17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I move -
That the House,at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
The object is to avoid sitting unduly late at night. The Supply voted to His Majesty will expire on the 30th September, and I am anxious that this House shall conclude the Estimates this week so that the Senate may pass the Appropriation Bill before that date.
– Is it proposed to meet at 10.30 a.m. on each day?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the fifth report of the Broadcasting Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of theCommonwealth Public Works Committee Act1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Additions to the Institute of Anatomy, Canberra.
The proposal is to complete the Institute of Anatomy, by adding a fourth side in the form of a new wing. Plans have been drawn, and the estimated cost of the work is £55,000.
Question resolved in the’ affirmative.
.. - by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth PublicWorks Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Extensions to the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Plans have been drawn which should provide adequate accommodation for all the Commonwealth responsibilities in connexion with this institution, which will be necessary in the immediate future. The estimated cost of the work is £111,130.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the report that stocks of nitrate of soda in Western Australia have been exhausted? Will the honorable gentleman inquire into the matter and, if the position be as Mr. Baron-Hay, Under-Secretary for Agriculture in Western Australia, hasstated, will he ensure that sufficient stocks shall be forwarded to Western Australia without delay?
– I am aware that stocks of nitrate of soda are very low in Western Australia. There are adequate supplies in the eastern States, but the difficulty hasbeen to obtain shipping for its transport. Everything will be done to arrange the shipment of adequate supplies.
Resolution of Brisbane Trade Unionists
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read the press statement that the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union in Brisbane recently passed a resolution recommending that any member who worked last Saturday should be fined the maximum amount provided by the rules of the union, and that any member absenting himself from stopwork meetings should be similarly punished or expelled from the union? If so, is the right honorable gentleman prepared to tolerate such pretensions by this union, or does he intend to make clear to it that he will not countenance flagrant defiance of the law?
– I was not aware of the circumstances as stated by the honorable member, but I shall look into the matter, which, I understand, is now before the court, and I shall reply to the honorable member later.
.- I lay on the table the following paper: -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twenty-first annual report for year 1943-44. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– Some time before the . last harvest, a rural award was issued for workers engaged in the harvesting of wheat, oats and barley. Afterwards, an additional advance was granted on wheat in order to cover the increased cost. The Government has been asked to make a comparable advance on barley. Does it propose to do so?
– This matter has caused the Government some concern. Inquiries are being made, and I am now awaiting their result. I shall do everything possible to expedite a decision.
– I have here a letter from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stating that 5-horse- power diesel engines for driving shearing machines are in very short supply, and regretting that none can be made available. Will he confer with the Minister for Munitions to see whether engines of this kind can be manufactured at the small arms factory at Orange, from which workers are now being discharged because of lack of orders ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Munitions as suggested. Manufacturing is outside my department, but my officers and those of the Munitions Department are in consultation regarding the supply of farming machinery and parts. I am sure that the honorable member’s proposal will be adopted if it is practicable.
– Having regard to the difficulty experienced by sawmillers in the coastal districts of New South Wales, particularly on the North Coast, in, obtaining rail transport for accumulated stocks of timber, and having regard also to the shortage of timber in Sydney, will the Minister for Transport make a statement on the subject? Will he confer with the New South Wales Commissioner for Railways with a view to alleviating the position?
– Mr. Weir, the secretary of the Timber Workers Union, brought this matter to my notice a few days ago. Investigations are being made with a view to relieving the position, and I hope to be in a position to make a further statement in a day or two.
– I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the Tobacco Growers Association of Western Australia: -
Poor prices and large proportion rejections at this year’s tobacco appraisements resulting in many growerspulling out and others reducing areas. If confidence not restored immediately estimate 50 per cent. reduction crop areas as planting should commence this month.
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give consideration to guaranteeing to growers a minimum price for tobacco leaf along the lines of that fixed for wool?
– That matter has been exercising my mind for a considerable time, with the result that I now have a submission to make to Cabinet for the appointment of a committee representative of the various departments concerned, including the Treasury and the Prices Commission, to ascertain whether it is possible to end speculation in tobacco leaf and give some security to the industry.
– Will the growers be represented on the committee’s
Debate on Nationalization.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the advertisement by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the “ Forum of the Air “ session to be held at Albert Hall to-morrow night, at which the question, “ Should the coal-mines be nationalized ? “, will be debated, the “ Yes “ side being taken by the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) ? For how long are we to be asked to tolerate a state of affairs in which the Prime Minister states on behalf of the Government one policy on the coal question and the Minister states another on behalf of we do not know whom ?
Mr.CURTIN. - I do not know anything about a forum which is to be held in Canberra under the auspices of the Australian, Broadcasting Commission. Whom the Australian Broadcasting Commission asks to assist it in informing public opinion on the merits or demerits of any particular issue is of no interest to me. In a debate, certain persons take the affirmative side and others the negative. The Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories’, in addition to being a Minister, is a person, an individual, and, as such, he may hold lots of opinions which I think he would be quite entitled to express; but, as a member of the Government, he is bound by the policy formulated and decided upon by the Ministry, and I am spokesman on Government policy.
-Is the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture yet in a position to make a statement in reference to the proposal of the Central Wool Committee to erect wooden buildings for storage of wool in the residential area of the Matraville soldiers’ settlement?
-I have made inquiries from the Central Wool Committee and I am advised that the negotiations were between the Lands Department of New South Wales and the State Wool Committee and that permission was given to the State committee for the erection of the building under permissive occupancy.
– Not by the local council ?
– As it has become a State matter, it is not my prerogative to take any action, I shall leave the State Government to “ carry the baby “.
Butter Sales to United Kingdom
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, as the result of a new agreement with Great Britain, dairy-farmers in New Zealand will receive an additional 2.12d. per lb. for butter-fat which price, according to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, will remove any obstacle that may have existed to a whole-hearted drive to increase dairy production? Is it also a fact that, forsome months, the Commonwealth Government has been negotiating with Great Britain for a similar agreement? Can the Prime Minister give to the House any information on the subject?
– The negotiations to which the right honorable gentleman referred have been proceeding for some time, and when the Government of the United Kingdom signifies its readiness, the announcement will be made simultaneously in London and Canberra. I am very happy to say that the Government of the United Kingdom has been able not only to understand the problems of this country, but also to have regard for our interests. In a similar way, it has treated the Government and people of New Zealand. I have often expressed our admiration of the people of the United Kingdom for their fighting spirit and their valorous resistance to the Nazis, but I also place onrecord our appreciation of the treatment which they have given to the Dominions, particularly in respect of the prices that they have paid to us for our exports.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give to the House any information about the importation of tractors for use in primary production?
– The importation of tractors has been most satisfactory. For the three years ending the 31st December, 1944, 8,437 tractors have been allocated to Australia. Of those machines, 5,652 have already been received, and it is expected that the balance of 2,805 will be delivered to Australia within the next two months. For 1945, 6,200 tractors have been allocated to Australia and will be available during the first six months of that year. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is making strenuous efforts to increase the allocation to Australia for 1945, and I am hopeful of success. Honorable members will be interested to learn that the supply of tractors for agriculture has improved substantially in the past six months. The achievement of our production goals has been made possible only by the higher degree of mechanization, the extent of which was unthought of in Australia before the Avar.
Reports and Documents
– Before the House proceeds to debate the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration Bill 1944, will the AttorneyGeneral make available to honorable members the reports of the Australian delegates to the various conferences held in the United States of America, and the full conclusions reached at them ?
– The substance of those reports was made available towards the end of last year, when I made my first statement on the subject. However, I shall examine the matter with a view ‘to seeing whether further documents can be supplied . to honorable members, as requested.
– Can the Minister for the Army explain the procedure which farmers must adopt in approaching the Government for the purpose of securing the release of experienced rural workers serving in the Military Forces, when those men are urgently required to assist in work on farms and dairies?
– As the procedure is somewhat lengthy, I shall have a statement prepared on the subject, and read it to the House to-morrow.
-I refer the Minister for Munitions to the following reply which he made to a letter that I wrote to him recently concerning fencing materials -
With reference to your representations on behalf of Arthur Hughes & Co., Rankin Street, Forbes, concerning fencing materials, I desire to advise that all fencing materials are in short supply owing to heavy demands and the inability of manufacturers to increase production due to shortage of man-power.
In view of the discharge of workers from the small arms factory at Forbes I ask the Minister whether he will explore the possibility of using that factory for the manufacture of materials required by primary producers?
– I shall have the subject examined and give a reply to the honorable member at the earliest possible date.
Ministerial Statements by Leave.
– Last week a question was asked, in my absence, concerning the transport of some college boys from Melbourne to Sydney by air. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said he would refer the matter to me. I have now obtained information on the subject and I ask leave to make a statement.
– Following on the (misunderstanding which occurred on Friday, the 15th September, on the general subject of leave to make statements, I desire to intimate to honorable members, and to Ministers in particular, that, so far as I can foresee the possibilities, questions of leave to make statements at question time will be considered by me in three categories -
I therefore request that, in future, Ministers desiring to make statements will intimate, definitely, under which of the three foregoing categories they are seeking leave to act. It would appear that the statement which the Minister for Air desires leave to make comes within the first category. Is leave granted?
-I am prepared to hand in the information for incorporation in Hansard as a deferred answer to a question. I have referred to the matter at this stage because of the undertaking given last week by the Minister for Transport that he would refer the question to me.
– The information which the Minister desires to give to the House may be conveyed within the scope of the first of my three categories, if the House consents.
– Between the 21st, 22nd and 23rd August, 27 boys, whose homes are in New South Wales, were flown to Sydney by Australian National Airways. They had booked a long time ahead and were granted priority No. 9, which is the lowest of all priorities. Eighteen of the boys were carried in the D.C.5, which seats 22 in austerity style. They travelled at half fare. The D.C.5 machine was originally owned by the Dutch authorities, but was acquired by the American authorities in Australia and used by them for American military transport purposes. Later a tripartite arrangement was entered into by the American authorities, the Commonwealth, and Australian . National Airways whereby Australian National Airways operated the D.C.5 machine under a charter agreement for the American forces. Subsequently the American forces acquired more suitable transport aircraft and ceased to use the D.C.5 aircraft, which was left with some other American transport aircraft at Essendon aerodrome. By an understanding with the Directorate of Air Transport, Australian National Airways has been permitted to use the D.C.5 as a replacement machine when other aircraft of its fleet have been undergoing overhaul or inspection. The machine has also, on occasion, been used by Australian National Airways for special charter work. The D.C.5 is not, however, regarded by the Department of Civil Aviation as a regular passenger transport, although the department has continued to issue a certificate of airworthiness to permit of its use as required. Priority arrangements did not permit of the boys in question travelling by regular air-lines, and Australian National Airways arranged to convey them to Sydney in the D.C.5. The machine subsequently had an accident to its undercarriage and was withdrawn from service for some weeks. In consequence the return passage of the boys had to be cancelled and the return half of the fares refunded, since there was no accommodation available for them on the regular air services. The boys did not displace other passengers as they travelled on the lowest order of priority.
Dismissal of Employees - PrisonerofWar Labour.
– I have received from the president of the combined unions at Wellington small armsfactory a protest against the dismissal of70 employees of the factory. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service withdraw prisoner-of-war labour from this area, and thus enable jobs to be provided for the workers who have been discharged from the factory?
– One of the conditions applicable to the employment of prisoner-of-war labour is that it must not be engaged or continued if Australian citizens are available.
Acknowledgment by His Majesty the King.
– I inform the House that I have received from His Excellency the Administrator the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply : -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the opening of the Second Session of the Seventeenth Parliament was duly laid before His Majesty the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to honorable members His Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message to which your address gives expression.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the acceptance of the constitution of the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the15th September (vide page 915), 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 budget does not contain anything new or spectacular, but it proposes certain relief from taxation which, in view of all the circumstances, will be appreciated by those whom it is designed to benefit. I mention particularly the extension of the concession in relation to medical expenses, and the removal of sales tax from building materials. The continuance of the rebate in respect of children up to the age of eighteen years on the condition that they are undergoing full-time education, will be welcomedby the taxpayers affected. The sum of £500,000 is to be provided as a first instalment in connexion with the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. This is an admirable proposal, and indicates that the Government sincerely intends to proceed with this project.
I am pleased that, through the. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), the Government proposes to make special provision this year to assist the dairying industry, which is still experiencing difficulties despite the assistance already received since the present Administration assumed office. More dairies are going out of production, partly on account of shortage of man-power, but also from other causes, the chief of which is the increased value of other primary products. I received to-day a letter from a constituent of mine, in which he mentioned the number of cows that had passed through the abattoirs at Launceston ; and it is somewhat astounding. The position is regrettable, and I am gratified at the proposal of the Government to provide an additional subsidy during the lean periods of the year. This assistance, I believe, will enable production to be increased in what are known as the non-flush months, and will be an incentive to greater production throughout the year. The subsidy is to be provided for two years, and thus will give some stability to the industry. It is good to see that even in time of war it has been possible to make provision for these matters. The budget also providesa great deal of money for war purposes. The amount, though not so great as in the two previous budgets, is still substantial, but that is unavoidable.
Some of the criticism directed against the budget seems to me to be unjustified.
Tie right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made an interesting contribution to the debate, and I was amazed at his courage in referring to the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. He must know that Australia is one of the few countries of the world that has no. mercantile marine, either privately or publicly owned. On this subject, the Queensland Producer, which is not a Labour paper, and has no Labour backing, so far as I know, published the following in 1937: -
Such is the tragic story of the manner in which a Dominion Government has been shamefully exploited by British shipping interests, and it must be conceded that it is one that hardly reflects any credit on those directly and indirectly responsible. Most certainly all the relevant facts connected with the transactions are not calculated to add to the prestige of any of the parties concerned.
Not only has it involved the Commonwealth in a loss of many millions, but since the vessels were sold at a. sacrificial price under powerful political pressure, the primary producers of this country have been compelled to pay as much or more in increased shipping freights by reason of the removal of the competitive factor the seven steamers exercised during the time they were operating in the national interests. The freight cuts previously referred to estimated to save our primary producers £500,000 a year prove the correctness of this contention, if any is needed.
Yet the former leader of the Country party had the temerity to get up in this House and try to justify the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The fact is that these ships were sold by a government of which he was a member to powerful vested interests abroad, and Australia was never paid the purchase price.
I am somewhat disappointed at the smallness of the amount provided for the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis. This matter is referred to in the budget speech in the following terms: -
The Premiers Conference also approved the Commonwealth proposals for assisting a campaign for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. Commonwealth assistance will take the form of a £l-for-£l subsidy towards the maintenance costs of case-finding facilities and after-care facilities up to a maximum of £50,000 under each heading. If these proposals become effective in January, 1945, the cost for the half-year will amount to about £50,000.
It is good that some money is to be provided, in co-operation with the States, for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, but, judging from my experience as a member of the Social Security Committee, I consider that this might have been undertaken with greater vigour. I am fortified in this opinion by the discussions which I had while abroad with eminent authorities on the subject of social security legislation. While I was in Washington, I spent some time with Dr. Thomas Parran, surgeon-general of the Public Health Service of the United States of America. Among other things, we discussed methods for dealing with the problems of tuberculosis and venereal disease. He expressed the opinion that if tuberculosis were tackled with sufficient determination it could be almost wholly eradicated within 25 years. A great deal of the evidence given before the Social Security Committee supported this view, and I reached: the conclusion that if this disease could not .be wholly eradicated within two decades, it could, at any rate, be so controlled as to cease to be a social menace. Amongst other things, provision must be made for the taking of miniature X-ray photographs of the chest of affected persons so that the infection may be localized and properly dealt with. Then the patients must be placed in sanatoriums for treatment, and their dependants must be provided for. They must be free from worry while being treated, as there is nothing like financial worry to disturb people’s minds and prolong illness. I also had a long session with Dr. Kendall Emerson, managing director of the National Tuberculosis Association, who says in a preface to Tuberculosis - Labor and Management -
No other discovery of our time may prove as far-reaching as the discovery by modern industrial management of the simple fact that capital invested in the maintenance of human health yields far greater returns than investments in plant maintenance. Sound industrial health practices must give consideration to tuberculosis. While this disease is not a true industrial hazard, it is, nevertheless, an industrial problem of magnitude. X-ray surveys in industry go through two stages. First, acceptance of the method per se by management, labour and the profession; second, the actual conduct of the survey. We hope this guide will help tuberculosis workers in promotion of surveys. A second manual on methods and procedures of industrial mass radiography is now in preparation by the
Committee on Tuberculosis in Industry of the American Trudeau Society, the medical section of the National Tuberculosis Association.
Eminent men in other parts of the world are trying to stimulate by education the interest of the community in the eradication of the dread disease. The National Tuberculosis Association is doing a fine job. lt has a magnificent building in New York housing a highly competent staff, and it is tackling the problem from the angle of inducing industry to co-operate in the X-ray examination of the chests of the American workers. The quite considerable sum of money which has been placed on the Estimates for this year represents our first practical approach to the problem of tuberculosis in this community. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) told me that it was as much money as we could hope to expend this year, in co-operation with the States, in attempting to solve what in. my view is the primary health problem, for cancer and other diseases cannot be dealt with so effectively as we can deal with tuberculosis. All medical thought with which I have come in contact in recent years is unanimous that tuberculosis can be eradicated if the problem is tackled in the right way. I am sorry that the financial provision made this year cannot be greater, and I hope that next year a larger sum will be voted as the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the solution of the tuberculosis problem.
At the conference of the International Labour Office which I attended as one of the representatives of the Commonwealth 41 nations were represented; about 350 delegates, accompanied by about 100 advisers were in attendance, making a conference of considerable size. One thing that impressed me was that the conference was not prepared to beg the question of employment after the war. It declared that the problem of unemployment must be solved, and that the peoples of all nations must be assured of work and social security. The last two years have seen a large slice of the Labour party’s social programme put into operation. During this discussion, Opposition members have criticized that programme. One critic, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), did not say that he disagreed with measures of social security, but he did leave the impression in my mind that he thought that the Government was going too far. Let the matter of social security be brought into the open. The war has reached the stage at which this country is no longer threatened, and at which there is no doubt as to who shall .be victors. Are we to forget the promises we made to the people when our existence was threatened - as we forgot all our promises in the last war, which was to have been the war to end war and make the world safe for democracy - and slide back into the old groove with alternating booms and bursts, and a reservoir of unemployed to keep the workers in subjection? Are we to forget the necessity to provide social security in this country and in other parts of the world? We cannot hope to live unto ourselves alone. It is hopeless to think we can go back to the old days. Distance has been annihilated. Nine days after I had left my home in Tasmania I was 10,000 miles away on the other side of the world. We are much closer to the rest of the world than we were, and we cannot put ourselves into a water-tight compartment and ignore what is being done by other countries. That applies as much to matters of social security as to trade. That realization was expressed at the International Labour Office conference; delegates were not prepared to accept the theory that unemployment was inevitable, and “ they declared that jobs must be found for every one after the war. Although the big majority of delegates supported proposals to ensure a minimum standard of subsistence, a small group, consisting of the representatives of some employers and some governments, endeavoured to evade the issue. But the conference refused to be influenced by them.
For a couple of weeks, I had the privilege of sitting on the committee which considered the social security items on the agenda. Many of them dealt with medical care. This committee, which consisted of the representatives of employers, employees, and governments, agreed unanimously to recommend to the conference the adoption of a complete medical service for the people of the countries represented there. When the recommendation was submitted to the conference for ratification as a convention, a small group, again consisting of the representatives of some employers and some governments, was anxious to sidetrack the matter. Again, the conference was adamant. The majority of the representatives agreed that definite provision must be made for the medical care and health of the community, and the appropriate convention was formulated. Some governments will ratify it. Because of the constitutional position, the Commonwealth Government might not be able to ratify it, but at least it has an opportunity, in cooperation with the States, to improve the standard of health services in Australia. This improvement can be effected ; and I believe that, in respect of its social programme, the Government is marching along the right road.
The Opposition has tardily suggested that provision should be made for social security of various kinds, but implied that the expenditure on social security is greater than the country can afford. Honorable members opposite fear, not that the country cannot afford this expenditure as a national contribution to the welfare of the people, but that if the obligation be incurred, taxation will not revert to the pre.war level.
– The point which I am. emphasizing is that adequate provision must be made for social security. This budget provides money for social legislation of a standard more generous than any in the past. I regard this legislation as a fine introduction to a comprehensive programme involving the establishment of a minimum below which no person in the community shall fall. Whilst the minimum might not be very high, at least it will be an excellent beginning. If honorable members opposite consider that the financial burden of providing social security is too severe for the community to bear, I invite them to declare their attitude now. As a private member and a supporter of the Government, I make bold to say that the Labour party will press for reason able social security for the .people. What Australia is doing conforms to the standard of medical care and social benefits that was approved by the conference of the International Labour Office. The Latin American countries hold most definite views upon this subject. I do not know whether they have introduced social security measures to the same degree as their representatives mentioned at the conference, but their intentions are good, and they insist that the social conditions of their people must be improved.
I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who was Australia’s first delegate at the conference. He propounded most ably the case for full employment after the war, and made a big impression on the conference. When he delivered his speech, the conference really “ sat up and took notice “. He was an excellent colleague and a worthy representative of this country. Whilst the Australian delegation was not able to secure the acceptance of all its views, the conference actually endorsed our opinions in principle.
– Were the Australian delegates supported by those from New Zealand ?
– The Australian delegates were supported not only by New Zealand, but also by most of the other democratic countries. The conference agreed to Australia’s proposal that the matter of full employment after the war should be discussed later when the international situation has clarified.
I hope that when the Treasurer presents his next budget, peace will have been restored to the world and Australia will be able to tackle the tremendous social problems forthrightly and with a will to give effect to the wonderful ideals contained in the Atlantic Charter.
– I have been astounded at the complacency with which the committee is considering the budget. Some pious warnings have been uttered about the dangers of inflation, and some polite expressions of regret have been made regarding the necessity to continue such high rates of taxation; but apart from such comments, the trend bf the debate indicates a general idea that our economy is in perfectly healthy shape. It is true that the Government has been able to point to some successes on the economic front, but as it has a big working majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and a tremendously wide authority under its emergency war-time powers, it would be a miserable team indeed if it could not point to some successes. To assume, however, as mast honorable members appear to be doing, that our economy generally is in a healthy state, is to overlook, completely, the facts of the situation. Surely no thinking person can pretend that our economic position is as robust as it should be. The Government has faced the first problems of organization for the purposes of war, which, of course, relate to the mobilization of man-power and material resources. It has placed restrictions on investments, and. has been successful in syphoning off some of the surplus purchasing power of the community by means of heavy taxation and the raising of substantial loans. Although the methods by which these objectives have been reached have not been without blemishes to which one could point, the Government, in the main, has dealt with the problems satisfactorily. It has failed hitherto, however, and this budget indicates that it will continue to fail, to meet the supreme and continuing obligation of a government at war, which is to achieve the maximum effort of which its people are capable.
The significance of government spending cannot be over-exaggerated. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) told us that the national income was approximately £1,200,000,000. But Commonwealth and State expenditure in the last twelve months has totalled £857,000,000. In other words, an amount equivalent approximately to 70 per cent, of the national income of the people, is passing through governmental hands. I do not mean to imply that all government expenditure is being met from revenue. In the last financial year expenditure from revenue totalled £513,000,000. Other expenditure was provided for by loans and bank credit. Notoriously governments are not such economical spenders as are private in dividuals. We must, therefore, consider the impact of this enormous government expenditure on the economics of the country.
This budget stands condemned in my eyes; first, because of the absence from it of any sign of recognition of the many unhealthy economic trends that are apparent in the community; and, secondly, because of the absence of any proposals to correct such trends. I shall name some of these trends, and later discuss each of them in turn. I place first the extraordinary growth in the number ofl working days lost through industrial disputes. Then we are faced with a remarkable growth of absenteeism in industry. There has been an enormous decline of man-effort, resulting in a loss of 50 per cent, in some industries, compared with the output per man in the years before the war. Then we have the important fact of the lag in tax collections referred to by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who stated that the lag in the year under review was £33,000,000, compared with £18,000,000 in the preceding year. The white-anting of our economic controls by ‘black marketing operations is another serious circumstance.
– White-anting by black marketing is not bad !
– Well, the contrast serves to emphasize the unsatisfactory situation. The inflationary drift in our finances was also referred to in some detail and analytically by the Leader of the Australian Country party, and I shall not discuss it at any length. No country can emerge from war conditions with a reasonable hope of achieving a satisfactory peace if the symptoms to which I have referred be allowed to continue. These unhealthy trends must be corrected if we are to have a health body politic.
In regard to working days lost through industrial disputes, it is somewhat alarming to realize that whereas 378,000 working days were lost in 1942, the total was 990,000 in 1943. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain relate to the March quarter of this year, during which 277,000 working days were lost. That shows that the unsatisfactory decline noticeable last year is continuing. The figures must be disappointing to members of the committee. I have no doubt, too, that they will come as a shock to the people generally who were led to believe that a Labour government would be able to maintain harmony in industry, and obtain the best results from the workers. It is amazing that, bad as the figures were in 1942, they were so very much worse in 1943, when the fear of invasion from Japan was still very real.
– Do the figures include both male and female workers?
– They are the total figures and were furnished to me by the Commonwealth Statistician. I regret that I have not been able to obtain specific figures in relation to absenteeism, for these are not collected by the Commonwealth Statistician. Information on this subject that is otherwise available to honorable members, can give them no cause for satisfaction. Only last night I read in one of the Melbourne newspapers that the management of Leggo Proprietary Limited, manufacturers of processed foodstuffs, had reported that absenteeism from their factories, which enjoy a No. 1 priority, was regularly between 25 per cent, and 35 per cent. Honorable members will be well aware from their conversations with professional men, business men, tradesmen and artisans that maximum results are not being obtained in the war effort owing to absenteeism. “When people are questioned about absenteeism they commonly say, “ If, we go to work we are only working for Ben Chifley, so what does it matter?”
– They are not far wrong, either, about working for Ben Chifley.
– My complaint is that the Government shows no awareness that the problem exists. Certainly it has made no suggestions to remedy the trouble.. The most serious of all the circumstances that face us is the actual decline of man-effort that is taking place. We hear a great deal in this chamber, from time to time, about man-power, lt is put to us that that factor is responsible for shortcomings in respect of primary production, manufactures, supplies for shipment to Britain, and almost all the economic problems with which we are confronted in this chamber. The trouble is caused by the shortage not so much of man-power as of man-effort. If an industrial unit produces only 50 per cent, of the pre-war output, obviously an equal output will require twice the number of men. That is what is happening, particularly in the metal trades group of war industries.
– There is such a thing as war fatigue, and it is being experienced by all Allied countries.
– Surely the honorable gentleman will not argue that that has developed to any considerable degree. Let me cite an example with which he will be familiar - the graving dock in Sydney. The original estimate for that work was approximately £3,000,000, whereas the last estimate was approximately £9,000,000.
– There were very material alterations.
– I have inspected the dock, and am well acquainted with the project, including the alterations that have been made to it. It is a magnificent project, which, when completed, will be a great asset to the Commonwealth. If the honorable gentleman will make an honest analysis of what has occurred in this and other war-time undertakings, he will be forced, indeed he should be willing, to admit that there has been a significant and an unhealthy decline of man-effort, and he will look for the remedies. He has mentioned alterations as a factor contributing to increased cost. I shall give a figure that is capable of being checked; I believe that it reflects accurately what is occurring. Concreting forms a part of thousands of projects, and the cost of it should be largely standardized. Although in similar projects the cost of concreting was approximately £4 a cubic yard, and a liberal estimate of £5 a cubic yard was adopted for estimating purposes, the cost was £17 a cubic yard. The original estimate was largely exceeded because the manoutput was not equal to that attained in other undertakings.
– Does the honorable member know that men were directed to that work who previously had been only shop assistants and clerks?
– I am aware of that, and agree that it was a contributing factor. I have given an extreme instance, but could easily produce many more. It has been reported to me that the establishments erected for the Army in Albert Park originally were constructed by daylabour, but subsequently were provided under contract, with a consequential saving of £30,000 on each building. That is characteristic of what is occurring.
The significance of the lag in taxcollections, to which the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has referred, is that it relates, not to persons on fixed wages or salaries, but to those who are in industry and businesses, or on farming properties. An analysis of reasons takes one in a different direction from that which so far I have followed; nevertheless, its significance cannot be overlooked by the Government. I hope to have an opportunity to refer to it in greater detail when tax measures are before the House. The Government has failed’, and is continuing to fail, to provide the incentive that would produce a maximum output from the people. The supreme obligation of a country at war is to ensure that every man and woman shall make the greatest effort of which he or she is capable. Where the incentive has not been sufficient, the Government has failed to exercise the discipline that has been needed, particularly’ in industry, in order to obtain the required response. Many honorable members point admiringly to the methods of the Russians in the handling of social and economic problems. It is significant that both of those aspects have had to be faced in order to obtain the best efforts from the citizens of Russia. Special rewards have been instituted as a part of the economic system of that country.
– ‘Does the honorable member admire the Russian system and consider that we ought to adopt it?
– I am not expressing admiration of the Russian system. I prefaced my remarks with the statement that many honorable members opposite speak admiringly of the social system and the economic policy of Russia. I merely make the point that a government which began theoretically with the assumption that there should be equality of reward for its citizens has found it necessary, under the pressure of economic requirements and the exigencies of war, to give direct encouragement, by way of rewards, to its people, and to exercise discipline in order to prevent absenteeism and strikes. According to a statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), persons who offend in that way are treated as would be those who had deserted from the Army. There is a complete lack of realism in the approach by the Government and its supporters to the economic problems of this country. They seem to be enamoured of phrases that are used by the official planners. One of these, Dr. Lloyd Ross, has referred to “full employment, with its concomitant of expanding production “. That is typical of the economic fallacy that is displayed by theorists who, despite experience, appear to regard the human being as a mechanical unit which will respond automatically as desired. Dr. Lloyd Ross assumes that, with full employment, one necessarily has expanding production. We are finding that we have to face up to a decline of production, particularly in our war industries, because of absenteeism, stoppages, and failure on the part of employees to give a maximum output. That poses all sorts of problems for the future. It may not strike us seriously at present, largely because the evidences of what is occurring do not reach the consciousness of the general run of citizens. This is due partly to the fact that the Government is the big spender, and what is occurring in Commonwealth establishments, or in response to Commonwealth contracts, does not concern the citizens in the mass, or cross the range of their vision. If properly interpreted, however, it has tremendous significance for them; because post-war reconstruction, opportunities for employment, and industrial expansion are to be built on the results of present-day trends. One of the greatest sufferers is that element in our economic life which should be at the core of a reconstruction programme in the future and is so regarded by some of our authorities. I speak of small industry. There are 27,000 factories in Australia. That may be a surprise to some honorable members opposite who, when thinking “of businesses or companies, confine their thoughts to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Australian Glass Limited, Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Company Limited, and other vast organizations, which have largely capitalized their development and have not the “ teething “ troubles that afflict smaller industries. Those 27,000 factories give employment to 733,000 persons. A simple arithmetical calculation will show that the average number employed in Australian factories is 27 persons. Therefore, at the centre of our economic capacity is the small industry, which, on the average, employs comparatively few persons. A direct consequence of government policy during the war years - it may have been inevitable in some degree - has been the decline of the small industry and the expansion of “ big business “. That is more remarkable in the light of the fact that the views of honorable members opposite and the provisions of the Labour programme have always been interpreted as being opposed to the monopolistic control of industries by big businesses. In 1939, the number of persons in factories employing 100 or fewer was 300,000, whereas in factories employing more than 100 it was 294,000. In other words, slightly fewer wore employed in factories which had more than 100 than were employed in factories which had 100 or fewer. In 1943, the numbers were, respectively, 297,000 and 468,000- a growth of more than 50 per cent, in the number employed in the larger establishments. How this trend could develop under a bureaucratically controlled system, with vast government expenditure for war purposes, is readily discernible. It is much easier for the government official to obtain results from four or five large organizations than to spread orders over 40 or 50. One could have expected the trend which these figures reveal so clearly. But if the Government has any regard for the need for reconstruction, it must bear in mind the effect on small industries. The tax lag this year was £.15,000,000 greater than it was last year. A good deal of that is occurring in respect of these small firms, which are faced with the almost impossible task of trying to expand while all their liquid capital is being taken from them in taxation. Where normally they would be investing their profits in additional equipment, and in building up stocks in anticipation of increased turnover, they now have to devote all their earnings to paying their taxes. The Commonwealth Bank, in its last report, pointed out that we must look to the small firms to meet the increased post-war demand for consumer goods, and to provide employment for the hundreds of thousands of men and women as they are demobilized. There are some indications that this fact is recognized by the Government. During this session taxation legislation has been introduced to permit firms to make provision for deferred maintenance, but a concession of that kind is inadequate. It is like offering a cigarette to a man who is bleeding to death. It may cheer him up, but it will not save his life. There is ; no evidence in the budget that the Government proposes to take action to correct the unhealthy trend to which I have referred.
High taxation also robs people of The incentive to work. It is now a common experience that men in all walks of life are refusing to give of their best because they would reap no personal reward from the extra effort. This attitude of mind may be reprehensible, but it is natural. It might be argued that the winning of the war ought to be sufficient incentive; so it should, but, unfortunately, it is not. It is necessary to restore the incentive to personal exertion, and even more than that, to restore the incentive to risk capital in commercial undertakings. There is no incentive to-day for any man to invest his capital. In fact, the Government deliberately discourages investment. It does not want private enterprise competing for human and material resources urgently required for war purposes, but the Government is wrong in assuming that, when peace comes, private enterprise will automatically rash in to invest capital. I give this example of how high taxation has removed the incentive to invest. A man receiving an income of £2,000 from property investment retains only £840 after paying his taxes. Even if he invested sufficient money to return him an income of £5,000, he would retain only £1,170 after taxation had been deducted. Thus, out of the extra £3,000 income he would retain only £330, and to get the benefit of this £330, he would have to invest no less than £60,000 at 5 per cent, interest. Quite clearly, no one would be bothered to do so. If expended at the rate of £330 a year, the capital itself would last 180 years, so why should any one take the risk of investing it for such a meagre return ? No doubt, the Government’s answer is that taxation will be reduced after the war, and conditions will be created which will induce capital to respond. I believe that most members of the Government, and their supporters, fondly believe that this can be done, but I challenge them to say how it is to be done. It is only necessary to note the Commonwealth’s permanent financial obligations in order to see how difficult it will be to reduce taxation sufficiently to provide an incentive to men to risk their capital. Take, for instance, the tremendous growth of bureaucracy since the outbreak of war. In 1939, the num’ber of Commonwealth employees wa3 69,000; in 1941, this number had increased to 106,000, and in 1944 it stood at 209,000.
– Are they all Commonwealth servants?
– All are civilians in the employ of the Commonwealth.
– But they are not necessarily public servants. Many of them are employed in munitions factories.
– That is possible.
– The honorable member described them as bureaucrats.
– I was merely giving an overall figure which the Minister may dissect if he can. However, I believe that the Minister for Munitions favours keeping government munitions factories in production after the war in order to provide employment for those already working there. There are in Australia to-day 534,000 government employees, or one for every fourteen of the population. The employment by governments of such a vast number of persons places a tremendous burden on the rest of the community in the payment of wages and salaries, and in the provision of allowances and special establishments. Moreover, most of these persons we in non-productive employment in the sense that they are not engaged in producing consumer goods, whilst, notoriously, they do not give the same return as do those in private employment. But that is only the beginning. Already, suggestions have been made that Australia should maintain a standing army after the war, and there is no doubt that our permanent naval and air force establishments will be much greater after the war than they were when war broke out. Social service payments have increased very considerably, and only to-day the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) expressed what he regarded as the opinion of the back bench supporters of the Government, namely, that social services would have to be expanded much more. “When we take into consideration the cost of all these services, and add to it the interest bill on war loans, is becomes evident that the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth after the war must be a great deal more than the record peace-time budget of £100,000,000 for the year immediately before the outbreak of war. For this reason the Government will find it extremely difficult to reduce taxation sufficiently to encourage the investment of capital. There is no time now to discuss possible remedies. No doubt, we shall have an opportunity to do that during the debate on the Estimates and the taxation bills.
In Great Britain, after the last war. it. was found necessary to appoint what became known as the Geddes Commission to investigate the growth of bureaucracy during the war, and to suggest means of reducing expenditure. We all know how easy it is for a government department, having been ‘ established, to expand its activities and the number of its officers. For instance, the Division of Import Procurement - which, I have no doubt, has done very useful work - now employs 1,500 persons in the Sydney office alone, and it has agencies in other States.
– And how many in the United States of. America ?
– I understand that the number is about 480. It happens all too frequently that, after the need has vanished which led to an expansion of a department, the employees remain. I suggest that it is not too early nowto constitute something in the nature of the Geddes Commission to investigate the possibility of reducing the size of government departments so that labour may.be diverted into channels where it can be more usefully employed. A private meeting of members and senators at which the problems of man-power could be discussed, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, would have fruitful results for the Government.
I share none of the enthusiasm of some honorable members for continuance of prices control and rationing beyond the transitional period immediately after the war. Most of the rationing could be lifted very shortly after, if not immediately the war ends. That applies particularly to such commodities as sugar and tea and even clothing, because, once labour is made available the deficiency of clothing stocks will be made up very quickly. It may require a little longer before the rationing of butter and meat can be lifted, because of the necessity to build up herds and stock. I am convinced by ministerial statements and statements made by the Government’s planners that they underestimate the resiliency and capacity of Australian industry if it is given a reasonably free rein and is freed from the dead weight of bureaucratic control and the tanglefoot of red tape.
– But the cuff-and-collar brigade want to perpetuate that.
– Yes. We should remove the collar and harness and let Dobbin gallopwithout restriction. It has been proved in this country and in America that industry is capable of extraordinary achievements if it is allowed to manage its own affairs with a minimum of restriction. I am satisfied that only if the present controls disappear in a very limited space of time shall we be able to exploit the capacity of the Australian industrialists and workers to the fullest degree after the war. Some people imagine that prices control protects the consuming public. I do not wish anything I say to be interpreted as suggesting that prices control is not necessary in time of war, for, then, governmental policy deliberately limits and even elimi nates competition, and prices control is therefore necessary. But the most effective control of prices known to man is healthy competition, No honorable member can point to any commodity whose price has not increased as the result of governmental control in time ofpeace, and that is also true to a degree in time of war. By restricting competition you do not allow the public to reap the benefit of the cheaper prices which competition produces. [Extension of time granted.] As well as having the effect of maintaining prices at a higher level than would otherwise be the case, prices control breeds black marketing and necessitates the maintenance of an army of government inspectors and investigators. After the war we must get away from that sort of thing. Once the restraints imposed by decency and patriotism have been lifted from people, the black marketing which we have experienced in war-time will be intensified and we may quite easily have in this country something on the lines of the bootlegging in America during the prohibition era. Prices control brings restriction of free competition, the appointment of inspectors, and all the red tape associated with inquiries which have to be made through the businesses concerned. That can become a heavy, invisible cost to industry. In Germany, where bureaucracy had developed before the war possibly to a greater degree than in any other country, 25 per cent. of industrial costs were created by bureaucratic intervention in business, and 15 per cent. of all persons employed in the Nazi economy were employed by the government or their employment was necessitated by the requirements of the government. That is a burden which no country can afford to carry. It is certainly a burden which a young, developing country cannot afford to carry. Australia is in some respects different from the older and more settled countries which have passed the developmental stage. The bureaucratic burden which they may be able to bear cannotbe borne by a country not yet developed. The Government must stop flirting with the idea of maintaining economic controls for a number of years after the war, and recognize them for what they are, abnormal measures to be discontinued as soon as practicable. It will thereby restore the incentive to industry and to individuals. The Government stands t condemned in my eyes and in the eyes of every one who makes a realistic and honest analysis of what is happening in the economic fields because of the unhealthy symptoms which have been revealed - the loss of time from industrial disputes and absenteeism and the decline of incentive-
– The honorable member has not suggested a remedy.
– I promised to suggest remedies when the taxation bills are being debated. If honorable members are stimulated between now and then to think of remedies, what I have said will not have been in vain. The Government cannot consider that its economy is healthy while those trends continue. Until it is prepared to face the problem of eliminating those unhealthy symptoms and of restoring incentive to employer and employee alike it cannot claim that it has discharged the primary responsibility of a government in a country at war.
– One would imagine from the remarks of honorable gentlemen opposite that peace had “been declared and that the people were again free to go back to their old ways of life, whereas a tremendous responsibility still rests upon this country to give of its best in order that peace may be hastened. The speech made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is an invitation to the community to disregard its obligation zealously to do its best. The honorable gentleman ought to realize the unfortunate reactions among the public from such a speech as he made. I also deprecate the disposition on the part of honorable gentlemen opposite to disparage what Australia has done. There is an unfortunate tendency to deride and decry anything Australian. No other country has made a more magnificent effort in this war than Australia has made in every way, whether it be on the field of battle, in secondary industries, or in primary production. Individually and collec tively, Australians have made a contribution towards the waging of this war equal to that of any of our Allies. Why cannot we speak well of it, and indicate to our fellow Australians some appreciation of their efforts? Unfortunately, there has developed in this country, not recently but over a period of years, an inferiority complex about our own achievements. There is a disposition to regard anything from abroad as being of better quality than the things of our own making. We must develop a better Australian spirit, and manifest confidence in our own ability. Every one speaks well of us but ourselves. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific declared that Australia’s war effort was comparable with that of any other country. Some of us are inclined to speak disparagingly of it. Eather . than give to the world the impression that we have failed to do our part, we should extol our efforts. Unfortunately, in our own utterances, we are not always willing to do so.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon his financial statement, which has found such substantial support in this chamber. Although members of the Opposition have displayed great industry in trying to find grounds for criticizing it, they have not been able to discover a flaw in it. Even the careful analysis which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made, failed to prove that the budget was unsound. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) also delivered a carefully prepared survey of tie Government’s financial proposals. Whilst his contribution was helpful in impressing upon some people their obligation to support victory loans, his attempt to prove that the budget had faults lacked conviction. Being unable to attack successfully the Government’s financial proposals, members of the Opposition then pretended to discover evidence of waste and extravagance in government administration. They sought to convince the community that a wild orgy of spending is proceeding. The truth is that no government has more effectively checked extravagance and wasteful expenditure than has this Government. It is most unfortunate that these statements are made shortly before the launching of the next victory loan, because nothing will prove more detrimental to the appeal than the encouragement of a belief that waste and extravagance are occurring in public administration. Unless definite charges can be made, honorable members opposite should exercise the greatest caution in making these statements. Certain charges and expressions that have been used all too often in the press are entirely false.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) declared that waste and extravagance in administration must be checked in the Munitions Department and- the Department of the Army. For security reasons the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) cannot be expected to make a complete defence of his department, but I have no doubt that when the opportunity occurs to hold a secret meeting of the Parliament, honorable members will be given sufficient information to convince them that their suspicions are unfounded. I am at liberty to discuss more freely the activities of the Munitions Department, and I shall disprove many of the criticisms of its operations. For example, the charge that excessive expenditure has been incurred in the department is not borne out by the facts. For 1943-44, the vote of the department was £21,085,000, and the expenditure was £19,176,000, much of which was in respect of commitments of the previous year. For the current financial year the vote has been reduced to £13,000,000. I suggest that a department which reduces its expenditure by one-third, even while the war is fiercely raging, is not extravagant.
The most satisfactory index to the reduction of expenditure may be obtained from the employment figures. The peak period of employment in the Munitions Department was in the second quarter of 1943, during which the department was notified that future demands by the armed forces would be increasing. Without waiting for a positive notification regarding the details - War Cabinet did not approve until the following October - my department began to make all practicable adjustments. In the April- June quarter of 1943, the number of persons employed in private and government establishments in the manufacture of munitions was 117,872 males and 38,549 females, a total of 156,421 persons. Honorable members will understand that no detailed figures can be obtained showing the number of persons employed by private industry in the manufacture of munitions, but the statistics which I have given are conservative and reasonably reliable. For the period July-September, 1944, 78,785 males and 21,040 females were employed, a total of 99,825. Thus, in slightly more than twelve months, the number of persons employed on munitions projects was reduced by 39,087 males and 17,509 females, a total of 56,596 persons. Those figures do not include the reduction of the number of persons engaged in the production of machine tools for munitions. Their number dropped from 12,000 to 5,000 in the same period.
During the last fifteen months the Department of Munitions has released 63,000 persons to engage in other employment in the war effort. Of that number, 46,000 were males. That disposes of the contention that this department is employing persons unnecessarily. Some honorable members opposite declared that the department employed an excessive administrative staff, but again their statement is not supported by the facts. During the peak month of. August, 1943, the administrative staff in all States numbered 6,259 persons. Now, it is 5,439, a reduction of 820 persons. What is more important, overtime has decreased enormously. In government factories, the peak period of employment was in April, 1943, when 56,800 persons were on the pay-roll. Now the figure is 30,750 persons, a reduction of 26,050, of whom 14,000 were males. Other positive evidence of the reduction of the munitions effort is that, whereas the number of government factories organized at one period for munitions production was 48, it is now 39. Nine factories have been transferred temporarily to other departments for various purposes, whilst the transfer of other factories is under consideration. Meanwhile, substantial portions of two other factories are being leased to private industry for important post-war development.
In considering the productive effort of the Munitions Department, honorable members might ask for information about the cost of weapons and munitions. These figures will interest the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt),’ who conveyed the impression that the output of employees, particularly in the metals industry, had seriously declined. That fall would have been reflected in the cost of various items. The ability of Australian workers to produceammunition and weapons comparable in respect of both cost and quality has been proved beyond any question. I shall give some specific instances of the cost of Australian-made ammunition compared with the cost of similar British ammunition landed in Australia, as far as such costs can be ascertained.
– Why does the Minister give British landed costs instead of the manufacturing costs?
– Because the landed cost is the price we would have to pay if we had to import the articles mentioned. For that reason, I believe the comparison is fair. The figures will indicate to the Australian taxpayers that they have been saved enormous expenditure. The details are as follows : -
Having regard to the very great disparity in the quantities produced in Australia and Britain, there is no evidence of excessive costs in those figures.
I have no comparative figures of the cost of producing guns in Australia and the United Kingdom, but I can say that Australia has produced guns most economically and at a progressively lower cost, as the following figures show: -
Our production has been of the highest standard. In the light of what I have said, it will be seen that there is very little ground for the charges that have been made recently that costs in Australia have been excessive. It must afford the Australian community a great deal of satisfaction to know that in quality our productions are equal to the best prouced anywhere else in the world. Great credit for this mustbe given to our highly skilled technical officers, and I pay them and the workmen who have been associated with them the highest praise for what they have done. Personnel in executive, administrative, and technical services have amply earned the warmest appreciation of our whole community for the magnificent job they have done. I believe that in future days their achievements during the war period will rank among the finest of any people.
In recent weeks charges have been laid against the Government that, because of the retention of personnel in certain munitions factories, the best use is not being made of our man-power. It is appropriate, therefore, that I should publicly state the position. The honorable member for Warringah has specifically mentioned the LithgowBathurst group factories, and I shall indicate the exact position in relation to them. The facts in regard to employment in the small arms factories group are that whilst last year the peak was reached, with 11,323 persons employed, to-day the personnel has been reduced to 4,891. This great reduction of employment does not bear out the allegations that I have been lacking in my control of the expenditure. In fact, I am sufficiently in control to be able, by the studied retention of key employees, rapidly to expand the production if that should be required. I am mindful of the remark of a high American officer, who said recently that no war was lost through the possession of too many weapons. It will never be charged against me that I failed to supply munitions at a critical time.
The British Government asked us to duplicate our factory in order that half our total production would be available for British purposes, but that portion of the factory to provide for the requirements of the British Government has not yet been fully employed. Much of the equipment is being held in reserve until it is wanted. In order that it will be ready when it is required, I am obliged to hold certain personnel. The manufacture of rifles demands trained employees. Production is proceeding on the basis of 25 per cent, of the output these factories were designed to undertake. At present, I am not prepared to go lower than that or to disperse trained staff. That applies also to one type of machine-gun which is now being produced at one-quarter capacity. In another case, the United Kingdom Government has specially asked us to continue in production -at almost full scale, although, at the moment, Australia does not require any of this equipment.
I shall deal now with the reason why, in recent weeks, I have reduced the working hours of persons employed in these factories. Previously, it seemed to me to be logical that while man-power was urgently needed for other purposes, it was preferable to divert the maximum number possible and to continue the remaining operatives upon a 56-hour basis. That was particularly desirable, seeing that Allied countries were working on the basis of a six-day week, and we had in these establishments many machines secured under lend-lease provisions. However, as we have now almost reached the minimum .personnel for these factories to be kept on an efficient basis of production, and as requirements are being fully met in relation to orders already placed, it is possible to revert to the ordinary working time. I offer this warning, however: With forward operations under contemplation in this area, it may be essential at some later date to work these factories again on the longer-hours basis. There will be further reductions of operatives from some of the small feeder factories, but these will not materially alter the figures I have given.
This decision was made by me’ towards the end of last month, prior to the reference to the subject by the honorable member for Warringah in his speech on the budget. I consider that I am entitled to make that statement in justification of our general administration. The Government has been alert throughout its period of office to make the best possible use of our available man-power, and I have made it my personal business to ensure that, having regard to all the circumstances, our resources’ were being fully employed. Now that orders have been fulfilled it has ‘become possible to revert to ordinary working hours and that procedure will be continued unless a call comes for us, once again, to speed up our operations.
Recently, a Sydney weekly newspaper attacked the administration of the Department of Munitions. Its statements were so grossly contrary to established facts that they would have been unworthy of even casual notice if it were not for their sinister implications. I refer to an article headed “£4,000,000 Down the Drain “, which appeared in a publication dated the 9th September.
Honorable members may recall that, since the assumption of office by the present Government, it has become almost a routine matter for this newspaper to anticipate the opening of war-loan campaigns by concentrating its venomous attacks on the purely financial aspect of Australia’s prosecution of war. Allegations have been made, reckless in character, unfounded in fact, and flagrantly anti-Australian in spirit and intention, of a colossal waste and extravagance in the financing of the war.
– From what newspaper is the honorable gentleman quoting ?
– A Sydney week-end newspaper.
– The honorable gentleman must name it.
– The honorable gentleman will have no difficulty in identifying the newspaper to which I am referring.
– On a point of order, I ask whether or not the Minister is entitled to quote from a newspaper without disclosing its identity. Is there not a standing order which provides that an honorable member quoting from a newspaper must vouch for the accuracy of the report?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The Minister is not quoting from a newspaper report.
– He said that he was.
– I am replying to an article which appeared in a week-end journal. I am justified in giving the correct version to the Australian people.
– It is a weekly newspaper that is published by a member of a big family.
– The right honorable gentleman is perfectly correct.
The second victory loan was characteristically greeted by this newspaper, which aims to serve the purposes of the commercial monopoly by which it is controlled with reckless disregard for the interests of the nation. I therefore seek the indulgence of honorable members in making a brief comparison between the allegation in the article of extravagance and incompetence, and the facts recorded by, not merely the Department of Munitions, but also the Department of the Army, which stands to the Munitions Department in the relation of a customer, who is properly critical of the cost and quantity of all the articles supplied. In blazing headlines, the article alleged an expenditure of £4,000,000 in the establishment of the Commonwealth ammunition factory at Rocklea, Queensland. The total capital cose of plant and machinery,buildings, lands and works, including road, rail and tram communications, electric light and power, water, sewerage, and all other services, was £2,117,000. Bearing in mind the urgency with which this factory was built, equipped and put into production, such a capital cost for a work of such great magnitude reflects the greatest credit on all those who brought it into being, whether in the service of the Commonwealth, the State of Queensland, the Municipality of Brisbane, or other authorities.
Later the article declared: “All that the people of Australia have got from an expenditure of about£4,000,000 is a number of . 303 bullets, many defective, and a few 25-lb. shell cases”. The actual production figures published in the Queensland newspapers, with the approval on security grounds of the general staff of the Army when the Rocklea factory was transferred to the Department of Aircraft Production, give this statement the lie direct. Over a period of twenty months, from the commencement of production to the cessation of operations, the output from this factory included 127,300,000 complete rounds of . 303 small arms ammunition, 10,200,000 complete rounds of . 38 and 45 rounds of revolver ammunition, and 1,220,000 25-lb. cartridge cases. Reports in the files of. the Army Inspection Branch show that the percentage of rejection was the lowest, and the quality of production the highest, in any small arms ammunition factory established in this country since the outbreak of war. As is normally the case when thousands of unskilled workers are being trained on high precision work, the percentage of, rejections was high in the establishment stages, but it was reduced below the average level for all ammunition factories. In one instance, namely, that of . 455 revolver ammunition, the rejections were “ nil “. In another instance, that of . 303 small arms ammunition, about 50 per cent. of early production was rejected by the Army for services use, but was accepted as practice ammunition for the training of the troops. The rejections throughout the whole of the period represented less than 1 per cent. of the individual items submitted to the Army. I regard that as a creditable performance by a new factory engaging in production for which few persons were technically trained. Instead of having been a heavy liability, its record has been of the very best. I hope that the facts which I have revealed will allay any uneasiness that may have been caused by the sensational reports which are published all too frequently in certain journals, and that the Australian public will not accept without substantiation statements which can only do harm to this country by giving a false impression of its industrial effort and the part it is playing in the prosecution of the war. This, I believe, compares most favorably with what has been done elsewhere. I have shown that the personnel of munitions establishments has been reduced, and have given comparable costs of production. The facts I have made known prove that wild and extravagant statements concerning wastefulness are unfounded. Full credit is due to those who work in these establishments and to the organization generally.
.- We have listened to some rather remarkable statements concerning criticism from this side of the chamber. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) began by saying that previous speakers had decried the great effort of Australia and Australians in the war. I have been in the chamber practically throughout the debate, and on many occasions have not noticed the benign presence of the honorable gentleman. I wonder, therefore, how he obtained the impression that we lack pride in the achievements of Australia and Australians?
– I have listened to much more of the debate than has the honorable member.
– I deny that. All speakers, from both sides of the chamber, have recognized with pride the great part that_ has been played by every individual in the community, and have heard with keen pleasure of the recognition of that part by overseas countries, particularly Great Britain and the United States of America. I disagree with the statement by the Minister that we should not decry the efforts of certain Australians or criticize the Government. As the committee knows, certain not very large but, nevertheless, important sections of the population have been criticized severely by the Prime Minister and other Ministers, as well as by other members generally. If we are not to criticize fairly yet strongly the efforts that have been made, who is to do so, and how is production to be improved? It is true that Australia has made a great effort, but it is equally true that it would have been improved by efficient administration.
I shall not voice paeans of praise concerning the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), or the budget - a dull, uninspiring and unimaginative document.
– The honorable gentleman’s leader did not say that.
– My leader said that the Treasurer had propounded a number of sound ideas. I agree with him. I am glad that there are three or four government members who have sound ideas in regard to finance. But that does not prove that this document contains only sound proposals, or that it covers the whole of the ground. It is said that our war effort i? to be financed by the three methods of taxation, loans, and bank credit. One of the most encouraging features of. the budget, meagre though it be, is that the issue of bank credit for the financing of war operations is to be reduced this year from 31 per cent, to 28 per cent, of the total. A fact that is often forgotten by people in the country is that the issue of bank credit is cumulative. Credit in various forms, aggregating £343,000,000, is in circulation. In addition, there is the credit which takes the form of expenditure by the soldiers of Allied countries, and that must represent a large amount. Thus the total amount must be considerably in excess of £343,000,000. We have to look ahead, particularly to the post-war years. The war may continue for two or three years. It is hard to estimate when hostilities with Japan will cease. Therefore, our bank credit will be cumulatively increased, and may eventually reach £500,000,000. In the post-war situation, we shall be faced with an enormous volume of credit and cash in circulation, with completely inadequate supplies of goods or services to offset it. The first natural step will be to expand production and services to the utmost, in the hope that they will counterbalance that credit and cash. There Ls no- reason why we in this country should not be able to do so. Production for civilian consumption has continued and even increased in the United States of America since that country entered the war. In 1939, it amounted to $60,000,000,000. It is somewhat more than that now, although war production amounts to $70,000,000,000. In other words, although less labour is a vailable, the production of civilian goods in the United States of America has suffered no decline. There is no reason why we in Australia, if proper measures be taken, should not bo able to maintain and even increase production here, so that sufficient goods and services will be available to absorb the increased amount of bank credit and cash in circulation. There are three ways of dealing with this problem of inflationary money. One, as I have suggested, is to increase the total volume of goods and services. Another is to allow prices to rise. I do not recommend this SOlutiOn of the problem, because .it would necessarily be attended with all the worst evils of inflation. No harm would he done, however, if a small increase of prices were permitted. The third way is that which has been followed in the past, but which, I hope, will not be followed again : It is to resort to deflation. During the depression, this country felt the full effects of a policy of deflation, Hnd no one who passed through that experience will want to repeat it. Therefore, I recommend that we should make a serious endeavour to increase the volume of goods and services while, at the same time, permitting a slight increase of prices. In addition, there should ibc very careful control over future injections of bank credit into the country’s economic system. If these remedies and controls be applied, there will be no reason why our economic condition after the war should be unfavorable.
It is evident that prices control must continue for some time after the war. Rationing could be modified oven now, particularly in regard to clothing, tea, and sugar, but some measure of control must be maintained until goods and services are in greater supply. There can then be a gradual tapering off until, finally, controls are altogether removed.
The public debt of Australia, Commonwealth and State, is at present £2,366,000,000, most of which is domiciled in Australia. This debt is increasing every month, and the people, noting this fact, sometimes wonder whether it is any longer safe to invest their money in war loans. The fact is that the public debt, be it great or small, does not affect the wealth of a country, provided it be domiciled within the country. The present internal debt of Australia, is £1.300,000,000. Even if it were three times as much, Australia would be neither richer nor poorer. People sometimes say that future generations will have to pay for the war, .but the fact i.* that the war is being paid for by this generation, here and now. The people now alive are making the sacrifices associated with the war, and the only economic loss which the country puffers is in the destruction of material, the using up of limited stocks of coal, iron,- &c. That is not to say that large public debts do not produce bad effects. For instance, they produce a class of rentiers who make no effective contribution to the economic life of the country. The effect of large public debts is to .bring about a maldistribution of the national income.
In one respect, Australia has no reason to ‘be proud of its loan-raising record. It is true that we have raised the money needed-, but the number of subscribers is small compared with the number in other countries. Canada, with a population only, about one and a half times that of Australia, has four times as many war-loan subscribers, and the amount raised per capita, has been greater than in Australia. New Zealand is about the same size as Victoria, and has about the same population, yet in the last New Zealand war loan there were as many subscribers as for the whole of Australia. No doubt, the Treasurer has often asked himself the reason for Australia’s poor response to ,war loans. One reason, I suggest, is that a great many people with money in their pockets today are not used to investing. They never had money to invest before, and now that they have some they prefer to hide it away rather than put it into war loans. That is one reason, but I do not think that is the most important. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) accused the Opposition of rendering a ,poor service to the nation by criticizing the Government’s war administration, .because, he said’, it was making people .believe that the Government was wasting money. I assure him that there is no need for the Opposition to tell the people about the waste that is going on in government establishments. As I move about .the country, I hear people asking again and again, “ Why is all this money being wasted?” Many of them add that they will not invest another penny in war loans while such waste continues. If the Minister were to go among the people he could verify this for himself. They are in- closer touch with what is going on than are his officers. Their own relatives are in the services and the factories, and when they come home they tell others what is going on. If he were to visit Allied Works Council ‘undertakings and government munitions factories he would see people standing around for a part of the day in idleness because there is nothing for them to do. I myself have seen it, and havebeen told by thepeople themselves of many other instances.
– The statements which I made to-day cannot be refuted. They prove that an excellent job is being done in the workshops of Australia.
– I should be glad if there were efficiency in one government department, but I can cite plenty of examples of waste. There is another reason, a political one, why many people decline to invest in war loans, namely, the expenditure by the Government of money on the referendum campaign. More than one person has said to me, “Since the Government sees ‘fit to spend public money in that way, I will not. lend any more to the Government”. I believe that we shall continue to have difficulty in raising loans ifthat sort of thing goes on.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The Treasurer has said that taxation has reached saturation point, but, in fact, it has reached the point at which it is having a depressing effect on all activities in the country. Taxation is the only sound way in which to raise money in war-time and, above all, in peace-time; but we have no possibility of increasing the revenue to meet mounting permanent commitments. Our war expenditure will continue to decrease as the war progresses towards its end, but our permanent commitments are rising at an extraordinary rate, not only as the result of the application of the Government’s policy, but also inevitably from several causes, one of which is that the increasing number of aged persons is adding to the pensions bill. The extension of social services has, I believe, the approval of all honorable members, but theOpposition and the Government differ over the method by which they should be financed. Our commitments in respect of social security both now and in prospect are remarkable permanent charges on the Consolidated Revenue. The budget discloses that this year we shall pay in invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment and widows’ pensions, £36,757,000. In addition, the maternity allowance, the funeral allowance, phar maceutical benefits, sickness and unemployment benefits, hospital benefits and certain outgoings in respect of tuberculosis, amount to £19,610,000, making a total commitment of £56,367,000. The Government, I think with the approval of all honorable members, is engaged on the preparation of schemes for the provision of medical and hospital benefits.
– Hear, hear!
– I, too, say “Hear, hear ! “,but we must realize what that will mean. I am not very far from the actual figure when I say that those benefits will absorb about £20,000,000 a year. The budget makes provision for the expenditure, of £4,400,000 in that way this year. That will mean an additional future commitment of £15,600,000 a year. All those figures make a total outlay on social services, in being or proposed, of about £72,000,000 a year. We have in addition, of course, other permanent commitments. The estimated cost of repatriation this year is £10,399,000, and the national debt service will cost £38,000,000. That makes a grand total of £120,000,000, to which must be added another £10,000,000 in respect of future repatriation commitments, and £15,000,000 in respect of interest payments on future loans.
– Slightly astronomical!
– Our commitments are getting that way. Ten years ago our total budget amounted to £71,000,000. In 1939-40, when we had to meet some war expenditure, it amounted to £101,000,000. In the post-war period we are likely to have to face an expenditure of, not only £150,000,000 on social security, repatriation and interest payments, but also the increased cost of the administration of this country, and expenditure on defence, which is likely to be large. Therefore, we shall have to face a post-war expenditure of more than £200,000,000, probably £250,000,000 a year. This year the Treasurer has budgeted for about £200,000,000 of income tax receipts, in addition to which we shall have revenue from indirect taxes such as customs and excise. But the policy of the Government is to make the social security measures depend for finance on the income tax. Does the Government believe it possible that the income tax can be allowed to remain at its present high level? If so, does it think that that is a sound basis for social security? The income tax has gone far beyond saturation point, because, as I pointed out earlier, it is having a depressing effect oh the activity of every one in receipt of income. In war-time that can be borne, but we know perfectly well that the sacrifices which the people will bear regardless of all other considerations now will not be accepted when the war ends. I need not remind the committee of what is happening, even now, as the result of high taxes, not only among the coalminers, but also in every section of the community. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and even primary producers say, “ What is the use of our making a bigger effort when most of the extra money which we may earn as the result of that effort will be taken by the Treasury?” The Government knows as well as I do that in a very large number of cases - I do not say the majority of cases - people are “ going slow “. The income tax must be definitely reduced if initiative is to be encouraged. Human nature does not change permanently ; it may be influenced by the fact that we are at war, but it will revert to normal when the war ends. Therefore, it seems to me that if we are to place our finances on a sound footing, the Government must first alter the basis of its social legislation by placing the schemes on a contributory basis.
– And make the workers pay for it all.
– They pay for it in any case. A man does not like putting money into a general jackpot from which he does not know whether he personally will derive benefit. A striking feature of the budget is that while war expenditure is diminishing, permanent expenditure is rising. In his budget speech the Treasurer said -
In the first place the war has reached the stage where the necessity for new capital works of various kinds has decreased. Thus provision is no longer necessary on the same scale for camp accommodation, aerodromes, fuel installations and many other works essential in the initial stages for the efficient operation of our fighting forces, while our existing munitions factories can meet all requirements. In the second place, demands on Australia’s productive capacity for essential supplies required by the United Kingdom and Allied Governments have strained that capacity to the utmost and some diversion of man -power from the armed forces, and I interpolate also from other non-productive war measures to production is necessary if those demands are to be met.
What strikes me is that the Treasurer stressed the need for money, which we all know, but made no reference at all to the equally important expenditure side of the ledger. It is interesting to note that for not one department has the estimated expenditure gone down. Apart from the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army and the Department of Air, to which I make no reference at all, the estimated expenditure on salaries or on payments in lieu of salaries in ten main departments has risen appreciably,indicating that the number of employees has risen. I do not intend to offer any serious criticism of three departments whose estimated expenditure on salaries and payments in the nature of salaries has risen. The first is the Treasury. We all know that it is necessary that the Treasury shall have sufficient staff to handle the complicated business of raising the revenue. The difficult income tax returns, which ought to be simplified, require considerable staff to handle them, and uniform income tax again necessitates increased staff. The Department of Social Services needs more staff to cope with the expanded social services. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction is engaged on making detailed plans for the post-war period, and I concede the necessity for its staff to be enlarged. However, I fail to see the need for increased staff in other departments, for instance, the Division of Import Procurement. Tables contained in the budget papers show that the cost of that division fell from £414,272 to £407,856 last year, but has risen to £460,000 this year. To-day, the work of the division has decreased, because Australia is securing from the United States of America under the Lend-Lease Agreement substantially fewer articles than it did a year ago. Yet the personnel of the division has increased ! Why should that be? There is no apparent reason for it. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) pointed out to-day, no fewer than 1,300 people are employed in the Sydney branch, quite apart from those employed in other branches in
Australia. Even the Lend-Lease Department in the United States of America employs only 600 persons.
– There is still a war in progress in the Pacific.
– And there is still a war inprogress in Europe. The United States of America is despatching lendlease goods to many parts of the world, and the administrative work in Washington is performedby 600 persons. Rut Australia, which receives about onetwentieth of the lend-lease goods despatched from the United States, employs a staff of nearly 2,000 persons. It is ridiculous. Two years ago, Mr. Stettinius, Lend-Lease Administrator in the United States of America, wrote -
Although we added staff as the programme grew in scope, we always remained a small, compact organization and it never exceeded 000. The original policy of keeping the staff down to a minimum and avoiding duplication with other agencies was a good one.
I recommend that statement to the Government for attention. In conversation with members of the staff of this division, I have learned something of what occurs. One man informed me that he was “ fed up “ with his duties. All he had to do was to take one paper around the office and see that it was countersigned by twelve persons. That was an example of a government department making work when no work was justified.
Salaries paid to the staff of the Ration ing Commission increased from £124,000 two years ago to £202,000 last year, whilst the estimated expenditure this year is £262,000. Why is that? Rationing has been properly organized, and the staff should now be reduced. Expenditure on the prices control section rose from £150,000 two years ago to £185,000 last year. The estimated expenditure this year is £350,000. Why is that? The principle governing prices control has been laid down, and only minor adjustments have now to be made. Therefore, I cannot understand why the estimated expenditure this year is nearly £70,000 greater than was the expenditure last year. Expenditure on the food control section was £190,000 last year, whereas the estimate for this year is £283,000. Did not food control interfere sufficiently with primary production last year ? More interference will mean less efficiency.
The greater the number of people employed in these departments, the less is the efficiency. For the Department of Land Transport, expenditure was £29,000 two years ago. Last year it rose to £36,000, and the estimate for this year is £44,000. As that department has been in existence for three years, the staff which coped with the work last year should be able to carry on perfectly well this year. Expenditure for the Department of Supply and Shipping was £413,000 two years ago, but rose to £468,000 last year. The estimated expenditure for this year is £575,000. The Department of Labour and National Service - a bloated organization - expended £285,000 on salaries two years ago and £308,000 last year. For this year, the estimate is £468,000.
– Probably in the first two years the salaries paid were too low.
– Whatever the staff is receiving, it is more than they are worth. The Man Power Directorate is a section of which all honorable members have considerable experience. Man-power has directed our life for the last three years. Every citizen has now been “warorganized “. Many have been wrenched from their small businesses and their homes, and flung into other places. Why should the department in this year of grace, 1944, require £800,000, when it expended £500,000two years ago, and £750,000 last year? Then again, the Department of War Organization of Industry apparently requires £235,000 this year, compared with £105,000 two years ago and £180,000 last year.
– A large part of that sum is to provide allowances for university students.
– It would not amount to £100,000 a year.
– Very nearly.
– I remind the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) that the amount which I mentioned was to pay the salaries of the staff. Are university students to become members of the departmental staff? Another department which aroused my curiosity was the Department of Information. It began in a comparatively humble way two years ago with an expenditure of £55,000. Last year it expended £68,000, but this year it is to have £128,000. This department has not greatly assisted the war effort.
– The honorable member requested the Government to increase substantially the vote for the Department of Information.
– I did not. I should like to see it’ do less, more efficiently. This department ha3 expanded considerably without rendering useful service.
I haw mentioned seven important departments and branches of departments. Compared with last year, their estimated expenditure has increased by £650,000, or 22 per cent. Compared with their expenditure two years ago, this estimate is an increase of £1,500,000, or nearly 75 per cent. Obviously, there must be a great waste of money in these departments. As I mentioned earlier, employees have told me that they do not know what they are supposed to do. Government departments require an overhaul, and the examination should not be left to the tender mercies of a Minister, because I know what Ministers are. Having been a public servant for a substantial part of my life, I know also exactly the feeling in departments among the personnel and on the part of those administering them. Every one believes that his department is important; and every member of the staff believes that he is important. No department will voluntarily suffer a reduction of size. A department grows and grows, and unless definite action is taken to curb that expansion, it will continue indefinitely. What is required is an independent body to prune this unwanted growth. [Extension of time granted.) When that is done, departmental efficiency will improve and important economies will he effected.
It is difficult to speak frankly about the Department of the Army, because the information that one would like to give is secret. However, I shall refer to the matter in general terms. The number of men in the Army Lines of Communication is out of all proportion to our combatant ranks. Having been a soldier for years, I have knowledge of this subject. The percentage of persons employed in
Lines of Communication, at places in Central Australia, and in the bases in Sydney and Melbourne, is out of all proportion to the number actually required.
– Shall we make the honorable member .Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Army?
– I would willingly accept the position. The fact remains that action must .be taken to reduce this superfluous force. I understand that a committee has been appointed to examine the position, but similar committees have investigated in the past and nothing has been done. The position is serious, because man-power and money are being wasted. Men are kicking their heels in Central Australia, doing nothing at all, when they could be usefully employed in primary industries that are desperately short of man-power. Continued idleness has made them annoyed with life. Some honorable members may know the average number of troops absent without leave. I shall not mention the figures now, because it would be indiscreet to do so. It is sufficient to say that large numbers of soldiers are absent without leave. Day after day, men have nothing to do in the camps and naturally they resent it. They are not permitted to go to their homes, or released to engage in primary production, so they absent themselves without leave. It is bad for discipline and for the national economy. I turn now to the Allied Works Council.
– It has done a wonderful job.
– At a wonderful cost.
– I agree that the Allied Works Council has done a wonderful job in time of great difficulty, but the organization must be overhauled. ‘Surplus personnel must be transferred to other activities where they can perform useful work. At Alice Springs the staff of the Allied Works Council is almost as large as the number of men that it is directing. A similar position prevails elsewhere. Throughout the country, men have been employed on farms, and vast expenditure has been incurred to produce little or nothing. For these matters the Government is ultimately responsible, but it has done nothing to prevent this waste. The Minister for Munitions (Mr.
Makin) declared- that the Government had prevented waste and extravagance and that the production of munitions had been economical and efficient. Whilst that claim may be, in part, true of the Munitions Department, it is not correct of other departments. The sooner some authority prevents the waste that is occurring, the better it will be for the country. Our need is to save man-power and money. Man-power can be obtained only from the vast army employed in government departments or under the direction of government departments. The Government must act courageously. It is reluctant to act, partly because it is frightened of offending its own supporters, and partly because it does not know what is happening. When one is in authority, it is difficult always to know what his subordinates are doing. If the Government will heed the advice of people who know what is happening, it will reduce its expenditure and transfer idle man-power to productive works. By so doing, it will render a great service to Australia.
.- The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said a good deal about social services and the man-power situation. I also shall devote some attention to those subjects. It has been suggested that man-power is being wasted. I suppose that every man who has been in the services has felt, at times, that he could do a better and more useful job in some other capacity, and that his abilities were not being fully employed where he was. I remember a camp in which I was one of 700 men, and not one of us thought that he was doing all he might have been. If the war had taken a different turn, and if our position were less favorable than it is to-day, we might be hearing quite different sentiments from honorable gentlemen opposite. A duty rested on the Government to ensure that adequate provision was made to defend this country, and if it had failed to have men and equipment available to meet any unfavorable turn in the war, for the Japanese attack had succeeded in certain directions, it would have deserved the condemnation of the country. Without doubt the Government has acted in accordance with the advice of its military advisers in relation to man-power. No useful purpose is to be served by criticizing the Government for having made available properly equipped forces for service which, fortunately, has turned out not to be needed to the extent that was at one time anticipated. . The Government has acted wisely in its disposition of man-power.
The budget has proved to be as popular as any budget could be which provides for such high taxation. A learned King’s Counsel among honorable gentlemen opposite said, in his speech, that he could find no point of disagreement with the methods that the Treasurer proposes to adopt to finance the country. We can, therefore, afford to ignore the criticisms of the junior counsel who later criticized the Government’s financial plans. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) also indicated his approval 0* the steps proposed to be taken by the Treasurer to meet our financial needs. He said that the Treasurer had adopted the only means that were available to him for this purpose. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), following a rather tortuous line of reasoning, came to the conclusion that it would be preferable to finance the war effort by the imposition of heavier taxation and loans, with less resort to treasury-bills than is proposed by the Treasurer. However, even that right honorable gentleman’s observations were not out of. harmony with the statements made by the Treasurer in the earlier part of the budget speech, for the Treasurer said that it was undesirable that a large uncontrolled spending power should remain in the hands of the people. He urged that the people should invest more readily in the victory loans that will need to be floated. I point out, however, that every possible step has been taken to urge the people to support government loans. Because greater support has not been forthcoming, more treasury-bills have had to be issued. The people of Australia should realize that unless they invest to their fullest capacity in the loans that will be floated, rationing and restrictions of one kind or another will have to remain in force for a longer period than would otherwise be necessary. If the spending power of the people is not restricted while goods are in short supply, prices may soar, with unhappy results. Even the Leader Ott the Opposition agrees with us that rationing and price control will need to be continued in the post-war period. If the people with the ability to invest substantially in victory loans will do so, such restrictions will “gradually become less necessary. The Leader of the Opposition said that he could tell honorable members how restrictions and controls could be maintained without an alteration of the Constitution. Had he done so prior to the referendum campaign he would have saved many people a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty.
The Treasurer referred eulogistically, in his speech, to the help that had been given to Australia by our Allies in the war. I deprecate the attitude that has been adopted by the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion. It is true that some irresponsible people in the United States of America and elsewhere have alleged that Australia has not made a maximum war effort, but such people are only a noisy minority. I believe that the great majority of the people of America realize that Australia has drawn upon its resources to the utmost of their capacity for war purposes. That is true, also, of other countries allied with us in this great struggle. We have used our man-power and material resources to the fullest possible degree in order to bring the war to the earliest possible conclusion.
I wish now to comment upon the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Flinders concerning social services. Both of those honorable gentlemen paid too little attention to the situation that will face us in the post-war years. We must realize Australia’s urgent need for an increase of population. Everything possible should be done to encourage not only a strong stream of migrants to come to Australia, but also a larger natural increase of population. Recently an organization was formed in Western Australia to co-ordinate the activities of other bodies interested in child migration. It has been suggested that the co-ordinating organization should be called the Population and Mi gration Council of, Western Australia. The sponsor of this idea, Mr. J. Gaffney, has devoted a great deal of attention to this subject, and has pointed out that it is not sufficient to introduce into a country which needs migrants from another nation with a high rate of natural increase, for the newcomers tend to conform to the habits of life of the country to which they come. I believe that economic factors have a most important bearing on migration and population problems generally. We are not likely to secure the natural increase of population that we need unless people can be assured of social security. The day has gone when people will regard with equanimity the prospect of long years ofl poverty and struggle while they are rearing large families. Both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Flinders referred to our national income in relation to the cost of social services. They suggested that if we provide social services on the scale proposed by the Government the time will come when the whole of the national income will be absorbed in social service payments. That is a most unrealistic approach to the problem. The population capacity of this country must be considered in relation to its productivity. Surely no one will suggest that Australia cannot produce sufficient foodstuffs for all the people who may come to our shore, as well as for the children that we hope will be born within our borders. The rate of the oldage pension is, in itself, a factor in the situation. The present rate is 27s. a week. I know that the Government is desirous of increasing that amount, and I hope that a higher rate will be agreed to by the Parliament before very long. Many people seem to think that the country will not be able to afford a higher rate. I consider, however, that if the pension were increased to £2 a week it would be to the advantage of the country. Pensioners would then be able to purchase more of the foodstuffs that the country produces, and they would also be able to provide ‘food and shelter for themselves on a more adequate scale. This would benefit everybody for it would mean an expanding market. In approaching our population problems, we must keep in mind all the facts. Social service benefits should not be considered solely in relation to the national income, but should be related, also, to the productive resources of the nation. I am firmly convinced that social service benefits cannot properly be divorced from population problems. The fear of insecurity, poverty and misery in old age deters people from having larger families. It is a fact also that under present conditions young people are not able to marry as early as is desirable, because they consider that they are under au obligation to contribute towards the maintenance of their parents. If this necessity were eliminated many young people would marry at an earlier age, and so would be more likely to rear larger families. -It i3 necessary, however, to provide adequate social benefits to encourage them to do so. Our population will stagnate and ultimately decline unless the young people of the nation are encouraged to rear larger families, and unless more young migrants are brought to the country. It is correctly suggested that there are other factors ; but these cannot come into play until we remove the economic fears and the lack of security which bear heavily on the whole of the people; other factors must be dealt with as and when they arise. Honorable members opposite do not deny that these services should be provided, but contend that they should be on a contributory basis. The income of the lower wage and salary earners is barely sufficient to provide them with security for the time being, without any provision for intermittent periods of unemployment, and even a small contribution would definitely reduce their standard of living. This would not contribute towards the solution of the great problem with which we are confronted. Indirect taxes, to which even the lowest paid of the working class contribute largely, furnish by far the largest proportion of the money that is required for social services and the conduct of the war. The Government has provided, and will continue to provide, that taxation shall be made to pay for the social services that are needed, and that the standard of, living of those who are on the lower ranges of income shall not be reduced by the necessity to make a contribution in order to obtain such benefits. The majority of honorable members on this side of the chamber do not agree that direct taxes should be imposed on those whose incomes are far below a living standard; but the needs of the times have necessitated the present incidence of taxation, and we must submit to it. However, the Government must take steps as early as possible to remove the tax burden from the lower ranges of income.
From time to time there has been discussion of the disposal of the surplus assets established by the Government throughout the war years. Honorable members opposite have argued that the proceeds from these should not be paid into Consolidated Revenue, but should be used to reduce the national debt. It would be better to pay them into a fund to provide social services for those who are already in or may come to this country, thus increasing their happiness, contentment and prosperity.
The budget includes provision for payments to different States. “Western Australia has been granted £904,000. Doubtless, that amount has been worked out on what is regarded as an equitable basis. No grant could compensate that State for the disadvantages it has suffered by having arrived late in the field of industry. I have heard it said that at one time Western Australia carried a vote in favour of secession from the federation. It certainly had that unique distinction.” On the other hand, that State has the proud distinction that whenever a national effort has been required, or a national service has been needed, it has contributed to the fullest degree of its capacity. In area it is one-third of Australia, and, as honorable members who have visited it realize, its possibilities of development are almost unlimited. Development must be hastened, and a much greater population attained. It is equally certain that secondary industries must be established if its long coast-line is to be defended against future aggression. I do not accept the view that wars are inevitable. If in this so-called enlightened age we cannot, by discussion and agreement among the nations, decide upon measures for the avoidance of wars, we may as well admit that we have made a failure of our heritage. Should this country again he attacked, however, the long coast-line of Western Australia will be a constant menace to the defence and safety of the nation. Western Australia has large areas Chat are capable of development, but it must have the assistance of the greater resources of the remainder of the continent. Honorable members from that State have not actively pressed upon the Government its urgent needs, realizing, as we do, that with man-power and material resources devoted to the gigantic task of winning the war, such claims would increase the distraction o£ minds already overburdened. One of the most urgent needs throughout the State generally, and in the city of Perth particularly, is additional hospital accommodation. A great new hospital was begun just prior to the war, but operations on the building had to he suspended. Not only manpower, but also various items of electrical equipment, are needed. I urge the Government ‘to make man-power available, and to provide all the supplies that are needed, to complete the hospital as early a3 possible, and in addition to make provision for the hospital accommodation that is required in other places. Attention has .been directed to the Commonwealth contribution that is to be made in respect of in-patients in hospitals throughout Australia. The position of out-patients also demands urgent attention in Western Australia, and, I presume, in the eastern States as well. In-patients get beds and whatever treatment the institution is capable of providing, but the out-patients must wait for many hours in queues, notwithstanding their age, sex, or state of health. The health of many of these persons has deteriorated in consequence.
No grant by the Commonwealth can make complete reparation to Western Australia for the fact that its development has been impeded by the competition of big industries in the eastern States. With its limited financial resources and comparatively small population, it urgently needs the assistance of the larger resources of the Commonwealth in order to develop its natural possibilities. Many problems face the State Government- deferred railway maintenance, housing, and the like - which will have to be tackled in the postwar years. The Commonwealth is giving earnest attention to the housing situation. The people of Western Australia will demand that the Commonwealth shall give to them a larger measure of assistance and take a greater share of. the responsibility for the State’s development. It may be considered that I am. enlarging too much on the possibilities and difficulties of Western Australia. My excuse is that all the other States have benefited largely during the war years from vast expenditure by the Commonwealth on activities associated with the war. For obvious reasons, similar development has not occurred in Western Australia. A larger measure of assistance must be made available in order that it may do the work that lies ahead.
The budget details a large number of subsidies to primary industries. I was interested in the debate last week on the motion of the honorable mem’ber for Indi (Mr. McEwen) for the adjournment of the House to discuss the wheat industry. Within recent years, I have not been engaged in primary production, but in. earlier years I shared largely in the trials and tribulations of the farming community, and knew only too well what difficulties and problems daily confronted it. I have friends in the wheat industry to-day. The’ working farmers are grateful indeed to this Government, and to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), as the founder of. what is known as the Scully plan. . One of my former neighbours wrote to me in a recent letter, “It is the best legislation enacted for the benefit of the primary producers in my experience extending over 30 years “. The budget shows that a large measure of assistance has been given to the primary producers. Proof of their gratitude is to ‘be found in the support which they gave to Labour candidates at the general elections and in the affirmative vote at the recent referendum.
The tax concessions proposed by the Treasurer are worth while. Very great relief will be afforded by the abolition of the sales tax on building materials. With the cost of housing so high, this remission is urgently needed, and it will materially help those who desire to own their homes after the war. We should approach the consideration of tax measures in a different light from that which has guided us in the past. The granting of concessions is usually regarded as a loss by the Treasury. This loss, for the time being, will be more than counterbalanced by the relief afforded to those who wish to build or purchase homes. That must be the fundamental principle governing the consideration of taxation in the years that lie ahead. It is short-sighted in the extreme to impose taxation which will return a small, or even a large, amount of money, if it inflicts hardship on the people by lowering the standard of living. The taxation allowance for dental expenses was overdue, and although it may be complained that £10 is not enough, I believe that it will, in most instances, meet the expenses actually incurred, and in any case it represents a marked improvement on what obtained before.
Generally speaking, this may be said to be a good budget. Some may have hoped that greater relief would be afforded, but that is not possible at the moment. Although the budget is not a spectacular one, it does actually provide that all the resources of the nation, in labour and material shall be fully employed in the war effort. If the Treasurer is able to achieve a similar employment of our resources in peacetime, he will richly deserve the gratitude of the people. We hope that, after the war, the resources of the country will be utilised, not in the destruction of’ life as now, but for the benefit of the people, for the provision of better housing, and for the raising of the standard of living generally. We must never again have an army of unemployed in this country, with the attendant misery and starvation.
– I take this opportunity to express my gratification at the improved war situation in Europe and in the Pacific theatre. At this time we must realize the part played by Great Britain, particularly during the early stages of the war, and the tremendous strain under which the British people have been living during the last five years. All honorable members will join in paying a high tribute to the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Britain, to the men and women who have toiled in the factories and also to those who have accomplished so much on their farms. I am glad that our own Australian soldiers were associated with the soldiers of Britain in the fight in the Middle East. Actually that was also our own fight, because the Middle East was the gateway to Europe, and our men were helping to re-open the channels of trade to Great Britain. It is a fine thing to be able to look back and remember that, when the Empire was standing alone against the enemy, the soldiers of Australia and other dominions fought side by side with those of Great Britain during the darkest period of the war. To say this is not to detract in the slightest from the achievements of our soldiers in Malaya, New Guinea and elsewhere. It is unfortunate that many of our men are prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. I hope that the time is not far distant when they will be liberated by our own armies. Our airmen have acquitted themselves nobly in Europe, in the Middle East and in New Guinea. To them, and to the members of all the Services, our gratitude is owing for what they are doing in defence of our country. We owe a debt of thankfulness also to our manufacturers, and to our primary producers who are striving under difficulties to produce food with which to feed our own armies and those of our Allies, as well as to fulfil our obligations to Britain. The only blot on our record is that made by the New South Wales coal-miners, and other saboteurs in the meat industry. Apart from them, our people are deserving of the highest praise. They have proved beyond doubt that this nation is destined to go forward to a great future when the war is over.
I hope that, before the end of the war, the Government will announce its policy for the rehabilitation of returned servicemen. Provision should be made, not only for those who will return maimed and sick, but also for placing fit men on the land, in business, or in industry, after presenting a generous gratuity to each one. We should be preparing now for what must be done when peace returns. In this respect, other nations are far ahead of us, and we should learn particularly from what is being done in Canada. In that country taxation has been reduced during the last two years to enable industrialists and others to establish funds for the development of industry after the war. The Treasurer said in his budget speech that taxation in Australia had reached its limit, and that is true. It is now time for something to be done to grant relief from high taxation so that businessmen may get ready to expand production as soon as peace comes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has invited overseas manufacturers to set up factories in Australia. That is all to the good, but we must do more than that. We must convince them that it will be possible to obtain a satisfactory return upon the capital which they will invest in projects for the development of our latent resources.
We could also learn from what Canada has done to develop markets for its primary products in Britain. Out of the proceeds of its exports Canada has paid its debt to Great Britain, and, in addition, has made a free grant to the Mother Country of £100,000,000, besides sending shiploads of goods free of cost. Many hundreds of millions of dollars have been expended hy Canada on war undertakings, and we in Australia have benefited to the amount of $26,000,000 up to March of this year. During the war, Canadian exporters of primary products have been enabled to expand a market in Great Britain, and have so exploited it that it will be difficult for Australia to win a full place for its products when the war is over. For instance, Canada is supplying Great Britain with about 80 per cent, of the pork products consumed in that country, whereas before the war 70 per cent, of Great Britain’s requirements were supplied by Europe. In regard to this and other products, Canada is filling a place cn the British market that might properly be shared by Australia.
– The honorable member has always had an inferiority complex about Australia.
– Such a remark comes well from the Minister, having regard to the millions of pounds of Commonwealth money that goes to bolster up the apple-growing industry in Tasmania.
– What about the millions of pounds that go to bolster up the sugar industry in Queensland?
– The Minister should know better. Not one penny is paid in bounty by any government in Australia for the support of the sugar industry. I desire to see our primary producers prosper, and markets established overseas for our products. We have lost our place in those markets largely because of government mismanagement and inefficiency during the war. We were told that the war prevented us from getting agricultural machinery and machinery parts, but I maintain that the war had nothing to do with it. In Britain, the war increased production and efficiency. The Government closed down industries which were manufacturing agricultural machinery, the reason given being that it was necessary to employ all our resources in the manufacture of munitions. Apparently, the Government overlooked the fact that a certain amount of manufacture should have been permitted if primary production was to be maintained. Only recently I was speaking to a farmer who had just purchased a new machine for £182 because he could not buy spare parts for his old machine costing £5. In Great Britain things are done differently. All the measures to increase the agricultural yield that Were initiated in 1940 have been continued. For instance, Britain has trained blacksmiths and other tradesmen to cope with the increased repairs of agricultural machinery, whereas our smithies have been forced to close, thereby depriving primary producers of their only means ofl keeping equipment in order. This has resulted from misplaced enthusiasm to put men in the Army and keep them there. A smithy in one large centre in my electorate is closed because the smith is. refused release from the Army, notwithstanding that he is only a batman.
An interesting scheme was initiated in Great Britain in the middle of 1940 to train rural blacksmiths to do the increasing amount of repair work now needed on agricultural machinery. Oxy-acetylene welding plants have been set up in many villages. Ours are being closed. A most important development is the setting up of an Agricultural Machinery Development Board and a National Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Agricultural Machinery Development Board is composed of progressive ‘farmers familiar with the problems of mechanization, manufacturers of agricultural implements, representatives of agricultural labour organizations, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Agricultural Research Council. Its duties are to arrange for the testing of agricultural machinery and implements, and to consider questions of uniformity and standardization, provision of educational and advisory facilities and, in general, to advise upon any matters relating to the mechanization of agriculture.
Factories have been established to supply the farm machinery so essential to British primary production, whereas we have not only denuded our primary producers of man-power, but also have prevented them from ‘keeping their machines in order, and from buying new machines. The’ output of tractors in Britain is twice the number it has ever been previously, notwithstanding that for years Britain has had the war at its very front door. Why, our farmers who were told - virtually ordered - to go back to the use of horses cannot even buy trace chains with which to attach horses to the ploughs, nor can they buy horseshoes. Whereas in Britain, land under primary production increased from 5,000,000 acres to 13,250,000 acres in the first two years of the war, and by a further 2,000,000 -acres a year thereafter, we have allowed our cultivated areas to decrease. The Government must take positive action to retrieve the position.
The budget provides for an expenditure of. £505,000,000 on the war, and £148,000,000 otherwise, but there is no dissection of the proposed expenditure on the war. We have been charged by Government supporters with not being able lo find faults in the budget, but how can we when there are no details that we can examine. There should be a secret meeting of members and senators at which we could be given some details of the proposed war expenditure in order that we might protect the interests of the taxpayers who have to foot the bill. Governmental inquiries have recently disclosed that some highly placed officers, not permanent public servants, have seriously erred in the expenditure of public money, and it is, therefore, proper that there should be an opportunity for us to make a fuller examination 06 the proposed expenditure than is provided in existing circumstances. There are many directions in which expenditure could be reduced or avoided in order that there might be not only a reduction of taxes, but also a lessening of the need for the raising of huge loans. When we were threatened with invasion we had to take all sorts of measures and expend men, money and materials at almost a profligate rate, but that danger having been removed, a stocktaking is due. In this country there are vast stores of materials which were created to meet the threat of invasion. Millions of gallons of petrol and thousands of tyres and tubes were assembled as reserves against possible invasion, but that danger having been removed, such stocks should be distributed amongst those who need them for such essential purposes as transporting primary products to market, and mitigating the isolation of women and children in the country. I believe that what was first done as a war measure is being perpetuated as an economic measure directed at the curtailment of unessential expenditure. But expenditure by primary producers on replacement of tyres and tubes so that their idle motor vehicles may be used is not unnecessary ; it is essential to the security of this country in respect of food production.
In 1943-44 the cost of the Rationing Commission amounted to £447,000, but the estimated expenditure for this year amounts to £533,000, an increase of £116,000. Apparently the farther the war goes from Australia the greater rationing must be. That policy creates a sense of insecurity and an unnecessary worry in the minds of the people. Some forms of rationing are not needed now. For instance, there is no need to ration sugar and tea. The officers required to administer the rationing and other regulations are tying up thousands of telephones that are needed by business people and in private houses where there is sickness. Sooner or later the people will rise against this unnecessary pinpricking done on the pretence of the needs of war, whereas we all are aware that it is merely an extension of economic controls. Another flaw of the budget is that the Government finds no difficulty in allocating a huge sum for the maintenance of great control organizations, but can afford only £71,600 for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I shall have something more to say about that on another occasion.
The shortage of labour is constantly offered by the Government as the excuse for its failure to ensure the manufacture in this country of vital needs for the farmers. Recently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) ordered 10,000 tractors from the United States of America, at the cost of £6,000,000. At the same time, we commenced the Building of a warship, the estimated cost of which is £4,300,000. It is computed that the vessel will not be completed for six years, but if the graving dock is any criterion, both estimates will be considerably exceeded. My guess is that ten years will pass before the vessel is placed in commission. The labour and steel and money which are being used in the construction of that vessel would have been better diverted to increased factory development in Australia for the manufacture of tractors. The factory would have been in production now, and probably it would have manufactured already more tractors than have already been delivered from America. I can see no reason why we should be building a warship which will not be completed until long after the war has ended. Are we building a warship for the next war when we shall have the Japanese Fleet to divide amongst the Allied Nations? Our vessels served in the Mediterranean, and surely we are entitled to some portion of the Italian Fleet. Russia has demanded its share although it has never fought the Italian Fleet. The United States of America has the greatest navy in history. Are we going to try to rival it? No. If we need a vessel after the war we shall probably be able to get one from America. Great Britain was able to get 50 American destroyers that had been discarded since the last war to tide it over until it was able to bring its destroyer fleet up to strength. The construction of a large warship is an undertaking out of proportion to our needs. These matters should be discussed in this Parliament, especially as millions of pounds are involved.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is keenly interested in a proposal to standardize railway gauges, at an estimated cost of £50,000,000. This conversion would not provide one more railway station or serve one more farm. All existing bridges, tracks and (rolling stock -would be discarded. Obviously, the Minister is anxious ito provide employment in the post-war period, but this money could be used to better advantage to develop our resources. With the rapid progress of air transport, our railway system will be obsolete 25 years hence, except for heavy loading. The allied landings of airborne troops in France and, Holland are an indication of the potentialities of air transport in the future. If Australia is ever attacked, bombers will dislocate our railways and create far greater breaks of gauge bv destroying bridges. An airborne invasion will be met by airborne defenders. Therefore, the standardization of railway gauges is not justified for either defence requirements or the convenience of civilians.
While I am dealing with air transport, I should mention that, instead of constructing Lancaster bombers, Australia should concentrate upon the development of commercial aircraft. I travelled across the Pacific Ocean in an aircraft which had berths for 64 passengers, and which carried a crew of eleven and 25 tons of petrol. A few years hence, even that type of aircraft will be obsolete. Australia should begin now to plan aircraft capable of transporting produce cheaply and quickly to sparsely populated districts of this vast continent. That would encourage new settlement. Instead of great expenditure on standardizing railway gauges, £50,000,000 could be expended upon hydro-electric schemes. Water supplies and cheap electric power would stimulate development and production and provide wealth for a larger population. The United States of America provides indisputable evidence of the advantages of hydro-electric power. The Commonwealth Government, instead of simply looking for avenues of employment, should’ create a solid investment that will attract new industries, wealth and population to the country. God destined Australia to be a great nation. With a population of 7,000,000 we cannot fulfil that destiny.
Consternation and confusion reign among our primary producers. On three occasions they have been told that if they make the necessary application, their sons will be released from the Army for the purpose’ of assisting them to increase production. First. the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) announced possible releases. This was followed by a Commerce Department advertisement that the Government realized that many dairy-farmers were unable to carry on without ‘assistance, and that members of the forces could be released on the recommendation of the man-power authorities. It covered possible releases from “ A “ personnel serving on the Australian mainland in units other than those within the operational command, reinforcements and training units and so on. But those are the conditions which debar ~a man from obtaining release !
– Who authorized the advertisement?
– The Controller-General of Food, under the authority of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). Now the Minister for the Army announces that up to the 30th June next 30,000 men will be released from the Army and 12,000 or 13,000 from the Royal Australian Air Force. I have a copy of an advertisement which instructed employers desiring the release of personnel from the Army for rural work, to submit their application to the War Agricultural Committee of the district in which they were located. But this condition still stands -
The Army will not release men medically classed “ A “ serving with units outside Australia, those medically classed “A” undergoing recruiting training, and tradesmen and specialists except where they are surplus.
When a dairy-farmer reads one of these advertisements, he. makes the necessary application to the War Agricultural Committee for his district. After an investigation, the committee may recommend to the man-power authorities the release of the producer’s son. After a delay, it receives from the Man Power Directorate, a letter in these terms -
I have to advise you that I am in receipt of advice from the Army stating that….. is ineligible for release because he is in an operational unit.
In my opinion, the whole procedure should ‘be reversed. Of what use is it to make application- to a. War Agricultural Committee and for a recommendation to be made by the. man-power authorities when the Army, ignoring the advice of these bodies, rejects the application? Would it not be better to make the application direct to the Army? Other letters I have received from the man-power authorities are as follows : -
I have to advise that the release of this soldier has not been approved because he is classified’ as a tradesman serving in a restricted category.
I have to advise you that as this release was refused by military authorities, no further action can be taken toy me.
As one of these letters indicates, men who are considered to be specialists are unable to obtain release from the Army. The only blacksmith in one district of my electorate closed his business because the son required to carry it on is a batman in the Army. No one else in the district is able to repair the agricultural machinery, or shoe horses, but the Army will not release him because it classes him as a specialist. In the early ‘ part of the war, the Army called up the mechanics in many country garages. Consequently, in one town in my electorate no one is able to repair the trucks of timber millers, milking machines, and tractors. A lad, who is suffering from physical disability, is endeavouring to carry on the garage, but in the absence of the mechanic his task is hopeless. The Army will not release that mechanic. The Army has trained thousands of men as mechanics since Australia was threatened with invasion. All those men will never be required in that capacity. In the interests of our industries, these matters’ require review. I cannot help being struck by the contrast with what has been done in Great Britain, where industries have ‘been established to enable blacksmiths and other tradesmen not only to repair but also to make essential machinery. Australian industries are crippled, because essentials are not available, we cannot get men out of the Army, and when application is made for their release the whole process is upside down. Applications have to be made to the various war agricultural committees, whereas the information could be obtained at first hand by applying to the Army, to whom the man-power authority- eventually has to submit the applications. Useful work is being done by those “War Agricultural Committees, but their recommendations are too often rejected. In fact, the Army is refusing them now. I am informed that 4,000 releases which were previously recommended by the Man Power Directorate will now be made without further application. They have not yet established that policy, judging by the letters which I receive. During the three or four years of war that our lads have ‘been away from many of the farms, the old people, who said that they would carry on, have done so, but now they are at the end of their tethers. That does not apply only to rural industries, because many people took their sons’ places in many spheres, but are now on their last legs. The whole problem must be reviewed reasonably and sensibly. We must recognize that we cannot let everything go for the sake of the war. We cannot let the clock stop altogether in our industries. We must try to retrieve that which has been lost, by replacing the essential men in our industries. Canada has actually gained hy its wise policy of production and development, although it has done its full joh in the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. It has also built up and established its merchant marine during the war, and has wiped out the debt which it owed to Great Britain. It is also paying the Australian airmen who are there, out of the profits made from production, mainly from the land in the forms of stock and foodstuffs, whereas Australian rural industries have deteriorated, and our people a>re, as I said, at the end of their tethers. We cannot get a reasonably stable policy in this regard, and the Government appears not able to release from the Army men who might perhaps have been wanted on active service if there had been an invasion, but who are not likely to be needed at the front now.
.- I notice that there is a proposal to have erected in England by the Australian people a memorial to the excellent work and sacrifice of the people of Great Britain. Whilst I think this an excellent suggestion, I do hope that, if something of this nature be done, it will ‘be of a useful and practical nature. For I am of the opinion that nothing that we can do will compensate for the tremendous sacrifice the British people have made in defence of the freedom, of our own Commonwealth of Nations, and indeed of the whole world.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen.), speaking on Thursday last on the price of wheat, endeavoured to mislead honorable members and the people of Australia into believing that the farmers, through the Scully wheat plan, were losing something like £10,000,000. However the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) replied very effectively and proved beyond doubt that the statements of the honora!ble member for Indi were not only misleading, but actually untrue. I quote from the leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th September -
In hia anxiety to .press the case for the wheat farmer in Parliament this week, Mr. McEwen completely lost sight of the Australian consumers and taxpayers, whose interests are equally entitled to protection. The Commonwealth wheat stabilization plan is by no means perfect, but it has undeniably achieved its prime object of saving the industry from bankruptcy and keeping thousands of men on the land, lt may be true, as Mr. Menzies suggests, that the Government’s power to acquire wheat at varying prices is open to question. This is a constitutional issue which only the Courts can decide. If, however, the scheme be judged from the stand-point of public policy, it must be conceded that it has made a substantial contribution to national welfare. In many ways it hasbeen the simplest and most effective of the various attempts made in recent years to help the grower, and to small producers it has been especially valuable. Though they may not have reaped large profits, they have enjoyed a payable price and a stability hitherto unknown in the industry under a scheme which was brought in when a surplus of 150,000,000 bushels was overshadowing it collapsing market. Now that prices abroad have moved upwards, however, farmers would like to have it both ways, and though they have enjoyed the benefit of a generous “ price floor “ to support three-quarters of the annual crop, they protest against any “ceiling” being retained for the benefit of local consumers.
Prices of6s.11½d. and 7s. 6d a bushel for isolated oversea sales, quoted by Mr. McEwen, no doubt appear extremely tempting by comparison with the 3s.10¾d. or so being paid for stock feed in Australia. But it does not follow that, were it not for the restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth, such prices might be had for the asking. They certainly cannot be claimed to represent “ prevailing export parity “, for a world market in wheat no longer exists, and there are almost as many prices as there arc centres of trade. To determine the price paid for home consumption by such a standard would certainly shower largesse upon the farmers, but it would be the very reverse of stabilization, and would, in fact, place a severe new strain on the antiinflationary programme of the Commonwealth. Either the Government wouldbe obliged to expend further millions in bridging the difference between buying and selling prices, or else costs would be sharply increased to the domestic user, and fresh pressure placed upon food prices to the public. As Mr. Scully has justly remarked, the policy of keeping costs down outweighs any benefit which could possibly be secured by “ chasing overseaprices up to inflation, and then back to poverty “.
I am sure that the majority of the primary producers are satisfied that the Government, even if it has not met all their requirements, has done a good job in the most trying and difficult times that this country has ever known. Hearing some honorable members speak, one would think that the war was already over, and that the military forces could be disbanded; but I remind them that Japan with its millions of soldiers is still a very formidable foe, and its defeat, although ultimately certain will, I am sure, involve us in a lot of heart-burning and tremendous sacrifice.
I suggest to members of the Opposition that they had better not delude themselves regarding the consequences of the defeat of the referendum proposals. They gave the people the impression that rejection of the bills to increase Commonwealth powers would result in relaxation of wartime restrictions. Doubtless the people have now awakened to the fact that some restrictions must continue if we are to bring the war to a successful conclusion, andI was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition state that “control of prices must continue for some time after hostilities cease “. It is a pity that the people werenot told this during the referendum campaign. Now that the statement has been made by the right honorable gentleman, the people will realize how they were misled and persuaded to defeat themselves. Let me quote the views of a soldier of the present war about the loss of the powers bill -
With every prospect of a final victory, many of the thousands of lives which have been given will have been given in vain. We will have won the peace, a freedom, a security, as most people will think, but we have really won the opportunity to make peace, freedom and social security. At the conclusion of hostilities we shall be in exactly the same position as in November, 1918, and if we as citizens of Australia fail to make the most of that Opportunity, there will be another war. Then, those lives will have been given in vain. God help us, for we will never be given another chance.
In spite of the gloating of some over the loss of the referendum proposals, I am afraid that they will be doomed to disappointment, as we know, from past experience, that Legislative Councils in all States, except Queensland, stand for vested interests, and in my opinion they still have a love for profits rather than of human values. I am one of those who believe that the loss of the referendum proposals was one of the most serious calamities that has overtaken the Commonwealth. I sincerely hope that another opportunity will be given to the people to vest in the Federal Parliament, which is their own Parliament, the powers to develop Australian nationhood.
I am pleased that the Government proposes to consider a scheme for giving to the fighting forces some additional recompense for what they have done in saving this country. Their sacrifice has earned our everlasting gratitude. Even the best that we may do for them will never sufficiently recompense them for their service. To these young men who have learned nothing but how to wage war will be given, I hope, an opportunity to cultivate and pursue their peace-time ambitions.
The Opposition, seem to be disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to bring into effect Labour’s monetary policy. This I am sure, will be done in due course. I am pleased to note that the Treasurer has agreed to lift sales tax from building materials, etc. This is a step in the right direction. Also provision is to be made for farmers and business firms to set aside sums for repairs and deferred maintenance. But we must not fail to realize that, this is a war-time budget.
It is gratifying that the Government has been able to give real encouragement to the dairying industry by the payment of a subsidy. I hope that before long, definite guarantees will be given to the wool, wheat and pig meat industries so that farmers engaged in them will have a sure market and fixed prices for their commodities for several years, and will be able to plan accordingly.
The Treasurer mentioned provision for counteracting soil erosion. This is one of the most important subjects that could be discussed in this Parliament. I have previously mentioned the problem in this House. In the words of Ion L. Idriess in his book, The Great Boomerang, “ The dreams of to-day are the facts of tomorrow “. I believe, with the author, that the idea will seize the imagination of people all over the Commonwealth. When I put Dr. Bradfield’s scheme before the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley), he said that there were engineering difficulties. In my opinion they are not difficulties, but merely engineering problems-. Carlyle once said, “Every noble work is at first impossible”; and Ruskin said, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do “. I contend that the prevention of soil erosion is a wo»k of great national importance. Even during this war the far north of Australia has been transformed. When I visited the north in 1929 there were no roads; there were only tracks. It was most difficult in places, on account of sand drift, even to retrace one’s tracks. To-day these tracks have been replaced by a bitumen-surfaced highway, and huge aerodromes have been established, which will be available after the war for civil use. All this has been done during the war and is the outcome of war. It proves what can be achieved under the pressure of urgent necessity. The war has shown us the possibilities of the northern part of Australia. For military purposes large quantities of vegetables have been grown by using water from the Adelaide River by means of sprinklers and irrigation canals. To many a “ doubting Thomas “ has been shown just what can be done in the north with courage, determination, and confidence.
Darwin’s average rainfall is 60 inches. Nearly 60,000 square miles of the Territory has an average rainfall of 40 inches or more, more than 100,000 square miles registers an average fall of 10 inches. Millions of gallons of this water finds its way to the sea. This vast, valuable country should be turned to more profitable use. Recent visitors to this part of the country w.ere the High Commissioner for Canada, Mr. Justice Davis, and the American Minister to Australia, Mr. Nelson T. Johnson. Whilst I quite agree in the main with what they say, I am not so optimistic as they, but I do say that this vast and valuable country must be used more profitably if we are to hold it.
Here again we have evidence of the influence of war-time necessities. Alice Springs has actually developed into a city. Now, what about the “ dead heart of Australia “ ? What are we to do about this so-called desert? Are we going to let it remain a sand-drift, as in the past ? The problem is more serious than most people imagine. When I visited this part in 1929, one station was carrying 5,000 sheep, which at one time could muster up to 30,000 head. Pastoralists declare that this state of affairs has been brought about by overstocking, with consequent erosion. This is becoming a menace to the lower north of South Australia and should not be allowed to continue. In 1930 one of the greatest duststorms in history occurred. Millions of tons of dust was shifted from the northern part and travelled hundreds of miles. In fact, if I remember rightly, other capital cities as well as Adelaide were affected. And when rain came, the skies literally rained mud. Unfortunately, in parts of South Australia, particularly around Quorn and Willochra Plains, the land has been depleted of salt bush, and the homesteads in these districts are almost covered with drift stand. This country was originally cut up for the purpose of growing wheat. The result of this policy is known, to the sorrow of many of the settlers of the State. There is urgent ne’ed for a federal soil conservation service. In the northern part of the State, quite a number of homes have been partly covered with sand. The same condition prevails in the mallee districts. Not many years ago, these areas grew some of the finest crops of wheat that had been produced in the State. To-day, the condition is one of drifting sand for mile after mile. The problem is a national one.
The war has revealed certain fundamental weaknesses in Australia’s position in relation to its neighbours. One fact that has been burned into the consciousness of every thinking citizen is that we are not numerically strong enough to protect ourselves from the encroachments of our immediate neighbours. The Government has shown that it is well aware of the strategic weakness of our position, and is making longsighted plans for the post-war development of the resources of the country, with the object of providing for an early and substantial increase of our population. In the immediate postwar years, there will be many problems, but the most pressing one of all will be the necessity to provide against any possible aggressor in the future. This can be done only by augmenting our resources of man-power and material to the point where we can, by our own strength, deter any envious neighbour nation from seizing an opportunity to attack us when our friends are engaged elsewhere and unable to come to our assistance.
Australia must grow strong, and quickly. In the pursuit of this objective, it will be necessary to make full use of every natural resource. The impetus given to industry by war-time production needs has been responsible for an expansion of this phase of the national economy, which undoubtedly will be carried into the years of peace. Never again must it be accepted that Australia’s part is merely to produce raw materials for export. We must look to secondary industries to employ by far the larger part of the increased population which is our most pressing immediate need. But primary industry will always be the base on which this new expansion of manufacture will rest. There always has been and always will be a market for wool, wheat, meat and the other products of the land. The increase of population will provide a vastly enlarged home market; the processing of raw materials will provide work for larger numbers of our people than ever before in our history. So it will be seen that the problems of the primary producer are integral to plans for post-war reconstruction.
One particular aspect of primary production, which has been neglected in the National Parliament for far too long, is the progressive deterioration of the actual soil resources of Australia through erosion. This- cancer, which is attacking the very roots of the nation’s prosperity,, has already been widely publicized. I refer honorable members to these publications :. - E. G. Radcliffe’s report to the South Australian Government; Flying Fox and Drifting Sand, The Great Boomerang, by Idriess; Australia’s Empty Spaces, by Upton ; and The Dying Heart of Australia, by J. Pick. The last named author, who is well known as “ Vock “ Pick, has studied soil erosion and is- regarded as an authority on the subject. The situation in several States, indeed, in all the States,, is already so serious that governmental action has been taken to check the inroads which erosion has been making on the soil resources of the country. Possibly, New South Wales has made the most determined attack on the problem. The Government of that State has set up a permanent soil-conservation service, and is taking vigorous measures to cope with the situation.
Owing to climatic and geographical conditions, it is probable that South Australia has suffered from erosion more than has any other State in the Commonwealth. The Government of that
State is seriously concerned at “the increasing denudation of the pastoral country, and is making some effort to halt an evil which bids fair to convert the biggest part of the State into an uninhabitable desert.
I believe that the time has come for the Commonwealth Parliament to assist the State governments in the fight that they are making to preserve for posterity that heritage of fruitful soil which our fathers handed on to us. I must emphasize that, in this matter, the National Parliament will not be able to act independently of the States; it can be dealt with only by close and cordial cooperation between Commonwealth and State authorities. But erosion is not halted by a State boundary. The problems of the Victorian Mallee are the same as those over the border in South Australia. “ The “ dying heart “ of the continent embraces four States, and a large portion of the Northern Territory. It is the duty of the National Parliament to set uP an organization to assist in co-ordinating the activities of the various States. I hope to convince the committee that this is an urgent matter, which merits immediate and close consideration. “What I propose is the setting up of a soil-conservation service, modelled on that which has been set up in the United States of America to deal with an erosion problem that is no more pressing than the problem with which we are faced in Australia. Indeed, I consider that the actual problem is more acute in Australia than ever it has been in America, where there is very little country which has such an unfavorable rainfall-evaporation ratio as the “ dry heart “. This ratio is rapidly becoming accepted as a reliable measure of the erodib.illity of any region, largely due to the valuable research work of Mr. V. R. Alldis, of Young, New South Wales.
It is impossible, with the available information, to give a very accurate estimate of the damage already suffered in the continent as a whole. Indeed, no State has yet made a detailed survey of the progress of erosion, although isolated survey® of limited areas have been undertaken. The results of these limited inquiries are startling in the extreme. Some of the best farming lands in South Australia have lost more than one-half of their original topsoil. The pastoral country is in a deplorable condition, and that condition is being aggravated every year by the progressive deterioration of the land. The time is overripe for a vigorous programme of water conservation. There are several avenues, open to the National Parliament to institute such a programme. One of these is by the generous provision of finance to State instrumentalities for the purpose of research and experiment. Another is by the institution of a publicity campaign to awaken the public conscience to the destruction that is taking place. Another is the setting up of a soil conservation service, with which I shall deal more fully later.
Perhaps the most important avenue which is open to the Commonwealth is the undertaking of public works for conservation purposes. Almost all honorable members have heard of the scheme advanced by the late Dr. Bradfield for the irrigation of a huge area of country in the heart of the continent. It is my belief that it is the paramount duty of this Parliament to make the most searching inquiries into the feasibility of such a scheme being undertaken as a part of the programme of post-war reconstruction. Some time ago I directed a question on this subject to the Treasurer and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley). This scheme has already been the subject of a fair amount of dissension between scientific authorities, perhaps because too much has been claimed by its proponents. Whether the presence of large, permanent bodies of fresh water in the heart of the continent would influence climatic conditions for the better is something which seems to me impossible to determine. But it is possible to determine in advance the feasibility of such, an irrigation project as Dr. Bradfield has advocated. No one is more competent than the engineer responsible for the construction of the Burrinjuck Dam and the Sydney North Shore Bridge to pronounce an opinion on what is wholly an engineering problem. Dr. Bradfield pronounced it not only possible, but economical, to irrigate 2,000,000 acres of land by means of a dam across the Cooper River. That is worth doing, and I contend that few other projects for public works in the postwar period hold out so much promise of gainful employment for our people in the course of construction, and a permanent living for a large number of them when the work is completed.
Soil erosion is an. urgent problem. Taking the long view, it is in cold reality one of the most urgent problems that the National Parliament will be called upon to solve. It is of little use to plan for a vast expanSion of population in this country, if the country itself is to be allowed to develop into a hopeless wilderness. I have gone to the trouble to consult with the highest authorities, and have been forced to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe that any better future awaits this country, unless there be a radical change in the methods of exploitation which have characterized the development of primary production. The country outside the 30-inch rainfall line already displays most of the features usually associated with deserts in the Northern Hemisphere. The time is not far distant when the destruction of the salt-hush country will be complete.
To meet this urgent necessity, I have suggested the setting up of a national soil conservation service. I now propose to set out in some detail the constitution and duties of the proposed service. I believe that this problem of soil erosion will require the setting-up of a permanent, full-time organization to deal with it. The service that I have in mind will comprise the best authorities obtainable on the following branches of land husbandry : Forestry, engineering, agricultural science, irrigation, botany, meteorology and the new science of hydrology; it must also have at its disposal the services of sound practical agriculturists. It is essential that at the head of this organization there should be a sound administrator, a man with an intimate knowledge of the financial ramifications of primary industries, since the financial side of the problem is of the utmost importance in any programme of reconstruction. It is my belief that the service is likely to succeed or fail, primarily in accordance with the ability of the man who is at its head. This is a big job, the biggest in Australia, and it is important that a highly qualified m,an should be found to organize the service. It is not necessary that he be a scientist, but it is necessary that he shall have under him, at the head of each branch of the service, the best intellects that are obtainable. I contemplate a central “administrative organization, the actual field work being carried out by the departments of agriculture, forestry, engineering, botany and meteorology, wherever they are required. To find a model for the service I have inquired deeply into the activities and organizations of the United States Soil Conservation Service. An almost exactly similar organization would fill the bill admirably in Australia.
But there are certain vital differences in the systems of land tenure in use in the two countries. These differences in no way affect the basic principles on which good soil husbandry is built. They might, however, require certain modifications in procedure. In Australia, unlike the United States of America, the title to all lands which have not been sold outright to individuals, i.e., all Crown lands, is held by the various State Governments. It. follows, then, that laws relating to tenure, tenancy, stocking restrictions, crop rotations, &c, all of which have a supremely important bearing on soil conservation, are now and will probably remain, the sole prerogative of the States. At first sight, this would appear to present certain difficulties that really do not exist. This diversified control of land usage results in ‘a much more intimate relation between land-holders and government departments. Too much centralization of control of lands is likely to result in a department losing contact with the lessees. The work of the service, as in America, would consist in correlating the information gained by the various State instrumentalities and co-ordinating their efforts at control. In America, a large part of the work of the service consists in the establishment of “ demonstration projects and research work. Systematic, nation-wide surveys have been undertaken to determine the progress of erosion and to devise means suitable to check its progress in different localities. Similar surveys are carried out to determine soil deficiencies and to classify varying types of country. Efficient meteorological stations have been set up to cover the whole of the country ; and weather information in the United States of America is both detailed and comprehensive, and of the utmost value, not only to scientific agriculturists, but also to aerial transport and passenger companies. A later development is the Grand Coulee cla in, a federal project which plans to irrigate 2,500,000 acres of semi-desert lands. Here is the prototype of the Diamentina Gates dam projected by Dr. Bradfield.
Tt must be emphasized that the United States Soil Conservation Service has not. hitherto, undertaken any ambitious scheme of country-wide regeneration of eroded areas. Its work, as previously mentioned, has been generally confined to experimental, research and demonstration projects. I find that a good deal of misapprehension exists as to the work of regeneration in that country. Contrary to popular belief in Australia, the work of regenerating eroded areas has been carried out in the main by private financial organizations. In this connexion, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company might be cited as a classic example. [Extension of lime granted.] This concern foreclosed on 7,000 farms during the depression years 1930-3S. Many of these holdings had been “ farmed poor “ and erosion had taken its toll of them all. In all, the company found itself with 1,618,000 acres of run-down farming lands. The company set about the rehabilitation of this country on business lines. It made its own soil surveys, and instituted its own system of crop rotations and erosion control methods. Those farms are now rented to farmers who are, in effect, employees of what is probably the first farm corporation to rome into existence, and they are paying the company handsome dividends. That is the good side of the picture. Here was the inspiration of a sensational novel which under the title Grapes of Wrath, (Stirred the conscience of the civilized world.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has just handed me a booklet which he brought back from the United States of America. It deals with the problem of soil erosion in the State of Tennessee, and from it I quote the following paragraph : -
The extent to which erosion has devastated the land is amazing. Of all farm land in the Tennessee Valley, for example, careful estimates show thai more than a million acres have been destroyed for future farm use, half the topsoil has been WA Iii.,d (iff many more, and nearly all the land has suffered to some extent from erosion.
I have enlarged upon the method and principles adopted by soil conservation authorities in the United States of America because they hold for us an example and a warning. The methods used by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company are the methods that must be adopted wherever a programme of soil regeneration is needed. The mistakes in farming practice and financial policy which led to the pauperization and eventual eviction of 7,000 families should provide us- with a warning. These 7,000 families were only a fraction of the dispossessed, who reached the staggering total of 3,000,000 men, women and children. Soil erosion and financial policy in Australia have, between them, already started such a mass eviction. Bankruptcies in the farming community from 1929-39 resulted in many families leaving their holdings. This does not take foreclosures into account. The above figures should convince honorable members that the need for a federal soil conservation service is pressing and immediate. The Australian people will not tolerate the establishment of such “ empires “ of agriculture in this country as that held by the American corporation that I have cited. Nor is that necessary. Soil conservation can and must be handled by government authorities in the public interest, and the authority to handle this nationwide problem is a federal soil conservation service such as I have outlined.
In respect of one matter, Australia differs from the United States of America. We have a huge area of country. Quite one-half of the continent has a rainfall of less than 10 inches. This constitutes a problem peculiar to Australia. Much of this land is productive, and has done much to contribute’ to the national prosperity, but it has become impoverished. This country presents certain problems which are not encountered in the high-rainfall, better country of the coastal regions. In the setting up of the service, special consideration and a specialized personnel will have to be given to these areas. One other aspect that is worthy of consideration is the institution of erosion control measures in the Northern Territory. In the archives of this Parliament, there is a most valuable report, that of the commission of inquiry presided over by Judge Payne. In that report there is an outline for the development of the Territory. It will be the duty of whatever government is in office at Canberra to press on with all speed to develop the Northern Territory, and the proposed service would be of the greatest value in setting out a plan of conservation. The usual course in land development is a period of extreme exploitation of the soil resources, followed by. a long and painful programme of regeneration when the productivity of the soil has become impaired. I suggest that any future development of this or any other land in Australia should proceed along sound, conservative lines, aimed to preserve rather than rifle the soil resources. Instead of making deserts, this service could have as its objective the making of two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before.
A sound, prosperous agriculture is the only safe basis for a sound, prosperous community. I am not certain that governments can make prosperity for any country or any people, but I am certain that it is the duty of this Government to establish conditions in which the people, by their own efforts, may become prosperous. Government policy has not been altogether free from responsibility for the deterioration of our agricultural and pastoral lands. It is a government responsibility to institute measures in concert with State governments for the regeneration of the land.
There is- an aspect of the problem of erosion which is peculiarly the province of this Parliament, and which has received only scant attention from any of the various authorities which have interested themselves in the problem. There is no doubt that over-capitalization of farms and grazing properties has been a primary cause of the over-working of the land. Over-working of the land is the root cause of erosion. Numerous factors are to blame for the overcapitalization of primary industries. Inflated land values occurring during the boom years following the war of 1914-18, over-generous .finance by banks and other lending agencies, with their corollary of inflated interest rates, and government policy, all have to take their share of responsibility for bringing about a situation in which the unencumbered primary producer is a rarity. So long as the land has to go on producing interest to cover the inflated mortgages before it begins to provide a living for the people on it, there will be little prospect of any nationwide plan of conservation, much less regeneration, making headway. I submit that it is the paramount duty of this Government to bring about conditions in this country in which the primary producer will be able progressively to reduce the burden of debt under which he is labouring at present. Not until we have established a free, stable agricultural community can we hope to stabilize the soil resources of the land which- that community is working.
I further submit that a quite new approach to this problem is required. It is not enough to give the farmer, or the dairyman, or the grazier, high prices for his products. The high prices after the last war were the direct cause of the inflated land values which have led to the farmer’s- impoverishment. Stability is far more important and should be the basic objective of government policy. In this connexion there is pressing need for the maintenance of existing control of prices, particularly land prices, in the post-war years. It has been suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should take over existing mortgages on primary industries, and conduct its rural business with the object of reducing progressively the. mortgages until they are paid off. This is in contrast to the methods of private financial firms, stock and station agents, Asc., who regard the “ free “ client as a nuisance and the “good client” as one who carries an overdraft large enough to give them a dominating share in the management of the property. I do not say this in criticism of these firms. It is their business to invest their capital in financing primary producers, and they have made it a very lucrative business. Huge buildings grace the streets of our capital cities, all built out of the profits of primary industry. Successive governments are to blame for having allowed the land to be gutted to erect these buildings. This process has gone on long enough. The fluty- of any government is to provide “ the greatest good for the greatest number “. It is possible that certain privileges hitherto enjoyed by these private banking interests, privileges which through their long and unquestioned exercise have come to be regarded as “ rights “ might necessarily be withdrawn in the public interest. But, even were these privileges really rights, the people’s right to preserve the heritage of fruitful soil for posterity must override these lesser technicalities. What I propose is the setting up of a federal soil conservation service to formulate and carry out a long-term plan for the stabilization of the soil resources of the Commonwealth. It would be outside the scope of this service to formulate plans for the financial rehabilitation of primary industry. But since this is an essential preliminary to any plan of rural stabilization and development, I advocate the immediate appointment of a royal commission to report on the following aspects of primary production: - (1) The extent of rural indebtedness both by mortgage and overdraft; (2) commissions charged by agents for the disposal of primary products; (3) the best means of bringing about a progressive reduction of rural indebtedness with a view to its ultimate elimination; (4) the area of land held by non-resident owners and lessees and land corporations, and the possibility of getting this land back into the hands of people who will live on the properties; (5) any associated problems relating to primary production. These are matters that will have to be determined before there can be any very effective approach to the vital problem of erosion. It is in line with the declared policy pf this Government that there shall be a .new deal for producers and workers alike. Here then is an avenue along which government policy and the true interests of primary producers march side by side. What is proposed falls far short of the socialization which is the ultimate objective of the Labour party. It is merely the rationalization of the primary industries, which is, and always will be, the sound base on which a superstructure of secondary industries must rest.
I am glad that the Commonwealth Government is assisting the Government of South Australia to develop the brown coal deposits at Leigh Creek. I visualize the time when this undertaking will lead to the greater development of central Australia, including the electrification of the north-south railway line. In the interests of economy, as well as of the development of this area, it will be necessary to instal, not only a large electrical plant in the locality, but also freezing works at Alice Springs. If that were done, live cattle would not need to be railed to Adelaide, but would be slaughtered at Alice Springs and taken south in freezing chambers.
I regard the Bradfield water scheme as of considerable importance to the development of inland Australia, and i hope that before long a start will be made on it.
..- I listened with interest to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith), whose speech revealed deep research into the problem of soil erosion, particularly wind erosion. I join with him in voicing the opinion that soil erosion is a problem which must be grappled with by governments. It may not be so .urgent as are other problems now facing the country, but its importance cannot - be doubted. I am not familiar with the problem of wind erosion, but I have seen a lot of water erosion in the higher rainfall areas of Victoria, and I am only too well aware that irreplaceable fertile land ha» been washed out to sea. Unless we take steps not only to combat soil erosion, but also to re-establish- the fertility of eroded lands, I fear that future generations will have reason to condemn us for negligence.
I find myself at variance with the honorable member for Wakefield, however, in regard to another matter. The honorable member read a sub-leader from the Sydney Morning Herald pf a few days ago, containing a criticism of some remarks which I made last Thursday when I moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the position of the wheat industry. I do not propose to traverse those arguments again, because the facts speak for themselves; but I regret that a journal such as the Sydney Morning Herald should think fit to take me, or any one else, to task for suggesting that wheat should not be sold in this country at less than the cost of producing it. A payment of 3s.10¾d. a bushel, which is less than the cost of production, should not be made to wheat-growers for feed for stock when there is a local market, as well as an overseas market, for wheat for human consumption at prices greatly in excess of that figure. It seems most extraordinary that the proprietors of this journal, who appealed successfully to the Prices Commissioner for permission to increase its price by 33 per cent. when, according to figures given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the general price index has not yet risen by 25 per cent., should be advocating that wheat compulsorily taken from the growers shouldbe sold at less than the cost of production.
This budget was introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the 7th September at a time when the war news from Europe and the Pacific was brighter than we had led ourselves to hope for, and all of us, includingMinisters, believed that we had entered, perhaps, the last few months, certainly the last year, of the European war. In this chamber last July, I voiced the opinion that history would probably show that a statement by the Prime Minister had been made within six months of the end of the European war. I think that history will show that this budget was introduced within a couple of months of the end of that war. Yet, neither in fact nor figures, does it recognize the imminence of the end of that war. It is merely a familiar routine, war-time budget, containing only the scantiest provision for some investigation of post-war reconstruction and some passing reference to another matter to which I shall refer in a moment. We all know that with the end of the European war there will be such a transfer of strength of the United Nations to the Pacific that it will not be long before Japan is crushed. It is, therefore, extraordinary that there should be so little indication that the Government has reached’ the stage of planning for the transformation from war to peace. Before dealing further with that matter I wish to refer in terms of approbation to the announcement of the Treasurer that the Government, in recognition of the splendid, gallant and loyal service of the men in the fighting forces, has in mind that there should be some tangible recognition of that service, other than the routine recognition of repatriation. The Treasurer expressed on behalf of the Government the view that it would be useful to set up an all-party committee to consider and report to Parliament on the best and most generous steps properly to be taken by it to indicate in financial terms its recognition of that service. The Australian Country party wholeheartedly concurs in the sentiments expressed by the Treasurer and will be glad to be associated with sucha committee.
The provisions in the budget are in their customary fixed terms and details are so shrouded in the blanket provision for expenditure by the service departments that it is not possible for honorable members to make a detailed examination of the provisions for carrying on the war this financial year. I do not propose to attempt to do so. I propose rather to use my time to offer some observations on both short-term and longterm preparations which ought to be made to meet the post-war position. From speeches made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and other senior Ministers, it would appear that the Government is disposed to allow its thoughts and energy to be directed to the broadest international co-operation in the planning of the future of the world. That is extremely laudable, but I do not think it will get us very far.
The outcome of the efforts of the Allied Nations in planning after the last war was the League of Nations, the structure of which gave equal recognition to all powers great and small; and that League was to plan for the future security of the world.
As we know, it failed lamentably; but, judging by present portents, 1 should say that on this occasion the great powers intend themselves to shape the future of the world without giving an equal voice in that planning to the smaller nations. Several momentous conferences have been held to devise strategy for the conduct of the war. Those conferences comprised the heads of the three great powers; and, on one occasion, China was recognized as one of the four great powers. From the Conference just concluded at Quebec at which Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt have been engaged in discussions will emerge great decisions that will affect not only the future course of the war, but also Australia’s immediate destiny. This Government has not been invited to join in that conference on a governmental plane; and the governments of any of the smaller of the United Nations did not receive an invitation to attend the conferences held at Casablanca, Cairo or Teheran. It would be well to recognize that the immediate destiny of the world is going to be decided by the three great powers. Therefore, Australia’s leaders, while making their contribution through appropriate channels, should not hold their heads so high as to cause them to overlook the immediate needs of this country. However, I am afraid that this Government is devoting too much time to the future of Europe and the world, and is not giving sufficient consideration to the planning of the future of Australia. I do not know how many people are still sufficiently optimistic to believe, after thousands of years in which there has been a long succession of wars, that this war will be the last. Certainly, I hope that it will be the last, and that the Government of Australia will contribute towards that end to the degree that our circumstances will allow. However, I am not so foolish as to pin my faith entirely on that expectation. We must still keep our powder dry. We are emerging from this great trial very fortunately, because of the aid which we have received from Great Britain and the extra-‘ ordinary strength and superb diplomatic skill of the United ‘Kingdom Government, as well as, of course, our own efforts and the help of our other allies. some of which we should now and again remind ourselves, were not our allies during some of our darkest days in this conflict. The real thing upon which we must rely as a nation for our future security is the building up of our own strength, in ‘ which matter the basic consideration must be an increased population. Therefore, the primary concern of the Government in developing this country in the post-war period should be the building up of our population by all the means at our disposal, including the improvement of social services with a view to increasing the birthrate. However, that will be a slow’ process. We shall defeat our Asiatic enemies in this war, but we cannot exterminate them. They will still exist in their teeming millions 50 or 100 years hence. We can give to our successors a feeling of security in this country only by building up our population. Insufficient consideration is being devoted to the problem of increasing our population by migration. We have heard some talk about plans for the m ignition to Australia of British children. That is a splendid idea. I cannot think of any class of migrant whom we should prefer to British children; but I am afraid that the Government’s preoccupation with this idea is rooted in the traditional fear in the minds of many Labour men that the migration of adults to Australia _ would mean the introduction of competitors on the labour market. Our need of increased population is so great that we cannot depend solely upon increasing the birth-rate, nr upon child migration from Great Britain or the devastated countries in Europe. We must endeavour to attract to this country migrants of the proper kind, first, British people, secondly, Britishspeaking people, and’, thirdly, selected migrants from European countries. Our ability to absorb migrants will depend upon the efforts we ourselves make in that direction. In the past, almost every plan in respect of assisted migration has ‘been designed on the idea that the Government was not to be one penny out of pocket. In some cases, the cost of passages was reduced, and on others, the Government advanced passage money at reduced rates which had to be repaid by the migrant after arrival in this country. Under such conditions, it was a tremendous decision for an adult to leave his native land and to take his chances here, bearing in mind .that he would be at a great disadvantage compared with the native population. Therefore, I urge the Government to realize fully the value to Australia of the right kind of migrant. It it does so, it will not boggle at prodding free passages without any condition whatever as ,to repayment. That should be the primary consideration in any migration scheme. Secondly, I hope that the Government will ensure full empiloyment for our own people, and, in addition, go a step further in the encouragement of migrants and give to them not only a free passage to Australia, and a welcome, but also more liberal treatment in respect of social services as well as a guarantee of employment upon their arrival in this country. It is of no use merely to talk about bringing more people to this country, and leave it at that. People can live only around industries, and it is futile to suggest building up our population unless concurrently .ve direct our minds to the building up of industries which provide the means of livelihood for the people whom we bring here. “We are sometimes inclined to lose sight of the fact that this vast continent, with all its diversity of occupations, yet has certain industries which are natural to it. The land industries are, in my opinion, natural to Australia. They are fundamental to our national economy, and I should hope that, if we expect to build up a great, strong and populated Australia, we should recognize that this Can never be done by building up industries which are, at least in their inception, artificial to this country, at such a cost as will put upon our natural ones a burden beyond their capacity to carry. I do not think that there has been enough evidence of attention to the planning of the future development and expansion of those natural land industries which, after all, constitute the only stable foundation upon which to build the more highly developed secondary industries. “We have had, both in and out of Parliament, discussions of things’ that have been done of which the effect is, or may be, to build a powerful competitor with our great wool industry, the greatest natural industry of Australia. Any planning by the Government that would be detrimental to the stability and financial strength of the wool industry must in the long run react disadvantageously to the best development of Australia. That applies to a greater or lesser extent to all our land industries. I do not wish my remarks about migration, and the encouragement of immigrants to this country, to be misunderstood. I should not like any one to think that I am forgetting what I regard as the first and inescapable obligation of this or any other government. I refer to the re-establishment in civilian life of the men and women who have served this country in uniform during the war. There will be many ways by which those who have served in the forces will seek to be reestablished in civilian life. Some will take the view that, having fought for Australia and ensured its safety by their sacrifices, they are entitled to choose as their avocation some land industry, and claim the right to own some of the country for which they have fought. I hope that all the reflections that have been made, most of them very properly, upon the mistakes of soldier settlement after the last war, will not be taken as a reason why soldier settlement should not be engaged hi after this war. There need be no waiting until the end of the war to take the first steps to re-establish members of the services in civil life. The easiest man to so re-establish is he who had some part in it before he joined the fighting services, and who asks no more than to be allowed to return to the place which he vacated when he donned uniform. But I am dismayed to find many cases of soldiers who discover that, notwithstanding the existence of regulations imposing upon ordinary employers an obligation to re-employ men who went into the services, there are others having the effect of forbidding them to resume the places in civil life which they vacated.
I have been for some time fighting the case of a man in my own district, and I quote it merely as an illuminating example. He was a carpenter, he volunteered for the Army, and has now served four and a half years in the Middle East and New Guinea. He is 43 years old.
His brother, a farmer, was,like many others, unable to obtain labour to take off his crop. He said to the brother in the Army, who was married, and had a family: “What about applying tor some leave, or for your discharge, so that you can come and help me to take off the crop ? “ The soldier accordingly applied, and, as he was 43 years of age, was discharged, and went and helped his brother to take off the crop. After that he naturally wanted to obtain work as a carpenter, which was his trade in civil life, but he found himself in the clutches of the man-power people, who said: “No; you were discharged from the Army to work as an agricultural labourer, and you must work as an agricultural labourer or else go back to the Army “.
– What is wrong with that?
– If the honorable member cannot see it, it is beyond my ability to explain it to him.
– According to the honorable member, the man got out of the Army under false pretences.
– This man, at the age of 38 or 39, volunteered to go to the war. Having served for four and a half years, he wanted to come out and resume his trade. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asks, “What is wrong in compelling him to remain an agricultural labourer ? “
– The honorable member said that the man was discharged from the Army in order to work on a farm and not at his trade.
– I shall take no notice of the honorable member’s opinion. I am glad that no Minister interjects from the front bench, as the honorable member for Bourke did, endorsing the action of the man-power authorities. I have little doubt that Ministers would regard it as a sad state of affairs; but I assure them that, notwithstanding every effort that I have made with the man-power authorities, all I get is a constant reiteration of their view that the man was discharged on his application to help his brother to take off the crop, in which capacity he was to work as an agricultural labourer, and he must remain working as such.
– But there is an acute shortage of farm labour, as the honorable member will acknowledge.
– I admit it, but surely the Minister will agree that a man whose whole working life has been devoted to the trade of carpentry is entitled, after four and a half years active service, to be allowed to resume his trade, and to receive the scale- of pay that a carpenter can command in these days!
I have another case of a man in my own district who was a wine-producer. He was a most enthusiastic militia man, and devoted most of his time to the Militia for the year prior to the war. He joined the Army immediately war broke out, and remained in it until his discharge, as over-age and medically unfit, about eight months ago. He was in his 40’s and went back to his vineyard. The most profitable part of his viticultural business was the retailing of wine in 2-gallon containers, the rest of his wine being sold at a much lower wholesale rate. When he returned to his vineyard, he wanted to take up his profitable retail trade again, but he could not do so. He had to fill in a form, and ask for consent. One question in the form was, “ How much wine did you sell in 1941 retail “. He had to reply, “I did not sell any; I was in Libya in that year”. The Customs Department officials said, “If you did not sell any wine retail in 1941, you cannot sell any retail in 1944 “. The man said, “ There must be some mistake, surely, because in 1941 I was in the Army”; but he could not get any satisfaction. He came to me, and I could not make any headway either. I have written to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and to the Comptroller-General of Customs, and I have used every other channel of approach that I know of; but that man, who served four years in the Army, is still unable to re-establish himself fully in his former business. He is forbidden to sell wine retail, whereas his neighbours, who did not go to the war, can carry on as usual. One could cite many cases of this type. For instance, there is the case of the farmer who secures his discharge from the Army and returns to his property only to find that he cannot secure a superphosphate quota because he did not receive any superphosphate in the base year because he was serving in Greece or Libya. The first step towards real repatriation is to remove the stupid and completely unjustifiable obstacles which have been erected by officialdom, and the effect of which is to prevent men from re-establishing themselves without government assistance.
I am sorry to say that the record of soldier settlement schemes after the last war, is such that many people believe that land settlement schemes should not be attempted again. I do not agree with that.
– But the honorable member agrees that such schemes should be left to the States.
– The honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and I know something about soldier settlement schemes, because we participated in them. I contend that any man who has fought for his country is entitled to claim ownership of some part of it, and to make his living as a farmer. I have read with great interest the first and second reports of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which I consider to be of value. The first report does not contain anything novel. It is a sound and common sense review of the history of our rural industries and their position to-day. The second report contains some sound observations about the problems which await ex-service men in any settlement scheme. The honorable member for “Wannon says that I am prepared to leave soldier settlement schemes to the States. My view is this : I believe that the repatriation of ex-service men is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, but that the State Parliaments are best equipped to handle the details of land settlement schemes. It would be stupid for the Commonwealth to set up a complete duplication of the machinery already in existence in the States, merely for the purpose of engaging in land settlement schemes. I speak on this subject as one who has personal knowledge of the matter as a soldier settler and in my view, in handling these schemes after the last war, the States made every mistake that they could possibly have made, including unsympathetic administration.
– And they are still making them.
– Whilst I would not go so far ‘as to say that, I cannot believe confidently that they would not repeat many of them. There are in charge of certain State departments many men who must shoulder a good deal of the responsibility for the blunders and the cruel hardships of soldier settlement schemes after the last war, and I could have little confidence in the States handling these schemes again unless there was a. comprehensive replacement of those individuals who made such a sorry job of it after the last war. The settlement scheme in which I participated was the second biggest in Victoria, providing for approximately 400 soldier settlers. After the first couple of years 50 per cent, of the settlers were obliged to walk off their properties, so hopeless were the plans which the Government of Victoria had made.
– That happened everywhere.
– I have no doubt that it did.
– Over-capitalization was the main trouble.
– There were a multitude of reasons. In many cases, the fault was over-capitalization, but in the settlement scheme in which I participated, under-capitalization was the trouble. The cost of the land, was not too great, but the areas were much too small and the financial assistance placed at the disposal of the settlers was so insignificant that it was impossible for those unfortunate men to develop and work their properties. In this regard, the Commonwealth government of the day must share the responsibility with the States. Thousands of settlers had allocated to them a block of 40, 50, 60 or 70 acres of land, unfenced, and marked only by survey pegs, and an allowance of £625. The rate of interest was 4£ per cent., and from that £625 the settler had to build himself a house, fence his property, build sheds that he required, subdivide his property, and buy himself a team of horses, machinery, a herd of cows, and all the other incidentals to establish a farm. With the remainder he could do as he pleased. To that sum of £625 most of the settlers added their war gratuity which in many cases amounted to £100, and their deferred pay, of approximately the same amount. Their sad fate was, not that they were over-capitalized, but that they were hopelessly under-capitalized, and had not the slightest hope of developing their land, equipping themselves with all the plant they required, and stocking their properties sufficiently to give them the slightest chance of earning a livelihood. I do not know what willbe the division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States on this occasion, but I am quite sure that there will be soldier settlement schemes. I am convinced that the Commonwealth is not sufficiently well equipped to handle the details of such schemes, and that it must invoke State assistance for that purpose. I am. not sufficiently optimistic to believe that thousands of men can be settled on the land, many of them not having had previous experience, and others very much shaken physically and psychologically by their war service, without encountering many difficulties.
– Has the Commonwealth Government power to purchase land for soldier settlement schemes?
– That the Commonwealth Government has the power to acquire land for any purpose is unquestionable.
– Not for soldier settlement.
-I am afraid that the honorable member listened to speeches which some Ministers did not intend that he should take seriously, even though theyintended that the people should take them seriously. Under the Lands Acquisition Act, the Commonwealth can acquire, for any purpose, as much land as it likes. Whatever difficulties may arise in the course of soldier settlement after this war, I hope that we shall not again reach the stage that was reached during the later twenties, when the soldiers approached the State Governments with complaints, only to be told that the States were hamstrung by lack of finance, and then weretold by the CommonwealthGovernment, to which they had turned, that soldier settlement hadbeen handed over to the States. The Commonwealth Government possesses quite sufficient authority to devise the principles of soldier settlement. It ought to appoint the States as its agents in the matter. I hope that no Commonwealth government will ever seek to divest itself of the ultimate and continuingresponsibility to the settlers it may put on the land. [Extension of time granted.] The details of the scheme can be worked out. As the result of my experiences, I amentirely in agreement with the observation of the Rural Reconstruction Commission that,with agriculture at the stage that it has reached in Australia to-day, speaking in general terms, one cannot regard the one-man farm as a sound economic unit.
– The explanation is given in the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission. If soldier settlement be based on one-man farms which are uneconomic units, the scheme will in many instances be doomed to failure. If the Government accepts the recommendations of the Rural Reconstruction Commission - which I suggest that it should -it will be confronted with the fact that an economic unit is not less than a farm operated by the owner and one assistant. Such a farm would call for a considerable capital investment in respect of land, plant and stock. 1 hope that no one will consider that soldier settlement can be achieved cheaply. If the men are to be given a chance to make good, they will have tobe established on a scale that will enable them to operate their farms economically; and that will oblige the Government to find a very much larger sum. than was found per settler after the last war.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe in collective farming?
-I do not. But I consider that there is great scope for co-operation in farming. I believe that the District War Agricultural Committees, with the assistance of the Government, through the agencyprincipally of Mr. Bulcock - whom I have found to be a first-class officer - are doing a very good job in overcoming the problem of inefficient machinery in the small unit by facilitating the acquisition of machinery in certain districts by contractors or on a co-operative basis. I hope that that policy will be followed in respect of both soldier settlements and civilian farming after the war. I revert to the observation that in order to have an economic unit there will have to be an area of land and a capitalization considerably greater than were contemplated in any previous settlement scheme in Australia of which I have knowledge. Certain things are requisite for the rapid expansion of agriculture, and these cannot be produced “ out of the hat “. There are various strains of pasture and crop seeds, and stock, which cannot be produced overnight. Inevitably there will be considerable expansion of agriculture in this country as soon as the war is over. The Government should make some preparation in anticipation, by growing and storing stocks of some basic pasture and crop seeds which do not exist in quantity to-day. The report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission makes some reference to the necessity to provide adequate numbers of appropriate citrus stocks, so that there will not be a repetition of the state of affairs which existed after the last war, when rubbishy citrus stocks were supplied to soldier settlers and many others, to the lasting detriment of the citrus industry and the men who acquired them. I endorse that observation, but go further and say that preparations ought to be made now for the production and storing of many pasture and crop seeds. The Commonwealth Government ought to interest itself in the opportunities for breeding and putting by young bulls, rams and stallions of the kind that will be called for in a rapid agricultural expansion. Australia has lagged tremendously behind every other progressive agricultural country in the investigation and practice of the artificial insemination of farm stock. There, I believe, is a field for investigation by the ‘Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which would show considerable dividends in the activities of the Government in relation to soldier settlement after the war. Ministers will know, as we have all learned to our bitter cost during the war, that there cannot suddenly be a great expansion of secondary production. For munitions production, certain basic requirements, such as machine tools, must be met before there can be production in volume. We have an exact counterpart of that in agriculture. There must he the equivalent of machine tools in the primary industries. Nothing would make a greater contribution to the failure of agricultural expansion than to oblige those who propose to expand their activities to do so with the wrong strains of plant seeds trees and animals. This is a field to which the State Departments of Agriculture should devote themselves far more than they are to-day. As I am quite sure that in any soldier settlement scheme the Commonwealth will not wish to divest itself of responsibility, some of these matters ought to be taken up with the State Departments of Agriculture, in order to get uniform practice throughout Australia.
Useful comment has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) regarding the Northern Territory and the north-west portion of Western Australia. I had the responsibility some years ago of endeavouring, to recast government policy in respect of Northern Territory development. I have travelled that country fairly extensively on several occasions, and I have great confidence in the capacity for the great expansion of production there ; but I say, frankly, that, whatever maybe the ultimate opportunities for agriculture in the Territory, I place no confidence in rapid agricultural development there. I believe that the development of that region will probably be found ultimately to take place on lines similar to those experienced in other parts of Australia and in all of the American backlands - cattle first, and, where suitable, sheep later. Following sheep, there will be agriculture. The Northern Territory is an area which will have become known to many thousands of young Australians, and I have no doubt that many of them will be prepared, and anxious, to settle there and perhaps also in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. Vast areas of land are divided into leases of 10,000 and 12,000 square miles, which are held by one company. Those leases should be resumed. There should no longer be tolerance of a state of affairs where vast areas are held almost completely undeveloped. It is not uncommon to find that adjoining leaseholders on the Barkly Tablelands, and also on the Victoria River Downs and Wave Hill side, rather than go to the expense of erecting fences to divide their properties, leave a belt of country 20 miles wide, without water supplies, which will function in the same way as a fence, in order to prevent the intermingling of the stock on two runs. That cannot be tolerated any longer. When I had authority in that department, I had specific plans to resume considerable areas of that land and to have it developed.
Cheap communications by air and by road, and cheap (petrol, must be provided in the Northern Territory. I had the approval of the Government of which I was a member of a plan to have the whole of the customs and excise duties on petrol sold in the Territory paid into a special fund, which was to be used to subsidize the cost of petrol in the more remote parts. Had that scheme been adopted, by subsequent governments the effect would have been to have provided petrol at Alice Springs at a cost of only 4d., 5d. or 6d. a gallon dearer than the price in the southern capital cities. As far back as Tennant Creek and Wave Hill, the price would have been at least 2s. a gallon lower than it was at that time. Ways couldbe found, I believe, of developing those outback areas, but I sound a note of warning about the roseate pictures painted by Mr. Nelson T. Johnson the Minister representing the United States of America in Australia and Mr. Justice Davis, High Commissioner forCanada in Australia who have said that the Northern Territory is capable of vast and rapid development, and of carrying a substantial population. I point out that that territory, particularly the central portion of it, has tremendously fluctuating seasonal experiences. The average rainfall at Alice Springs is about 14 inches a year, yet it is not extraordinary to experience a rainfall of 3 inches a year there. So it is possible to go there and find, as at present, considerable areas which would carry a beast to the acre, and to return to that same country a year or two later, and find it incapable of carrying a beast to the square mile. We ought to be at some pains to correct any impression going out to the world that that country is capable of carrying a large agricultural population.
– The honorable member has exhausted his extended time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No. 24 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1943. National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Use of land.
National Security (Meat Industry Control) Regulations - Orders -
Meat (Nos. 31-34).
Stock (No. 12).
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1943-44.
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for year 1943-44.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Rocklea Munitions Works.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Rocklea munitions works, on which£4,000,000 is reported to have been spent, closed down with little production to its credit, and was handed over to the
Department of Aircraft Production ?
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The questions involve matters of law which I have referred to my colleague, the Attorney-General.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many members of (a) the Second Australian Imperial Force, and (b) the Citizen Militia Forces have been discharged after completing six months’ service or more?
– Information regarding the number of members of the Military Forces discharged after completing six months’ service or more is not available, but the total number of members of the Australian Imperial Force and Citizen Military Forces discharged to the 31st August, 1944, is as follows: - (a) Second Australian Imperial Force, 86,616; (&) Citizen Military Forces, 123,921.
d asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
How many members of the Royal Australian Air Force have been discharged from that force after completing six months’ service or more?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Payments for Legal Services.
n asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
What total amounts were paid by or on (behalf of the Commonwealth to (a) Mr. H. G.
Alderman, (b) Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., (c) Mr. A. M. Fraser, and (d) Mr. B. Sugerman, K.C., for legal or other services and for expenses (stating amounts for expenses as a separate item) during (i)the financial year 1942-43, (ii) the financial year 1943-44, and (iii) the period since the 1st July, 1944?
– Steps are being taken to obtain the information from all the departments concerned.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Why did the Government refrain from prosecuting the Sydney Morning Herald for publishing in July a document on censorship declared by him to be secret?
– The newspaper had no information, at the time of publication, that the document was secret.
r asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - ;
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440919_reps_17_179/>.