity for the Government to attend to a number of things. I shall not deal now with the subject of post-war planning, because I have not much faith in such planning. The Government has in its employ, a lot of young gentlemen who have not had much experience of the world, and have not had to earn their living in competition with others, but are preparing plans for a lot of doubtful things which others will have to provide and pay for.
– They are not planning for private pro-fits, as the honorable member would do.
– As I have said, I believe in private property and the profit .motive.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was my intention to pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) for the budget speech which he delivered a few days ago, but that privilege was availed of by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) who, with that facility of phrase of which he is a master, paid a glowing tribute to the Treasurer that appealed to me tremendously. Thus does romance come to Canberra. I had thought of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the recent referendum, but when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) lifted the debate to the stratosphere of higher politics and mentioned that certain controls, such as price fixing and rationing, would have to operate after the war, I threw to one side an advertisement which the advocates of a “ No “ vote at the recent referendum published. It said simply and pointedly, “ “Will you have to carry your parcels for five years after the war?”
– Is the honorable member referring to a certain apology which appeared in the Standard?
– There are many more important things to be done than to indulge in repartee with such a master of the art as is the Leader of the Opposition. I shall not cross swords with him at this stage, although I may do so in the next Parliament.
– The honorable member will not be here then.
– Although many may fall by the wayside, I think that I shall escape, that fate. The Treasurer has reminded us that this is a war-time budget. Certainly it contains few concessions ; we are still behind the Maginot line of war finance. Of the population of this country, 71 per cent, are either in the fighting services or are working for victory. At this stage, there can be no diversion from the war effort. The budget is a rather flat presentation of war-time expenditure; there are no rosy dreams to tickle our imagination. Naturally, we are apt to disregard the great battle that the Treasurer is waging against forces which generally appear in war-time, such as black markets and the rising tide of inflation. These things are day-by-day troubles. As a. masterly exposition of war-time finance, the Treasurer’s speech is something of which he has reason to be proud. I thought that I sensed a realist Treasurer peering over the fortifications of war-time finance, and looking forward to the day when peace is here again. I am convinced that the stultifying effects of war-time finance will quickly be removed, and that we shall soon get our mobile forces operating in opera country. There are several important concessions in the budget. Among them are increased allowances for medical expenses, and the removal of the sales tax on building materials. Every honorable member has had letters from various bodies asking that these concessions be granted. These concessions were granted unostentatiously when the time to make them arrived. These things enable us to get a glimpse of what we may expect in the future when the war has been brought to a successful conclusion. In this budget we are presented with a picture which is somewhat obscured by the realities of war. Except for the speech of the Prime Minister, which I exclude specifically as being above criticism, the haranguing and querulous note that has characterized the speeches delivered on this budget to-day makes one remember the conclusion of the 1914-18 war. Instead of being centred on what Ave shall do with our new-found happiness after the war, the debate has centred on the allocation and expenditure of money, and it appears that, as towards the end of the last war, we are getting busy in changing our slogans, such as “ Nothing too good for the soldier “, and “ Back the attack “, to “We cannot afford it”. That is a dangerous and difficult line to attempt to sustain with the people of the country, because we are committed to certain changes. A war of this magnitude will leave scars and also sweep away for ever the so-called good old days. There can be no return to the status quo. We have to march onward and in the new world deal with new problems and new difficulties. One of the greatest difficulties is wrapped up in the provision of social services which we think that the people of Australia should have. When I consider these social services one which leaps to my mind immediately is the invalid and old-age pension. It has been said that one must not take a sectional view of social services and that, one must consider the lot because to move a piece of a mosaic or a. cornerstone is to disturb the whole -, but, if one is tackling a problem, one, to be successful, must tackle it at the point of greatest decay, or the point of greatest anxiety or agony if it concerns the sufferings of the people. So, I think that the invalid and old-age pensioners have the first claim on the social security programme which must be brought into being immediately the war is over. There are targets for this and that in war-time production. We have become used to saying that this or that is the minimum output that we must reach. I think that we should consider a more or less permanent target for invalid and old-age pensioners. Various amounts have been canvassed. The sum of £2 a week has been freely suggested as the standard minimum. The question of pensions is a humanitarian one, and I remind the House that it is one with which we are constitutionally empowered to deal without recourse to any other authority. It is a historical dedication to the Labour party that the provision of invalid and old-age pensions was the first social security enactment in our country. Apart from the urgency of the matter, I commend to the Treasurer on that ground the suggestion that in his next budget the circumstances of the invalid and old-age pensioners must be tackled with doggedness, pluck and reality. There are various formulas expounded about the invalid and old-age pension. There is the statement that it must represent one-quarter of the basic wage. There are other formulas and dogmas. Methods of increasing the rate of pension are almost an institution.
But that, target of £2 has been accepted by the pensioners’ organizations which Iia ve been formed all over the country. It would cost Australia another £11,000,000 :i year. That is a big sum, but we see in the Treasurer’s budget speech that the provision of free medicine will cost £2,000,000 and free hospital beds another £5,000;000, making a total of £7,000,000, and I have seen published in the press, which I do not always believe entirely, but which, on this occasion, I think, has some justification for its statement that those provisions may be challenged, which makes the prospects of the invalid and old-age pensioners much more rosy. The question of invalid and oldage pensions is not political but humanitarian. Nevertheless, we should be proud that the Australian Labour party, which has done so much to improve the standards of the working class industrially by the creation of the arbitration system and in other, ways, also virtually pioneered the old-age pension for those beyond the working age. I understand that certain European countries had . some scheme of old-age pensions, but it was the Fisher Government that really instituted the principle that the pension should march with progress and have relation to purchasing power and living standards. The Labour party had no intention of throwing the aged a. sop and saying to them that they must die slowly in back rooms in this country. The welfare of the sick and the aged is closer to our beans than that, and their problems should be tackled vigorously.
– The honorable member does not suggest that a Labour government introduced old-age pensions in Australia?
– If the honorable gentleman refers to the records he will see that the Labour party forced the then government to bring down the initial legislation.
– I know the excellent work that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has done to provide and improve social services, but the only contribution that he hag made to the work of the Social Security Committee was to go on strike. !But that is merely incidental. I do believe that the people are willing and eager to provide the money for an ade quate pension for invalids and old people. Our taxes are at a high rate at present, but there should be some master plan devised to make the necessary adjustments so that when we return to a reasonable level of taxation after the war there shall be greater provision made for the invalids and old-aged.- It is realized that we cannot have it both ways, and reduce taxes to the pre-war level and at the same time provide extra, social benefits.
The Treasurer said that a parliamentary committee would be called into being to consider the question of the payment of some gratuity to returned soldiers after the war. That is a splendid idea. It would lift the soldier from the auction block and enable his position to be put very clearly to the people in order to ensure his getting the best possible reward or, since his service is above reward, the highest possible gratuity. It will remove the returned soldiers from the position of their being regarded as a block vote to be bought at auction by one or other of the political parties. At the end of the last war, our returned men were given a gratuity of ls. a day for each day they spent in camp and ls. 6d. a day for each day- of active service or after embarkation for active service. That might be the point from which the proposed committee could start its work.
After the last Avar the soldiers were given their gratuity in the form of a bond which matured, I think, five years later. There was a lot of black marketing - the term was not used in those days - in connexion with those gratuities, and I know that a great many men, although they Ave re given a. gratuity, did not have the spending of it. We must be very careful, however not to impose so many restrictions that when the returned soldier receives the money he will have six or seven “ policemen “ to supervise the way he spends it. I heard as an alternative to a gratuity the suggestion that returned men should be given leave on pay in proportion to their service. Most soldiers themselves would agree that that would be entirely wrong and that it would be something that they would not accept favorably. They would tell you that when they are on leave they incur a great deal more expenditure than when they are in camp. A glorified period of leave is much less needed by the soldier than planned security. It may be necessary to wait until they are more attuned to peace than to war before they are provided with their gratuities. I enter a plea for a more sober outlook regarding the soldiers. We are reaching the position at which organizations representing them have come to the verge of playing politics in their alleged interests. We have two camps, and it appears that each camp claims for those whom it pretends to embrace a special kind of valour not possessed by the other. One camp ostensibly represents the Militia and the other the Australian Imperial Force. This belief is not borne by the men themselves, but it is being fostered by narrow-minded people who seek to keep the men of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia men separate from each other. We shall have to do something very speedily to knit Australians together. They must not be divided. They have not been divided in the greater duties they have .been called upon to do as soldiers; and they should not be divided in the rewards accruing to them in peace. Nothing we can do will adequately repay the soldier for his services; but we can use our sober judgment and common sense in relation to his problems, particularly with respect to gratuities, or special payments, to him.
Finally, I mention the problems of the serviceman so far as his place in the nation after the war is concerned. These include the problems of housing and soldier settlement. I am sure that, remembering the bitter lessons we learned from our experience with soldier settlements after the last war, we shall not repeat the mistakes we then made. Surveys should be made of land available for soldier settlement, and all such land should be subjected to the closest scrutiny. The soldier’s future after this war will not be decided on an auctioneer’s table; and neither will the problem of. housing for the soldier be regarded as an unimportant matter. It is a national matter and must be dealt with accordingly. I have referred particularly to soldiers’ gratuities and pensions. I have not mentioned those matters in any spirit of criticism of the budget, but simply because in view of the early prospect of peace, consideration of these subjects cannot be long delayed. These problems must be tackled in the wider atmosphere of peace. We must honour our promises to the old people that the nation will see them through; and we must ensure that after the war the soldier shall receive his just reward.
Progress reported. .
Australian- Army : Private J. Wilson ; Releases - Tobacco koh Aborigines - Dairying Industry - Communications Censorship.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Considerable prominence has been given during the last few days to the sentencing of a soldier, Private J. Wilson, NX18306, to imprisonment for a term of five years for mutiny. This man’s wife, who resides in Drummoyne in my electorate, brought the matter to my notice about five months ago. I then placed the facts of the case before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and made strong representations for a reduction of the sentence. I now take this opportunity to enlighten honorable members generally concerning the facts and to renew my request to the Minister that he review this case. This, soldier was found guilty of mutiny while undergoing . a sentence in Brisbane. He mutinied as a protest against what he described as a bug-infested camp, and bad conditions generally in the camp. He had seen service for some years overseas, during which period, I understand, he was recommended for a decoration for bravery in action. When those facts were placed before the Minister, he intimated that, possibly, this soldier would be released not later than October, 1945. However, a few days ago the Returned Soldiers Congress in session in Sydney made strong representations that the sentence be terminated immediately. I support those representations. A strong case can ‘be made out for the reduction of the sentence which, despite the seriousness of the offence, appears to be rather severe when compared with sentences imposed in respect of civilian offences. For instance, a man named Mr. Woolcott Forbes, who was convicted of a much more serious offence, received much the same sentence. This soldier’s wife, who bears a very good character, is rearing two children; and in view of those facts a strong case can be made out for a reduction of the sentence on compassionate grounds alone. I again ask the Minister for the Army to review the sentence passed upon this soldier.
– I desire to raise the subject of tobacco supplies for natives in the Northern Territory. After I interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on this matter, the
Minister forwarded a letter to the Northern Territory Development League explaining the position. Subsequently, I received a letter from the secretary of the league, which has its head-quarters at Alice Springs, from which I quote the following: - . . The Committee of the Northern Territory Development League has discussed Senator Keane’s letter and wishes to point out the following: -
The suggestion that native tobacco may be purchased by traders in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek as part of their ordinary monthly quota, is unfair. The present monthly quota representing very much more than 30 per cent, cut from the normal requirements of civilians in this area, because the quota is based, as stated, on the purchases of these stores in the base year, which was the first year of the war. At that time many civilians living in this area purchased their tobacco supplies direct from Adelaide stores, which will no longer supply them. The result, as stated, is that civilians of this area have in effect, been much more severely rationed regarding tobacco supplies than civilians in other areas.
The Committee of the League consider that native tobacco should be made available quite apart from, and in addition to, the ordinary monthly quotas.
It is clear that no abuse of the quota system oan follow as white men could not smoke what is sold nowadays as native tobacco; indeed, the blacks themselves report that they cannot smoke it but must chew it.
We also desire to point out that much unnecessary trouble is occasioned on stations and to contractors in the Territory by the short supplies of native tobacco. Members of the Committee can vouch for occasions in which natives have left their employers because of the lack of the normal tobacco ration, with consequent serious results to the production of cattle and other essential work in the area.
The Government should seriously consider this matter. Big changes in the population of the Northern Territory have occurred since the first year of the war. Those changes have been most important, even since the entry of Japan into the conflict. No one knows better than the Minister for the Army that leaving out of account Army and Allied Works Council personnel the fluctuations of population within the Northern Territory, as the result of military operations, have been considerable.
A good deal of difficulty has arisen on other matters regarding the native question that I do not desire to introduce into my remarks on tobacco, but I assure the Minister for the Army that the provision of tobacco for the natives is most important. The native, as I understand him, is a consistent smoker. He is not so fastidious as are most “whites” and, therefore, he gets a very inferior type of tobacco. Without labouring the matter further, I emphasize to the Government the urgent necessity for alleviating a serious disability in one of Australia’s most outlying areas.
[11.2 1. - Every week, dispersal sales of dairy herds are being advertised in south coast newspapers. 1 know other farmers who have not yet advertised their herds, but who have set definite dates beyond which they will not attempt to continue production. On other farms, the number of cows being milked has been very substantially reduced. The output of butter, which has already fallen seriously, will further decline. When butter is so urgently needed to fulfil our commitments, this prospect is disastrous. I admit that there are other contributing factors, but the main cause is that the dairy-farmers concerned are unable to obtain the release of their sons from the Army. The position will not be corrected by the authorization of further releases from the Army for dairy-farming, as recently announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). That will do little or no good while the existing Army restrictions remain on the classifications of soldiers eligible for release.
The position to-day is that, regardless of how urgent the needs of a farm, whether it will go out of production or what the effect will be on gravely needed food supplies, the soldier must remain in the Army if he is in any one of a number of categories. I am not quarrelling with this state of affairs. I recognize that the Government must decide how many men shall be released, and the Army authorities must say who shall be released. Whilst that is proper as a general policy, dairy-farming must be considered on a separate basis. It is essentially a family industry, and the Farmer who is worn out through advancing years, ill health, and over-work, naturally needs one of his sons to manage the property. He will go out of production unless the services of a son are made available to him. Some honorable members may argue that it should not be so, but that is tie position. When the dairy-farmer can carry on no longer without assistance, and when he finally gives up hope of the return of a son to the farm, he either sells out or drastically reduces his milking herd. That is happening to-day on a serious scale.
For tho sake of maintaining dairying production, I ask most earnestly that where a district war agricultural committee, a dairy factory committee, and the Man Power Directorate have recommended the release of a soldier, favorable consideration should be given to his release, regardless of his military category. I know of many urgent and genuine cases, which have been fully investigated and strongly recommended, but which have been rejected only because the soldier was in a restricted Army category. I greatly appreciate the care and consideration which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) always gives to representations for the release of men from the Army. I recognize that, as the result of his careful attention, it has been .possible to obtain the release of men who otherwise would not ‘ have been released ; but the fact remains that many hundreds of men in the Army are sorely needed on dairy farms. Without their assistance, those dairy farms will undoubtedly go out of production, as many other dairy farms have already done.
– M!any more of them will go out of production.
– I agree. Urgently needed releases have been granted as the result of the care and time which the Minister has given to special case3. Rut because the position in the dairying industry has become so serious, I urgently repeat my general representations on this issue.
I ask that, in addition to approving a further quota of releases- for dairyfarming, the Government should arrange for the Department of the Army to consider these applications, and grant them where possible, regardless of the unit or area in which the soldier is serving. If that is done, it will “stepup “ butter production. If it is not done, butter production, already seriously declining, will inevitably continue to fall. If it is done, many farms will stay in production and the number of cows being milked on other farms will be increased. If it is not done, these farms will go out of production, or will further reduce their milking herds.
– In the discussion earlier to-day, I had occasion to refer to the royal commissioner on the Hannan allegations. I spoke after the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) had addressed the House, and, therefore, he had no opportunity to reply to my remarks. He subsequently directed my attention to the fact that the royal commissioner had made a finding on the conversation between the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, and the Attorney-General, and he suggested to me that I should refer to it in order to complete what had been said about the report.
– In order to put the position fairly. -
– I very willingly agreed that I personally would take the opportunity to read to the House what the royal commissioner had said. Nothing could be more fair than that. The royal commissioner said -
I may also add that I do not attach much importance to Mr. Hannan’s interview with Mr. Playford when the latter’s conversation with Dr. Evatt was discussed. There could be nothing sinister or secret about the conversation between Dr. Evatt and the Premier, when shortly after this conversation there appeared in the public press a statement, purporting to come from a government spokesman at Canberra, that the Government might feci it necessary to investigate the reason* for the opposition in South Australia to the Commonwealth Powers Bill and the sources from which the campaign against it was being financed
That was the final reference which the royal commissioner made to the matter to which I referred, and I gladly complete my own reference by rending it to the House.
.- I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the case of Private J. Wilson, the circumstances of which were reported before a recent congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in Sydney, From my perusal of the statements made at, that congress, it is clear that this soldier, who served overseas, including Tobruk, for a period seems to have received a very severe sentence. As an. ex-soldier, I ask the Minister for the Army to place on the table of the Library the file of the case so that I and other returned soldier members ‘ of the House may examine it and, if we think worth while and proper, in the interests of the soldier himself, make further representations to the Minister privately. Before taking action in. the matter I should like to inform my mind of the facts. If the Minister will agree to make the file available, I shall be glad, with other honorable members, to examine it. Then if the facts represented to the congress are borne out, I shall be (riad to discuss the matter with the Minister with a view to the penalty being mitigated.
I join in making strong representations to both the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) for a. review of the circumstances existing to-day so far as man-power is concerned, particularly in the dairying industry. For a number of years I have urged both Ministers to make a thorough examination of the situation which is developing in the rural industries, particularly dairying, as regards the volume of dairy produce being marketed. Certain efforts have been made by way of grants, allowances and subsidies to increase the production of butter, but the question to-day is essentially one of man-power and the supply of necessary materials, all of which are lacking. The Department of the Army must have some regard to the circumstances of the farmer who makes the application for the release of a soldier. I do not know whether the soldiers from my electorate are all members of combatant units, but I receive a severe shock whenever a reply favorable to the application for release reaches me. Wherever the soldier concerned is serving, regard must be paid to the circumstances of the farmer if production, is to be maintained. I realize that our first obligation is to provide the requisite numbers for the fighting forces, but we have in that respect to-day a very substantial number, much larger than in the last war. Ve have about three divisions fighting, preparing for war, or which have participated in the war. A review of the man-power generally of the whole Commonwealth is absolutely necessary. The situation to-day has changed materially. We are in an entirely different position from that which we were in when Japan attacked. If a full overhaul of man-power in the fighting forces, the Civil Constructional Corps, and munitions production were made, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be possible to release infinitely more men than are being released for primary production. The basis on which the investigation into applications for release is now made is altogether too foolish. If the Department of the Army and Manpower Directorate do not take into consideration the circumstances of the farmer on whose behalf the application is made’, then many aged parents now working in the dairying industry - in a great number of instances over 70 years of age - will break down completely in health. A number are waiting to undergo serious major operations because of the strain to which they have been subjected in the last five years of supreme effort. In spite of this, the reply received from the Department of die Army is generally that the soldier is in an operational unit and cannot be released. If dairy production is to continue, regard must be paid to the circumstances in which the old people on the farms are trying to carry on. At present no attempt is made to consider them.
If a proper system were followed, another 20,000 men could he released. We cannot “ step-up “ production unless the circumstances of the soldier’s relatives are taken into consideration. The remarkable progress being made in Europe, and the transfer of activities to the Pacific, which will soon come, must mean many hundreds of thousands of men coming into the Pacific area will have to be supplied with primary products. If we cannot produce these commodities the position will be intolerable. Our obligation is to make available to European countries, and particularly to Great Britain, whose people’ have been receiving 2 oz. of butter and ls. 2d. worth of meat a week, all the primary products that we can. Australia is, or should be, the granary of the world, but if we do not change our policy the people who remain on our farms will fail and even less will be produced. I desire the Minister to ask the army officials who examine these people to call for a report of the circumstances of those who apply for the release of soldiers to help them. Those circumstances then should be taken into consideration. If that is done we shall get somewhere.
So far all the approaches to the subject have been on false premises, which cannot meet with success. I urge the Minister to change the whole policy, and to take into consideration not only the requirements of the Army, which, I admit, must be paramount, but also the vitally important circumstances of the dairy farmers themselves. If those circumstances justify consideration, then consideration must be given to them, and it should be regarded as imperative that the soldier concerned should be released.
– in. reply - Dealing first with the matter raised by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), the case of Private J. Wilson is on all-fours with those of a number of other soldiers who were sentenced to a period of five years’ detention in a military detention camp. Some publicity has been given to this matter in the last few days in the press, and I have asked for the relevant file to be forwarded to Canberra, and shall be pleased to make it available in the Parliamentary Library for the perusal of honor able members who are interested. These sentences were imposed by a courtmartial comprised of army officers. Without having the file before me, I am not conversant with the details of the offence, because hundreds of similar cases come before me from time to time. The decision has been made not by the political head of the Army, but by a duly appointed court-martial, which is considered to be the fairest form of trial in the community. I do not want to prejudice any further consideration of the case. I desire, at all times, to see that the whole of the Australian Army personnel get fair and equitable consideration. Every man is expected to do his duty when he is a member of the Australian Army but, even if he transgresses, he is entitled to just treatment, and it is the policy of the Government to see that that treatment is meted out to him. Certain allegations have been made about harsh treatment, and it is only fair to those against whom these allegations have been made to present both sides of the picture.
– Did the Judge Advocate’General review these cases?
– Yes. This case was submitted to him after it had been brought to my notice five or six months ago by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) in whose electorate Mrs. Wilson resides. I hope to be able to make the file of papers relating to this incident available to honorable members within a couple of days.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) again raised the question of man-power difficulties in the dairying industry. This matter was also referred to by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I am fully conversant with the position because I represent a very large primaryproducing electorate, so that in addition to considering this question from an Australian viewpoint, I have considered it also as a representative of the man on the land. It was because the Government had a full realization of the man-power problems of the dairying industry and of the necessity to make available some Army personnel to afford some measure of relief, that it was decided last yea i- to release 20,000 men from the Australian Army. Those releases necessitated a re-orientation of the Australian Army, and the work of re-organization has been going on ever since. It is not within the province of the Army authorities to decide in what avenue of employment the men whom they release shall engage. That is entirely a matter for the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, who with the guidance of reports from District “War Agricultural Committees, makes representations to the Army as to the personnel that should be discharged on occupational grounds. ‘Subject to certain considerations relating to the categories in which the men are serving, the Army grants or refuses discharges. I realize that the dairying industry is of great importance in the allied war effort. There is an urgent demand to speed up butter productiou to meet not only the requirements of the Australian civilian community and of the fighting services, but also of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Government is having the greatest difficulty in maintaining the present ration of 2 oz. of butter a week to the people of that country. Canada is using practically all its surplus milk supplies to produce cheese, and the United States of America is exporting butter to Russia. That means that a greater responsibility devolves upon Australia and New Zealand to increase exports of butter to the United Kingdom. In the light of these requirements the Commonwealth Government asked the War Commitments Committee to make a complete review of the Australian manpower situation. As has been announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) it has been decided .to release 45,000 men from the Australian fighting forces by the end of June, 1945-30,000 from the Army and 15,000 from the Air Force.
– What about taking the circumstances of individual farmers into consideration when examining applications for the release of service personnel?
– I realize the difficulties facing the farmers, and the necessity to take individual circumstances into consideration, but, unless one can view the whole picture and see what the Army’s commitments have been during the last few months, and what they will be in the near future, it is impossible to say arbi trarily that thousands of men must be pulled out of the Army for this or that industry. In the light of all the information available to it, the Government has decided that the Army should release 30,000 men before the end of June of next year. I realize that a special case can be made out for discharging the 4,000 men whose .release for the dairying industry was recommended by the various District War Agricultural Committees and by the man-power authorities, but who were refused discharge by the Army because of the position of the various units in which they were serving at that time. It will be appreciated that war is not static; that units which may have been in New Guinea at that time are now in Australia and, conversely, that unite which were in Australia then may now be in New Guinea. I have had frequent consultations with the Commander-in-Chief and with the Adjutant-General, MajorGeneral Lloyd, on this question. In fact, T had further talks with MajorGeneral Lloyd to-day, and I am hopeful that I will be able to make a definite announcement that those 4,000 men will be discharged from the Army irrespective of where their units are serving. That, of course, will not be a complete panacea for all the man-power ills in the primary industries. There are 89,000 unsatisfied demands on man-power to-day Of these, at least 39,000 are urgent demands which, we are told, must be satisfied. Obviously, we cannot give complete relief until the war is over, but wherever it is possible to cushion the effect of man-power shortage, the Government is prepared to do so. I hope that I shall be able to make a definite statement after further consultations with the ‘Commander-in-Chief, and that we shall be able to help this overworked primary industry which has been doing such a splendid job for Australia in most difficult circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No. 22 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 132.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for-
Commonwealth purposes -
Forbes, New South Wales.
Hay, New South Wales.
Health purposes - New Farm Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (Agricultural Machinery ) Regulations - Order - Agricultural machinery (No. 3).
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order- Distribution of food.
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of footwear (Styles and uality) (No. 4).
Manufacture of toys.
Prohibition of non-essential pro duction (General).
Taking possession of land, &c. (30).
Use of land (2).
Order by State Premier - New South
Wales (No. 49).
National Security (Timber Control) Regulations - Order - Control of Timber (No. 14).
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 133.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minis ter for the Array, upon notice -
– No; but an assurance is given that in all eases applications from civilians seeking to return to the Northern Territory will be accorded sympathetic consideration and that, as soon as the situation permits, the present conditions of entry will be relaxed.
Commonwealth Bank: Treasury-bill Holdings.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What, proportion of the respective sums of £199,723,109 and £223,348,548 disclosed in the balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as at the 30th June, 1943, and the 30th June, 1944, as Commonwealth Government securities, including treasury-bills, represents treasury-bills ?
– The following answer has been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank : -
The total of treasury-bills held by all departments of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank as at the 30th June, 1943, was £246,335,000 and at the 30th June, 1944, was £314,750,000.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. Almost all of . the members of the Civil Constructional Corps have at some stage or another become eligible for payment of waiting time.
For the information of the honorable member, it is mentioned that persons compulsorily enrolled in the Civil Constructional Corps are medically examined, X-rayed, &c, before being despatched to northern areas. The time thus occupied is paid for as waiting time and might average approximately two days per man. One day’s waiting time is paid to a man on the day of his despatch from one State to another. Moreover, members of the Civil Constructional Corps, on assignment to northern areas, have passed through two or more States and as continuity of movement cannot always be arranged by Army or other authorities concerned, it frequently occurs that men have to spend one or more clays in an intermediate
State during the course of their transfer and become eligible for waiting time during such period.
Men also become eligible for waiting time for such periods as may arise following the completion of one project and their assignment and movement to a new project, but these periods are limited to the utmost degree by effective administrative control.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Does the war situation now permit of country storekeepers being relieved of the responsibility for holding certain emergency stocks of provisions?
– In view -of the improved war situation, the emergency reserves scheme has been completely withdrawn in Victoria and New South Wales, and considerably modified in South Australia and Tasmania. The scheme is being retained in full in Queensland, principally as insurance against transport difficulties and movements of troops who impinge on civilian food stocks. In South Australia the modification of the scheme, so far agreed to, comprises complete withdrawal in the area within a radius of 100 miles from Adelaide, and the plan will be further relaxed in other zones as this becomes administratively practicable. The ultimate aim in South Australia is to stock only goods which are imported from other States so as to provide against traffic interruption. The question of relaxing this scheme is constantly under review.
r asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the reason why airgraphs to England require a signature and a name printed in block capitals, whereas from England they do not require any signature?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply:-
The stipulation that the name of the sender of an airgraph letter from Australia be printed in block capitals after the signature is for the purpose of ensuring legibility and is a requirement under the National Security Regulations. It is understood that in the United Kingdom the sender of an airgraph letter is required to insert his full name at the top of the form but there is no obligation on the Commonwealth to conform to the British practice in the matter.
v asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon, notice -
Has the Allied Works Council taken over the hydro-electric project at Butler’s Gorge in Tasmania. If so, in view of the urgency of electric power being made availablefor the establishment of the aluminium industry, can he give an assurance that the work will be commenced without delay?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What decision, if any, has been arrived at to reduce the burden of taxation in respect of royalties received by Mr. E. E. Owen, the inventor of the Owen gun?
– The quantum of the tax payable in respect of the royalties received by Mr. E. E. Owen from his invention has not yet been determined by the Commissioner of Taxation. When
Mr. Owen’s liability is determined, the question whether any portion of the tax should be remitted will receive consideration.
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Supply andShipping, upon notice -
– Information is available only up to the 12th August, and is as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) (i) Mr. A. C. Willis was appointed to be the Central Industrial Authority as provided under section 29 of the Coal Production (War-time) Act; (ii) Messrs. J. Connell, F. Hickman, and C. Roy were appointed to be. Local Industrial Authorities as provided by section 33 of the said act.
(i) Messrs T. O’Toole, J. Jackson, and B. W. Cunningham were appointed Industrial Officers as provided by section 36 of the act; (ii) Mr. R. Ogilvie, as Assistant to the Production Manager; (iii) Mr.O. J. Negus, as Legal and Chief Executive Officer to the Commissioner; (iv) clerical and typing staff to replace retirements.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2.-
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s ‘questions are as follows : - t and 2. Two special trips of gas producer rail motor were run from Parkes to Forbes on the 6th September, one to a patriotic race meeting, and the other to a dance in the evening. Arrangements for these trips were made on the 18th August. Additional special runs of this rail motor have been scheduled from Parkes to Forbes on Fridays, the 15th, 22nd, and 29th September, and1 from Leeton to Griffith on the 28th September. The order prohibiting the running of special trains for sporting purposes specifically refers to electric or steam .trains and. does not restrict the running of gas producer rail motors which use no petrol or coal. 3 and 4. It is not a fact that the transport of racehorses by rail between Perth and Kalgoorlie has been generally permitted for some time past. However, after a special consultation with the Western Australian Railway Commissioner, who stated that he was able to carry all defence and essential traffic, as well as carry the few horses involved, a special exemption from the Transport of Racehorses by Rail Order No. 2 was given for a limited number of racehorses (not exceeding 25) to be transported by rail from Perth to Kalgoorlie and return for the Kalgoorlie and Boulder Annual Cup Meeting, subject to the conditions that transport be given in cattle trucks on goods trains at the convenience of the Western Australian Railway Commissioner. It was clearly understood by all concerned that the Order would not be relaxed in any other respect.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers : -
Rationing, after investigation, reported that on a population basis the town was entitled to more than one shop; (c) the application of the Portland Co-operative Society Limited, the only one received to open a butcher’s shop, was accordingly granted; (d) if there is any other town of the same size as Portland served by only one butcher’s shop, an application to open a second shop will receive the same consideration as the Portland application.
Civilian War Casualties on Australian Mainland.
e asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The following information has been supplied to me by the Department of Home Security and the War Damage Commission: - 1. (a) Killed or died of injuries97, missing 44: (b) injured or detained in hospital 22.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that there are ample supplies of tea in Australia to meet the requirements of the civil population, is the reason why tea rationing is being continued merely to reduce the high cost of the government subsidy?
– No. The continuance of tea rationing is dictated by the question of maintenance of future supplies with due regard to existing stocks.
n asked the Minister for Externa] Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440913_reps_17_179/>.