17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet reached a conclusion in regard to the request that I made during the budget debate, for a private joint meeting of both Houses of the Parliament?
– As the result of communications that have come to me, the more important of which I have imparted to the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, I have come to the conclusion that certain matters should reach a more advanced stage than they have reached if adequate consideration is to be given to them. I therefore have in mind the holdingof a private joint meeting of both Houses of the Parliament about eight weeks hence.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to the report in yesterday’s
Melbourne Argus of a convention of the Young Nationalists organization, at which it was stated: “The United Australia organization had damped them, threatened them, and told them that they would starve “ ; further, that the public believed that the United Australia party was dead, -and that it was necessary to provide an effective substitute? Was the newspaper report submitted to censorship?
– I read with interest and satisfaction the statement with which the first part of the question deals. In reply to the second part, I inform the honorable gentleman that only those matters which affect the safety of the nation have to be submitted to censorship. I do not believe that either the United Australia party or the Young Nationalists organization can .affect the safety of this nation, or its future, either helpfully or harmfully; because, as was said by the speaker at the convention to which the honorable member has referred, the United Australia party is dead.
– In view of the improvement of the military situation, will the Minister for Munitions ascertain whether or not it is possible to increase the allowance of what is known as sporting ammunition?
– I do not think that sporting ammunition is subject to the control of the Munitions Department. Ammunition of this kind has been scarcebecause of a shortage of brass strips from which to make the heads of cartridge cases. More of this material is now available so that sporting ammunition should shortly be more plentiful. Those seeking to buy sporting ammunition should communicate with their suppliers, and they will be fully informed regarding the position.
Use of Militia
– Now that land operations by the South-West Pacific forces have advanced north of the equator-, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government proposes to review further the legislation governing the use of the Australian Militia, or is it proposed to prohibit Australian Army units, other than the Australian Imperial Force, from taking part in operations north of the equator?
– It is not proposed to make any alteration to what is known as the militia law. I have already informed the House that I have made complete arrangements regarding the forces that are to be at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief in all his operations. Apart from the Australian Imperial Force there are, of course, the airmen and the naval forces. Without revealing what, perhaps, the enemy may know, I can say that there are still far too many Japanese south of the equator for it to be practicable for all the Australian forces that are recruited to be at present despatched north of the equator.
– by leave - On Friday, the 15th September, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asked me a question without notice concorning the travel by plane of a party of scholars from the Geelong Grammar School, in Victoria, to Sydney for the recent school-term holidays, and made a request that I should ensure that rail travel permits be not provided for their return. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has since explained the circumstances governing the provision of air travel facilities by Australian National Airways for the forward journey, but as the latter part of the honorable member’s question had reference to the provision of rail permits for the return journey, I instituted inquiries. On the 13th September, representations were made from various sources requesting the issue of rail travel permits to enable these young men to return to Melbourne. On investigation, it was found that they were transported from Melbourne to Sydney by air, and from information received from the young men themselves it was gathered that they, together with two schoolgirls, were the only passengers on the plane by which they travelled. So that there does not appear to be any doubt that this was a special plane provided by Australian National Airways for the sole purpose of conveying them to Sydney. It was also intimated that they were to return by special plane, but because of a faulty engine, repairs to which could not be completed under fourteen days, return air travel could not be provided in time for the reopening of the school, and therefore it was decided that they should endeavour to obtain permission to make the journey by rail. All applications made to this department for rail travel permits were refused. Among those who applied were the Honorable David Loder, the son of the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakehurst, and the son of Captain Holyman, a director of Australian National Airways. I am informed that evidence points to the fact that this is the person who arranged for the provision of the special plane.
Action was taken to have an officer of the Commonwealth Transport Department, who is stationed at Albury, police the arrival of all trains from Sydney to intercept any of the boys who might be journeying interstate without the required authority. On Thursday, the 14th September, four were detected attempting to border-hop at Albury. They were - Hugh Dixon, C. A. Taylor, Colin G. Smith, and R. Cobden. Statements were taken from these young men, who admitted that they had purchased tickets to Albury and were presenting their identity cards bearing their Melbourne addresses for the purpose of obtaining a ticket from Albury to Melbourne. As a definite breach of Commonwealth Transport Regulations has occurred in these cases, prosecutions are being authorized, and similar action will be taken in any other cases where breaches are detected. It has been ascertained that two of these young men, namely, the son of Colonel Wynn and the son of Lord Wakehurst, arranged return bookings by boat, whilst to a third, named White, a permit was issued by the New South Wales Railways authorities on Wednesday the 13th September. When the issuing officer was asked why this permit had been granted, he stated that the case was represented by Messrs. Pitt Son & Badgery Limited as being one in which the young man had travelled from Melbourne to Sydney by plane for the purpose of assisting his people with the shearing at Belltrees, Scone, New South Wales, and as he was unable to obtain a return booking by air, he desired to be granted a rail permit. The issuing officer was informed that the permit in this case should not have been issued without reference to this department in order that inquiries might be made to substantiate the claim. However, in fairness to the issuing officer, I must add that it would appear that the facts were not disclosed by Messrs. Pitt Son & Badgery Limited. At the moment it cannot be ascertained whether the remainder of the young men have returned to Melbourne by private car, air, or other means of transport, but directions have been issued that in no circumstances are permits to be granted for travel by rail.
-I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is intended to complete, during this sessional period, consideration of the bill relating to the production of aluminium, which he has obtained leave to introduce?
– That is what I hope to do.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government will consider extending the oats subsidy to South Australia?
– The Government has decided to apply the oats subsidy scheme to South Australia under the direct control of the Australian Barley Board with head-quarters in South Australia. It is hoped that the subsidy will result in increased production of oats in South Australia.
-Can the Treasurer say when the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will be made available to honorable members and the States concerned ?
– I hope to table the report to-morrow. Owing to printing difficulties, I am not sure when we shall be able to obtain sufficient copies for general distribution.
– Is the Minister for
War Organization of Industry aware that last summer householders in the Sydney metropolitan area had great difficulty in obtaining regular ice supplies? In view of the necessity for protecting foodstuffs to prevent hardshipin the homes of the people during summer months, will he make arrangements for the organization of ice supplies, and, if he considers it necessary, appoint a controller of ice supplies ?
– Because of the extreme shortage of man-power, considerable difficulty occurred last year in maintaining the supply of ice to householders in the Sydney area. The manufacture and distribution of ice is a seasonal industry, and when the demand for manpower became so great, all the available fit men were taken from this industry for other work. Last year, we endeavoured, as far as possible within the limits of the man-power available, to organize the supply of ice in Sydney. With that experience to guide us, we hope this year to be able to do an even better job than we did last year. If necessary, a controller of ice supplies will be appointed.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government has chosen Sir William Webb, Chief Justice of Queensland, to go abroad for the purpose of participating in the work of the International Tribunal on War Crimes ?
– As honorable members are aware, the Chief Justice of Queensland has already done very important work in the investigation of war crimes in the Australian jurisdiction and Australian territories. It is hoped that in the near future he will go to London to assist in the presentation of these matters, and the facts connected therewith, to the war crimes authorities.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry to inform me whether it is a fact that firms which have idle capacity between defence contracts and are anxious to manufacture civilian goods, are obliged to obtain from the Department of War Organization of Industry a permit to do so? If so, will the Minister give a direction that such permits shall be granted promptly in order to facilitate continued employment in the industries concerned ?
– This matter was recently considered by the Production Executive, and I am glad to announce a decision that will give full effect to what the honorable member has in mind. Permits must be obtained by all firms before they undertake the manufacture of goods other than those which they used to manufacture within the three months preceding the 23rd October, 1942. Many firms engaged on defence contracts experience lulls from time to time, and, when these periods are short, it has frequently been impossible to complete the necessary investigations and issue permits in time for advantage to be taken of the plant and labour thus made available. Therefore, it has been decided that in future such firms may make advance applications for “ New Manufacture “ permits to enable the production of specified essential civilian commodities to be undertaken when such spare manufacturing capacity becomes available during lulls. Where permits are issued, firms will be able to prepare in advance to use this capacity. Special safeguards will be introduced for the purpose of ensuring that the making of goods under defence contracts shall not suffer because of the manufacture of civilian commodities in this way. If it should be found that a firm is allowing this subordinate production to interfere with its execution of defence orders, its permit will be cancelled immediately. However, I hope that the co-operation of manufacturers will be forthcoming so as to ensure that this new arrangement shall not be abused. Applications for permits should be made to the Deputy Directors of “War Organization of Industry in all States.
– I have been informed by stock and station agents in Melbourne that it is impossible to obtain fodder to feed stock purchased at the Newmarket sales, pending trucking, with a consequent reduction of competition at the sales. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether this information is correct? If so, is there any way in which fodder may be obtained for the purpose mentioned, and what procedure should be adopted?
– No action by the Commonwealth Government would cause any delay in the carriage of fodder, because the Minister for Transport gave a definite direction that, subject to the limits of truck capacity, all fodder and. live-stock must be conveyed not only in Victoria, but also in other States. The supply of fodder is controlled by the State authorities, but the Commonwealth has delegated authority to State Ministers for Agriculture or their representatives to acquire any fodder that they consider to be necessary for starving stock.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been informed of the failure of the spring cabbage crop in the Gosford district? Is he aware that 74 growers have failed to produce more than 10 per cent, of the crop that should have come from the seed that was sown, owing to the fact that the cabbages have run to seed? Will he cause an investigation to be made by experts in his department to determine the reasons for the failure, and treat the matter as urgent? If it should be found that the seed supplied to the growers was bad, will the Minister order that the growers be compensated for their losses?
– I regret that, according to information which has reached me, the Gosford cabbage crop has largely failed. I shall institute inquiries through my department in conjunction with the seeds experts of the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales, and also District War Agricultural Committees and other persons concerned, to find out exactly what has occurred.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping review the regulations which provide that producergas units must be fitted to essential vehicles operating in country districts in New South Wales? The Liquid Fuel Control Board of that State is still compelling the users of lorries for cream carting to fit these units to their vehicles, although the equipment is quite unsuitable for the class of transport in which these lorries are engaged, for it adds considerably to the weight of the vehicle and so causes an added drain on our fuel and rubber resources.
– I do not enter with any great enthusiasm into the administration of the regulations relating to the use of producer-gas, for I know some of the difficulties associated therewith, but the honorable member for Richmond will appreciate the fact that, by reason of the use of them, we are to save about 30,000,000 gallons of petrol annually in Australia. We are obliged to compel certain users to install producer-gas units for reasons of which the honorable member is well aware. The difficulties of the situation have not been greatly alleviated through the improvement of the war situation in Europe. In fact, the increase of activities in that theatre of war has made necessary the allocation of more tankers to convey petrol to Europe. The degree to which our difficulties may ultimately be removed by reason of the reoccupation of certain European countries cannot at present be decided, because many oil wells, and a great deal of plant and equipment, have been destroyed. I would be happy to be able to say that the compulsory use of producer-gas units could be discontinued from to-morrow, but I cannot do so. I shall review the matter, for I realize that there is some substance in the honorable member’s contention that the use of these units involves a heavier drain on tyres and petrol than would otherwise be the case.
I am endeavouring to administer the regulations so as to secure the best possible results.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether or not objection has been raised to the allotment of prisoner-of-war labour to individual employers on the mainland? Should there be a surplus of this labour, will the honorable gentleman make a proportion of it available for purposes of agriculture and, dairying in Tasmania, where it has proved successful and is still in considerable demand?
– Prisoners of war are employed on a limited scale, and are distributed throughout the States. If any persons wish to discontinue the employment of this class of labour, it can be transferred elsewhere, in which event the wishes of Tasmania can be considered.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service read the statement in the Australian Worker of the 13th .September, over the name of the secretary of the Australian Workers Union, that that organization is thoroughly opposed to the employment of prisoners of war in the circumstances of their present engagement? I also direct the attention of the Minister to the following extract from the Sydney Sun of the 24th September : -
By a big majority Dubbo district war agricultural committee’s- conference carried a resolution against prisoners of war being allowed to work for individual employers.
The mover was Mr. H. V. C. Thorby, of Wongarbon. In view of the fact that people engaged in rural industries are opposed to the system of employment of prisoners of war, will the Minister immediately review the system?
– I have read such criticism, and I have had deputations on the subject. Most of the opposition is largely to what people regard as cheap labour. The prisoners of war are paid in accordance with an international agreement. The whole subject has been, and will be discussed by the Government, which will review the situation in the near future. If the Agricultural Advisory Committee in any district objects to the employment of prisoners of war the prisoners of war will be removed and employed in districts where they are wanted.
– Can the Minister for Munitions learn from the Army authorities whether or not they have in South Australia reserves of bore casing and pumping plant which might be made available to orchardists and others who badly need them in consequence of drought conditions?
– I shall be pleased to conifer immediately with the Minister for the Army, with a view to ascertaining whether or not the request may be granted.
– I asked the Treasurer last week to consider the removal or relaxation of the ceilings on share prices. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the demand for shares has increased recently, and that it cannot be satisfied? Many prospective buyers are unlikely to invest in the second Victory Loan, while holders of shares have stated their preparedness to invest in the loan one-half of the proceeds of any sales that they might make. Does not the honorable gentleman agree that a raising of the ceilings would contribute materially to the success of the loan?
– I said last week that I proposed to make some minor modifications. From time to time I have heard it claimed that wonderful results could be achieved were I to do this or that, but so far the fruit has not been equal to the promise.
– Will the Prime Minister facilitate the return to Australia, under favorable conditions, of all Australians who were pursuing their studies in the higher branches of education in Great Britain at the outbreak of war, and are now in the Imperial services? They joined those services because it meant expeditious enlistment, and . in military parlance they ceased to be Australians.
Some of them are now rebelling against their lack of travel facilities to return to Australia and have been in communication with me on the subject.
– As from one rebel to another ?
– Perhaps. I am glad that the fact that I am a rebel is widely recognized.
– I shall bring the matter to the attention of the British Government. I do not propose to attempt forcibly to extract from the British forces men. who enlisted in them. I am quite sure that the British Government would be as considerate as I would be eager, should the circumstances warrant action of the kind requested.
– As service in the Malayan and New Guinea areas apparently does not confer eligibility to receive the 1939-43 Star, will the Prime Minister represent the need to have those areas included’, or to have issued a South- West Pacific Star which would fittingly recognize the services of those men?
– This matter was considered while I was in London, and since my return certain communications have passed between the British Government and myself. I hope that the Minister for the Army, on my behalf, will be able to make a full statement in respect of this and other related matters before the end of the week.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime
Minister and Minister for Defence). - by leave - It is regrettable that there should be misunderstanding regarding the general subject of Australia’s position in relation to food supply to the United Kingdom. The Government has never considered that it should explain the position in detail because that would have involved the publication of statistics of food production and allocations in a way which would be regarded as unwise in war-time. However, it is now necessary, in justice to the Australian Government, and in order to avoid misunderstanding with the British Government, that I should make a formal statement on the matter, and give such statistical information as can safely be disclosed publicly.
In pre-war days, the United Kingdom was dependent on imports for a large proportion of its food requirements. To cite a few examples: Britain imported during certain pre-war years 87 per cent. of its wheaten flour ; 41 per cent. of meat ; 92 per cent. of fats, comprising butter, lard and margarine ; 39 per cent. of eggs ; 77 per cent. of fruit; and 73 per cent. of sugar. Australia’s contribution to Britain’s imports of important foods in pre-war years varied according to seasons. Of the total imports, our contributions were: Wheat and flour, from 8 per cent. to 20 per cent.; meat, from 10 per cent. to 12 per cent.; dairy produce, from 12 per cent. to 17 per cent.; and fresh fruit and vegetables, from 5 per cent. to 6 per cent. The British market took most of Australia’s export surplus of the important foods. In 1938-39 the United Kingdom tookthe following proportions of our exports: - Butter, 95 per cent.; meat, 90 per cent.; canned fruits, 85 per cent.; dried vine fruits, 71 per cent.; sugar, 88 per cent.; and eggs, 99 per cent. These figures reveal that whilst the United Kingdom took in peace-time most of Australia’s food exports, Australia did not supply the larger part of its food imports. In peace-time, the United Kingdom is the market for every food-exporting country in the world, and the Dominions have had a preferred position in the United Kingdom since the conclusion of the Ottawa Agreement in 1932. Honorable members will see, however, that Australia supplies a relatively modest proportion of Britain’s total food imports.
The war has adversely affected Great Britain’s food supplies in several ways. First, it cut off food supplies which went to Great Britain in very large quantities from a number of European countries; then, shipping deficiencies greatly reduced the tonnage available to carry food, and the battle of the Atlantic sent to the bottom ofthe sea very large quantities of food. The third great interference with the food supplies of the civilians of Great Britain has been the necessity to feed millions of fighting men in all theatres of war. This responsibility to feed the fighting men has been undertaken and discharged by all members of the United Nations according to their varied capacities.
Itis well to remember that Great Britain itself was forced, at the very outset,by the exigencies of war, to discontinue importation of fresh fruit and canned fruit and, later, on, of eggs, and as far as wheat and flour were concerned, to concentrate upon their transportation chiefly from the nearer sources of supply in North and South America. There were also serious problems of storage in Australia and transportation to the United Kingdom of dairy produce and meat, but by close co-operation between Great Britain and the Commonwealth, disaster to the Australian producers was consistently averted, sometimes very narrowly.
The whole complexion of the food problem was changed when Japan came into the war. Australia’s food problems ceased to concern surpluses, and related entirely to the constant threat of deficiences. The causes of this change are known to those who care to think. They are: The call to the colours of ablebodied men from all over Australia when Japan threatened to invade this country; the privilege and obligation to feed fighting men of the United States of America, who came quickly here, first to assist in our defence and then to push the enemy back and defeat him ; the aggravation of the difficulties of production caused by adverse seasonal conditions and, in Victoria, by the disastrous bush fires of 1943. I doubt whether any one in Australia would say that any discredit is attached to the Australian Government in respect of any of these matters. I make no apology for what was done. By the combination of all efforts of ourselves and our gallant Allies, Australia was saved from invasion.
I now give to the House particulars of the production and allocation of two of the principal foods which enter into the export trade from Australia to Great Britain in peace-time, and which Great Britain needs urgently in war-time. I refer first to meat. In the year 1938-39, Australia produced 963,000 tons of all classes of meat. Of that total, our own people consumed 722,000 tons, we sent 223,000 tons to the United Kingdom, and exported 18,000 tons elsewhere. This year we expect, in spite of the drought, to produce 1,000,000 tons of meat.We hope, through rationing, to reduce Australian civilian consumption to 540,000 tons. We have undertaken, in respect of the balance, to make and observe the following allocations: -
The original allocation to the United Kingdom for 1944 was 200,000 tons. It would have remained at that figure had it not been possible, in full and complete agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States of America, to reallocate supplies so that the United States would send increased supplies to the United Kingdom, and Australia would divert some of its supplies to the American forces in the South Pacific and South- West Pacific Areas. I repeat that this was done with the full agreement of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. We gave satisfaction to both, and we earned and retain the goodwill of both. I invite the critics to examine these figures and then say what they think about them.
The production position is less favorable in regard to dairy products. The production of milk in the year 1938-39 was 1,189,000,000 gallons, of which 925,000,000 gallons was used to produce butter, 65,000,000 gallons to produce cheese, 36,000,000 gallons to produce condensed and dried milk, and 163,000,000 gallons for consumption in liquid form. In the year 1943-44 the total production of milk was 1,052,000,000 gallons, of which 716,000,000 gallons was used to produce butter, 78,000,000 to produce cheese, 63,000,000 gallons for condensed and powdered milk, and 195,000,000 gallons for consumption in liquid form.
The causes of the decline in total milk production have been debated frequently in this House, and I do not wish to discuss them in this statement beyond what I have briefly said earlier. Suffice it to say that the Government has recognized the need for organizing the return of as many men to the dairying industry as is consistent with military necessity. The paramount need of the dairying industry for labour has caused the Government recently to take special steps for the release of men, now in the forces, who have been nominated by dairy-farmers for work on their farms.
In addition to the decline in total milk production, the following changes have occurred : Australian civilians are now consuming more liquid milk than they did before the war. It has been necessary, for the feeding of the fighting services, greatly to increase the production of cheese and condensed and powdered milk. The consequence of decreased total production, increased Australian civilian consumption of liquid milk, increased production of cheese and processed milks for the services, has been a very big decline of butter production. I now cite the figures for butter production and allocations -
Too much time would be required to include equally detailed references to the other important food items, but I can assure honorable members that, in respect of canned fruits, dried fruits, flour, eggs, sugar, and the like, we are in constant close touch with the British Government which understands the difficulties associated with increased production and the obligations imposed on Australia to feed the fighting services in this theatre of war.
I fully and freely acknowledge that Australian civilians, in spite of the rationing of butter and meat and other minor food shortages, have much more liberal supplies of food than have the civilians of Britain. The Australian Government deliberately rationed butter and meat to ensure supplies to the civilians of Britain, and will continue such rationing. We shall do everything in our power to increase production so that we may be able to live up to our constantly expanding obligations to the fighting services, and to maintain supplies for Britain on as large a scale as possible.
On the problem of transport of food to Britain, I had discussions with the British Minister of War Transport, Lord Leathers, when I was in London. Lord Leathers told me and confirmed in writing that, on the best possible estimate of the shipping position during 1945 and possibly the first part of 1946, he could not ask Australia to make a special effort to increase the quantity of meat, butter and other dairy produce, since the amount of refrigerated tonnage available to move cargo was limited, and would not allow of any significant increase of shipments to Britain over the level of the early part of 1944. In considering the 1945 food allocations, I have arranged that Australia shall maintain during 1945 the same level of food supplies to Britain as in 1944.
I subsequently received advice from the British Minister of Food, Mr. J. J. Llewellin, stressing the long-term importance of food from the point of view of Britain, and the anxiety with which the United Kingdom will look for increased production as soon as practicable. I have undertaken that we will do all we can to meet this need. Following on the above correspondence, negotiations were commenced for the conclusion of longterm contracts for the purchase by Britain of Australia’s surplus production of meat and dairy produce, and I hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will be in a position to make a statement on that matter this week.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Food supplies for the United Kingdom - Ministerial statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
– I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General, but by way of preface let me say that all honorable members, and the public generally, appreciate the action of the coalminers during the last three weeks in obeying the request of the Government not to allow provocative tactics by the owners to force them into strikes, but to have their grievances ventilated before the proper tribunals. Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is a fact that the management of the Olstan colliery refuses to obey the direction of the local tribunal given a fortnight ago to reinstate an employee, although his comrades have gone on working? Is it a fact that the reason for this refusal is that Mr. Gregory Forster has stated that the decisions of the local tribunal will be the subject of an appeal to the High Court? Is the appeal to be heard in the sweet by and by? Has any move been made to have the matter cited before the court, or is this merely a bluff for the purpose of provoking the men to hold up the mine?
– I am not aware of the facts of this case, but the Minister for Supply and Shipping has handed to me a report on it which I shall look through, and then endeavour to answer the honorable gentleman.
– As many members of this Parliament had to sit up all last night, packed like sardines, in second-class railway carriages, will the Minister for Transport endeavour to display on our behalf the same enterprise and efficiency as was displayed by the schoolboys from Geelong Grammar?
Mr.WARD. - I am not aware of the exact conditions under which the honorable gentleman travelled or the significance of his reference to the Geelong Grammar schoolboys.
– All the Government supporters have cars.
– The provision of cars is not under my control ; it is controlled by the Minister for the Interior. Every endeavour is being made to provide proper travel facilities not only for members of Parliament, but also for the general public. Those efforts will continue. Uncomfortable as the honorable member finds the present travel facilities, I advise him not to break the law, lest I should have to prosecute him as well.
Lancaster Bombers - Man-power.
– Can the Minister for Defence state when it is expected that the first Australian-built Lancaster bombers and engines will be handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force? Is it a fact that man-power and machine tools urgently required for the production of immediately needed tools of war are hung up on this long-distance aircraft construction programme? Have any complaints been received by the Government from the highest military command regarding any delay in production of urgent requirements for the campaign in the SouthWest Pacific Area?
– I have had no complaints from the highest military commanders in regard to any failure on the part of the Government to provide what they need. I do not wish that statement to have any misleading effects. The inability of this country to supply something makes it necessary that some other country shall supply it. Therefore, there has to be a pooling of capacities. There are occasions when Commanders-in-Chief in other theatres would not be able to carry plans to fruition, but for cooperation forthcoming from this part of the world. We have never been able to do everything ourselves and neither have any of our Allies. If there is in the question an implication that there is misuse of man-power in the Lancaster bomber programme whichis delaying military operations in this part of the world, the answer is that the implication is utterly unfounded.
– There was no implication ; it was a request for information.
– The Lancaster programme has been adopted by the Government for reasons which in due course I hope to be able to recite fully in this chamber. At this juncture, I merely say that those reasons are so overwhelmingly strong that the Government, knowing that there will be some delay before the first Lancaster bomber manufactured in Australia will go into the sky, none the less, because of its association with its Allies, is determined that it is the right and proper thing to do.
– The Advisory War Council approved the programme.
– I am not saying that. The Government takes full responsibility for the programme.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve and give effect to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania with respect to the production, for the purposes of defence, of ingot aluminium, and for other purposes.
– I know that it is unusual to debate the motion for leave, but I am intrigued by the unusual wording of the motion. Will the Minister be explicit in his second-reading speech as to what is to happen to the industry after the war?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 564).
Part I. - Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £1,940,000.
– The heading, “Departments and Services, other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth “ obviously includes the Allied Works Council, and I desire to obtain some information about this very important and costly organization. In my budget speech, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to prepare a schedule-
– I rise to order. The Department of the Interior is specified in Division No. 9. The items are listed, and the estimated cost of the proposed works is £63,900. Whilst those works may be discussed, I submit that the right honorable gentleman would not be in order in referring to the general administration of the Department of the Interior, because the time for doing so has passed.
– The position is that the Department of the Interior will undertake those works, and the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is responsible for the activities of the Allied Works Council. Honorable members have no other opportunity to discuss this huge national undertaking, which is costing the country millions of pounds annually. I cannot understand the submission of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that attention may not be drawn to the Allied Works Council at this juncture.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The question before the Chair is a Supply vote, and on it the right honorable member will be in order in discussing the Department of the Interior.
– The Department of the Interior, which controls the Allied Works Council, should present to the Parliament sufficient information to enable honorable members to ascertain whether value is being obtained for the money expended. For that reason, I asked the Treasurer to supply a complete schedule of the expenditure of the Allied Works Council for the last financial year, the estimated expenditure for this financial year, the number of staff employed, the salaries and wages bill for the two years 1942-43 and 1943-44, and the estimated expenditure for 1944-45. Although the Allied Works Council is the biggest spending authority in Australia, the budget-papers do not contain any information about it. Honorable members must have this information in order to discharge their responsibilities to the people and to keep a vigilant watch upon expenditure. Whilst I give to the Allied Works Council full credit for the good work that it has carried out, I emphasize that its activities have been conducted at enormous expense. Whether the country has received value for the money expended is a matter for inquiry by honorable members, who are responsible for watching the interests of taxpayers.
– I strongly support the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Government should come down to earth, or at any rate, down to the House of Representatives, and give to honorable members some information about what is happening in the Allied Works Council. Statements which have been published in the press lately regarding the future of the Allied Works Council require an official reply. The suggestion, which has appeared in certain newspapers from time to time, is that the Government is toying with the idea of constituting the Allied Works Council as a works authority in peace-time. Such a proposal does not appeal to me. I have been in two of the territories of the Commonwealth in which this organization has operated, and and I have seen some of its estimates relating to the cost of projects. At Alice Springs, the Army took control of the Australian Inland Mission Hospital, and I requested the Army to replace it with a similar building. When the Allied Works Council was asked to prepare an estimate for the building the figure supplied was £8,500. At the outside, the work should not cost more than £1,500. One of the jokes in Alice Springs is to ask what it cost the Commonwealth Bank to have its one-story office erected there, because local opinion believes that the cost per foot was more than the cost of the head office in Martin-place, Sydney. Good reasons can be advanced why the Commonwealth Government should make a statement about the activities and cost of the Allied Works Council. The information, if given, will be startling. The time is overdue also for a statement about the future of this body. The Government would be unwise to reach a decision relating to the future of the organization in peace-time until it has obtained the views of the House of Representatives.
– I was examining the last report of the Allied Works Council this morning but, unfortunately, it has been returned to the department. I have sent for it. The Government cannot possibly give the information which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) seeks, because a substantial part of the expenditure is included in general war expenditure. The Allied Works Council has carried out works for all the Services and it would be highly improper to give their cost and location.
As to the estimated expenditure for this year, all I can say is that the Government has been given a round figure. As the right honorable gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) know, certain works will be required in the current financial year, not only by Australia, but also by other governments. Particulars of those projects have not yet come to hand and I do not know what the costs will be. Insofar as it is physically within the capacity of this country to carry out those works, they will be undertaken by the Allied Works Council, which was created for that purpose.
The total strength of the Allied Works Council has been drastically reduced, and further contractions are still taking place. At this stage, I am not in a position to announce the intentions of the Government regarding the future of the Allied Works Council other than to remind honorable members that the organization was formed to do essential war jobs, and when they have been completed there will be nothing to justify its continuance. The Government proposes to continue the Allied Works Council only so long as it is required to carry out works and services necessary for war operations. I assure the Leader of the Australian Country party that I shall examine the report to see whether I can table it. If the document contains confidential information, I shall endeavour to prepare a revised report that can be laid on the table of the House, or in the Library.
.- Honorable members are not likely to be satisfied by the remarks of the Prime Minister concerning the activities of the Allied Works Council. The claim that security is likely to be infringed by the disclosure of detailed information to the Parliament has been advanced far too frequently by this Government. I have my doubts whether the security referred to so frequently is national or party security.
– Let me tell the honorable member that it is national security, and only that. I regard the statement made by the honorable gentleman as utterly unjustifiable and, as a matter of fact, impertinent.
– The Prime Minister is inclined to deliver these lectures to us from time to time, but we have some rights. As representatives in the Parliament of substantial bodies of electors, we are entitled to su’bmit our views, and I intend to do so, notwithstanding the petulance of the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable member desire me to tell him what the Allied Works Council has been doing on a certain date in a certain place?
– I do not; but there are some projects on which this body has been engaged concerning which the public is entitled to much fuller information than it has been given. I shall mention one or two of them. -First, there is the graving dock at Sydney. It is no secret that we have been engaged on the construction of this dock. Full details of the project were announced by a previous government and estimates were given of the probable cost. A great deal of publicity lias been given to the work by this Government during the last two years. Everybody knows that the original estimates of cost have been very greatly exceeded. How could security be infringed by the Government explaining to the committee the reasons why the original estimate for this project may have been trebled? Surely the security element cannot enter into the matter at all. Members of the Government are well aware that State instrumentalities have been called upon for help in connexion with this work, and there is reason to believe that some of them have been feathering their own nests at the expense of the Commonwealth in the carrying out of these projects. We are entitled to information on this subject without being told that security may be infringed if details are given.
– What does the honorable member mean by “feathering their own nests “ ?
– I put it to the Prime Minister that the position of certain State instrumentalities has been very greatly improved by reason of their activities on behalf of the Commonwealth in connexion with the graving dock. I know the facts, and so does the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman has a duty to the country to disclose the facts, but when we ask for information we are told that for security reasons it cannot be given. I cannot understand how considerations of security can enter into this subject. The information for which we ask should be made available to us.
I turn now to work that is being done at Albert Park, Victoria, to provide accommodation for service personnel who have hitherto been accommodated in public schools and other educational establishments in Victoria. It has been reported to me that certain of these buildings have been constructed by day labour and others by contract, and that those erected by contract cost £30,000 each less than those erected by day labour. I do not know whether this is true, but the information was given to me by a. Melbourne citizen who would not have told me something1 that he did not himself believe to be correct. The Parliament is entitled to information on this subject, but every time honorable members seek details of works in which the Government has been engaged they are told that, on security grounds, such details cannot be made available.
– My remarks applied to the total programme to which the Leader of the Australian Country party referred. A considerable number of undertakings can be discussed. I do not, however, intend to describe the size of the graving dock at Sydney.
– I do not ask for such information.
– The size, of the dock was increased after the estimates were prepared, and that is one reason why the cost of the undertaking has grown.
– Some increase would undoubtedly be justified on that ground but other factors also need attention. It may be that if the information which we desire was given to . us the Allied Works Council would appear in a much better light than it does at present. I have said on other occasions that I regard the graving dock as being a great asse! to this country, but I still contend that we are entitled to information a3 to why the original estimate has been so greatly’ exceeded. If, whenever we ask for information, we are to be told that it cannot be disclosed for security reasons, our consideration of these estimates becomes farcical, as, in fact, does any attempt to survey critically the expenditure of the Government. The blanket of security is being thrown over too many of our public works, and I contend that we have the strongest reasons for protesting against the refusal of Ministers to give us the information that we seek from time to time.
.- I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the difficulties under which private members of Parliament are being obliged to do their work, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Recently, the Federal Members’ Rooms in Sydney have been re-arranged so as to provide offices for jill honorable members representing city constituencies.
– Not all of us.
– At any rate, very little has been done to assist country members to discharge their duties properly. At present, private members of this Parliament are being inundated by correspondence covering a great variety of subjects which formerly fell within the province of members of State parliaments. Because the Commonwealth has taken over so many of these functions, the private members of this Parliament are being asked to take action in regard to them. Owing to the lack of clerical assistance and adequate office accommodation, it is becoming almost impossible for us to do our work efficiently. There is a disposition on the part of this Government to regard somewhat contemptuously the functions of private members of the Parliament, but, after all, private members are an essential part of this great instrument of democracy, and are entitled to proper facilities to do their important work.
– The members of the Ministry will be private members again some day.
– Owing to the Government’s stinginess - and I use that word deliberately - we are not able to do our work properly. If private members of the Parliament are to be obliged to spend their time sealing envelopes, licking stamps and doing other minor clerical work of that kind, obviously they cannot devote proper attention to the big national problems that should be occupying their thought. I complain bitterly about the treatment that we are receiving from this Government, for we cannot properly represent our constituents. I understand that the work being done at the Federal Members’ Rooms, Sydney, has been almost completed. With some reluctance I wrote to the Prime Minister personally on this subject some time ago. I consider the matter is of very great importance. Private members need more clerical assistance than they are receiving. Many honorable members, of whom I am one, cannot properly discharge their parliamentary duties with the assistance that they now get. Because of the positions which they hold in the Ministry and on other bodies, the majority of honorable members on the Government side have clerical assistance provided for them. The cost of providing facilities comparable with those enjoyed by members of the American Congress and the Canadian Parliament would be a mere bagatelle. Although private members do not perform executive functions, they have many duties to discharge on behalf of thousands of electors. When an expenditure of millions of pounds is contemplated, the Government should not overlook relief which would enable honorable members to delegate minor duties to others, and thus remove themselves from the category of stamp-lickers and envelope-sealers.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has promised to consider my request that he shall table a report, and furnish information concerning the cost of the Allied Works Council. The Government saw fit to issue a report of 105 pages, containing statistical information, graphs, photographs, &c, in relation to the activities of the council up to the 30th June, 1943. Financially, this information was identical with that dealt with by the report of. the Auditor-General for the year ended the 30th June, 1943. The expenditure for that year, according to the report, was £58,000,000, the greater part of it being charged to the votes of the departments shown in divisions 53 to 110 of the Treasurer’s statement. The report must arrest the attention of every honorable member who regards seriously his trusteeship for the nation. It contained the following paragraph : -
Expenditure Over Financial Authority - An aspect of considerable prominence in the activities controlled by the Allied Works Council has been the occasions on which the completed costs of works have exceeded estimates with, in many instances, expenditure in excess of financial authority. This applies to estimates prepared by departments authorizing the projects and to estimates prepared by the council. This exceeding of financial authority has been an unsatisfactory feature particularly on works carried out on behalf of the council by State government and semigovernment authorities. As all other considerations were subordinated to urgency it would appear that many works were put in hand on estimates and plans of a rudimentary nature with consequent lack of control over the ultimate extent of the project and the final cost. It has been noticed that these aspects have received attention by the council and the Board of Business Administration in recent months. If it may be assumed that the factor of urgency is not now so dominant, it is reasonable to expect considerable improvement in financial control with consequent effect upon costs.
We must be armed with all the facts and figures in order that we may determine what measure of control is being exercised in regard to the activities of: this important body, what the estimates are for the future, and generally, its financial position.
– I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will not be deaf to the request- for a stronger spotlight on the operations of the Allied Works Council, and thus reassure not only the taxpayers who are disturbed by rumours, but also the officers who are responsible for the conduct of this activity. I have received statements in the form of sworn declarations from men who are associated with the work of this body in Central Australia, and my policy has been to refer them to the War Expenditure Committee. One of my correspondents has placed most valuable and disconcerting evidence before that committee, the report of which, I understand, is in the hands of the Government. I am not alone in my curiosity as to why the report was not tabled before the Estimates were considered. I regret that the Prime Minister regards as party propaganda statements that are made from time to time about the anxiety of the taxpayers concerning the cost of the Allied Works Council. Recently, one of my employees, noticing four or five plumbers working on a job next door to my place, said, to my amazement: “It looks like an Allied Works Council jab ! “ Very great works have been performed hurriedly by the council, and considerations of economy have had to be subordinated completely to those of haste. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are fair enough to discriminate between such cases, and others that come under their notice. Last Anzac Day, eighteen carpenters were sent from a depot to a job, which they reached at some time after 9 a.m. The foreman did not arrive until 11.30 a.m. He then said : “ Well, boys, it is time for lunch. You had better go back to your depot “ - a distance of S miles. They returned to the job in the afternoon, only to find that the foreman was there, but the materials which they needed were not. These eighteen carpenters were paid at double rates for that day, and they merely erected a shelter for themselves against the burning heat of the interior. I believe that this statement was confirmed on oath before the War Expenditure Committee. I could cite similar examples. The Prime Minister should not shelter behind security more than is absolutely necessary, but should direct the spotlight on the work that has been done, even though he may not be able to furnish information in connexion with future operations.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has rightly directed the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to many disabilities from which private members suffer. I support his representations. For some time there has been far too great a disposition to regard the private member as of minor importance in this democratic institution. As a counter to that, it would be advisable to take the steps suggested by the honorable member and others, with a view to sustaining our prestige. Press attacks on parliamentarians which have been acquiesced in by somnolent governments have unfairly reflected on members. Our status and privileges compare unf avorably with those of the members of other dominion parliaments. As an upholder of democracy, I appeal to the Prime Minister and other Ministers to ensure that private members shall have reasonable consideration in all these matters. Ministers and ex-Ministers enjoy extraordinary concessions of all sorts. Were I to give details, some of them might astonish the general public. Adequate clerical assistance, as well as ample office accommodation, not only in the capital cities, but also wherever else they may be required, should be provided. Transport for members could be very greatly improved. I have air transport, particularly, in mind. While I was abroad last year, I noticed that members of the Congress of the United States of America and the Parliament of Canada who lived in distant parts were privileged to journey by air to and from their electorates. I realize that such a facility might not be possible in a general way under existing conditions in Australia; nevertheless, certain air routes could be used, and private members should receive preference over the many scores of departmental officials who now have priority and travel in comfort, whereas a member of Parliament has to take his chance with the general public. This appeal is not actuated by the desire that members should have facilities far superior to those of the ordinary citizen. The point that I make is, that they definitely need help, in order to discharge their duties properly, and to raise their prestige, which has been attacked by certain interests with the object of lowering them in the esteem of the public.
.- The proposed appropriation for the Department of Civil Aviation is £1,208,000. I plead for the expenditure of a portion of it on safety measures in connexion with flying during war-time, as well as in making certain that the best use will be made of our air services when the war is over. I notice that £6,000 has been placed on the Estimates for the purpose of making grants to municipal councils wishing to establish or improve country aerodromes. I suggest that the amount might well be greatly increased. In the part of Australia with which I am familiar, the councils are only too willing to assist the Commonwealth to improve landing grounds. Some time ago, aeroplanes to the value of £250,000 were lost near Grafton because the aerodrome was not lighted. The planes, which had flown from the United States of America, had followed the radio beam 2NR, and found themselves over the Clarence River between Maclean and Grafton, having mistaken the direction to Brisbane. Local people tried to light up the landing ground with the headlights of their cars, but the planes were not able to “pick up the aerodrome until they had almost passed over it, with the result that when they touched down they ran on into a belt of trees and swamp and some were destroyed. I am told that pilots can see the great U-shaped bend in the Clarence River, near Grafton, for a distance of 100 miles, and if the aerodrome near this bend were lighted it would make a perfectly safe landing area. Other accidents have occurred within 10 miles of this place when the planes, having lost their bearings, ran out of petrol. A permanent seaplane landing base should be established at Maclean. Within the last month, an American plane flying from New Guinea with the film comedian Bob Hope and other film stars on board, crashed at Laurieton, and it was providential that all were not killed. Lake Wallis is a sheet of water 8 miles in diameter alongside Laurieton, and it would be a suitable place for sea-planes to come down on if it were marked with buoys. All along the east coast from Melbourne tu Cairns there are spots which, for the cost of a few hundred pounds, could be turned into suitable landing places, and flying would be made a great deal safer, not only for servicemen during the war, but also for civil aviation when the war is over. It would cost only £3,000 to make the landing ground at Grafton safe for both day and night flying; yet, when the accident occurred to the American planes two years ago, the authorities installed u,p to 50 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force with radio equipment at the mouth of the Clarence River to warn off pilots crossing the Pacific. They have been there now for a considerable time, and the cost to the country is probably between £50,000 and £60,000, whereas the expenditure of £3,000 would have made the area safe for landing. “While the war was at its height the attention of the Department of Civil Aviation has not been directed to such matters, but now that the war is within sight of ending, the department should get down to the job and do everything possible to make flying safe, and therefore attractive.
– I draw the attention of the Government to the large amount of money paid out every year in rent for Commonwealth office, accommodation in the various State capitals. In Sydney alone, it amounts to more than £180,000. I urge the Government, as a part of its post-war planning, to arrange for the acquisition of a suitable site in each of the capital cities upon which to erect a building to house all Commonwealth departments. At the present time, departments are scattered all over the cities in such a way that it is extremely difficult for people to find the one they want.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) regarding the need for clerical assistance for private members. Probably the volume of work to which private members had to attend was- not so great before the war, but I know. that since the war it has become very heavy. It is not just a matter of typing and despatching letters. A member must keep some kind of filing system, and arrange to follow up representations made to government departments on behalf of constituents. A great deal of work is involved. For city members some help is provided. I was in Sydney the other day and noticed that the members seemed to be fairly comfortable, though I do not know what clerical staff is provided. I believe that a member should reside in his electorate and, if he does so, he cannot dash off to the city to dictate his letters and then return home. I have found it necessary ever since I have been a member of Parliament to employ a private secretary at my own expense. The provision of clerical assistance would relieve members of Parliament of some of the drudgery attending their work, and would enable them to pay more attention to their constituents.
.- I have on a previous occasion referred to the need for providing clerical assistance for members of Parliament. I now urge that better conditions should be provided for members of the clerical staff, particularly the women, who work in the Federal Members’ Rooms in the capital cities. It is due to the indulgence and patience of these officers that we are able to get through our work at all. They work harder and for a greater number of hours than should be demanded of them. One member of the Sydney staff, who has now become private secretary to the Government party Whip, was previously attending to the correspondence of ten members of Parliament as a regular job, and sometimes there were as many as twenty members to be looked after. She used to work from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night. The status of these officers should be raised to that of secretary-typist. This would be a proper recognition of the work they do, and the cost would not be very great. Some of the work, such as filing, &c., is really outside the scope of their present employment, but the fact that they do it enables members of Parliament to attend to other and more important duties.
I am glad that the general subject of the work of members of Parliament has come up for discussion. Only last week honorable members had to work right through the night in order to dispose of the Estimates. When the erection of a permanent House of Parliament is under consideration after the war, arrangements should be made for dividing the work of Parliament among various committees, some of which could be sitting simultaneously with Parliament itself. This is the practice in Great Britain, and it enables the work of Parliament to be dealt with much more expeditiously. Those honorable members who are interested in a particular section of the Estimates could attend a meeting of the committee which, with the Minister concerned, is charged with the consideration of that section. In this way it should be possible to avoid all-night sittings.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will shortly be able to arrange for the broadcasting ‘of the debates of Parliament. At the present time, it is left to the press to acquaint the public with what goes on in Parliament, and some sections of the press are not interested, or are not sympathetic to the Government. Sometimes the press reports convey a wrong impression. There is a tendency to disparage parliamentarians and parliamentary institutions, perhaps with a view of bringing about a totalitarian form of government. The public cannot conveniently come to Canberra, especially in these days of restricted travel, so the only thing to do is to take Parliament to the people, and that can be done by broadcasting the debates, as is now done in New Zealand. The broadcasting of debates will make the public politically minded, and induce them to take a greater interest in public affairs, and future referendums may have better results.
– As the war progresses many of the flying schools on which hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended in the provision of runways and other facilities will be gradually closed. I understand that in one district of Victoria two such schools have already been closed or are about to be closed. I suggest that the Department of Civil Aviation should immediately take control of all aerodromes when they become no longer necessary for the training of air crews for war purposes, so that, when the war ends, they shall be available for use in the development of civil air services. Otherwise, it is probable that the aerodromes will rapidly deteriorate owing to lack of care. The municipal authorities cannot afford to pay for their maintenance.
.- I bring to the notice of the Ministry the deplorable conditions under which the staff of the Social Services Department in Sydney is housed, and under which members of the public are forced to conduct business with that department. The staff, which consists of 300 persons, of whom 250 are women, is accommodated in a badly ventilated old building which was formerly used as a drug store, and is inadequate for its present purpose. Next year additional social services, including hospital benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits, and pharmaceutical benefits will be operated by the department. Old people who await their turn for interviews have to sit on stools in a dirty corridor. In the child endowment office, people have to wait sitting on stools with their backs to the counter, and then, if they are hard of hearing, they have to kneel on the stools in order to hear what the clerk behind the counter is saying. That such conditions should exist in a big city like Sydney is a reflection on the Commonwealth Government, and the Government should immediately rectify the position. There is an ideal site in Prince Alfred Park, within 200 or 300 yards of the Central Railway Station, for a new building to house the Social Services Department and the Repatriation Department. The site is passed by almost every tram that comes into Sydney, and the trains are, as I said, only a couple of hundred yards distant. The 80 or 90 years old Exhibition Building in Prince Alfred Park ought to be demolished and a building for the Social Services Department and the Repatriation Department, which, after the war, will have greatly increased responsibilities, erected on the site it occupies. There would thereby he no encroachment on park land.
– It is a long way out of town.
– It is not. It is very near to the Central Railway Station, and the tramlines are only a few paces distant. The present premises of the Repatriation Department are only about 50 yards away. A seven or eight story building should be one of the first aims of the Social Services Department, in order that all its sections may be housed in the one building.
– I support what the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has said about the necessity to make proper provision for the conduct of the social services of the
Commonwealth. Even those of us who are not nearly so optimistic as is the honorable member about the development of the Social Services Department cannot fail to appreciate that, in the very nature of things, better provision will be needed for the carrying out of the work of that department. As a former Minister for Social Services, I know the difficulty which comes from having inappropriate accommodation. Perhaps an even more important aspect of the matter is the need to provide for the convenience and comfort of the aged people who find it necessary to go to the department.
I should like some light to be thrown on an item in the Works Estimates of the Repatriation Department. The provision asked for is £300,000, but there is a footnote indicating a further estimated liability of £199,000. There is no indication of the purpose to which that money is to be applied, and I think this committee is entitled to know. I see no amount of a corresponding size for the War Service Homes Commission, the only appropriation for which is in respect of a formal adjustment of accounts. The time has arrived when the Government should seriously consider the appropriation of sufficient money to enable the War Service Homes Commission to resume building operations, because for many men the end of the war is not a matter of a year or two years hence; their active participation in it has already ended, and their repatriation and rehabilitation has begun. This is the time when they should be able to take their wives and families away from the conditions under which they have been subsisting while the men have been members of the forces. I wish it were possible for the Government to divert to that purpose some of the millions of pounds which are being appropriated.
I have looked in vain for some trace of the source from which the money is coming which is now being used for the housing of, not ex-servicemen, but war workers. I am sure I speak for other honorable members who have viewed with some concern the building in Lithgow, Orange and other country centres of slum-like dwellings for workers in the munitions industry. If, as I suspect, the expenditure in that direction is wrapped up with the other part of the Estimates dealing with war departments, I would be out of order in discussing it at this stage. But as it is seemingly possible to find considerable sums of money to provide houses for workers in munitions factories and otherwise - and to-day I have received an invitation to attend the inspection of a building project in my own electorate, the money for which has been provided by the Commonwealth Government - it should be possible to make some definite provision for the .building of war service homes, and I commend that suggestion seriously to the Government.
.- In the Estimates there is provision for the erection by the Department of the Interior of certain power alcohol distilleries. I question the advisability of proceeding with the construction of distilleries designed to convert wheat into power alcohol under the conditions under which it is intended to use that wheat, and to pay the farmers for it. In view of the seasonal prospects in Australia, the mounting wheat market to which we are able to look forward, the easier position in respect of liquid fuels to-day, and the likelihood that that position will become even easier when the European war is finished, I question whether the Government is doing the right thing in proceeding with its intention, which, no doubt, was a very good intention when it was conceived, to> convert many millions of bushels of wheat into power alcohol. The growers of wheat are vitally concerned in this matter in that they are to be paid for their wheat only 3s. Hid. a bushel at a time when there is a big overseas market for wheat at a figure approaching twice that amount. I understand that the wheat which will be converted into power alcohol will be bought at 3s. 11¼d. a bushel, whereas the price fixed by the Australian Wheat Board for wheat for export is no less than 6s. 6jd. a bushel. I consider myself bound to question the advisability of passing the sums which are proposed to be used for the provision of the distilleries. The wheat-growers feel that, having passed through years of extraordinarily low prices, they are entitled to enjoy the benefit of the higher market prevailing.
Alternatively, they consider that if the Government determines to proceed with the conversion of this staple food into power alcohol, it should ensure that the growers shall be paid the full value of their product.
– I thought that the distillery that was being built at the hushhush place in Victoria was no longer urgent.
– I had a look at “ Hush-hushville “ a few weeks ago, and I would say that the expenditure of scores of thousands of pounds is still proceeding. I saw a vast bin which I was told was designed to hold 1,250,000 bushels of wheat. That bin was not completed.
– Was it a silo or a bin?
– There were silos as well, but I am speaking of a bin. I have no doubt that that work is provided for in some of the money covered by the vote that we are now discussing. Circumstances have so vastly changed since the previous Government formulated the proposals for erecting power alcohol distilleries, that substantial justification exists for reviewing the whole project. I know that the impression has got abroad, not by accident (but by deliberate propaganda., that it was the Curtin Government which decided to erect power alcohol distilleries in Australia. That impression, which is entirely wrong, is in line with the story that it was theCurtin Government which decided to erect the pipe line from the river Murray to Whyalla. These, and most of the other great national projects which are covered either wholly or in part in these new works programmes, will be found on examination to have had their origin in the decisions of previous governments.
– Then the honorable member is criticizing governments in which he was a Minister.
– That is not so; I am pointing out that circumstances have changed. More particularly am I desirous of emphasizing the fact that an extraordinary injustice will be done to the wheat-growers of Australia, who are facing the most disastrous season in our history, if millions of bushels of wheat, which they grew in bountiful seasons, are sold to power alcohol distilleries at 3s.11¼d. abushel, when there is a ready market for it overseas at the price fixed by the Australian Wheat Board, namely, 6s. 6¼d. a bushel. This Government, which preens itself on being a friend of wheat-growers, seizes wheat from farmers, and sells it at an extraordinary variety of prices. As the result of the decision of this Government, Australian wheat is sold to the Government of New Zealand for less than 5s. a bushel. The wheat-growers are entitled to be paid the price that the wheat is worth.
When overseas buyers were purchasing wheat here at 7s. 6d. a bushel, wheat from the same silos was being poured into power alcohol distilleries and the growers received for it only 3s.11¼d. a bushel. If these works be completed, more wheat will be poured into additional power alcohol distilleries, involving the growers in heavier losses. Before that happens, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should assure the chamber that enough wheat is available, on present crop estimates, to fulfil our home consumption requirements, stock feed requirements, obligations to feed Allied troops in this theatre, our contracts with the United Kingdom Government and additional contracts which, I have every reason to believe, the United Kingdom Government is anxious to conclude at the present time. According to my information, the United Kingdom Government is prepared to pay Australia more than 6s. a bushel f.o.b. for all the wheat that may be available for sale between now and the 1945-46 harvest. If the Government does not conclude that contract with the United Kingdom Government, but pours vast quantities of wheat into power alcohol distilleries at3s.11¼d. a bushel, the growers will suffer a loss, between now and the conclusion of the 1945-46 harvest, of at least £10,000,000. Wheatgrowers cannot afford to have such a tremendous sum stolen from them. They have endured very heavy losses during the last ten or fifteen years. At one period, the erection of power alcohol distilleries appeared to be a stabilizing factor. I do not object to the general principle of building these distilleries in Australia for the purpose of processing vast unsaleable surpluses of wheat into liquid fuel for local consumption. But before these Estimates are agreed to, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should indicate whether, in view of the present disastrous season, Australia can afford to provide wheat for power alcohol distilleries, particularly at 3s. ll£d. a bushel, when the grain could be sold readily at the price fixed for export sales by the Australian Wheat Board, namely, 6s. 6¼d. a bushel.
– I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) on providing this money for works to be undertaken by his department, not only in connexion with the immediate war effort, but also as a basis for post-war developments that will assist primary industries in the difficult times ahead. The fact that our primary industries will face difficulties in the future, as they have in the past, is borne out by the policy of the United States of America to discourage the repatriation of ex-servicemen on the land. The reason is that the increased productivity in primary industry has made it problematical whether there will be a world market for the produce of the farms, even at the present rate of production. With an extension of mechanized farming methods, the problem will be accentuated.
The particular phase of development to which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred, requires elaboration. Power alcohol distilleries in Australia, apart from providing material for the war effort, have also yielded useful stock feed. The contention that farmers have not received for their wheat the price that should be paid, must not be allowed to detract from the value of the power alcohol distilleries. In the past, the wheat industry encountered many difficulties. World surpluses came without warning. If, in the post-war period, we are to wait until some project can be evolved to absorb our wheat surpluses, by the time it is brought into being the need to find such means of disposal will have passed. Therefore, a short-term approach to the matter is wrong. More money should be expended upon power alcohol projects. At present, the distillery at Cowra is sending stock feed in solution to waste land, and this is creating a nuisance. Dr. Harman, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, informed me that by the expenditure of an additional £10,000, the difficulty could be overcome and substantially more cheap stock feed could be produced as a byproduct of the distillery.
– I should like the Government to’ supply to honorable members some information about the progress of the distillery at Warracknabeal, in Victoria. As honorable members know, two committees were appointed to survey possible sites for this distillery, but neither of them recommended Warracknabeal. Although building and operating costs would be higher there than at other sites, the Government decided to erect the plant at Warracknabeal.
– Who appointed those two committees?
– One was a Commonwealth committee and the other was a State committee. I have not been able to glean any information about the progress at Warracknabeal, and I should welcome from the Government a statement explaining why this project is being proceeded with, how much money has already been expended on it, how much more will be expended on it, and the probable date when it will commence production. 1 agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the time is fast approaching when Australia will be able to sell its wheat at a satisfactory world price. With that in prospect, the question arises as to whether Australia should make wheat available to power alcohol distilleries at a substantially lower price. The European war, it appears, will end in a matter of weeks or months, and there is conjecture in the United States of America about the extent to which relief from petrol rationing will be given to private users. When Germany is defeated, the petrol situation all over the world, including Australia, will be eased. As we may assume that imported petrol will cost much less than spirit produced by power alcohol distilleries’, it is only proper for the Government to give to the committee information about these various projects, particularly that at Warracknabeal.
– I am deeply interested in the matter raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Not long ago, a debate took place in this chamber upon that subject, and I listened with a good deal of interest, but without much satisfaction, to a statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). Power alcohol is a burning question.
– It is a burning question all right.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is one of the handiest fellows in this chamber. He may be able to give me some information about a matter which I should like to clear up quickly. Last week the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that the farmers would be paid the average of the wheat realizations on disposal. Will the proceeds from the wheat sold to power alcohol distilleries be included in determining the average ? This is a most important question. I ask the Minister to tell us specifically whether all the wheat sold under different methods in Australia and subject to subventions of one kind or another, as well as all the wheat sold overseas, will be brought into consideration in arriving at the average price. When the honorable gentleman addressed the House last week on the adjournment motion, he did not make himself clear in certain respects, and it was necessary for him to clarify his statement the next day. I feel justified, therefore, in asking him to give a considered answer to my specific question, so that the farmers may know where they stand.
– What has this to do with the Works Estimates?
– I point out to the Minister for Home Security that provision is being made for the construction o’£ power alcohol distilleries. In fact, the item “ Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture “ appears under several headings without any kind of explanation. It is a kind of “ abracadabra “ or “ open sesame “. I ask for some information about the item “ Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture, £1,100” under “Parliament”. I am aware that certain work has been going on in this building near the Librarian’s quarters. I also saw three or four men chipping defective plaster from the external walls of this building. An item “Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture, £90,000 “ appears under the sub-heading “ Under the control of the Department of the Interior”. To this there is a footnote : “ Estimated further liability, £70,000”. Under this item, therefore, we are being asked to approve of an expenditure o£ £160,000. What shall we have to show for the money? Will it be a legation at Timbuctoo? Under the Department of External Affairs there is an item “ Australian Minister in the United States of America - Equipment and extension of legation, £22,000 “. Another item reads: “ Australian High Commissioner in India - Equipment for office and residence, £4,600 “. The total of the proposed vote under the Department of External Affairs is £30,700. So far as I know this expenditure has not been approved by the Public Works Committee, or any other authority to which this Parliament can look for advice on such a subject. We are also to approve of an expenditure of £10,700 under the Department of the Treasury, and that wonderful line, “Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture “ reappears. It also appears in relation to a proposed vote of £3,600 for the Attorney-General’s Department. The proposed expenditure by the Department of the Interior is £63,900, and it covers expenditure of a trifle of £100 under the River Murray Waters Act, and £57,700 under the heading “ Commonwealth offices and other buildings - Architectural and other engineering services “. No detailed information is given about any of these items. The Government is almost bludgeoning this business through the committee. We are asked to approve of an expenditure by the War Service Homes Commission of £200,000. I do not know whether this is intended to meet the cost of next year’s building programme by the commission, but obviously it cannot possibly do so. Such an amount will do very little more than cover essential preliminary investigations and some routine work. A reasonable survey is necessary in connexion with any housing programme intended to meet the needs of ex-servicemen. A large sum will be required even for the purchase of sites.
I have mentioned these special items in order to show the wide scope of the expenditure we are being asked to approve. Earlier this afternoon the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) mentioned the Government’s housing programme for service personnel, and suggested that there was a tendency to differentiate between cities and country districts in this matter. As my electorate is 25 per cent, city and 75 per cent, country, I am deeply interested in this subject. I sincerely hope that no such differentiation will occur. The people who live in the country are entitled to facilities and conveniences equal to those enjoyed by people who live in the cities. In due course, I suppose, a statement will be made on this subject by the Minister administering war service homes, but it seems that little reliance can be placed on anything that is said by junior Ministers, which means all” the Ministers excepting the Prime Minister, for that right honorable gentleman told us last Thursday that only he would make statements on government policy.
The proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation, which totals £1,208,000, is also interesting to me. It includes the item “Aeradio communication and navigation facilities; power generation and distribution plant; direct current and audiofrequency control lines ; automatic switching equipment; aerodrome and air route lighting equipment, £265,000 “ and also the item “ Aircraft engines, vehicles and equipment, £129,000 “. This is a subject on which the Government must come to earth. The post-war aviation policy of the Commonwealth will be of immense importance to the nation. I ask why detailed information is not being given to us on this subject? Division No. 13 - perhaps a significant figure - covers a trifle of £2,000 in the total of £1,208,000, but detailed information is just as lacking concerning the smaller amount as it is concerning the total. At the moment, I am being, if not bombarded, at least brought well within firing range by a great many correspondents who are showing an interest in post-war civil aviation. I am receiving maps, periodicals and other information on this subject, which indicate, to me how important it is, and I am reading the com’munications as actively as I read the Scriptures. Division No. 14, under Department of Civil Aviation, mentions in two places “Buildings, works and sites, including shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and furniture “, but no detail is given to us. I could refer at some length to the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs,but will not do so, and concerning the proposed vote for the Department of Health, I shall refer to only one matter. The milk supply of Alice Springs is of great importance. I am glad that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is doing something to provide milk for school children at Alice Springs, though he has not gone as far as he should go, for his action has only alleviated the situation. There are 470 school children in the town, which is without a fresh milk supply. The people are asking for a depot, and the provision of a proper milk supply, in order to safeguard the health of the children.
The proposed vote for the Department of Repatriation consists of provision for the old formula - “ Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture”. It amounts to £300,000, but there is again a footnote - “estimated further liability, £199,000”. The same formula is used in connexion with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the amount of the appropriation being £600. How it is proposed to allot the expenditure, I do not know. Other appropriations are, £2,200 for the Department of Social Services and £6,600 for the Department of Supply and Shipping.
Speaking generally, the Estimates are poorly presented. Too much is told about little items and nothing at all about some of the big items. Several very important items touch matters of policy. It is a great pity that the committee does not devote much more time to a detailed study of the Estimates. That relates to some of the items that were passed last week, while many honorable members were asleep. A most invidious distinction that I noticed during the allnight sitting was the supply of pillows and blankets to Government members, whilst members of the Opposition were denied that comfort.
– I have previously drawn attention to the treatment of ex-service personnel of this war, particularly by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I now bring forward the case of an exserviceman who has been badly treated by the Department of Trade and Customs.
– What connexion has his casewith the Works Estimates?
– If the honorable gentleman will listen to my story, he will find that it is watertight. I hate the suppression of criticism. For obvious reasons, I shall not mention the name of this man. He resides at Manilla, New South Wales, and his war disability is 1.00 per cent. He is the father of six children, all of them under the age of sixteen years. So badly injured was he that he could not, undergo training for a trade.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the vote.
– I am reaching that point. As his war injuries prevented him from learning a trade in hospital, he proposed to manufacture certain new articles
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the provision of buildings for the Department of Trade and Customs.
– I am relating my remarks to the item “Buildings, works, sites, fittings, furniture and purchase of vessels “, under the Department of Trade and Customs. I submit that felt toys, which find a resting-place on the mantelpieces of homes, are interior fittings.
– That subject has nothing to do with any item that is before the Chair.
– Then I shall deal with another matter - the making of butter boxes for the export of butter. Large buildings, containing refrigerated space, have to be provided for the storage of butter boxes prior to the shipment of the butter. On the 21st September, I received from Mr. Brett, of Brisbane, a telegram which read -
Reference your remarks butter-box shortage, we telegraphed the Minister advising that we have a complete private plant idle.
– Order ! Butter boxes have nothing to do with the vote before the Chair.
– One cannot have a building for the storage of butter boxes unless one has the butter boxes.
– No item before the Chair deals with the erection of buildings for the storage of butter boxes.
– These are estimates for additions, new works, buildings, &c.
– The honorable member may not argue with the Chair. If he is not prepared to relate his remarks to the vote, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I have left butter boxes; they are a thing of the past, Butter is now packed in containers.
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat ; failing which, I shall name him.
– I rise to a point of order. So that the deliberations of the committee may be facilitated, will you, Mr. Chairman, state the grounds upon which you have asked the honorable member for New England, who had not concluded his observations, to resume his seat?
– Order ! The Chair asked the honorable member for New England to resume his seat because he had failed to observe its ruling that he was not confining his remarks to the question under discussion.
– On a point of order, I draw your attention to the fact that I had deferred to your ruling and was proceeding to discuss “ buildings, works and sites, including shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and furniture - Australian section “, under the Department of Civil Aviation.
– What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that the Chair has precluded me from dealing with division No. 14, which is entirely different from the matter with which I was previously dealing.
– The honorable member may not argue with the Chair.
– I am not arguing with the Chair, but am endeavouring to preserve my rights as a private member.
– The honorable member will be permitted to proceed if his remarks are relevant to the question before the Chair.
– In 1943-44, the vote for “ buildings, works and sites, including shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and furniture - Australian section “, under the Department of Civil Aviation, was £10,000, and the expenditure was £8,801. The proposed vote for 1944-45 is £5,000. Most of these buildings consist of wood and galvanized iron, and very many other materials manufactured in Victoria, which are sent forward as required. Sea transport is essential. I was astounded when I read in the newspaper reports of the Court of Marine Inquiry concerning a collision at sea off Montague Island, that the steamship Weir was travelling in ballast from Melbourne to Newcastle when it came into collision with another vessel and was sunk. Material that is urgently required for the particular buildings to which I am referring is not being sent forward as rapidly as it could be if vessels travelling round the Australian coasts are in ballast and not being used for the transport of materials, such as I have mentioned. It may be that a collier has to travel in ballast and is not suitable for the transport of other materials. In view of the extreme shortage of shipping, the matter should be investigated by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley).
The Department of the Interior is engaging in a good deal of construction in New South Wales, including the Sydney graving dock, to which references were made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), as well as works at various camps. Supplies of galvanized iron for civil purposes are acutely short throughout Australia. Under the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, certain buildings have to be erected for the storage of primary products and this work is being hindered by the acute shortage of galvanized iron. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to note that considerable quantities of galvanized iron and fencing material are accumulating in New South Wales because transport difficulties prevent other States from obtaining them. Therefore, additional releases might be made to that State, and its quota could be reduced when the transport position enabled other States to obtain larger quantities. This would do a great deal to improve the position of primary production in New South Wales, and would make use of material which is now lying idle in the sheds of manufacturers.
.- Earlier, some remarks were directed to the Chair in regard to the use of wheat for the production of power alcohol. The Government has undertaken that the wheat-growers will not suffer loss by reason of the fact that wheat is supplied to power alcohol factories at a concession rate. I emphasize that point. I have seen these factories, and have gained the impression that they are a magnificent tribute to Australian engineering and enterprise. I commend the Government for having proceeded with the project. I am reminded that it was begun not haphazardly but after a most comprehensive survey by a committee appointed by a former government. I believe that one of the members of this committee formerly represented the constituency of Wimmera, and he, too, had a thorough knowledge of the wheat industry.
– How was the site selected ?
– No better site could have been selected than the one in Victoria. It is in the very heart of the wheat-growing province of Victoria. Supplies of wheat are always available, except this year, of course, when there has been a record drought. The power alcohol factories not only produce spirit, but also various byproducts, the sale of which will have the effect of reducing the cost of the spirit itself. When this spirit is mixed with ordinary petrol in the proportion of 20 to 80, a fuel is produced of very high octane rating. It is superior to anything in general use to-day, and the price will not be increased. In addition, 5,000 tons of bran will be produced annually from each of the factories. An entirely new process has been evolved for making power alcohol, the spirit being distilled from Hour semolina, . which represents an advanced stage of flour gristing, so that the bran can be saved and sold.
– Does the honorable member think that 3s.11¼d. a bushel is a fair price for the wheat used in the distilleries?
– I have been assured that the difference between that price and the ordinary market price for wheat will be made up to the farmers by the Government. Does the honorable member want the distilleries to close down? I realize that the enterprise has been opposed from the beginning by vested interests. The flour-millers and wheatinerchants have always been opposed to the distilleries and, therefore, certain of their spokesmen in this House have also taken up the cudgels against the enterprise. I do not say that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is one of them, but there are others in this House who have consistently opposed the proposal to erect power alcohol distilleries. I hope that the Government will not be deterred from proceeding with this all-Australian project. The distilleries have been designed and built entirely by Australians. I have inspected them, and I know that they are producing a spirit which will contribute materially to the defence of Australia, assist agriculture, and also provide fuel for motor transport on the farms.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [5.50].- I should like to know what the Government intends to do regarding the treatment of discharged members of the forces suffering from nervous and mental disorders. At the present time, they are being sent to civil mental asylums, a practice which I regard as very wrong. I know something of these mental institutions. Judged by modern standards they leave a good deal to be desired. The buildings are old and the staffing arrangements often inadequate. Medical supervision is good, but domestic help is generally insufficient. It is not right that men discharged from the forces suffering from mental disorders should be treated in establishments together with certified lunatics. I know of one man who was sent to the Goodna mental home in Brisbane where his health deteriorated because of the unsuitability of his surroundings. When a man is capable of being cured it is bad enough to send him to a mental home at all, but it is worse to put him in with a large number of certified sufferers. I have been informed that the Repatriation Department proposes to build a mental home for discharged men in Queensland.
– A separate ward is to be built at Goodna.
– That is wrong.
– But it will be a quarter of a mile away from the other buildings.
– I do not care how far away it will be; it should not be a part of the civil institution at all. It should be a completely separate establishment.
– But it will be.
– I understand that it will be in the same locality. It should be somewhere far removed, and in no way connected with the other institution, so that ex-servicemen treated there will not have placed upon them the stigma attaching to those who have been shut up in a lunatic asylum. In Victoria, there is a very good mental home at Bundoora for the treatment of ex-servicemen, and it is entirely separate from any civilian institution of the kind. Great progress has been made recently in the treatment of mental disorders.
– And my department has kept abreast of what is being done.
– It would not appear to be so, judging by how ex-servicemen are being treated. They should not be placed in institutions which will leave a stigma upon them after their discharge.
– There is no stigma.
– There is.
– There is no stigma even in the case of patients in civil institutions.
– I know of one woman who was placed in a mental institution for two years. Then she was discharged, cured, but her acquaintances pointed her out, saying, “ There is so-and-so ; she waa shut up for two years in a home for certified lunatics “. We should remove all possibility of that sort of thing occurring to ex-servicemen.
– I, too, desire to impress upon the Government the need for providing separate and independent establishments for the treatment of discharged servicemen suffering from nervous and mental disorders. Some time ago, I visited the mental home at Goodna, and there I found ex-servicemen engaged in occupations which they should not be called upon to perform. Representations were made to the Repatriation Department) and since then the servicemen have been segregated. I commend the Minister for having taken this action, but the time has come when a separate establishment should be provided. Under present conditions, when soldier patients are visited by their relatives and friends, they must take their visitors through the rest of the institution and among the ordinary patients, if they wish to go for a walk or witness a sporting fixture. When an entertainment is given, the exservicemen must mingle with the other patients. I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is sympathetic, and I am confident that the Government will provide separate establishments for the treatment of ex-servicemen as soon as it is practicable to do so.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- This yeaT it is proposed to expend £5,100 on buildings, works and sites for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research compared with £225 expended last year. I consider that in future budgets far greater expenditure should be provided for in order that this body may be able to play its proper role in the post-war development of Australian primary and secondary industries. I am highly appreciative of what the council has done in devising new methods of preserving primary products and of preparing them for marketing in various parts of the world. Before the war, Australia was at a disadvantage in marketing its products in Eastern countries where tropical conditions demand special packing, but during the war, as the result of considerable research, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was able to devise improved packing with the result that we have been able to send to tropical areas products which we formerly could not send there. The council can do much in that way to assist us to find new markets. When peace comes again to this country the council should take over the functions of the Army Inventions Board to ensure that valuable patents shall not be allowed to lie forgotten in the archives at Canberra. The Army Inventions Board has brought inventors into contact with each other, with the result that there has been a valuable pooling of ideas. That is another service which can be carried into our peace-time activities by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The £100 voted last year for expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act was not spent, and this year the proposed vote remains at £100. After the war, the River Murray Waters Commission should thoroughly investigate the expansion of existing irrigation schemes and the creation of new weirs in the Murray Valley. For such examination, £100 a year will be quite insufficient.
Of the £6,000 voted last year for buildings and works under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation, including grants to councils towards the cost of and establishment of country aerodromes, only £2,354 was expended. I hope that the amount of £6,000 which is to be voted for that purpose this year will be expended and that supplementary estimates will show that the amount has been considerably exceeded. Local governing bodies have not the necessary funds or authority to develop the aerodromes necessary for the development of internal air services after the war. They should be required to provide some of the cost, but the major part should be provided by the Commonwealth Government, and, if we are to have proper development of air services, a greater amount than £6,000 must be expended.
– The Commonwealth Government has not the power to deal with that matter.
– Unfortunately, the honorable gentleman is right. Without success we did our best to convince the people that the Commonwealth should have full power in this regard. We do exorcise powers with the consent of the States, but that consent could be withdrawn as easily as it was given. I hope that soon we shall make another approach to the States for the transfer of essential powers to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, however, has the power to make grants-in-aid and could make grants to municipalities on condition that the money was expended on country aerodromes. The press has reported that the ‘Cabinet is drawing up plans for postwar development of air services, but it is useless to draw up plans for air services to outlying districts unless landing grounds are first provided. On the principle of first things first, aerodromes must be provided before districts can be served by aircraft. The vast distances of Australia, which formerly required days of travel, can now be covered in a few hours in aircraft. For that reason I urge the Government to make greater provision for subsidies to municipal councils and other local governing bodies for the provision and improvement of country aerodromes.
.- I direct the attention of honorable members and the Ministry to the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the health of sheep. About eighteen months ago it was discovered that phenothiarzine is the most effective drug for the control of internal parasites in sheep. It destroys them more effectively than even nicotine sulphate, Milestone or arsenic. While the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is erecting buildings in which to conduct research, and while that research is proceeding, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is preventing the use of saltlick for sheep, although it is a necessary part of the prevention of infestation of sheep. I draw the attention of honorable members and pastoralists to certain discoveries made recently in California. It h*s been discovered that if sheep are given a single dose of phenothiarzine and a small quantity of the drug is mixed in salt-licks, sheep become immune from worm infestation for the rest of their lives. That discovery is worth many millions of pounds, because it will save enormous numbers of sheep and ensure ‘better wool. It is entirely wrong that a professorial band in the Department of War Organization of Industry should put a damper on progress of that sort by banning the use of saltlicks. I ask that the facts -which I have put before the committee be placed before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
.- The provision of hospitals for mentally afflicted returned servicemen, which was referred to by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), has been considered by the Government. We are already doing what the honorable member suggests, which i3 that they should be segregated from other mentally afflicted persons. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) mentioned the need for them to be segregated in Brisbane. We have made plans for the provision of a special ward at the Goodna mental asylum. The difficulty is that we have not been able to get a high priority in building. We have to make shift, but we are doing everything possible.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked what was to be provided from the proposed expenditure of £300,000 on buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture for the Department of Repatriation.
– And the estimated further liability of £199,000.
– Most of that money will be expended on works which the Department of the Interior is carrying out on behalf of the Department of Repatriation in the various States.
– Such as?
– We are hoping to erect in Western Australia a sanatorium and provide a clinic which will cost £40,000. For various minor works, a sum of £500 has been allocated for Western Australia. In South Australia also, various minor works under the heading of “ Engineering and, other services “ are set out, and the sum of £2,007 has been provided for them. The estimated works expenditure in Queensland and Victoria is £1,950 and £31,S00 respectively. These works are not big. The Government recognized the futility of making financial provision for the erection of a large number of hospitals, because of the shortage of manpower and materials. All the money will not be expended this year, as the department is unable to get the requisite priority for the projects. The amount of £199,000 is likely to be unexpended. It could be used to provide out-patient clinics and therapy facilities. The necessary plans for these works have been prepared, and if man-power and materials can be obtained, the jobs will be undertaken ?
The Government has provided. £200,000 for war service homes. Some of this money will be used to erect homes, to discharge some mortgages, and to effect repairs to existing properties. The department considers that priorities could not be obtained for a number of dwellings costing more than £200,000.
– What priority is allotted for building these homes?
– The department could probably get the necessary priority if we were prepared to recommend soldiers to build their homes at this juncture. But we consider that costs are too high, and consequently, we do not recommend soldiers to build.
– Why must the Commonwealth Government obtain a priority to build homes, when State instrumentalities do not seek priorities?
– The States will build a number of homes, and half of them will be made available to ex-servicemen. We hope that twelve months after the cessation of hostilities the building costs will be reduced by about 30 per cent.
– That is optimistic.
– I do not think so. When factories and annexes now engaged in war production begin the manufacture of civil requirements,the price of building materials will be reduced.
– But labour costs are the big item in building.
– There will be competition among contractors for work.
– Wages are fixed by awards.
– Our war service homes are built by contract. When, after the war, building costs are substantially reduced, we shall recommend ex-servicemen to buy their own homes.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
Proposed vote, £3,650,000.
.- Under the heading of “Business Undertakings “ comes “ Postmaster-General’s Department, £3,500,000 “, and under that item I desire to refer to censorship. A half-completed debate on this subject still stands upon the notice-paper. When, on . that occasion, my speech was cut off in its prime because of the effluxion of time, I was about to read a copy of a letter which I addressed two months ago to the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) dealing with censorship. To-day I received a reply from the Minister.
– The honorable member was fortunate.
– I am thankful for small mercies. This letter is of great importance, because it affects the liberties of the people and is relevant to one of the findings of Sir William Webb regarding the extent of the censorship of internal mails.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! I see no reference to censorship under the heading of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Then in what department would it be included?
– The Department of Information.
– I am speaking on the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I have received a letter from the Postmaster-General. Censorship is exercised under regulations which are called, in part, the Post and Telegraph Censorship Regulations.
– They are administered by the Department of the Army.
– That is immaterial.
The important fact is that ministerial responsibility for them is taken by the Postmaster-General.
– No, by the Minister for the Army.
– I have closely examined this matter. From his observations, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has not done so. I have received from the Postmaster-General a reply to my letter, and I contend that in view of the facts, I am entitled to debate this matter on the vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– The honorable member will not be in order in debating censorship under this vote.
– I address myself to Division 23-24, “ PostmasterGeneral’s Department, £3,500,000”, and move -
That the amount of the vote - PostmasterGeneral’s Department, £3,500,000 - be reduced by £1- as a direction to the Government - to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the circumstances connected with the sale ot broadcasting stations 5KA and 5AU to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, and negotiations for the sale of broadcasting station 2HD to the Church of England Diocese of Newcastle:
I do not propose to repeat my former speech on this matter. Although it raised most serious questions, it has been replied to only by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and a junior Minister. Last Thursday the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), by way of personal explanation, referred to an agreement between the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald for the sharing of broadcasting time. The right honorable gentleman tendered, and it is recorded in Hansard, an agreement dated the 17th May, 1943, between the Archbishop, the head of the Central Methodist Mission, and Mr. Richards, M.P., on behalf of the Workers’ Weekly Herald. Here is a curious thing: That agreement was dated the 17th May, 1943, whereas the agreement to which I had referred - the agreement of sale - was dated the 5th February, 1943. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) had asked the Prime Minister the following question: -
Is it a fact that the Government reallocated a South Australian broadcasting licence where the Labour party has a fifth share and free broadcasting time?
The Prime Minister replied -
Yes, except that the agreement between shareholders of the licensee company made no provision for free broadcasting time to the Australian Labour party, although this agreement quoted conditions of free broadcasting time for churches, including others than the church which held four-fifths of the shares in the company.
I did challenge that, favorably to the Prime Minister really, by saying that he had clearly been misinformed, because the agreement of sale of this station dated the 5th February expressly provided, in clause 20, that there should be free broadcasting time for the Australia Labour party. Last Thursday, the Prime Minister obtained leave to make a personal explanation. I remind honorable members of what he said in the course of his explanation. I shall read the relevant portions of it -
The only agreement of which the Government had knowledge was an agreement which had been entered into by the Central Methodist Mission with His Grace, the Archbishop of Adelaide, and the Honorable Robert Stanley Richards, M.P.
I asked -
What was the date of that agreement?
The Prime Minister replied -
The 17th May, 1943.
Later on the Prime Minister said -
That is the only agreement of which the Postmaster-General had knowledge and it formed the basis of my answer to the honorable member for Wilmot.
Later again he said -
I found that it was in conformity with the text of the only agreement of which the Postmaster-General’s Department had knowledge.
Following a question which I asked the right honorable gentleman across the table, he said -
The agreement from which the right honorable gentleman read yesterday would appear to be one with which the Department of the Postmaster-General had nothing to do.
It is quite true that the agreement from which I had read was the vital agreement of sale, but the Prime Minister said that that was the agreement with which the Postmaster-General’s Department had had nothing to do. Then later on, so that there could be no ambiguity, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) opened the door for the Prime Minister by asking -
Does not the Prime Minister admit that the information which he gave was erroneous although he did not know that at the time?
The Prime Minister again mentioned the agreement of the 17th May and, referring to the Postmaster-General, he said -
It is the only agreement of which he had cognizance.
That was the fourth time, that the Prime Minister had stated that this was the only agreement of which the department had knowledge. At that stage I made an interjection, disorderly though it may have been-
– The right honorable gentleman is becoming somewhat disorderly.
– That may be so, but I shall read my interjection so that the honorable member for Bass may appreciate the full beauty of it. I said -
We do not wont to have any unnecessary confusion. I take it that the right honorable gentleman agrees that had he had before him the agreement from which I. read yesterday, his answer would have been different.
The Prime Minister replied -
That document related to a transaction which was outside the terms of the agreement of which the Postmaster-General had knowledge.
That was the fifth reference to the agreement and the department’s lack of knowledge of it. In reminding honorable members of the famous occasion when Alice mentioned that when a thing was said three times it must be true, I consider I am thoroughly entitled to say that as the Prime Minister had said five times that the Postmaster-General’s Department had no knowledge of this agreement it must be true.
What are the facts? I regret to say that I must find the Prime Minister guilty of having made a most disingenuous reply. As a matter of fact he said to the House -
Neither wittingly nor unwittingly have I misled either the honorable member for Wilmot or the House.
I have read the answer that was given to the question of the honorable member for Wilmot and I ask again: What are the facts? I mention, first, that the agreement of February, from which I quoted last Wednesday, expressly provided, in clause 20, that the Workers’ Weekly Herald, on behalf of the Australian Labour party, was to be entitled to broadcast over the air through 5KA and 5AU free of charge for certain periods of time. Oddly enough, the agreement of February containing that provision, is actually referred to in the agreement tabled by the Prime Minister because the agreement of the 17th May, 1943, contains this recital -
In contemplation of the renewal by the Postmaster-General of the broadcasting licences for 5KA and 5AU and in further contemplation of the completion-
I ask honorable members to mark that word; it had already been executed - of the completion of a certain agreement whereby Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald became the legal owners of the shares (except one) in the companies to which the said licences were hitherto issued-
I say, therefore, that the agreement to which I was referring, of which, according to the Prime Minister, the Postmaster-General’s Department knew nothing, was actually referred to in the agreement tabled by the Prime Minister. I pause here for a moment to point out that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked for the production of the file dealing with this matter, and just before dinner I had the privilege of reading from the file so produced. I regret that I have not the file before me. I was informed that the PostmasterGeneral himself might require it in the Senate. I cannot produce the file but, by the courtesy of the Minister for Information, I was permitted to make certain extracts from it. I shall submit these to the committee. Even in a cursory glance of fifteen minutes, the file provided astonishing confirmation of the inaccuracy of a statement made five times to the committee last Thursday by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Fawkner had the file for very much longer.
– I did not examine that particular file. I was dealing with the file in relation to the Newcastle station.
– In any case, the honorable member for Fawkner is of age and may speak for himself. I need lose no sleep over him. He may tell the committee what he found in the file. I shall submit six facts to the committee which confirm the inaccuracy of the Prime Minister’s personal explanation. In the first place, the file contained at least two copies of the agreement of the 5th February, 1943, from which I quoted, and of which it was said that the Postmaster-‘General’s Department knew nothing. Secondly, the file contained a letter dated the 23rd March, 1943, from the legal firm with which Mr. H. G. Alderman is associated, to th© DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, enclosing a copy of the agreement and putting forward a request for a licence.
– And it shows that everything was fair and above board.
– So fair and above board that only two or three days ago we were told that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had no cognizance of the agreement.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that it was not fair and above board?
– He is suggesting that it is corrupt.
– I know that honorable gentlemen opposite do not like this, but they must take it. On the 29th March this correspondence, with a copy of the agreement enclosed, was forwarded to the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, for his advice.
– Again fair and above board.
– On the 22nd May Sir George Knowles gave legal advice to the Director.General of Posts and Telegraphs with reference to the sale to the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald.
– What was that advice?
– I intend to deal with various aspects of it. It is clear that Sir George Knowles had the agreement before him, although it was said to have been outside the knowledge of the Postmaster-General’s Department, because he quotes, in terms, several of its clauses, including clause 20. Incidentally, he pointed out that there were only eleven shareholders holding one share each in the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited, one of them being Mr. H. G. Alderman. It is interesting to read in the file that Sir George Knowles, a very trusted public servant of this country, and a man for whom I have a profound regard, said, in his final paragraph -
I may add that it appears to me not to be in the public interest that broadcasting licences should be the subject of bargaining.
What is the next step?
– Does the Leader of the Opposition agree with Sir George Knowles ?
– I do. I am happy to say that I have hardly ever found myself in disagreement with him. The next step is that on the 19th June, 1943, the Acting Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning, also a highly regarded public servant, and properly so, sent a memorandum to the PostmasterGeneral for use in discussing the matter with Cabinet colleagues, explaining the agreement of which the PostmasterGeneral is supposed to have had no knowledge, and attaching not only a copy of the application from Mr. Alderman’s firm and the agreement of the 5th February, but also a copy of Sir George Knowles’s comments. That can be seen by the Minister if he cares to look at paragraph 8 of Mr. Fanning’s memorandum. On the 26th June, 1943, there is another memorandum by Mr. Fanning in these terms -
The Postmaster-General telephoned me this afternoon and intimated that, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, he had decided to proceed with the issue of broadcasting station licences to the Sport Radio Broadcasting Company Limited, and the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited, the shares in which companies have been purchased by the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, Adelaide.
That, I think honorable members will agree, is a very different story from the one that was put to the House; because I remind honorable members that five times the House was informed that the agreement of February was outside the knowledge of the Postmaster-General and his department.
– Is the right honorable gentleman saying that it is a corrupt agreement?
– I am perfectly capable of saying what I think.
– The right honorable gentleman is dodging the issue.
– Having said what I have said about the personal explanation made to the House by the Prime Minister, let me turn to the substance of the transaction. I shall not repeat what I said on a former occasion, because I then went to some trouble to outline this transaction, and to offer certain possible interpretations of it.
– All of them wrong.
– None of them convincing.
– Oddly enough, I did not expect to convince the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) ; but if he were in the Government, I would expect to convict him. Both the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) in this House, and Mr. R, S. Richards, of South Australia, in the press, have offered an interpretation of these facts. My friend, the Minister for Munitions, was, I thought, a little concerned to suggest that J_ was accusing the Central Methodist Mission of something.
– The right honorable gentleman did so.
– I consider that the Central Methodist Mission behaved with very great simplicity in this matter, and if I were in its place I should want a royal commission. The matter is not to be determined’ according to whether or not I believe that the Reverend Samuel Forsyth has done a great work, because I know that he has. The honorable gentleman need not worry about that. Does that surprise him?
– It surprises me, coming from the right honorable gentleman.
– Although the honorable gentleman knows that, on more than one occasion, I have spoken for the reverend gentleman. I am not concerned with allocating ‘either praise or blame; but J am concerned to say this - and let there be no ambiguity-
– What the right honorable gentleman has said is outrageous.
– Let there be no ambiguity about this: This deal, which involved giving money, or money’s worth, to the Australian Labour party, was an improper deal.
– That is not what the right honorable gentleman said last week.
– I said last week that it was an improper deal.
– The right honorable gentleman said that it was corrupt.
– Of course it was corrupt.
– The right honorable gentleman should now use the language which he then used.
-I will use it now, if the honorable gentleman wants it. I am delighted to find this delicate interest in fine shades of language. If anybody in this place wants to know what I think of a bargain under which the Australian Labour party, which has licences to give or refuse, gets for nothing some thousands of pounds of money’s worth, then, of course, I say that it is a corrupt deal; and, if I may borrow the expression from the Prime Minister, I make no bones about it.
– The right honorable gentleman specifically accused the Methodist Church of being corrupt. That is in Hansard.
– Whatever is in Hansard will be in Hansard. No doubt, there will be in Ilansard some things for which the honorable gentleman will be apologizing before he is ten years older; I hesitate to say, “ ten years wiser “, because, obviously, he never will be. Both the Minister for Munitions in this House, and Mr. Richards, of South Australia, in the press, have claimed that the consideration passing to the Australian Labour party, which is £8,500, plus £8,500 working capital, divided by five - which equals £2,400- plus free time, was an ordinary payment for the transfer of an option held by Mr. Richards. I do not think that the Minister for Munitions will deny that that is a fair statement.
– What is wrong with that?
– All that I want to know is, whether or not that is a fair statement of the honorable gentleman’s argument that it was an ordinary payment for the transfer of an option, held by Mr. Richards. Here is a curious thing: This option - and after all, an option is a binding legal document - has never been produced either to the
Broadcasting Committee or to this Parliament, and its terms are, therefore, undisclosed. Mr. Alderman gave evidence to the Broadcasting Committee, and that evidence is inconsistent with the claim made by Mr. Richards. What did Mr. Richards say?
– What he said is in accordance with the sworn evidence of Mr. Alderman.
– I quote the words, which are identical in the Adelaide Advertiser and the Melbourne Herald, and, so far as I know, have not been contradicted. This is Mr. Richards’s story -
I was informed, when I asked for an option, that none would be given to a political party, but that I could take a personal option.
I ask honorable members to notice that, but not to judge it yet. He then said -
The Central Methodist Mission was prepared to agree to the conditions I had laid down-
I, Richards, the holder of the option - for the transfer of my option.
Mr. Alderman, the god in the machine in this case, said various things to the Broadcasting Committee.
– Upon oath?
– Oh, yes.
– Not upon oath. [Extension of time granted.]
– I want to quote to this committee some passages from the evidence that Mr. Alderman gave to the Broadcasting Committee. He said -
As legal adviser to a client, I had the sale of two broadcasting stations. One of them was SKA Adelaide. I insisted that I would not sell that station to any purchaser unless the Labour party had an interest in it.
Honorable members will recall that Mr. Richards said, in effect : “ I could have a personal option, but no political party could have an option “. I resume the statement by Mr. Alderman -
For that stand, I was subjected to some criticism, but my client allowed me to do what I thought was right. Eventually, an agreement was reached whereby the Methodist Church in South Australia obtained a fourfifths interest in the station, and the Labour party a one-fifth interest.
Later, turning to 2HD, he said -
The Labour party in Newcastle was not keen about being tied up with the Church of England. The party wanted the station to itself, and the church wanted it to itself. I told the Church of England authorities that if they refused to work with the Labour partyI would offer the station to the Labour party alone. I spoke to the Labour party in similar terms. The negotiations with the Church of England did not break down because of any refusal to work with the Labour party, but because the church authorities would not offer more than a certain sum.
Anybody -who listened to the correspondence read by the Minister for Information, in which the Bishop of Newcastle expressed his opinion of this proposed transaction, will be staggered to learn that the Church of England went out of these negotiations, not because of the terms that were suggested, but because of the price.
– That is absolutely true.
– The witness later said this -
The Labour party approached me. I motored from Adelaide to Melbourne after 5KA was put off the air, and on the morning on which I arrived at Menzies Hotel-
I am sorry if there should be any confusion; it is not my hotel -
I received an urgent telegram from Mr. Richards, the Leader of the Labour Opposition in South Australia, in the following terms: -
Would like first opportunity of buying 5KA.
I promised Mr. Richards that, so far as I was concerned, SKA would not be sold without giving the Labour party an opportunity to purchase it.
– What is wrong with that?
Honorable members interjecting,
– I should be sorry indeed to think that these interjections reflect such stupidity as they seem to reflect; because I must remind the committee
Mr. Barnard interjecting,
– In preaching, I could never compete with my friend, the honorable member for Bass. Have my friends forgotten that Mr. Richards had said to the press that he could not have an option for a party, but only a personal option? Yet here we find the man who gave the option saying that he would offer the station to the Labour party alone !
-Can the right honorable gentleman give to the committee answers to these questions: What were the terms of the option which Mr. Richards got?
– I cannot answer that.
Mi-. Spender.- How much did he pay for it?
– I cannot answer that.
– In what way did he exercise it, and what did he get for it?
– All these are relevant questions, because my learned and honorable friend knows that there could be no option without the elements to which he referred ; yet the only evidence given before the .Broadcasting Committee about this alleged option is this telegram : “ Would like first opportunity of buying 5KLA”, and the promise that it would not be sold without giving the Labour party - not Mr. Richards - an opportunity to purchase. Nobody pretends that the physical assets of 5KA. and 5ATJ were worth £8,500 without a licence. The whole usefulness of the option, if there were an option, depended therefore upon securing a licence, and the securing of a licence was a matter entirely within the grant or refusal of a Labour administration.
– Quite right.
– The Minister for Transport - the honorable the Minister for Transport - says, “ Quite right “. So having had his endorsement, I repeat my statement: The whole usefulness of the option depended upon securing a licence, and the securing of a licence was a matter within the grant or refusal of a Labour administration. That makes the condition of the payment of £2,400 on behalf of, or for the benefit of, the Australian Labour party very significant. It is not suggested that, in the case of 2HD Newcastle, any option had been given to anybody. There is no question here of the Honorable R. S. Richards having secured an option worth, in his hands, £2,400.
– That was in another State
– The price m Adelaide was £2,400. In Newcastle it was £3,500. I suppose the honorable member is suggesting that for a transaction in Queensland the price would have gone up to £5,000. In the case of 2HD no option had been given to any cue, and yet an exactly similar demand was made on the proposed purchaser, the diocese of Newcastle, except that this time it was £17,500, which divided by five meant £3,500 for a one-fifth share. Having said that about the Newcastle negotiations, I turn now to the two questions about that negotiation which cry aloud for answer. The first is this: What was this proposed payment of £3,500 for the benefit of the Australian Labour party designed ito achieve? References to free time do not answer the question. I repeat my question, and I should be happy to hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) answer it.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There are too many interjections.
– I appreciate your protection, Mr. Riordan, but I am not surprised that there should be interjections. Honorable members opposite will need to reflect a long time before they can think up a satisfactory answer to the question - what was the £3,500 for?
– I do not suggest that it was for the purpose of corrupting the Methodist Church, as the right honorable member did.
– That is a negative answer at the best. What was it for? The question demands an authoritative answer.
– It is a question which ought to induce the right honorable member to make an accusation, but he has not the courage to do it.
– The second question is this, if I may interrupt my phonographic friend. Knowing the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) I even wrote it, down. Why did Mr. Alderman make the statements outlined in the following extract, from the letter of the Bishop of Newcastle -
You told us that if we were prepared to agree to these provisions you thought our chances of securing the licence would be more than good, but that if we did not agree there would be little prospect, in your opinion, of our securing it, seeing that the PostmasterGeneral would be guided in his decision by the advice of the Parliamentary Committee on which there is a majority of Labour politicians.
– And the decision of the Broadcasting Committee was unanimous.
– But why did Mr. Alderman say that?
– The right honorable member is a King’s Counsel. Perhaps he can answer.
– I ask the honorable member not to interject.
– Alternatively, if members desire to interject, let them say something.
– When is the honorable gentleman going to say something sensible?
– Every time I look at the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) I am reminded irresistibly of Wordsworth’s poem, the concluding words of which are -
O Cuckoo ! Shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering voice?
I again put those two questions to the committee. What was the proposed payment for, and why did Mr. Alderman make these promises or anticipations to the Bishop of Newcastle? The issue of the licence, without which this proposed transaction was utterly futile, depended on a Labour administration, and clearly Mr. Alderman thought that a handsome gift to the Labour party would help.
– His thinking must be just as warped as that of the right honorable member himself.
– If that is the honorable member’s answer, I take it, but clearly Mr. Alderman thought that a handsome contribution to the Labour party would help; and, after all, he could hardly be blamed for that because, in the case of the Adelaide stations, approval was given and the licence issued. I ask, was it just a shrewd guess on the part of Mr. Alderman, or did he have some concrete ground for his belief?
We discussed this matter here last week, and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was put up to answer the case that was then made. Speaking for the Government he put out what could be described only as a smoke-screen. He became somewhat impassioned on the subject of station 3XY, in Victoria, and he was delighted because he found on the note-paper of the Young Nationalist Organization of Victoria of that time such (Distinguished;names as those of Mr. Spicer and Mr. Holt-
– No, I came later.
– Anyway he found my name, and also the name of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson,). He was delighted. He said, “ Here you have a government giving a licence “ - the giving of the licence was, in his opinion, very sinister - “ to the Young Nationalist Organization of Victoria “.
– The right honorable member should be careful lest he involve some of his friends in the Macquarie network.
– I have never been in the Macquarie network that I know of, but one never knows in times like these what may happen. In the case of 3XY a new licence was issued. It was not a matter of purchasing a station, and there was no payment involved other than the licence-fee.
– A good gift, all the same.
– I am glad to hear from Mr. Speaker, interjecting from his not unaccustomed place on the Government front bench, that he regards it as a very nice gift, because I remind him, before any great hullabaloo is made about this matter, that previous United Australia party governments have, on the same terms, issued licences to the Labour party.
– The right honorable member’s Government robbed the returned soldiers of a, licence.
– I know that allegations of robbery come easily from the lips of the Minister for Information. I ask him what is the Labour station in New South Wales? It is station 2KY. Who granted that licence? It was granted by the Lyons Government. Am I to understand that it was a crooked deal?
– It was granted by the Bruce Government, so the right honorable member is wrong again.
– I thank the Minister for the correction. Why, it was even granted by the Bruce-Page Government, and if ever any persons represented toryism and anti-Labour sentiment of the worst kind - in fact, if any persons ever stood for everything that was bad in this country, according to my friends opposite - they were the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and Mr. Bruce. And yet they gave to the Labour party a broadcasting station on exactly the same terms as those on which Mr. Lyons gave one to the Young Nationalists !
– Except that they did not turn down the returned soldiers in order to give it to the Labour party.
– It is a grand thing to be able to bring in a side-issue. I thought the suggestion was that there was something crooked about giving a licence to the Young Nationalist Organization. The Government will hardly deny that if it was “ crooked “ to do that, it was equally “ crooked “ to give a licence to the Labour party, and, yet, the Labour party was given one. I turn to a matter vividly within my own memory. The licence for 6ELY Perth, a Labour station, was granted to a company called the People’s Printing Company, with which, if I remember correctly, the Prime Minister was honorably associated for a number of years. I cannot go into the technical details, but, broadly, the company’s application for a licence came before the Government of which I was the head.
– It was probably the only application.
– Oh no; on the contrary, there were plenty of applications, and my Government, after deliberate consideration of the matter, granted the licence for 6KY to the People’s Printing Company because we believed, as I still believe, that the Labour party is entitled to an effective voice on the air. Does it not seem a little ungracious that one who was in the most direct sense responsible for giving to the Labour party its Western Australian station should be accused–
– The right honorable gentleman probably thought that would win his party a few votes in Western Australia.
– Of course all sorts of motives are imputed to anything that I did. Everything I did was “ crooked “. When I gave the Labour party a broadcasting licence in Western Australia it was “ crooked “, and when Mr. Lyons gave the Young Nationalist Organization in Vic toria a licence it was “ crooked “. These silly words cut no ice. The fact is that the political parties on both sides have realized that it is a good thing that over the air the people should have the opportunity to hear both sides. That was denied by this Government in connexion with .the recent referendum. It has never been denied by us. But I have referred to it merely to put it to one side. There are the facts; no one can dispute them. We come back to these transactions at Adelaide and Newcastle, and I put once more my two questions: What was the money to be given to the Labour party for? Why was it that Mr. Alderman, the negotiator, was able to say to the Bishop of Newcastle, “If you pay it, your chances are more than good, but if you do not pay it, your chances are not worth discussing”?
– The right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has, with a great deal of declamation, invoking not only his normal eloquence, but also a certain amount of dramatic art, pieced together a number of incidents and, in the course of that, I understood him to make what I venture to describe as specific charges against me personally. I feel that they concern me as a man as well as the Prime Minister responsible to this Parliament and the country. I entered this Parliament some years before the Leader of the Opposition did, and I went out. I came back again on the same day as he made his entry. I have been in this Parliament since 1928, except for three years. I have had no source of income except my salary as a member of this Parliament. I have not received any fee, or emolument of any sort or description from any company, organization, faction, or interest in this nation. I have no shares in any public company. I am not dependent on any other person for subsidy or fee, or for a living. The right honorable gentleman asks what an amount of £3,500 has been paid for, and he asks that after having indicated that I gave wrong answers to this Parliament, and that he, having been given the file to peruse, had found in it an intimation that the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) informed the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, after consultation with me and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), that this licence in Adelaide was to be issued. The implications of the right honorable gentleman’s statements bear dreadfully upon myself. I say that to the right honorable gentleman quite frankly. If his remarks are to be construed as making any charge of improper conduct on my part for any consideration of any sort or kind, let him now say so, and, if he says so, I shall not appear in this Parliament until I have been vindicated.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has taken an unusual course. Instead of answering a series of questions put to this committee, he has inferred a series of innuendoes by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). To-day is not the first occasion on which this matter has been discussed in this chamber, lt was first discussed on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, and, on that occasion, the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on this side put forward facts that had come into their possession which, in their view, called for some full explanation by the Government or, if the Government were not prepared to give that explanation, some inquiry by an appropriate and independent tribunal. That was the specific request made at that time. The Leader of the Opposition made no suggestion against any individual member of this Parliament or any other Parliament. He told the House that there were facts which had become public and which called for the fullest explanation or, alternatively, the fullest inquiry. The request for an inquiry was refused, and the Prime Minister did not even take part in the debate. In fact, the debate was incomplete, not only because the Prime Minister took no part in it, but also because time for the discussion was limited and when we sought to have it extended the extension was refused.
– Because sufficient time had already been wasted.
– That is for the country to decide. After examining the facts which have come before the committee to-night, the public will not be put off by the display given by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition of staging an act, but nothing could surpass the act that he himself put on. His attitude will not satisfy the country. He failed to answer one question put to him.
– What are the charges?
– We are not making charges ; we are asking questions.
– Throwing mud !
– The questions are’ related to the facts, and the honorable member is entitled to his own interpretation. The facts that were presented on the last occasion have been added to by revelations made in the departmental files, which the Government, to its credit, freely made available for our inspection. I shall not attempt to cover the ground covered so brilliantly by the Leader of the Opposition; but as the right honorable gentleman spent most of his time in discussing the Adelaide arrangements, it may be useful if I add something to the information before the committee relating to the Newcastle negotiations. It was pointed out when we debated this matter first that there had been little criticism in Adelaide of what had taken place there. That is one statement which we can properly question. On the latest information we have, there was a good deal of criticism in Adelaide of what happened there. It is one thing to have an isolated occurrence in which an Adelaide lawyer, dealing with the assets of a client, negotiates with certain parties in Adelaide, but when you find that precisely the same arrangements have been sought to be made by the same representative in another State it is more than a coincidence. I consider that, in order that honorable members may have the fullest information, they should look as far as they can into the minds of the parties involved in these transactions, and I think that I should place on record some of the correspondence contained in the files relating to the Newcastle negotiations. The first is a letter from the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Batty, to the PostmasterGeneral, dated the 14th February, 1944 -
The whole story of our negotiations for acquisition of the 2HD licence has been frankly a puzzling one. The application for that particular licence was made by us on the 13th November, 1942. We were subsequently approached by a Mr. H. C. Alderman, who was acting for the company which formerly controlled station 2HD with a view to negotiating for the purchase of the company’s assets.
My registrar and myself interviewed Mr. Alderman in Sydney and he gave us to understand that he could virtually guarantee that the licence would be allotted to us if we would agree to certain conditions.
I ask the committee to note the phrase “ virtually guarantee “.
– The honorable gentleman’s own leader quoted him as saying that he “ thought “.
– I am adding to the correspondence already reported in Hansard. Whatever Mr. Alderman may have said or whatever his version may be of what he. said, this is what the Bishop thought he meant. The letter went on -
But that if we did agree they would be “ more than good “. The proposals seem to us to have all the appearance of a corruptive transaction and we were not able to consider it. We subsequently had the assets of the 2HD company valued and on the basis of that valuation made an offer for their purchase which Mr. Alderman’s principals were unable to accept.
– Precisely. He wanted a free licence and then wanted to bargain for the assets.
– But without the sinister conditions, as he interpreted them, put up to him by Mr. Alderman. He said -
The proposals seemed to us to have all the appearances of a corruptive transaction and we were not able to consider it.
He concluded -
We subsequently had the assets of the 2HD company valued and on the basis of that valuation made an offer for their purchase, which Mr. Alderman’s principals were unable to accept.
When the Postmaster-General expressed regret at the use of the phrase “ a corruptive transaction “, the bishop wrote -
I was sorry to gather that you found cause for regret in my comments on the proposals originally made to us in connexion with the purchase of the 2HD assets. As you will see if you read my letter, there was absolutely no suggestion that you were personally concerned with those proposals. The fact, however, remains that we were given to understand that, if we would make to the Labour party concessions valued at some thousands of pounds, the allocation of the licence to us would be virtually guaranteed. That this proposal had all the appearance of “ a corrupt transaction “ is not my opinion only, hut also that of all those with whom I have had occasion to discuss the matter.
The next link in the chain of correspondence is a letter from a firm of solicitors, W. C. Taylor and Scott, of Sydney. Dated the 9 th August, it was addressed to the Postmasterp-General. I understand that the Mr. W. 0. Taylor referred to is vice-president of the Australian Labour party. He is also a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. As the correspondence indicates, he was acting as solicitor on behalf of the Australian Labour party. He wrote -
We act for Air Sales Proprietary Limited, which formerly conducted a commercial broadcasting station at Newcastle known as station 2HD. We understand that the licence was revoked some time ago for certain reasons, but we now wish to apply on behalf of the company for a new licence to be granted. The whole of the issued capital of the company, amounting to 5,107 £1 shares, with the exception of one share, has now been acquired and is held by Messrs. John Stewart, William Clarke Taylor, Charles Benton Scott, and William Edward Dickson, as trustees for the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party. The remaining one share is held by a deceased shareholder.
Mr. Taylor then stated that he proposed to purchase that share from the administrator of the estate, and sought an early reply to the application. Honorable members are aware that the mere purchase of the physical assets in the form of broadcasting equipment does not of itself confer any right to the licence. The vital thing was the securing of the licence, and that lay in the dispensation of the Postmaster-General. This had been clearly pointed out by the Acting
Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs in a letter to the Minister on the 30th March -
I need hardly say, however, that the acquisition of broadcasting equipment, irrespective of the source from which it was obtained, would not confer any better right to a licence on the purchaser than any other applicant.
– A licence would not be very useful if the holder had no equipment.
– Exactly. Mr. Taylor wrote pointing out that the Australian Labour party had the equipment. The final document which I place on record is a letter from the Bishop of Newcastle to the Postmaster-General, dated the 25th August. It referred to a letter from Messrs. W. C. Taylor and Scott, solicitors, of Sydney, acting on behalf <of the Australian Labour party. The solicitors’ letter stated that their clients had recently purchased the assets of the company which formerly owned station 2HD, and that the Postmaster-General was prepared to grant a broadcasting licence to them on condition that the churches were afforded free broadcasting time. Bishop Batty replied -
I have no reason to suppose that my council will wish to alter its decision not to accept concessions from a political party in order to facilitate the acquisition of a broadcasting licence by that party. We were equally unwilling, as you may remember, to make much greater concessions to the Labour party, which Mr. Alderman suggested, in order to facilitate our own acquisition of the licence.
So the proposal that the grant of free broadcasting time to the diocese of Newcastle would be facilitated if the church would co-operate with the Labour party was mentioned again, quite apart from the occasion when the negotiations with Mr. Alderman took place. During the Prime Minister’s speech, honorable members witnessed a stormy scene. We are anxious for the moon to shine through the cloud and reveal what is behind this somewhat murky atmosphere.
Reference has been made to a broadcasting station in Victoria on which the political party represented on this side of the chamber has free time - a very limited amount of free time - hut I point out that the Labour party has free time on the following stations throughout the Commonwealth : 2KY Sydney, 3KZ Melbourne, 5KA Adelaide, 2HD Newcastle, and 6KY Perth. The Australian Labour party is negotiating to acquire stations 2HJ) Newcastle and 7DY Tasmania. When a station has been secured in Queensland, the Labour party will have a very effective nation-wide hook-up of commercial stations. It is not a matter to which I direct critical comment, but I point out that it is not without interest that during the last few years the Labour party has been able, either by its own actions or through the generosity of previous governments, to secure virtually a Commonwealth-wide network of commercial broadcasting stations.
– The United Australia party may purchase an interest in 7DY, if it so desires.
– That opinion is worth noting. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) seemed to discover ground for criticism because the Returned Sailors, .Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had not been granted a licence when station 3XY was transferred. I remind the Minister, that his departmental files show that since 1934 this organization has been applying persistently for a licence. It repeated its requests to be granted the licence for the Newcastle station, which the Postmaster-General, subject to the concurrence of the diocese of Newcastle, was on the point of transferring to the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. Consequently, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and. Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia dees not appear to have received from this Government the consideration that the interjection of the Minister would suggest that it was entitled to receive.
– That organization wants a licence not in Newcastle, but in Sydney. It could not be granted both.
– I understand that the organization renewed its request to be granted the licence for station 2HD Newcastle.
– Would the honorable member agree if the Government cancelled the broadcasting licence of a Sydney newspaper and granted it to the returned soldiers’ organization?
– A licence held by a newspaper such as the Standard or the Century ?
– The honorable member knows what I mean.
– This Government has every reason to be gratified with the treatment that it has received from the great daily and weekly newspapers of New South Wales. In Victoria, press support for political parties is equitably distributed. Some newspapers seem to support the views of the Labour party, whilst others, which have a more realistic appreciation of politics, give their support in greater measure to the Opposition.
– Would the honorable member agree to the transfer of a licence held by a Sydney newspaper to the returned- soldiers’ organization?
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) should not try to lead me from the series of questions which the Leader of the Opposition put to this committee. I am endeavouring to add a little information to the facts given by the right honorable gentleman. If we dismiss the histrionics of the Prime Minister, realize our responsibilities and have regard to the standards of public conduct which are proper and desirable in this country, there can be only one answer to our request for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into these allegations. When the Leader of the Opposition was concluding his speech on this subject last week, he declared that the case for a royal commission was unanswerable. Whatever attempt was made to answer that case, the additional facts which have been given this evening will make it imperative for the Government to hold a fulldress inquiry. I do not believe that the Prime Minister can “get away with it “ by adopting the manly attitude of shouldering the entire responsibility. In his first speech, the Leader of the Opposition suggested alternatives, and it is not for us to give the answers to them. We are not able to get possession of the facts, as a royal commissioner can by calling witnesses. The names of Mr. Alderman, the Postmaster-General, the Prime Minister and other Ministers have been mentioned in this debate, and in their interests the Government should consent to a full inquiry. Those who have nothing to conceal have nothing to lose. If they have nothing to conceal, what possible reason can they have for objecting to an inquiry? The public, with the facts now before it, will not be satisfied with a brutal caucus vote in this chamber on an issue of this kind. The people will insist that, regardless of party strengths, these charges shall be answered. Their desires will not be met by a party vote in this chamber. The Prime Minister, in his emotional statement, did not say whether he proposed to appoint a royal commission.
– ‘Did the Opposition make any charges?
– We are prepared to cooperate with the Prime Minister in drafting the terms of the commission.
– As honorable members opposite did in the matter of “the Brisbane line “.
– The less the Minister says about “ the Brisbane line “ inquiry, the better it will be for his own reputation. He ran away from that. He availed himself of the technical plea of parliamentary privilege, when the House had waived that privilege by agreeing to the appointment of a royal commission and the terms of reference. We have not forgotten that episode. The people will be just as anxious for a thorough investigation as we are - and as the Government will be too when it realizes the public reaction to the whole transaction. The facts must be made patently clear and this can be done only by inquiry by an independent body, free from party bias and having no political axe to grind. We must have a full, impartial, independent and honest inquiry into all the facts.
– It is a truism that those who impute motives are usually the people with motives. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has raised, this evening, the matter which we debated last week concerning the sale of stations 5KA Adelaide and 2ATJ Port Augusta, and the proposed sale of 2HD Newcastle. I suggest that his reason for doing so is to escape the consequences of the slanderous and scandalous charges which he then levelled against decent and honorable men, whose reputations are as high in the community as those of any honorable members, and higher than those of some honorable gentleman opposite.
The Leader of the Opposition said last week -
It is quite clear that these transactions must be investigated. On the face of them, they are quite capable and reasonably capable of being regarded as utterly corrupt.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) then asked, “ Is that an imputation against the’ Methodist Church?” The Leader of the Opposition replied -
That is an imputation against everybody concerned with the corruption.
That is an unequivocal and despicable charge to level against men like the Reverend Samuel Forsyth and the Reverend George White, who engaged in these transactions on behalf of the Methodist Church of South Australia, and the Honorable R. S. Richards, a former Premier of South Australia and the present Leader of the State Opposition, who acted for the Labour party of South Australia. Those persons signed the agreement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) tabled last week. Other distinguished persons involved were the Anglican Bishop of Adelaide and the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, each of whom agreed to accept from the Central Methodist Mission certain free time on Sunday evenings. Everybody engaged in those transactions is, according to the plain language of the Leader of the Opposition, “ utterly corrupt”. The right honorable gentleman discussed the subject again this evening because he desired to extricate himself from the difficulties which he had himself caused. It is for that reason only that he has asked for a royal commission. In reply to his request the Prime Minister has said, “ You lay charges against me, and I will not sit in this House until I have been vindicated “. The Leader of the Opposition has now squibbed the issue again. His junior in the case, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the office boy who was also left to deal with “ the Brisbane line “ case, is now expected to make good the damage caused by his leader. That honorable member has repeated, parrot-like, the request for a royal commission. I say to honorable members as I said last week, that these transactions have been investigated twice by the Broadcasting Committee, on which at least four members of the Opposition have always sat. That committee did not report against the transactions, and, so far as the evidence shows, it did not on any occasion see anything in them that even suggested corruption or dishonesty.
– Who were on the committee ?
– I was the chairman of the committee which investigated the subject on the first occasion on the 28th June, 1943. There were present at the meeting, myself as chairman, Senator Amour, Senator Cooper, Senator Herbert Hays, Mr. Barnard and Dr. Price. Senator Cooper is a member of the Country party, Senator Herbert Hays is a member of the United Australia party, and Dr. Price, who was, at that time, the member for Boothby, and a member of the Opposition. Mr. H. D. Alderman had been dealing with the case in South Australia and the committee intimated that it desired the whole matter investigated. Mr. Alderman wrote to the committee, but we informed him that we would like him to appear before us personally so that he could be cross-examined. In his letter he stated in regard to the sale of station 5KLA -
The sale of tha shares in the company which owns the station has proceeded to the point where there is an agreement in writing which awaits only the Minister’s approval in order to enable the transaction to be completed.
The owners of the shares (who are Jehovah’s Witnesses) left the matter almost entirely to me. I have always held the opinion that the Labour party should have a voice on the air in each State. My clients allowed mc to give play to that view. Out of deference to. and to an extent, in agreement with, the views of the Gibson report, I felt that religious influences should be substantial or predominate. [ therefore, rejected offers by newspapers and others, until I was able to bring about a set-up “ which agreed with the tenor of the Gibson report, modified by my own personal views. The agreement does represent my views. The fact that the Church of England and the Catholic Church are to have specified times represents, I understand, the Minister’s interpretation or exegesis of the Gibson report.
Unaided by the Gibson report, I would have thought that commercial interests, with a religious influence, would be most likely to make a success of a station, but I do not place my opinion above that of the much better informed opinion of the Gibson committee.
Senator Gibson, who is referred to in that letter, was the chairman of the first Broadcasting Committee, on which there were three Labour members and three nonLabour members. The Gibson report was unanimous. I might interpolate here that the present Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) has endeavoured to adhere to the principles enunciated in the Gibson report in connexion with the re-allocation of all broadcasting licences. Mr. Alderman appeared before the committee on the 20th June, 1944, and gave evidence on the subjects at issue. There were present at that meeting Senator Amour, chairman, the late ex-Senator Darcey, Mr. Guy, Mr. Francis, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Bryson and Mr. Chambers. Two of the representatives belonged to the United Australia party and one to the Country party. They heard Mr. Alderman’s story.
– But we were not inquiring into the affairs of station 5KA. We were inquiring into the affairs of a Tasmanian station.
– The honorable gentleman heard the whole story of the transactions in relation to station 5KA, and he also heard Mr. Alderman’s account of the negotiations in relation to station 2HD Newcastle.
– I repeat that they had nothing to do with the inquiry we were making. We were inquiring into the affairs of station 7DY.
– I find on a perusal of the evidence given to the committee by Mr. Alderman that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked Mr. Alderman a number of questions. It would have been quite competent for the honorable member to have made any report he desired to his party concerning station 5KA. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) could also have done that had he so desired.
– We were inquiring into the affairs of a Tasmanian station.
– But the honorable gentleman took the opportunity to examine Mr. Alderman in regard to certain portions of his evidence and, on the assumption that silence gives consent, we are entitled to believe that the honorable member was satisfied with what he heard in regard to the sales of stations 5KA and 2HD. At any rate, no suggestion whatever was made that anything dishonest or corrupt had been done. Accusations of that description have been made only in the last few days, when the Leader of the Opposition has been trying to make some political capital out of certain charges that originated with the Bishop of Newcastle and were taken up by some newspapers. It has been left to the foetid imagination of the Leader of the Opposition to suggest corruption, to impute dishonesty, and to scream scandal, where there has been no corruption, no dishonesty, and no scandal. As these transactions have been examined on two occasions by the Broadcasting Committee, a further investigation may be made by that body if it so desires.
– Mr. Alderman has said that the Labour party has a majority on the committee.
– I make the point again that there have never been any suggestions or evidence that these transactions have been improper. Mr. Alderman, in his evidence regarding the negotiations for the sale of the Newcastle station, said -
Although the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the previous Parliament did not come to a decision, I believe that some of its members agreed with the stand that I had taken.
The Leader of the Opposition could have quoted that from the evidence before the Broadcasting Committee, for I supplied it to him, but he quoted only the passages which suited him. In my opinion, he distorted the facts and suppressed the truth. The right honorable gentleman did not quote the following passage from Mr. Alderman’s evidence -
Dr. Price, who was a member of the committee at the time, told me that I could advise Bishop Batty, Church of England, Newcastle, that in his opinion it was an excellent proposal, and that Dr. Price recommended him to accept it on behalf of the Church of England. The present position in regard to 2HD is that I am now negotiating with the Australian Labour party for its sale.
He offered station 2HD Newcastle to the Labour party after the Bishop of Newcastle had refused to pay the price asked. His Lordship now says that he could not accept the conditions of sale laid down iby those who owned the station and had the right to sell it. The fact is that the bishop had a mistaken idea about the whole subject. He believed that he had the right to a licence without charge, but no free licences are now available. The position is different now from what it was when the licence for 2CH was granted to the Council of Churches in Sydney and that for station 2SM was granted to the Catholic Church. The New South Wales Council of Churches was an alert and progressive body, which realized the value of a broadcasting licence, and so was the Catholic Church. The Church of England in New South Wales did not realize the value of a licence until all the available licences had been secured by newspapers. When the licence for 2HD was suspended the Bishop of Newcastle believed that the Postmaster-General could have allocated it to him without charge and that he could have then negotiated for the purchase of the assets. That idea might have been all right if the High Court had upheld the validity of the National Security regulations in regard to subversive organizations, under which Jehovah’s Witnesses were suppressed, but the High Court, at the instance of Mr. Alderman, declared those regulations invalid and the Government was thereupon obliged to restore to Jehovah’s Witnesses the property that had been confiscated. It was morally obliged to return the wireless broadcasting licence to the company owned by that body, and to whoever bought the shares in the company. The Bishop did not want to buy the shares. He wanted a new licence, his purpose being to negotiate for the shares if he obtained it. If such a policy, which involves repudiation, is to be brought into effect, either this Government or any other government could revoke all the existing licences and re-issue them to whomever it liked. Regulation 9 of the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations provides. -
A licence shall be granted for such period, not exceeding one year, as the Minister determines.
Regulation 17 provides -
The Minister may, by notice in writing, suspend for such period as is specified in the notice, or revoke, any licence on the ground that -
the licensee has failed to comply with any provision of the act or these regulations, or of any condition of the licence; or
he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so.
– How can the honorable gentleman say that anybody has the right to sell a licence?
– I did not mention the selling of a licence, but referred only to the sale of the shares in the company which owned the licence. No licensee has a prescriptive right to any frequency. A licence can be cancelled at any time; and in any event it is not current f or longer than a year.
– There is no property in a licence.
– The honorable gentleman may put it as he likes. There is such a thing as the equitable treatment of those who hold licences. This Government decided to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to sell their equity to any one who would purchase it from them. Not at any time did it intend to force them to make a sale to somebody whom either the Government or Opposition members do or do not like.
The second great weakness in the case put up in connexion with the negotiations between Mr. Richards and Mr. Alderman about the option which Mr. Richards held, is that the Leader of the Opposition has forgotten the date on which Mr. Richards took his option. It was the 9th January, 1941, at which time the Labour party was not in power. The grant of a licence was within the gift of a government in which the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister and Senator McLeay was the PostmasterGeneral. So that, in the fantastic story conjured up to-day by the Leader of the Opposition, his own Government becomes particeps criminis.
– The Leader of the Opposition has quoted from the files. That is more than the Minister is prepared to do.
– I not only quoted from the file last week, but also made it available to the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). I suppressed nothing. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted, not only that I made the files available tohim, but also that it contains every relevant document. We have neither suppressed nor distorted anything; therefore, we have nothing to hide. We do not agree that a royal commission should inquire into baseless charges, or embark on a muck-raking escapade to help honorable gentlemen opposite to rehabilitate their fallen political fortunes.
– The Minister did not know what was on the file. Even the Prime Minister said that the February agreement was not on the file.
– Facts are strange things to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). He makes wild statements, and his hyperbolical language is not matched by that of any other honorable member. When the Prime Minister said that if the Opposition would lay charges he would adopt a certain course, the honorable member for Wentworth and his leader were immediately deflated, and they have not since opened their mouths on that aspect of the matter.
I could tell an interesting story of all the broadcasting licences that have been issued to date. I related last week the circumstances in connexion with the issue of a licence to station 3XY. I then made the charge, which has not been refuted, that that station was promised to the returned soldiers of Victoria, and that a United Australia party government stole the licence from them and gave it to its friends. That is true. There was very considerable protest from the leaders of the returned soldiers at the time. If honorable gentlemen opposite will closely study the newspaper file of the period, they will find that what I have said is perfectly true. Last week, I made some references to a licence that had been issued to the Graziers Association. I am now in a position to tell the committee the interesting story that is associated with that episode. If ever it were proposed to nationalize broadcasting stations or anything else, honorable gentlemen opposite would be the first to object, because their friends “got in on the ground floor” when wireless licences were being issued, and still hold the majority of the stations. The story in relation to the granting of a licence to the Graziers Association of New South Wales is an interesting one. On the 23rd January, 1933, while Sir Archdale Parkhill was Postmaster-General, the Postal Department informed Mr. R. G. Lamb, c/o Noble Douglass and Company, 18 Martin-place, Sydney, that it was prepared to authorize a power of 2,000 aerial watts for a broadcasting station to be erected at Meadow Flat, near Bathurst. On the 14th February, 1933, a company to be known as 2LE Radio Corporation Limited was to be formed, with a capital of 20,000 shares at £1 each. On the 9th January, 1934, the department was informed that the South British National Trust Limited was financing the 2LE project. On the 9th August, 1934, the Sydney Morning Herald indicated that a royal commission was to be appointed by the New South Wales Government to inquire concerning the activities of investment companies owned by the McArthur group that were operating in New South Wales, and the South British National Trust Limited was mentioned as one of the companies. When I made my charge last week, the Leader of the Opposition, in his elegant phraseology, shouted “ Liar “. The facts, of course, refute him. On the 8th November, 1934. the Postmaster-General’s Department informed the 2LE Radio Corporation of the withdrawal of its letter of approval for the grant of a licence. The Public Trustee, who had been appointed to look after the interests of the unfortunate people who had been fleeced by the McArthur group of scoundrels and to administer the affairs of the British National Trust Limited and the other companies concerned, desired that the offer of the department to grant a licence to 2LE should stand, in order to conserve some return for a large number of shareholders who had suffered financially. The Graziers Association then came into the picture. It had been pressing since September, 1932, for a licence for a station near Bathurst. It had been suggested in October, 1932, that the association might get in touch with this group of scoundrels, the 2LE Radio Corporation, for the purpose of coming to a joint arrangement whereby it would have a share in the proposed station. These negotiations took place in 1934, but consequent upon the royal commission and the withdrawal of the approval to grant a licence to the 2LE Radio Corporation, the department informed the Graziers Association on the 8th February, 1935,” that it would grant a licence to the association for the Orange district, on the understanding that a share in the station would be granted to the Public Trustee. On the 16th April, 1935, a licence was granted under the title 2GZ, to the Country Broadcasting Service Limited, for a station at Orange. The Public Trustee of “New South Wales was granted 1,500 £1 deferred shares. The capital of this company was 50,000 £1 shares, divided into 48,500 £1 ordinary and 1,500 £1 deferred shares. So far as can be ascertained, no other broadcasting licence issued was implicated in the 2LE case. The licence should have been issued to the Public Trustee, and should not have been given to the Graziers Association on the condition that it gave 1,500 of its 50,000 shares to the representative of the people who had been fleeced when they had put their money in the company which originally had been given the licence. If ever there has been a scandal in connexion with the issue of a broadcasting licence, it was associated with the issue of the licence to 2GZ. That licence was issued on the 8th November, 1934, by Senator the Honorable A. J. McLachlan as Postmaster-General in the anti-Labour government of that day.
The story of 2HD and SKA has now been told several times. The Leader of the Opposition has been motivated by the greatest desire to cover up the charges which he made last Thursday. He has tried to extricate himself from the outrageous attacks which he made on the leaders of several religious organizations. He has again demonstrated his unfitness for political leadership in this country. He has blundered egregiously by his gratuitous insults to decent, honorable people, and thus has prevented the rebuilding of his party. To-day, he has made fresh charges in the hope that his first insults will be forgotten. Neither his first nor his last insults will be forgotten. His charges are without foundation, his accusations are baseless. There is not the slightest justification for a royal commission or any other form of inquiry. Opportunities for the fullest inquiry have been available to the BroadcastingCommittee. Opportunities will be offered in the future to the members of that committee, if they so desire, to investigate the position further. The Opposition has four representatives on the committee. This latest activity of a so-called “fighting Opposition” demonstrates its unfitness ever again to be trusted with the government of this country. Its members do not deserve even the title of “ a fight ing Opposition”. The only title to which they can lay claim is that of “ a mud-slinging Opposition “.
.- Unlike the Minister (Mr. Calwell), who has just completed his speech, I shall not appeal for judgment in this matter to a committee which is strictly bound by the caucus majority. All that the motion asks - and I make no apology for supporting it - is that all the facts shall be submitted to the arbitrament of a royal commission. In recentdays, honorable members opposite have applauded the judgment of certain royal commissions, and have castigated very severely any suggestion from this side which might be interpreted as impugning their integrity or their findings. If that be their view, I cannot understand why they should be so fearful of placing before a royal commission all the facts that have been so clearly placed before this chamber this evening. The Minister shed “ crocodile tears “ about the effect on the reputations of certain church leaders. In refusing to allow these matters to be investigated and finally settled by a judicial tribunal, he is allowing those church leaders to remain under what he regards as a stigma. Is he afraid to trust the reputations of these church leaders to a royal commission? He has in his usual way endeavoured to burke the question, and to answer logic with clamour. ‘ I do not wish to leave this matter to the judgment of the committee, or to remit it to the. Broadcasting Committee. I challenge the Minister to state that the Broadcasting Committee was made aware of the fact that the .South Australian Branch of the Australian Labour party was to get a one-fifth share in the station without paying anything for it. Evidently the Minister does not propose to reply. I speak as a Methodist when I say that I wish I could feel as comfortable over this matter as some of my co-religionists purport to feel. I am not questioning the association of the Labour party with the Methodist ‘Church. As a matter of fact, I believe that the Labour party was born in the Methodist Church, and if it had maintained that association it would have saved itself from a lot of criticism. However, I do question the action of the Methodist Church in making free gifts of this kind to the Labour party. If the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) were in the chamber, I should ask him whether gift duty has been paid on this money. i know the Reverend Samuel Forsyth better than do some of those who have spoken for him to-night, and I do not question his integrity.
– The honorable member’s leader did.
– But I do question the business capacity of the church leaders. It is notorious that doctors and parsons are as manna from heaven to the go-getters. The Minister for Information said that Mr. Alderman was acting as trustee for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and was bound to see that he made the best sale of their assets. Mr. Alderman knew that the physical assets of the stations were valueless without a licence. Incidentally, I was amazed to hear repeated to-night the statement made by the Minister for Information last week that when the High Court declared to be invalid the regulations under which Jehovah’s Witnesses were deprived of their licence, there was a moral obligation upon the Government to restore their property, including the licence. If that were really so, I want to know why the Government did such an immoral thing as to refrain from restoring the licence.
– The Government did restore the licence, and permitted it’ to be sold.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.There was no provision whatever for the sale of the licence. It is evident that the Minister for Information does not even know his brief. Mr. Alderman had business acumen enough to know that if he could have offered to the Central Methodist Mission in Adelaide, or to the Diocesan Council in Newcastle, not only the physical assets of the stations concerned, but also the licences, he could have demanded a great deal more than £8,400 for the Adelaide stations and £17,500 for the Newcastle station. This is a matter which, obviously, should be investigated by a royal commission. In his own interests, the Prime Minister should agree to the request for such an inquiry. To-night, the right honorable gentleman treated us to a sorry spectacle. In reply to a question some time ago, he gave an answer which was palpably erroneous. He was given an opportunity to escape by saying that he had been misinformed, but he repeated the statement. To-day, the ground was cut from under his feet by the unrefuted statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Therefore, in the interests of the Prime Minister himself, this Parliament, and the church leaders concerned, it is imperative that this matter be referred to a royal commission for investigation.
– I am astounded that a gentleman who occupies an honoured position in the church life of the community should be prepared to identify himself with some of the statements that have issued from the Opposition side of the committee, statements which impugn the honour and good name of some of those who stand highest in the Methodist Church. He does himself very little credit by associating himself with such an attack. To-night, he gained a little more courage than he was .able to summon up when this matter, was under discussion last week. Then, when the call came to this side of the chamber, he jumped up in his place as if he were determined to say something, but when the call went to the Opposition side,’ he sat tight in his seat. His methods are not overlooked by those who value consistency and straight dealing. Politics have become a wretched thing when such charges can be made against men and institutions of the highest standing. I know the persons concerned even more intimately than does the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I have lived in the same community with them for more than 40 years, and have been associated with them in church activity and in the ordinary life of the community. The Reverend George “White, the Reverend Samuel Forsyth, and the Honorable R. S. Richards are men of outstanding character, whose honour stands as high as that of any other men in Australia. They would be the last to identify themselves with anything that was in the slightest degree questionable or irregular. Therefore, it ill-becomes any one who ought to be acquainted in some degree with the fine work of the Central Methodist Mission to attempt to besmirch the names of such men.
– We desire to clear their names.
– The honorable member for Parramatta does not desire to clear their names. He only wishes to score a political advantage, and in doing so is prepared to impugn the honour of fine men and to besmirch sacred institutions. It is almost twelve months since this deal was completed and the licence granted, yet not one word was said on the subject by members of the Opposition until last week. The matter was reviewed by the Broadcasting Committee, on which members of the Opposition sit. If they believed that there was anything irregular in the transaction, and remained silent so long, they failed in their duty. Is it likely that if there was anything sinister or irregular in the transaction every detail regarding it would be recorded on the file for any one to inspect? As a matter of fact, everything connected with the matter can be justified by an inspection of the file itself There is no charge that anything is missing from the file. The Opposition is even prepared to admit that the agreement whichhas been criticized is on the file. Everything relating to the deal is there. Mr. Richards hit the nail on the head when he said that this outburst of the Opposition was the result of the increasing popularity of station 5KA, and that the party representing the interests of its competitors had been instructed to try to destroy the good name of a formidable rival.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that he agreed that the voice of Labour should be heard over the air. If his words are worth anything there should be no objection to the voice of the Labour party being thus heard in South Australia. Until this arrangement, the party led by the Premier of South Australia, which is of similar political colour to the Opposition in this Parliament, monopolized broadcasting facilities in South Australia, and the Labour party’s voice was unheard. Week after week the Premier of South Australia used station 5AD to enunciate the policy and beliefs of his party, and there was no way in which we could express our view with equal effect. Moreover, the Government party had a virtual monopoly of the press; it has always been felt that the same prominence was rarely, if ever, given in the newspapers to the words of Mr. Richards as was given to those of Mr. Playford. It was vital that the Labour party, which represents a substantial part of public opinion in South Australia, should have means to make its views known. This actuated Mr. Richards to secure an option over the assets of the 5KA and 5AU wireless stations. The arrangement now operating in South Australia, by which the Labour party is able to give expression to its opinions, has the endorsement of all religious thought and the community generally in South Australia, and it is an appropriate arrangement that the various religious communities should share a common interest in this broadcasting enterprise. The extravagant and reckless charges of the Leader of the Opposition supported by the honorable member for Parramatta will be repudiated by the people of that State, particularly by the members of the very denomination for which the honorable member for Parramatta professes sympathy and regard. The parties to the agreement are men of integrity, and the deal was honest in every way. The broadcasting committee on which the Opposition is represented and which had the opportunity to review the whole matter neither raised objection to the deal nor questioned the methods adopted in its completion. Therefore, I am justified in saying that this matter had been raised for sordid political purposes. It is a miserable manoeuvre designed to restore the Opposition to political favour, but I am sure that after the facts of this transaction have been placed before the people, there will be indignation that public men should have lent their support to such ungenerous and reckless expressions as have been used by the Leader of the Opposition.
– My knowledge of this matter is confined to what I have heard in the debate. I do not associate myself with charges of corruption against the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) or the Methodist Church. I see no grounds for suggesting corruption, and, therefore, I make it quite clear that I do not think that it exists. But I do say that there are circumstances of the transactions which call for an investigation. The Government should welcome the suggestion made by a man occupying the responsible position of Leader of the Opposition that there should be investigation of the circumstances. If it has nothing to hide, there should be no reason why it should not agree to an investigation. I have sought to take an impartial view of the matter. I can understand the reaction of any Minister who considers that a charge of corruption has been made against him, because I am used to baseless charges hurled by members of the Government against this side. I have always sought to avoid making charged which cannot be established. Therefore, I approach this matter dispassionately. It is quite wrong that the Methodist Church should be dragged into the discussion. When I heard the speeches of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) I thought of the expression, “ How these Christians love one another “. The Methodist Church is not involved in this matter, because I have no doubt that before the transaction was completed the church was led to believe that Mr. Richards held an option under which he had certain rights. I think that that inference can be drawn from the facts revealed in this discussion. I have no doubt that following upon the assurance that there was a preliminary agreement, either written or oral, under which Mr. Richards had certain rights, the Labour party was given the interest which it has in station 5KA. That is a very likely construction to place upon the facts, and if it is the correct construc tion, the Methodist Church should be dissociated from this discussion.
The first question is whether there was an option. That seems to be the very gist of this matter. If there was, I see nothing wrong in the transaction at all.
– What about the Newcastle transaction? There was no option there.
– I am dealing with the South Australian transaction at the moment. There was nothing wrong in the transaction if there was an option. There would be wrong in it only if there were no option or if the option were a sham or illusory, and if some one having final determination of the matter had received money as an inducement to neglect his duty in the interests of a certain political organization or had given preference to the Labour party because of political affiliations. So I ask whether there was an option.
– There was an option.
– The honorable gentleman’s statement does not altogether convince me. Three or four times I have heard him say that there was an option away back in January, 1941. I heard the honorable gentleman’s defence on behalf of the Government. As one who supports the motion, I say that I could have made a better defence myself. The honorable gentleman did not answer the allegations. ‘He evaded the issues. He said that this matter was dealt with by the Broadcasting Committee, but it was not, as I shall show. Instead of trying to answer the charges, the honorable gentleman used the subterfuge of making a counter-allegation, which is no answer. The statement that the Broadcasting Committee dealt with the matter is also no answer at all, for two good reasons. The first is that no member of the committee knew that Mr. Richards claimed to have an option. Secondly, no member knew that under the arrangement the Labour party was to receive an interest of a substantial financial character for no consideration at all. Both facts are obvious. Therefore, it is useless for the honorable gentleman to talk about what took place before the Broadcasting Committee. One gets back to the facts. I deal with objective facts and I do not make charges. I know how easy it is to make charges and how difficult it is to refute them. The facts are: Jehovah’s Witnesses were given hack their property and their licence to broadcast, as the result of a decision of the High Court. I quite agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that no legal obligation existed for the return of the licence.
– They could deal only with the assets, not with the licence.
– I agree that legally that is so, but morally, once the High Court gave its decision, it was proper to restore Jehovah’s Witnesses to exactly the position they occupied before the actions of the Commonwealth on which the High Court adjudicated. After that judgment Jehovah’s Witnesses had the legal right to certain assets and the moral right to the licences. The transactions were carried out in each case by Mr. Alderman, K.0. I do not know how a King’s counsel came to be a commercial agent.
– The legal set-up in South Australia is different from that in New South Wales.
– That may be. However, I do not make any comment about that. I shall deal with the facts objectively. Mr. Alderman dealt with two properties, one in Adelaide, and the other in Newcastle ; and in both instances the terms and conditions were exactly the same. That is my first point. My second point is that in one case his effort was abortive, and in the other it came to fruition. When I find a similarity of approach in two instances, I seek explanation in the approach in the case that came to fruition, and what do I find? Mr. Alderman asserts that when he went to Melbourne he was approached by Mr. Richards, who asked by telegram for the first option on station 5KA, as I understand it, on behalf of the Labour party. He said that he would give the first option to the Labour party. It was not, however, until the 21st September, after the statement of Mr. Alderman had been made before the Broadcasting Committee, that Mr. Richards publicly said: “I had an option”. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I asked whether he knew what were claimed to be the terms of that option. We are entitled to that information, because from that option sprang the right which the Labour party now has in station 5KA. On that option, indeed, is based the only case that can be made out in favour of granting to a Labour government, or any government - not as a government, but as a political party - something for nothing. That is the crux of the matter. If there was an option, and it was sold, I can see nothing wrong with it; but if there was no option, there is everything wrong with the transaction.
– Mr. Alderman gave evidence that he gave an option.
– I have heard people very often say certain things, but often they have been proved to be wrong. In some cases, probably, their memory was faulty. I make no allegation at all against Mr. Alderman; but I say that it is no answer to the objective facts I am putting to the committee to say what Mr. Alderman, or Mr. Richards, has said, because it is obvious that those gentlemen are not telling the same story. I am not attempting to judge between them. I want to know from a representative of the Ministry - and surely this information can be given now in view of the statement by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) that there was an option in January, 1941 - what were the terms of the option? Was it in writing? From whom to whom was it given? And what consideration was given for it?
– Mr. Alderman said in his evidence–
– I am asking the Government to answer those questions. I shall not be balked by what somebody is alleged to have said. I am trying to deal with the matter objectively. I am not concerned with any political advantage in this matter, but solely with upholding the reputation of this Parliament and the integrity of government, regardless of party. If there be anything wrong with this transaction it does not follow that any individual Minister is responsible for it. I do not approach the matter in that way. But if there is anything wrong with it, the facts must be brought to the light of day. If the Government can answer the questions I have just asked I shall not support the motion. But if it will not, I shall. I repeat my questions: When was the option given, and from whom to whom ? Was it in writing, or was it oral? What was the consideration given for it? When did that option come to he exercised, and on whose behalf was it exercised-, and who supplied the money for its exercise? They are fair questions, and if the Government cannot answer them, as it should do so for the benefit of the committee, I say simply that the matter calls for investigation.
– Does the honorable member agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Methodist Church is corrupt?
– The Minister for Information will not divert me in my approach to this matter. I cannot understand the Government refusing to answer the questions, because inherent in the case of the station in Adelaide is the fact that the Labour party has received a substantial benefit. The Labour .party was in office in this Parliament; and there are officials throughout the Administration who support the Labour party, and who would permit this transaction to take place in spite of the advice given by the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles. Either the Labour party put up money for its own benefit, or it did not. That is the whole point. Therefore, the real issue comes back to the questions I have asked with respect to the option. I say frankly that I have no desire to support the amendment merely because it has been moved by an honorable member on this side. I say simply that the objective facts call for investigation. Should the Government answer adequately and satisfactorily the questions I have asked, I cannot imagine that any honorable member would want an investigation. In any event I would not say that I want a royal commission because, with some knowledge of the the history of royal commissions, I am not always impressed by their labours. A committee of this Parliament properly going about its job should be quite competent to arrive at the facts and report back to the Parliament.
– The honorable member knows more about getting his brotherinlaw out of internment.
– I shall not engage in mud-raking with the Minister. This debate has been marked- by histrionics and by declamations. Ministers, particularly, have attempted to answer these allegations by all kinds of histrionics. They do not make much impression on me in a matter of this kind. I say again, and, simply, that the Government should give to the committee and the people of this country, the answers to the questions I have asked. Was there an option? Where is the option ? Did any one supply any consideration for the ‘benefits that the Labour (party received as the result of the granting of this licence? If, in point of fact, the Government cannot answer those questions light is then thrown upon the negotiations in respect of station 2HD Newcastle, because in that instance Mr. Alderman for some reason, which, at some time, he might be given an opportunity to explain to competent counsel, said, in substance, that if the terms were agreed upon in that case it would be “ a good thing “, and if they were not it would not be a good thing. L think that I could ask him a few pertinent questions on that point. I repeat that the Government does not defend itself by making allegations about what took place in 1935. That is an old manoeuvre to which the Minister for Information repeatedly has recourse and it is useless for Ministers, as some are in the habit of doing in order to divert attention from an issue they want to evade to make abusive remarks about honorable members on this side. The issue as I see it, is whether the Government can answer to this committee’s satisfaction the questions I have asked. If it cannot, I shall support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I shall not claim, like some honorable members opposite, that I have examined the file in this matter ; but I have listened attentively to the speeches made so far in this debate and I am very pleased to learn that the honorable member for .Warringah (Mr. Spender) is against the Government. I should have been greatly disturbed about the fate of the amendment were he with the Government, because I remember that on a recent occasion when he sided with the Government it did not do so well. The arguments advanced by honorable members opposite lead me to the conclusion that the time has arrived when the Government should consider whether it should not put a stop to trafficking in broadcasting licences by nationalizing the industry. I am amazed at the poor case put up by honorable members opposite, particularly because they entered the contest with such vigour as would lead one to believe that they would establish a case that would warrant some form of inquiry. I am also amazed that the Labour party has acted with such restraint in its efforts in the past to enable the voice of Labour to be heard over the air in this country. The anti-Labour parties, of course, have their special methods of achieving their own objective in that direction. They have their auxiliaries, such as the Graziers Association, to which past governments have granted broadcasting licences, with the result that to-day the great majority of broadcasting stations in this country are controlled by antiLabour organizations. I believe that the Labour party should long ago have set out on a campaign to obtain broadcast licences in order to enable the voice of Labour to be heard over the air. If the churches have now come to the conclusion, like so many other sections of the community, that the only hope for the country is to keep the Labour party in office, and such bodies want to co-operate with the Labour party in the acquisition of .broadcasting licences, it is all to their credit, because it shows that they are approaching the nation’s problems in a practical way. However, we might examine the granting of licences in respect of other stations. I mention, for instance, station 2CH Sydney, with which the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was associated. That licence was granted to the Council of Churches, and the honorable member came to the assistance of that body by helping it to finance the station by the purchase of equipment. Quite recently, acting like many other professing Christians, the honorable member decided to sell out his interest in that station; and I understand that he sold it to Amalgamated Wireless
Australia Limited at a very remunerative figure. Having thus withdrawn his support from the Council of Churches, he immediately became consciencestricken, and decided to give a farming property to that body. The honorable member, who made insulting ‘remarks to me, probably would like a royal commission to be appointed to inquire into the granting of the licence in respect of station 2CH, in order to afford to him the opportunity to state exactly to what degree he provided financial support to the Council of Churches, and how much, he personally derived from that transaction.
– I have no objection to that station being included’ in the terms of reference to a royal commission.
– Perhaps the honorable member could go back a little further and explain where he got the money to purchase the equipment for that station in the first place. If honorable members opposite really want an investigation of this subject, let it be a thorough investigation. When the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was speaking, I asked whether he favoured the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the source of the funds of all political parties, because the charge, if it can be called such, made against this Government is that it played a part in some arrangement whereby the Labour party gained an interest valued at £2,400 in a broadcasting station in Adelaide, although it had not disbursed one penny in respect of that consideration. No charge has been made that any individual member of the Labour party has gained as the result of that transaction. The charge made is that this consideration amounted to a direct contribution to the funds of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite declare that that is wrong and improper. I have often wondered where anti-Labour parties obtained their funds. If the Opposition wants a royal commission, let us have an inquiry into the sources of all party funds. That suggestion does not evoke much enthusiasm among honorable members opposite. They do not want a royal commission into that subject. The honorable member for Fawkner asked for a royal commission, the terms of which would be decided nth conference between the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
– Yes, as was done with the appointment of the royal commission on “ the Brisbane line “.
– Honorable members opposite want to “cook” the terms of reference so that the inquiry will be held into only those aspects which they want investigated. I welcomed, and would still welcome, an inquiry into the charges that I made regarding “ the Brisbane line but honorable members opposite wanted the terms of reference to be so framed as to prevent me from submitting to the royal commissioner the evidence which I possessed. When the report of the royal commission was received, they told the Prime Minister, “ This must not end the case, because the honorable member for East Sydney has avoided giving evidence by claiming parliamentary privilege “. They were going to do all kinds of things, such as demanding the appointment of a parliamentary committee with full powers to examine -all the evidence. What happened? When the report was being dealt with in this House, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who had been very vocal until that time, ran away. The only one who was left here was the poor little office boy, the honorable member for Fawkner, who had to put up the best case he could for the Opposition. Those honorable gentlemen now ask for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the transaction relating to the sale of two broadcasting stations. Many royal commissions have conducted investigations of a variety of matters, and they have proved abortive. They have been a harvest for lawyers. No wonder all the lawyers ask for a royal commission 1 If they want a royal commission now, let us have one that will be of some use. Let us have an inquiry into’ the source of all party funds. Then we shall probably get somewhere. I do not know Mr. Alderman. I have no recollection of ever having met him. Nor have I had an opportunity to examine the files. But I can see nothing improper in $ie,se dealings. Is it so amazing that a King’s counsel should be sympathetically disposed towards the Labour party? He had the opportunity to conduct negotiations for a transfer of a broadcasting licence, and stipulated, because he desired to help the Labour party, that the Labou’r movement should get a certain amount of free time and an interest in the station. Is anything wrong with that? I see nothing wrong with it.
– The Prime Minister denied that the Labour party got any advantage.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister denied any such thing. If the Labour party acquired an interest in a broadcasting station, or the right to free time over the air, obviously the transaction is an advantage to the organization, but what is wrong with that? I wish that I had the opportunity to do a little more for the Labour party, and I would make no apology for doing it. The implication contained in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition is that all the people concerned in this transaction were corrupt. This evening, the Leader of the Opposition attempted to escape from the unequivocal statement that he made last week that everybody connected with the deal was corrupt. That included the Central Methodist Mission of Adelaide. There is no doubt in my mind that the Opposition has attempted to make a great deal out of very little. For the benefit of these moralists who talk about the impropriety of the deal in which the Labour party has been involved, I desire to make a brief reference to one particular incident. The Leader of the Opposition, who demanded a royal commission to inquire into these particular transactions, said that it was improper for the Labour party to obtain an interest in a broadcasting station for which it had not paid anything. When the right honorable gentleman was AttorneyGeneral in the Lyons Government, he appeared before the Privy Council for the Commonwealth of Australia. For that he was paid as Attorney-General, and his expenses were paid by the Commonwealth Government. Despite that fact, he accepted a fee of 2,000 guineas from the Government of Victoria for representing it in the same case, although his appearance on behalf of that State did not entail one ounce of additional effort on his part. It must be obvious to every one that the sole purpose of members of theOpposition is to attempt to turn an ordinary business deal into something shady, so that they may derive political advantage from it. Therefore, I support my colleague the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who has submitted an unanswerable case.
Before concluding, I repeat that I would welcome an inquiry by a royal commission, not with limited terms of reference, but with power to investigate the sources of all party funds. I have heard that all sorts of commercial interests in this country support political parties.Why do they do so? For favours to be done after the party is returned to office ! I have long been interested to know the source of party funds and what strings are attached to them. Therefore, if honorable members opposite want a royal commission, let the terms of reference be as wide as possible.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. “Calwell) declared that Mr. Alderman, K.C., of Adelaide, gave evidence before the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee, and therefore, that cleared up the case. I differ from the view expressed by the Minister, and I believe that Mr. Alderman would be one of the first to admit that his statement on this matter would not necessarily clear up the case from the standpoint of either the Government or the Opposition. According to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), Mr. Alderman was not called before the committee to give evidence on this transaction, but he referred to it when he was discussing another proposal that was being investigated by the committee in Tasmania.
– Mr. Alderman spoke about the deal for 25 minutes, and covered every detail. The honorable member for Wilmot could have questioned him, but he remained silent.
– The Minister was good enough to lend me the evidence a few days ago, and having read it carefully, I contend that Mr.
Alderman’s statement to the Broadcasting Committee does not settle the matter. Mr. Alderman did not intend his remarks to settle it. In his evidence given to the Broadcasting Committee, several matters wore mentioned. The Minister referred also to the sale of commercial broadcasting licences. I have occupied the position of Postmaster-General and on one occasion I issued a licence to the Labour party’s station, 2KY. One of the first things that a Postmaster-General must learn is that the licences are the property of the Commonwealth. They are never sold by the Commonwealth.
– I said that there was no prescriptive right to a frequency.
– My point is that the licence is always the property of the Commonwealth, and cannot be trafficked in. I well remember that in the few months when I was Post- master-General, a person in New South Wales, who had secured a broadcasting licence, did not desire to erect a station and wanted to sell the licence. I refused to allow the sale, and put him in the position of either erecting the station in conformity with the undertaking that he gave when the licence was issued, or returning the ‘licence to the Commonwealth. That, point is important in this discussion.
The actual facts, if investigated, will prove that this matter was before the High Court for some time. During that period, a change of Government took place. While the matter was sub judice, it was not proper for the previous Government to issue the licence to any one else, or to compel thu holders of it to dispose of their assets. The station was closed at the instigation of one of the armed services, because of the subject-matter that was being broadcast. I have some knowledge of that. When the matter of the reissue of this licence arose - I use deliberately the word “ re-issue “ - it was obvious that notwithstanding the judgment of the High Court the services would take a deep interest in any move to give the licence to the previous holders. Whilst the High Court may have declared that those people had been wrongly dealt with by the previous Government, it never at any stage of the proceedings declared that they should be allowed to broadcast in the way that they had been doing. The property belonged to them and they were entitled to it, but the licence was Commonwealth property and the Commonwealth could dispose of it in any way it chose.
Having clarified that point, I come to the questions that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) raised. I know intimately some of the people whose names have been mentioned in this debate. Mr. Alderman is a fairly close friend of mine. The Reverend Samuel Forsyth I know moderately well. No man in South Australia in his calling has done more in the last fifteen years, according to his lights, than he has. That point is clear.
– It is not too clear to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
– On these matters, the Minister should be more restrained. If he will carefully study the passages that he read from Hansard to-night, he will see that the Leader of the Opposition applied his remarks about corruption to those who were guilty of it. He did not say who they were. Obviously, he could not know who they were, for the simple reason that at that stage he was asking for an impartial inquiry to determine whether there had been any corruption, and, if so, who had been guilty of it. This matter cannot be settled in the way that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) chose. I say, with great respect to his high office, that he cannot adopt the attitude of the injured innocent and regard that as the end of the story. This is not a question of whether the Prime Minister issued this licence or whether he was guilty of something. Regardless of who happens to be Prime Minister, this matter affects the very heart of public administration in this country. As one who for a short time occupied the position of PostmasterGeneral and handled the matter of broadcasting licences, I do not care a hang bow wide the Government makes the terms of reference, or how many years the inquiry goes back. If anything wrong has been done in public administration, the man responsible, irrespective of his party, is not entitled to any protection. These matters cannot be glossed over by effective speechmaking by Ministers. No matter how vehement or excited Ministers become, these are ghosts that walk, and there is only one way in which to deal with them.
– By laying them !
– Yes. The Government must appoint a proper tribunal to inquire into every detail of these transactions. Strange as it may seem, I am for once in agreement with the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Nevertheless I have had the feeling upon more than one occasion that royal commissions have not carried out their real functions. There has been too much of a tendency, after their appointment, to contrive that certain facts did not come to light, rather than to ensure that all the facts should be revealed. The way in which they proceed to work does not appeal to me at all.
– The honorable member could not say that of the royal commission which inquired into the censorship.
– I have said nothing about that commission, but some day I may do so, in which case the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.. Pollard) no doubt will, even if a little late, come into his own. Some royal commissioners seem to think that they siton a mountain, and that everybody has to labour up and bow before them when they are asked to make an inquiry. Such an attitude does not suit my book at allIf they accept a commission, they should satisfy their minds as to what is wrong, not adopt the customary attitude of aloofness and inaccessibility. Legal gentlemen are appointed to assist the commissioners, and on occasions I very much doubt whether these persons are of any assistance at all in the conduct of an inquiry. So far as I am concerned, the Government can make the investigation into this case as wide as it likes, and as retrospective as it likes. It will not worry me. There is evidently something in the case which requires clearing up. It should bc explained and clarified. Until that is done, I fear that the Government will find it difficult to convince not only our side but also the floating vote of this country that the transaction has been fair and above board. Certain statements which have been attributed to a bishop of the Anglican Church in correspondence with the PostmasterGeneral have been read in this chamber, and require clearing up. I warn the Minister for Information that it is usually a little difficult to get away from anything when the name of a bishop is attached to it. There again everything points to the necessity for a thoroughgoing investigation of these transactions. If it involves going back into other wireless transactions, let that be done. If it causes the cancellation of certain licences which have been granted, in order that justice may be done, let that position be faced also.
Mr. CHAMBERS (Adelaide) [11.28J. - I am surprised and disgusted at the attitude adopted by members of the Opposition upon thi? issue. It is amazing that, although there is and has been for the last twelve months a broadcasting committee, including Opposition members such as Senator Herbert Hays, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), which lias in et on many occasions during the life of this Parliament, not once has a member from either side expressed doubt of the legality of the agreement in relation to station 5KA Adelaide. The attempts made to-night by members of the Opposition to separate the Labour party from the religious organizations which are linked up with 5KA have also been astonishing. There is no doubt that in last Thursday’s debate, members of the opposition linked together all the persons and bodies associated with the agreement, including the Central Methodist Mission, the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Bishop of Adelaide, Mr. Richards, M.L.A., and the Worker’s Weekly Herald, but to-night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), apparently recognizing that he had made a grave error so far as his own party was concerned, has attempted in the amendment which he has moved to confine his charges to the Australian Labour party, and to withdraw the accusations against the Central Methodist Mission and the other religious denominations. Another interesting feature of to-night’s debate is that members of the Opposition are inclined to omit station 5KA from their arguments, and to enlarge upon the Newcastle station 2HD. I agree with the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) that it is only right and proper for the Labour party in South Australia to have a voice over the air. I have yet to hear any specific charge of dishonesty made by members of the Opposition so far as the Labour party’s participation in 5KLA is concerned. I was recently in Tasmania with the broadcasting committee, which inquired into certain matters in relation to station 7DY, which asked permission to transfer the licence from its present location in Derby to the Midlands. Various organizations applied for the right to purchase shares in station 7DY. Although Government supporters have a majority on the committee, we did not adopt the policy which the Labour party is accused of favouring. We were prepared to grant station 7DY, if it so desired and if the PostmasterGeneral agreed, permission to transfer the licence, but the statement which appeared in a section of the press that we recommended that the Labour party should be given an interest in the station was completely untrue. We made no such recommendation, but it was significant that one of the applications for the right to purchase an interest in the station came from the Tasmanian branch of the United Australia party. Its attitude was that if the Labour party were given an interest in the station, the United Australia party also should have an interest; but, if the Labour party were not given an interest, the United Australia party would not want one either. ,So far as South Australia is concerned, station 5KA offers the only opportunity that the Labour party has ever had to put its case before the people. Until that occurred, it never had fair representation either in the press of that State or over the air.
No specific charges have been laid against the Government for its activities in connexion with station 5KA. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) challenged the Leader of the Opposition to make specific charges, but I agree with the Minister for Munitions that the Opposition has no desire to do so, nor does it really believe that there is anything dishonest in the transaction. It simply desires to throw mud at the Government, and to make political capital out of the whole business, but I am afraid that, instead of gaining any credit in South Australia, it has done itself and its supporters a grave injury, for its conduct will react in favour of the Labour party at the next general election. I have lived in Adelaide for practically the whole of my life, and I know the people concerned. I am confident that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will agree that during the whole of the time that the station has been on the air no public opposition has been raised to its management or to any agreement entered into in connexion with it.
– I am afraid that 1 cannot agree with the honorable member there.
– I have never heard of any such opposition. I have been in Adelaide as often as the honorable member has, and the only reference that I have heard to the station has been favorable. As the Minister for Munitions said, it is becoming too popular, and there are other interests, at whose instigation, I believe, the Opposition has tried to stir up mud and create in the minds of the Australian people the belief that something .dishonest is going on.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) ‘[11.27 J. - There appears to be some uneasiness on the part of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and other speakers on the government side lest a. certain amount of the mud stirred up in this debate should operate adversely to the Government or to the individuals concerned in the transactions under review. I suggest that the quickest and easiest way to dispel all doubts and suspicions is to throw the searchlight of an investigation upon the matter. Then any party which feels .that it is under suspicion will have the opportunity of vindicating itself. I have ‘been struck in this debate by the variety of defences put up by the Government side. We had first the extraordinary spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) taking his place at the table and virtually throwing his honour into the ring. The honour of the Prime
Minister has never been in question in this matter, nor is it likely to be,. There was no necessity for him to go to the extent that he did to-night, and I am sure that he knows that. His name does not come into the business in a personal way, but his administration is certainly involved. That administration is now under fire, and it is no defence to recite in a dramatic way the story of a blameless life, such as we know his to be, and to brush aside all the pertinent questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). In defence of the Government the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) put the Central Methodist Mission and certain other respectable organizations and individuals in the dock, exonerated them, and then charged the Opposition with having unjustly accused these innocent people of corruption. We are not making any charges against the Central Methodist Mission. We are charging the Government, and it is no defence for honorable members opposite to place an innocent person in the dock, allege that his character has been blackened, and then proceed to clear it. I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced from both sides of the chamber, and as one who has brought :i fresh mind to this matter, I believe that there is a case to answer. That answer has not yet been given. It is asked : “ Where are the charges of corruption ? The charges of corruption are made by no less a person than the Bishop of Newcastle, who has said, “We are asked to be parties to what appears to be a corrupt proposition “ or words to that effect. Is not that a charge worthy of an answer? It is no defence of the Government to say that the Central Methodist Mission was involved in an allegedly corrupt deal because it made certain concessions to the Labour party. The evidence placed before this committee to-day suggests that the Methodist Mission, in seeking to obtain a broadcasting licence, was placed under duress, and was informed that unless it granted substantial concessions to the Labour party, its chances of obtaining a licence were not very good.
– The honorable member is making grave charges.
– In my opinion these charges merit a much more complete answer than has been given by Government spokesmen. The correspondence between Mr. Alderman and the Bishop of Newcastle showed that if the Church of England at Newcastle were willing to grant certain free broadcasting time, and an interest in station 2HD to the Labour party, the prospects of the licence being granted to the Church of England would be excellent, but that if these concessions were not made, the prospects of obtaining the licence would not be so good. “We can assume that a similar proposition was put to the Central Methodist Mission in Adelaide, and accepted. If these charges be not true, then the simplest way to disprove them is to grant the Opposition’s request for an inquiry.
– The request has been made on the flimsiest possible basis.
– In that case the Government will be cleared of these charges in a very short time, and there is no need for honorable members opposite to stall and to indulge in the obstructionist tactics that they have adopted to-night. One of the principal points made by the Minister for Munitions was that the file relating to this matter was quite open, and that no documents were missing; therefore, the whole transaction must be above board. Apparently, in the opinion of the Minister one has only to do something blatantly enough to get away with it.
– The file on this matter was available to the Broadcasting Committee had that body wished to peruse it. If theBroadcasting Committee did not examine the file, it was not doing its duty.
– We do not know exactly what was before the Broadcasting Committee. It has been stated in the course of this debate that the Broadcasting Committee was notaware that the Labour party was to receive an interest in the South Australian station.
– That is not true!
– That is the evidence we have heard to-night. As for the alleged impartiality of this mighty Broadcasting Committee, even Mr. Alderman believed it to be “ loaded “ because he represented that an application for a broadcasting licence would be granted because the Labour party would benefit.
– It is a wonder that members opposite sit on such a committee.
– It is a wonder to me, too. I assure the Minister that if the matter rested with me, members of the Opposition would not sit on that committee.
This matter must be cleared up. The only individuals who come out of the affair with credit are the high Government officials, such as the SolicitorGeneral, Sir George Knowles, who has said, “ I may add that it appears to me not to be in the public interest that broadcasting licences should be the subject of bargaining”. I should like to know whether the Broadcasting Committee took that opinion into consideration. In my view, the committee is worthless so far as matters such as this are concerned, and the sooner transactions of this kind are removed from its jurisdiction, the better. Let the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) assume full responsibility, and not fob it off on a committee which is not competent to handle matters such as this. I assure honorable members opposite that although by virtue of its majority the Government may succeed in burking an inquiry such as that suggested by the Opposition, the matter will not end there. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) expressed the opinion that the Opposition’s attitude on this occasion would react to the advantage of the Government at the next Commonwealth elections. I challenge that, and I believe that time will prove the honorable member to be quite wrong. If the Government is not prepared to expose this matter to the light of day, honorable members on this side of the chamber are at liberty to draw their own inferences. The points that have been raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) require an answer. One does not have to be a King’s Counsel, a barrister, or a solicitor, to know that if an option is to have any value, there must be some consideration in respect of it; but was consideration given for the alleged option in this case? Beyond the statements of Mr. Alderman and Mr. Richards, we do not know that an option was given. “Was it merely a verbal option - a request by Mr. Richards to have first opportunity to purchase? If, in fact no real option existed, then the whole transaction assumes a new light. The Government has power to grant enormous concessions of all kinds, and in the interests of the people generally that power should be exercised with the greatest impartiality. In this instance the challenge is that impartiality has not been shown, and that the Labour party has endeavoured to benefit itself by virtue of its occupation of the treasury bench. A strong case has been made out by the Opposition, and has not been answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) or by any other Minister. I support the motion.
– Any impartial person who listened to the debate which took place when this matter first came before honorable members last week, could have come to no other conclusion than that the Government had a case to answer, and should grant the Opposition’s request for a royal commission; but had that person listened also to the debate which has occurred to-night, he would have marvelled that the Government still resisted the demand for a royal commission. If ever a case has been made for the appointment of a royal commission it has been made on this occasion. It was amazing indeed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) should have .replied in such a dramatic manner to the charges that have been made against his Administration. The right honorable gentleman recounted his virtuous record, and then challenged the committee to make personal charges against him. The Opposition does not seek to make personal charges against the Prime Minister, except that the right honorable gentleman has been misled. Presumably the Prime Minister was acting upon advice, and apparently that advice was misleading. However, instead of making a specific answer to the charges, the right honorable gentleman dramatically assumed that his personal honesty had been impugned. That was a very clever move to draw attention from the charges made by honorable .members on this side of the chamber and substantiated by documentary evidence. Any other government would have acceded to a request for a royal commission, but the Prime Minister has persisted in his refusal. His attitude can only make the Opposition suspicious as to what the Government has to hide. I venture to suggest that in recent years royal commissions have been appointed to inquire into charges which have had much less foundation than those made by the Opposition to-day. I say that the Government is not game to appoint a royal commission to inquire into these matters. The Prime Minister evidently believed that an attitude of mock righteous indignation would appeal to the country; consequently he threw his prestige and honour into the ring, leaving the handling of the cast: for the Government to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who filled a similar role on the last occasion. If words mean anything, the disclosures which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made to-night indicate that there is something corrupt in regard to both transactions. If substantiation were needed, it has been provided by no less a person than the Bishop of Newcastle, who, in correspondence with the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and the department, said that the proposal appeared to the Diocesan Council to be corrupt. When the reverend gentleman was asked whether he had referred to the Minister, he disclaimed any such intention, but did not withdraw the charge of corruption.
– Why is it necessary to allege corruption? That word has grave implications, and involves a number of things. I believe that this matter should be investigated. If corruption is alleged, against whom is the allegation made?
– The Bishop of Newcastle, after the terms had been placed before him by Mr. Alderman, said that they had led the Diocesan Council to believe that the transaction was corrupt.
I should like the charges to be either substantiated or disproved. They have been made and theGovernment has a case to answer.
On the occasion of the last debate, the Minister for Information, who held the brief for the Government, said-
Mr. Alderman said in his evidence before the Broadcasting Committeethat he could have obtained more than £8,500 for the Adelaide station which he had sold to the Methodist Mission. He was asked by commercial and newspaper interests to sell to them and could have obtained £.15,000 or £16,000.
With that naivete that is characteristic of him, the honorable gentleman added -
Mr. Alderman adopts a certain attitude towards life, and considers that the Labour party is entitled to a share of theair.
I believe that Mr. Alderman is a prominent member of the Labour party in South. Australia.
– To the best of my belief, he is not a member of the Labour party.
– He has transacted a lot of business on behalf of the Government, and has an office at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, in which he does a lot of government work.
– Many other legal men of his standing do the same.
– They have not an office at Victoria Barracks. He is specially privileged. He said that he could have obtained much more than £8,500 from commercial interests for the Adelaide station, but omitted to say that those interests would refuse to be associated with the terms that he laid down for the acquisition of the station. I put it to him that, had he effected a sale to newspaper and commercial interests,he would not have obtained a solatium for the Labour party. Because they refused to be a party to such a transaction, he could not obtain £15,000 or £16,000 for a station that he subsequently sold for £8,500.
The Minister for Information attempted to justify the circumstances in which the Prime Minister left the chamber to-night. The right honorable gentleman would have done a great service to this country and to his party, and might have dispelled quite a lot of the suspicion which exists if, instead of adopting that dramatic attitude, he had attempted to answer the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition. No answer has been given to the case that has been presented, and it appears that the Government has no intention of answering it. The Minister for Information replied to our request for a royal commission, by stating that therewas nothing to prevent the Broadcasting Committee from investigating the matter further. Such a statement carries no conviction to a committee which has heard extracts from a letter in which Mr. Alderman, the commercial agent for the owners of station 2HD, advised the Bishop of Newcastle that he could not obtain the licence if he did not agree to the terms propounded, because the majority of the members of the Broadcasting Committee were Labour representatives, and the PostmasterGeneral would take notice of their recommendations. When analysed, the sideissues into which the Minister has wound his difficult way in an endeavour to divert the committee, merely prove quite clearly that there are no grounds for his assumption that the matter could be cleared up by an investigation by other than a royal commission. Obviously, on the statement of Mr. Alderman, the Broadcasting Committee is “ loaded “, because it contains a majority of Labour members who, obeying caucus dictation, vote as a body and make recommendations that will benefit the party. Mr. Alderman said that, if the matter were referred to them, he knew what they would do; consequently, he tried to extort a gift under what might be termed duress. There is no doubt of that in my mind.
The next speaker on the Government side was the Minister for Munitions, who said that this was an honest business deal. In the debate last week, the honorable gentleman tried to prove that Mr. Richards held an option on station SKA. That has been completely exploded by the Leader of the Opposition. Not one Minister or Government member has been prepared to take up the challenge of the honorable member for Warringah. The Minister for Munitions can establish the correctness of his statement by giving the information for which the honorable member for Warringah has asked. If he does not do that, I must charge him with having made a statement which he knew was not correct.
This transaction has outraged in every possible way all the known business conventions. I do not know of any business arrangement which follows the lines of these negotiations. In an honest business deal, this tortuous procedure would not be followed.
The Minister for Transport was a good “ sidewinder “ to the Minister for Information. I do not pay much attention to that honorable gentleman. His attack upon the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was in the worst possible taste. All I want to say to the Minister is that any attack which he might level against the honorable member for Parramatta would only enhance the prestige and reputation of that honorable member.
If any doubts as to the need for a royal commission existed after the debate last week, they have been resolved by the case that has been placed before the committee to-night. The House was told five times that the Postmaster-General’s Department had no knowledge of the February agreement, yet the files contain copies of it and correspondence relating to it, in addition to advice from Sir George Knowles to the Government against bargaining in the granting of wireless broadcasting licences. The tactics employed in connexion with the Adelaide station were repeated when efforts were made to sell the Newcastle station, and these were of such a character that the gravest strictures were passed on them by the Diocesan Council. Questions asked in this Parliament were not answered truthfully, and a veil of mystery was drawn over the transactions. In my opinion, the public demand for a royal commission will be strengthened unless the Government is prepared to “ come clean “ and answer the charges that have been made.
.- I do not propose to traverse at length ground that has been comprehensively covered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and subsequent speakers from this side of the chamber. It appears to me that this incident, which first arose from a request for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the granting of a broadcasting licence and the transfer of certain assets, has been lifted to a far more important plane. The absence of a decision will establish a precedent within this Parliament in relation to the reception given to such charges by ,a government. Under the British parliamentary system the practice from time immemorial has been to keep the government of the day beyond suspicion, and, if any circumstances ever arise in which the Government falls under suspicion the matter should be cleared up immediately. The accepted manner of investigating such a matter is to appoint a royal commission. I had thought that the two members of this Parliament, who, perhaps above all, were sticklers for the proprieties of the British parliamentary system of government were the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself and the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot readily recall a single instance of failure on the part of a Prime Minister in the past to conform to the traditional practice. I am sure that nobody can point to any action by the Leader of the Opposition as having been contrary to the practice, which we have inherited, and which we have the responsibility of safeguarding and passing on inviolate to those who come after us. The Leader of the Opposition, after twenty years of membership of Australian Parliaments, now says, “ Here are circumstances backed by indisputable facts A, B, and C, which make it appear, prima facie, that an improper course has been followed in the administration of this Government “. He asks that the Government should clear itself of any doubt or charge by the appointment of a royal commission to investigate fully the circumstances. My experience in this Parliament extends over only ten years, but never have I previously known the Leader of the Opposition to make a strong prima facie case for an investigation and the head of the Government to refrain from any reply to the charges. In this instance the Prime Minister has broken a precedent which has stood throughout our Parliamentary history. I know of no greater disservice that could be done to the people of Australia, or that is more seriously detrimental to the form of government that we all embrace, than for the Prime
Minister to refuse blankly to face up to a charge made by a former Prime Minister and the present Leader of the Opposition, backed up by a category of indisputable facts.
When these circumstances were first related in this House, the Prime Minister, having heard only the first few sentences uttered by the Leader of the Opposition, walked out of the chamber and did not return. He left three of his Ministers to reply to the charges, and two of them are not notorious for keeping any debate on a particularly high and unbiased plane. Charges of this nature cannot be replied to appropriately by counter charges. If any counter charges can and should be made, let them be stated. The Leader of the Opposition and those seated behind him have said that such counter charges could be included in the terms of reference to the royal commission, but it should not bc claimed that charges can be answered by counter accusations. It will be a sorry day for the Government, which almost invariably refers to itself as the Labour Government, if it thinks that it can clear itself of serious charges merely by referring to matters debuted at an election held twenty odd years ago, and asking, “What did you do in 1924?” Charges of this nature cannot be met by making counter allegations; they cannot be answered by hurling dirt, and there has been more than a fair share of that.
I do not imagine that the Prime Minister possesses sufficient authority to control his own Ministers. We have been forced to realize over a long experience that he is quite unable to control them. Therefore, I do not saddle him with responsibility for what his Ministers’ say, but to allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition of improper administration, nobody but the Prime Minister himself can reply. Driven from one side of the ring to the other, after the third week of this debate, the right honorable gentleman was eventually forced to rise to his feet, but not one word was uttered by him in rebuttal of the charges. No attempt was made to give a further explanation ; there was merely a dramatic gesture. No matter how dramatic the gesture might be, it provided no answer to concrete charges. It will be a bad day for this Parliament when a government may ignore serious charges because it has a sufficient number of supporters who are pledged and obliged to vote blindly for it, irrespective of their convictions. To what degree some members of the Labour party are obliged to do so has been exemplified in the most powerful way by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). I have the most lively recollection that, when the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill was before us, that Minister, who was then a private member, declared that in no circumstances would he bc found voting for the measure but eventually he did so.
– -Did not the Minister on that occasion second a motion in opposition to his own Government?
– Yes. That is an illustration of the complete regimentation of members behind the Government, and upon that fact the Prime Minister relies. On a previous occasion, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was Postmaster-General, an honorable member asked why a variation had taken place in the contract for additions to the Sydney General Post Office, and requested the appointment of a royal commission. The Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, replied : “ Very well. If there is the slightest scintilla of a suggestion that something improper has been done, let a royal commission be appointed.” Overnight, a commission was appointed. When the leader of my party was Prime Minister, and an honorable member on this side declared that certain dealings between the Government and some trade union leaders ought to be investigated, the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister, immediately said : “ Let us have a royal commission.”
What are the circumstances in this case? Stripped of all the murk and muck thrown by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Information, surely the fact is that a broadcasting licence can be issued by the Postmaster-General, which means, no doubt, by the Cabinet. That licence, beyond question, has a money value, and can be of use only to somebody who possesses tie necessary equipment to erect and operate a station. Because of the circumstances of war, it was not possible to replace the equipment or to purchase new equipment, so a gentleman was called in who has appeared in so many guises that it is almost’ impossible to follow him. He is King’s ‘ Counsel, adviser to the Government, arbitrator for the Government on certain matters, counsel for the Commonwealth in legal proceedings, counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a good friend of the Australian Labour party. He related to the Broadcasting Committee that he was authorized to sell the equipment, which, at that time, was the only equipment procurable in Australia with which the licence could be made effective. He has said : “ I asked the agent for Jehovah’s Witnesses to authorize realization of the assets of the station. I could have sold the station for £15,000 to a newspaper company, but I am a friend of the Labour party, and thought that it was entitled to a broadcasting station.” And he - the person authorized to realize on the assets of this corporate body which had virtually been put into liquidation - decided, as the friend of the Labour party, not to accept an offer of £15,000 from an Adelaide newspaper, but to offer the asset to the Central Methodist Mission for £S,400 subject to certain conditions of benefit to the Labour party. This has been represented to us as a straightout business transaction. Even if we go no further than the facts I have just related, it was a very curious sort of business transaction, and there would be ground for probing it, for seeking to learn why the asset had been disposed of in such a way. I pass by the points raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) regarding the nature of the alleged option, the consideration in respect to it, and the document in which it was embodied, and simply recall that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) told us that Mr. Richards held the option in his personal right, while Mr. Richards himself told the Broadcasting Committee that he held it on behalf of the Labour party. Putting aside those inexplicable and conflicting stories, I come ‘back to the fact, that it was proposed to issue the licence for the Newcastle station on. what appeared to have become the crystallized and stable terms for such transactions. They were something like this : “ You want a licence that has become available. All right, you pay so much for the apparatus without which you could not use a licence and then, if you have the right connexions, you get an assurance that, if you undertake to make over a certain proportion of your shares to the Labour party, or to some other body which acts as the agent of the Labour party, and if you agree to allot so much, time on the station to the Labour party, the licence will automatically issue “. It may be possible to explain away what appears to us on this side of the House, and to a large section of the public, to be incapable of explanation, but no real attempt has been made in this Parliament to explain it. Certainly no attempt was made by the Minister for Information, who has constituted himself principal spokesman for the Government. He first asked what the anti-Labour parties did in 1924, and apparently he felt that, by making charges against his opponents, he could divert attention from the charges which had been made against the Government. No more complete reply could bc made to his own charges than that offered by the Leader of the Opposition. However, the Leader of the Opposition has not taken his stand merely uponhis own refutation of the charges; he has said that if the Government wishes those charges to be investigated by a royal commission, let it :be clone by all means. Now, the stark fact still stands out that certain licences were available which could be issued, at the will of the Government in office, and the consideration in one case involved, not only .the giving of free broadcasting time to the Labour party, but also the. making over of shares of value to the Labour party.
Earlier this evening, the Prime Minister made it clear that he felt that, without some addition to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, they could only be construed as involving himself in a transaction touching money or some consideration of value, and that ho was not prepared to lie under such a charge. As I understand the facts of the case, the only consideration of value which it was suggested had passed in respect of the Adelaide station was shares to the value of £2,400, these having been allotted to the Workers’ Weekly Herald. Surely there is no room there for even the most active imagination to deduce that the Prime Minister himself had personally profited.
Mr.Menzies. - The Prime Minister acquitted himself of a charge never made against him.
– I do not wish to embark upon a discussion of the Prime Minister’s association with the matter. There cannot be the slightest justification for assuming that the Prime Minister, or any Minister, or any person has profited by the acquisition of money’ or shares. The chargeis that the Labour party has profited, and it is impossible to separate the fact that the Labour party has profited from the fact that a Labour Government is in office, lt was a Labour administration which approved the issue of a licence in the only circumstances in which the Labour party could profit. In an attempt
Vo avoid replying to the charges some honorable members have dwelt on the activities of a church organization. The church organization could not have acquired thelicence had it not bought the only apparatus available on condition that, having paid the full price for the apparatus, it should allot a. share in the asset thu.- acquired to the Labour party without receiving any consideration in return. Important as it is that this should be investigated, it is far more important that the Government should not establish the precedent that the Leader of the Opposition may make out so clearcut a case in support of his charge of improper conduct, without its drawing an effective reply from any member of the Government, or even a promise that the charge will be judicially examined.
Wednesday, 27 September
– I desire tq reply to whatwas said this afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). In the first place, no one in the course of this debate has accused the Prime Minister of personal corruption in any form, and he knows it.
Mr.Conelan. - The right honorable gentleman is running away.
– I am not running away. I stated rny case with the utmost clarity, and it contained no suggestion that the Prime Minister himself had secured any personal advantage from this transaction. The one statement to which an answer personally by the Prime Minister was demanded was that, in the course of an answer to a question, and in the course of a personal explanation, he had put before this committee information which investigation proved to be inaccurate. As I said the other day when I raised the matter, I had no doubt - and I have no doubt now - that the Prime Minister was misinformed, both when he gave his answer, and when he made the explanation. I would have expected him to seize the opportunity to say, “Well, having regard to what you tell me is in the files, I realize that I have been misinformed, and, therefore, the House has been misinformed by me “. Instead of that, however, we were treated to what I can only describe as a histrionic exhibition by the right honorable gentleman when he declared, “ Charge me with something ! “ There are two questions to which the people of Australia will require an answer: What was the proposed payment to or for the benefit of the Labour party designed to achieve? What were the grounds upon which Mr. Alderman said, “If you accept these conditions your chance of getting the licence is more than good ; if you reject them, your chance is not worth discussing”? I add to that the very pertinent question which was raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), namely, “ Where is this option?” I ask: was there an option; if so, was it paid for ; what was its value, and what value was obtained for the transfer? These questions are not to be brushed aside by the dramatic suggestion that the Prime Minister of this country, who has had nothing but the sketchiest association with this matter, is being charged with personal dishonesty. He is not. With the honorable member for Indi- (Mr. McEwen), I ask: Was the Australian Labour , party given something which came to. it unsought? We desire to know on what authority Mr. Alderman said, “ You give this to the Australian Labour party, and the result will be excellent “. These are questions of the first magnitude, and I can hardly imagine that any government will decline to have them investigated.
. - Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to a point of order. A motion having been made, and the mover having replied, is it in order to discuss other items before that motion has been disposed of?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Each honorable member is entitled to speak in committee for two periods of 30 minutes each. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was addressing the committee his first period of 30 minutes expired, whereupon the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) moved that an extension of time be granted. That motion was agreed to. In addition the Leader of the Opposition has just exercised his right to speak for a second period of 30 minutes.
– This afternoon I was amazed to hear what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had to say regarding the transfer of a radio broadcasting licence from an organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Central Methodist Mission of South Australia and the Australian Labour party in that State. The right honorable gentleman impugned the honesty of the Prime Minister by stating that he was a participant in the allocation of that licence. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition should have cast so grave a reflection on the integrity of the Prime Minister. It is deplorable that, for party political purposes, any honorable gentleman should stoop to such things.
– The honorable member should accept the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that no suggestion of improper conduct on the part of the Prime Minister was made, or was intended.
– Earlier this evening the Prime Minister challenged the Leader of the Opposition to lay a definite accusation against him, and offered, in that event, to remain out of the House until his reputation was cleared, but the Leader of the Opposition did not say a word. Now the right honorable gentleman has endeavoured to “ square off “. What are the facts? Mr. Alderman, K.C., an eminent South Australian barrister, who was the legal adviser of Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed to the High Court on their behalf against the closing down of their broadcasting stations. The High Court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses were entitled to operate the stations or to dispose of their assets. Acting on behalf of his principals, Mr. Alderman offered the Adelaide station to various persons in South Australia. The first person to approach him in the matter was Mr. Richards, the Leader of the Labour party in the South Australian Parliament.
– Are we to believe that Mr. Richards accidentally met Mr. Alderman, and mentioned the matter?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) as a business man would have found a way of meeting Mr. Alderman had he been interested in the purchase of the station. The first people to whom the station was offered were not keen to accept the offer, and Mr. Richards decided to take an option, over it. Later he decided to transfer that option to the Australian Labour party in South Australia.
– Where is the option?
- Mr. Richards decided to transfer his option to the Workers’ Weekly Herald. The Leader of the Opposition has impugned the honesty of prominent members of the Methodist Church in South Australia - men who have rendered valuable service to the people of that State and for whom I have the greatest respect. I am confident that the people of this country will approve the transfer of the licence from Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Central Methodist Mission in Adelaide and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, and will absolve them from any charge of corruption. The Leader of the Opposition has done a great disservice to his country. His disgraceful conduct to-day will show the people of Australia what they may expect from the Opposition in this Parliament. The first stages of this transaction took place during the regime of a previous government. When that government was defeated and its members were transferred to the. Opposition benches, some of them thought that the Opposition parties would gain a political advantage if this matter were raised in the Parliament. I point out that although the transfer of the licence in question took place before the last federal elections, the people of South Australia decided to support the Labour Government and to relegate many nonLabour candidates to political obscurity.
– I have not very much to say. I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) earlier this evening. A. great part of it I regarded as the bringing out of facts which he thought would substantiate the case that he was submitting to the committee. I reduce that case to the elements that moved mc to say what I said earlier in this debate. The right honorable gentleman said that be had inspected the file. On a previous occasion he described the whole transaction as corrupt. I have since read the Hansard report of all that was said when the matter was before honorable members last week. The right honorable gentleman used the word “corruption” not once, but several times, and, of course, the parties to this episode are involved in the charge. The right honorable gentleman made it very clear that in his view a certain sum of money had gone somewhere. He said that in his search through the files which were placed at the disposal of the Opposition without any demur, he had found that on a given date there had been a consultation between the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and myself, and that the Postmaster-General, as the result of that consultation, had directed that the licence should be transferred to the company that had been formed with onefifth of its shares held by the Workers’ Weekly Herald. Having regard to what had been said previously and the general implications of what the right honorable gentleman had put forward, I considered that ho had definitely implicated tie Treasurer and myself as being responsible for the decision that the Postmaster-General had reached. I connected what was said last week with the very dreadful inferences which I drew from the speech of the right honorable gentleman to-night, and I referred to my own personal affairs. I do not need to repeat what 1 said. Now I gather that, the right honorable gentleman says that no charge of the character which I have in mind was even contemplated as involving me. I take it that that applies to the Treasurer as well.
– Certainly !
– I take it that it applies to the Postmaster-General as well. Well, what is left? There is no accusation that any Minister abused his office for his own personal gain or other purposes which can be construed as contrary to his oath of office. There is a question as to whether this transaction would bear the light nf day. It has already been before the Broadcasting Committee, which is a statutory body. There is no reason why it should not re-open its investigations if it wishes to do so. It may, of course, be alleged that the committee includes Labour members, as it has been alleged in this debate as sinister that a Labour government has done these things. If that is the case, no Labour broadcasting station could conceivably be granted a licence during the tenure of office of the Labour party without charges being levelled arid investigation demanded.
– That is nonsense.
– Of course that is a nonsensical statement. If it were true, the whole administration would fall into chaos. I have never heard of accusations having been made against previous governments because licences were transferred. My knowledge of this matter consists of simple facts. The Leader of the Labour party in South Australia, Mr. Richards, a man whose personal integrity has never been called into question by anybody, gained an option, as he says, over property which Jehovah’s Witnesses had offered for sale.
– That could be proved by production of the option.
– He said that. It is also admitted that Mr. Alderman say? that he could have sold the property for a higher price to a newspaper. Mr. Richards himself, in a published statement, says that he endeavoured to dispose of his option in many places. My only knowledge of this matter is that Mr. Richards not only had an option but also could dispose of that option as he thought fit. It was a matter between him and the person or company that purchased the option. The PostmasterGeneral advised me that he construed the transaction between the man who held the option, which had been given to him, as the Postmaster-General believed, by the vendor company, as entirely unrelated to hi.s duty as Postmaster-General in deciding whether the licence should be transferred. At the consultation between the Treasurer, the PostmasterGeneral and myself, the matters discussed were, first, whether the company had capital in excess of what would be reasonable - that is a matter which the Treasurer has to deal with in regard to all companies formed for any purpose - and, secondly - the only other point left for me to advise the Postmaster-General on - whether the Central Methodist Mission should be given a licence. Having regard to the debates in Parliament and the act, which we had a look at, I could see no earthly reason why the licence should not be transferred to the Central Methodist Mission. If any impropriety is involved in this matter, which has already run the gauntlet of the Broadcasting Committee, a statutory committee of this Parliament, there can be no reason whatever why the Ministry should resist the re-opening of the inquiry which may now be regarded as not having completely covered the field. The Government has nothing to hide. Mislakes may have been made. It does appear that I misled the House the other day. I misled it because the department was clearly of the view that it would have no cognizance of a matter which did not concern it, even though that matter was on the file. It was said that the other agreement, the contract of sale, did not concern the department. All that the department was concerned with was whether or not the licence should be transferred to the Central Methodist Mission. That may have been just a misunderstanding as to what the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) had sought. My position in the matter is that the answer I gave to the honorable gentleman was in complete conformity with the answer that had been given in the Senate by the PostmasterGeneral to a question upon notice. I accept the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members of the Opposition that my personal participation in this matter is not questioned and that that applies to the Treasurer and the Postmaster-General. I submit that if further inquiry is called for the statutory committee that this Parliament has already set up is free to make any investigation it may think fit.
Question put -
That the amount proposed to .be reduced (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -I bring to the notice of the committee a complaint I have to make against the Postmaster-General’s Department with respect to a letter which I received from the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) dealing with delay in delivery of internal correspondence in this country, and the reasons given by the Postmaster-General for that delay. In July of this year, I sent to him two envelopes, one of which was addressed from a place in Victoria to a place in New South Wales, and the other was a reply between the same addresses. I asked the PostmasterGeneral the reason for the delay, and also why one letter was opened by the censor, although it was an internal communication. I waited for two months, and in the meantime made several requests for a reply. Ultimately, after the report of the Royal Commission on Censorship had been presented to Parliament, I received the following reply, which was dated the 22nd September: -
With further reference to your representa- tions on behalf of the S. S. White Co. of Australia Pty. Ltd., the matter of the treatment of the two letters referred to (one addressed to G. Macgregor. Esq.. Sydney, and the other to Mr. E. X. White. Melb.) has formed the subject of investigation by the Department of the Army.Ina memorandum dated 2nd September, that Department advised that the cover addressed to Mr. Macgregor was opened by the Censor in error. The letter appears to have been mis-sorted in the first instance and to have reached Censorship amongst mail for overseas addresses. Tt was then opened and censored in the normal way before the Censorship official noticed that it was an internal communication which had got out of course.
In the case of the letter addressed to Mr. White. I am sorry that I am not able to explain the cause of the delay. The Department of the Army pointed out that the cover bore no evidence of censorship and that in- quiries indicated that in all probability it had not been sighted by the Censorship Authorities. Inquiries within this Department show that, on the evidence available, the letter should have reached Melbourne on 21st July in time for delivery on that date,but it is possible that it did not arrive until the 22nd (Saturday) in which case it would have been too late for delivery that day. Accepting the statement that delivery was not effected until 24th July, the delay seems to have taken place between Sydney and Melbourne, and if this was so, I would ask you kindly to express my regret to the senders.
The envelopes are returned herewith as requested.
I shall deal first with the letter which showed no signs of having been opened by the censor. The reply I have received in respect of that letter is rather extraordinary. I have always thought that when a letter is opened by the censor, the proper procedure is to mark it : “ Opened by Censor “ ; and if it is not so marked, one might rightly assume that it has not been opened. But the PostmasterGeneral’s reply does not make possible so easy an assumption, because, in respect of the letter in question, the Department of the Army pointed out that the cover bore no evidence that the letter had been censored, and that inquiries indicated that “in all probability it had not been sighted by censorship “. That is a most extraordinary statement from the Minister who controls internal correspondence, and who, if Mr. Justice Webb’s conclusion is correct there is no general observation of inland mails, and only communications from persons suspected of espionage, or sabotage, are submitted to inquiries is correct, must know that this internal correspondence has been unduly delayed. As an explanation of that delay, he says that in all probability it has not been sighted by censorship. My first observation is that, in respect of a letter which has been delayed, and which bears no external mark of having been opened by censorship, he was not able to say immediately that the letter had not been opened by censorship. My second observation is that it is obvious from his reply that the mere fact, that the letter does not appear to have been opened by censorship is no guarantee that it has not been opened by censorship.
With respect to the other letter which was opened by censorship, the reply given to me was of the kind which I expected to receive. Whenever an internal letter in this country is opened by the censor, the official explanation invariably offered is that by some strange circumstance it got into the overseas mail. I am very apt to believe everything told to me by responsible officials; but this reply does not “go over” with me, because, on more than one. occasion, when it has been brought to my notice that internal mail has been scrutinized, the reply has been that in some strange way it got mis-sorted with the overseas mail. I have two comments to make: First, it is about time that the Postmaster-General exercised better control over internal mail in order to make certain that it does not get mis-sorted ; and, secondly, the reply given in this case is extraordinary because it is obvious when you look at the printing on each envelope, particularly the one opened by the censor, that it is internal mail. It is difficult to understand how internal mail of that description comes to be opened by censorship, and no one knows anything about it until I bring the fact to the notice of the department; then the explanation, two months delayed, is that it must have been mis-sorted. That explanation is entirely unsatisfactory. Parliament has an obligation tokeep internal mail inviolate. It should not be interfered with except for the reasons given by Mr. Justice Webb ; but it is by no means clear that those are the only reasons which persuade the censorship to open mails. At this stage I shall not be in order in discussing Mr. Justice Webb’s report, but I draw the attention of the committee to the reply sent to me after a lapse of two months, which is so unsatisfactory that it throws doubts upon the efficiency of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and raises doubt with respect to the degree to which internal mail is censored for reasons which have no relation to security.
– For the second time this evening the committee has been regaled by a King’s Counsel, who has sought to impute motives in respect to the administration of a very extensive department. Perhaps, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) suggests, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) would like the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter also. What is the truth about internal censorship in this country? The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott; had an opportunity, as a member of the Censorship Committee, to investigate the position for himself, but he gave away a. secret document to a certain newspaper, and thereby proved himself unfitted to continue as a member of that committee. Owing to his action the committee was disbanded. Over 1,000,000,000 letters circulating in Australia each year are not subject to censorship at all. The only letters censored are those coming into or going out of Australia, and letters coming from, or going to, operational areas. The great bulk of letters circulating in Australia are not subject to censorship at all. Technically, they could be censored. It is extraordinary that an honorable member could have such effrontery as to condemn the Postmaster-General’s Department for a mistake in respect of internal censorship, when he himself is the very person who authorized the censorship of internal mails in this country.
Mr.Spender. - That is false; there was no censorship of internal mail during the whole of the period I was Minister for the Army.
– The honorable member does not like it when the facts are revealed.
Mr.Spender. - Mr. Chairman, I do not know what control you propose to exercise over the committee, but it is about time some control was exercised over the Minister for Information.
– This disgraceful exhibition by the honorable member for Warringah-
– Not so disgraceful as the exhibition by the Minister.
– Order ! If the honorable member for New England interjects again, I shall name him.
– The honorable member for Warringah, who has been so hypocritical as to make a protest against, and to impute dishonest motives to, the Postmaster-General’s Department, was the Minister for the Army who, in response to a request by the then Treasurer (Mr. Fadden)-
– At the request of the State Premiers. The Minister should be fair.
– The right honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to make his alibi.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to direct his remarks to the Postmaster-General’s Department and not engage in a general discussion of censorship.
– The honorable member for Warringah had no more justification than I have for discussing something that affects the Army administration, but he made charges against the Postmaster-General’s Department relating to the censorship of mails. I point out to him that when a former Treasurer, Mr. Fadden, asked that letters be censored in order to detect tax evaders, then he, as Minister for the Army, approved the proposals and issued the necessary directions for the censorship to be applied.
– What was wrong with that? Wasthe Minister affected?
– If there was nothing wrong with it then, what is wrong with tho action about which the honorable member for Warringah complains now? If it were right when the honorable member authorized the scrutiny of postal matter three years ago, there can be nothing- intrinsically wrong with the same action by the Postal Department upon this occasion. The only letters upon which the censorship mark is affixed, are those coming into or leaving Australia, and those coming or going to operational areas. Letters addressed to suspected persons, or going to or from persons suspected of tax evasion are necessarily not marked by the censor. If they were, tho tax evader, for example, would know from the censorship mark on the envelope that his mail was being watched. It may be true, as the Leader of the Australian Country party said, that the original censorship of postal matter was undertaken at the request of the Premiers.
– It is a fact.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s assurance.
– I again ask the Minister to direct his remarks to the Postmaster-General’s Department and not. to indulge in a. general discussion of censorship.
– The honorable member for Warringah to-night posed as the champion of the people against something that the Postmaster-:General’s Department has done. If the department made a mistake, it was honest enough to admit it. The honorable member also referred in passing to the report of Mr. Justice Webb. His Honour found that the department had carried out its functions expeditiously and honestly. Therefore, it ill behoves the honorable member, under cover of the Works Estimates, to make a general attack upon postal administration. He lost his opportunity when he was not in his place last week to speak on the General Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. This department has not been besmirched by the mud slinging engaged in by the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for New England. Their puny attempts to discredit the department failed. Those same honorable members also failed in another matter this evening. They may continue their mud slinging, but the department has nothing to apologize for.
– I emphasize the need for an alteration of policy governing the erection of telegraph and telephone lines in country districts. The Estimates provide a substantial amount for new works in this connexion, but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department usually adopts the view that a certain amount of revenue must be in prospect before such works can be undertaken. If our country districts are to progress, a. more liberal policy must be adopted in regard to capital expenditure involvedin the erection of trunk lines in the sparsely populated areas. For example, in the south western part of Queensland, from Dalby to Charleville, there is no connexion with central Queensland, with a through trunk line to meet the Rockhampton and Cracow districts. All trunk line calls must go from Dalby through Kingaroy to Maryborough, or right around through Toowoomba to Brisbane and then north. When districts have appealed for the erection of a. connecting line, the Departmenthas raised the matter of finance. I realize the difficulty of providing this money in war-time, but the country requires these services, and the Government will need to subsidize the erection of the main connecting lines to link up outlying districts in the various States.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Part III - Territories of the Commonwealth.
– Although I desire to refer in many ways to the Northern Territory, I am afraid that the committee is not in a mood to give serious attention to my remarks. If this House meets later in the year and can devote some time to private members’ business, I shall initiate debates on certain matters of importance regarding the administration of the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory presents one of the most important post-war problems with which this Government will have to deal. There is a challenge to us to settle and develop that vast area. Recently, the Northern Territory Development League was formed and has communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and myself on various matters. I propose to put to honorable members several points in their order of importance. In. the post-war settlement of the Northern Territory, the first requirement will be the conservation of water. Without water, there cannot be closer settlement of any kind. Without water, there cannot be a development of the pastoral industry or of the stock routes which arc so necessary. Although many portions have been under cattle for a long while, the territory is still very poorly supplied with stock routes.
Mr.Chifley. - The Commonwealth and State Governments are giving attention to stock routes in that area. A decision was reached within the last couple of months. I do not say that it is adequate, but nevertheless, something is being done.
– That is not borne out by my correspondence with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). Specific requests have been made for certain stock routes. One of these requests is for the opening of a new stock route between the Kimberleys in Western Australia, and Alice Springs. But the Government, instead of giving encouragement, has poured cold water on the proposition. I have seen quite a few people who are interested in the proposal, and have received correspondence from others in the Kalgoorlie electorate; they take a very different view from what the Government is now taking. If the Northern Territory is to be further settled and the beef industry is to be developed, stock routes will have to be surveyed and. water will have to be provided along them, so that cattle may get to the railhead or to any now meatworks that may be established in the interior.
The next requirement, in the Northern Territory is transport. Although a good deal has been done under war conditions, lateral transport, must be provided from certain places on the main north road to other places east and west of it. The mining industry is also of great importance, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who has taken a definite interest in it lately, has initiated certain moves that may in due course produce a long range policy. The development of the Northern Territory will depend upon, the conditions that the Government is prepared to grant. I am not one of those who believes that the Northern Territory will be a good proposition, from the point of view of the Treasury, for a long time. If people were prepared to live a good deal of their lives there, rear their families and settle the country, the Commonwealth Government should not expect very much revenue from them. At present some conditions in the Northern Territory are not what one would like, but in other respects they are much better than one would expect. The work that has been done by quite a few people has borne fruit, and buildings and appointments in certain parts are very creditable to those concerned. In my opinion, the first approach to the proper settlement of the difficulties of the Northern Territory is the granting of some form of local selfgovernment there.
– The honorable member will not be in order in developing that theme.
– The committee is dealing with works, and local selfgovernment would require a building in which to meet. Therefore, I consider that I am entitled to develop my theme. Already a proposal for local selfgovernment has been submitted to the Prime Minister. If some form of selfgovernment were granted, many causes of complaint would be corrected. Many of these things are done after reference to the Department of the Interior at Canberra, and I am. afraid that sometimes the advice of the people on the spot has not been fully considered, with the result that expense has been incurred which would not have been incurred if local people had had some control, or, at any rate, the right to give advice.
A proposal has been put to either the Prime Minister or the Treasurer in regard to a committee which the Government is believed to have formed to make recommendations for the future develop ment of the Territory. Unless that committee is working on the spot and has the co-operation of certain people in the Northern Territory who have distinguished themselves in developmental research, I am afraid that the results will not be the 1.00 per cent, that might be expected if the Government co-operated with the local people. I warn the Treasurer, as the representative of the Government at the table to-night, that before very long I hope to occupy some time on a private members’ clay to debate matters of general interest in connexion with the Territory. I noticed in yesterday’s press that the Government had decided to rebuild Darwin. That is something for which everybody who has to use the town as the front door to Australia will be thankful. Darwin badly needs rebuilding in accordance with a proper townplanning scheme. Like Topsy, it has just “ growee! “.
– I subscribe to what has been said as to the national importance of the development of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley district of “Western Australia. Last week, in discussing the budget, I referred briefly to the difficulties being experienced by cattle-raisers in the Kimberleys. I should be most interested to see the letters which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has received from residents of the Kalgoorlie electorate with regard to the development of stock routes towards Alice Springs. Recently, I made a station-to-station visit in the Kimberleys, and discussed with the men directly concerned the problems confronting the people there. Their chief desire was for the re-opening of the Wyndham meatworks and the establishment of inland abattoirs to deal with the stock close to where it was reared. I appreciate that more than one outlet may be necessary, and for that reason I subscribe to the policy of improving and watering the various stock routes which would give outlets to the people raising beef under extreme difficulties there to-day. There is a prospect of settling in the Kimberley area a very substantial population. I have had the opportunity of viewing practically the whole of the Commonwealth. I know the Queensland country fairly well, and I know almost the whole of Western Australia. I have never seen land superior in quality to the land of the Kimberley district. It has a conformation which enables water conservation schemes for irrigation purposes to be conveniently carried out. Some time ago, a proposition, was submitted to the Western Australian Government to establish a Jewish settlement in the Kimberley district. I am most anxious to see the district settled, because no nation can justify holding an area with such possibilities unless it is prepared to make provision for its development. Not only is the Kimberley district rich in arable and pasture land, but it is also rich in mineral wealth. It may not be generally known that the first discovery of gold in Western Australia was made at Hall’s Creek in the Kimberleys. It is a great shame that the people of Australia do not know their own country and its potentialities as well as they should. I said last night that, although the Government provides facilities for parliamentary delegations to visit other countries, the members of our own Parliament have never had the opportunity to see their own country. It would be of some value to Australia if a delegation were sent into the Kimberleys to view the possibilities there and encourage its development.Governments have a responsibility in that regard. Day after day in this Parliament the need for increasing thepopulation of Australia in order to settle all the available land is emphasized. The possibilities already exist in the Kimberleys. Why not take advantage of them and encourage the people already there? They have been struggling for years, and government after government has turned a deaf ear to their requests for better transport facilities and living conditions. Everything that has been done there to date has been done by the pioneers. Even mail services have been neglected, and there has been a failure to provide medical attention. No consideration whatever has been given by this National Parliament to the provision of facilities which would encourage people to remain there. I a.m prepared to give my whole-hearted support to any honorable member who has a plan to give the present settlers consideration, and provide the necessary facilities for developing the district. The problem of raising cattle in these localities, and transporting the beasts to killing centres is a most difficult one. To-day, cattle-raisers in the Wyndham district are at the mercy of the greatest of all meat combines, Vesteys Limited, which has a monopoly of the meat market, and shows no inclination to run to extravagance in the improvement of the conditions of the workers. These men live in accommodation which is barely up to the standard of native camps. There is no legislation compelling a higher standard to be maintained. The Government of Western Australia is powerless in that regard because of the anti-Labour Legislative Council. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will give serious consideration to the future of this area, because of its vital import ance to Australia as a whole.The unpopulated coastline extending over a thousand miles is a menace to the security of this country. The opportunities are there for the establishment of industries, and the Government’s duty is to see that industries shall be established, so that additional population may be settled in that district.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
Thatthere be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1944-45 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £6,277,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on Resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and passed throughall stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1043-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Common wealthpurposes - Pitt-water, New South Wales.
Health purposes - Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
National Security Act - National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Queensland (dated 14th September, 1944).
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Sixteenth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 1.48 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he supply the House with the following information concerning the results of the postwar reconstruction and democratic rights referendum: - The number of votes cast for and against the proposed law (i) in Australia, (ii) in each State, and (iii) in each electoral division in each State?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
n asked “the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The honorable member is referred to the general statement on vegetable production in Queensland made during the debate on the Estimates in the House of Representatives, on the 22nd September, by the right honorable the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde).
s asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
How many members of the Royal Australian Navy have been discharged from that force after completing six months’ service or more?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is 2,736. This does not include deaths.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to introduce into Parliament wholly or in part the Soldier Settlement Bill printed as an appendix to the second report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission?
– The bill referred to in the question was presented to the Commonwealth Government by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and later submitted in evidence to the Rural Reconstruction Commission. The commission considered the suggestions embodied in thebill in submitting its report to the Government. The Government’s proposals for land settlement of ex-servicemen were considered at a meeting of the Premiers on the 26th August last, and will be further discussed at the forthcoming conference of Premiers specially convened for the 3rd October next, following which legislation will be prepared to give effect to the proposals jointly agreed upon by the Commonwealth and State Governments.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have the statement on the appointment of boards and commissions, copies of which have now been supplied to honorable members, brought up to date?
– The statement which has been made available to honorable members was prepared as the result of questions asked in January and March, 1943, respectively, by the then honorable members for Perth and Parkes. In an interim reply it was indicated that such of the information which couldbe obtained without undue cost and use of man-power would be furnished. However, the nature of the particulars asked for, being other than those ordinarily recorded in detail by departments, necessitated a considerable amount of research by staffs already heavily burdened by war-time duties.
Much of the information sought by the honorable member, which is more up to date than the statement furnished in reply to the then honorable members for Perth and Parkes, is contained in the Federal Guide, a handbook on the organization and functions of Commonwealth Government departments and special war-time authorities, published in January, 1944. Copies of this publication have been supplied to honorable members.
Broadcasting : Australian Broadcasting Commission’s News Service - Stations 5KA and 5AU.
l. - On the 20th September the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) addressed the following question to me as Minister representing the Postmaster-General, - without notice -
Can the Minister representing the. PostmasterGeneral say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is taking a parttime syndicated news service from Canberra for which it is paying £10 a week? If this is so, is it not contrary to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee that the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service should be wholly independent? Will he take steps to ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is directed to follow the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee in this respect?
The Postmaster-General has furnished the following answer : -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission made an arrangement with the Australian United Press to take effect from the 25th August, 1944, for an auxiliary news service to be provided at Canberra until the Commission’s 1.30 news had been broadcast. In addition, routine news on Saturdays and Sundays at Canberra was to be covered by the Australian United Press with an understanding that a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news stall would be contacted in the event of important news. The arrangement could be terminated by one month’s notice after an initial period of three months. The cost of the service is £10 a week. In the opinion of the Commission, the arrangement it has made with the Australian United Press does not conflict with the recommendations of the parliamentary committee. The question of news serviceson national stations is receiving attention to ensure that the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting shall be complied with.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House the correspondence passing between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the interested parties involved in the negotiations for the issue of broadcasting licences to the Centra) Methodist Mission at Adelaide and to the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle?
Mr.Curtin. -I do not consider that it is appropriate to table the official file of correspondence concerning the negotiations for the issue of the commercial broadcasting licences referred to. The Postmaster-General will, however, be pleased to make the file available to the honorable member for his perusal.
n asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - .
Did the Postmaster-General agree to the transfer of broadcasting stations 5KA and/or 5AU in 1943 without having informed his mind of the terms of the agreement upon which he was asked to approve the transfer of the old, or, alternatively, the issue of new licences ?
– I am advised by the Postmaster-General that he was fully informed on those matters which he considered essential before approving the issue of the licences to 5KA Adelaide and 5AU Port Augusta.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440926_reps_17_179/>.