17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– Can the Acting Minister for Air say ^whether or not the plans that are now being made in respect of international air services envisage an all-Australian and New Zealand link-up, including therein a Tasmanian port? If not, will the honorable gentleman investigate the possibility of such coverage being arranged when these services are being considered in detail ?
– The whole matter of air routes is at present the subject of discussion and planning, for which purpose the Minister for Air is visiting the United States of America. I shall refer to him the representations of the honorable member for the inclusion of Tasmania in the route between New Zealand and Australia.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Air to state whether or not hundreds of air crew personnel have been attached to personnel depots in and near the capita] cities for periods in excess of lour and in some instances even five months? Are thousands of others filling token positions throughout the Commonwealth? If these two questions be answered in the affirmative, will the honorable gentleman state what action he proposes to take in collaboration with his colleagues to provide positive employment for those members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are in excess of establishment; alternatively, will he consider the granting of a gratuity that will enable surplus personnel to have, while idle, the equivalent spending capacity of, say, the munitions worker who spent the sum of £2 12s. 6d. on one meal of oysters?
– The answer to both questions is in the negative.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the report that delegates to the Federal Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League . of Australia in Adelaide expressed doubts as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament or the Government had any desire to introduce legislation giving preference in employment to ex-servicemen ? In view of the declared opposition of certain members of the Cabinet to the granting of preference to fighting men over striking trade unionists, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to whether or not the legislation mentioned has yet been approved by caucus or Cabinet, and when the promise of the Prime Minister to submit it to the Parliament will be fulfilled?
– I have not yet read the report mentioned, but anticipate doing so during a short respite of which I expect to avail myself at the week-end. The legislation referred to is not yet ready for presentation to the Parliament.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen this statement of Sir Gilbert Dyett, as reported in the Adelari.de Advertiser -
I do not think that we have ever had a Government more sympathetically disposed to the interests of ex-servicemen than the present Government.
Sir Gilbert Dyett was recently elected for the twenty-sixth term as President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– I have not seen the report, but I shall immediately obtain a copy of the newspaper in which it appeared. Evidently, Sir Gilbert Dyett lives up to his high reputation as a very thoughtful, considerate, discerning and capable gentleman. .
– I have received a number of telegrams, protesting against the likelihood of political control over the banking system being established. As opinions expressed by the Ministers for Information and Transport, and some other Government members, in debates in this House, would appear to indicate that a sinister hanking policy is shortly to be introduced, will the Treasurer make a statement on the subject so that a financial panic may. be averted and future loans may not be jeopardized?
– I have no knowledge of any sinister intentions in relation to banking. It is true that the Government party holds certain views in regard to an amendment of the banking laws. A pronouncement of policy on this subject is a matter for the Government and not an individual Minister, and it will be made in due course by the Prime Minister.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read the resolution of the Legislative Assembly of New
South Wales on the 7th November last, in the.sc terms -
That, in the opinion of this House,’ the scheme of home-building adopted by the Commonwealth War Service Homes Commission for returned soldiers, &c, after the last wm-, imposed conditions upon them which have since proved to be harsh, and the Government should convey to the Federal Government, for its immediate consideration, the following proposal, with which this House is in agreement and now recommends, that where and when original purchasers of war service homes, or their widows, have paid to the War Service Homos Commission, by way of principal and interest, an amount equal to the original advance plus two and a half per cent, simple interest calculated from the beginning of contracts, such persons be exempted from further payments.
Will the honorable gentleman consider the mating of a complete review of the position in relation to war service homes, in order that the many cases of hardship ti:::: now exist may be relieved?
– I have read the report of the debate in the Legislative Assembly of Kew South Wales on war service homes, but cannot agree with the honorable member that there are many cases of hardship. I noticed that during the debate the statement was made that a man would never own his home. The answer to this is, that the commitments of purchasers of war service homes have been discharged in approximately 15,000 instances, and that payments are being completed at the rate of approximately 100 a month. The proposal for the reduction of interest is one for consideration by the Government. I am prepared to discuss the matter with the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that only fifteen war service homes have been built since the beginning of the war, will (he Acting Prime Minister do something to ensure that, as some action is being taken by the Housing Commission, returned servicemen at least will have an opportunity to obtain workers’ homes, because at present the preference to returned soldiers provision now operates against the interests of the ex-serviceman with regard to applications for those homes?
– Everything practicable ir being done by the Minister in charge of war service homes to have as many of those homes as possible constructed. As
Australia has been engaged in an all-in war effort, having to provide timber and man-power for both the Australian fighting services and the other Allied fighting services in the South-West Pacific Area, a large diversion of man-power and materials from house construction has occurred to enable urgent Al priority war work to be done. The Government hopes that in the near future a favorable change in the war position will be brought about, making possible a substantial diversion of man-power and materials for the purposes of a comprehensive housing scheme, so that due and equitable consideration may be given to the claims of ail ex-servicemen.
Perth Tramways - Dairying Industry
– In view of the acute position in relation to man-power that is developing in the Tramways Department, Perth, will the Acting Prime Minister seriously consider the release from the Army for employment in that department of. men whose discharge has been recommended by the Department of Labour, Perth?
– I am impressed by the representations of the honorable member, and I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, with ,a view to early consideration being given to the honorable member’s request.
– The Acting Prime Minister will recollect that some time ago he stated that 4,800 persons were to be released from the Army for return to the dairying industry, irrespective of where they were serving or what were their classifications. The experiences of honorable members in connexion with rejections of applications would make it appear that the Army is not carrying out the undertaking given by the right honorable gentleman. Oan he state what categories are to be released, and under what conditions labour for the dairying industry will continue to be provided?
– Some time ago, War Cabinet decided that 4,S00 persons whose applications for release in order that they might return to the dairying industry had previously been refused because of the location of their units, were to be unconditionally discharged, and that these would form a ‘portion of the 8,000 discharges on behalf of the dairying industry for- the year ending the 30th June, 1945. Having heard the case for urgent discharges on behalf of the dairying industry, “War Cabinet subsequently decided that, to the greatest extent practicable, all service restrictions should be removed from the release of personnel who were willing to return to that industry and had been recommended for release by the Director-General of Man Power, up to the 8,000 discharges approved for release during the year ending the 30th June, 1945. I have ‘been in consultation this morning with the Adjutant-General’s Department, Melbourne, and have been assured that thai decision of War Cabinet is being implemented.
– Is that a recent deci sion of War Cabinet?
Mi’. JAMES.- I ask the AttorneyGeneral to state whether the management of Seaham Colliery at West Wallsend Is cavilling out 21 pairs of miners from that mine? Is it a fact that a block of coal of approximately 2,000,000 tons, belonging to another company, is available adjacent to the shaft bottom ? In view of the urgent need for coal supplies, will the right honorable gentleman represent to the Government of New South Wales the advisability of allowing an amalgamation of the leases, in order that f;he Seaham Colliery may exploit that block of coal?
– I am not aware of the facts. As the honorable member has said, the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the State Minister for Mines, Mr. Baddeley. I shall have great pleasure hi conveying to him the suggestion that the honorable member has made.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read a statement in this morning’s press by the manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to the effect that the company’s operations will again have to be curtailed, unless more coal be provided? Does the right honorable gentleman realize that industries are being curtailed for the same reason, with most detrimental effects on the war effort and on employment? In view of these facts what positive action does the Government intend to take to procure more coal?
– I have not read the newspaper report, to which the honorable member has referred. I hope that, after questions without notice have been answered, I shall have a few minutes in which to read the newspapers. With regard to his further inquiry, I hope at the week-end to give much consideration to the subject of coal production. The Government has arranged three conferences on Monday, at which the matter will be discussed further, with a view to speeding up production. The Government does not attempt to justify the stoppages in the industry. In a statement which I made to the press yesterday, 1 said that, unless the production of coal increases in the next two or three months, chaos will occur in a number of industries in this country. The time has arrived when helpful suggestions might be made to the Government, instead of using the situation in the industry as a football for biased party political tactics.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that, while he was making a statement yesterday containing a warning that, unless more coal were produced, the steel industry and others dependent upon it would be brought almost to a standstill, 2,000 miners were on strike, nine ships were- idle and the production loss was 8,050 tons? In view of this, does not the right honorable gentleman consider it futile to hold the three conferences he has summoned for Monday? Will the Government instead give immediate e fleet to the wide powers which it already possesses by legislation and regulations?
– I do not endeavour to justify, indeed J condemn, unauthorized strikes n.J present, seeing that one of the greatest offensives Australia has ever engaged in is taking place. Yet it is most important that the Government should have conferences with the New South Wales Government, the coal-mine owners and the officials of the miners’ federation, with a view to bringing about concerted action which may lead to increased coal production in one of the most critical years of the war.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen the complaints published o’n behalf of medical practitioners, in relation to the restrictions that are imposed on the sale of penicillin, which make it necessary for doctors personally to pay for the supplies of this drug that are required by their patients, instead of their being able to include it in their prescriptions? If so, will the honorable gentleman make a statement concerning the disposal of the drug to the public? Further, in view of the complaint that the practice referred to has already resulted in personal loss to a number of doctors and restriction of the use of the drug, will the honorable gentleman review the policy that has been laid down, with the object of righting any serious disabilities under which these men may be suffering ?
– In the unavoidable absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Health, I inform the honorable member that the policy of the Government is that penicillin shall be made available at a minimum charge to all centres in Australia. The terms and conditions under which it is made available at present will be reconsidered. Until quite recently the drug was manufactured at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in very restricted quantities, but, as it is now being produced on a larger scale, I think the time has arrived for an alteration of the conditions under which it is distributed.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House as to the value of the goods already sold by the War Disposals Commission, and can he state whether the fullest practical use is being made of the normal trading channels for the disposal of the goods? Have the moneys already received been paid into a special trust account, or into the general revenue of th’e Commonwealth? Will the honorable gentleman indicate the ultimate disposition of the moneys obtained from the sales?
– A portion of the question might have been more appropriately directed to the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping. I am not in a position at this stage to give the exact value of the goods already sold, but I shall endeavour to obtain that information. An intimation has previously been made that, as far as possible, normal trading channels will be utilized in the disposal of the goods. As to the application of the moneys obtained from the sale of surplus goods, I intimated to the House some time ago that certain accounting difficulties were associated with the matter, and I gave to honorable members an assurance that the moneys would be directed to the purpose of reducing the national debt burden. The exact method by which that is to be done is now being examined. The accounts are being kept entirely separate, and, when the other adjustments are made, amendments to one or two acts may be necessary. The whole matter is being investigated by the Treasury.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister place on the table of the House the official file containing the ministerial direction that no more communists were to be interned, to which Captain Blood, an Army intelligence officer, referred in evidence given at the Australia First inquiry? Is that direction still operative? In other words, is membership of the Communist party a complete disqualification for internment ?
– As far as I am aware no such direction was ever given. I shall find out whether there was such a direction, and then I shall give consideration to the request of the honorable member.
– In the absence of the. Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has received any protest from members of trade unions regarding dangerous Communist influence in those unions, and requesting that the Commonwealth Government take action to support the proposals of Mr. Mullens, a Labour member of the Victorian Parliament, that there should be compulsory voting for trade union officials, that in such ballots all safeguards exercised in the conduct of Commonwealth and State elections should be observed, and that the vicious practice by -which ballot-papers are handed out by shop stewards should be abolished ? Does the Government intend to heed that protest, or introduce legislation to ensure that Communist control shall be purged from the trade unions ?
– I have not received any such request. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service, who, in due course, will furnish a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read a statement by Mr. Huish, of Queensland, at a. recent federal congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that, despite denials by the Minister for the Interior, his department has the names and addresses of Italian internees and at least one Japanese internee released in Australia? If the right honorable gentleman has not read the statement, will he cause inquiry to be made immediately regarding the matter, and furnish a report to the House next week?
– I have not read the report to which reference has been made, but I shall obtain a copy of it, and provide the honorable member, next week, if possible, with the information desired by him.
CO-ordination of administration.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government has given consideration to the recommendation by Mr. Bradley, at the conclusion of the quota-sold inquiry, that a further investigation should bs made regarding the work of the departments associated with rationing, supply, prices and import procurement? Does the Government propose to institute such further inquiry?
– Yes. Appropriate action is being taken through the Public Service Commissioner.
– During recent weeks 1 have received communications from prospective aldermen of the .Sydney City Council in connexion with the petrol allowance for their municipal campaigns. Will the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping give consideration to supplying them with sufficient petrol to enable them to place their views before the ratepayers ?
– I shall look into the matter, but, having regard to the shipping position, I cannot view the proposal with enthusiasm.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been directed to the railway accommodation made available to members of this Parliament on the occasion of their return to Canberra this week? Whilst Ministers were able to travel in comparative comfort, private members, particularly members of the Opposition, had to occupy the composite railway carriage concerning which complaints were made during the previous sittings. Some members, including a former Prime Minister, were piled into second-class compartments, and suffered considerable discomfort. Will the Minister endeavour to have more comfortable accommodation provided for members?
– A great deal of the difficulty complained of arises out of divided control by the State and Federal authorities. Had members of the Opposition taken a broad national view in connexion with the recent referendum, the Commonwealth would be in a position to deal effectively with these matters. I shall have inquiries made in order to see whether it is not possible to enable members of the Opposition to travel to Canberra in greater comfort. However, I have never noticed that mem,bers of the Opposition experience difficulty in sleeping anywhere.
– The Prime Minister, before his illness, promised to investigate certain proposals for improving transport arrangements to Canberra, not only for members of Parliament, but also for the general public, so that the city would not be so isolated. He said that he would investigate the possibility of using Douglas aircraft, of which there are some available; also, the establishment of a bus service from Albury to Canberra, as well as improved rail facilities. Will the Minister for Transport investigate these proposals?
– Matters relating to air transport come under the control of the Minister for Air, and motor transport is the concern of the Minister for the Interior. I shall bring the honorable member’s request to their attention.
-Does the Government intend to introduce a bill this session to extend the operation of the Wine Export Bounty Act which expires early next year ?
– Inquiries will be made, and. I shall probably be able to give to the honorable member a more definite answer next week.
Mal-treatment by Japanese.
– Yesterday, I asked the Acting Prime Minister whether, in the light of information elicited from men recently rescued, he would make a statement concerning the treatment of prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, and he promised that a statement would be made to-day. Does he propose to make such a statement?
– Negotiations are still in progress between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Great Britain. IfI receive a cable from the Government of Great Britain before the House adjourns to-day a statement will be made. If not, the statement will be delayed until next week.
– Under the present arrangement for the release from the Army of men in certain categories very little consideration seems to have been given to men with five years of service. Will the Minister for the Army have the list reviewed with a view to including those with five years service or more?
– Yes; consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– The Telephone Branch, probably for security reasons, now refuses to disclose the place from which a trunk call emanates, although it was the practice before the war to give this information, and it served a useful purpose in that it enabled the person receiving warning of the call to be prepared, if necessary, with information. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the former practice cannot be restored?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s representation to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and ask him whether it is possible to revert to the practice which operated before the war.
– Can the
Acting Prime Minister say whether it was agreed between the Commonwealth and the State representatives at the recent Premiers Conference at Canberra that where a crop was fed off only onehalf of the stipulated amount of drought relief would be payable?
– I shall have to refresh my memory on that point. The information will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– In a film exhibited yesterday by the Department of Information, it was stated that in New South Wales and Victoria 1,500,000 head of stock had been lost because of the drought. Recently, it was stated by the manager of Primaries Limited, of St. George. Queensland, that 2,000,000 head of stock had been lost in southwestern Queensland during the present drought. . Will . the Acting Prime Minister arrange that those who have had heavy stock losses in the drought, will bo afforded relief on the same basis as those who have lost cereal crops, the money to be made available either as a gift, or in the form of loans without interest ?
– lt is the practice to discuss measures for drought relief at a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. However, the point raised by the honorable member will be considered by the Government. We shall have to consider the practicability of meeting the claims of pastoralists, as well as those of other sections of the community. The drought is disastrous, and we all deplore it. The Government is anxious to afford as much relief as possible, consistent with the country’s war commitments.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an net to approve an Agreement” between the Commonwealth of Australia of the First Part, and the States of New South Wales, Victoria. Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania of the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Parts, respectively, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to ratify an agreement, dated the 15th November, 1944, entered into between the Commonwealth and the States for the amendment of the Financial Agreement. The amendment is principally designed to clarify certain matters of sinking fund procedure. Under the Financial Agreement, which was entered into between the Commonwealth and the States in December, 1927, and which was later validated under the provisions of the now section 105a of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Commonwealth took over all State debts, and provision was made for the establishment of a sinking fund for the redemption of those debts. With the exception of specified classes of borrowings, the sinking fund contributions were fixed at 7s. “6d. per cent, per annum on the debts of the
States as at the 1st July, 1927, and 10s. per cent, per annum on loans raised for and on behalf of the States after that date. Of this amount of .103. the State concerned was required to pay 5s. per cent, per annum, and the Commonwealth a similar amount.
The principal exception to this sinking fund contribution of 10s. per cent, per annum on loans raised after the 1st July, 1927, related to loans raised to finance State revenue deficits. In the case of such loans the Financial Agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall not be required to make any contribution to the State sinking fund, and the State concerned is required to make a sinking fund contribution at the rate of not less than 4 per cent, per annum for a period sufficient to liquidate the loan, these contributions being deemed to accumulate at the rate of 4£ per cent, per annum compound interest. .
During the depression years from 1929-30 onwards, abnormal deficits were experienced by all State governments, and the Loan Council arranged, where necessary, to finance these deficits up to, and including the year 1934-35 by means of borrowings from the Commonwealth Bank on the security of Commonwealth treasury-bills. The total amount so borrowed was approximately £53,000,000. The treasury-bills issued as security for these borrowings had a currency of three months only, renewable from time to time, and were taken up by the Commonwealth Bank. It was considered that the Financial Agreement did not specifically provide for sinking fund contributions in respect of borrowings of this character, but the Loan Council agreed that some sinking fund provision should be made for such borrowings, and arrangements were made for contributions to be paid on the same basis as in the case of loans raised for purposes other than revenue deficits, viz., a sinking fund of 10s. per cent, per annum, of which the Commonwealth would provide 5s. and the State concerned 5s. Contributions have been paid on this basis to the national debt sinking fund for each year right up to the 30th June, 1944.
A question was recently raised as to whether this procedure was strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Agreement, and legal advice was sought. Opinions have now been received from four leading counsel, who agree that proper contributions payable in respect of these borrowings are contributions by the States concerned and not by the Commonwealth, and at a rate of not less than 4 per cent, per annum, as in the case of ordinary loans raised to meet revenue deficits. In other words, the loans in question should be liquidated by State sinking fund contributions for approximately seventeen years, instead of by contributions for 53 years, and no payment should be made by the Commonwealth. The deficits totalling £53,000,000 were, as I have already stated, incurred in abnormal circumstances, and had the sinking fund contributions at the time been paid at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum, they would have involved still further increased deficits and consequent further borrowings to enable the additional sinking fund contributions to be paid. The circumstances arising out of these transactions were carefully considered by the loan Council, as the result of which a recommendation was made to the Commonwealth and State Governments that action be taken to amend the Financial Agreement in order to validate the sinking fund contributions that have already been made up to the 30th June, 1944, and to establish, as from the 1st July, 1944, a sinking fund contribution at the rate of 1 per cent, per annum. The States have undertaken to redeem £7,000,000 of the bills from their cash resources. The National Debt Commission is to apply £3,000,000 during 1944-45 to the redemption of treasurybills, this being approximately the total sinking fund contributions to date in respect of these treasury-bills. The new sinking fund of 1 per cent, per annum is estimated to liquidate the remainder of this debt, viz. £43,000,000, in a period of 39 years from the 1st July, 1944. Of. the amount of 1 per cent, per annum, 5s. per cent, will be ,paid by the Commonwealth and 15s. per cent, by the States concerned. The Commonwealth Bank has agreed to convert these treasury-bills, which have always been regarded as a short-term debt, into deben- tures with a fixed currency of 39 years, and under ‘the proposals, the debentures will be redeemed from time to time from the 1 per cent, contributions to which I have referred. These (proposals provide a definite arrangement for the redemption of the treasury-bills which were discounted by the Commonwealth Bank in order to finance the abnormal deficits arising out of the depression, and I consider that they are reasonable in all the circumstances. The proposals have been incorporated in the amending Financial Agreement which is now being submitted in this bill for ratification by Parliament.
The proposals involve a contribution of 5s. per cent, per annum on the part of the Commonwealth towards the States’ debts in question. This contribution was also considered reasonable in view of the very serious financial position in which the States found themselves during the depression years, and having regard to the difficulties which the States were experiencing in placing their finances on a. more stable basis. It is considered reasonable that the Commonwealth should continue to extend this same degree of assistance towards the liquidation of those particular liabilities.
Provision is also made in the amending Financial Agreement, which Parliament is being asked in this bill to approve, that the sinking fund contributions prescribed by the Financial Agreement shall be .calculated on the basis of the mint par of exchange prevailing on the 1st July, 1927, the date from which the original Financial Agreement took effect. When the Financial Agreement was entered into in 1927, Australian and sterling currencies were at par; that is to say, the Australian £1 was the equivalent of the £1 sterling. By January, 1931, the £1 Australian had depreciated to the basis of £130 Australian equalling £100 sterling. In December, 1931, this was varied to the rate £125 Australian equalling £100 sterling, and this rate has been maintained unaltered since that date. During that period the exchange rate between London and New York has fluctuated considerably. These variations of the exchange rate between Australia and London and New York were never contemplated when the Financial
Agreementwas entered into, and contributions have throughout the whole period, from the 1st July, 1927, to date, been made on the basis of the mint par of exchange as existing at the commencement of the agreement. Legal opinion has now been received to the effect that in respect of the new loans raised after the 30th June, 1927, sinking fund contributions in respect of overseas debt should be calculated in the currency of the country in which the loan was raised, or its equivalent in Australian currency converted at the current rate of exchange at the time the payment is due. The contributions actually paid, as I have explained, are not in accordance with this opinion. Rates of exchange have always been subject to variations, but it was never contemplated that the prescribed annual sinking fund contributions would vary in accordance with movements in the exchange rates. Moreover, it was no doubt intended, and is obviously desirable, that the annual charges to the State budgets should be reasonably stable. The prescribed sinking fund contribution of 10s. per cent. per annum for 53 years provided a reasonable margin to cover normal variations in exchange rates and other factors, such as differences in market prices of securities repurchased from sinking fund moneys. The substantial variation in the exchange rate which had occurredin the period to 1931 was, however, something which could not be foreseen and was not provided for. The effect of this variation on the incidence of the sinking fund scheme inherent in the original Financial Agreement will depend upon future movements of exchange rates during the period of 53 years which commenced on the 1st July, 1927. It is, of course, not possible at this juncture to make any forecast as to whether the present rates will be maintained or will be changed. For these reasons the ‘Government supports the amendment in the new agreement which requires contributions to be calculated on the basis of the mint par rate prevailing on the 1st July, 1927. It is proposed that this provision be made retrospective from the 1st July, 1927, in order to validate past procedure.
The amending Financial Agreement also makes provision for the member representing the Commonwealth to be the Chairman of the Loan Council. Up to the present the ‘Commonwealth representative has been madeChairman of the Loan Council by resolution of the council itself. The amending agreement makes this a statutory provision.
The Financial Agreement prescribes that the Commonwealth and each State will from time to time submit to the Loan Council a programme setting forth the amount it desires to raise by loans for each year. It has not been practicable to relate the borrowings during a year to the actual loan expenditure during that year. Public loan raisings must be arranged at convenient intervals, and it has been customary for moneys to be borrowed towards the end of each financial year sufficient to meet the requirements during the early part of the new financial year until a further loan raising becomes practicable. This procedure is not strictly in accordance with the Financial Agreement , and it is now proposed in the amending agreement that the loan programmes to be submitted by the various governments shall be the programmes of amounts desired tobe raised during each year and not loans raised for each financial year. This involves no alteration of procedure, but merely brings the provisions of the agreement into line with the present practice.
The Financial Agreement authorizes the Loan Council to determine each year the amount of money which shallbe borrowed to meet the requirements of governments and to allocate that total amount by unanimous decision amongst the governments concerned. If the members of the Loan Council fail to arrive at a unanimous decision as to this allocation, the total amount borrowed is required to be allocated in the following manner : -
Up to the present it has always !been possible for the Loan Council to arrive at a unanimous decision in regard to the allocation of the total annual loan borrowings, but in the event of the formula being applied at any time the question would inevitably arise as to the inclusion or otherwise in the term “net loan expenditure “ of amounts applied from loan borrowings during, the preceding five years for the purpose of financing State revenue deficits. This matter was recently considered by the Loan Council and it was decided to recommend to the various Governments that the Financial Agreement be amended to provide that the term “ net loan expenditure” shall not include expenditure for the funding of revenue deficits. All governments have agreed to this proposal, and it is incorporated in the amending agreement for which approval is now sought.
Further, in the immediate post-war period it is anticipated that relatively large sums will need to be included in the annual programmes of the various governments for the purpose of financing projects for post-war reconstruction, such as housing, soldier land settlement, &c. The arrangements that may apply in connexion with the implementation of these post-war schemes may be such as to render it inequitable for such borrowings to form the basis of allocation of the programmes of future years. Moreover, transactions have occurred in the past which the Loan Council has agreed should not be regarded as expenditure for the purpose of the formula for allocation of annual loan raisings. In accordance with the recommendation of a recent Conference of ‘Commonwealth and State Ministers, provision has now been made in the amending agreement which will enable the Loan Council, by unanimous decision, to declare that any specified amount or class of expenditure shall not be included in “ net loan expenditure “ for the purpose of the clause in the Financial Agreement which provides for allocation on the basis of the “ formula “ in the event of the Loan Council failing to reach a unanimous agreement.
There is no provision in the Financial Agreement at present to enable any State government to make a contribution to the sinking fund for the purpose of redemption of a State debt, in excess of that which is provided for in the agreement. In the past, amounts have been received by the National Debt Commission in excess of the prescribed contributions and have been applied to the redemption of debt. These transactions have always been regarded as outside the scope of the Financial Agreement, and have not been incorporated in the returns compiled by the commission. It has now been agreed by all governments to give statutory cover in the Financial Agreement for any future voluntary contributions which the States may wish to make to the National Debt Sinking Fund.
For many years past it has been the practice, in cases in which loans are converted at a discount, for the National Debt Commission to be asked to apply sinking fund moneys to the redemption of unconverted stock to an extent equivalent to the total amount of the discount on the converted loan. In 1937, the National Debt Commission raised an objection to this procedure on the ground that whilst sinking fund moneys could be legally used in this way, it was not a desirable practice, as it had the effect of expending sinking fund moneys without any resultant reduction of debt. The National Debt Commission suggested to the Loan Council that it would be prepared to continue this procedure provided the Government concerned in any such case agreed to reimburse the sinking fund from revenue by equal annual instalments over the period of the new loan. The Loan Council agreed to this procedure, which has been in operation since that date. These repayments are, however, outside the scope of the sinking fund provisions of the Financial Agreement, and the arrangement in regard to the annual repayments could not be legally enforced by the commission. It is, therefore, desirable that statutory provision De made in the Financial Agreement to cover this procedure, in order to put the approved arrangements on a more satisfactory basis. The governments have unanimously agreed to this course, and provision has accordingly been made in the amending agreement now submitted for parliamentary approval. The proposed amendment is to take effect from the 1st July, 1937.
In preparing the amending agreement, the opportunity has been taken to consolidate the original Financial Agreement by including therein the amendments previously approved, together with those provided for in the present amending agreement, and to renumber the clauses throughout in such a manner as to facilitate reference. The consolidated Financial Agreement appears as the schedule to the amending agreement. Legislative action is being taken in all States with a view to ratification of the amending agreement in their respective parliaments. The agreement will come into operation when the necessary ratifying legislation has been passed in all parliaments - Commonwealth and State.
The ratification of this amending agreement will clarify a number of questions now at issue and will place the operation of the Financial Agreement on a more satisfactory basis. I commend the bill to the consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 16th Novem ber (vide page 1886) on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply - We have now been advised that twelve countries have notified the Interim Food Commission of their intention to adopt the draft constitution, and to adhere to the proposals for a permanent food and agriculture organisation. The Australian Government is the first to submit the constitution to Parliament. I understand that both the United Kingdom and Canada propose to adhere to the constitution by means of OrdersinCouncil, that is, by executive act only, and that those countries will not pass an act of Parliament for this purpose. It is true that in the case of Unrra the Government authorized signature of the agreement by the Australian Minister at Washington at the first meeting of the council before introducing the bill. In the circumstances that was the only practicable procedure; but, even so, an opportunity for debate was given prior to signature by the Australian representative on the 14th October, 1943. When the relief agreement was in draft form I described it to the House, and attached to thestatementa copy of an early draft of that agreement. However, in the case of this agreement dealing with food and agriculture, no commitment had been entered into prior to the introduction of this bill.Th ere has been no conference to which the Government has sent accredited representatives. All that has occurred has been a preliminary meeting of officials at Hot Springs and, on their recommendation, an interim commission, or committee, was appointed to draft the present constitution. There have been successive drafts, and the Government has had the opportunity to put forward its views. The House is now being asked to approve or reject the constitution of the proposed Food and Agriculture Organization.
It is true that the House must now approve, or reject; it cannot amend. The draft is before the governments, and amendments by one or all of the 45 governments would require references back to all of them. Nevertheless, as in. the case of Unrra, not only the Government, but also this House had many opportunities to offer its comments when the constitution was being drafted. On the 14th October, 1943, I gave the fullest possible report on the Hot Springs Conference, and the recommendations for a permanent body. On the 19th July, 1944, I indicated the progress which had been made in the drafting of the constitution, pointing out that our representative on the interim commission was taking an influential part, and that we had full opportunity to express our views. On the 8th September, 1944, I gave a general description of the proposed organization and its functions. Therefore, in respect of both these organizations, and particularly in the case of the Food and Agriculture Organization, in which Australia has had more opportunities to make suggestions, the Government and the Parliament, from the earliest stages, have had a continuous opportunity to make observations and offer their suggestions. The Government has taken advantage of this opportunity.
The first conference in connection with food and agriculture to which this Government will send accredited representatives will be held when twenty Governments have notified their acceptance of the constitution. As I have already mentioned, twelve have notified; and Australia, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom will be notifying their acceptance in the near future. It is expected that this first conference will be held early next year. Whilst to some degree this conference will be a formal one for the setting up of the organization, it will also be required to make provision for an administration and give an indication to that administration of the lines upon which it should work.
We have just debated the Unrra bill, and I have emphasized the need for conformity between the work of Unrra, which is a temporary organization, and the Pood and Agriculture Organization, which will be a permanent organization. Since I made my second-reading speech, preparations have been made for the food conference, and already the interim commission is working with Unrra. A representative attended the last Unrra council meeting and works on Unrra committees. As with Unrra, we shall seek to have established in Australia a branch office of the Food and Agriculture Organization. The organization of agriculture in the Pacific and South-East Asia Areas is important to the welfare, and even the security, of the peoples of these areas. Moreover, Australian interests in agricultural and food products are all-important.
With regard to the point made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), the purpose of the organization is not merely, or mainly, to increase production. It is to raise standards of living; and, therefore, the emphasis is on increased consumption and higher nutritional standards. It can .readily be seen that this positive approach, rather than a negative approach of restricting production in order to maintain prices, must be of great value to Australia. The greatest guarantee of reasonable prices is to increase continually world demand for agricultural products. Whilst the proposed organization, in conjunction with other organizations, will take action to stabilize prices by direct methods, its main aim and purpose is to ‘assure reasonable prices by measures to increase world levels of consumption.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has criticized the Australian delegation which took part in the Hot Springs discussions. That conference was called to consider ways and means of implementing the objective of freedom from want embodied in the Atlantic Charter. It was not an agricultural conference in the technical sense. When the organization is established, agricultural experts will be required on its secretariat and various regional committees. The Australian delegation to the Hot Springs Conference was not only quite well suited to the purpose, but also proved to be effective in putting forward its view. The view expressed at that conference was that the means adopted to increase standards of living must provide not only for increased and more efficient production, but also the maintenance in all countries of high levels of employment, which would result in greatly increased consumption. It is true that the conference was a conference of officials, but the delegation was acting in continuous consultation with me, for I was in the United States during its session.
Whilst the House seems to have accepted the general principles of the proposed Food and Agriculture Organization, occasion has been taken to raise a more important general question affecting the relationship between the Parliament and the Executive Government in respect of international treaties and conventions. The difficulties mentionedcertainly exist; but all of them can be resolved. Full effect can be given to the supreme authority of Parliament to which the Executive is responsible, and also to the special duties and responsibilities of the Executive Government in relation to foreign affairs. First, under the British constitutional system, which in this respect we inherit, it was originally the function of the King, as a part of his prerogative, to negotiate and make treaties and to exercise a general superintendence over the foreign affairs of the nation; but these legal powers, which originally belonged to the King, have, under the system of responsible government, been converted to the use of the Cabinet. The result is that both in the United Kingdom, and the self-governing dominions, the Executive Government is legally competent to take vitally important actions in relation to foreign affairs without the necessity for consultation with or formal approval by Parliament. The most striking instance in this connexion is the declaration of a state of war. In Australia such action was taken by the Executive Government without prior reference to Parliament. Such a declaration of war of itself altered the legal rights and obligations of the people of Australia, and it might properly be held by the Parliament that such a declaration should never be made without the prior approval of Parliament. Such approval was obtained, for instance, in the case of the Dominion of Canada in 1939.
– And was not a similar course followed in South Africa ?
– Yes; that was due, I think, to uncertainty as to what Parliament might do. On the other hand, delay in calling Parliament together may be fraught with such disastrous consequences that the Executive has to act immediately in the sure and certain hope that Parliament will subsequently approve its action either expressly or impliedly.
– The only justification for delay would be a doubt as to what Parliament would do.
– In the case of a declaration of war, action must be taken quickly. Ships may have to be prevented from leaving port; persons may have to be detained ; and the whole machinery must be put into operation immediately. The time lost in calling Parliament together might prove utterly disastrous to the prosecution of the war. I mention that .as one aspect of the general problem.
But with regard to treaties and conventions with other nations the rule is that no treaty, or convention, can affect the rights and obligations of citizens unless an appropriate statute is passed by the Parliament. An illustration of this is the act of Parliament ratifying and making operative in Australia the economic provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. That treaty was signed on behalf of Australia, .and Parliament had either to accept the treaty as a whole, or reject it as a whole. International proposals like the present, though always important, must be looked at with care. Up to the present, no obligation whatever has been assumed by Australia in respect of the Food and Agriculture Organization. All that we have done has been to take part in a preliminary meeting of experts who prepared proposals for the establishment of a food and agriculture organization of the United Nations. An interim committee, or commission, was appointed to draw up the constitution, and the acceptance of this constitution is the question now before the House.
– The Minister will agree that in January of this year the Government assumed obligations without reference to this Parliament.
– I do not agree with the honorable member if, as I take it, he is referring to the Australian-New Zealand agreement. All that was done in that case was to state in the form of an agreement the general attitude of the two countries on certain matters of foreign affairs common to both countries ; and that is quite different from assuming international obligations in the strict sense.
No less than 45 United and Associated Nations are eligible for membership and most of them have taken part, through the interim commission, in the drafting of the constitution. It is true, however, that it is not competent for Australia, or any other of the United Nations, to amend the provisions of the draft constitution. Still, if the House thought that the constitution as a whole was so defective that it should be rejected, no international obligation of Australia would be broken, because no international obligation has been entered into except the implied obligation to submit the constitution to the Parliament. The hands of the Parliament in this case are free. i Nonetheless, the Executive Government recommends the adoption of the constitution. In this and other cases it would be impossible to obtain agreement amongst 4’5 nations without a good deal of give and take. It is obvious that, in such cases, 45 Parliaments cannot meet together as Parliaments. If they did, unanimity would be almost impossible of attainment. Even within Australia it is extremely difficult to obtain agreement between the Commonwealth and the six States. Foi this reason the Executive Government must take the initiative, always remem- be ring that Parliament is its master, and that 5ie Executive must defer to the will of Parliament. In the present case, I repeat that no obligation has as yet been assumed, by Australia. I have taken the utmost care to safeguard the rights of Parliament. I understand that in both the United Kingdom and Canada the Governments propose to adhere to the constitution, not with the approval of Parliament at all, but by the executive act of order in council. I have asked Parliament for approval before the organization has even been established. The same course has been taken by the Government in relation to the proposed International Monetary Agreement. No obligation whatever has been entered into by the Executive Government, and Australia’s representatives at Bretton Woods were in no sense plenipotentiaries. Moreover, they signed the draft agreement for purposes of authentication only, so both the Government and the Parliament have complete freedom in that matter. The practical solution of questions like this is for the Executive Government to keep Parliament as fully informed as possible of every important stage in the negotiations of the proposed agreement in order that members may make criticisms or suggestions even before a draft constitution is drawn up. This I have done. On three occasions I have dealt with the Pood and Agriculture Organization in speeches to this House. On every occasion its establishment has been welcomed, and I see no reason whatever why the constitution should not be accepted.
As I said in connexion with the Unrra bill, international agreements are not, in themselves, to be regarded either as good things or bad things. Everything depends upon the terms of the agreement and the obligations which we are asked to assume. In the present case it is wrong, in my opinion, to suggest, as did the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), that Australia’s sovereignty is in the slightest way affected or prejudiced. The obligations assumed by Australia under the constitution of this organization are to take part in the proceedings of the organization, the objective of which is to raise the standards of living of the people of Australia and the peoples of the world ; to better the conditions of rural populations and thereby to contribute towards increased consumption everywhere. The functions of the organization are to act as an information bureau, and to make recommendations to be submitted to member nations for their consideration. We will, of course, have the obligation to contribute our quota towards the -expense of the organization. Australia has taken a leading part in the promotion of the organization and, without being too overoptimistic as to its prospects, I say that the body is obviously capable of setting in motion a force which will help in the obtainment of the objective of freedom from want, and will, in particular, help the man on the land and the inhabitants of rural districts everywhere.
I repeat that the acceptance of the’ constitution of the body involves no new obligation on this country except to take an active part in the work of this proposed agency. Subsequently, if a recommendation be made by the organization, Australia, can accept it or reject it. No recommendation or convention of the organization can impose the slightest obligation upon the people of Australia unless this Parliament so decides. Of all the proposals in the international field, the present one is surely the least burdensome.
There is, however, one point made by the honorable member for Warringah which seems to me to have substance, and in respect of which I am prepared to move an amendment. Because it is impracticable to amend the constitution of the organization, the honorable member rightly ‘pointed out that an amendment of that constitution involving a new obligation for Australia might possibly be accepted by some Australian government in the- future without the approval of Parliament. He also pointed out that there is no precise limit in the proposed constitution as to the nature of an amendment which might be made.
It may well be said that the practical common-sense answer to his comment is tha t no government would accept any new obligation arising from an amendment of the constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization without the certainty of its action being approved by the Parliament. Nonetheless, I think it is right that before an amendment involving a new obligation is accepted, even by the Executive Government, the approval of this Parliament should be obtained, and I am prepared to move the following amendment with this objective in view : -
No amendment made under Article xx of the constitution which involves any new obligation for Australia shall be accepted for Australia unless with the approval of the Parliament.
The honorable member for Warringah has agreed to the terms of that proposed amendment.
During the debate the point has been taken that the external affairs power of the Parliament could be used to override the Constitution. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said something on that subject. The contention is, of course, absurd. The external affairs power belongs to this Parliament under the Constitution and is exercised by the Parliament. It is a living power which is. exercised. I have always held the view that the external affairs power is a great independent power belonging to the Commonwealth Parliament. Without it, Australia would be powerless to speak as a nation in the councils of the world. At the present moment, for instance, the international rules of safety in relation to air travel are dependent largely upon the external affairs power, under which Parliament has authorized regulations to carry out. the international air agreement.
– If the Parliament approved of a treaty which related to a domestic matter, does the Minister consider that such exercise of the external affairs power would override the Constitution?
– No; I object entirely to the use of the term “ override”. No executive would agree to laws which were 1.10t in conformity with its external powers. The Parliament has power to pass laws in relation to external powers, but it would act within the Constitution.
– It might be possible under that power !to cause something to be done in Australia which could not otherwise he done.
– That is true. That was done in connexion with the international air agreement. The agreement was made by Australia as a nation. Our representatives met the representatives of other nations and an agreement was made which included rules as to safety of navigation throughout the world, and these covered safety as to navigation within Australia. This Parliament then made it practicable for regulations to be issued in the terms of that agreement. Such regulations had the effect of law and of overriding inconsistent rules issued under the authority of State parliaments. It might, therefore, be said, “ You have been exercising a power which is not expressly within the Constitution, namely, power in relation to aviation “. To some extent that is true.
– Would it be possible, in the view of the Minister, for a government to enter into an agreement with, say, the Government of New Zealand, for a 36-hour week and in that way accept obligations which could not have been accepted under the constitutional power of the Commonwealth?
– That is a possible illustration of what could be done, though I do not wish to speak dogmatically on the subject. I suppose the court could determine whether there was a genuine international agreement. It is my view that conventions agreed to by the International Labour Office can be accepted by the Commonwealth Parliament for Australia without reference to the parliaments of the six States.
I wish now to elaborate another point made by the honorable member for Fawkner. I cannot believe that the honorable gentleman was altogether serious in suggesting that a referendum might, be held in order to cut down and qualify the external affairs power of the Commonwealth. Such a proposal would, of course, be preposterous. I imagine that no such referendum will ever be held in this country, because thi.’ Parliament would never take part in so disastrous and reactionary a process. The external affairs power residing in this Parliament must be retained and, in the proper case, exercised by the Parment in performance of its duty to the people. It is quite true that an international obligation might be entered into by the Executive Government irrespective of prior consent by Parliament, but, as I have illustrated from the present case, that obligation could not be implemented in Australia without legislation being passed by this Parliament. In the long run, therefore, this Parliament will retain control of the position. The present Government has gone, and will go, further. That is, we shall endeavour to keep Parliament fully informed as to the progress of negotiations with other countries, so that discussion may take place here long before .an international obligation is entered into at all. I have been careful to do that in the present instance, and that is the accepted policy of the Government. In fact, I have been careful to apply that policy wherever it has been practicable to do so. In consulting the Parliament in connexion with the agreement now before us we have gone further than any other government, for, in other countries, the agreement is being approved by order in council, which is, of course, an executive act.
I am glad that honorable member* generally have approved of this agreement. As to its possible effects, everything will depend upon whether a serious attempt is made by the United Nations 10 give effect to the agreement. Australia could not possibly stand aloof from such a body. We hope that through our representatives we may be able to do a job worthy of Australia. In his preliminary work in connexion with this organiza- ti on, Mr. McDougall has rendered a commendable service not only to Australia and Great Britain but also to all the United Nations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second ti nit-.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The acceptance of the Constitution by the Commonwealth is approved.
– 1 move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) No amendment made under Article XX. of the Constitution which involves any new obligation for Australia shall be accepted for Australia unless with the approval of the Parliament.”
This amendment is designed to meet the views expressed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and I consider that its terms are quite clear and adequate. In short, they provide that the Parliament shall be required to give approval to any amendment of the constitution before such amendment shall become applicable to Australia. The Food and Agriculture Organization may make recommendations to member States, and it is possible that, without the provision which I am now suggesting, the Executive Government could accept new obligations without reference to the Parliament.
– I desire to be assured that this proposed amendment would preclude the Executive Authority from making a treaty which would not be in conformity with the principle of limiting the treatymaking power to a certain clearly defined scope. To illustrate the point I am trying to make, I ask whether the Executive Government could make a treaty that would bind the Commonwealth to an international obligation incompatible with the powers of the Commonwealth Government as defined, to some extent at least, by the James case?
– I have been pointing out that to a certain degree the Executive Government has legal power to bind Australia to an international agreement without reference to Parliament, but there are specific safeguards aud prohibitions in the Constitution which the Executive Government could not override. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that any amendment made to the constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization must be approved by Parliament before it becomes applicable to Australia. The Executive Government, therefore, would have to refer the matter to the Parliament. I believe the amendment gives effect to the desire expressed by the honorable member for “Warringah, and I hope that honorable members will accept it.
– I rise, not to take any exception to the amendment, but to deal with the subject underlying it, to which reference was made yesterday by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and, only a few moments ago, by interjection, by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). The subject is of such great importance that I do not think I should let it pass in silence. It has been said in the course of the debate on this hill - and it will he remembered that certain things were also said about it in the debate on the Constitution Alteration Bill - that the external affairs power of the Commonwealth may turn out to be very much more farreaching than it was thought to be fifteen or twenty years ago. In the course of my own remarks on the Constitution Alteration Bill I pointed out that, if the interpretation of the external affairs power went as was indicated in the Goya Henry case, then it might be that there was a very large, and indeed maj’or, but silent, revolution in the constitutional structure, and I think it is very desirable that the public of Australia should become aware as clearly as possible of the position. My colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner, usee! the expression “ overriding “ the Constitution, and the right honorable the Minister for External Affairs has taken exception to that. His exception to the term as a matter of expression, is, if I may say so, well founded because, of course, the whole theory is that, if something is found to be validly done under the external affairs power, then it is an exercise of the constitutional power and not a denial of it. Of course, in that sense what the Minister for External Affairs says is true, but the real point in the mind of my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner, is surely that in normal circumstances, if one were to say to a legal adviser, “ What is the power of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial matters in times of peace ? “ the answer would be a reference to section 51, placitum xxxv., which sets out the conciliation and arbitration power. That is the immediate answer which would be made, and it would he pointed out that there were limits upon that power - that it meant that the . Commonwealth could merely set up machinery for conciliation and arbitration, that the Commonwealth could not make a direct law in relation to wages, and that the Commonwealth could not make a direct law in relation to the hours of work. That would normally be the constitutional position. Now, on that point we reach this later doctrine that has been developed, on-, to put it more correctly, is still developing, in relation to the external affairs power, because several judges in the Goya Henry case, dealing with the Aviation Convention, took the view that if this Commonwealth validly makes a treaty or convention of obligation on some specific matter with another country, then there is conferred upon the Parliament of Australia power to give effect to that treaty or convention by internal legislation. If that full-blooded view on the external affairs power is right, it means that the Commonwealth of Australia could make a treaty with New Zealand and could in that treaty provide that a certain standard of wage should be observed, or that certain standards of working hours should be observed, in both countries as a matter of common agreement between them, and, that treaty being made, this Parliament would have power to pass a 36 hours law which before the making of such an agreement with New Zealand it had no power to pass. That is the essential substance of that particular view of the external affairs power. The Minister for External Affairs will agree with me that that is not a matter which can be spoken of dogmatically. I referred to it fairly extensively at the time of the Constitution Alteration Bill, but merely to open the matter up. It is still true that two views at least are possible on the external affairs power, and that was very concisely indicated by His Honour Mr. Justice Owen Dixon in his judgment in the Goya Henry case. I shall read only a few words, but I think that the committee will find that those words illustrate quite clearly what the alternative points of view are. What His Honour said was this -
If a treaty were made which bound the Commonwealth in reference to some matter indisputably international* in character, a law might be made to secure observance of its obligations if they were of a nature affecting the conduct of Australian citizens. On the other hand, it seems an extreme view that merely because the executive government undertakes with some other country that the conduct of persons in Australia shall be regulated in a particular way, the legislature thereby obtains a power to enact that regulation although it relates to a matter of internal concern which, apart from the obligation undertaken by the Executive, could not be considered as a matter of external affairs.
His honour then wisely, if I am permitted to use that expression, goes’ on to point out that this problem of the contents of the external affairs power will not be solved by some sweeping generalization, but will have to be determined by a series of concrete decisions as the matter develops. But there are two possible lines, each of them technically open, I think, after the decision of the High Court. One is that the power should be related to matters which are on the face of them external in character, truly involving relations between one country and another.
– That is pretty hard to define.
– As I say, you cannot generalize about it with any success, because you. must test it by reference to any individual case that crops up, but in the Goya Henry case the matter being discussed concerned flying rules, the business of aviation everywhere, and of course there would be very little difficulty, as indeed all the justices of the High Court found, in coming to the conclusion that such a matter lent itself to international arrangement and convention. But you may, on the other hand, have a matter which is on the face of it something purely internal to Australia. A regulation, for example, of working hours, is on the face of it a domestic matter of internal concern.
– Or the regulation of the growing of wheat.
– Quite so. If that prima facie view were taken, then the external affairs power would not touch it, but you see the process of reasoning: an arrangement is made with another country, and then it is said : “ This question of working hours has ceased to be a matter of domestic concern; we have an arrangement with another country on it; and whether that arrangement is carried out or not will affect the mutual position of our two countries in relation to competition in world trade. Therefore this does possess an external character, and because it does possess that external character it is validly within the external affairs power and, being validly within that external affairs power, it enables this Parliament inside Australia to pass a law carrying out that particular arrangement “. Therefore, the truth is that if that widest view of the external affairs power be taken - and unquestionably my learned and right honorable friend, the Minister for External Affairs, took it judicially and has taken it since - then it is quite clear that the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in relation to any one of the enumerated matters in section 51 could be increased by the exercise of the external affairs power in a particular direction. That is why I say that, although as a matter of technical form the observation made by my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner, that the external affairs power is “ overriding “ the Constitution is open to question, and the AttorneyGeneral has a good technical answer to it, the truth remains, which I put in this way: that by exercising the external affairs power in a selected series of directions by a treaty with a country like New Zealand it is possible for the Executive to arm Parliament with power to make a whole series of laws which, before the making of such a treaty, Parliament could not have made at all. That ought to be remembered, and again I assume that that full view of the external affairs power ultimately prevails. I do not personally accept it, but there is very high judicial authority for the conclusion that it will prevail, and if it does, then it will be possible by making a series of contracts with other countries for the Government of this country to arm the Parliament of this country with most of the legislative authority which was refused to it at the recent referendum. It will be no answer to the honorable member for Fawkner to say : “ Oh, this is merely performing the Constitution, this is merely exercising a power in the Constitution, and. therefore it is not a denial of the Constitution “, because the truth will be that, .by choosing the way in which one constitutional power is exercised, it will be possible to alter the scope of every other constitutional power that this Parliament possesses. I am not going to debate at this stage whether that is good, bad or indifferent, but I think it is of first importance that it should be fully and generally understood.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has raised an important question. I think he stated it with substantial accuracy, but there is another side to it which should always be present to honorable members’ minds when they are considering it. I think the best way of putting that other side is to take an illustration or two. The right honorable member’s suggestion is that there is a sharp division between some typos of international agreement and others - that somehow or other you can say that a topic belongs to the domain of internal affairs and to that alone. Take the matter of hours of labour. The Leader of the Opposition puts it as though it is improper or unprecedented for nations to confer together and agree upon a general move throughout the world to increase standards of living or. to reduce hours of labour; but as long ago as 1919, in- the Treaty of Versailles, there was established an international organization known as the International Labour Office, based upon the thesis that peace throughout the world would be promoted and friction prevented by the universal improvement of labour conditions.
– I do not want the Attorney-General to misunderstand the position that I am putting. I did not dream of saying that there was no precedent, because I know that there is abundance of precedent, nor did I say that in all circumstances it was improper. I could understand that in some eases it would be quite proper.
– Everything depends on the circumstances. The Covenant of the League of Nations contains a declaration, the substance of which is that peace throughout the world might depend upon an improvement of the standards of living of all peoples, particularly in those countries whose standards were low. From 1919 up to the present war, there emerged from the International Labour Office dozens of proposed international conventions, all of which dealt with matters which, so far as Australia is concerned, normally would be outside the competence of the Parliament. A very acute difference of opinion arose in the legal world as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament under the external affairs power could bring those conventions into operation throughout Australia, or whether it was compulsory to refer all of them to the six States and to say, “ We cannot do anything about these matters; they are matters for the States “. The latter view prevailed- in the Commonwealth. I give one illustration - the abolition of night baking. Although, twenty years ago, the nations of the world agreed that that was a condition which should no longer prevail anywhere in the territories of the members of the International Labour Office, the Commonwealth said to the States, “ We regard this as a matter that is outside our province because of the particular terms of the International Labour Office constitution; in a federal system it belongs to the States “. In 1937 or thereabouts, the International Labour Office recommended to its membership that there should be a reduction, of the hours of labour throughout the world, and, I believe, suggested an international conventionto that effect. I shall not trouble the committee with the details. If I may say so, I regard it as very proper that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should draw attention to this important matter, because I consider that sufficient attention has not been paid to it. But no government and no Parliament of the Commonwealth could ever say in advance that the subjects of the reduction of the hours of labour and the improvement of standards of living, which twenty years ago were regarded as quite outside the domain of international agreement, are for ever to be excluded from that domain. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition will agree with that. Therefore, I am in accord broadly with what the right honorable gentleman has said, namely that each agreement must be scrutinized carefully and that, if it be an international agreement genuinely made for the purpose of improving international conditions among the nations of the world, it is competent for the Executive to enter into it; and it may well be competent - I have always considered that it was - for the Parliament to pass laws operating throughout Australia, having the effect of a law of the land, just as any other Commonwealth law prevails throughout Australia if made under any of the powers conferred by the Constitution. In short, what has to be remembered, is that the Parliament has power over, and can pass laws in relation to, external affairs. That is a great power, the exercise of which, I admit, will have to be watched carefully. But it is one which, in an appropriate situation, may prove of great benefit to the people of Australia. I am glad that the leader of the Opposition has raised the matter. He has stated it from one point of view, as though there might be a fictitious and artificial move to bring something within the sphere of Commonwealth legislative jurisdiction, or some sort of pretended agreement with another country, on something that was not a genuine international matter. On the other hand, as he recognizes, the subjects of hours of labour and standards of living may well be within the scope of international agreement and be subjects as to which, in the appropriate case, this Parliament could exercise its undoubted legislative power in relation to external affairs. I do not believe that this Parliament or any member of it would for a moment surrender the right to legislate in respect of external affairs, however broadly or literally that might be interpreted by the courts in the future.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) amendment, because I agree with it. I was particularly interested in what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, and .also in what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said last night. I am also glad to have had the admissions which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has made on this important point. In my opinion, this was one of the most important issues raised against the Constitution referendum this year. It was the one on which I fought the grant of powers most strenuously. I shall cite one or two instances with which, I believe, the Minister for External Affairs must agree. I had last night, from the Commonwealth Statistician, the very brief terms of an agreement for the wheat export industry. Last July and August, I told the wheatgrowers of this country that the external affairs power of the Commonwealth is so great that the Commonwealth might enter into any agreement in regard to the future of the wheat export industry which would have for its result the limitation by the Commonwealth of production inside Australia. On the other hand, having regard to the Unrra arrangements, which were first brought to the light of day at that time, I also pointed out that the Commonwealth might consider an increase of wheat production to be so necessary that the terms of the licence issued to growers might provide that a man should grow a certain quantity on behalf of this particular commitment of the Commonwealth. These matters deserve quite a lot more consideration than they will receive in the discussion of a bill of this sort. The Leader of the Opposition has shown wisdom in raising the point. In my opinion, the people of Australia do not apprehend the full meaning of the existing external affairs power. The Minister for External Affairs pointed out that the Commonwealth had committed the country to war without calling Parliament together, and likewise it could commit the country to peace without calling the Parliament together. Furthermore, this Parliament will be bound by any peace treaty into which the Government may enter, although it will have no chance whatever to discuss it. As I had occasion to point out in the referendum campaign, the remedy of the Parliament if it did not agree with what had been signed would be to dismiss the Government. But it would have no remedy against the terms of the peace treaty which might be entered into, or the terms of any other international obligation into which the Government might enter. This view is one that ought to be more fully understood by the community at large, and it would justify a very much greater oversight by the Parliament of the Department of External Affairs than appears to be exercised at the present time. Only this week, I referred to the necessity for a greater oversight of external affairs, and commitments, if not by this branch of the legislature, at all events by the Senate, the members of which appear to have much more time on their hands than we have. ,
– There should be a foreign affairs committee.
– That proposal was made years ago in this place. There is no such body as a foreign relations committee. Agreements of all sorts are made. Take the one to which I referred in the referendum campaign - the International Monetary Agreement, which has not yet come before us. In that instance, I believe, the Commonwealth Government has not bound the Commonwealth of Australia.
– In no way whatever.
– But in January of this year the Australian Government did bind the Commonwealth in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement.
– In what respect ?
– It was signed without any reference to this Parliament. That agreement became operative from the moment it was signed.
– But it was not an agreement in relation to any international obligation of the ordinary kind.
– I believe that the right honorable gentleman is reaching the position in which I want to have him. He has to admit, either that the Australian-New Zealand Agreement is just so much window dressing - as I considered it to be at the time - and is of no effect whatever, and therefore does not matter, or that the Government is able to bind the Parliament without prior consultation with it. That is an alterna- tive on which I should like the right honorable gentleman to express himself. He can have his pick; I do not mind on which ground he chooses to stand.
– The honorable gentleman gives only two “ picks “.
– It is quite competent for the right honorable gentleman to have the choice of three or four. The Unrra agreement has appended to it the signature of a responsible Australian Minister at Washington,, whereas this agreement carries no signature whatever. I understand that the Australian representative was Mr. McDougall. It seems to me rather bad form that on one day we should have placed before us a bill for the ratification of an agreement which clearly identifies the person who negotiated it on our behalf, and on the next day an equally important agreement, from the viewpoint of the farming community at any rate - and in the long run, I consider, from the viewpoint of the Australian public - which does not disclose the identity of the Australian negotiator. I should be very interested to hear what the Attorney-General might have to say on that point.
– Under this arrangement, no obligation whatever was entered into, as there was in connexion with Unrra; it was merely a committee of officials which drafted or proposed this constitution.
– Yet the very next clause makes provision for an appropriation! Under it, the Parliament is. asked to vote money to do certain things. It is not customary for the Parliament to vote money for nothing. The actual fact is that the Commonwealth has entered into certain commitments under this agreement. Only a few minutes ago, the right honorable gentleman said that certain experts had been required to leave this country, in order to attend to this matter. Going t.i Washington, or anywhere else, for purposes of discussion, would not be worth a tinker’s benediction without the implication that certain commitments were to be entered into by this country. The right honorable gentleman has to come down to earth, and say whether this agreement means anything, whether it does anything, and whether it will have any effect, beneficial or otherwise, on the Commonwealth of Australia, or whether it is so much international window-dressing.
– I welcome the amendment, not because it has any real value, but because, in my view, it is a declaration by the Government of a policy that will be carried into effect in connexion with all international agreements. However, although it has some value as a declaration, it has no value at all as a practical political action, (because it will still be possible to override the expressed will of the people in regard to Constitution reform, even when this provision has been implemented. The Government could make an international arrangement and, under the terms of this provision, place it before the Parliament. It would run no risk of having the undertaking rejected, by reason of the fact that it commands a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. Thus it would be able to say, “ The representatives of the people have been . consulted. Everything has been done in a constitutional manner, and we can go straight ahead “. Thus, by means of international agreements, the expressed intention of the people could be completely defeated. Every proposal for an amendment of the Constitution thathas ever been submitted to the people of Australia has been presented by a government which had a majority in both branches of the legislature. The proposed amendment to this clause is quite worthless, and I understand that the Minister has not taken any cognizance of the dangerous feature of the agreement to which I drew attention last night. I referred to the list of functions of the organization, and showed that there is a loophole in Article IV. of the schedule which would almost enable the sky to be made the limit. Paragraph 6 of that article provides -
The conference may by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast agree to discharge any other functions consistent with the purposes of the organization which may be assigned to it by governments, or provided for by any arrangement between the organization and any other public international organization.
The paragraph does not even stipulate that “ any other public international organization” shall be associated with food and agriculture. That seems to constitute a grave danger, and I hope that no provision so wide as that will ever again be introduced in a legislative measure. It seems imperative that agreements of this kind should be drawn up by practical politicians. A member of the Government should take part in the negotiations, so that the political implications could be studied and the interests of Australia protected.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, such amounts as are necessary to enable the Commonwealth, when the Constitution comes into force, to make the contributions referred to in Articles XVIII. and XXV. of the Constitution.
– I move-
That the words “ the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “sums appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose “.
The purpose of the amendment is to substitute for the appropriation provided in the bill provision for the amounts of the. contributions of the Commonwealth required under the constitution of the organization to be appropriated inthe annual appropriation acts as required. The sums required from time to time may vary, and by this amendment the Parliament willhave an opportunity annually to consider the operations of the organization and the appropriation that should be made.
Amendment agreed to.
– I draw attention to some of the powers which this organization will have authority to exercise, or upon which it may make recommendations. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article I. of the schedule state -
The organizationshall promote and, where appropriate, shall recommend national and international action with respect to
Paragraph 3 of Article I. provides that another function of the organization shall be to furnish such technical assistance as governments may request. That is going right away from the matter of recommendations. When one turns to the preamble to the bill, one notices that it states -
And whereas it is desirable that the acceptance of the Constitution by the Commonwealth should be approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth and that appropriate financial provision should be made for the purpose of meeting the obligations of the Commonwealth under the Constitution when it comes into force.
There is a close relationship between “obligations” and “functions”. Paragraph 3 of ArticleI. further provides that it shall be the function of the organization to organize, in co-operation with the governments concerned, such missions as may be needed to assist them to fulfil the obligations arising from their acceptance of the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture. If we are to have many more of such organizations, the Commonwealth will have more missions abroad than the Christian churches have established for the conversion of the heathen. In this case the taxpayer is to be told by the Treasurer every year how much he is to contribute to the cost of the organization. The paragraph to which I have just referred further states that it shall also be the function of the organization generally to take all necessary and appropriate action to implement the purposes of the organization, as set forth in the preamble. The preamble to the bill is thus linked up with the schedule, in which are set out the various functions of the organization. I know that the Government has its cast-iron majority, and I remember what the Minister for External Affairs has said about the arrogance of the elected representatives of the people, so I do not intend to try to browbeat honorable members who are not open to conviction. I merely record my protest, and say that, from the point of view of the Australian agriculturist, the Commonwealth Government has given its signature to a proposal which it may soon have cause seriously to reconsider. We are getting still further into the wood, and proposals of this kind will not provide great security or assistance for Australian primary industries.
– The honorable member should vote against the bill, if he opposes it.
– The Government has a majority of over two to one, and it is an unreasoning and often uninformed majority. In some cases that majority is supplied with information on certain matters which is not made available to members of the Opposition. I refer particularly to the Jensen report. If the attitude of the Government to the agricultural industries is that vital reports are to be circulated to members of its own party and denied to members of the Opposition, the latter will be put in a very difficult position indeed. We do not desire to be speaking in the dark on matters of this kind.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said scarcely a word in favour of the measure, but he will not vote against it. He is either in favour of the bill or against it. I am. afraid that it is the old story; we all are out of step except “ Archie “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule, preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 15th Novem ber (vide page 1795), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the following paper be printed: - “Review of the War and Australia’s War Effort - Ministerial statement.’’’
– The statement which was read to the House on Wednesdayby the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) did not, contain any information about the progress of the war with which honorable members were not already acquainted, but it does give to honorable members an. opportunity to offer some comment on various aspects of the matters dealt with in the paper, in the course of which the Acting Prime Minister discussed, not only the actual military progress of the war, but also certain features of the internal position of Australia. I desire to make some observations on both these points.
As for the war in the Pacific, it is a matter of great satisfaction to all honorable members, and to the public generally, that the advances recently made in this theatre of war are both spectacular and momentous. Outstanding among them has been the great naval victory in which vessels of the Royal Australian Navy took part with distinction. That victory, with its consequences, has demonstrated once more something that has, properly considered, been a feature of the Pacific section of the war from the beginning - namely, that naval power remains of the first importance in the Pacific in the defence policies of nations. There was a disposition at one stage to speak of naval power and air power as if they were mutually exclusive, to speak as if it were a relatively simple problem to state, though not to solve, the problem of whether the capital ship had been outmoded by bombing aircraft. However, we have by steady degrees learned that these two great arms of power are not mutually exclusive. The aeroplane has become just as much an integral part of naval power as big guns have been for a long time past. More and more - and perhaps this is a lesson which we should take to heart in Australia - we are coming to appreciate the fact that navies have become platforms for moving to the point of combat the necessary military strength. There was a time in the history of war when navies were moving platforms for the transportation of soldiers. Later, they became moving platforms for guns, while to-day they are becoming more and more moving platforms for aircraft. In some of the great victories in the Pacific in which our American allies have taken such a distinguished part, we have seen the ‘significance of air power based on naval power. This is true in all parts of the world in which the ocean runs, and in which countries are separated by long distances. After all, it was essentially because of its superior naval power, so understood, that Japan swept so far and so fast in the earlier stages of the war; and it is a matter of great satisfaction that the very weapon , by which Japan brought about its triumph is now being turned against it to its inevitable disaster.
I desire now to touch quite briefly upon the Acting Prime Minister’s reference to the projected role of the Australian forces in the Pacific war. My own feeling is that this matter cannot be adequately discussed in public. It can, of course, and to an extent should be, discussed, but it cannot be adequately discussed in public. It has been the subject of two important public announcements. The first, in point of time, was made by General Sir Thomas Blarney in a broadcast to the Australian people; the second was contained in the statement by the Acting Prime Minister to which we listened on Wednesday. In both statements the idea is conveyed that it is intended to assign to Australian forces a limited or secondary role in the Pacific fighting. How far that is a fact I do not know, but that it has certain implications I do not doubt. In the normal course the military use to be made of forces is a matter of military judgment, and the military judgment which can be placed at the service of the Government is of a high order. I have great confidence in the military ability of the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and of the staff officers associated with him. However, I remind the House that, when it comes to determining in what place Australian troops shall be used, and for what general purposes they shall be used, there has from the beginning of the war been reserved to the Australian Government a very specific right, because the determination of such matters involves, not only considerations of military art and strategy, but also high political considerations, some of which touch the whole future of the South-west Pacific, and our relation to that future. Consequently, it is within the right of members of this House to discuss these matters. I. do not propose to go into them myself in any detail because I feel some little inhibition - which .1 do not impose upon any one else - in discussing such .matters in public. I would not have it thought that I presume to challenge military judgment on matters which fall within, its scope, but Australia, is entitled and bound to consider the nature of its contribution to the rest of the Pacific campaign because, on the nature and extent of that contribution, will depend, in a very large measure, the significance which we shall assume when the final settlement comes to he made.
I turn from that to make two brief comments on the European campaign. It would be idle to pretend that many people are not disappointed that Germany has not yet been defeated, and that the invasion of Europe has slowed down. It is not right that they should feel like that, but it is natural. Before D-Day arrived, we entertained very considerable apprehension. We felt that the Allies were about to embark upon the greatest amphibious attack in the history of warfare; that everything turned on timing, and on some initial success, on the capacity of the Allies to place vast masses of power in the right place, and in the right way. There was anxiety in everybody’s mind. That anxiety at once began to disappear when we saw how brilliantly successful the invasion was in its earlier phases. Foi the moment we came to think of the invasion as something which, having started so successfully, was bound to sweep on with ever-increasing momentum. What some forgot was that the invasion of Europe was conducted through ports which had been devastated by the enemy, that the points of entry into Europe for materials of war were extraordinarily restricted so that, until the fall of Antwerp, they were a long way from the points of battle. Inevitably, there was a slowing, down, but now that Antwerp is in our hands, and the Low Countries are available as a base for attack against the enemy, there can be little doubt that only unfavorable weather can stand in the way of a reasonably early solution of the European war. We are, I think, entitled to believe that the end, for practical purposes, will come during the first half of next year. This problem of supply through devastated ports in Europe has been colossal, and only a combination of very high military genius, thoroughness of organization and amazing engineering feats - because some engineering miracles must have been wrought - together with almost unlimited supplies in the background, enabled us to make against the Germans, who had every circumstance of defence in their favour, what was probably the most spectacular advance in the records of even this war.
The attacks by flying bombs and rocket bombs against Great Britain, which were referred to in appropriate terms by the Acting Prime Minister, have been dreadful and indiscriminate. They serve no military end, and exhibit nothing so much as the mere brute instinct of the man who, knowing that he is defeated, wishes to inflict as much hurt as he can before he surrenders. It is a great pity - indeed, it is one of the historical pities of the world, that the German, who is so clever about mechanics, should be so stupid about other men’s minds and other men’s hearts. If he were as intelligent in those ways as he is in some others he would realize that what he is doing by this last despairing act of murder against civilians in Great Britain is to induce hatred in the minds of people who are as slow to hatred as any people in the world’s history. Far from terrifying them, he is stiffening their wills for the conflict. Indeed,, if the German were to consider this matter properly he would realize that, at this, very moment, and in the most literal sense, he is sowing from the skies of England the seeds of his own destruction.
In the meantime, for us who are of the same blood, and who look on at these things from a long distance, this experience constitutes one more proof of how the plain people of Great Britain arc fighting this war in ways which we, fortunately for us, have never been called upon to know. They have concentrated upon the war in spite of the deadliest of distractions. That brings me to what the Acting Prime Minister said in the course of his statement - that we who have so much reason to be thankful because we have not, as a nation, had to endure these distractions, are perhaps not concentrating on the business of the Avar as closely as we should. To the extent that we find in our own country far too many people who have relaxed into an almost carefree mood, I agree with the right honorable gentleman. But having said that, I regret to say that I must part company with him, because in what he discovers to be the reason for this state of affairs I cannot agree. The right honorable gentleman is not the first prominent Minister of the present Cabinet to chide the Australian people for some want of proper morale during the last six months. It has become not altogether unfashionable for exhortations to be directed to the people from high places. But what the Government has to consider is whether example in this matter would not be better than precept. I Avant to consider, quite shortly, how far the Government can say that it has set the people of Australia an example of concentration upon the real business of this Avar, because it is concentration upon the real business of the Avar that is the highest expression of national morale in time of Avar. Let us take the Parliament itself, and consider matters of which Ave can speak at first hand. This Avar has for a long time past been waged relatively close to Australia. It is a Avar in which more and more, avc have been told that Australia is to be considered as a base for an offensive against Japan. It is quite clear that Australia is so placed strategically that it might well serve as a base for the supply of men or materials to two or three theatres of Avar in the Western and South- Western Pacific. In all these matters the Parliament has a continuing responsibility. It is quite true that at the very outset ‘of the Avar the
Parliament, quite wisely, and inevitably, entrusted vast powers to the Executive. The same was done by the Parliament of Great Britain and, in fact, of every democratic country in the world. But, whereas in Great Britain the Parliament sits with complete regularity, and all important statements are delivered to the Parliament, what is the position here in Australia ? We are now half-way through November, 1944, and in this calendar year the House of Representatives has met on 49 days and the Senate on 36 days. And when we have met - -when we have devoted our attention to the problems of the war. with all the character that they assumed in relation to Australia in the last two or three years - what have Ave considered ? It is true that on this occasion, through the courtesy of the Acting Prime Minister, Ave have an opportunity, which Will be continued next week, to discuss certain matters connected with the Avar. It is also true that earlier this week Ave discussed the commitments of this country in relation to food and international relief. But, if Ave look over the record of those 49 sitting days, Ave shall find that on most occasions international statements have not been put down on the list so that they could thereafter be discussed. For instance, this House has still to debate a treaty with Ne,v Zealand which was made almost at the beginning of the year. On the contrary, Ave have devoted our time to matters which, for the most part, have been matters of ordinary domestic politics. I invite honorable members to go through the list; to st’udy the notice-papers for those 49 days, and see the bills dealt with during the sittings this year; and they will see that Ave have devoted our time to matters which in a time of peace wouk be matters of ordinary party controversy - matters of economic and general social policy which would be part of the ordinaryparty conflict. In addition to what Ave have dealt with, Ave know that Ave shall have brought before us legislation to deal with banking, not for the purpose of Avar, and legislation - I suppose it will be legislation - embodying elaborate, even if theoretical, plans for making government controls of industry permanent when the Avar is over. In brief, Ave have as a Parliament conspicuously devoted ourselves to matters which do not directly arise out of the war, and do not directly touch or concern the war. So much for the Parliament. Now let us take the administration, because Parliament is here to-day and literally gone to-morrow, whereas the administration goes on from day to day. In the course of his statement the Acting Prime Minister said - I quote his precise words -
Some vested interests are urging that restrictions should be lifted.
I have been in Parliament for almost an unfair number of years, and during the whole of that time I have been familiar with that blessed phrase “vested interests “. I take leave to point out to the right honorable gentleman that the “ vested interests “ which, he says, are urging that restrictions should be lifted include conspicuously a number of militant trade unions whose demands for the unpegging of wages, whether by direct enactment or by indirect evasion, represent a serious threat to the price levels, and to the whole financial structure of this country. I said just now that sometimes they ask for direct enactment, and at other times for indirect evasion. We have recently had a splendid example of indirect evasion. When we talk about morale, about the need to put first things first, we must have all these matters inmind. Not very long ago the coal-miners went before a tribunal that had been set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Connell and asked for certain increases of pay. It was said that they were not increases of pay as such, but that they were adjustments of anomalies, and that therefore the chairman of the tribunal could deal with them, notwithstanding the wage-pegging laws contained in the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations. The increases were granted and the matter went to the High Court, which said that the wage-pegging regulations did apply to the coal-mining industry, and tha t what had been done by the chairman was beyond his powers. What happened ? There was a complaint, and the moment the complaint was made a new regulation was passed by the Government. It had the effect of undoing the decision of the High Court in relation to decisions given up to that point of time. So that, to the extent that these decisions unpegged wages, they were to remain unpegged, and to the extent that increased awards were made, they were to operate. That reveals a curious outlook on the part of the Government regarding the interpretation and enforcement of laws which were designed to stabilize the community in time of war and to concentrate the community upon the war. At a later stage my right honorable friend said - I recall his words now, and probably he will smile at them after he leaves the chamber -
Action by any section of the community to force the hand of the Government will bo unavailing.
That statement is worth putting on record again. It speaks volumes for the powers of self-control of my friends opposite that there is hardly a smile to be seen on their faces. I shall read his words again.
– Go slowly!
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of the words -
Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in.
I shall repeat the right honorable gentleman’s words slowly for the benefit of the honorable member : they are, “ Action by any section of the community to force the hand of the Government will be unavailing “. To have those words coming from the acting head of a government which has shown capacity to resist everything except pressure is really magnificent! There may be little laughter from my friends opposite, but those words will cause loud laughter on the part of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, because they will have memories of the fourteen reinstated strikers in Sydney. They will remember how, at the very moment that they applied pressure on the Government, notwithstanding that.it had established an independent tribunal with a judicial chairman, the Government, as usual, surrendered, and, having surrendered, men in that key industry who had been deregistered because they were strikers in time of war, were re-registered.
– Nine of them were returned soldiers.
– It is wonderful how the Government rides on the backs of the returned soldiers occasionally. I do not seem to remember that the Government helped them very much when it was a matter of compulsory membership of trade unions. There will also be some mirth among the members of the maritime unions, including the Seamen’s Union, because they will have memories of the Government’s recent interference on the question of reducing the war risk bonus. Honorable members will recall these things because they happened recently.
Here we had a tribunal, presided over by a judge of the New South “Wales Industrial Commission, a body appointed to determine this very matter. That tribunal did determine the matter; but because its determination was not well received by the men who were affected by it, the political wheels began to turn, and the result was a direction to the commission that it should reconsider the whole problem. Thereupon, the chairman of the commission behaved like a man of spirit, and refused to be put into a place where he would be the mere office boy of any Minister. He took the stand that if it were his function to decide the matter independently he would decide it, but if it were to be no longer his function to decide it independently, but only to decide it under instructions, he would not remain in a place in which a decision was called for. And so he resigned. Yet the Acting Prime Minister tells us that “ action by any section of the community to force the hand of the Government will be unavailing “. But the most perfect example - we have talked about it here many times - is that of the coal-miners. I remind myself and the House of the last speech that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made in this House, when replying to a censure motion dealing with the Government’s handling of industrial troubles in the coal-mining industry. On that occasion, the right honorable gentleman said -
I acknowledge that I have tried what has been called appeasement; that I have even gone so far as to offer to introduce certain legislation into this Parliament.
That, no doubt, is for special pensions for members of the union with the worst industrial record in this country during this war -
It is true, also, that I have tried the “ mailed fist “, by prosecuting large numbers of men because they have failed to carry out the direction that they should do their work.
There is on our statute-book a law which deals with this matter, and I 3ay to the House, but more directly I say to the industry, that that law will be enforced ruthlessly.
– If strong words could attend to this matter, it would have been disposed of by the Government long ago. My friend, the Acting Prime Minister, says that pressure will be unavailing; and the Prime Minister goes further, because whilst the other statement is one of passive resistance, the Prime Minister says, “ No, we are going to tackle this problem. We are going to enforce our laws, and ruthlessly “. I challenge this Government to put any evidence before the Parliament, or the people of this country, that there has been any real attempt .by it to enforce that law in all the months that have gone by since that statement was delivered. Even now, every now and again we read of prosecutions. It is an absolute certainty that if we read of prosecutions one day we will read of their adjournment a few days later. We read in the press that, the chief executive officer of the miners’ federation is saying to his members, “ Don’t pay fines. Don’t produce money if proceedings are taken against you “. In other words, he incites these men to defy the law, and that is very serious when one considers that, the troubles in the coal-mining industry have not been brought about by the majority of decent coal-miners, but by a group of anarchists in that industry. My great charge against the bulk of the coalminers is that at all material times they have lacked the moral courage to deal with these anarchists. And the Government, in the meantime, shrugs its shoulders. It calls conferences and occasionally it gets petulant and refuses conferences - then it has interviews, and says that it will not play. But all the time a grave shortage of coal continues, and except for a day or two when, for instance, a censure motion is moved in this House, there are miners on strike on the flimsiest of excuses. There is no strong or consistent action taken about them, yet the Acting Prime Minister is able to stand up in this House and tell us quite smugly that pressure will be unavailing. If there is one element inconsistent with morale in time of war if id complacency, and yet, if there is a group of men in Australia utterly complacent about their virtues and performances, it is the people who make up the Government of this country. There were many people - you, Mr. Speaker, would not hear about them so much as I do, because, normally, we find ourselves in different political camps - in Australia who, while they did not altogether forget t heir experiences in the past, thought that one advantage of a Labour administration in Australia in time of war would bc that there would be a high degree of co-operation between the Government and
I lie industrial movement, and that that would involve correspondingly little industrial trouble. One honorable member opposite interjects that there has been cooperation and as he conies from New South Wales he might be interested to know the New South Wales figures. In 1942. in that State, according to its official records, there were 667 disputes in industry involving 193,390 workers, and a loss of 417,729 man-days. In 1943, with this Government settling more firmly in the saddle, with the normal routine of politics interfered with momentarily by a glorious electoral victory in that year, we had about five months of the year in which every true labour supporter was able to say, “ Our Government has a majority in both Houses. It is the greatest victory on record. Now our own people are there, wo are going to help them. This is Labour’s hour v. [Extension of time granted. ] But in 1943, the number of disputes which occurred in the industry in New South Wales rose from 667 to 812, whilst the number of workers involved rose from 193,390 to 355,597 and the number of man-days lost rose from 417,729 to 903,536. And the process goes on, because in the same State by (lie 31st August, the total figures for 1943 and 1944 had risen to 1,432 disputes, the number of; workers involved to 5S8,951, and the number of man-days lost being 1,461,671. Those figures are very grave figures. It is nothing to the point for Ministers constantly to be eulogizing themselves about this war. It will be very much more to the point for us as a nation to have a good, square look at what is happening; and if any one has a good, square look at those figures he will begin to see that they, of all things, are eloquent proof of a want of public morale in a nation in which, if it fully and universally understood the risks and responsibilities of war, such a thing could not happen But it does happen, and it happens increasingly. What does the Government do? Does it tackle that problem? Does it decide ‘at long last that it is going to enforce the industrial law. and that people who strike against the security of this country are just as much traitors as those who mutiny in the face of the enemy? Does it act accordingly? Not at all. Its spokesman rises in this House and delivers a sort of exhortation to the public in general terms that the public morale is not good, that the people are too much interested in races. What is morale? Morale, certainly in time of war, as I have said, connotes a steady concentration upon the business of winning the war. It involves a subordination of other things. It involves putting first things first. It is by no means inconsistent with optimism. Indeed, there will not bc morale in a country faced by dangers in war unless there is a buoyant optimism among the people of that country. But morale is utterly inconsistent with any thought that war represents a golden opportunity to forward special interests. The greatest enemies of a proper public outlook upon the trials and responsibilities of war are those who continue to pursue sectional ambitions and designs and actively contribute to the breaking down of that proper respect not only for law but also social discipline, which are essential to democracy. When we remember that fact, and when we remember the Government’s sorry record in this field, we aru entitled to say to it when it offers to prescribe for other people, “ Physician, heal thyself “. I say that this Government, by its ineptitude, weakness, want of coherent industrial policy and constant undermining of industrial authority - by its concentrating upon putting Labour party policy into effect, whilst the war atmosphere is right, and money seems plentiful while, all the expenditure and debts of war pile up - by its insistence that party politics shall be forced upon the people of Australia throughout the war when so many of them would be glad to forget about them - for all those reasons, and by virtue of all those things, this Government has been the greatest single contributor to the failure of so many people to realize that the war is not a holiday, with each for himself, but a national task which can never be adequately won by a second-rate effort.
.- The more I listen to my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the more t regret that he ever chose politics for a career, because when he made that choice the Shakespearean stage lost an outstanding prospect, whilst politics did not benefit in the least. His retort to the Government was “ Physician, heal thyself”! There is an old saying attributed to Aesop that a donkey should Smell himself before he complains of the smell of other donkeys. That observation can be aptly applied to this situation, because if any man in this Parliament should be fully conversant with pre-war conditions in this country, and the possibilities at that time of a global war, it is the Leader of the Opposition. On two occasions immediately prior to the war he made visits abroad; and the fact that the governments which he supported, and one which he led, left this country unprotected remains one of the greatest tragedies in our history.
– That is not true.
– The truth is that this alleged pernicious and partisan Labour party as distinct from the puritanical, broad-minded elements represented by members of the Opposition, urged prewar governments to establish universal military training for the defence of this country. But those governments replied that they could not do so, because the Labour party which was in office in various State parliaments would not subscribe to compulsory military training. That was their catch-cry throughout the length and breadth of the land. The very thing that the Leader of the Opposition denounced this party for not doing, I am denouncing his party for not doing when it was in power. We have heard from him a most eloquent speech, beautifully worded, and in. tone perfect. I have never heard such cadence, and I must admit that my right honorable friend is at his very best when he is in that mood, but he did not tell the House any remedy for all that he complains of. He said in the referendum campaign that a “ Yes “ majority would give the Australian people power to coerce the Parliament, and that Parliament must not be coerced. Now he says that we must coerce the working class of Australia to do what he thinks is the right and proper thing. Six months ago every hypocrite opposite was on the hustings saying that if they gave the people power they themselves would be coerced, but to-day the whole tenor of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that the people would not work and must be made to work. When I hear these discussions about all the difficulties imposed upon the community by the pernicious working class, I am reminded of a leading article published in one of the capitalist newspapers a few weeks back, which asked why, if the miners had recently shown an extraordinary capacity to apply themselves to the problem, they could not have done it, before. When the miners were not working, the newspapers tore them to pieces, but when they went back to work the same newspapers asked, “Why did you not do it before?” It seems to me that honorable members opposite live on the working class, and must belt them in all circumstances. If they did not have the working class to find fault with, they themselves would be put, where they belong - on the wharfs. I do not know anything about war, and have never offered any opinion in this or any other Parliament, as to what ought to be done in any of the spheres of strategy. I meet thousands in the street who support the party opposite, and they tell me all about strategy. Who is it that ‘to-day complains to me about the perniciousness of our war-time regulations? Whose slogan is : “ My God, my money”? Only supporters of the other side. Every day I am pestered with letters and telegrams from some one who has been deprived of two eggs or half a pint of milk. If any person is revolting against necessary regimentation for a global war, it is always some one who votes against the Labour party. That is the whole attitude of the supporters of honorable members opposite towards war legislation. They are .the worst examples of the lack of public morale, of which my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, talks so glibly. Any difficulty that I have experienced has been from people who have never been guilty of supporting rae during the whole of their careers, because I have nothing to give. I am one of those who take. I do not pretend to know all about global strategy or the position of affairs in Europe, but there is one crime that our Empire has committed, and which I hope it will never commit, again - to allow one of its most formidable enemies, distant only a few hours away from its doors, to prepare to the utmost for war, while it stood complacently by. In 1935 I met the Leader of the Opposition at occasional tea parties in London. “My friend, the late Mr. Ogilvie, and I travelled across Europe, including Austria, and went as far as Russia, and when we returned to the people of England to tell them what Ave had seen on the Continent in the way of Avar preparations, we were told by some mealy-mouthed individuals, who had plenty of titles, that Hitler was a factor for peace. They must have meant a factor for pieces. What was going on in Europe evidently did not register with my eloquent friend, the Leader of the Opposition, on that occasion, because it was :not until 1939 that an annual Avar expenditure of £63,000,000 was contemplated by this country. I wonder if it is possible - and I suppose under a bureaucratic system it is not altogether impossible - for the Government to give serious consideration to the question of whether the Avar commodities that Ave are producing cannot be adapted in some waS’ to peace practices. Could not those branches of the service which are making commodities in great quantities make them of such a type that they could be utilized for peace practices in the immediate post-Avar period? I am thinking of bombers being converted into passenger aeroplanes, and of tank engines being utilized for propelling farm machinery. Such a policy seems to have definite possibilities. We might at this juncture consider whether some of our factories, while still providing the machinery of Avar, could not offer possibilities of an immediate turnover of their equipment to post-Avar activities. I understand that the Department of Post-Avar Reconstruction has something of that kind under consideration, and will soon be able to demonstrate how far it has gone in the provision of the equipment necessary in the post-Avar period.
I happen to be one of those who fear peace as much as I fear war. During the last six years the public has undergone an enormous psychological and social revolution. I believe that it will not be as adaptable to peace conditions as some expect. Despite the fact that everybody wants to go back to 1939 the moment the war is over, the mentality of the people W]11 be found to be vastly changed and we shall have to approach post-Avar problems from an altogether new angle. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that Ave must win the Avar first. I believe it is only a question of time before Ave shall win it, and I have heard nothing from anybody to say that this country has done anything in its Avar effort to retard the day of success, or that, any sailor, soldier or airman in the last year or two has suffered in consequence of a shortage of the necessary materials, or through lack of activity on the part of the people of Australia. I have heard it in a general way, but no specific charge of the kind has been levelled. If there is any time available after meeting our war needs we should devote it to the consideration of peace activities. We shall not be able to hold 500,000 men in the fighting services immediately after the
Avar, and surely if Ave have any time at our disposal Ave should devote it to preparing for the erection of houses .for discharged service personnel. We should still do everything necessary for the Avar effort, but Ave should also devote ourselves to those considerations that are fundamental if Ave are to establish a successful peace. If we allow our servicemen to come back, and have nothing prepared for them when they return, Ave shall be sowing the seeds of a social revolution. It is useless to bring these people back from active service where they receive a regular income and to tip them into a community which is entirely unprepared for them. It is of no use to say that we have made some provision for them. It would be far more useful to occupy time in discussing what we are going to do in the post-war period than to do what we are doing here in regard to the war effort. If my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, cannot make a contribution to the war effort, the rest of us cannot. But we can make a contribution to the peace, which we hope will not be long in arriving. For that reason the sittings of this Parliament should be devoted far less to the discussion of matters relating to the war, and far more to discussions upon the peace practices in which we shall be .able to indulge in proper order immediately after the termination of hostilities. In addition, we should indulge in appropriate propaganda. The older I get, the more I am convinced that the people are deluded by the effects of black and white. The press is aware of this fact, and uses it to the utmost. It is perfectly convinced that by this means it can divert or convert the minds of the people at any time,just as it chooses. No member of this House is competent to devote himself to the problems of war. We were called together on the present occasion principally in order to have placed before us a review of the war situation, yet the proceedings have been converted into a political bear garden. I am. following the example set by the Leader of the Opposition, who used the occasion to voice recriminations against the coalminers. Although the production of coal certainly is related to the war effort, surely the purpose of our meeting is not to make an attack upon the miners ! The Parliament should meet regularly in order to discuss those subjects which its members are capable of discussing, and to try to mould public opinion into an acceptance of the principle that .certain practices should be followed in the immediate post-war period, practices that will create good citizenship and national stability. Our energies should be directed towards the production of implements of peace, so that men discharged from the services may immediately be absorbed in peaceful pursuits. It is all very well to charge the Government with a waste of time. My friends opposite need to be reminded that during the 49 days referred to by the Leader of the Opposition the House was occupied with certain discussions which I would not let my dog hear. I did hot participate in them, but kept well out of them. Paney a House of 74 members, charged with responsibility for the happiness and the lives of 7,000,000 people, and the administration of a territory of 3,000,000 square miles, devoting a whole day to the discussion of whether or not a country town should have an extra butchery ! A little later there was another discussion on whether or not a broadcasting licence should be granted to certain interests. The only excuse offered was that a principle was involved. What do honorable members think of such a soulshattering contribution to human welfare? At all times I want to listen intently to any intelligent contribution in regard to any branch of Australian life, and progress, and scientific or spiritual achievement, by any member in any part of the chamber, but I do not intend to waste my time in listening to the discussion of whether or not there should be an extra butchery in a country town. Australia has done a good job in the war. We started from scratch in 1939. Comparisons cannot be drawn between Australia and the Old Country. Our capital cities are 500 miles apart, whereas in Europe they are 100 miles, and in some instances 50 miles, apart. Comparisons cannot be drawn between our groups of population, scattered in a vast land, with a low unit of efficiency, and the populations of other more densely settled areas. It is true that we have committed grave errors. But I have not heard any solution of the problem propounded. If my friends opposite want to denounce the coal-miners - and God knows they have enough to denounce them for - they ought to tell us the solution. I shall not listen to any “ shoot-them-down “ stuff, because the time might come when somebody else might wish to shoot us down. One’s view depends wholely on what end of the gun one happens to be facing. I do not want any one to start shooting me down. I want to be on the trigger, not in front of the barrel. I hope that we shall have many discussions ; but let them be far less recriminatory and far more constructive. This Parliament properly can devote itself to inspiring the people to do their utmost in the war effort, and still have plenty of time to devote to considerations of peace.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Austxau.au Prisoners of War : Japanese Mal-treatment - Flinders Naval College - International Air Services - Case of David J. Bourke - Australian Army : Field Butchery Unit at Katherine - Transport 01 Stock. Fodder and Wool.
.- I move-
Hint the House do now adjourn.
The House will be aware that 92 ‘Australian and 60 British prisoners of war were rescued by American submarines from a Japanese transport which was torpedoed on the 12th September, 1944, in the Western Pacific. All but one of the Australian survivors has now arrived in Australia. As the result of the skilled attention given to them overseas after their rescue, and immediately on their arrival in Australia, the men generally are in good physical condition, and with few exceptions are now on leave.
These men were among about 700 Australians who, with about 600 British prisoners of war, had been embarked in a Japanese ship at Singapore on the 4th September, 1944, for transfer to Japan. The accommodation provided for the 1,300 men consisted of a space in the ship’s second hold. This space, which carried a sign reading “ Accommodation for H 87 steerage passengers “, had been horizontally subdivided by a false floor. Thus the Japanese created two decks, neither of which had a ceiling height in excess of 4 feet. The Japanese orders were, that all prisoners of war should be confined below deck, and this meant that, in the subdivided hold, each man was allotted a space of only 2 square feetMen had just enough room to sit up. When they wanted to sleep, they had to rest on one another. Their bedding was their personal clothing, and one blanket, usually of poor cotton material. The air below was fetid and stifling hot, as the port holes were sealed, and the only ventilation was through the hatch. The Japanese commander refused to permit the erection of wind sails, which were found in the hold and would have provided some slight relief for the men below.
Because of the physical impossibility of cramming all the 1,300 men into the hold, the Japanese commander was forced to agree to several hundred men sleeping and living on the deck, together with the sick men who had to be brought up for aid and treatment by the two Australian doctors who accompanied them. As many as 100 men at a time were ill, and the price which they paid for fresh air was that they had to remain throughout the day exposed to the tropical sun, and at night had to sleep on the bare deck wilh only one thin blanket for covering.
The sufferings of the men were intensified by a shortage of drinking water. The rice ration, and often the stew, was cooked with salt water, and. this made the prisoners even thirstier. Despite the shortage, the Japanese guards freely used fresh water to wash themselves, and did so in view of the prisoners. The food ration for each man consisted of three-quarters of a pannikin of rice three times a day, with an added spoonful of sugar in the morning, and a small tin of watery fish stew at night.
While in an escorted convoy, the ship with other Japanese vessels was torpedoed about 5.30 a.m. on the 12th September, 1944, on a calm sea. The Japanese panicked. Most of them hurriedly left in the ship’s lifeboats, but others jumped overboard. None displayed the slightest interest in the fate of the prisoners of war. In the darkness, the Australians and the British, under the direction of their officers, effected an orderly evacuation of the ship. They went overboard progressively, after they had thrown into the sea all the rafts and wooden articles that would float. About 75 per cent, of the men had lifebelts. The Japanese also had issued to each of the prisoners a block of crude rubber for use as a lifebuoy. It was found that these blocks were useless.
The men had been in the sea only a short time when the Japanese destroyer escort dropped- depth .charges in a counter attack against the American submarine. Unfortunately, the explosion of the depth charges affected many of the men in the sea, greatly reducing their chances of survival. The Japanese destroyers then put out boats to rescue any Japanese on rafts, but these refused to pick up any prisoners of war. The Japanese, after rescuing their own nationals, waved derisively at the Australians. The latter, who had been in the water for some hours, showed their magnificent spirit by singing “ Rule Britannia “. The evidence given by the rescued men makes it clear beyond all doubt that the Japanese intended to leave all prisoners of war to drown. During the first day. there were repeated attempts to organize rafts into groups. Men swam from one raft to another, seeking friends. Groups of Australians gathered together for mutual assistance. In the first night, the men were mainly in large parties.
On the second, third and fourth clays, many men, including those affected by the depth charges, were lost from the rafts, most of which were very slippery owing to having become coated with oil from a sunken Japanese tanker. Between the afternoon of the fourth day and the evening of the sixth day, the survivors were rescued by American submarines, the commanding officers and. crews of which showed great skill and courage in their conduct of the rescue operations. . The Australians rescued consider that they can never praise too highly the treatment they received aboard the American submarines after they were rescued. They were then in an emaciated and often a semi-delirious condition, having spent days in the sea without food and water, and in many instances without clothing. On the submarines, the rescued men were washed free of the black oil which covered them, wrapped in blankets, and given every medical attention and nourishment. They say that officers and crew acted ah mothers and sisters to them. -The submarine crews, as they came off duty, spent the whole of their rest periods cooking food, and feeding, shaving and washing the survivors. They also’ gave them complete outfits of clothing. The pharma- cist mates on all vessels worked almost without sleep for days.
At an advanced island base, at Guadalcanal, and on American ships which brought the Australians home, the utmostattention and kindness was bestowed on the survivors
After the men had been accommodated at a convalescent home in Australia, opportunity was taken to have them compile lists of their comrades who had been on board the sunken transport, and also to obtain a first-hand story of how the Japanese have treated Allied prisoners of war in Burma and Thailand.
The rescued men were a part of a force of Australian prisoners of war transported in May, 1942, from Singapore and Java to various parts of Burma, under the same conditions as existed on the transport that was sunk. After employment in Burma, mainly on aerodrome construction, the Australians were transferred to a camp at Thanbyuazat, at the northern end of the projected BurmaThailand railway. By October, 1942, thousands of Australians and. other Allied prisoners of war were at work in thu jungle. At intervals of several month.?, they were transferred to camps deeper in the jungle as the railway progressed.
The men in the jungle camps lived in bamboo huts, thatched with, palm leaves. Many slept on bamboo tier floors, but in some camps where there were no floors, the men improvised beds out of bags and bamboo poles to keep away from lice and bugs. Each man had only one flimsy blanket. From April to October, 3943, tropica] rains penetrated the roofs, and turned the camps and hut floors into a sea of mud. Clothing deteriorated, no issues being made by the Japanese, and many of the men wore only a loin cloth, sometimes with one other garment. Boots were worn out and not replaced. Many lived and worked without boots for months. Food consisted of a pannikin of rice and about half a pint of watery stew three times a day. Endeavours were made to supplement the ration with native foods and edible roots. The issue of soap was oik small piece about every six months.
Each day there was usually a sick parade held by an Australian medical officer, but, if it resulted in an insufficient number of men being available for the work, a Japanese doctor would make a casual inspection of the sick, and order to work all men who had no visible disease. Often men with very high temperatures would be forced to work. Australian doctors did their utmost for the sick men, but owing to absence of drugs and facilities, sickness and deaths were inevitable. Main causes of death were malnutrition, dysentery, malaria and exhaustion, and in some places, cholera.
Hospital cases had to be accommodated at each camp until, after lengthy delays, they were evacuated to a base camp at Thanbyuazat. The hospital was similar to the work camps, but more strongly constructed. Rations were somewhat better because native supplies were obtained. Allied surgeons used mainly improvised instruments. Only local anaesthetics were available, even for the removal of limbs. Large numbers of the patients had tropical ulcers, often from the knee to the foot. Many such cases had a leg removed and a large percentage died. The skill and ‘devotion shown by the Australian medical officers in these circumstances have been magnificent.
Actual work on the railway consisted of cutting through virgin forest, levelling u track, making embankments and cuttings, building bridges and finally laying and ballasting the track. Prisoners of war were also employed in the ballast quarries. All the work was done with crude tools and involved a maximum of physical effort. As camp strengths diminished owing to deaths and illness, the remaining men had to work longer hours. Shifts thus increased from twelve hours to eighteen hours a day, sometimes exceeding 24 hours of continuous work. Work through the night was done by the light of lamps and torches. Meals were brought out by semi-fit men. Work continued in all weather.
Each camp had a Japanese officer or sergeant in charge, with about 30 guards who supervised the work. The guards maltreated the prisoners of war at the slightest pretext. Bashings usually were heavy blows on the head, sufficient to “knock over the prisoners of war. Another punishment was to make a prisoner of war stand holding a heavy piece of wood above his head for two to five hours. Sometimes the prisoners of war were made to stand to attention for several clays. The guards, who were Koreans, almost invariably behaved with the utmost brutality, having learned their lesson from the way the Japanese had treated them.
When the line was completed in October, 1943, the prisoners of Avar who had constructed it were withdrawn through its southern terminus and were accommodated in Thailand. Some were transferred to Indo-Ohina. It Was from one party of these that- a. selection was made of the fittest for transfer to Japan. The men recently rescued belonged to this group. By their dauntless courage and amazing endurance, the survivors from the Japanese transport have performed a great service. They have given an eyewitness account of the manner in which the Japanese treat their prisoners of Avar: they have managed to compile an almost complete list of their comrades who were shipped with them ; and they have furnished long lists of names of Australians who have died, mainly in Burma and Thailand, and of whose deaths the Japanese Government has not notified the Commonwealth.
It is deeply regretted that, at this stage, it cannot be stated how many Australians have died. An early estimate places tindeath roll in Burma and- Thailand at about 2,000 out of approximately 10,000 Australians. It is hoped that this estimate will prove too high, but unfortunately it may ultimately prove to be an understatement. The careful collation anil checking of all this vast amount of information will take a considerable time, bur all next-of-kin of men identified as casualties Will be notified as soon as possible. Priority has been given to the preparation. of the list of men not rescued from the sunken transport, so that their next-of-kin may be informed. As to the fate of the GOO Australians not known to be rescued from the Japanese transport, it would appear that the chance of survival of any of them would depend upon their being able to reach land. Thai chance WaS very slender, but it is just possible that some may be alive. Only lime can provide the answer.
While all this work is receiving attention, relatives of Australian prisoners of war are especially asked to refrain from making any effort to contact or question the rescued men who have been returned to their homes. These men have been through harrowing experiences, have splendidly co-operated with service authorities during a lengthy interrogation, and now richly deserve a peaceful and uninterrupted reunion with their families. It is considered that this information should be given to the public, even though the Government is profoundly aware of the anguish it will cause to the families of ali Australians captured by the Japanese. It was considered that nextofkin would wish to receive an authoritative statement of the facts. It should be understood that the foregoing description relates particularly to accommodation and conditions under which prisoners were worked in Burma and Thailand. When the men were withdrawn from the construction of Tile railway, their conditions were somewhat improved. The description, moreover, has no reference to camps in Hong Kong, Formosa, occupied China, Korea and Japan, where it is believed present conditions may be relatively better, although still far below the standards we would desire.
Sir William Webb, who is the Australian Government’s commissioner for. the investigation of Japanese atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare, has obtained evidence from a number of the Australian survivors. His conclusion is that the J apanese almost entirely disregarded the rules of warfare concerning prisoners of war, but he also expressed the view that it was only fair to state that there were times, mostly on work other than railway construction, when the Australians caine under the control of humane Japanese commanders and had relatively decent conditions. Sir William Webb is continuing his investigations. A statement will be made later by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in relation to the war crimes aspect.
I know that I speak for the people of Australia when I say that they share fully the sorrow and pride of their kith and kin throughout tile British Commonwealth who are grieved by these sad events. The Government regrets that these disclosures have to be made, but it is convinced it is necessary that the Japanese Government should know that we are in possession of the facts, and will hold them responsible. All the rescued men speak of the high courage shown by their comrades. Everywhere, and in all circumstances, the Australians have maintained matchless morale. They have shown themselves undaunted in the face of death. The many others who have survived privations and disease in the jungle have developed spiritual and physical powers to triumph over adversity and over their captors. Let us look forward to the day of their release.
3.39]. - Yesterday the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question, without notice, concerning certain punishments administered to cadets at the Royal Australian Naval College, Flinders. I am now in a position to inform him that a report received by me proves that on Sunday the 5th November, four cadet midshipmen of the second year, and the whole of the first-year cadets, were subject to certain correction and minor punishment by a cadet captain, who acts in a similar capacity to a prefect in anyordinary school or college. On Sunday,, the 12th November, another cadet received, similar correction from the chief cadet captain for certain minor offences. In. each of these instances I am assured thaino punishment by birching was administered. It was either by the back of a clothes brush or a gymnasium shoe. This, it appears, has been the custom where slackness and indifference to duty has become evident among those in the cadet, course. It is the custom for such correct tion to be entered in a minor punishment book, which is inspected by the com- mander of the college. Disciplinaryoffences of more than a minor nature are dealt with by commissioned officers of the college, according to the seriousness of the offence. The punishments awarded in these cases involve loss of conduct marks, and thus are reflected in the position of the cadet midshipman on passing out of the college. I intend to take up this matter- with the First Naval Member, and have the whole practice reviewed in order to ensure that no improper use of disciplinary authority is exercised.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) has just presented a sad and heartrending story of starvation, hardship and heroism on the part of men who have served in this war, and of the grand camaraderie shown by the Americans who saved them. This, I think, should shock us into putting aside many of the little things we talk about in this Parliament, and concentrating on the task of obtaining the release of our men from captivity. I am not surprised at the story, because I was a prisoner during the last war, and know a little of what is happening to-day to prisoners of the present war; but I doubt, whether the right honorable gentleman was wise in making this statement at the present juncture. He admitted that casualties have occurred, hut he does not know their number. The announcement that a large number of men has died will harrow the feelings of thousands of families in Australia to-day. Although the public has been asked to refrain from questioning the rescued men about their experiences, it will be quite impossible to prevent this. The Government should not have made a disclosure of heavy casualties until it knew the names of the deceased. The news should first go to the next-of-kin. That was the practice observed during the last war, and until to-day it was the rule during the present war. I hope that the Government will ponder over that fact when future announcements of the kind are contemplated.
I urge the Government to take this opportunity to protest in the strongest possible terms to the Japanese Government, at their barbarity in ignoring the rules of war and the implications of the Hague Convention, which requires that civilized treatment shall be given to helpless men who have laid down their arms in battle. The Japanese are not doing that. They are preventing prisoners of war from receiving parcels prepared by loving hands in Australia, and preventing representatives of organizations such as the Bed Cross from getting into touch with Australian prisoners of war. The position should be thoroughly explored, and no negative answers should be accepted. In Burma, many of our men have been forced to work as slaves under appalling conditions. Clad only in a loincloth they have been forced to do almost impossible tasks, without being properly fed or receiving the comfort of having their sickness diagnosed and suitable hospital treatment. Yet I realize that our doctors are doing wonderful work among thorn. It seems to me that experiments could also be made away from the orthodox approaches to the problem of supplying prisoners of war with medical and other comforts in view of Japanese methods. The Royal Australian Air Force has been operating on the Burma front over a long period, and I think that; medicines could be dropped to Australian prisoners there. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will take up with the Soviet Government the use of stores which are lying at Vladivostock, and which that Government has been unable to induce the Japanese authorities to use in the way intended. As Mr. Churchill has told Germany that the Gestapo will be dealt with as a body, and held responsible for its war crimes, we should inform the Japanese that all of those who have vilely treated our fighting nien will be regarded as war criminals, and will be punished for their actions. Following the announcement by the Acting Prime Minister to-day, we should do all we can to mitigate the suffering of the men now in the hands of the enemy. As they cannot raise their voices in protest, nor elect whether they will slave or not, we should try to alleviate their position until they can be freed from bondage and brought back to their ‘ homeland by every effort, in our power.
– I join with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in expressing my sympathy with those who will be distressed in mind because of the disclosures made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) this afternoon concerning the treatment of Australian prisoners of war by the Japanese. Australians, and, indeed, all freedom-loving people, will be shocked by the news we have just heard. I feel, as does the honorable member for Balaclava, that the wisdom of making the disclosure at the present time is open to question. There may be some good reason for it, but it is hard to have to ask people to refrain from seeking information about their loved ones, in view of the fact that the fate of an undisclosed number of prisoners is still uncertain. The statement we have just heard is a grievous and shocking disclosure, and I hope that everything possible will be done to bring to book those responsible. It may be argued that the disclosure will tend to combat war weariness and complacency. We know that there are in our midst those who are not taking things as seriously as they might, in view of all the circumstances. In making that statement, I do not refer only to the workers. Others besides them are not above exploiting the community when they see an opportunity to serve their own interests or to further their political purposes. They are prepared to do anything, no matter how despicable, if only it will damage this Government, which was elected by popular vote to administer the affairs of the nation. They are prepared to stoop to anything, no matter how low, if they see an opportunity to make profits out of those who, in many instances, are doing their best to further the country’s war effort. There is certainly evidence of war weariness here and in other Allied countries. Recently, it .was remarked upon in an able address by an American commentator. I merely point out that we should not think of the workers as the only ones at fault. Some of the things they “have done are inexcusable, but other people are also blameworthy.
To-day, I asked the Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Lazzarini) to consider a suggestion that Tasmania should be included in the itinerary of aircraft engaged upon international air services to Australia. This matter is of importance at the present time in view of the discussions taking place in the United States of America on the subject of international air services. The PanAmerican air service between the United States of America, New Zealand, and Australia, which was inaugurated before the war, represented the first step in the direction of an international link-up of the kind which I have in mind. An attempt should bo made, when planning services after the war, to arrange for aircraft to make a round trip that would connect the Bluff, in New Zealand, with the Tamar, in the north of Tasmania, and the Derwent, in the south, with the Australian mainland. After the war, the tourist trade to Tasmania will, no doubt, be developed, because everybody agrees that Tasmania has a great deal to offer the tourist. If such a service as I have described is inaugurated, it will enable many overseas visitors to visit the tourist attractions of Tasmania. The service would also be of benefit to businessmen. Whether in the future we are considering international air services or merely interEmpire air services, the proposal I have made should not be lost sight of.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) 3.54] . - I believe that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) was right in reading the statement on the treatment of Australian prisoners of war by the Japanese. The statement did not contain any surprises for those with a knowledge of Japanese methods. It is all very well to talk about what we will do to the Japanese after the war, but none of the Japanese responsible for the things described in the statement will ever grace a British triumph. TheJapanese know how to get out of the world when the time comes. Thoseresponsible will simply not be there when, it conies to squaring accounts.
– On the same reasoning,, perhaps we should refrain from threatening Hitler.
– I merely, point out that it is of little use making threats when there is no possibility of carrying them out.
– I, myself, would not. hesitate to make good the threats if 1 had the opportunity.
– That may -be. It is notorious that theJapanese Government does not recognize the Red Cross organization, nor does it subscribe to the International Prisoner of War Convention. They do not recognize the right of any of their fightingmen to surrender. The Japanese soldier- va regarded as guilty of treason if he is found in the hands of the enemy, even though he may have been unconscious when he was captured. 1 wish to refer to a matter which has’ received some publicity in the .press, largely because the Government has refused to give satisfaction regarding it, namely, the case of Mr. David J. Bourke, of Essendon, Victoria. The responsible Minister is, I believe, the Minister for Aircraft Production (.Senator Cameron). i. is time there was an investigation of the treatment accorded Mr. Bourke. .1 now ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fordo) if he will see that his colleague, the Minister for Aircraft Production makes a statement in the (Senate next Wednesday, explaining why Mr. Bourke was treated as he was. We are supposed to be short of man-power, yet the authorities tell this man .that there is nothing for him to do in Australia, but that if he likes to take out his passport so as to leave the country, they will get him one. It seems to me that there is a case to answer.
.- I desire to say a word upon the tragic statement just made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), tragic insomuch as it. represents a chapter in the story of Malaya and what came after. It struck me what bitter hearing this must make for parents and friends of prisoners of war, yet the story must, be told some time, and I think it is better that it should be told now. The Government was wise in its decision to make the report public, because in Sydney, and, no doubt, in other parts of Australia, all sorts of stories have been floating around regarding the sinking of this transport. Horrid descriptions have been given, but until now, no specific details have been stated officially of a factual kind. Many propaganda stories have been issued during this war from what have come to be known as the morale factories, but I am prepared to stake my journalistic reputation, for what it is worth, that the statement of the Acting Prime Minister represents the most moving, yet most factual story of the war. Many of us. have friends or relatives among the prisoners of war in Japanese hands, and we are impressed by the dignity with which these men have accepted their position, and by the heroism with which they have resisted the Japanese and kept their Australianism burning even in captivity. We thought that the lowest depths of cruelty had been plumbed in that floating hell, the Altmark, but apparently the Japanese, with their genius as copyists, have done one better. In the rescue itself, we have a dramatic illustration of what our allies mean to us, of the sympathy, comradeship, and courage with which the Americans came to the assistance of our men. As the years roll by we shall, no doubt, be made aware of other highlights like this to brighten the dark tragedy of Malaya. The Government was faced with a grave responsibility in deciding whether to release the story now, or to wait until after the war when the atmosphere would be calmer. The women of Australia are wracked and anguished over the fate of relatives and friends who have been taken prisoners of war.
– My suggestion was that the statement should have been withheld until the casualties were known. It might be a matter of a. few months only.
– I still believe that the truth, no matter how stark, should he revealed at the earliest opportunity. Shocking statements, canards and rumours, like the cut of a surgeon’s knife, may be necessary, but they also have curative properties. I could not but be moved by this story. Without any attempt at sensationalism, I confess that it is sufficient to give us a jolt. After five years of war, there is a tendency for people to become hardened - it may be described as complacency or tiredness. - but when these things hit us they tighten o.ur fibres, and the whole national fabric is the stronger. This tragic story shows what a merciless enemy we are facing. Yesterday, when we were discussing a measure for the relief and rehabilitation of the starving peoples of war-stricken countries, there was, in some of the speeches, the implication that after the war Australia might expend some millions of pounds in rehabilitating Japan. I confess that I should find it hard to agree to do that, but iri times of peace I may bold a different view. I congratulate the Government on its realism and common sense in revealing to us things which we ought to know - both unpleasant as well as pleasant things.
.- I bring to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) the situation of a small body of Australian troops who are engaged on a special task in the Northern Territory and who, in my opinion, are entitled to a review of the conditions under which they serve. Whilst in the Northern Territory recently with other members of the War Expenditure Committee, I spent some time at the 3rd Australian Field Butchery at Katherine. The butchery unit there is doing a splendid job in supplying fresh meat to troops in the Northern Territory. Even though it may not bc able to supply all the needs of the troops for fresh meat, to the extent that that need is met, it is met by this unit. Only about 10 per cent, of the men in the unit had any previous experience of butchering; they enlisted for service in the ordinary way, but were drafted to this unit. Many of them have been with it for from three to four years, and during that time they have had only two leave periods. Their job is to kill 120 head of cattle each day for six days each week. The nature of their service is such that anything that can be done to make conditions a little more congenial for them should be done, particularly by granting leave to them more frequently. I ask the Minister to do something to make conditions a. little more pleasant for these men, perhaps through the Australian Comforts Fund or the Red Cross Society, or in some other way. They are housed in huts which have canvas sides and, I think, iron roofs, but, the floors are of earth, which in that area give rise to a good deal of dust and discomfort. Moreover, there is no place where the nien can foregather in any degree of comfort; to write letters they have to sit- on their beds. If these men were in a transitory stage or in a battle area such conditions might be regarded as reasonable, but their camp is practically a permanent establishment. They are, in effect, civilians in uniform, doing a special job. Without incurring much trouble or expense, the Government could do something to make life a little more pleasant for them. I hope that the Minister will regard my request sympathetically, and that something along the lines that I have suggested will be done.
.- During the previous sittings of the Parliament I, and other honorable members, drew the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to the difficulties experienced by stock-owners in obtaining railway trucks in which to transport fat stock to market or to killing works, or to convey fodder for the feeding of starving stock. The right honorable gentleman promised to look into the matter. A day or two later the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) stated that the conveyance of stock and fodder would be given a high priority, and that all the trucks available would be used for those purposes. However, the position to-day has not greatly improved. I do not know whether the Government realizes that a period of between three and six weeks elapses before a stock-owner can obtain a truck to convey his fat sheep or cattle to the market or killing works. The difficulties associated with fodder supplies are, of course, increased because of the scarcity of fodder. Under the severe drought conditions which exist in many parts of Australia, it is not difficult to realize that much wastage of mutton and beef takes place unless stock can be removed quickly. When feed is disappearing rapidly, a period of several weeks is of great importance in dealing with fat sheep and cattle. The losses which inevitably arise are not confined to the stock-owner, but are felt by the nation. The seriousness of the situation is aggravated by the fact that water supplies in tanks and dams are dwindling rapidly. The position is most serious, and I hope that my representations will be given prompt attention. I do not think that everything that ought to be done is being done. The shortage of railway trucks is due chiefly to trouble in the coal industry, but if railway trucks cannot be made available the provision of motor transport should be considered. Every endeavour should be made to remedy the situation, otherwise even greater losses will be incurred.
Difficulty is experienced also in obtaining trucks to convey wool to the appraisement centres. It may be said that, because wool does not deteriorate and can he stored indefinitely on the property where it is grown, there is no great need for haste in transporting it to the appraisement centres, but I point out that most wool-growers work on overdrafts, and that if they cannot get their wool appraised, they must necessarily pay interest on their overdrafts for longer periods than otherwise would be the case. From my knowledge of the north-eastern portion of Victoria, I should say that the appraisement of wool grown in that district is likely to be delayed by from two to three months unless transport be provided to convey it to Melbourne. The position is particularly bad in the area around Mansfield, Alexandria and Yea. .From that district large quantities of timber are obtained, and as, for reasons which are not clear to me, timber is given a first priority on the railways, almost every truck that leaves the district carries timber, with the result that practically no wool is taken to the appraisement centres, lt would appear that there is little likelihood of the wool in the Mansfield district being appraised for some considerable time. Surely a truck could bc made available from time to time for the conveyance of wool. I am aware that the railways authorities have their problems, but I am emphasizing the difficulties experienced by the wool-growers, many of whom have no suitable place on their properties for the storage of wool. I hope that sympathetic consideration will be given to those matters, and that next week an intimation of the Government’s intention will be given to the House.
– in reply - I have listened with great interest to what honorable members have said. The statement I have made to Parliament dealing with prisoners of war was about the hardest statement I have ever had to make. I made it as the acting head of the Government, and only after the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council had given the fullest consideration to all aspects of the matter. The subject was first considered by the Defence Committee consisting of the Chiefs of Staff, who, with the assistance of representatives of the Prisoners of War Relatives Association, drew up a statement which was submitted to the Government. We were in the closest consultation on this matter with the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Regard was paid to the fact that the rescued men were back in Australia and were moving around among relatives with the result that all kinds of inquiries were being made; and it was suggested that an authoritative statement should be issued by the Government in view of the possibility that distorted accounts might reach relatives of other prisoners. As I explained yesterday in reply to a question on this subject by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), an arrangement was made that similar statements on the. matter should be made to-day in this Parliament and in the House of Commons. Before I made my statement this afternoon, I was awaiting advice that a similar statement would he made in the House of Commons to-day. The whole matter, as I have said, has been considered, not only by the Defence Committee and the War Cabinet, but also by the Advisory War Council upon which the Opposition parties have five representatives. After the subject was debated at length, the Advisory War Council decided that the best course for the Government to follow was to take the public into its confidence and plainly set out the facts.
– My point refers to the advisability of disclosing the fact that there was a number of casualties before the Government actually received from Japan the names of those who lost their lives. The bald announcement of loss of life caused considerable apprehension among the relatives of all prisoners of war in Japanese hands.
– Those names may not be procurable until the end of the war.
– They come to hand periodically.
– I repeat that it was only after the fullest consideration of the matter by the War Cabinet, the Defence Committee and the Advisory War Council that it was decided to issue the statement I have just made. I am sure that in the circumstances tha-t was the best course for the Government to follow. War is a sad business. I realize that there are many sad hearts in Australia to-day among people who have lost relatives in this war, not only among prisoners, but in the various theatres of war; and I am sure that the heart of every honorable member goes out in sympathy to those people.
I shall give the fullest consideration to the matters raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and those raised by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) will be referred to the appropriate Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
Chicago “ Tribune “ : Statements Concerning Australia’s Wak Effort.
In view of the Government’s permission, after weeks of congenial social negotiation with representatives of Colonel McCormick, for the printing in Australia of a South-West Pacific edition of the Chicago Tribune, will he now take action not only to refute Colonel McCormick’s latest dastardly canard against Australia’s war effort in the Pacific, but also to cancel permission for future publication of this antiBritish paper until the requisite apology is made to the Australian people?
At that time, permission had already been granted to Newsweek, Readers Digest and Time to publish in thistheatre. An application was received from the New York Times subsequent to General MacArthur’s advice and subsequent to the granting of permission to the magazines mentioned.
The Department of War Organization, of Industry inquired into the proposed edition of the New York Times and wassatisfied that no additional use of Australian man-power and resources was involved. The edition of the New YorkTimes in this theatre then commenced tobe published at the plant of the CourierMail, Brisbane, and it has been published there since. The edition was restricted toUnited States forces in this theatre, and is, therefore, not sold to the civilian community.
An application was then received from the Chicago Tribune to publish an edition under the same conditions as apply to the New York Times. The Department of War Organization of Industry reported that no additional use of Australian manpower and resources was involved. Thematter was referred to General MacArthur, who informed the PrimeMinister on the 22nd September, 1944, that he recommended approval. The Prime Minister felt that, in the light of the United States War Department’s policy and the express approval of General MacArthur, a permit could not be granted to some United States publishers and withheld from others. Further, theoverseas edition of the Chicago Tribune,. in common with other United Statesjournals, is published in theatres of war covered by the British and Indian Governments, with the approval of those governments. In no instance are copies of any publication printed in Australia distributed among the civilian population. They are reserved entirely for members of the United States forces. It is not intended, to consider the cancellation of the permit to publish. Action has already been taken by the director of the Australian News and Information Bureau, New York, to deal with a recent leadingarticle in the Chicago Tribune.
House adjourned at 4.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441117_reps_17_180/>.