17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Bosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Appropriation Bill 1944-45.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1944-45.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1944.
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1944:
Income Tax Bill 1944.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1944.
Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill 1944.
Commonwealth Employees’ FurloughBill 1944.
States Grants Bill 1944.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1944.
Loan Bill. (No. 2)1944.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1944.
Sulphur Bounty Bill 1944.
Wire Netting Bounty Bill 1944.
. -I regret to inform the House that, owing to illness and in compliance with medical advice, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will not be engaged on his official duties for some little time. In the absence of the right honorable gentleman and at his request, I shall occupy the position of Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Defence.
Senator Fraser, in addition to his duties of Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services, will act as Minister for the Army, and during that period will occupy a seat on the “War Cabinet.
The Treasurer and Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley) will fill the vacancy on the Advisory War Council due to the absence of the Prime Minister.
In the absence of Senator Keane, Minister for Trade and Customs, who has proceededto the United States of America to discuss matters associated with lend-lease and reciprocal lendlease, I have been appointed to administer the Department of Trade and Customs. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) has been appointed to act as Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation in the absence of Mr. Drakeford, who is visiting Canada and the United States of America for the purpose of representing Australia at conferences on aviation. Mr. Lazzarini has also been appointed to a place in the War Cabinet during the period of Mr. Drakeford’s absence.
– The Opposition shares the regret expressed by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) at the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and the occasion of it, and hopes that he will have a speedy and complete recovery.
– On behalf of the Australian Country party I, too, regret the indisposition of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and hope that he will have a speedy recovery.
Servicemen on Leave: Transport
Fares -Case of Private J. Wilson-
Prisoners in Civil Gaols.
– Some weeks ago, I forwarded to the Minister for the Army protests from servicemen, returned soldiers’ organizations, and citizens, against an order issued by the military authorities, compelling servicemen on leave to pay to them the sum of1d. a mile in respect of transport fares from their camp to the nearest point at which public transport is provided. Can the Acting Prime Minister state what action, if any, has been taken to revoke this order, which is considered by all interested parties to be mean, paltry, and unwarranted against members of the fighting services? Was the order issued for the purpose of conserving liquid fuel, tyres and spare parts? If so, why was not similar action taken in respect of service personnel in base jobs, who have the use of military vehicles to transport them to and from their homes? If action has not been taken, can the right honorable gentleman inform me what he proposes to do in regard to the position?
-I hope to be able to give to-morrow the information which the honorable member seeks.
-Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to announce the terms of reference and the name of the judge appointed to conduct the inquiry concerning the case of Private J. Wilson, who is undergoing a sentence of five years’ gaol for mutiny? Will the right honorable gentleman also state what penalties are incurred by a soldier who has been discharged from the Array with ignominy, in addition to the Sentence imposed by the court-martial, as well as the amount of deferred pay forfeited by Private Wilson on his conviction ?
– The name of the judge to be appointed is the subject of consultation with the appropriate authorities. I hope to be able to make an announcement within the next two or three days.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister obtain information as to the number of members of the Australian Imperial Force and Australian
Military Forces who are serving terms of imprisonment in civil gaols for purely military offences?
– I shall obtain that information for the honorable member.
Stations 2HD Newcastle and5KA Adelaide.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether or not the Government has given further consideration to the desire expressed by the Opposition in the last sittings, for a royal commission to be appointed to inquire into matters connected with certain wireless stations? If so, what is the result of that consideration?
– The matter was fully considered at the time by the Prime Minister, who stated in this Parliament that he could not see any justification whatever for the appointment of a royal commission.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that the most terrible drought conditions exist throughout the Commonwealth, that stock are dying and others are fast losing condition, and that it is almost impossible to secure transport for either stock or fodder ? Can the right honorable gentleman state what steps the Government is taking to increase supplies of coal to the railway departments of the States, so as to enable stock and fodder to be moved?
– The Government has given consideration to the ravages of drought throughout Australia. During to-day, with the permission of the House, my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), will introduce and take to the second-reading stage a bill designed to give relief to droughtstricken areas. If the honorable gentleman can bring to my notice instances of transport for stock and fodder having been refused, I shall take up the matter with the railway departments of the States and the Commonwealth Minister concerned, because they are given the highest priority for transport on the railway systems of Australia.
– As there is a good deal of doubt and discontent in the minds of members of the Volunteer Defence Corps in regard to the future activities of that splendid organization, will the Acting Prime Minister make a statement on the subject before the termination of the present sittings?
– The Government fully appreciates the splendid services that have been rendered to Australia, particularly in the dark period of 1942, by the Volunteer Defence Corps. With the changing of the strategical position in Australia, the whole of the defence organization has had to be overhauled, and. that overhaul has included a substantial reduction of the war establishment of the Volunteer Defence Corps.
The matter is now the subject of consideration by the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, and I hope to be able, within a few days, to make a definite announcement regarding the future role of the corps.
– In view of the fact that recent press reports indicate that the Treasurer has discussed the report of the Secondary Industries Commission on post-war reconstruction with the Labour caucus- I understand that that was the basis of the statement made by him to caucus concerning the formation of government companies for civilian production - will the Acting Prime Minister now table that report, so that at least the Parliament may have some information as to the Government’s policy with regard to it?
– The report referred to was made to the Treasurer and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. At the appropriate time, and after the Government has made a decision on that aspect of post-war reconstruction, the matter will be submitted to the Parliament.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact, us reported in the press, that he has authorized, or proposes to authorize, the borrowing of the sum of £300,000 by the Sydney Turf Club for the purpose of acquiring several racecourses ? If that be correct, will he tell the House how he reconciles that decision with his refusal to allow the Ryde municipal council to borrow a certain sum of money for the purpose of building workers’ homes ?
– I have not authorized the borrowing of any money for the purpose mentioned. An application was made to me by the Sydney Turf Club for permission to acquire racecourses, in accordance with an act passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, and the application is under consideration.
– Will the Minister for information inform the House whether, in a brochure recently issued by the Department of Information, a map of Australia appeared in which only a small portion of the State of Tasmania was shown? In view of the fact that Tasmania has often been “left off the map “, will the Minister remind all Commonwealth departments that Tasmania is one of the States of Australia, and should appear on all maps circulated for the purpose of advertising this country?
– It is true that in a recent issue of a booklet entitledKnow Australia, published by the Department of Information, a portion of Tasmania was not shown in a map of Australia, the reason being that the printer had cut the map of the Pacific to suit the size of the publication. In future issues of Know Australia, a new map will be printed, and any cutting which may be necessary will be done in respect of the northern part of the Pacific and not the southern part. As far, as my department is concerned, this is the only instance of a complaint having been made that Tasmania has not been wholly included in a map of Australia. I can give the honorable member the assurance which he desires that, in all future publications of the Department of Information, Tasmania will have its rightful place on the map. As to other departments I shall bring the subject-matter of the honorable member’s complaint to the notice of the Ministers concerned. From my own observations of Tasmania, I now repeat the statement, which I expressed on the occasion of a recent visit, that Tasmania is the garden State of Australia.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the reports in the press concerning the alarming position in the steel industry in Australia? Is he aware that the blast furnace at Whyalla, in South Australia, has closed down through lack of coal, that the open hearth furnaces at Newcastle are in difficulties, and that the coke ovens there may have to cease operations, thus causing increased unemployment? In view of those disabilities, and of the difficulties experienced with regard to the transport of stock, will the Acting Prime Minister do something definite? Will he ask the Import Procurement Division to ascertain whether it could import coal from Great Britain or some other overseas country, in order to revive industry in Australia?
– The Government views seriously the shortage of coal, and regrets that the production of that commodity is not ample to meet the demands of the country, but Australia is not the only country in this position. Shortages of coal are being experienced in both the United States of America and Great Britain. In view of the transport difficulties, and with a knowledge of the shortage of coal in Great Britain itself, to suggest that we should try to import coal from Great Britain or the United States of America is merely to toy with the position. Because the Government fully realizes the seriousness of the situation, a special conference has been convened for Monday next, at which the Government will confer with the Premier of New South Wales, the Minister for Mines in that State, representatives of the coal-miners’ federation, and representatives of the coal mine owners association, for the purpose of making a further approach to the problem, and endeavouring to find a solution. This is no easy problem. When honorable members opposite were in office they failed to get coal, but now for party purposes they are trying to make political capital out of the exigencies of the present situation.
– At the coal conference to be held shortly between representatives of the Government, the coal mine owners and the coal-miners, will the Government propose with insistence that a second shift should be worked in the coal mines of New South Wales, and will the Government also explore the possibility of importing coal ? Will the South’ African Union be invited to export coal to Australia, in order to make up the present deficiency ?
– All aspects of the coalmining industry will be discussed fully at the conference.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether any action has been taken against any person or persons under the regulations which were promulgated on the 24th August, 1944, authorizing the Coal Commissioner or his agents to remove from coal-mines any persons whose presence might prejudicially affect the operation of the mines?
– The administration of the regulations is in the hands of the Coal Commissioner. Although a number of legal proceedings have been taken since the date mentioned by the honorable member, I do not think that any action has been taken for the specific purpose mentioned by him.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement of Mr. Knight, a Queensland delegate to the Congress in Adelaide of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that while released internees from Queensland were given first-class sleepers on the railways, soldiers travelling back to their units in New Guinea had to sit on the floor of second-class carriages ? If so, what action does the Acting Prime Minister propose to take concerning the resolution of congress that servicemen and women proceeding to andfrom battle areas on leave be granted first-class rail warrants? If that is not considered practicable, will he ensure that better travelling facilities shall be provided for them?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member referred. Ithink we should all like to see members of the fighting services travelling in first-class railway carriages, but the impracticability of that will be apparent to everybody. Unfortunately, the State railway departments have not sufficient first-class carriages for all members of the fighting services travelling in special troop trains. I shall have inquiries made in order to see whether there was some disparity of treatment in regard to the soldiers referred to. Did the honorable member say that internees travelled first class?
– I was not aware of it, but I shall have an investigation made, and the honorable member will be acquainted with the result in due course.
Employmentof Miss Best - Establishment of Factories by Overseas Firms - Employment : Statement by Professor Copland - Rehabilitation of service Personnel.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what method was employed in the appointment of Miss Best to a position recently advertised by the Department- of Post-war Reconstruction? The position called for the appointment of a lady to assist in the rehabilitation of women in industry. Was the appointment made by the Public Service Board, or was it made directly by the Government or by an individual member of the Government?
– The appointment was made on the recommendation of the Public Service Board.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen a statement in the Sydney press of the 14th November, 1944, that American firms which are prepared to build factories in Australia are awaiting a statement of policy in regard to this matter by the Commonwealth Government? Further, has he seen the statement of Mr. Harold J. Beer, a manufacturers’ agent in Melbourne, that the Plumb Axe Company and E. C. Atkins and Company, sawmakers, of the United States of America, had plans for the building of factories in Australia, but that the former company had told him to withhold action until the attitude of the Commonwealth Government was made clear? In view of the desirability of encouraging overseas manufacturers to establish factories in Australia and to bring their operatives to this country, will the Minister, during the present sittings, indicate the Government’s policy concerning these matters?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I know that representatives of certain American manufacturers have visited Australia in order to inquire into the possibility of engaging in certain forms of production here. One American firm has already commenced preparatory operations in New South Wales, half of the capital for the enterprise has been provided in Australia. There have been other inquiries from the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain. I have no knowledge of any inquiry on behalf of the Plumb Axe Company. Generally, the policy of this Government and its predecessors has been to give preference to British capital for investment in this country. However, no restrictions are placed upon the introduction of American capital whenever it can be shown such investment will be to the benefit of Australia.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether, when the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, stated in the United States of America recently that Australia would not have an employment problem immediately after the war, he was expressing his private opinion or that of the Government? If he expressed that view as a member of the Public Service, or spoke on behalf of the Government, how does the Acting Prime Minister reconcile the remark with the Government’s statement in August last that, unless the Commonwealth Parliament were equipped with the powers which the Government sought at the recent referendum, it would be unable to place 1,000,000 men and women in employment after the war?
– I have not read the statement to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, but I am certain that Professor Copland expressed his personal view. The policy of the Government is announced by the Leader of the Government.
– Having regard to the importance of the prompt rehabilitation of the men and women now engaged in the fighting f orces, and in view of the fact that a brief report appeared in a Sydney newspaper yesterday of Miss Lyra Taylor’s two years’ experience in Canada in examining the problem, particularly with relation to the employment of physically incapacitated soldiers, and as this lady is now employed in the Commonwealth service, will the Treasurer call for a report from her regarding her investigation, and make it available to honorable members ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
Conference in Wellington.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question regarding the recent visit of himself and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to New Zealand. So far as I know, no report has been issued regarding the details of any agreement reached by the conference between representatives of the Governments of New Zealand and Australia. Only a general statement was made. Will the Minister for External Affairs make a statement on the subject so that the House may, if necessary, debate it?
– I propose at some, convenient date - I hope early next week - to take the course suggested by the honorable member.
Damage by Frost.
– Has the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture given further consideration to my telegram of the 30th October regarding the serious damage caused by frost to vine fruits in South Australia? Will the Government consider the giving of relief to the growers affected, on the same principle as that governing drought relief to wheatgrowers ?
– After receiving the honorable member’s telegram I caused inquiries to be made regarding the damage done by frost to vine fruits in South Australia. Frankly, I think it is a matter for the State Government, but I am having a full investigation made, and I shall let the honorable member have a reply at an early date.
– Recently, the Deputy Director-General of War Organization of Industry said publicly that Australia should come into line with other countries and give the international monetary fund proposal a trial. Can the Minister for War Organization of Industry say whether the deputy director was speaking on behalf of the Government or was he, like so many other public servants, giving public expression in his official capacity to his private opinions?
– The Deputy DirectorGeneral of War Organization of Industry is a well-known economist, and when he made the statement referred to he was speaking to a gathering of economists. He was not stating government policy in this matter; he was expressing his private opinion.
Purchase of Seed Wheat
– I have been informed that speculators are touring the wheat areas buying up seed wheat at high prices in the hope that later they will be able to extort still higher prices from distressed wheat-farmers, and thus reap substantial profit. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government will take action to prevent such exploitation by fixing the price of grain.
– I am at a loss to understand how purchase of wheat can be made by an individual speculator unless on a black market. However, I shall have an investigation made and, if necessary, a regulation will be issued to prevent the exploitation of distressed farmers.
– Has the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture seen in this morning’s press a statement by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture to the effect that it has been found necessary in that State to reduce the ration of superphosphate, particularly to dairy-farmers, because, he alleges, of the failure of the Commonwealth to make available labour for the manufacture of superphosphate? Will the Minister comment on the statement and, if it should be based on fact, will he see that labour is made available so that farmers may receive their full ration of superphosphate?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I do not doubt that it was made. I know from experience that the Minister concerned is not entirely friendly to the Commonwealth. There may be some difficulty regarding the manufacture of superphosphate. We are obtaining increased supplies of rock, but no one knows better than does the honorable member the difficulties which confront us in providing labour for essential industries. The Director-General of Agriculture informed me some days ago that he was doing all he could, as was the Man Power Directorate in Melbourne, to obtain labour for the manufacture of superphosphate, and he expressed the opinion that the position should shortly improve. However, there are still difficulties, and it would be wrong for me to say that there is a plentiful supply of labour for the manufacture of superphosphate. The honorable member may rest assured that I shall do everything possible to ensure that a sufficient supply of labour will be forthcoming.
Distillery at Cowra.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen a report in the Sydney press that the Government has ordered the closing of the power alcohol distillery at Cowra because of a shortage of wheat? If so, can he say whether the report is correct, and, if it is, will he have the decision reviewed, in view of the fact that a large proportion of the wheat used is returned to the Stock Fodder Pool in the form of mill offal and meal, and that the suspension of operations at this plant will deprive the Liquid Fuel Pool of approximately 3,000,000 gallons of liquid fuel, which is badly needed in country districts in order to provide road transport where rail transport is restricted ?
– It was determined after consultation between the Wheat Board and myself.
– I , shall endeavour to ascertain the facts, and will let the honorable member have an answer as soon as possible.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister at the last series of sittings, that priorities for travel were instituted not with the object of preventing people from travelling, but in order to provide travelling facilities for people who had to travel on urgent business, will the Minister for Transport review the system of priorities with a view to allowing people to occupy vacant seats on interstate trains?
– The matter of travel priorities is at present under review. There is no evidence that there are vacant seats on interstate trains. It is true that’ sometimes when interstate trains leave the capital cities there are vacant seats, but these are reserved for the use of passengers who join the train en route. In those circumstances, it is not fair comment to say that there are vacant seats on interstate trains. I shall have the matter reviewed immediately, and will supply the honorable member with a report as soon as possible.
Proposed Legislation - Common wealth Bank Board.
– Has the Treasurer seen the statement of Mr. L. J. McConnan, the chief manager of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, concerning the suggested early introduction of legislation to provide for the permanent control of trading banks by the Commonwealth Government? If so, has he any observations to make regarding the statement, especially in view of the necessity to maintain confidence in the banking system by keeping it entirely free from political control?
– Mr. McConnan courteously forwarded to me for perusal, a copy of a statement he had made, but I do not know whether it is the statement to which the right honorable gentleman has referred. At this stage, I do not think that it is necessary for me to make a statement on banking, particularly as I do not know of any loss of confidence in either the Commonwealth Bank or the banking system. The legislation which is being considered by the Government will, if approved by Cabinet, be brought before the Parliament, when a full opportunity to discuss it will be provided.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Government intends to appoint a successor to Sir Olive McPherson on the Commonwealth Bank Board, and, if so, when .an appointment to the vacancy is likely to be announced? Further, can he say whether it is proposed to introduce legislation affecting the Commonwealth Bank during the present sittings of the Parliament?
– The matter of filling the vacancy on .the Commonwealth Bank Board is at present under consideration by the Government. It is not proposed to introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act during the present sittings, but I cannot promise that legislation will not be introduced in the next session.
– In view of the excellent season which Tasmania is experiencing, and the indication of heavy yields of agricultural products, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture send suitable officers to Tasmania immediately in order to undertake investigations, with a view to making available all the labour and shipping necessary to conserve and transport; such products to those in need of them in other parts of Australia and abroad ?
– It is pleasant to hear that in one part of Australia there are indications of heavy yields of agricultural products. I thank the honorable member for the information contained in his question, and I shall instruct an officer of my department to proceed immediately to Tasmania in order to confer with the State Minister for Agriculture, with a view to arranging for the conservation of all the fodder possible. I am confident that it will be possible to make arrangements to ship such fodder to the mainland where it is urgently needed.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen reports which appeared in Brisbane newspapers a few weeks ago that an order had been issued in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia authorizing motorcar owners in those States to have tyres retreaded without seeking permits from the department? If the press reports are correct, can the Minister say why Queensland was not included in the order? Further, will he take immediate action to ensure that the motoring public of Queensland shall be given the same rights and privileges in regard to retreads as are given to motor-car owners in other States?
– I shall look into the matter in order to ascertain the facts, and will let the honorable member have a reply as early as possible.
– by leave - In this review, my primary aim is to make an analysis of the Australian war effort, with special reference to the adjustments necessary to achieve a balance in man-power between the direct military programme and the civil economy which supports it. I shall then deal with certain measures which have been decided on by the Government after consultation with the Advisory War Council. I preface my statement with a brief review of the war situation, so that the Government’s approach to the problem of Australia’s war effort may be viewed against the background of the current military position.
It is a matter for general satisfaction that, since the House last met, the United Nations have achieved outstanding successes in both the European and Pacific theatres. Mr. Churchill has said that the extent of. the advance of the Allies through France, Belgium and Holland has exceeded his expectations. The aim of the military strategy has been the destruction of the German armed forces, and the German losses since the opening of the front in “Western Europe have been colossal. Nevertheless, we are aware from the vast preparations for the landing in Western Europe that the adequacy of the supply arrangements is just as important for victory in battle as are the quality of the troops and the effectiveness of their weapons and equipment. The farthest point of the Allied advance after the break through from Normandy was accordingly determined by ability to keep the armies supplied. To overcome supply difficulties, the major British and Canadian effort in the first few weeks has been concentrated on operations destined to make the great port of Antwerp available for shipping. Fortunately, it was captured before the enemy was able to destroy its facilities, and its use will be a potent factor in providing an adequate pipeline for the mounting of further offensive action against Germany. Farther to the south, despite the difficulty of the conditions, the American Third Army in eastern France has made good progress around the fortress city of Metz. In the meantime, the Allied forces, by outstripping their supply lines, have had to halt temporarily, and this pause has afforded the Germans’ an opportunity to stabilize a front line. Whilst many may have hoped that Germany was on the point of collapse, a realistic view should be one of immense satisfaction that the frontier of the enemy’s country has been leached and that the United Nations are now fighting on German soil.
On the Eastern front, the principal centre of interest is in East Prussia where the Germans are fiercely resisting the Russian advance which has now driven the enemy from Russian territory and the Baltic States. Farther south, the Soviet forces have advanced from Rumania into Hungary. They have linked up with the partisan forces in Yugoslavia. Greece also is practically free of the enemy. It is very pleasing, in view of the traditional British friendship with that country and the part played by the Australian Im perial Force earlier in the war, that British forces have helped in the liberation of those brave people.
In the north, Finland is out of the war, and the important nickel-producing area of Petsamo is now in Russian hands. The recapture of Kirkenes marks the liberation of the first Norwegian town from Nazi domination. Kirkenes was also an important base from which attacks were launched on the sea communications with north Russia. With the European war extending into another winter, it is heartening to recall, from earlier campaigns, the great success and adaptability of the Red Army in winter operations, even when confronted with the entire might of the German Army.
In Italy, the progress of the Allied forces has been steady, though not spectacular. Mr. Churchill explained the purpose of this front as one on which it was desired to make the enemy “ bleed and burn “. It is better that the Germans should be made to stand and fight rather than to allow them to disengage the large forces being employed in this theatre for the Western and Eastern fronts. Though many predictions have been made as to the duration of the war in Europe, we cannot be better guided than by Mr. Churchill’s unwillingness to make any precise prediction. All we know is that if the United Nations do not relax, victory is certain. This victory can be won only by the destruction of German military power. If an internal collapse should contribute to this, so much the better, but that is a factor which must not necessarily be counted upon.
Flying bombs and rockets are still falling in southern England, and the British people have been warned by their leaders that there may be worse to come from similar diabolical devices. The resort to these methods of warfare reflects the desperate German position. The nefarious methods of the enemy do not produce any military results, and can only prop the waning morale of the German people and lead them into greater suffering and retribution.
Additional evidences of the grave situation confronting Germany are the most recent decrees for the reclassification of personnel hitherto regarded as medically unfit and the mobilization of the German “ Home Guard “. It is reminiscent of the position with which Britain was confronted when it stood alone after the fall of France, but with a striking contrast: Whereas Britain was stimulated by the hope that it would ultimately be succoured by the growing strength of the other peace-loving nations of the world, Germany cannot but be depressed by the fact that it must face this united strength entirely with its own diminishing resources.
The brilliant victories over the Japanese in the land, sea and air battles, which followed the landing in the Philippines on the 20th October, 1944, are of special significance to us, when we cast our minds back to the first New Guinea campaign two years ago. We were then laying the foundations for the offensive in the South- West Pacific Area. Our situation was difficult and desperate, and our resources limited. In contrast with this, the recent landing was the greatest amphibious operation so far mounted in the war against Japan. The re-entry of General MacArthur to the Philippines marked the attainment of the goal which he set himself on his arrival in Australia in March, 1942, and gave the pledge, encouraging to friends and ominous to foes, “ I shall return “.
The directive issued to General MacArthur in April, 1942, on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the South- West Pacific Area, placed on him the following responsibilities: - (1) to hold Australia as a base for future offensive action against Japan; (2) to check Japanese aggression in the South-West Pacific Area; and (.3) to prepare to take the offensive against Japan. The unbroken run of successes in all of his campaigns in the South-West Pacific Area - in Papua, the New Guinea Mandated territories, Solomon Islands, Dutch New Guinea, Biak and Morotai - is eloquent testimony of the able manner in which he has fulfilled the tasks imposed on him. When General MacArthur completes the conquest of the Philippines, important results will accrue to the strategy of the war against Japan. General MacArthur has described them as follows : -
The strategic result of capturing the Philippines will be decisive. The’ enemy’s so-called greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere will be. cut in two. His conquered empire to the south, comprising the > Dutch East Indies, and the British possessions of Borneo, Malaya and Burma, will be severed from Japan proper. Tha great flow of transportation and supply, on which Japan’s vital war industry depends, will be cut, as will the counter supply of his forces to the south. Half a million men will be cut off without hope of support, and with ultimate destruction at the leisure of the Allies a certainty. In broad, strategical conception, the defensive line of the Japanese, which extends along the coast of Asia from the Japan Islands through Formosa, the Philippines, the East Indies to Singapore and Burma, will be pierced in the centre, permitting an envelopment to the south and to the north. Either flank will be vulnerable and can be rolled up at will.
It was a just retribution on the Japanese that American ships which had been damaged by them in the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbour should have avenged themselves in the great naval victory which defeated the attempt to interfere with the landing in the Philippines. This victory was also some atonement for the loss of H.M.S. Prince of Wales and Repulse when attempting a similar type of attack against the Japanese. The naval balance of power in the Pacific, which was already greatly adverse to the Japanese, has become more greatly so. When the British fleet, which of itself will be of sufficient strength to inflict defeat upon the Japanese, arrives in the Pacific, the combined naval strength of the United Nations will be overwhelming.
It is fitting to refer to the distinguished part played by the Royal Australian Navy in the Philippines operations, though it was not done without paying a grievous price in the loss of gallant members of the ship’s company of H.M.A.S. Australia, and in the damage suffered by the cruiser during an. air attack. Ninety casualties, of whom 30 were killed or died of wounds, included the commander of the ship, Captain Dechaineux. The commander of the squadron, Commodore Collins, was wounded. I express the deepest sympathy with the next of kin of those who lost their lives, and with those who suffered wounds.
Though the Philippines campaign is going very well, the Japanese have considerable forces in the area. The importance they attach to the islands is indicated by the strength of the naval attack against the invasion forces, and by the reinforcements sent to oppose the advance of the American land forces. It is certain that much strenuous and bitter fighting lies ahead before the battle for the Philippines will be won. Australian land and air forces will play a full part in these operations. For security reasons further details cannot be stated at this stage. We must look northwards not only to our part in the general advance, but also to the situation in our own territories still occupied by the Japanese. General MacArthur’s by-passing strategy has left behind substantial Japanese forces which have stil to be dealt with. The CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces. General Sir Thomas Blarney, estimates that some 250,000 Japanese troops are existing as disciplined, organized armed forces between the Philippines and Australia. In the comparatively short arc extending from Wewak to the Solomon Islands, through New Britain and New Ireland, is an estimated total of 90,00C enemy troops. These forces are by no means impotent. They had accumulated considerable supplies, and are colonizing the areas in which they have been isolated, despite harassing attacks by Allied forces. Whilst they are no longer a threat to our integrity, large bodies of troops are necessary to contain them. The task of liquidating them will not be easy, and it will involve heavy commitments for Australian land and air forces.
Though the United Nations are on the frontiers of Germany, whose hold on occupied territories has been lessened by the freeing of many parts of Europe, we are still a long way from Japan, which remains in occupation of most of its illgotten gains. An arduous task still confronts us. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated in July last, he discussed with Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and the combined Chiefs of Staff and General MacArthur, the form that the Australian war effort should take as a part of the plan of the United Nations. In essence, what is required is a balanced effort which Australia is capable of sustaining with the certainty that the fulfilment of our commitments can be relied on.
Before proceeding to deal with the measures now decided on by the Government to produce a better balancein the war effort, it is first necessary to note the main influences which moulded the
Australian war effort into its present form and produced the disequilibrium which it is now sought to rectify. The war effort since the outbreak of war with Japan falls into two main periods, marked by entirely different characteristics. The first extended from December, 1941, until June, 1943, when it was announced that the danger of invasion had passed. The predominant feature of this period was the diversion of man-power and resources to meet the threat of invasion. It was necessary to mobilize land, sea and air forces, to the maximum strength of our capacity. It was also essential to concentrate a large proportion of man-power, woman-power, and productive resources on supplying the needs of the forces. In short, the absolute priority of the fighting forces and their requirements became paramount over every other consideration. The extent of the military effort developed is shown by the fact that until late’ in 1943, the Australian Army provided the greater part of the land forces in Papua and New Guinea. Correspondingly, a greater part of the air forces was furnished by the United States of America. In addition, we played our part iu the air war of Europe, and maintained the 9th Division in the Middle East until after the battle of El Alamein. To ensure that the holding strategy in the Pacific did, in fact, hold, the whole of the Australian Imperial Force was concentrated in Australia and constantly increasing American forces were despatched to this theatre. The arrival of United States forces, and the return of the Australian Imperial Force meant a substantial increase of population, and new obligations for industries whose resources were already strained by the tremendous diversion of man-power to the forces. In this first phase, we developed a war effort of a type which we had no prospect of sustaining for a prolonged struggle. To the lasting credit of the Australian people, the national effort met the situation for which it was designed. The history of the campaign in the South-West Pacific Area might have been different had the diversion of man-power and material resources been anything less than the maximum of which we were capable.
Australia having been made secure as a base, the main features of the second phase through which we are now passing are the steps taken to establish equilibrium between the direct military programme and the civil economy which supports it. This process of re-balancing was initiated in June, 1943, in consultation with General MacArthur, when he expressed the view that Australia could not maintain forces of the strength which had been raised and at the same time do those things expected of it as a vital base area. The evolution has been necessarily gradual, because it has been governed by the release of members of the forces, the strength of which had to be related to current operational needs. Similarly, the transfer of workers in industry has been dependent on the review and fulfilment of programmes of supplies and works. The first step was to lay down principles in July, 1943, to govern the nature and extent of Australia’s war effort, which was to be in accordance with the CommanderinChief’s plan of operations and limited only by the Commonwealth’s physical capacity to satisfy the demands which these requirements entailed. The next step was to review the whole man-power position in “October, 1943, when the Government fixed the limits of intake for the services and directed that 40,000 men should be released from the Army and from munitions industries to meet the following needs : -
A shortage of man-power to provide for the level of activity in a number of basic industries on which the Australian direct military effort ultimately depends - transport, power, timber, minerals, food, clothing, and the like - in order to ensure a proper balance between the direct military programme and its industrial basis.
A shortage of man-power for the production of food for Britain and of food and general supplies for rapidly growing Allied forces in Pacific areas.
Having determined the strength of the forces to be maintained, it was decided to impose limits on the commitments which could be accepted for the Allied forces and to review programmes of works and supplies, with a view to the release of man-power where possible. The evolution was carried a stage farther during the Prime Minister’s trip abroad. Following discussions with Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, agreement was reached on the nature and extent of a balanced war effort which would provide naval, military and air forces of appropriate strength for Australian participation in the future plans of the United Nations, and the release of additional men from the services towards placing the indirect war effort on a satisfactory footing.
The achievement of the tasks we have accepted is impossible without further extensive re-allocations of our limited man-power resources. .During 1944-4*5, these resources are not expected to exceed 2,448,000 men and from 812,000 to 820,000 women, and the demands for man-power for all the component parts of the Australian war economy must be reconciled and balanced within these narrow limits. We have to provide forces to fight Japan. We have to provide for those forces munitions and aircraft and supplies of all kinds. We have to contribute on an agreed basis to the needs of American and British forces in the Pacific, and we have to provide food for Britain. At the same time, we have to maintain basic industries and services which support the direct war effort and provide the essential requirements of the whole civil population. In our straitened circumstances, we cannot afford the waste of resources which an unbalanced allocation of man-power involves.
On the 30th August, 1944, the Prime Minister announced that the Government had directed the release of 30,000 men from the Army and 15,000 from the Royal Australian Air Force during 1944-45, over and above normal discharges which will be about 48,000 for the year. The intake will be 36,000 during the year. By June, 1945, the number of men in the forces will be about 548,000, or just over 23 per cent, of the male labour force. This includes about 20,000 air personnel serving abroad, who will become available when the war in Europe ends. The determination of the size of the direct military effort automatically decides what manpower resources are available for civilian employment, since total man-power resources will show no significant increase during the year. The reduction of the direct war effort now being made will provide 81,650 men and 15,600 women for new civil employment from the following sources: -
There will be a net transfer of 57,000 men from military to civilian status. This will comprise 45,000 special releases and 48,000 normal discharges, offset by an intake of 36,000. Some of those discharged for routine reasons will be unfit for civil employment and others will, by the exercise of reinstatement rights, return to less essential occupations. It is expected, however, that 44,700 will become available as a net addition to the man-power resources of essential industry.
The reduced requirements for munitions and supply items and for works by Australian and Allied services will release 36,950 men for other purposes during the year. This number is due in part to the reduction of the forces, but mainly to the completion of production programmes.
After providing for recruitment on a reduced scale to the women’s auxiliary services, and taking into account the reduction of war production and the small expected increase in total female employment, the number of women available for re-employment in essential industries is estimated at 15,600.
The allocation of these supplies of man-power has been considered by Production Executive and the War Commitments Committee in relation to new manpower demands for high priority civil employment. These new demands total 119,350 men and 25,500 women during 1944-4.5, as against available numbers of 81,650 men and 15,600 women. There isthus a gap in the civil man-power budget of 37,700 men and 9,900 women. The conclusion is inescapable: Since we are short of requirements by nearly 50,000 men and women, we must revise the plans on which these requirements were based. We must concentrate our limited man-power supplies in those employments which will contribute most to the total war effort. Where our plans are in the nature of definite commitments, they must be provided for to the maximum extent possible, at the expense of provision for requirements of lower priority.
The Government and the War Council have approved the recommendations of Production Executive and the War Commitments Committee for the allocation of the 81,650 men and 15,600 women to essential civil employment. The major beneficiaries are rural industry and housing. In June, 1944, the rural industries had less than 75 per cent, of their pre-war labour force, despite the restoration of some 18,000 to 20,000 men since October, 1943.
– Is the Department of the Army carrying out these decisions?
– Yes. I stated in reply to a question asked this afternoon by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) that Iwould make a detailed statement to-morrow showing how the discharges are being made.
During 1944-45, 21,000 additional men and 500 women will be restored to food production and a special direction has been given that this allocation should include 8,000 men for dairying. This limited restoration of man-power should enable the rural industries to overtake serious arrears of maintenance and to meet current production programmes. Provision has been made for the addition of 3,850 men and 1,700 women to industries associated with food production, such as food processing, the production of fertilizers and stock food, and the repair of agricultural machinery.
– The Army is not carrying out the promise which the right honorable gentleman made to this House.
– I repeat, that the detailed statement that I shall make to-morrow in response to an inquiry by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who represents a large dairying district, will bear out what I have said.
The building industry is an outstanding example of the industries that have been restricted, almost to vanishing point, in the diversion of labour to direct war activities. It has been decided that we can no longer delay the restoration of a limited scale of building activity so as to provide minimum relief of the civilian housing shortage and restore the building industry, as well as the industries producing building materials, to a level of activity at which they will be capable of transition to the planned post-war level of operation. The Government’s original plans cannot, however, be fully implemented in the existing man-power situation. Building and its associated industries have been allocated 30,400 men, including provision for the training of tradesmen. It is intended that, by June, 1945, the erection of dwellings will be proceeding at a rate of about 4,500 a quarter, which will be equal to about 80 per cent, of the planned rate.
After provision has been made for rural industry and for building, only 30,250 men and 13,400 women will remain for : allocation against all other requirements. Aircraft production and ship repair will receive 3,200 men and 500 women, but no new labour can be provided for shipbuilding. The production of essential items of munitions and supply for export, chiefly to the Netherlands East Indies, has been cut by 40 per .cent, from the levels recommended by the Export Committee, and will absorb 8,100 men and 4,300 women. Transport industries have been allocated 2,000 men and 400 women towards the numbers that they require to overtake maintenance arrears and to relieve the strain on operating labour. For the relief of shortages in a wide range of civilian supplies, which have become more and more acute as the period of restriction has lengthened, 9,000 men and 5,000 women are to be provided. This new labour is 70 per cent, of that recommended as necessary by the Civilian Requirements Board. Government departments, although hampered in current tasks by the effects of over-depletion of staffs in the early years of the war, cannot be supplied with more than 2,000 men and 1,500 women, or 30 per cent, of their, requirements. Public utilities will receive 500 men and 200 women. Health and hospital services will receive 500 men and 1 ,500 women. For basic material production, 1,000 men are to be provided, and 100 as key personnel in the planning of post-war production.
It has been decided that the special release of 45,000 men from the services should, to the greatest extent practicable, be of personnel nominated or approved by the ‘Director-General of Man Power. Concerning the 8,000 men for dairying, it has been directed that, to the greatest extent practicable, all service restrictions shall be removed from the release of personnel willing to return to the industry and recommended for release by the Director-General of Man Power.
These measures for re-balancing the man-power position make it clear that there can be no relaxation of the total war effort in the present circumstances. In all cases, essential industries are being required to continue under a burden of economy in man-power, and in many instances the additional labour provided will be no more than sufficient to hold off the threat to the war effort and to the economy generally of accumulated arrears of maintenance which have become acute after five years of war. That we have been able to meet the requirements of essential industry to the degree that I have indicated, is due, almost entirely, to the diversion of man-power from direct war activities. No further reduction of rh.e direct war effort is possible at present ; therefore, no further relief can be given to other industries. The whole position will be reviewed in December, 1944, in accordance with the Government’s policy of making regular re-assessments of the balance of the war effort.
Having outlined the present position of the war, and traversed the measures taken to re-balance the war effort, I speak frankly to the Australian people through the Parliament, on the subject of public morale. I have no reason to believe that the Australian people are dissatisfied with the war effort of the Commonwealth. At the moment, some of our forces may not be so actively engaged as some people might wish. That is because of General MacArthur’s plans for their future use. These plans will soon unfold themselves as operations proceed, and for that reason I shall not now give .details of them. Nevertheless, there are signs of complacency and reaction to war strain throughout the community. In a review to Parliament in September, 1942, the Prime Minister saia -
We can be confident about the future, but the indications are that we are in for a long war. Public morale must be strong, resolute and determined in maintaining the maximum effort and enduring the sacrifices that this will mean. The capacity tn “ stick it “ better than the enemy may, in the last resort, be the deciding factor.
Complacency is mainly due to the opinion that victory is not far off. Many persons, no doubt, hold the belief that victory is just round the corner. It is imperative that we keep our gaze steadfastly on the length and difficulties of the task of de1feating japan, in which Australia must play its full part, rather than let wishfulness and imagination conjure up an easier and more pleasant view of the still difficult road that leads to final and absolute victory. That there must be some reaction to war strain is understandable. That the Australian people have done a great job, and have willingly undergone considerable sacrifices, stands without question as a glorious page in our history. But they have not suffered the ordeals that have been imposed on the peoples of Britain, Russia, or the occupied countries. Many, who are feeling the strain, are demanding a relaxation of the exceptional conditions under which they are living; others are becoming irked with the shortage of supplies; and some vested interests are urging that restrictions should be lifted. These all involve considerations of man-power. Whilst we have every reason to be thankful for the improved situation in the Pacific, it is i]hportant that this should not lead to any relaxation of our efforts to win the earliest possible victory. When the danger of invasion existed, the sacrifices that were necessary for the diversion of resources to the war effort were much easier to impose, than they are to maintain now. It would appear that many people judge the relief of their own particular problem in relation to the release of 45,000 men, without adequate thought or knowledge of the extent of other demands over which the 45,000 must be spread.
I have shown the present extent of the fighting effort that has to be maintained, the releases that are to be made, and the purposes for which they are t6 be used. Until the next periodical review at the end of the year, this is the Government’s policy and programme. No more men can be released from the forces than the number decided on, and action by any section of the community to force the hand of the Government will be unavailing. Those who used such pressure would be seeking an unfair advantage at the expense of the rest of the community.
Australia’s effort since the outbreak of war with Japan has been concentrated in the Pacific. Apart from the return of air personnel from overseas, the defeat of Germany will afford no relief from the strain that we must endure. Mr. Churchill has said that, on military grounds alone, it would not be prudent to assume that a shorter period than eighteen months after the defeat of Hitler would be required for the final destruction of the Japanese will or capacity to fight. The earliest possible victory over Japan will mean, in the long run, the least sacrifice, the return’ of our men to their homes, the release of our prisoners of war, and the return to those conditions of peacefulness which is the ardent desire of all. I appeal to all Australians to sustain their efforts and sacrifices until all these have been achieved. That will be a lasting satisfaction to them personally, and will complete a glorious record in our history. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Review of the War and Australia’s Wat Effort - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that at the Flinders Naval Training College corporal punishment of a severe nature is imposed on junior cadets by cadet captains, who not only inflict the punishment, but also determine the nature of the penalties? Will the Minister investigate a report that on Sunday evening last what was referred to as general punishment was inflicted on a number of junior cadets, and that in some instances the punishment involved nine strokes of the birch?
– I shall have an inquiry made immediately, and an answer will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I notice that discussions have occurred in Canada and the United States of America with regard to international civil aviation. Can the Acting Prime Minister indicate whether it is likely that a statement will be made on behalf of the Government regarding those discussions during the present sittings ?
– I expect that a statement will be made on the matter next week.
– In view of the fact, as stated in the press, that the United States Army authorities are retiring from the Herne Bay Military Hospital, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health give consideration to making a portion of the accommodation in that hospital available to the civil community?
– The information desired by the honorable member will be obtained as soon as possible.
– Having regard to the acute shortage of houses in the Newcastle district, and in view of the fact that within a few miles of that city a large military establishment is unoccupied, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the possibility of making it available for the accommodation of persons for whom no housing can now be provided?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be taken into consideration. The housing problem is giving much concern to the Government, in relation to not only Newcastle, but also every other large centre of population in Australia. The provision of homes is one of the big national works which the Government is determined to undertake as soon as materials and man-power can be diverted from the war effort. At present a high priority is given to materials required for our all-in war effort, and to transfer materials and man-power to any other national project would result in a slowing up of the operations against the enemy.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping investigate the possibilities of preventing the use of producer-gas units on motor cars and motor lorries in country districts of New South Wales which are likely to be affected by bush-fires, and in many of which serious bush-fires have been raging for the last few days ? It is alleged that many of these fires have been caused by producer-gas units. Will the Minister immediately take up the matter of preventing the use of those units and issuing extra supplies of petrol to people who must use cars and lorries?
– I shall look into the matter, in view of the honorable member’s representations, and an answer will be supplied to him as soon as possible.
– Following the recent escape of Australian soldiers from a Japanese prison ship which was torpedoed, does the Acting Prime Minister intend to make a statement to the House concerning the inhuman and barbarous treatment of Australian prisoners of war by our cruel and ruthless enemy, the Japanese ?
– That matter is now the subject of consultation with the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, and I am not in a position at present to make any statement about it.
– Having regard to the sinking of ships on which Australian and British prisoners of war were being transported, can the Attorney-General say whether, under The Hague Convention, or any other international agreement, there is provision for the special marking of vessels carrying prisoners of war? If so, will he ascertain whether such markings appeared on the enemy vessels which have been sunk?
– I shall look into the matter, and furnish a considered answer later.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take steps to ensure that mill offals are made available to poultry-farmers for the feeding of their poultry? As a result of the reduction of working shifts in flour mills from three to two a day, a shortage of mill offals has developed. The Government is asking poultry farmers for increased production, but this will be impossible unless feed is made available. Indeed, unless the position improves soon, production will actually decrease.
– Because the number of shif ts worked in the mills has been reduced from three to two, the production of mill offals has declined, but the reduction is not equal to one-third, because all the mills were not previously working three shifts. It has been arranged that the Wheat Board will make grain available for the manufacture of wheat meal, and this will be supplied to poultryfarmers. I realize the seriousness of the position, and I have issued instructions that everything possible is to be done to provide supplies of essential stock feeds.
– Having regard to the scarcity of children’s footwear in South Australia, will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider permitting bootmakers to work overtime in factories when not required to work overtime by their usual employer?
– I shall examine the position in order to see whether relief can be afforded in the way suggested.
– In a recent press statement the Minister for Repatriation said that it was the Government’s policy to allocate war service homes among the various States, but the scheme was not fully explained. Will the Minister make a statement to Parliament on the subject, and will he say when the war service homes are to be built?
– We hope to go into large-scale production as soon as possible. I am preparing a memorandum on the subject for Cabinet, and when it is approved I shall make a statement in the House.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether any steps are being taken to promote a flood of migrants to Australia after the war ? Has the right honorable gentleman read the recent press statements that other nations are actively promoting plans to attract migrants from war-shocked Europe ?
– I hope to be able to make a statement to-morrow containing the information desired by the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the statement of Sir Louis Bussau, who has been Victorian AgentGeneral in London, that if Australia did not set out to get the many thousands of people from the British Isles who wanted to settle in the Dominions after the war, other Dominions would get them? In view of the Prime Minister’s statement of .the 22nd September commending my proposal to appoint an allparty parliamentary committee to make recommendations to the Government and to Parliament on a long-term migration policy, will the Acting Prime Minister say when the Government proposes to set up such a committee?
– I have already informed the honorable member for Robertson that I shall make a statement to-morrow explaining the plans which the Government has made regarding post-war migration, and the organization which it proposes to set up in order to bring to Australia under proper conditions the right kind of migrants immediately the war ends. The flow of migrants to Australia will, of course, be dependent upon our capacity to absorb them and, at the same time, to rehabilitate the men of the fighting services and those engaged in war industry. I have not seen any statement on this subject by Sir Louis Bussau. Consideration will be given to the suggestion put forward by the right honorable member for Darling Downs.
– Recently, the Acting Prime Minister expressed himself in favour of child migration from Great Britain to Australia, as the Prime Minister had done before. Will the right honorable gentleman refer to the matter in his statement on migration to-morrow, and willhe take steps to ensure that the proposal shall be put into effect ? There is in existence in Australia an organization known as the British Orphans Adoption Society which can immediately adopt a large number of children of tender age. If the Government can obtain the approval of the British authorities those children can be brought here immediately.
– This and other phases of the Government’s migration policy will be dealt with to-morrow. standardization of railway gauges:
– Will the Minister for Transport say whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Government proposes to proceed immediately with the standardization of railway gauges in Australia? If so, will he explain how it is proposed to overcome the constitutional difficulties which, only a short time ago, the people were told would preclude any action of this kind?
– The work is not to be proceeded with immediately; it is to be given high priority as a post-war undertaking. As for the difficulties mentioned by the honorable member, this Government has great capacity for overcoming difficulties.
-Can the Minister for Commerce say when money will be made available for the payment of the promised Commonwealth subsidy on the production of whole milk supplied to Melbourne, Bendigo and other cities ? For the period from March to August of this year, one small co-operative company is owed by the Commonwealth, £3,500, although the company has already paid the money over to its suppliers.
– I was not previously aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. I view the matter with concern because Iknow what it means to a small organization to be compelled to carry such a burden. I shall take the matter up immediately with the authorities responsible for making the payments.
– There is a grave shortage of stock and pig feed on the far north coast of New South Wales, and unless something be done to relieve the position shortly farmers will have to sell their pigs forimmediate slaughter. The shortage is mainly due to the difficulty of obtaining rail transport for feed. Some time ago, I wrote to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture suggesting that a ship be provided for the carriage of stock feed to the north. I now ask him whether any such action has been taken.
– I am aware from the information supplied to me by the honorable member that the positionon the north coast of New South Wales is becoming serious in regard to stock feed derived from wheat. Because of the seasonal demands made upon the New South Wales Railway Department for the carriage of wheat and wool, it is impossible to provide transport also for all the stock feed required. The Railways Department is giving excellent service, and is doing everything possible to meet our requests for transport. Some time ago, I conferred with the Director-General of Agriculture with a view to arranging for the transport of wheat by sea from Western Australia, where there is a large surplus, to Brisbane for the supply of southern Queensland. I hope that we may also be able to arrange for the transport of supplies in the same way to the northern ports of New South Wales in order to relieve the position there.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Funda sum for the purpose of making grants to certain States for the purpose of drought relief.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Scully and Mr. Frost do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Scully, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is brought before the House as the result of a national disaster. Drought in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia has caused widespread destruction of crops, and it is necessary that the farmers should receive assistance so that they can carry on next season. It is the normal thing in any year for somedistricts in our wide continent to have a bad season. Our experience is that bad seasons are frequent, but cannot be forecast, and so the Australian farmer expects to face drought and bad seasons every few years as a part of his ordinary farming experience These are the years of misfortune, which cannot be avoided in the life of the man on the land ; they are a part of the risk that he takes and the price that he pays in his way of life. That life means that he depends on the weather. He is affected by the seasons in his coming and going, and in his profits and losses. At times, the season turns in his favour to bring good results where he expected failure; at other times, bad weather will destroy a good crop at the last moment. These are the risks that the farmer must take, and there is no way to avoid them. The swing of the seasons is something the man on the land accepts, and expects, but two or three times in a generation this swing goes far beyond the usual and we get a drought which brings disaster to the farmers and affects the whole economic structure of our nation. That is the position we face this season. The drought is so severe and extensive that it ranks with those of 1902 and 1914. It is not a poor season affecting a limited area, but a disaster hitting the three chief cereal-producing States. Its effects will be felt during the whole of 1945, and Australia’s production of foodstuffs is suffering and will suffer next year, to an extent which we cannot now foretell.
The farmer in the drought area and his wife and family, suffer the first shock of drought, and they have been bearing it throughout this year, but its results slowly spread through the community, and they are spreading now. The results of the lost crops of hay and cereals are beginning to have their effect on the people in the cities, and the losses by the farmers will result, too, in losses to those who do not live on farms, but depend on them for food. The community generally will be affected by the shortages which cannot be avoided in a drought year or replaced until months after the drought has broken. In the nature of things few people in cities do, or can, realize how droughts like this affect the farmer. There are not so very many of us, even in a representative group such as this House, who have lived on the land and experienced the rigours of drought. Most of our people are insulated by a life remote from the land, and that remoteness prevents them from knowing the harships that a large number of our farmers are now facing.
Drought relief normally is a matter for the State concerned, and not a responsibility of the Commonwealth. When, however, drought is widespread as it is now, relief is more than a State matter, and is one in which the active co-operation of the Commonwealth with the States is both proper and necessary. At the beginning of October the drought position was considered by the Premiers Conference, and was the chief item of discussion by the Australian Agricultural Council. The Premiers and the Ministers for Agriculture were thus able to get the best information about the drought as it affected all States. It was clear that no State could say what the drought damage might be. Even now, the area affected is not fully defined; the extent of drought loss in the various districts cannot be stated yet, and the number of farmers and the extent of assistance needed must remain uncertain until later in the season. The simple fact is that many crops have failed completely, but the return from those which have not failed cannot be estimated with any accuracy until the crop is harvested.
Estimates of the coming wheat crop show that in Victoria it is practically a complete failure. From 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 bushels may be harvested, as compared with an average of 37,000,000 bushels for the ten year period ended 1940. With other cereal crops the position is the same, and oats, barley and hay crops have failed practically in their entirety. South Australia normally harvests over 30,000,000 bushels. This year the crop may be 5,000,000 bushels. There is a large area of complete failure, and practically all the remainder has partially failed. Other cereals have been badly affected, and the hay position is so serious that the State Government has found it necessary to compel the cutting of crops for hay in a number of districts. In New South Wales the area chiefly stricken is the Riverina, and the crop in that State will be down to about one-third of normal. The crop is likely to be 20,000,000 bushels or less, against an average of 55,000,000 bushels. The crops of oats and hay also are badly affected, so that supplies of feedstuff’s will be much lower than normal. It was pointed out at the Premiers Conference that there might also be areas in Western Australia for which assistance would be needed. If this should be the case, it .is intended that Western Australia also will be brought into the relief plans.
It was in the light of this information that the Premiers Conference decided that relief should be afforded to cereal farmers. Poor, seasons are a part of normal farming risks, and the farmer himself must bear them. But this year’s drought is not a part of that normal risk. It ie a disaster on a scale which outweighs the reserves that a farmer should, and usually does, provide. That being so, it is necessary that the men concerned shall get assistance. This assistance must be enough to enable our farmers to carry on for next season. It must be given for two reasons, first, to prevent farmers being ruined - as many would be if they had to bear alone the full brunt of a national calamity, and secondly because the nation needs the fullest production obtainable from the drought areas next year. During the coming months our stocks of grain and feed will be strained, and they must be built up as quickly as possible. It will not be possible to do this until the crops are cut at the end of 1945, and the production will depend on the men whose crops this year have failed. There is no other source of supply, and so our farmers must be in a position to produce because the nation needs the production. For these reasons, on the initiative of the Prime Minister, it was decided to grant £3,000,000 for relief to cereal farmers, and the money will be provided on a fi for £1 basis by the Commonwealth and States. A tentative allocation of the amount was made, which allowed £1,100,000 to Victoria, £1,000,000 to New South Wales, and £900,000 to South Australia. I do not know whether that allocation will stand; if necessary, it will be altered. The point is that the needs of the different States are not yet known and in the nature of things cannot be known for some little time to come. So the proper division of the amount cannot be decided definitely at present.
The assistance is to be a grant to farmers. This is not an occasion for loans. The men concerned must get assistance in a form which will leave them free from the burden of repayment. Loans would only hang like a millstone around their necks and prevent them from getting on to a sound financial basis for their farming. So the assistance will bc a grant, not a loan. Further, it is assistance to maintain farming, and not a payment to compensate for this year’s failure. The grant is to enable farmers to continue their operations next year, and only those who continue farming will receive assistance.
It will be noted that the bill does not give the details of the plan of assistance and there are good reasons for this. It is essential that the distribution of money shall take place as soon as practicable. This, in effect, means shortly after the harvest, the time when the growers usually receive payment for their crops. Payments can be made early in the New Year. We cannot, however, decide on the details until applications are received, and the number of growers, and the area affected, are known. At present there are estimates. They are subject to uncertainty which is unavoidable, and whilst a detailed plan could be presented now it would certainly be found unsuitable in some ways when the final position was clear. Besides this, there are administrative details, many of which are also likely to need variation. Accordingly, it is intended that the details of the distribution shall be settled in consultation with the States, and they will be uniform so far as it is possible to apply uniformity to the States concerned. In this, it is intended to fit the plans to the needs of the farmers, and not to fit farmers into a preconceived pattern.
I might add that Commonwealth and State officers have already conferred on this matter, and have drawn up the broad details of an administrative plan. This is now before the States for their approval. That is as far as it is practicable to go at the moment, since we know that amendments to any proposals may be necessary later. It is intended, however, to grant assistance to farmers in respect of wheat, oats, barley, and wheaten and oaten hay. This assistance will be on the basis primarily of the area which has failed. There will be allowances for crops which have not failed completely, but which have returned a yield below a fixed mark. This basis is familiar to growers, and was, in fact, the basis adopted in past years.
There is little that can be added to what I have said. The need for assistance is recognized by all who have knowledge of the drought position, and I know that all members of the House will agree with the Government’s action in rendering assistance. It is deplorable that this help should be needed, and that we should find ourselves facing a season in which every effort will be required to maintain our production of foodstuffs at the levels necessary. This happens at a time when our energy was going to increase the supply of foodstuffs. As honorable members know, this season increased production of wheat, oats and barley was planned. Early in the season it was indicated that the increased production would be obtained. Farmers intended a substantial increase of the area sown for those crops, but the season turned against them. Hundreds of thousands of acres was prepared and could not be planted at all, and from the areas that were planted the yields in our chief production districts will be tragically small. Our plans, hopes and expectations have been frustrated by a season the like of which, fortunately, we hope not to experience again for many years to come. In these circumstances, we must give a helping hand to the men and women who are suffering hardship against which they could not guard. After this has been done, we must prepare to put all the energy possible into building up our depleted supplies next season.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th September (vide page 1761) on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure lines up Australia with the great nations of the world in the mercy work that must be undertaken at the conclusion of the war. On the practical side, it commits this country to an expenditure of £12,000,000. ‘This is in line with what was done at the conclusion of the last war. However, it is generally agreed that this scheme will be more farreaching than any of the relief schemes undertaken after the last war. After the last battle has been concluded, and the last shot has been fired, the emissaries of mercy will bring relief to the stricken countries of Europe and Asia. The United Nations propose to commence their rehabilitation work in those countries where the greatest need for relief exists. Therefore, this is a proud moment for Australia, when, in spite of heavy commitments in respect of our own present and post-war needs, particularly in respect of social services, we are able to provide so large an amount as £12,000,000 for this purpose. We are not merely throwing this money into a pool regardless of what it means to us. We are contributing it to the relief scheme of the United Nations, because we believe that after the war concludes we shall be fighting with our present allies for the regeneration of the -world ; and in the regeneration of man we devote our first effort to man’s greatest need. Therefore, we shall not be criticized for the fact that we are expending this money in order to help our stricken allies who have suffered the terrible assaults of war. Unrra has been inaugurated with the blessings of the Allied countries; but we have reason for fear in relation to schemes of this kind. There has been in the past, particularly in the last war, an exploitation of these mercy schemes in different countries of Europe. The scandals associated with relief during and after the 1914-18 conflict, particularly in relation to Mr. Herbert Hoover’s administration of the food fund, have not been forgotten. Almost a library of books has been written about the indiscretions and bad organization of that fund. We hope that that lesson will be bornein mind, and that the representatives of Australia on Unrra will recognize that the task which they are undertaking is in the nature of a dedication to the merciful work of resuscitating nations which arealmost on the point of extinction. If the work be approached in that spirit we can be sure that the money will be well spent, but if the movement is to be considered simply as a soup-and-blanket campaign the plan will be despicable and we should have nothing to do with it. In regard to the personnel who work in organizations of this kind, too many people think that it is a glamour job ; they have no dedication to the hard work of relieving suffering, and no administrative ability, and many of them are simply limelighting in what they think is a very popular stunt. The people of Unrra’s staff are provided with uniforms, and receive a great amount of publicity, they have the entree to the dramatic spots of the world, and many unworthy people have been swimming in the limelight in the past. A great work for relief in Europe during the last war, a Quakeress named Francesca M. Wilson, has since written a book called In the Margins of Chaos. It is in the Parliamentary Library, and I commend it to honorable members who are interested in the development of relief work and in this bill. She says that her experience has been that all sorts of queer people asso ciate themselves with relief work for the glamour of it - something like the rich old lady with a charitable mind who likes as much press publicity as possible. MissWilson says that people with unbalanced minds, people who want to escape from their own countries after making a mess of their lives, drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals and others who think a change of air will do them good, try to get into schemes of this kind. under the guise of charity. If Unrra is to be the success which it deserves to be, we must make sure that its personnel shall be handpicked. I am not suggesting that our representatives are not the best to be obtained, but I do suggest that the Attorney-General should lay on the table of the House a list of those appointed to the organization, because besides the risk of recruiting limelighters and the others I have mentioned, there is the danger that we may by lack of vigilance have men of the brass-hatted type of mentality going abroad to represent us in this work. We do not want people of that sort to go to Europe to push the suffering poor of the necessitous countries around, and establish a sort of semi-military organization, as a part of a soup-and-blanket scheme. We must have for this scheme the genuine spirit of rehabilitation. The organization must be ready to act immediately an oppressed country is free, and to expand its activities when the war ends, because it will be one of the most powerful forces for goodwill amongst the nations. If it is to achieve that end it must not be administered as a semi-military organization. To allow that to happen would be fatal. I therefore urge the Minister to let us have a look at the list of personnel if we wish to do so, and if possible satisfy ourselves that the people appointed are really worthy, and do have a full appreciation of the job which is almost a. dedication to the succour of the peoples of Europe.
In relation to Unrra and the work which it is to perform, perhaps there has been rather an excessive amount of talk about it in proportion to any real executive work that has yet been done. In the evening Sun of the 9th November last appeared a report that British troops in Greece were being put on half rations from the 15th
November, which is to-day, in order to provide more food for the people. That suggests that Unrra has missed the jump there. With its organization it should have been ready to move into Greece, because that country is now liberated, and if Unrra delays in its merciful mission there will be no Greece left. I refer particularly to that country because of our association with it during the Libyan campaign, and also during the attempt to reach the Balkans through it. Every soldier who returned from the campaign in Greece and Crete was loud in his praises of the valiant attitude of the Greeks, and the manner in which they assisted the escape of so many Australian soldiers. Many a time Australians were absolutely snatched away from their German captors and hidden and fed by the Greeks in the hills. Many of our men are still trickling down from the Greek hills to safety. It should be now our happy privilege in turn to assist in feeding the Greek nation, which is on the point of starvation. I had hoped that Unrra would have the organization and the machinery ready to move into Greece at once, and help to feed our gallant allies, who fought so well by our side against the Germans. That, however, has not happened, and if the tempo of liberation in Europe is increased we may reach a stage where France, Belgium, Holland and other countries will be in the same plight as Greece is now, while we with our organization of mercy will be lumbering behind the tide of conquest. As the oppressed countries are restored to freedom, we should be ready to march in and proceed with the work of rehabilitation.
There is also the pressing need for the relief and rehabilitation of the people of China. The “ good earth “ of China has been wrung and racked by war for more years than any other country in the world. China took up arms before the British Empire and its allies were embroiled, and ite sufferings have been too terrible to contemplate. From what I have read of its schemes, I understand that Unrra has a very definite mission in that country, and that very soon Australians attached to the Pacific side of the scheme will move into China on their work of mercy.
In conclusion, I should like to emphasize again the points which I have mentioned, and to express the hope that as many honorable members as possible will speak on this important bill. The first feature of it is that it commits us to an expenditure of £12,000,000, while it gives us the privilege of carrying on the work of mercy after the war. The next is that it binds us by ties of comradeship and humanity to our allies. It is a big undertaking, in which we should be proud to participate. It will have its great moments, but in view of the terrible hardships and sufferings in Europe we should not consider that aspect of it. The points I stress are that it should not be commercialized, that it should be developed and fully staffed with people who understand that sort of work, that it must not be a stamping ground for careerists and limelighters, that it should function with expedition, that .when a country is relieved by our fighting men we should be able to march in with our organization and feed and clothe the people, and that we must as soon as possible regenerate and build up the broken nations. I urge again that we should watch the personnel, and that we should immediately, examine the position with regard to Greece, to see whether we cannot accelerate its relief, because our duty does lie to Greece in a more potent and permanent way than to perhaps any other of our allies. We should ensure also that having undertaken the task we make a thorough-paced job of it in co-operation with the allies who are carrying on with us this mercy work of rehabilitation after the war.
.- My interest in work of the kind which is to be undertaken by Unrra was first evoked during a trip which I made in Germany just before the present war broke out. On that occasion I came across a distinguished German official who had a particular grievance against the peoples of Western Europe, not because of the defeat of the German nation in legitimate battle, but because of what happened in Germany in the years immediately after the signing of the armistice. He made this statement to me - whether it is fact, or fancy I am not prepared to say, because I did not investigate it - that if anything was calculated to sustain hatred against the victorious nations it was the fact that in the years following the last war 3,000,000 people died as a consequence of malnutrition and starvation, simply because insufficient attention was paid to them at a time when something might reasonably have been done for them after the heat of battle had passed. I formed the opinion that statements of that kind were being made throughout the country, for the purpose, partly, of inciting hostility to Great Britain and America. There may have been an element of truth in what was said, but how much I shall not attempt to estimate. The fact is that such propaganda was proceeding. After this war, widespread and intense hatreds will be abroad in Europe and numerous and complex problems will have to be faced. Victorious as well as conquered nations will be involved. Unless we are prepared for the evil of war to continue, we must make an earnest attempt to solve the problems that will face us. I have reminded honorable members previously in this chamber that we have participated in three wars within the last 38 years. I see no evidence, in public utterances or otherwise, that entitles me to believe that wre may not participate in another three wars in the next 38 years. “We must change our entire outlook and make a new approach to international problems if such a calamity is to be avoided. I believe that the approach thai is now being made through Unrra is of the right kind. We must do more than contribute commodities to the peoples of the warravaged countries abroad. Here is a field in which the diplomatic services of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) may well be utilized. Here is the nidus for the training of these peoples in such ways as will help them to understand national problems - and they will need such training. We should no everything possible, in a spirit of goodwill, _ to assist the different peoples in relation to their social, economic and scientific difficulties. If Unrra can be used successfully in this connexion, our proposed investment of £12,000,000 in it will prove to be worth while. It will not be merely by the distribution of largess that we shall be able to help them; it will be necessary for us, as people living in a land of plenty, to enter into all their problems with them. I happen to be internationally minded. That does not abate in any degree my patriotism. I can still be a good Australian while doing everything practicable to help the people of the war-ravaged countries beyond our shores.
The establishment of Unrra represents the first attempt that has been made to deal with certain world problems on an international basis. We must begin somehow, somewhere, and the machinery that is now being set up is a very good beginning. It will enable us to distribute comforts to people who urgently need them, and, at the same time, give us an opportunity to study the internal problems of those whom we help. The people of the countries that have been overrun by the enemy must be lifted out of their slavery not only to economic security but also to political stability. We must do all we can to assist them to apply themselves to the solution of their internal problems, for their own capacity to do so has been vastly diminished. They will need stable government, industrial reconstruction, and agricultural rehabilitation. In particular, political stability will be essential. They must be assisted to re-organize their whole internal economy, and anything that we can do to assist in this way will have important and beneficial results. These peoples must be helped to regain, and in many instances to improve, the economic position they held before the war, and- they must.be provided with much new machinery for this purpose. Our duty is not only to furnish them with material comforts, but, more importantly, to help them to a new political and economic security. Only in this way can we hope to overcome militarism. I repeat that unless we take a broad view of these matters, we shall repeat our experiences of the last 38 years and become embroiled in more wars. So far, I have not been able to discern any significant change of outlook in regard to world affairs; but if, through the instrumentality of Unrra, we can help the needy people of other countries we shall do well.
If it should transpire that £12,000,000 is not sufficient for us to expend in this way we should increase the amount. By this means we shall assist to create international goodwill and restore and raise living standards. I am, of course, concerned about such considerations as how long the Australian people will be able to bear the strain of this expenditure, what effect it will have upon our standards of living, whether it will bear upon us heavily in additional taxation, and also whether the peoples who may be helped by this expenditure will become lethargic and lazy and not do what they can to help themselves. If everything is brought to these peoples on a platter and they are relieved of the necessity to act vigorously in their own interests, it will not be a good thing for them. However, I am not seriously disturbed by such thoughts. I believe we may safely discount any such fears. The financial aspect does not cause me the least concern; the contribution of £12,000,000 will be little enough for us to provide, having regard to the stable position we occupy in the world of affairs by contrast with the position of other countries. Should this grant be the means of promoting such international goodwill as will be fundamental to well-being in the future, it will have been particularly well spent.
To my right honorable friend the Minister for External Affairs, I make the suggestion that there could be no better training ground for the diplomatic service than the field which Unrra will provide. If such training be offered to men of the right type, the wishes of the previous speaker will be met, and we shall prevent what he aptly termed control by limelighters of something which the Australian people are contributing primarily as an earnest of their goodwill in order to ameliorate the afflictions of others.
.- I agree that it is necessary to have an organization such as Unrra, prepared and ready to step into countries as they are released from occupation by enemy forces. I was struck by the opening remarks in the second-reading speech of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the 7th September last, when the right honorable gentleman said -
The importance of the task of relief and rehabilitation is very great. After the war of 1914-18, the relief problem in Europe was enormous. Starvation and disease were the lot of many innocent victims of war, especially children. In view of the far greater ravages caused by the present war in both Europe and Asia, an even greater -task now faces the United Nations.
A good deal of water has passed under the bridge since that statement was made. The right honorable gentleman will agree that the knowledge that has been gained of food conditions, particularly in many of the countries which the forces of the United Nations have released from occupation since the invasion of Normandy, has largely dispelled ideas that were held prior to that invasion. There is not the starvation that was thought to exist, and the belief that manufacturing industries had been extensively destroyed was proved to have been unfounded. Some American authorities, prior to the landing in Normandy, held the view that starvation did not exist in the occupied countries of Western Europe. I draw particular attention to a report published in the Melbourne Herald on the 26th October last in regard to the French woollen industry. During the last sessional period, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) whether information could be obtained as to the state of the French textile factories, and whether or not they wouldbe ready to absorb wool from this country or from the stocks held in Great Britain and the United States of America. The reply that I received from the Minister representing the Prime Minister stated that it had been impossible to obtain the information; yet, curiously enough, the statement published in the Melbourne Herald mentioned that the great woollen mills at Lille and Boubaix are intact and ready to begin handling their huge prewar intake immediately trans-Atlantic shipping and French railways can transport the raw wool to the mills, which - unlike many other French industries - are situated in regions in which the transportation of coal for electricity presents no problem. In many other portions of Europe factories other than those devoted to woollen manufactures, including the textile factories in Belgium, have been found to be in order, because the evacuation of the German forces was so rapid after their collapse at the Falaise Gap that there was not time to destroy the machinery in them. There was no shortage of food in Normandy when our troops landed there; and it is only 130 miles from Paris. The number of sheep in Europe, including, the neutral countries, at the present time, is greater than it has been in the past; according to the Swiss press, it is approximately 100,000,000. We are informed from other sources that in Denmark the pig population is greater than it was before the German occupation of that country. This probably implies that the dairy cattle in Denmark were not destroyed to the extent considered likely because of the lengthy German occupation of that country. But apparently there are two very bad areas in Europe in which food relief will be required, namely, Poland and Greece.
– The east and the southeast.
– No doubt Unrra will do very great work in those countries. The report in the Melbourne Herald in regard to the textile industries of France, makes one point which apparently applies also to the other countries that have been occupied by Germany; because reports from America state that most of the countries that have been liberated, or are about to be liberated, such as France, Norway, and the Netherlands, have already given notice that they wish to supervise their own relief work, looking to Unrra only as a clearing house for purchases. The whole tenor of the Minister’s speech was to the effect that the civil governments of the released countries would be unable to function as quickly as, in fact, they have functioned. The present idea is that those governments will attend to the distribution of foodstuffs within their territories. Monsieur Moreau one of the largest French woollen manufacturers, has made this statement- -
It is vital, as part of the national revival, that the reclothing of France is performed by French workers, of whom there were 1,000,000 employed in the wool industry.
I believe that that view will be found to be commonly held throughout the industrial countries of Europe; they will ask for raw products, and the right to recommence production in their factories.
Some honorable members opposite have commented upon Australia’s commitment to the United Nations rehabilitation fund. As I read the bill, and the speech of the Minister for External Affairs, the commitment of each participating country is to be limited to 1 per cent, of its national income. An amount of £47,000 is to be provided in cash immediately, as our share of the administrative expenses of operating the organization. Approximately £12,000,000 is to be provided, as to 10 per cent, in credits overseas and as to the remainder in goods supplied and bought internally. It seems to me that there cannot be any great danger of Australia being embarrassed by being asked to provide goods to too large a quantity. The AttorneyGeneral has pointed out that our provision of food, raw materials of any kind, and manufactured goods, is subject to demands by our own people, our allies, and the people of Great Britain being first met; consequently, there is not much danger of a shortage of goods within Australia. I believe it to be essential that any goods, but particularly manufactured goods, supplied by Australia to Unrra, shall carry the brands of the Australian manufacturers, and that goodwill may thus be established in the countries to which they are supplied. It would be a pity if Australian goods did not proclaim to the nations to which they were sent that they had come from Australia. All goods sent from the Commonwealth should be most rigidly inspected, to ensure that their quality is satisfactory. Our export trade has suffered in the past in many markets through lack of careful inspection in order to ensure that goods are of high quality and true to label. Therefore, when the organization is in operation in Australia, only goods of the best quality should be exported.
The Minister for External Affairs mentioned in his speech that a number of Australians will be employed in the organization. I should like to know whether they will be employed in Australia only or also in other parts of the world.
– Oan the Minister state whether the life of the organization will be short or long?
– I cannot answer that in one word.
– In certain reports from the United States of America it was suggested that the life of the organization may be very short indeed. I consider that its functions have been greatly limited by the decisions made at the conference held last year at Atlantic City, when, I understand, it was decided that Unrra should not operate in enemy countries.
– That decision was modified at the conference held since the last meeting of this Parliament.
– With the exception of Poland and Greece, it does not seem that there will be a great deal of work for the organization to do, and I understand that the people in the portion of Poland now occupied by Russia are being supplied with food from the Soviet. Of course, if the organization is to supply food to the people of enemy countries, such as Germany and Austria, an enormous amount of work will have to be undertaken, because the destruction wrought in industrial areas in Germany is far greater than that in the countries of the Allies.
According to the speech by the Minister for External Affairs, Australia is particularly interested in the eastern sphere of operations, and we may have to give much relief to the people of such countries as the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, and, particularly, China. I believe that when the way is open to China, and it is possible to establish bridgeheads on the coast of China, the demand for relief in that country will be enormous. I hope that by the time the United Nations are able to send relief to the people of China, Australia will have experienced the rains required to provide the foodstuffs for which the people of China are waiting. I hope that Australia will also be able to assist the people of the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya. If large quantities of Australian goods can be marketed in the Netherlands East Indies, the people of those islands will become better acquainted with them, and, when normal trade conditions return, there may be an increased demand for goods of Australian manufacture. As to the kinds of goods to be sent to those countries, I consider that many of the proposals of the Government for manufacture in the Commonwealth in the post-war period are too grandiose. It would be more to our advantage to turn our attention to the manufacture of some of the simpler articles of trade such as hammers and other carpentry tools, egg-beaters, &c, instead of trying to construct huge aeroplanes for which there may be little use in the Commonwealth after the war. I noticed a report recently that, in a certain agricultural area, rasps were unobtainable. I am informed that they are not made in this country, and have to be obtained from overseas. If we set out to supply tools of this kind and other articles in common use, to the people of the countries north of Australia, we might well establish markets for Australian manufactures which have not previously found an outlet there. Will the Minister inform the House bow many Australian officials are to bli appointed to Unrra?
– I shall give details in my reply to the debate.
– I should also like to know how the Australian personnel is to be selected, whether by selection or competitive examination. Will preference be given to men who have served in the present war? I consider that those who have rendered long service in this war should have the first opportunity of employment in the organization. Many men have had four or five years’ service and are war-weary. They should have the first offer of jobs of this kind.
– Hear, hear!
– I sincerely trust that the services of Unrra and its fund will not be required, and that it will be found that the nations are not so disastrously affected as is believed at present; but, if the. organization is required, I trust that it will be used to the best advantage, not only in the interests of the people who are to be rehabilitated, but also for the purpose of spreading the good name of Australian commodities throughout the world, particularly in the countries to which those goods will be sent.
.- I note with interest that among the purposes and functions of Unrra are the following : -
The proposed expenditure by Australia is £12,000,000, and I do not think that any less a sum would be expected by our people, in view of the urgent need for relief that will arise on the cessation of hostilities. I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in regard to the branding of Australian goods that will be sent through this organization to places overseas. As a nation we have suffered seriously in the past because we have not paid sufficient attention to the correct labelling of our exported commodities, and because we have not maintained a proper system of inspection in order to ensure that they were up to standard. If it is possible to give Australia a good advertisement through the sending of goods overseas for distribution by Unrra I see no reason why we should not have it.
I find it difficult to believe that there will not be a great deal of distress, amounting in some instances to starvation, in those countries which are freed from the enemy. It may be true that the factories will not be so badly damaged as was at first expected, but we should not forget that some of the occupied countries were poor before the German occupation, and they are certain to be poorer after it. Therefore, relief will be urgently necessary. We know that in Italy, which was formerly Germany’s partner in the war, there is a great deal of distress, whilst Greece, which was a poor country before the war, is suffering acutely still. It may be true that in neither France nor Belgium will the destruction be so great as was expected, nor the poverty so widespread, but I am sure that there will be many calls for relief in those countries after the expulsion of the enemy. Therefore Australia has associated itself with the other allied nations in the establishment of Unrra, for which the United States of America has allocated $1,300,000,000. Of course, there is no comparison between the United States and Australia in regard to population or wealth, although the area of the two countries is approximately the same. When I was in the United States of America a few months ago, the establishment of Unrra was a live topic of conversation, and I found that there was general support of the proposal that funds should be made available. As was pointed out by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), Unrra will have to undertake a tremendous task in reconstituting the civilian life of Europe, therefore the invasion of European countries by our forces will be indeed a liberation. We must direct our attention to the re-establishment of the European nations as independent economic units in a free world. In the rural districts, many of the farmers will have been robbed of their stock and their tools, without which it would be impossible for them to make a living. In this, and in other directions, Unrra will have to come to the help of the people so that they may become once more self-supporting and able to play their part as members of the new order about which we have heard so much.
For some time after the liberation of European countries it will be necessary to supply the people with manufactured goods, including shoes and clothing. In many instances it will take six months for us to manufacture the goods and provide for their shipment. It is idle to suppose that even if the raw materials were available in Europe, and the factories in a state of repair, the people themselves could manufacture goods as quickly as they will be needed to relieve immediate distress. Therefore, those countries which have the raw materials ought to manufacture them into finished articles. The people of Europe will have much to do in rebuilding their shattered cities, and in repairing water and sewerage works and restoring power systems.
It was very pleasing to me to note that the Minister for External Affairs has set out to obtain the sympathy and active assistance of voluntary organizations in this work. When I was in Sydney, I learned that he had sought the help of the churches, which are to provide voluntary labour. The voluntary organizations of Australia have done a magnificent job during the war. I include among them the Red Cross, the Comforts Fund and the Fund for Sailors, all of which have worked so unselfishly in the interests of the members of the forces. These, and other similar organizations, will be able after the war to transfer their energies, where practicable, to furthering the work of Unrra. In this respect, the efforts of the Minister have been directed wisely, and I believe successfully. I have heard his action referred to in terms of the warmest praise. This bill should have the support of the House and of the country. The Allies have set out to liberate peoples whose territory has been overrun by a ruthless foe. Having played our part in their liberation, we ought to be prepared to play our part also in providing for their needs. I commend the Minister for having introduced this measure.
.- There can be no disagreement regarding the general proposals contained in this bill; their humane character commends them to all reasonable men. The bill shows that Australia is taking its place as a world nation. At a world conference, in which Australia participated, an agreement was reached, and now this country sets out to commit itself to make a substantial contribution to the distressed peoples of Europe, and of other parts of the world, as enemy occupied territories are liberated, and when peace comes. From a nation which has been so hard-pressedas Australia has been, a gift of £12,000,000 in the form of foodstuffs and materials is no small gesture. We should be at some pains to ensure that our own people realize that the Parliament of this country, as the custodian of the people’s property, is prepared to be liberal in a just cause. I am confident that conditions at the conclusion of this war will be different from those which existed at the conclusion of the war of 1914-18. One of the factors which helped to bring that war to a conclusion was the widespread distress, and starvation, of the people of enemy countries, and of those countries which had been overrun by the enemy. I go further, and say that one of the causes of the present war was the putting into effect of lessons learned during that war, because it is not to be denied that one of the causes ofthis war was the growth of economic nationalism - the determination of the peoples of various European countries to be as self-contained as possible, almost regardless of ordinary economic measuring sticks. In the period between the two wars, when Australia found it difficult to sell its surplus wheat at1s. 8d. or1s. 9d. a bushel, Germany and France were growing wheat at 12s. a bushel, and Italy was producing it at about 8s. a bushel. In an attempt to be as self-contained as possible in the event of another war, those nations took precautions to ensure that there would be no shortage of essential materials and foodstuffs. Accordingly, they ceased in a large measure to buy the products of this and other food exporting countries, which in turn had a reduced capacity to purchase goods from Europe. The evil circle of economic nationalism expanded until it became one of the factors contributing to the present war. Countries with which the Allies are now at war have demonstrated that, notwithstanding the tightness of the blockade which has been thrown around them, they have been able to provide themselves and their satellite countries with food and essential apparel. As area after area has been liberated, it has been found that there has not been anything like the distress and hardship that we in Australia, and indeed people much nearer than we are to such areas, expected. So far, allied troops have occupied only a small area of enemy country, but they have liberated large tracts of territory occupied by the enemy. If there were any evidence of dire hardship, I should think that it would be found in enemy occupied countries rather than in the enemy States themselves. As I believe that the -war in Europe will not be protracted, I do not expect that there will bo dire shortages of food and essential wearing apparel in enemy countries. The vicious nature of the Germans has been shown in their treatment of those conquered countries which did not provide governments ready and willing to collaborate with the enemy.France provided a government which did collaborate with Germany, and for that reasonFrance has been treated f airly lightly by the enemy. There is no evidence of great want or starvation inFrance. But the position is different in Greece. The Greek people, for whom it is difficult to find words to express our admiration, have never relaxed their resistance to the Germans, and consequently they have been tortured and starved, so that to-day destitution and hardship are widespread throughout the whole of Greece. A similar state 0.1 affairs is said to exist in Jugoslavia. I believe that it will be in those countries that the need for help will be greatest. It is comparatively simple to say that we shall vote £12,000,000 to assist the peoples who are in need, but it would be a curious thing if a primary-producing country like Australia were to vote money with which to buy foodstuffs from other countries to give to those in need; and therefore it is to be expected that this vote of money will be translated into food and wearing material, medical supplies, and so on.
Sitting suspended from 5.5.9 to 8 p.m.
– It is not difficult to visualize the exact items which Australia might be expected to contribute under a relief scheme of this kind. They are principally foodstuffs, which are the products of primary industry, and either wearing apparel or wool. When one examines these items, which will be needed by the people of the devastated countries, and our capacity to supply them in very substantial quantities, one is quickly confronted with the fact that the actual provision of relief in this way is not so easy as it might appear at first glance. For instance, we want to provide food to the distressed peoples, and the first basic food is wheat. I understand that our reserves of wheat which almost terrified us a few years ago when we saw no prospect of disposing of them, have, to-day, on the eve of the most devastating drought Australia has ever faced, almost vanished; and in view of the fact that the forthcoming harvest and that carry-over wheat which still remains has already been earmarked for our home market and the requirements of Australian and allied fighting services, as well as food for live stock which must be saved during the present drought, whilst, in addition, we have to fulfil the contracts which we have already made with the United Kingdom and our sister dominion of New Zealand, I venture to say that within the next twelve months it will be found that Australia has virtually no wheat to spare. That statement will sound strange, but an examination of wheat statistics will now show that, except by withdrawing wheat from the reserves already earmarked for the purposes I have mentioned, we have virtually no wheat to spare. One might regard dairy products as the second class of basic foodstuffs which will be required by the distressed peoples. We know that there has been a serious diminution of the production of Australian dairy products. We know that we have not been able to supply in full the quantities of dairy products we have contracted to provide to the United Kingdom, and, perhaps, we shall never be able to reach that goal. Therefore, whilst it is one thing to talk of voting £12,000,000 to buy foodstuffs it is another thing entirely to provide the actual foodstuffs required. A not incomparable position exists also with respect to meat. Meat on the hoof provides a natural reserve, and in a period of emergency shortages -can be made good by killing breeding stock and immature stock. The Government could go quite a long way in that respect, but not without incurring serious and far-reaching consequences to the Jive stock industry, and jeopardizing our production potential for many years to come. It can be said that, technically, we have no wool to sell, because although we are the greatest woolproducing country in the world, we have contracted to sell to the United Kingdom Government all the wool we produce in excess of our own requirements. Therefore wecan fulfil commitments under this proposal only by subtracting the requisite quantity from that which we have already contracted to sell the United Kingdom Government. We have a mountain of accumulated wool, and we can provide more than sufficient of that commodity to meet any demand arising under this scheme ; but I should hope that any Australian wool supplied to meet the clothing requirements of people in distressed countries will be supplied as Australian wool, and not as the property of any other country, not excepting the United Kingdom. This is a generous gesture, and one that all of us are willing to face up to, and we are at least entitled to claim the credit for it. Therefore, we should ensure that any Australian wool delivered to distressed countries, and appreciated by the distressed peoples, shall be recognized by them as coming from Australia. I have refreshed my memory of the secondreading speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on this measure. He said that during his last visit to the United Kingdom he made tentative arrangements with the United Kingdom Government whereby Australian wool could be made available, if required, for this purpose.
– We received an undertaking to that effect by agreement with the United Kingdom Government.
– This point is most important. I reiterate that when wool from our existing accumulated pool is supplied under this scheme, it should be supplied as coming from Australia, and not as the property of any other country. A not dissimilar state of affairs exists with regard’ to our capacity to supply dried and canned fruits and dried and canned vegetables. Before the war we used to export to the United Kingdom 60 per cent, of the Australian canned fruit pack, but during the last two or three years we have not sold, or delivered, to the United Kingdom one can of Australian fruit. All of it has been earmarked for home consumption or the requirements of Australian or allied forces serving in this theatre of war, and the merchant navy. Therefore, we should not imagine that merely by entering into a contract to supply these foodstuffs we shall automatically be enabled to do so.
This proposal will involve a good deal of planning. I hope that very careful attention will be given to this planning not only for the reasons I have just given, but also to avoid duplication and overlapping between those authorities which are planning to meet Australia’s commitments under Unrra, and those planning to meet Australia’s home requirements and the requirements of service personnel in this theatre of war. Insofar as we desire to help the distressed peoples in countries contiguous to Australia, namely, the Netherlands East Indies and China, rice, of course, is the basic foodstuff. Australia has shown that it is capable of producing rice in vast quantities and economically ; but one cannot conjure thousands of tons of rice out of the air. We must grow it. We cannot help the starving millions of China merely by passing an act of Parliament, whereby we vote the sum of £12,000,000 for the purpose of providing relief to them. Money cannot be eaten. The starving millions want rice. We must grow rice; and we must realize that in order to produce rice and other basic foodstuffs we must make a very difficult decision as to how our man-power resources are to be employed for that purpose. We must decide whether in order to provide food and clothing to the starving peoples of Europe and Asia, we shall divert a substantial proportion of those now in uniform to the production of these foodstuffs. The Government should face this very difficult problem. It should recognize the physical limitations upon our capacity to carry out a contract which exists to-day only in terms of money, but which in terms of money is utterly useless to the starving people we desire to help. Australia has always been willing to help distressed peoples. After the last war a vast quantity of Australian wheat was quickly shipped to some of the distressed peoples of Europe. Hundreds of thousands of tons were shipped to Rumania, and we were never paid for that wheat, although Rumania contracted to do so.
– The interest on the principal under that contract was paid for many years.
– Yes; but the capital was never paid. Australia has never squealed, and will not squeal in such circumstances. We claim a certain status as a world nation, and we shall face up to all the obligations which go with nationhood. But we have obligations nearer home. I have no doubt that our people will be prepared to accept a continuance of rationing in a limited degree in order to enable us to discharge an honorable obligation of this kind. But, using the word “ distressed “ in terms of shortage of foodstuffs, there are distressed people in the United Kingdom as well as in countries which have been occupied by the enemy; and I hope that it is not our intention to feed our ex-enemies to the disadvantage of our British kinsfolk. We have not yet been able to live up to our actual and moral commitments in shipments of foodstuffs to our British kinsfolk. Therefore, I hope that any contract that we may enter into, however wellintentioned it may be, will not be honoured by subtracting any portion from the quota of foodstuffs which it is our present intention to ship to Great Britain so soon as sufficient additional shipping facilities become available. It is a queer world and this has been a queer war. .Strangely, this is not the first gesture of this nature that Australia has made in this war. I recall an earlier war /Government, of which I was a member, deciding to aid with foodstuffs a country which the world considered to be the subject of an aggressive attack. It seems a long while ago when we turn our minds back to the disappointment that we felt with the attitude of Russia at an earlier stage of this world conflict. The general belief amongst the United Nations to-day, except only Russia, is that Finland was then the subject of aggression, and our gesture was the decision to send to Finland a shipment of the most concentrated type of foodstuffs that we could put our hands on, namely, dried fruits. I recall the Menzies Government voting £50,000 at a time when Parliament was not in session, and without the formality of waiting for Parliament to give its approval, to aid the distressed nation of Finland in its extremity. A queer twist of the war resulted in Russia itself becoming the object of aggressive attack before we had the opportunity to deliver our £50,000 worth of currants, sultanas and apricots, and so the Finns never got them. Still, the spirit was there and we were willing on that occasion to aid a country in distress. It is a grand thing to be willing to aid. We have clearly recognized that the country which above all is in the most immediate and desperate need of assistance is Greece. There is, of course, a better way of helping people than to feed those who remain alive after a period of occupation by the enemy, and that is to aid them to avoid being overrun by the enemy. Australia was willing at an earlier stage to take the far more difficult decision to send its armed forces in an expedition to Greece, in an endeavour to protect it from the consequences of occupation by the enemy which it has since suffered. It is one of the ironies of politics that to-day the Government whose senior members approved and put forward this proposal to aid Greece, among other countries, contains also the personnel who, sitting on this side of the House at that time, complained most bitterly about the decision of the Menzies Government to aid the Greek people by helping them to avoid being overrun by an aggressor. Without wishing to dig up too much of the past, I would say that a great disservice was done to the Australian nation by those public men who, in the days when Mr. Churchill was stirring the people of Great Britain and of the world by declaring that Great Britain in its dire stress would fight its enemies on the beaches, in the fields and in the streets, were bitterly complaining in this country of our decision to contribute to ‘ the protection of our gallant Greek ally against the aggressor, on the ground that we were not able to match that aggressor’s strength. It is part of the life of a nation to build for itself, in the eyes not only of the world but also of its own people, a reputation of willingness to make sacrifices, to stand up to its responsibilities, to fight for fair play and to champion the weak. That is what this country has done on the battle-field at a terrible cost in human lives, .and in the realm of finance. It is doing it to-day and is willing to continue to do it in the realm of food production. I hope that that unhappy page of our history to which I have referred, and on which I may not enlarge, will be forgotten, and that the record of our dealings with Greece will show our willingness to put our fighting men into the field to assist an ally, even though the defenders were not nearly so well armed as their enemies. I hope that it will show also that, when that ally was conquered, we were willing to work, to vote money, and to ration and stint ourselves to provide foodstuffs for its unhappy people on their liberation. I support the measure, but I remind the Government once more that this gesture is by no means to be disposed of by appropriating £12,000,000. The people of Greece and China cannot eat Australian currency. They can eat Australian wheat, fruit, butter and meat, and wear Australian wool, but those commodities do not yet exist in sufficient quantities to enable us to discharge the obligation which this bill places upon us.
.- I regret that on a bill of this nature, which would warrant discussion on the highest possible plane and without the slightest introduction of party politics, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has seen fit not only to introduce them, but also to refer to some unfortunate differences of opinion, which incidentally were quite conscientious regarding an episode in the earlier stages of the war. I also regret that he saw fit to make a speech, the very essence of which breathed a policy of defeatism, and indicated a lack of faith in the recuperative powers of his own country. Incidentally he used it as a lever to add to the already too articulate complaints of the lack of man-power for the production of foodstuffs. Everybody who has any power of observation or of absorbing information knows that right from the inception of the war there has been a very great and grave lack of manpower in the rural industries of this country. But the honorable member is a member of the AdvisoryWar Council, and is I assume a party to the decisions which that body makes from time to time regarding the volume of man-power to be made available to rural industries, taking into consideration our commitments to Great Britain and our other allies. Yet the honorable member uses this bill, which should be far above party politics, to breathe defeatism, to indicate that not sufficient is being done, and in effect to encourage those people in the country who are complaining about the lack of man-power to continue their moans and wails, and to look upon themselves as the worst treated people in Australia, whereas they are amongst the best treated, inasmuch as since the beginning of this year their sons have in the main been exempt from military service.
Mr.Forde. - Since May, 1942.
– I thank the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Forde) for the correction. A much better argument for the honorable member for Indi to address to the men on the land would be to say to them, as I do : Notwithstanding the lack of man-power, buckle on your armour, cease moaning about it, and by co-operation and further sacrifice endeavour to produce the additional quantities of food needed to cope with Australia’s responsibility under this bill for the relief and rehabilitation of the people of the liberated countries. The honorable member also said that he hoped that we would not subtract from our commitments to the united nations, and to Great Britain in particular, any portion of the food which we now supply. I say that Great Britain should be supplied, and I am prepared to make any further sacrifice to see that it is, but Great Britain itself has indicated, as a signatory to the Unrra agreement, that it is prepared to forgo some of the foodstuffs and other commodities which its own people need, in order to assist less fortunate people. Since the occupation of a portion of Italy, Great Britain has given up foodstuffs of which its own people were in need in order to assist the Italian people, although Italy was formerly one of our enemies. The honorable member said that he hoped that the people of former enemy countries would not be aided before those of our own allies. If the honorable member had had any experience of the battlefield, he would know that those who are actuated with the greatest Christian spirit are the fighting men, who hand cigarettes and rations to their wounded and down-and-out enemies. When the enemy nations are defeated, Great Britain, Australia and all the other allied countries will have to come to their assistance and make some personal sacrifices to help to rehabilitate them. In that way, our former enemies will be encouraged to adopt an outlook which will prevent the outbreak of hostilities again in the future, i rose only to record my strong objection to the introduction, into the debate on such a bill as this, of reference to a subject on which conscientious opinions were held on both sides of the House. 1 know that I held my opinion on that matter very emphatically. I also strongly object to .the use of this debate as a means of “ belly-aching “ to put it in a crude and vulgar term, about the lack of man-power for the primary producers. I know full well, as the honorable member does, that we must not do anything to weaken our fighting forces, and that it is impossible to tell at a moment’s notice how many men can be spared to the primary industries. I tell the primary producei’3 in my constituency that they must look upon themselves as fortunate individuals, because many of them still have their sons with them, whereas the navvy, the ‘clerk and other people, without any consideration whatsoever, have had their sons called upon to take the brunt of the fighting. In those circumstances, rather than encourage this howl on the part of those on the land, I have taken the responsibility of saying to them : “ Get busy, and do not imagine that your sacrifices and difficulties in this war are any greater than those of the butcher, baker, and other people of the community “.
I leave it at that, and hope that other honorable members on both sides of the House will debate the bill in a much more Christian spirit than the honorable member for Indi has done, and not take the opportunity as he did, to introduce party politics when debating a subject which should be discussed on a high plane.
– While I am strongly in favour of this measure, I shall not detain honorable members very long in saying what I wish to say about it. In my opinion Unrra is pointing the way the nations must go after the war. It embodies the spirit that must imbue the peoples of the world, and expresses a policy of good neighbourliness. When this dreadful war is over Unrra is to help the people who are suffering from its devastating effects. I have heard, with great interest and some astonishment, some honorable members say that the people of the countries which, until lately, have been occupied by the enemy are not suffering. That will be news to many people in Australia. . I ask the people who express such opinions to consider what the position of the people of this country would be if .it had been occupied by the Japanese for the last two or three years. Certainly we have not suffered. We are the most fortunate of all the nations. We have escaped the ravages of war; we have had an abundance of food; we have been protected from anything more than the swish of the wings of death and destruction. Australia should gladly take its place as a member of this great organization. Anything that the Red Cross has been doing ‘during the war Unrra will do after the war; it is to be a Red Cross with its range greatly widened and endowed with ample funds for the purpose. If fewer people have- been adversely affected by the war, if the people in the occupied countries are well fed, if their homes are still intact, if they do not hunger and mourn the loss of their dear ones, if the machinery of their factories has not been destroyed, so much lighter will be the burden upon the nations which subscribe to Unrra. Australia has accepted the Atlantic Charter. We, as a people, believe in freedom from fear and freedom from want. These noble ideals have inspired many and have been the subject of many speeches. Now we are given an opportunity to give effect to our eloquent words. There rests .upon us the sacred ‘responsibility to share what we have with less fortunate people. I shall not pretend, of course, that things in Australia have gone so smoothly and that we have lived our lives in the days of war just as we did in the days of peace. But who could compare the lot of Britain with the lot of Australia? And what about Russia? While we have been living in heaven, they have been living in hell. We should do our share in supplying whatever the people of occupied countries lack. We are to supply the people of Russia with food. Of course, Great Britain should be our first care. We are here to-day, as Ave are, by the grace of God and the protection of Britain. We are here to-day because of what Russia and America have done. America is not participating in the activities of Unrra in any cheese-paring fashion, but is making a contribution proportionate to its financial and economic position. Australia must not do less. Last year we expended £545,000,000 on war. I cannot understand for the life of me why there should be the slightest hesitancy on the part of any one to our. spending £12,000,000 to do something for the people who have suffered through the war. It is said we may be short of wheat. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has suggested it. We may become short of wheat. But I do not agree with those who say that we must provide our quota in certain commodities. The council of Unrra will direct us as to what we must provide. If the council knows that Australia is short of certain goods it will not ask for them, but if it needs sugar and Ave have sugar we shall be asked to provide it, and if it needs wheat and we have wheat we shall be asked, to provide it. We shall be asked to provide the goods that Ave can provide. The honorable member for Indi said something about rice. We shall not be asked to provide rice if Ave have no rice. We shall be asked to share the commodities that we have with our neighbours.
Honorable members on both sides of this chamber have had a good deal to say about freedom from want. Now we have the opportunity to do something about it. I do not for a moment agree with those who say: “ We shall give these things, but Ave should appear before the world as philanthropists, and our gifts must bear the label ‘This is from Australia ‘ “. If a beggar, or a starving man on the street, asks me for food I do not give him a coin or produce a sandwich with my visiting card bearing the inscription “Here is a sandwich from W. M. Hughes “. Those who are in need are not interested in where the relief comes from. They do not care whether it comes from Australia or any other, country. For the purposes of Unrra we must pool our resources. We must take broad views. We stand on the threshold of a new world - a world from which want has been banished and we must play our full part in a fashion worthy of our country and its traditions.
It has been said that Unrra may last for only a little while, but Unrra has not yet begun its work. However long it will last we must take our full part in its activities. There is a good deal of misunderstanding abroad as to what Unrra means. Some people seem to have the idea that our participation in it will crack our economy or place a crushing burden on our agriculturists or our wool-growers, or those engaged in our secondary industries. I do not subscribe to that view. The contribution that will be made will come from Australia as a whole. Every nation will be called upon to do what the council considers, in the circumstances of that nation, it can do. That is all there is to it. We should do our part cheerfully and thank God that we are in a position to do it.
.- 1 support the bill and congratulate the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on his speech, which was in marked contrast to the mincing utterance of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has dealt adequately with the remarks of the honorable member for Indi, I shall say no more about them. A great deal more interest should be taken by the people generally in Unrra. The organization is worthy of the most substantial public support. It would be a good thing for Australia if our people knew more about the work that Unrra will undertake. It is a fact that during the war period no person in Australia has been short of food or short of clothing. We have all been adequately sustained. People in many other countries’, however, have suffered considerably, and it is the clear duty of those who have lived in the more favoured areas to do all they can to counteract the adversities which the people in warstricken areas have suffered. The fact is that we have had very little to complain about. Rationing there has been, and restrictions there have been, but these have been necessary in order to ensure a more equitable distribution of goods and services over the whole community. We have had to provide largely for personnel in the fighting services, and we have done so, as Great Britain and our Allies have frequently testified. I consider it quite wrong for any person in the community to say that we have fallen down on our job. Heavy demands have been made upon this country to provide supplies for our own theatre of war, and if it had not been for the measures that have been taken, our difficulties would have been much greater.
There is need for the Government to give close attention, from time to time, to the changed problems with which Unrra may have to deal in its relief and rehabilitation work. It is most difficult to forecast the course of events. This measure has been before us for some considerable time, and, at one stage, it was thought that a large quantity of foodstuffs would have to ,be provided through Unrra for European countries which had been overrun by the enemy. We have discovered, however, that the food position in certain countries which have already been liberated is much better than we had been led to expect it would be. It is now not too much to expect that before very long, and certainly before the war ends, some of the liberated countries will be growing their own crops and providing a substantial quantity of their own foodstuffs. Consequently, the problems of supply that we may have to face at the end of the war may be quite different from what, at one time, we thought they would be. I, discussed this subject recently with a man who was & prisoner of war for two and a half years in Greece and Germany. His experience was that the people of those countries lived chiefly on a vegetable diet. The people of Germany, for example, had a diet of unpalatable bread, potatoes and turnips. That is probably true also of the people of other satellite countries. But I have recently seen a report from a British source which indicates an entirely different situation. In Germany itself, the number of sheep has increased from 3,000,000 in 1933 to 33^000,000 this year. That is a rather extraordinary and surprising state of affairs. Pictures we have seen in newsreels and reports we have read in the press indicate that the position is not exactly as we thought it might be. It has been reported that when the Allied troops entered Belgium the people there turned up their noses when tinned foods were offered to them, and they produced large quantities of fresh food for out troops. The Daily Express has said that it looks as though, when victory has been won, starving Britain may be fed by the liberated countries. I do not believe that food supplies will be so plentiful in those countries. The transport problem may be responsible for food being available in certain areas of France and Belgium. We know what great destruction has been wrought by British and Allied bombing. Trains have been destroyed, bridges have been wrecked, and lines of communication have been disrupted. Even in this country, it would be quite possible for food to be available in abundance in the southern States, yet in short supply in the north because of the difficulties of transport. The picture that is now placed before us, showing that the food position in liberated countries is much better than was anticipated, may be substantially due to the retention of supplies in certain areas because of the impossibility of its removal by ‘Germany owing to the interruption to transport as the result of bombing. The problem of feeding the nations during the war period has been a difficult one, and this organization, at the conclusion of hostilities, will experience great difficuty in feeding Europe, particularly the eastern and south-eastern portions, as well as the people of China. Colonel Llewellin. Minister of Food in Great Britain, has said that feeding London is equivalent to feeding nearly 500 army divisions daily; that it takes 1,500,000 loaves of bread, 1,000 tons of flour, and 3,000,000 pints of milk a day; that the weekly sugar ration aggregates 12,000,000 lb., and the week’s meat nearly 9,000,000 lb. This will give some idea of the problem that will confront Unrra in feeding Europe during the period approaching the close and immediately after the termination of the war. An Australian newspaper has reported Mr. Lehman, Director-General of Unrra, as having made this statement -
Supplies of wheat and rye are ample, but in the first six months Europe will need 804,000 tons of meat, fish, cheese, and eggs, supplies of which are extremely scarce.
Milk supplies are so short that no allocation has yet been made and sugar supplies in 1945 are expected to bc 1,000,000 tons below demand exclusive of Unrra needs.
Dealing with the problem of providing clothing, Mr. Lehman said -
Clothing for Europeans and Chinese will Du so scarce that the administration plans to collect used clothing in the United States on the greatest possible scale for six months after Germany’s fall. So far 182,000,000 yards of woollen textiles have been requested and the only allocation so far made is for Canada to supply 2,500,000 yards.
He feared that woollen garments could not be delivered to Europe until the winter of 1945-40. Cotton textiles needed totalled 500,000,000 yards and the only tentative allocation is for Brazil to supply 90,000,000 yards. The United States of America will be asked for 300,000,000 yards. The outlook for knit goods and knitting yarn is so bad that none are offered from any country. Shoes needed total 78,500,000 pairs, of which 12,000,000 have been allocated.
That will give some idea of the immensity of the task that confronts Unrra. I am confident, however, that the productive capacity developed during the period of the Avar will enable requirements to be met. Australia’s capacity may be limited by certain factors over which it will have no control. “We have undertaken to provide about £12,000,000 worth of commodities. We may not be able to provide supplies immediately on the conclusion of the war in Europe, or just prior to that stage having been reached, because we shall still be involved in war in the Pacific for some considerable period after hostilities have ceased in Europe. During that time, our commitments in the provision of food for our own services as well as those of Britain and our Allies, will be substantially increased, and it may be that we shall not have any meat, butter or other commodities to spare for the people of Europe. We have been consulted in regard to what quantity of dehydrated meat we might he able to supply. Because of our enormous commitments in supplying the Pacific theatre, we shall be unable to meet any other demands immediately upon the conclusion of the war in Europe. The ‘Government should keep a close watch on the policy that is adopted, and do its utmost to see that the distribution of food shall be mia de in such a way as to be of the greatest benefit. Our aid might be given in different directions. A statement has been made in regard to what Australia has undertaken with respect to wool supplies. Great Britain purchases the whole of our excess wool clip. I understand that under the existing arrangement Britain is to take only that wool which is surplus to our commitments, and if these include quantities that have to be supplied under this proposal they will be supplied in the name of Australia. There is one factor to which attention should be directed, and in mentioning it I have no wish to criticize what the Government is doing. Out of much evil cometh good. We are proposing to provide £12,000,000 worth of relief for the peoples of occupied countries; yet during the depression in this country, when the Government of the day endeavoured to provide a similar amount of relief for the people of this country by way of employment, thus guaranteeing them security against economic depression, we were told that it was an impossibility, that the country could not afford it. To-day the precedent is being established, and I believe that in the post-war period the people of this country will reap great benefits from it. We shall not quibble at the provision of this £12,000,000. It will be given with pleasure, because the people will know that the war is drawing to a conclusion, and that the money is being devoted to the welfare of humanity instead of the destruction of human life.
– I should not have delayed the House had it not .been for the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), in which he took to task the honorable member for . Indi (Mr. McEwen) for having uttered some practical warnings. Honorable members who sit on this side of the House approach the consideration of this matter in a practical frame of mind. They consider that the making of this international agreement should not be an empty gesture, but should be a solemn undertaking, and that it should not be made unless there is a possibility of its observance being ensured. Whilst we are in complete accord with it, we are acting within our rights when we point out that the obligation rests upon the Government to see that it shall be honoured not only in the spirit but also in the letter. An analysis of the state of affairs which exists to-day will disclose that observance of the agreement in the letter will probably be accompanied by some difficulty. The honorable member for Indi has shown that we are not producing sufficient to supply the “United Kingdom under our existing commitments. He did not give figures to support that statement, but I shall do so. Mr. Bankes-Amery has pointed out that notwithstanding the meagre rations in Great Britain it will be necessary to produce thousands of tons more in order to satisfy the food requirements of the people of that country. Yet, with characteristic generosity, those people have subscribed to this international agreement, and have shown a willingness to tighten their belts a little further in order to help those who may not be so fortunate. But that does not relieve us of our obligations to the United Kingdom. If this agreement is to be honoured in the letter as well as the spirit, the Government will have to do a lot of stocktaking, and must endeavour to produce the food that will be needed. The honorable member for Indi has rightly said that the countries that are to be assisted cannot eat £12,000,000 of Australian currency, but they can eat and use £12,000,000 worth of Australian goods ; therefore, it is necessary for us to see that those goods shall be forthcoming. That was a practical statement by a practical man who has a knowledge of the facts. The honorable member for Ballarat gives lip-service to the spirit of an international agreement which he knows cannot be carried out by the Government that he supports. He has said that even though the primary producer is suffering at the moment because of the shortage of man-power, he should make further sacrifices, and has claimed to have told him to do so. I ask him : What is happening in connexion with the processing of wool, the production of metals, and the slaughtering and refrigeration of cattle? Does the honorable member say to the coal-miners, to the men on strike in the slaughter yards, and to all the others who are creating industrial anarchy, “We shall see that you carry out your obligations”? Does he make any such statement to the men who are supposed to -be engaged in the loading of ships with commodities essential for overseas countries? No, he merely indulges in lip-service. The honorable member is aware that the Government has entered into contractual obligations, and he knows the practical difficulties associated with those matters. I propose to give to honorable members the benefit of official figures published by the Department of Information. Surely no honorable member opposite will challenge their accuracy. In 1939-40, the quantity of butter exported from Australia to the United Kingdom, was 244,000,000 3b., but the estimate for 1943-44 is only 93,000,000 lb. What is the reason for that reduction of the export of butter? It is of no use to say that large quantities of butter are required for the fighting services. That will not meet our obligations with regard to Unrra. It will still be necessary for Australia to produce sufficient butter to meet its obligations to Great Britain as well as supply the needs of Unrra. In 1939-40 the export of cheese from this country amounted to 41,000,000 lb., but the estimated export for eleven months of 1943-44 is 8,000,000 lb. The quantity of meat exported in 1939-40 was 583,000,000 lb., whilst the estimate for eleven months of 1943-44 is only 195,000,000 lb. I ask the honorable member for Ballarat how the quantity of butter available for export to the United Kingdom is to be increased, and our obligations with regard to Unrra discharged unless industrial conditions are brought into line for the purpose of producing it. What is the Government doing in that regard?
– That is due to climatic conditions.
– I shall now supply some figures which have a bearing on the drought. A normal wheat harvest in Australia is 160,000,000 bushels, but this year the harvest is estimated at only 41,000,000 bushels, and if the drought lasts for another year Australia will have great difficulty in supplying sufficient wheat for its own purposes, quite apart from meeting its commitments to Unrra.
The seriousness of the man-power position and the need for the release of men from the fighting services for wheat production is emphasized by the experience of a young airman who recently returned from operational areas overseas and desired release in order to return to his property in Victoria, where he has 3,000 acres of wheat land. He was most distressed .by the neglect of his property by a hired manager. The Royal Australian Air Force was prepared to release him, but the man-power authorities asserted that the property was being looked after and the owner was not entitled to bc allowed to return to it, although the farm was overrun with noxious weeds and rabbits. Is that the way to increase wheat production?
The honorable member for Indi remarked that nobody on the Opposition side of the chamber could oppose a measure of this kind, and I agree that we all must support it. Australia has a reputation for having always carried out its contractual obligations, but it is not sufficient for the Government merely to enter into an agreement such as that proposed with regard to Unrra. The Government must ensure that the industrial conditions in this country will be such that there will be no hold up in the loading of ships and the slaughtering of stock. The statement by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) gave me some concern. He said, in effect, that Australia will not export foodstuffs which it may need itself, but it seems to me that the Government will have to do as it is told in this matter. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) should make that point clear to the House. If the right honorable gentleman’s assumption be correct, Australia is lo be directed by some international organization which may unbalance our internal economy. In that case, there would certainly be an interference with the rights of this country.
– The bill makes it clear that there is no power to interfere.
– I do not believe that there is any such intention, but I hope that the Minister for External Affairs will clear up that matter in his reply. Apart from what has been said by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, the value of this measure is undoubted. It will not be sufficient to honour the agreement in the spirit; the very words of the agreement must be adhered to, and we must put our house in order so that the agreement may be given effect.
.. - This bill has my wholehearted support, and I should not have risen to speak but for the despicable action of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), who implied that Australia had fallen down on its contractual obligations to Great Britain. The bill indicates the honest intentions of the Government, and has the support of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stooped so low as to endeavour to gain party political advantage out of the bill. I cannot refrain from referring to his despicable action in citing 1939-40 production figures with regard to our contractual obligations with the United Kingdom.
– Is the Minister in order in describing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of having been guilty of a despicable action ?
– The ‘honorable member has taken no exception to the remark.
– I have just approached the table with the object of taking exception to it.
– Then I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark. In 1939 the position of Australia was such that the lot of the primary producer was unenviable, owing to the neglect of the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member. Through that Government’s inattention to the needs of the primary producers, the opportunity which should have been taken to plan for the future was lost. Three years ago, when the present Government came into power, the prices of primary products were so low that the farmers would not send in their produce for export. One of my first actions was to place an embargo on second-grade mutton. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition cited production figures for 1939-40, when Australia had over 500,000 more men in production than at present. Australia has fulfilled its contractual obligations to Great Britain since the present Government has been in office. Even this season it is ahead of those obligations in respect of all sections of primary production. Despite the fact that Australia is experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record it is far ahead with regard to its meat contracts with Great Britain, and I cannot help ‘being annoyed by the despicable comparison made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of gaining party political advantage and creating the impression abroad that Australia has not met its obligations. I commend the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) for the fair attitude adopted by him.
– If we are to descend to a party political debate I shall be quite happy to take part in it, but I did not intend to deal with this matter from that aspect. International agreements are becoming very fashionable, and I do not altogether approve of them, but the circumstances in this case are exceptional. If we are to wage war with a view to procuring a permanent peace, when we have secured victory we must be prepared to make the other sacrifices which are necessary to enable us to bring about, in the shortest possible time, the economic conditions which must be imposed on the vanquished countries. It was with that end in view that the Unrra organization was formed. What concerns me, as it should also concern this House, is the internal condition of such countries as France, Greece, the Netherlands, the Balkan States, China, Burma and Siam. Actually, we have very little information on this point. Certain of the English illustrated papers carry pictures which show the state of affairs existing in Normandy after the British and American armies marched in. One was struck by the tremendous difference between what we had been led to believe by press stories and what was portrayed in pictures. In France, at any rate, there was not, so far as I could see, any evidence of starvation, or even of privation. In fact, statements have been published in reputable English newspapers to the effect that supplies’ were plentiful in France.
– Normandy is not Greece.
– Normandy is part of France.
– Yes, and the richest part.
– No authentic information is available regarding internal conditions in Greece. I should say that Greece will present one of the most difficult problems in Europe because of the sterility of a large part of the country, and because of the difficult communications. The country does not produce a wide variety of foodstuffs, and the people depend more upon imports than do those of most other European countries. We know practically nothing about conditions in the Netherlands, or in the Balkan countries, except that, normally, they are large producers of foodstuffs. It is alleged that, for several years past, large patriot armies have been operating in Yugoslavia, and armies cannot operate without an assured food supply. One honorable member mentioned China, and its need of rice. A large part of China has for years past been under the control of Japanese armies. We have little idea what conditions are like in the areas so controlled, but we know that in northern China rice does not enter into the diet of the people to any extent. In fact, the people there hardly know .what rice is. Northern China is one of the most important wheatproducing areas of the world. What can we contribute for the relief of the countries that will be liberated from the enemy? It is proposed that Australia shall commit itself to provide £12,000,000 for Unrra. That sounds to me very like something put into the plan by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who has so -much to say upon the subject of banking. He is the subject of much speculation and controversy in my electorate. Some of my constituents are anxious that he should be sent to the United Kingdom to take over from the successor of Mr. Montagu Norman the control of the Bank of England. They believe that his financial method, if applied in Great Britain, would place that country in an entirely satisfactory position after the war. On the other hand, there are others who think that it would be best to send him to Germany.
– I remind the honorable member that at the moment the House is supposed to be discussing the best thing to do with this bill.
– Yes, and it is proposed in the bill that certain persons should be sent overseas to administer the expenditure of Australia’s contribution of £12,000,000. Some of my constituents think that the Assistant Treasurer might very well relieve Dr. Schaacht of his duties in Germany, in which case the Germans would never again rise from the slough of defeat. I should like to know why Australia’s contribution has been stated in terms of cash, which is a fluctuating measure. It may be one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow. The Australian £1, for instance, means one thing in Australia, something else in the United Kingdom, and something else in the United States of America, while in Moscow it means something different again. Why not state the amount of Australia’s contribution in goods? Why should we not commit ourselves to the supply of certain commodities which it is within our capacity to supply? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) referredjust now to our commitments to Great Britain. If Australia is honouring its contractual obligations to the Government of the United Kingdom in the matter of supplies of certain basic foodstuffs, then those obligations must have been substantially reduced during the last three years. There is a tendency on the part of honorable members opposite to ignore the fact that the Curtin Government has been in power for more than three years. It is becoming a middle-aged government, as governments go, and is already showing sides of political corpulence. The important thing to consider is the attitude of the Australian Government to Great Britain in the matter of supplies. I have probably as much regard as any one else for the people of France, the Netherlands, Greece, and the other occupied countries, but for sheer ability to face and endure difficult conditions the peopleof the United Kingdom must be placed above those of any others on the face of the earth. They are the only people who came into this war fighting. Practically every other power was dragged into the war by the scruff of the neck by Tojo or Hitler. The people of Britain came into the war knowing the odds, and they have maintained their position against all the hazards and all the odds. They have continued to fight on a very small food ration. I receive letters from Great Britain, and I know the hardships that the people are enduring. With all respect to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), I say that the good old Roman axiom that blood is thicker than water holds good so far as I am concerned. Our first obligation is to our own kith and kin overseas.
– They are in this, too.
– They are big contributors under this scheme. They do not appear as beneficiaries. It is true that Britain has accepted certain assistance from the United States of America, but in the conduct of the war, and in the creation of conditions which will make for relatively permanent peace, the contribution of the people of Great Britain has been, and will be, infinitely greater than that of any other country in. the world. Let us turn now to the membership of this organization. I am not greatly impressed by the long list of member countries set forth in the schedule to the bill. Let us look at some of them. There is Bolivia, and then Chile, to the name of which there is attached a qualification in Spanish to the effect that the country is not committed to the undertaking until it is agreed to by the National Congress. Next comes China, and after that Colombia, with another qualification in Spanish. Then we have Costa Rica and Cuba, also with a qualification in Spanish. Others are The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia - with a qualification in English - Haiti, Honduras, and Iceland. I do not suppose that we can expect a very large contribution from Iceland. India is also on the list, subject to a qualification in English, and so is Iran, also with a qualification. Iraq is included - with a qualification - and so are Liberia and Luxembourg, the latter being one of the occupied countries, and we have no knowledge of what conditions there are like. Other countries appearing in the schedule are Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and many others. The fact is that, for the carrying out of this agreement, whether it be done satisfactorily or otherwise, whether the arrangement results in the relief of distress or not, the responsibility will rest largely upon the three chief signatories which appear at the foot of the schedule, namely, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of Amer it .1.
– What about the Dominions ?
– I included the Dominions in the general term the United Kingdom of Great Britain. This long list of member countries reminds me of the names which appear on petitions. Members of Parliament have found only too often that the same names are apt to appear ‘ on petitions for and against any given proposal. I am not sure that it is necessary for Australia to send any one overseas to administer the expenditure of Australia’s contribution.
– Think of the people for whom it is necessary to find jobs.
– That may be the explanation. I believe that Australians are as capable as any one else, but I cannot see that there is any justification for establishing an Australian organization overseas in order to administer the comparatively small contribution which Australia is to make. The Attorney-General may be able to save a considerable sum of money by not proceeding with that proposal. However, there can be little doubt that the Government committed itself to this expenditure long before the measure saw the light of day in this Parliament. The signature of a Minister to an international agreement commits the Commonwealth, even though the Parliament has not been consulted. The proposed representation of Australia is unnecessary. The British and American Governments will be strongly represented in the organiza-tion, and will be able to function satisfactorily, if allowed to do so. The difficulties of co-ordination are great indeed in any administration consisting of men of different nationalities. Language differences create many problems, to say nothing of problems arising from differences of policy. The Governments of the , United Kingdom and of the United States of America have their own ideas regarding administration, and the same can be said of the Governments of Canada and other countries. If each country is to be represented on the Administration, we shall have something closely approximating the confusion associated with the building of the tower of Babel. Any one with experience of these matters will admit that the more homogeneous the administration, the better it will function. My view is that it is undesirable to have men of too many nationalities, and speaking different languages, in charge of any administration. The conditions which will have to be faced in Europe after the war will be most difficult; they will vary not only in different countries, but also in different parts of the same country. Therefore, the more direct and uniform the administration can be made, the better it will be for all concerned, because it will mean that better use can be made of the materials and goods that we shall send. I remember that on one occasion the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that it did not matter to him whether a bill to impose taxes could be improved by amending it, because he would not accept any amendment. That is probably the attitude of the Attorney-General on this occasion.
– As this bill deals with international matters, it is a case of “ take it, or leave it “.
– Although in my opinion, the time has arrived when this House should take a greater interest in international affairs, I prefer a system under which the Senate, which, does not sit so frequently, and contains men of greater experience in many respects than are to be found in this chamber, would pay more attention to the international aspects of this country’s political life than it has done in the past. In that way we might reach a better understanding of international affairs.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), having decided to make a speech on this bill, rose hurriedly, and read it, I think for the first time, io us. In his concluding remarks he said that he thought that it was unlikely that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) would accept any amendment, and the Minister promptly replied that he would not, seeing that the measure dealt with international affairs and that the Commonwealth Government had entered into an agreement which was embodied in the measure. It follows, therefore, that no amendment of the measure will be possible unless the Government is defeated. The measurebefore us relates to “ an agreement for the establishment of a United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration among the governments or authorities of the United Nations and nations associated with the United Nations in the war against Germany, Japan and their associates”. Inasmuch as the bill seeks to ratify that agreement, I naturally support it.
– The honorable member could not do otherwise.
– In my opinion,I ought not to do otherwise. In supporting it, I adopt the greater part of the admirable speech of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) who, however, was taken to task, with an unnecessary display of vituperative eloquence, by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). I agree that the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat, though admirable, exceeded the requirements of the case in some particulars. The honorable member for Indi was right when he said that more than money was required, and that Australia’s contribution of goods and materials would necessitate increased production on the part of the country. The speech of the honorable member for Indi recalled to my mind some observations which. I made in this chamber in connexion with a proposal to limit the production of wheat. I did not approve with enthusiasm the proposal to limit theproduction of wheat, because I then envisaged the introduction of just such a measure as that which is now before us - a measure designed to assist at least the distressed peoples of the Allied Nations. The honorable member for Ballarat went beyond that - at least I hope he did - when he said that after the war we may recognize qualities in our erstwhile enemies which we did not. previously suspect, and may be moved to assist distress among enemy nationals. Remembering, as we must, that the working classare pawns in the game, and that they are sent forth on missions of destruction, bloodshed, horror and terror, whether or not they are willing, we must readjust our views of our enemies, as we always have done with belated magnanimity, recognizing that they are the instruments of a power greater than themselves, and that they have to discharge the odious duty of slaying their fellow men. A part of the speech of the honorable member for Indi with which I am inclined to agree was that in which he pointed out the difficulty of deciding from day to day who our Allies are.
– The political party to which the honorable member belongs has faced that difficulty on a number of occasions.
– That difficulty has been experienced by all political parties. The honorable member for Indi instanced the changed relations of Russia and Finland to the Allies, and he could have given other examples. He could have shown that the wheel of fortune sometimes turns so rapidly that our worst enemies to-day become our best friends to-morrow, and that by the time the war ends - and it has not ended yet - it may be extremely difficult to determine who are the nations associated with the victorious Allies. I entirely disagee with the honorable member for Indi when he said, in effect, that we on this side had covered ourselves with dishonour in that when Greece was in dire need of assistance we opposed the sending of Australian troops to that country. 1 remember that incident very well. I participated in the debate on that subject, and I do not believe that I enjoyed the concurrence of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I point out that the Australian government of the day, not a Labour government, for its part in that great adventure, ill advised and ill starred, which was entered upon with a shocking lack of preparation on the part of the Allied Nations, deserved the severest condemnation of this Parliament. Upon that point the then Opposition in this House was entirely united.
– The government of the day sent Australian troops to Greece in opposition to the advice of General Sir Thomas Blarney.
– I support the bill. I believe that it might go further ; indeed, I think that it will go further than is at present envisaged. I believe that eventually our sense of shame for the outrage committed upon our common humanity will be such in this war as in the last that not only the people of the Allied Nations may, in their dire necessity, participate in our bounty, but the women and children and nonbelligerents of other countries, who have themselves been dragged into this horror, will also share in that bounty.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has dragged in the episode of Greece in a manner which would make it appear to have been a discreditable chapter in Australian and British history. I remind honorable members that, not only did the Australian and British Governments, but also the New Zealand Government, send troops to the rescue of Greece. New Zealand kept its troops in the Middle East. To talk, as does the honorable member for Batman at this juncture, about the senseless slaughter of Australians in an effort to relieve the desperate situation of the Greek people, is to do little credit to the gallantry of Australians. If the same quality of courage had been displayed by the British Government, it would not have made any attempt to invade Normandy because of the risks involved.
The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has indicated that no amendment of the measure will be accepted. Therefore, in view of the Government’s numbers, the bill will be passed in its present form. Regardless of the numerical strength of the Government, however, I believe that the measure is acceptable to all honorable members, because Australia, which has been spared the horrors of occupation by an enemy force only by a miracle, is only too willing to make this contribution. But who is to make this contribution? “Will it be honorable members opposite who are prepared blithely to vote the sum of £12,000,000 in order to provide relief to the distressed people of Europe and Asia? What is the contribution which will actually be made by those honorable members who are so gallantly prepared to vote this sum? Their contribution will be nil, because practically the whole contribution to be made under the measure will be in the form of primary products.
-For which the farmers will be paid.
– I shall deal with that point. Prior to the war, primary products constituted 90 per cent, of our export trade, whilst manufactured goods, which consisted mostly of Newcastle steel, accounted for less than 10 per cent. Therefore, any change must be for the worse. Because our ability , to supply manufactured goods is nil, we shallbe obliged to make this contribution in the form of primary products.For that reason, the farmers will provide practically the whole of this relief. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) interjected that the farmers will be paid for their products. I have no doubt that they will be paid by the method which he has so vigorously expounded in the press, namely, by the use of bank credit, and by the printing of notes that may, or may not, be of value. The Minister has his own pet financial scheme. I do not know whether he is still a supporter of the Douglas Credit system of finance. Payment for the wheat, wool, butter, meat and other products which we exported before the war was made in the form of manufactured goods sent to this country in exchange for those exports. Under this proposal, we shall export £12,000,000 worth of primary products, but weshall not receive in return £12,000,000 worth of other goods.
– What is wrong with that ?
– Nothing is wrong with it, provided that all parties in this House unite to ensure that £12,000,000 worth of consumable goods are produced in Australia in order to offset the export of this quantity of primary products. That is the only way by which the primary producer can be paid for these products. Otherwise, the Australian community willbe short to the value of £12,000,000 of machinery, clothing, electrical equipment, glassware and other goods that would ordinarily be imported in exchange for these exports.
– The honorable member must have been taking a course in economics.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) should take a course in public administration and loyalty to his leader. It is quite obvious that if the Australian farmer is to make this contribution to the devastated countries of £12,000,000 worth of primary products, a greater effort must be made on the part of the rest of the community in order to make up the deficit involved in the export of these goods. Otherwise, other goods ordinarily received in exchange for exports will not be available .to the community. However, that objective is not likely to be achieved, because the ‘Government refuses to discipline coal-miners and meat-workers. So long as it remains in office, any one, apparently, can break the law, .and can demand higher wages for less work. Only a few days ago, an article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald in which it was pointed out thai the tonnage shifted by wharf labourers declined from 43 tons an hour in 1938 to 25 tons an hour this year, although the wages of wharf labourers in that period had been increased by 50 per cent. That is the policy being pursued by the present Government. I mention it in passing, in order to emphasize that the only way in which the money can be made up is by increased production within the confines of Australia.
Another matter upon which I wish to touch in this debate concerns the administration of the Department of External Affairs. We are going to participate in the administration of this relief commission. The Government has advertised for 50 or 60 individuals who, I presume, will go overseas. I thoroughly approve of that, and in that regard I differ from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I believe that Australians should go overseas and be trained, but the curious thing about the administration of the department is that, whilst it trains men for subordinate jobs such as administering sections of Unrra, it sends abroad to the very highest offices in the diplomatic service men who have had no experience whatever, such as our present Minister at Moscow, a trade union secretary.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address himself to the bill before the House.
– I am endeavouring to describe the methods followed in selecting staff by the department which is to administer this legislation. I draw attention to .the fact that the agreement is signed on behalf of Australia by Sir Owen Dixon, the Minister for Australia at Washington. I presume that the Australian Minister now in Washington will be the individual to whom the Government will refer whenever Australia’s interests are concerned. He is Sir Frederic Eggleston who, although he is our representative in the United States of America, is Australia’s Minister to China. Is he still Minister to China?
– He is not. He is our Minister at Washington.
– I do not think that that has been made very clear.
– It is clear now.
– I should like also to touch upon the declaration made to-night by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that there has been no diminution in the supplies to Great Britain.
– Hear, hear !
-“ Hear, hear “ comes from the Government benches, but the statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is not supported by the official figures, which have already been quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). I take them now from the pamphlet issued by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). They show that in 1938-39 we exported to the United Kingdom 217,000,000 lb. of butter, whereas the estimate for the last eleven months of 1943-44 is 93,000,000 lb. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated that we have met all our contractual obligations. We have done so only because the British Government having been disappointed so frequently in the la3t couple of years, limited its contract to what it felt could be supplied. As ti matter of fact we have not nearly approached our contractual obligations.
From this side of the House we have for a long time been warning the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and in this we have been supported by authoritative opinion outside, of the likelihood of a shortage of wheat. Representations were made for permission to expand the areas to be sown, but the Minister and his experts said: “ We are going to have a bumper harvest, there will never be any shortage of wheat, the position is absolutely secure.” To use the words which the Minister himself has so frequently employed, they said : “ The whole matter is well in hand.” Yet Australia, a great wheat-growing country ‘.idi usually produces from 150,000,000 to 200,000,000 bushels of wheat, will produce this year about 25,000,000 bushels below its own consumption. How can the Minister say that the whole position is “well in hand”? The Government proposes to offer relief to people overseas who need food, but it cannot even feed Australia, so far as wheat is concerned, and we shall have to live on the reserve accumulated last year. The Minister and the Government will no doubt retort : “But there is a drought on.” So there is, but any man connected with the land knows that droughts are to be expected and must be provided against.. We must provide reserves against dry seasons, but the gentleman farmers on the opposite side of the House think that life on the land is so easy that there will always be a bumper season. Why, even Joseph told Pharaoh to look out for the lean years.
So far as Australia’s contribution to the funds of Unrra is concerned, £12,000,000 is a lot of money, and it is also not much money. It is about our weekly war expenditure. We have to meet it and we must validate this agreement. I thoroughly approve of any commitments which the Minister for External Affairs may have made, but I reiterate to the Government, particularly to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who laughs away all these difficulties, although the whole of Australia is laughing at him, that we cannot give away £12,000,000 without some increased effort on our own part. If the Government tries to make up the deficiency simply by expanding bank credit, or by some magic manipulation of finance through the Commonwealth Bank, it will let down not only the people overseas, but also the people of this country. Ministers are already well on the way to do so, because there is no discipline in the coalmining, meat or shipping industries. When the community protests, the only answer from the treasury bench is laughter. Every Minister who is sitting there now is laughing. That is a fine spectacle to present to the people of Australia. Industries are closing down. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will be on the list very shortly if the coal position does not improve. Unless the Government deals with the industrial situation in ways other than those employed by Ministers opposite, this gesture to the United Nations will not mean very much. I am pleased to see the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) present. He has the distinction of always expounding his views, even if they are not in accord with the traditions of Cabinet loyalty. He tells the country what his policy is, although it may be quite different from that of his colleagues. Loyalty does not mean anything to him, as he is proud to state. I presume that our contribution will be made in goods, such as wheat and wool, but I should like to know whether provision has been made to ensure that a fair price will be paid for our goods. It would not be reasonable if we received 2s. a bushel less for our wheat than will be paid for Canadian or American wheat. Perhaps the Minister for External Affairs will be able to deal with this point in his reply. Values should be determined on an equitable basis.
– It is only natural for us to support this bill. In any case the measure cannot be amended, for it has been framed in accordance with an international agreement. Some points in the bill are of special interest. I consider that we have been “ let off “ very lightly in comparison with some other countries, which, though they have not been overrun, have suffered heavy loss through bombing and other enemy action. Of the £12,000,000 which we are to provide, representing 1 per cent, of our national income, 10 per cent, must be in foreign currency and the balance in supplies and services. Does the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) intend to support that provision? The balance of 90 per cent, is to be provided in “supplies and services”. What does that phrase mean? No doubt the great proportion of that amount will be represented by the toil of the primary producers. I therefore stress the necessity to ensure that fair prices are assured to our primary producers in this connexion. Values in relation to similar commodities from different countries should be equitable as between the parties concerned. We must bear in mind, too, the position of the wharf labourers and the meat workers. They ought to be required to make their general contribution. Their co-operation will be essential, and I hope we shall not be faced with the spectacle of these workers acting as they did a few days ago when goods worth thousands of pounds were allowed to deteriorate because work was interrupted. The producers of beef and mutton have sustained heavy losses recently because of stoppages that have occurred at the abattoirs and on the waterfront. It will bemost unfair if the wharf labourers and meat workers are not called upon to make their contribution to the £10,800,000 which Australia is contracting to find in supplies and services for Unrra. Unfortunately, stock deteriorated seriously last week-end, because it had to be left from Friday until Monday in yards without a blade of grass in them. If the shipment of foodstuffs is delayed on the waterfront losses are also heavy and the primary producer suffers most.
I regret that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) saw fit to make disparaging references to Great Britain because of its action in sending British soldiers to Greece earlier in the war. I do not say that errors have not been made, but, in connexion with Greece, Great Britain and the Empire made a heroic gesture, and they carried out their promise. It should be remembered, also, that Mr. Anthony Eden stated in the
British Parliament, in connexion with this matter, that when the move was agreed to it was thought that two other nations would be joining in the endeavour to bring relief to the Greeks, and he added that how near that assistance was history alone would tell. All the blame for any failure in that regard cannot be placed with Great Britain.
– In any case, the campaign helped to check the march on Russia.
– Yes. Our immediate contribution to Unrra for administrative expenses is to be £47,000. I cannot see that there is any need for us to incur heavy expenditure to send special officers to participate in this work. We could rely on British and American officers to see that our funds were equitably distributed’. I hope that, in his speech in reply, the Minister for External Affairs will supplement the remarks he made in his secondreading speech on this aspect of the subject. As we are contributing only 1.5 per cent, of the total funds to be made available to Unrra we should not need to expend substantial amounts in sending staff to engage in the work. I have already mentioned that in my opinion we have been called upon for a relatively light contribution. Czechoslovakia, which has- suffered so severely from German assaults, is being required to contribute 1 per cent: One other point requires some elucidation. Our contribution is to be £12,000,000 of which 10 per cent, or £1,200,000 is to be in foreign currency. I should like to know where these funds are to be deposited, and whether specially appointed custodians will handle the money under a pooling scheme of some description.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Ai r Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 146, 153.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No. 26 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
Bankruptcy Act - Sixteenth Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1944.
Broadcasting - Composite statement of programme and technical service accounts of Australian Broadcasting Commission and Postmaster-General’s Department in respect of the national broadcasting service for year 1942-43.
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of goods - No. 611.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions ) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 139, 140.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 154.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated 7th November, 1 944.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Bathurst, New South Wales (2).
Coniston, New South Wales.
Lindfield, New South Wales.
Lithgow, New South Wales.
Mulwala, New South Wales.
Oodnadatta, South Australia.
Richmond, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Darlington, Now South Wales.
Melbourne, Victoria (2).
Port Melbourne, Victoria.
National Security Act -
National Security (Exchange Control) Regulations - Order - Sterling area.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order No. 10.
National Security (General) Regulations -
Beef (Restrictions on sale and consumption) (No. 2).
Control of -
Electronic vibrators (No. 2).
Essential materials (No. 9).
Maps (No. 2).
Newsprint (No. 1).
Office machines - Revocation.
Overseas postal communications.
Radio spare parts.
Stock foods and remedies (No. 4).
Wholesale cream distribution (Victoria) (No. 2).
Disposal of dead bodies.
Prohibition of non-essential pro duction (No. 16).
Taking possession of land, &c. (123).
Use of land (4).
Orders by State Premiers -
Queensland (2 - dated 13th October, 1944, and 2nd November, 1944). South Australia (Nos. 3 and 4 of 1944).
Victoria (No. 59).
Western Australia (2 - dated 27th September, 1944).
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations - Order - Esta blishment of internment camp.
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Orders -
Queensland (Nos. 2 and 3) - Revocation.
South Australia (No. 12).
National Security (Man Power) Regula tions - Orders - Protected undertakings (92).
National Security (Potatoes) Regulations - Order - No. 17.
National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Declarations - Nos. 145-148.
Orders- Nos. 1608-1746.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 71-74.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations -
Statement of Australian Banking
Statistics for the five quarters ended 30th September, 1944.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 148, 150, 151, 152, 156, 157.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 155.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 145.
Scientific Liaison Bureau - Annual Report for period ended 30th June, 1944.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1944 - No. 4 (Public Baths Ordinance).
Sugar Agreement - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for year ended 31st August, 1944.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 147.
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 149.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Mr.Scully. - I am now in a position to furnish the following information : - 1 and 2. Board members (with the excep tion of the chairman) receive a salary of £500 per annum, and during the last twelve months the travelling allowances paid to the individual members were as follows: - Sir Clive McPherson, C.B.E., £4; Mr. J. Gatehouse, senior, £2; Mr. S. Field, £131; Mr. A. C. Everett, £77; Mr. J. H. Cavenagh, £108; Mr. W. H. Pearse, £68; Mr. W. A. Dean, £56; Mr. J. F. Maycock, £66; Mr. J. M. Steele, £76; Mr. J. S. Teasdale, £71; Mr. F. J. Armstrong, £54.
t asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
Lancaster bombers in Australia fully equipped, including cost of the MerlinRollsRoyce engines for them?
i. - The Minister for Aircraft Production has supplied the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441115_reps_17_180/>.