17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– To-day is the last day on which the House may debate the motion standing in my name on the notice-paper for the disallowance of the amendment of the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations, made by Statutory Rules 1944, No. 137. I have discussed with administrative officers the problem involved in such disallowance, the chief question being whether or not the Government will take steps to remove the hardship imposed on the owners of property in the case of a sub-tenancy by their being prevented under the present regulations from gaining possession of the premises, notwithstanding the fact that no rent may have been paid to them for an indefinite period. I have also stated certain other objections to the regulations. Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether or not the Government is prepared to meet my objections ? If not, what chance is there of the matter being debated today? Does the Government intend to overhaul the regulations, with a view to removing the anomalies that exist?
– A comprehensive review of the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations is now in progress. The intention is to introduce a number of amendments and new provisions, designed to remove existing anomalies and abuses. Particular consideration will be given to the points raised by the honorable gentleman, and I shall confer with him before the regulations are issued. I believe he will find that the proposed alterations will remove the anomaly to which he has referred.
– Will the Minister for
Information confer with his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, in regard to the excellent suggestion that a national lead should be given in Canberra by the screening for the public of motion pictures that are calculated to stimulate public thinking? Will the honorable gentleman also do all that may be possible to have screened for the benefit of the public in the future the splendid films that have been screened for the benefit of members of the Parliament by the courtesy of his department, certain foreign legations, and some film companies?
– I shall do my best, with the co-operation of the Minister for the Interior, to carry into effect the suggestion conveyed by the question of the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the statement published in the Daily Mirror yesterday, and credited to E. Thornton, the notorious Communist, in which that gentleman said -
We must make a complete break with the old methods of wage fixation. . . . The alternative to real unity between good Australians was chaos, even before the end of the war.
In view of the fact that the Communists are the real power behind the Government, does that statement mean that the
Government proposes to abolish the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or completely to ignore the findings of that court and to revert to the jungle method of mob rule under the threat, stated by Mr. Thornton, of chaos even before the end of the war?
– I have not read the statement by Mr. “ Ernie “ Thornton, but I assure the honorable gentleman that the policy of the Australian Labour party is conciliation and arbitration, and that neither Communists nor members of the New Guard can join that party.
Camp at Mount-Martha.
– In view of the number of members of the Royal Australian Air Force who have developed malaria while at the Air Force camp at Mount Martha, Victoria, will the Acting Minister for Air have inquiries made to ascertain whether or not that camp is suitable for air personnel who have spent long periods in New Guinea and the islands to the north of Australia?
– I shall have inquiries made immediately, and will supply the information to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister to ascertain from the Acting Minister for the Army, whether or not Captain J. G. Arthur, M.L.A., visited Emerald, in the Capricornia electorate early this month, with a view to contacting various organizations, including the local branch of the Australian Labour party, on behalf of the right honorable gentleman? If so, is this Captain Arthur identical with , a man of that name who is on the personal staff of the Minister for the Army? Is he also the same Captain Arthur who, during the New South Wales elections campaign, was featured as being on leave from New Guinea? If so, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for his immediate return to a forward area, so as to afford much-needed leave to one of the many soldiers who have been there without leave for upwards of two years? Will the right honorable gentleman also prevent him from meddling in party politics, and insist that he shall concentrate on soldiering?
– I understand that Captain Arthur did meet in Emerald and other places a number of returned soldiers who were desirous of submitting to him requests appertaining to the welfare of returned soldiers. According to the reports which I have received, he did a very good job. He did not attend meetings of party political organizations while he was in uniform, on either this or any other occasion.
– Having regard to the oft-repeated statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry that the difficulty of the Government in alleviating the serious housing problem is due to the necessity to concentrate on war activities, will the honorable gentleman say whether or not he agrees with the statement attributed yesterday to the Deputy Director in New South Wales that the coal shortage is ‘bringing the war housing programme almost to a standstill, because the industries concerned are unable to supply sufficient materials as they have barely sufficient coal to meet urgent war orders ?
– I have not read the report from which the honorable gentleman has quoted. I understand that he does n’ot vouch for its accuracy. I shall have the matter inquired into, and shall supply him with the information that he seeks.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether or not it is a fact, as is stated in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, that the Commonwealth Government intends to use international agreements to overcome the constitutional difficulties caused by the defeat of the referendum; that the right honorable gentleman is fully aware of the position, and that ways and means of capitalizing it are being considered?
– I have not seen any such report. If it be accurately stated, it completely distorts and twists any statement that I have made. What I have said to this House is that, should there be an international agreement ito which Australia was a party, on subjects such as labour conditions and the like, it might become the duty of the Executive Government to ratify the agreement, and that, in such an event, in my opinion, it would be within the power of this Parliament to carry out the agreement throughout Australia.
– Specifically, not generally ?
– Specifically in regard to the particular convention. The matter would have to come before this House. The turn that has been given to my opinion gives quite a misleading impression.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether or not permission is now being given to the importation of English and American novels? If so, will the honorable gentleman make available supplies of paper for the production in Australia, of novels by Australian authors?
– I shall have inquiries made. I am not aware that there are the importations to which the honorable member has referred. His representations in regard to the encouragement of the production of novels by Australian authors will be taken into consideration.
– Recently, when the oversight of the 8th Division in the matter of receiving the 1939-43 Star was made public, the Acting Prime Minister, as Minister for the Army, said that he would take steps to see that this would be rectified. As some members of that division providentially, as the result of the recent torpedoing of a Japanese transport, have been returned to Australia, will the right honorable gentleman take immediate action which will enable them to wear the ribbon of the 1939-43 Star, as an indication that they have definitely been on active service? .
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is not neglecting recognition of the services of the 8th Division who fought in Malaya. These men served gallantly in the war against Japan, and they will receive the same recognition as other members of the Australian Imperial Force who have participated in operations in the Pacific theatre. Because of the historic importance of the Pacific campaign to Australia, it is the, wish of the Government that it shall be given special recognition. It is hoped that it will be possible to make a further announcement shortly, upon the completion of certain negotiations with the Government of the United Kingdom. I am constantly in touch with the matter, and have taken steps to bring to a finality the negotiations that have been in progress. I fully realize the importance of ensuring that the men who served in Malaya shall be given recognition equal to that enjoyed by men who fought in other theatres of war.
– Will the right honorable gentleman also take up the matter, in relation to the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who have served in Britain?
– I shall be very, pleased to do so.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service able or willing to make a statement in regard to special provision for Australian prisoners of war who are now returning to this country, “ a subject that I raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night?
– I am both willing and. able to make a statement, but not at the moment. I shall endeavour to do so next week. I do not think that the honorable member wants to confine his inquiry to prisoners of war. I understand that he wants to know how we propose to deal with problem cases, whether they have been prisoners of war or not.
– Yes, including prisoners of Avar.
– I shall make a statement next week setting out what is being done.
– When does the Minister for External Affairs expect to be able to announce the appointment of an Australian Minister to Chungking? Can he substantiate a report which has been circulating recently that the Chinese Government has arranged to transfer its Australian representative, Dr. Hsu Mo, to Ankara? Does the Government believe it to be desirable ‘that diplomatic representation between Australia and China should be on the highest plane ?
– The Government does regard it as important that representation should be on the highest plane, and I hope to be able to make an announcement as to a diplomatic appointment which is in accord with that principle. The promotion of the very distinguished Chinese Minister to Australia i3 not related to the matter of Australia’s representation at Chungking. Dr. Hsu Mo is to be promoted to the rank of ambassador, and will be appointed to one of the highest posts in the gift of the Chinese Government. I am sure that his successor in Australia will be a gentleman of equal distinction, and that he will serve the’ interests of the two countries as well as Dr. Hsu Mo has always done.
– ‘Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether the Commonwealth stores were established for the purpose of making large profits out of its employees? What were the profits of the Commonwealth stores for each of the last three years? Are those profits considered excessive ?
– I cannot answer the question offhand, ‘but I shall obtain from the Minister for the Interior the information sought.
– Will the Minister for Munitions confer with the Minister for Health with a view to ascertaining the position in regard to the supply of means to com!bat flies during the coming summer? “Will he, in particular, inquire into the report that there is a shortage in some districts of fly sprayers, so that those available may be allocated to districts where drought conditions make it particularly necessary to control the fly pest?
– I shall do so.
Government Ownership of Interstate Airlines
– In view of the refusal of the Acting Prime Minister yesterday to inform this House fully in regard to the recommendations of the Interdepartmental Committee on ‘Civil Aviation, will the right honorable gentleman state why the information was made available to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in to-day’s issue of which it is published?
– I have not yet read today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph. As the document referred to is a “ top secret “ document for the use of Ministers only, I shall await with interest any report which the honorable gentleman may have to disclose, showing that it has reached the possession of the Sydney Daily Telegraph or any other newspaper.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that, in the course of a national broadcast from Perth on the 18th August, 1943, the Prime’ Minister said -
I say further that my Government will not, during the war, socialize any industry.
If the Prime Minister did use those words, does the Acting Prime Minister now maintain that the Prime Minister was fully informed of the deliberations of Cabinet regarding the proposed acquisition by the Government of interstate airlines, and did the Prime Minister concur in the decision taken?
– I have not read the newspaper from which the honorable member has been quoting. I do not know whether he can vouch for the truth of what is published therein. What the Government proposes to do in regard to interstate airlines is consistent with statements made by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and other Ministers. The Government. in its wisdom, and after considering all aspects of the case, decided to acquire great public utility in the interests of the whole nation, just as public utilities have been acquired in other countries. For example, in India, a very large mileage of privately owned railways was eventually taken over by a government which cannot be described as being a Labour government. The Australian Government is amply justified, as history will record, in taking what I believe to be one of the most progressive steps ever taken by a government.
– The Government’s decision to nationalize the interstate airways will cause grave uncertainty among the employees of the companies concerned, including many former members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who were released for service in the companies.
– They are overwhelmingly in favour of the decision.
– The Minister for Transport knows nothing about it. More than twenty of the most distinguished pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force, men who received decorations for service overseas, were released to the air companies, although they had futures before them in the Air Force.
– The honorable member is volunteering too much information.
– I want to make it clear-
– The honorable member is making it clear’ that he is out of order.
– I want to know if the position of those pilots who transferred from the Royal Australian Air Force to the air companies will be secure. Will they be taken over by the new authority?
– I can assure the honorable member that, far from there being anxiety among members of the staffs of air companies, there is, I have reason to believe, a feeling of deep satisfaction that the Commonwealth Government is assuming control of this great public utility. These bright and capable young men from the Royal Australian Air Force will be retained in the service of the Australian Government’s interstate airlines of Australia, and the services will be so expanded that employment will be provided for many other gallant young men at present serving in the governmentcontrolled Royal Australian Air Force.
– The Acting Prime Minister has stated that the decision of Cabinet regarding the acquisition of interstate commercial airlines was unanimous. The public will understand from that statement that the Prime Minister was a party to the decision. I now put the question bluntly to the Acting Prime Minister : Was the Prime Minister a party to the decision, and did he concur in it?
– In previous references to the decision to take over Australian interstate airlines I said that the Prime Minister was thoroughly conversant with the Cabinet’s intention in this regard. The matter first came up in 1943, and again in 1944. The Prime Minister participated in a number of the discussions. Owing to his unfortunate illness, he was not present when the decision was made. However, the decision was unanimous, and I believe that had the Prime Minister been present it would have been equally unanimous.
– Is it a fact that the decision to nationalize interstate airlines was made upon the recommendation of three Ministers - the Acting Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the Minister for Transport? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister was not present, while the Minister for Air had not, up to that time, concurred in the decision? Did the recommendation come from those three Ministers only, or were others included?
– It is very evident that the honorable member for Balaclava is not really conversant with what happens in the present Cabinet, and thank God that that is so ! What evidently annoys the honorable member is the fact that, while there is complete unanimity in the present Cabinet, the Ministers of non-Labour governments were always “ cutting one another’s throats “.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, received official notification of a change in the constitution of the Opposition parties? If not, will you try to find out who really constitutes the Opposition, particularly in view of the fact that a certain foody is trying to use the title A.L.P. ? Can you say whether this body has adopted the socialization objectives o,f the Australian Labour party?
– I have received no intimation of a change of name of any party, and I have noticed no change of faces.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen a London cablegram published in the Canberra Times this morning describing the conditions under which Australian prisoners of war captured by the Germans in Greece are forced to work in German coal mines? It is stated in the report that they have to work nine hours a day on seven days a week. I ask the right honorable gentleman to obtain a copy of the report, if he has not one already, and pass it on to the leaders of the miners’ federation.
– I shall endeavour to obtain a copy of the report, and I shall pass it on, not only to the leaders of the miners’ federation, but also to the leaders of the mine owners’ association.
– What action has been taken or is proposed to be taken by the Attorney-General in the capacity of Acting Minister for Supply and Snipping against the 2,000 coal-miners in. New South Wales who abstained from working yesterday.
– The action taken by the Government is in accordance with the policy laid down by Cabinet. All stoppages are investigated. The rep”orts of the investigators are made to the Coal Commissioner, who determines, after considering the circumstances, whether to advise a prosecution or not. In every case, the Government has acted upon his advice. That policy will apply to the stoppages to which the honorable gentleman refers.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service that there will be sufficient coal to keep our industries in operation over the Christmas period if the miners work regularly between now and their vacation, will the Minister tell us what the Government proposes to do in the very likely event of the miners not working regularly between now and the Christmas vacation?
– A similar question has been answered by the AttorneyGeneral.
Conference at Wellington.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for External Affairs whether he would make a statement regarding the discussions which took place between the representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Governments. Does be propose to make such a statement, and can he say whether anything of consequence was discussed?
– Matters of consequence were discussed, and I intend to make a statement on the subject.
Notification of Price Variations
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the press statement complaining of the method of notification to traders by press advertisement only of changes of commodity prices as fixed by the Prices Commissioner? Will he look into this matter with a view to having traders notified directly, or at least having the notification sent to trade organizations in each centre, in order to minimize inconvenience, and to prevent unintentional breaches of the regulations?
– I have not yet seen the statement, but I appreciate the representations made by the honorable member and I shall give them prompt and sympathetic consideration.
Inquiry by Mr. Justice Clyne.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether a witness at the Australia First movement inquiry in Sydney last week was correct in saying that the Attorney-General had given instructions in February, 1942, that no Communist was to be interned? If such instructions were given, I should like to know why, and, if they were not, I should like to know what the right honorable gentleman proposes to do with the witness?
– No witness said such a thing in reference to this Cabinet.
– Captain Blood said it.
– I inquired and it was reported to me that he made no such statement, but, whether he did or did not, no such instruction was given. If any instruction about that matter were given, it must have been given by a previous government.
– .Captain Blood save the month, February, 1942.
– I assure the House that no such instruction was given by or on behalf of this Government.
– Or by the previous Government.
– If any such instruction were given on behalf of the Commonwealth it must have emanated from the previous Government.
– I ask the Minister for Home Security what action has been taken to reduce the staff of his department in conformity with the decline of activity required for home security? Does the Minister sound the siren every week to let us know that the department still exists?
– If the honorable gentleman wants the assurance, I assure him that I do not sound the siren. The staff of the Department of Home Security has been consistently reduced as requirements in connexion with home security have diminished as the wax has receded from Australia. Expenditure of the department this year will be substantially below the estimate, thus showing a substantial profit to the Government.
– Since this sessional period began, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Information have been promoted from the tailend to the top of the treasury bench. Has there been a re-arrangement of precedence in Cabinet and have these honorable gentlemen been promoted in consideration of the proposed acquisition of the civil interstate airlines?
Question not answered.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 2085), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. McEwen had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House is of the opinion that the bill is incomplete in that the amount provided is inadequate because it fails to make provision for producers of other primary products who have been adversely affected by drought conditions and that financial provision should be made for such cases having regard to the circumstances of the persons concerned “.
.- I am pleased that the Government has at last realized the national disaster caused by the widespread drought. I am strongly in favour of extending assistance to other sections of primary industries in the drought-stricken areas, as proposed by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), but I should not like the passage of this bill to be delayed as it proposes to extend to the droughtstricken cereal growers, who have had a very lean time for five years, assistance, without which it will be impossible for them to carry on. I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), when he replies, to say that the Government will bring forward, at the first opportunity, a bill to give assistance to the other sections of the primary producers that are also in a most serious plight as the result of this drought.
A belt of normally fertile land stretching from South Australia through Victoria and New South Wales to the edge of Queensland is suffering one of the worst droughts in memory, and it is in danger of losing a great proportion of its people unless they are assisted. No honorable member who has not travelled through that area can realize the heartrending sufferings of the primary producers in that locality. West from Hay to Euston one sees a waterless country with but a handful of sheep left. In the north-west of Victoria the stock have either died or been shifted. Hardly a horse is to be seen. The older horses have been shot and the others sent to more favoured areas. Even in the more fortunate sections closer in, the farming community is in a very serious plight. For the last five years bad conditions have prevailed and it has been impossible to build up stocks of fodder. This Government is responsible for the tremendous shortage of forage, because, in the more favoured areas of Victoria last year, there was an opportunity to put by large quantities of fodder against the present emergency, but owing to a decision of the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, who decided that hay was worth about £2 19s. 6d. a ton in the stook, the Government instituted a policy, against the advice of members of this party and the Minister of Agriculture of Victoria, Mr. Martin, under which the farmers in those areas decided that it was better to harvest the grain and burn the stubble than go to the extra trouble, in a time of serious labour shortage, of making hay because the return from the hay would not be commensurate with the extra effort required. There we have an important contribution to this national disaster. It is useless for the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) to say that that is not so, because it is, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture knows that representations were unsuccessfully made to him and his department as well as to Professor Copland, by Mr. Martin, with our support. Professors are interfering so much with the economic life of this country on the practical side that it would be to the benefit of Australia if an open season for professors were declared with a. bounty of five guineas a scalp.
– The honorable member knows that, without price fixation, the price of hay to-day would be about £15 a ton.
– The honorable member for Ballarat reminds me of a terrier pup kicked out of the kennel - he yelps so much.
– Order! The honorable member must debate the bill.
– I am referring to remarks made by the honorable member for Ballarat when he spoke on this bill. He said that there was no reason why people could not get their stock out of the drought areas. There is a reason ! The coal-miners in New South Wales will not produce the coal needed to fire the locomotives required to haul the stock. At Hay, Deniliquin, Echuca, and in the Murchison area, the primary producers are affected by drought. They have young sheep which, if trucks could be obtained, could be sold at very satisfactory prices in the more favoured areas of the western districts, Gippsland, and the north-east of Victoria.
– We have to give an order.
– Why does not the Government give an order to the coalminers to work and enforce it? If the stock in those areas perish because the coal-miners will not work, next year we shall be faced with a food shortage. The Government boasts that it has maintained the supply of meat this year. I will tell it why. It has kept up production this year because hundreds of thousands of ewes which normally would have been held as breeding ewes to produce the fat lambs for next year are being slaughtered. The stock-raisers in the drought areas are seeing their stock die or get into such a condition that it will be impossible to either shift or. sell them. When they come to “ buy in “ again, they will encounter boom prices, and will not be able to carry on without assistance. Like the wheat-growers, they will not be able to continue their work unless the
Government is prepared to come to their aid. If the Government does not ensure that the remaining sheep are transported to more-favoured areas, these producers will not be able to meet their commitments next season to their own people, to the Australian Army, and to our Allies, including Great Britain, which has borne the brunt of this war.
Throughout Australia, organizations representing primary producers have for years urged the adoption of a general scheme of fodder conservation. Such a scheme is essential for the security of primary producers and grazing interests, and the only authority which can do the job to-day is the Commonwealth Government.
– Why not leave it to private enterprise, of which the honorable gentleman is such a firm supporter?
– Private enterprise has carried this country for a long time, and the only reason that primary producers require assistance to-day is that the Government has taxed them almost out of existence.Fodder conservation must be introduced, immediately. We cannot afford to face another drought.
– The Government of Victoria was the only government which refused to adopt the Commonwealth’s fodder conservation scheme. Queensland and New South Wales were willing to contribute money, but Victoria was not.
– I doubt the accuracy of that statement, and shall test its correctness. Every one who has had any practical experience of primary production knows that in addition to fodder conservation Australia must conserve water wherever possible regardless of the cost. This national work must be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government.
– The honorable member considers that the Commonwealth Government should undertake many works, but he never assisted to give the Commonwealth the necessary constitutional authority to undertake them.
– I have always advocated the conservation of water. Victoria is the only State which has made a reasonable attempt to conserve water, and it has the best irrigation schemes and the best administered system in Australia. The irrigation areas are the only districts in which the rural population has increased. The Commonwealth Government should make a comprehensive survey of this problem, because there is no way in which it could expend money in the post-war period to greater advantage to the community than on water conservation and irrigation schemes. Such works would enable this country to carry a larger population; they are essential to our security in the future, but they are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. The distribution of the water and the administration of the schemes should be left to the States, and the people who use the water should pay for it. For the head works, every man in the country should pay his share.
– The honorable member recommends the nationalization of water schemes for the farmer, but considers that air transport should be left to private enterprise !
– The honorable member is very glad to accept the electricity supply which is available in Victoria.
– Yes, it is a splendid scheme.
– Victoria has done more in that Une, and has had more success with State enterprise than any other State, because Victoria expects a reasonable return for its outlay. For a fair day’s pay, it expects a fair day’s work. In other States they have not not organized work but organized loafing.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address his remarks^ to the bill.
– The Government realizes that the vast drought-stricken areas face disaster, and I hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture v ill heed the suggestion that primary producers, other than cereal-growers, require assistance. But aid to droughtstricken cereal-growers must not be delayed, because they have suffered more severely than any one else, with a possible exception of sheep-men in the Western Riverina. At the same time, this money should be only the first instalment to bard-pressed primary producers, who have done so much to assist the Government and this country during the last five years. Because of the shortage of manpower, many old men, who should have retired, are trying to carry on their properties so that their sons may return to the land after their- gallant service to this country is completed. It is the duty of this country and this Government to ensure that those people receive assistance as quickly as possible. The amount of the assistance should be not a mean, niggardly sura, but a figure approaching that which the honorable member for Indi declared the wheatgrowers had been robbed of during. the hist few years.
.- Whilst I regret the necessity for this bill, its introduction was made imperative by one of the greatest droughts that Australia has known since 1902. I congratulate the Government upon taking a realistic view of the position. This is the first time in our history that a government has made a gift to any section of the community which has suffered lass from drought or bad seasons. I did not consider that it would be necessary for any representatives of primary producers to say very much about this bill. Honorable members opposite, who claim to represent primary producers, are doing a grave disservice to drought-stricken farmers by turning this debate into a political attack upon the Government, which has been most generous to farmers. Possibly, their motive is that they failed in the past to give assistance to primary producers. Even in good seasons, they allowed farmers to be robbed of their just reward. Now, they consider that- it behoves them to defend- themselves. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who is the- champion of this misrepresentation, seized the opportunity to attempt to belittle the Labour Government, and particularly the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). T shall say a few words in reply to his remarks. If the honorable member will glance across the chamber, he will see some genuine farmers, including the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who is a practical wheatgrower - I can tell that by the size of his hands - the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), and myself. Some of us show the effects of 40 years of anti-Labour administration. Although it is a long time since the honorable member for Indi guided a plough, he has been involved in all the machinations of the merchants and others who are financing him. At times, some of them even groom him. for the leadership of the Australian Country party. Heaven help the country if ever he became the leader ! The honorable member claims that he defends the primary producers, and demands justice on .their behalf.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– Honorable members opposite made incorrect accusations which call for a reply. The honorable member for Indi declared that this Government has failed adequately to assist primary producers. I shall test his sincerity. When he became a member of this chamber, his role was to oppose composite governments, but within six months he was a member of one.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– The provisions of the bill are very generous, and I deplore the fact that our political opponents are saying that the proposed grant is inadequate. The bill was introduced for the purpose of assisting the droughtstricken cereal-growers. Possibly, this is only the first instalment. The Government is acting most generously in making this gift to the wheat-growers without a “ tag “. Previous governments have always made loans to them, and the money had to Le repaid. This year, primary producers have encountered, not a reverse affecting individuals, but a national calamity at a time when maximum production was required. Next year, I shall be buying hay from some one like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The honorable member deplored the fact that the price of hay was too low. No wonder he took that view, because he sells it ! He grows lucerne. Many men like him claim to represent the farmers.. The honorable member would like the price of hay to be £20 a ton, as it was in previous years.
Some vendors put sand in the chaff, and it killed horses; but that practice was not prohibited until the Labour Government took action in Victoria.
– They also put salt in the chaff.
– The honorable member for Bendigo is doing” fairly well out of the disaster that has overtaken many primary producers.
– The price does not encourage farmers to cut hay.
– It encourages the honorable member to cut hay. He would not mind if the drought continued for a while. He would become wealthy.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in making those remarks.
– If this grant to drought-stricken producers is not sufficient, the Government may supplement it. Some honorable members have emphasized the necessity to make preparations against a repetition of the effects of drought, but they will take time, because the majority of the farmers are heavily in debt to the banks. Although their soil is blowing away and bushfires are devastating their properties, the mortgage always remains. Many farmers would like to establish a reserve of 60 tons of hay for use in an emergency, but they are unable to do so because they have to meet bills. Water conservation is delayed because of the lack of galvanized iron; it is required for the war effort. The provision of material for the sinking of water bores and the erection of tanks would in many cases be of f ar greater assistance than the payment of money. In the great drought of 1902, it was the lack of water that killed many sheep. It is astonishing how sheep can live on small quantities of feed if they have sufficient water. The honorable member for Indi referred to what he called the “ steal “ from the wheat-farmers; but what about the “ steal “ from the wool-growers, when for two years wool was sold for less than the cost ofl production. That agreement was made in 1939, and no protest was made by the Australian Country party. In other circumstances, the woolgrowers might have had some reserves to tide them over the difficult period which they are now encountering. I do not like the manner in which the honorable member for Indi has used the word “ steal “. I remind the honorable member that when the Goulburn Valley wheat-growers asked him to sign a pledge that he would support a move for an increase of the price of wheat beyond 2s. 6d. a bushel, lie said- that he would not do it because the country did not have sufficient financial reserves. Of course, statements such as that made by the honorable member yesterday are given wide publicity in the press, and he is regarded as a great champion, whereas speeches made by myself and other members on this side of the chamber may never reach the public. I believe that it is only right that I should, reply to some of the allegations that have been made in this chamber by honorable members opposite. This is an excellent bill, and it establishes a notable precedent. The farmers are not to be assisted by loans as was proposed by the Premier of Victoria, but are to be given straightout grants, so that when the drought is over, those who have suffered will not find themselves with an additional liability. I hope that we shall have a bumper season next year, not only in the interests of the farmers, but also in the interests of the nation as a whole.
– This bill provides for the expenditure of £1,500,000 on drought relief throughout Australia. Actually that sum will go only a short distance towards relieving drought-stricken farmers. This drought is paralleled, if at all, only by the great disasters of 1902 and 1914, and the cost of. it to the nation will run into many millions of pounds. Many farmers who, over the years, have been striving to make themselves secure on their holdings, have lost all that security during the last six months, and I am afraid that the relief provided by this legislation, although a step in the right direction, will go only a small way towards alleviating the position.
I wish to discuss two important points that have arisen in the course of this debate. The first one was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in his reference to the wheat industry. The right honorable gentleman stressed, the necessity for formulating a permanent policy towards this industry, with a view to placing it on a stable basis. The measures adopted during the last ten or twelve years have been mere palliatives, and the industry is still looking for concrete proposals which will be of permanent assistance, and assure to the wheat-growers a reasonable price for their product. At least during the twelve years that I have been in this chamber, the problems of the wheat industry have been a political football. Instead of regarding the industry as a great national asset, and taking steps to place it permanently upon a sound financial footing, it has been made the plaything of party politics. That attitude should be abandoned, and all parties in this Parliament should give some evidence of their desire to work in unison for a common plan for the stabilization of the wheat industry. I do not believe that such a plan would entail any insuperable problems. The time is now opportune for action to be taken. The history of the wheat industry shows that over the years there have been violent fluctuations in the price of wheat. For a number of years the price may be low, and then it will rise to a payable level. Sometime* it has gone quite high, and then within a few years dropped to uneconomic levels. In the years following the cessation of hostilities, wheat should bring a reasonably high price in the markets of the world. By that I mean a price well in advance of what may be termed a payable price for the production of wheat in this country. The greatest desire of all primary industries is an assurance of some degree of stability over the years. No primary producer or business undertaking of any kind can plan successfully for the future if prices are high during one season and down in another. The aim should be to achieve a more or less permanent level of payable prices. The solution may well be on the lines which have been advanced previously, namely, by first establishing a payable price. Then, in good seasons when the return exceeded that figure, the surplus could be paid into a pool from which payments would be made to growers when prices fell below the payable level.
Such a scheme should not have any insuperable difficulties, and so long as its operation was simple and did not present complex problems, I believe that it would be accepted by the wheat industry.
The second point I wish to stress relates to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). It has been pointed out that this measure provides only for cerealgrowers. No assistance whatsoever is provided for the pastoral and grazing industries. One has a right to ask why this is so. Why single out one particular class of primary producers for assistance ? In common with the wheat industry, the pastoral industry has suffered colossal losses during the last eight or nine months - losses which cannot be remedied in a short time. The difficulties in the pastoral industry have been accentuated by the shortage of fodder and the responsibility for that shortage can be laid, in part at least, at the door of. the Government. The real reason why fodder is in short supply is that there has been a lack of man-power on the farms, and, of course, our man-power difficulties date back to the panic call-up of early 1942 when almost every available able-bodied man in rural areas was called up for military service, although the ‘ Government, the Opposition, and the people generally, knew well that there was insufficient material to equip these men, and a shortage of instructors qualified to turn them into effective soldiers. The lack of man-power in rural areas was not remedied to any appreciable degree until recent months. The result has been that meadow hay either has not been grown, or if it has been grown, it has not been harvested. Hundreds of thousands of tons of fodder have been lost. It is this shortage of feed’ which has made the drought so calamitous in many areas.
Then there is the matter mentioned by Mr. Lilley, namely, the shortage of trucks for transporting stock. It will be recalled that I had something to say on this subject last Friday. When drought conditions became acute in certain areas, and -it was found necessary to transport stock to more favorable localities or to killing centres, a delay of anything up to six weeks was encountered in. obtaining trucks. The main reason, of course, was the trouble on the coal-fields of New South Wales, where the miners have been holding up the industries of this country to ransom. The lack of trucks and the shortage of fodder are vital factors which have accentuated drought problems and the responsibility for both of them lies with the Government.
I should be interested to know why the pastoral industry has not been provided for in this measure. I wish to place before the House certain views which I believe should be taken into consideration by the Government. The effect of the drought upon the pastoral industry can be much more severe than upon the cereal-growing industry. In cereal-growing, the farmer ploughs his land each year, sows his crop, harvests it and sells it. It is a yearly activity, and in good seasons a reasonable return will be obtained each year. If a drought does occur he may miss his income in one year, but provided that the following season is a good, one, his loss will be confined to one year only. Conditions in the pastoral industry are quite different. It takes years to produce a good flock of sheep or a herd of cattle. When a drought occurs live-stock raisers may find it necessary to sell portion^ of their flocks and herds. In many districts particularly in the north-west of New South Wales, and parts of ‘the north-west of Victoria, there is hardly a sheep or a bullock left of what were once valuable flocks and herds. This dispersal of- breeding stock cannot be made good in a year. In many instances breeding ewes and cows have been trucked to killing centres, and sold for beef or mutton, and when the pastoralist starts to stock up again he will find, not only that prices are extraordinarily high, but that it will be almost impossible to restock with sheep and cattle ot the quality of his former flocks anr herds. The reason for that is simple. Sheep and cattle raisers in normal circumstances sell only their culls or their old sheep and cattle. Therefore, a person who has been breeding live-stock over the years, and. who has bred an excellent flock of sheep of some particular type such as. Corriedales or Romney Marsh, may find that as the result of the drought all his good work over many years has been nullified in a few weeks. From that stand-point, the effect of drought on the pastoral industry generally, and the property owner in particular, is very severe indeed. The difficulties of this industry, which are apparent in the country between Yass and Canberra, are slight compared with those of the country out west. Surely those difficulties should have been recognized by the Government ! I trust that when the amendment is moved the Government will give sympathetic consideration to it, and recommend its acceptance.
– The point in support of the amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to which I draw particular attention, is the necessity to provide assistance for the growers of primary products other than cereal crops. It must be within the knowledge of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, not only that cereal-growers have suffered a devastating blow, but also that many live-stock owners are on the edge of ruin or are in serious financial embarrassment. The .bill, as presented, limits the assistance. to the growers of cereal crops. The knowledge that wc have of the devastation of drought, and of the fact that it does not stop at the boundaries of a wheat-field, and that rain does not fall only where the wool-owner is producing sheep, ought to make it self-evident that all farmers, graziers, stock-owners and other producers in the affected areas, whether they produce cereals or wool, should be equally entitled to the assistance of the States and the Commonwealth in their plight. From what has been said by Government supporters, one would imagine that the cereal-grower should be almost thankful for the fact that a serious drought has afflicted him, because it has enabled the nation to see what a beneficent Government is at the helm in these days, and what assistance can be provided by it. Judging by the speeches of certain honorable members opposite, one would almost think that the cereal-grower should regard the drought as a blessing, instead of a curse. Far from this Government having assisted the wheatgrower, it has, in fact - as the honorable member for Indi has so eloquently and ably pointed out- stolen £10,000,000 from him. It now proposes to restore to him only £1,500,000, thus showing a profit of £8,500,000 on the deal. Yet it parades itself as a benefactor of the unfortunate wheat-grower ! Honorable members opposite remind me somewhat of the “ crook “ who, for years, having robbed the public and amassed a huge fortune, donates one-tenth of his illgotten gains to the church or some charitable institution in order to “ square “ himself with his Maker. This alleged beneficence to the cereal-growers will not stand examination. Let me show what losses the wheat-grower has made. The wheat crop this year will total approximately 50,000,000 bushels. The genera] average production is approximately 150,000,000 bushels. Therefore, the industry is down by 100,000,000 bushels this year. The value of that deficiency, on an estimate of approximately 5s. a bushel throughout, would be £25,000,000. So the wheat-growers are £25,000,000 to the bad, without taking into account the £10,000,000 “ steal “. Yet honorable members opposite say that all their problems have been resolved, and that prosperity almost beams upon them, because, in place of the £25,000,000 lost by reason of the drought, this Government proposes to make available to them £1,500,000 ! Let us consider the facts and figures in relation to the expansion of credit since the outbreak of the war, in order to determine what measure of assistance has gone to the primary industries and whether or not the Government has really been generous to the primary producer. Since June, 1939, the note issue has increased from £107,000,000 to £189,000,000, an increase of £82,000,000. Treasury-bills have increased since June, 1941, from £1,750,000, to £343,000,000 at June, 1944. So there has been a total disclosed expansion of credit since the outbreak of the war of £423,250,000. I am not in possession of undisclosed figures, which we can assume total many millions of pounds. The cereal-grower is to receive from this Government only £1,500,000, yet he is expected to proclaim to the world its generosity ! How has the Government obtained surplus funds? Not by contracting expenditure in the various departments, but by the very simple process so ably expounded by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), of churning out a few more bank notes from the printing machine. The marvel to me is, that instead of making a grant of fJ.T.^,000 the Government has not made one of £15,000,000. That would be just as easy, and no greater problem to the Government.
– It would not be game to do so.
– In the light of its record, it would be game to do anything. What I am endeavouring to show, is, that there is no generosity in the grant and that it is simply a matter of the preservation of the life-blood of this country of men who are producing actual wealth from the land. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), and other honorable members who represent when* areas, have the audacity to give thanks lor something that is absolutely vital to the sustenance and maintenance of the people who are on the land. That is ludicrous in the extreme.
– As a responsible man, the honorable member is audacious in making such irresponsible statements.
– My statements will bear all the examination which the Minister may care to make when he is replying to the debate. I want to place some responsibility fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the honorable gentleman and his department for the plight, not particularly of the wheat-grower, but also of the stock-owner, who is unable to obtain the feed with which to keep his stock alive. Just prior to the previous Government going out of office, the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) established a Fodder Conservation Board, under the chairmanship of Mr. E. J. Eggins. When the present Government, assumed office, the Minister made appointments of his choice to that board, but the Government left the board without funds.
– That is incorrect. The sum of £500,000 was voted, and the board had the handling of more than £200,000. The sum of £150,000 was granted to New South Wales and £80,000 was granted to Queensland. The money was not used by the board. At Mr. Eggins’s own request the board was disbanded, because it could not secure the co-operation of the States.
– I am glad to have the admission by the Minister that the board appointed for the conservation of fodder established by the previous Government, disbanded at its own request, at a time when drought was threatening us, simply because it could not get the assistance of the Government to carry, out its functions.
– That is an absolute lie!
– I” take exception to that statement, and ask that the Minister be made to withdraw it.
– I did not hear the statement.
– Perhaps it may be more in keeping with the rules of the House if I say that the statement is absolutely untrue. I withdraw the word “ lie “.
– I accept the Minister’s withdrawal. The honorable gentleman says that my statement is incorrect. I merely quoted his own admission, that the Fodder Conservation Board, which was established to make provision to meet the very problems with which we are confronted to-day, was disbanded at its own request. There could be nothing inaccurate in that statement, because it was made by the Minister only a few minutes ago.
– The inaccurate part of the statement was, that the Government had given no assistance, whereas in fact funds were available to the board.
– The board disbanded for a certain reason. We have to examine that reason. Was it because it had too much work to do, or because it had too much fodder to conserve and could not handle it owing to lack of staff? The fact is that it disbanded because, owing to the policy of the Government, ‘there was not a ton of fodder to conserve. The Minister knows that that statement is absolutely accurate.
– I know it to be absolutely incorrect.
– In order to prove its accuracy, all that he has to do is to send, his officers through the country to try to purchase fodder for starving stock.
The responsibility for the inefficiency displayed in the handling of the fodder conservation problem stands squarely at the door of the Government and of the Minister.
– The board was disbanded on the definite understanding that the States were to take over and control “fodder conservation.
– The Minister now is seeking to “ pass the buck “ to the States. The States “pass the buck” to i he Commonwealth; and between the two authorities our sheep aru dying in tens of thousands. Under the powers conferred by the National Security Act, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Commonwealth Government have all the requisite authority to carry out whatever plan may be considered necessary for the implementation of that particular project, irrespective of whether or not the States agree to it. I know that the Minister is well-meaning, but that does not get us anywhere unless something is done to translate good intentions into deeds. Nothing has been done, and we are to-day suffering the consequences. It .is practically impossible to buy fodder on the north coast of New South Wales, and in other parts of the State ‘ it is available only in very small quantities. The Government should concern itself with this problem without delay. This is not the last drought that we shall have. We know from bitter experience that droughts follow one another in dismal procession. We may have seven fat years, but then the seven lean years will follow just as surely. Therefore, action should be taken now to prepare for future droughts. I know that the Minister has done much to secure the release of men from the Army, but the shortage of labour is one of the principal reasons for the short supplies of fodder.
– That, and the stupid fixing of prices.
– Yes, that was also responsible.
– If prices are not controlled in time of drought, the man who needs fodder will not be able to afford to buy it.
– Men should be released from the Army now so that they may cultivate land, and put in crops for the next harvest. Very few dairy-farmers have any reserves of fodder. There is practically no cultivation because the men are away, and the women are already doing more than should be expected, of them. I again point out that this drought affects many primary producers besides the growers of cereal crops. Graziers have suffered enormous losses of sheep, and they are entitled to some assistance. I presume that those who apply for relief under this scheme will be subjected to some sort of a means test.
– There will be no means test.
– Then, relief is to be distributed on the basis of previous crops?
– Something should bc done to afford relief to pastoralists and others, who have been hit by the drought. In their case, some other method of distribution would have to be devised, lt would not be suitable to make the distribution according to last year’s wool clip, for instance. 1 support the amendment. The wheat crop will be reduced this year from 150,000,000 bushels to 50,000,000 bushels, resulting in a loss of income to the growers of £25,000,000. Under this scheme it. is proposed that they shall receive relief amounting to only £3,000,000, of which the Commonwealth is to provide half and certain States half. This will still leave an income deficiency of more than £20,000,000. The proposed grant is inadequate even for the wheat industry, while nothing at all is to be done for the relief of other sections of primary producers.
– I support the bill, and 1 am also in favour of the amendment, the purpose of which is to provide relief for sections of the primary producers other than growers of cereal crops. T point out, however, that the granting of drought relief is only a palliative. It does not solve the problem of drought any more than the giving of medicines solves the problem of ill health. Experts have estimated that one drought can cost Australia as much as £200,000,000 in one year, yet we have never investigated proposals which might prevent such tremendous losses. “Water conservation is the most obvious way to prevent drought losses. The great losses which have occurred in the west are due to the fact that stock cannot be moved from the drought areas. There is no feed along the roads, so the stock cannot be driven, and, because the coal-miners will not work, stock cannot be moved by rail. We are talking of spending £50,000,000 upon the standardization of railway gauges. This expenditure will not increase the value of our national assets; it will merely increase our public debt, and it will probably also have the effect of increasing rail freights and fares, which are already too high.
The Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the State Governments, should evolve a national scheme of water conservation. Our great, waterways can be dammed, as we are assured by eminent authorities. Year after year, money is voted for drought relief, but the amount would not even pay interest on what is lost because of droughts. If water were conserved it would be possible to shift stock from drought-stricken areas to more-favoured country. We could produce and conserve fodder as an insurance against loss (by drought. Fodder would be always available if arrangements were made to reimburse those who are in a position to grow and stack it. The difficulty is not in producing fodder, but in holding it until it is needed. A scheme should be evolved under which farmers would be paid a fixed price for their stored fodder, so that it would be available for use in time of drought. This bill does not make any provision for the relief of western graziers, who will be the greatest losers from this drought. It must be admitted that they themselves have done very little to guard against the effects of drought. They have found water, it is true, but they should contribute to a fund from which to finance a fodder conservation scheme. In a very short time millions of pounds could be available for this purpose. -Then every farmer, no matter how small his area, could help to produce fodder against time of drought. No plough should be idle in a good season. Every little flat should have its fodder crop, and the farmers would know that when they stacked the fodder they would be paid a fair price for it. It is of no use attempting to make preparations in time of drought. They should be made in good seasons. I support the amendment because the scheme, as at present drawn, provides relief for grain growers only, and to that extent represents an injustice to other sections of the primary producers who are in need of relief.
– in reply - Honorable members have discussed practically everything but the bill. There have been some interesting speeches, particularly that from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on soil erosion. I am not prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen). I regard it as just so much political limelighting, . and as having no bearing on the bill. Of course, I do not dispute the statement that primary producers other than the cereal-growers are suffering from the effects of the drought. However, this is a cereal-growers’ relief measure, and it has been brought forward as the result of an agreement between the wheatgrowers and the Government reached after a deputation of the wheat-growers had waited upon me.
– Are any of the representatives of the wheat-growers organization employed in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture?
– Is the president of the Victorian Wheat Growers Organization employed in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture at a salary of £1,000 a year?
– I do not know who is president of the organization.
– Mr. Cullen is.
– Well, there is no law to prevent the employment of such a man.
– It may have some effect upon the advice which the Government received.
– It has had no such effect. Mr. Cullen was not appointed by the present Government, but by the Government of which the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party was a member.
– I am asking the Minister a straight question, and he is evading it. .
– The honorable member is suggesting that Mr. Cullen might prostitute his position by offering to the Government advice in his own interests. I regard that as a low-down allegation. The Wheat Growers Federation of Australia, led by the president, Mr. Lilley, approached me with a request for relief. I had received a deputation from the wheat-growers of one of the most drought-stricken areas of the Commonwealth, the Wimmera, who submitted proposals that have been embodied in this bill. This bill is the result of a decision by the Agricultural Council which was subsequently approved at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. That is why I refuse to accept the amendment.
– Was that conference convened simply to discuss wheat or drought relief generally?
– The meeting of the Agricultural Council was convened to discuss wheat. That is all I know, except that the matter was subsequently brought up and approved at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. This bill is the result of the agreement reached there that the Commonwealth should provide £1,500,000, and certain States an equal amount, for the relief of cereal-growers, with the proviso that if it were found that cerealgrowers in Western Australia were in necessitous circumstances owing to drought they should be brought under the scheme. I will not accept the amendment. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that it is only a piece of political propaganda designed to make it appear that they are the guardians of the primary producers. At the deputation, the president of the Wheat Growers Federation said to me, “ Mr. Minister, 1 want to assure you that we do not accept as spokesman for the wheat-growers of
Australia the representatives of any section of political thought. I feel that we are competent to express at all times the ideas of’ the wheat-growers “.
– Why were the other sections of primary producers left out? Why does this bill relate only to cereal-growers ?
– I should not expect the honorable member to understand, but there was no indication at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that relief was needed for the other sections, and I expect that if their position is brought forward, it will be dealt with in a similar manner.
– Is it a promise that if it is brought forward it will be dealt with similarly?
– I have no hesitation in saying that at all times the Government will give sympathetic consideration to any request made by primary producers in any distressed State of the Commonwealth. Millions of pounds worth of assistance has been given to other sections of primary producers by the provision of millions of bushels of wheat for stock feed at a special price. This bill is too urgent to allow its passage to be delayed. The distribution of the money will be left to the States concerned because, as some of the States have not yet finished harvesting, only a rough approximation can be made of- individual needs, and only the States concerned can determine the details. That is provided for in the agreement which was reached between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Will the Minister consider my suggestion that the plight of those engaged in the pastoral industry should be considered by the Government with a view to their being given similar treatment ?
– That will be considered.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. McEwen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
There shall be payable out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the amounts payable in accordance with this Act, but not exceeding in the whole the sum of One million five hundred thousand pounds, for the propone of financial assistance to the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, or such of those States as the Governor-General, having regard to the effects of drought on cereal crops in each of those States, determines.
– I move -
That after the word “ Victoria “ the word “ Queensland “ be inserted.
There should be recognition of and compensation for losses which Queensland farmers incur as the result of drought. I want to be sure that Queensland producers are not overlooked.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The purpose of this bill is to grant relief to cerealgrowers whose crops have been affected by the drought. The Premier of Queensland and the State Minister for Agriculture did not inform the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra recently, or the Australian Agricultural Council, that the Government of Queensland desired to participate in the distribution of this grant. I understand that wheat-growers in Queensland have an all-time record crop. For that reason alone, I cannot accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment. The objection raised by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is irrelevant. He declared that Queensland is enjoying a record wheat crop. So far as the State generally is concerned, that is correct; but certain parts of Queensland, particularly the electorate of Maranoa, are encountering one of the most severe droughts in their history. This grant will be distributed to settlers in some States in areas affected by the drought, and the distribution will be made by the State governments. If Queensland were included in the bill, the same conditions would apply.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr.Riordan),This amendment proposes to alter the destination of the appropriation recommended in the Administrator’s message. Therefore, it is not competent for the Chair to accept the amendment.
– I rise to order. I remind the Chair that the amendment does not propose to increase the appropriation.
– That is so, but the amendment will alter the destination set out in the message.
– A non-official member may not move to increase the amount of an appropriation of money recommended by the Governor-General, but this amendment doesnot seek to do so; it seeks only to vary the area in which the money may be distributed. Therefore, I contend, with respect, that the ruling of the Chair is bad.
– It is true that the amendment does not propose to increase the appropriation; but it does propose to alter the destination, and therefore it is not competent for the Chair to accept it.
-I differ from the Chair on that point.
– I rise to order.
Clause 3 states -
Thereshall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund . . . the sum of £1,500,000. for the purpose of financial assistance to the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, or such of those States as the Governor-General . . determines.
The effect of the amendment is to make the destination more specific. Queensland is actually included in the words.” Or such of those States as the Governor-General . . determines”. If the Chair insists that the amendment is out of order, I shall submit a motion of dissent.
– The Chair has given its ruling, and is supported by authorities. The Chair willnot permit its ruling to be argued.
– I rise to order. I should like the Chair to name the authorities that support its ruling. At the same time, I point out that the Chair is the authority. The Chairman has no right to callon any authority to support his ruling. If, in fact, the Chairman does so, he displays incompetency.
– Order ! The honorable member may not argue with the Chair.
-i move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– The message from the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth, as read by Mr. Speaker, was as follows : -
In accordance with the requirements of section fifty-six of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth recommends to the House of Representatives that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of abill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purpose of making grants to certain States for the purpose of drought relief.
The States are not indicated . I am strongly of opinion that a bill brought in under a message, which names four States, and to which the name of another State is later added, is still within the expression, “ For the purpose of making grants to certain States “. The matter would have been different had the Administrator’s message read, “For the purpose of making grants to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia “.
– Can the right honorable gentleman say what are the “ certain States “ referred to in the Administrator’s message?
– Not from the message alone.
– But from the surrounding circumstances?
– I think not. The message leaves that completely at large. The bill itself names the States. What the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) seeks to do is to amend the bill. The only objection which was taken to his amendment was that it is outside the terms of the Administrator’s message; yet, in the language of the message, the addition of a State could not be outside the terms;
-I protest against the Chairman’s ruling. It places an intolerable restriction upon the freedom of the committee to vary a proposal of this nature. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) desires to make a geographic extension of the area within which these moneys may be disbursed. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) declared, this is a measure to give relief to cerealgrowers in drought-stricken areas. The bill itself defines “ cereal “ as “ wheat, oats, and barley “ ; but those are not the only cereals, and I believe that I am competent to move for the inclusion of rye.
– Or canary seed.
– Quite so. To circumscribe the competence of the committee to deal with the disbursement of public moneys so as to make it impossible for this chamber to add another cereal to those set out in the measure, the purpose of which is to assist growers of cereals, appears to me to abrogate the whole usefulness of the committee and the whole purpose of deliberation. I am not competent legally to argue the fine points of the Administrator’s message, but it seems that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has disposed entirely of the grounds for the ruling by showing that States are not named in the message.
– If the ruling be correct, it would not be competent for this committee to omit the name of one of those States set out in the bill.
– Yet the Minister, in his second-reading speech, made it clear that although Western Australia was named in the bill, there was no certain intention of disbursing any of the money to be appropriated in that State. Surely it would be no less proper to include Queensland without there being a definite intention to disburse money in Queensland,than to include Western Australia, as it has been included with the reservation that there is at least a likelihood, if not an expectation, that no money will be disbursed in that State. If we cannot extend the geographic limits proposed by the bill, and increase the number of cereals, the Government should have disbursed this money by statutory rule, and not gone through the farce of introducing a bill into this Parliament.
– So far as my knowledge goes, Standing Order 171 is the only Standing Order dealing with this matter and it is clear, concise, and specific. It reads -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax Tate or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member of any committee on any bill.
Referring to the index, I find the word “money”, and am asked to refer to “ tax “, so that apparently, according to the committee which drew up these Standing Orders, tax, money, rate, and duty are synonymous terms. The position is. ridiculous. It is only in respect of the appropriation of money that the Governor-General or the Administrator is required under section 56 of the Constitution to send a recommendation to the House in which the proposal originated. The message has nothing to do with destination or area. It relates solely to the amount, and has nothing to do with geography, time, or space. According to the Standing Orders, the ruling of the Chair is bad. I invite the Chairman to state under what standing order, other than 171, which will not sustain him, he has given his ruling. So far as my knowledge goes, that is the only Standing Order which deals with amendments that are not admissible in committee.
This matter has arisen before and it should be settled. It means that so long as this Government maintains its slavish and subservient majority, no doubt honorable members opposite will follow it anywhere on anything, right, wrong, or indifferent, arising under the Standing Orders. If this ruling be upheld, the committee will always be bound by whatever interpretation the Chair - I am not addressing the Chairman personally - for the time being likes to place on the limitations that the Chair considered were contained or implied in the message from the Governor-General. That is an utterly intolerable position. I remind honorable members opposite that a principle affecting the right of the private member arises here. Whilst I agree on the right of the Crown to recommend an appropriation and an increase of an appropriation, duty, rate, or tax, I cannot accept the contention that there is anything in the Standing Orders, or in procedure, or in the history of the House of Commons which says that the Crown has the right to prescribe, limit, and define such things as area, destination, time, space, manner, and method. Therefore, I contend that the ruling is bad and should be dissented from.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.55 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Any amount granted and paid to a State under this act shall be paid to that State upon condition -
That it is applied by that State, in a manner approved by the Minister, for the purpose of the alleviation of hardship suffered, in consequence of drought, by persons concerned in the production of cereal crops ; and
– I propose to move the amendment which I foreshadowed in my second-reading speech. Its purpose is to bring about a state of affairs in which the expenditure of the total sum of money, State and Commonwealth, will not be subject entirely to the approval of the Commonwealth Minister as is now proposed. I move -
That the words “a manner approved by the Minister “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “accordance with any agreement or agreements made or to be made between the Commonwealth and that State”.
In other words, the amendment is designed to procure co-operative control by agreement, instead of control solely by the Commonwealth Minister.
.- I agree that there should be a provision conferring upon the State governments some authority over the distribution of the money which they contribute. As I understand the present proposal it is that £1,500,000 is to be provided by the Commonwealth under this legislation conditional upon a similar sum being voted by certain States. The measure, as at present drafted, provides that this total sum shall be distributed in a manner decided upon by the Commonwealth Minister. That seems to me to be a bad principle. Surely it is only right that the States should have some authority to determine the conditions upon which their own funds are to be expended. In the second place, certain executive acts of this Government, some of them under the administration of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), have at the very least placed limits upon my confidence. This is a bill to aid growers of oats and barley as well as wheat-growers. I recall that some time ago, completely disregarding the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, a rural workers’ award was made under National Security Regulations, prescribing wages to be paid to employees engaged in the harvesting of cereals and in other rural work. That is the most extraordinary award of which I have ever heard. Apart from the fact that it represents a complete departure from accepted arbitration principles, it means that men may be employed harvesting oats or wheat in certain paddocks of a farm to-day and be paid the wages prescribed by the special award, whereas to-morrow they may be harvesting pasture hay in an adjoining paddock and be covered by a different award.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I submit that my remarks are directly associated with this measure. I was about to point out that although on a later occasion an authority was established to set out harvest awards, the Minister, in exercising his discretion in the disbursement of the money provided in this legislation, might easily introduce some new conditions regarding the payment of wages on farms. That is why I should like to see the State governments have a say in the matter. I remind the committee’ that although under the administration of the present, Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ltd. a bushel has been added to the price of wheat entirely on account of the rural workers’ award, there has been no corresponding addition to the price of barley or oats. That is’ typical of the extraordinary, uri’ just and completely unjustifiable decisions which have been made by the Commerce Department. I am bound to say that I have not sufficient confidence to leave the distribution of this money, and the money to be made available by certain States, entirely to the mercy of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Therefore I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who. has provided that the distribution of this money should be made in accordance with conditions decided upon by the Commonwealth and Sta’te governments concerned, rather than at the arbitrary direction of the Commonwealth Minister, whose previous decisions in matters of this kind do not inspire confidence. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
.- I hope that the Minister for Commerce arid Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will not accept this amendment for the very opposite reasons to those’ advanced by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Facts show that primary producers in this country will have far greater confidence if this matter” is left to the generous administration of the’ Minister for Commerce arid Agriculture, than they would have if the decisions had to be made wholly or partly by the States.
– The States are providing an equal sum of money.
– Yes, the Commonwealth is providing £1,500,000 whilst certain States collectively will provide a similar sum. I am not concerned with that aspect of the matter. 1 am concerned only with the welfare of those individuals who are to be recipients of this financial assistance. I have too fresh in my mind the conditions which State Ministers imposed upon the farmers in times of distress in the past to allow any of this money to be controlled by the States.
– To which State Ministers is the honorable member referring?
– Particularly to the Premier of Victoria. At the last Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers it was he who wished to make this money available as a ‘loan, subject to the payment of interest. He is the type of man who, if this amendment were carried, would have a big say iri the administration of the scheme. Under this measure the money will be applied by the States, but should any State not make the disbursement in an approved manner, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have the final determination. I hope that the committee will reject the amendment.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). However, I was most impressed by the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech. He wag one of the few Opposition members who made a useful contribution to the debate. Also he confined his remarks to the bill, and his suggestions were most useful.
The provision of drought relief was decided upon at the last meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers at which all governments were represented, and this bill is in accordance with the understanding reached at that conference. Acceptance of the amendment would not improve the bill because details of the plans are being discussed with the States. The argument that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will dictate how the States shall expend their own money is riot valid. The Minister win approve the method by which the
States concerned will distribute the joint funds of the Commonwealth and the States. The funds will be subscribed jointly, and the payments will be made by the States under Commonwealth approval, but the Commonwealth will not dictate the basis of payment. That is quite fair. In fact the basis of payment has been recommended by a committee on which the Commonwealth and all the States concerned were represented. The clause as it now stands is preferred to the amendment, as it will not prevent an agreement either formal or informal being reached, and it will provide flexi- bility, which is most desirable when dealing with several States. This measure was drafted after discussions, not only with the Agricultural Council, but also at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. There was complete agreement upon the particular point concerning which the Leader of the Opposition has now moved an amendment. There was also unanimity in the deliberations of the committee to which I referred.
– We may take it, then, that discussions with the States in relation to this matter will continue?
– Definitely. It is hoped that the discussions will bo on an amicable basis. In no circumstances would I attempt to dictate terms which would be objectionable to any State.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move-
That the amendment of the Press and Broadcasting Censorship Order under the National Security (General) Regulations, dated the 18th May, 1944, and notified in Gazette No. 101, be disallowed.
It is some time since the occurrence of the events of which I am now about to complain, and upon which I wish to make some comments, particularly in relation to the method in which a certain order under a regulation was dispensed with without consultation with Parliament, and another regulation, purporting to cover a settlement between certain Sydney newspapers and the illustrious Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and some of his colleagues, was devised. I may say at the outset that the action last April of which either the Minister or one of his subordinates was guilty was one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable things that have ever happened in the history of this Commonwealth. We had just finished debating a bill for submission to the people of Australia, dealing with the freedom of the press, when the Minister for Information went to Sydney and promptly suspended the publication of four newspapers. In addition, he was guilty of suspending publication of a few more. In time of war, there is always a certain number of regulations, under which Ministers are entitled to exercise a good deal of power within very wide limits, and the kind of administration that we get depends upon the discretion which the Minister uses and the judgment which actuates his decisions. In this instance, we can put our finger very careflully, perhaps tenderly, on that very soft spot of the ministerial judgments that are made in time of war, judgments from which, usually, there is no appeal whatever. There is hardly a regulation, in the very considerable volume of regulations that we have to-day, under which some Minister, or the delegate of some Minister, is not empowered to do certain things without reference to a court, but just on his say-so or the say-so of one of his advisers. But before a Minister presumes to inflict penalties upon the taxpayer, the citizen, or any company or organization carrying on its lawful business and going about its lawful avocations in this community, there are certain considerations which should be taken very carefully into account. The first of these, I believe, is that the offence should be known to be an offence by the person whom he proposes to punish. The second is, that the penalty should not be inflicted until some reasonable warning of impending doom had been given to one who might - perhaps in many circumstances people have - unwittingly have disobeyed one of the .multifarious regulations that govern us to-day.
– That is a departure from the well-known dictum that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
– I do not want to get into a debate with my legal friend from Batman (Mr. Brennan), because I would not stand any chance of succeeding. The third thing is - in the words of that very well-known play of Gilbert and Sullivan’s, the Mikado - the punishment should fit the crime.
– Those arguments also apply to wireless stations.
– They do, and with very great effect. Let me say to my rather vocal friend from Bourke (Mr. Bryson), that when I closed down a wireless station I received an apology from the people who owned it, and what I did was in accordance with the law of this country. Furthermore, I went to Sydney and met three of the directors of that company six weeks beforehand, and advised them of the doom that would overtake them if they did not mend their ways. They preferred to go upon their simple ways, and the “ good Samaritan “ caught up with them on the track, some time later. “We have to examine, in some small detail, the conditions which prevailed in Sydney at the time when the Minister for Information made his famous but mysterious journey to that city. The first thing to understand is, whether or not the Sydney newspapers concerned were guilty of having committed any breach against military security, the maintenance of supplies, and all the other rigmarole which the regulations contained.
– The only person to judge in that case was the person to whom the authority had been given to administer the regulations, and not the newspapers.
– At no stage of the proceedings has the Minister for Information had the hardihood to endeavour in this House to put a case justifying the action which he then took.
– I was never prouder of anything in my life.
– The honorable gentleman has never been so silent about anything.
– The honorable gentleman has never given me an opportunity to reply to his charges.
– I give it now. Even this honorable gentleman has never had the hardihood, up to date, to come to the treasury bench in this House and attempt to justify anything that he did, or anything to which he was a party, on that occasion. It appears that we must first ask whether the things complained of by the Department of Information - its Minister, its head, or heaven knows who ; we have not been informed - were detrimental to the safety of this country or the prosecution of the war, or obstructive of the good defence and the proper government of the Commonwealth in time of war. The Minister will be very hard put to it to decide these matters. He has to show, in his reply, whether his action was or was not based entirely upon different motives altogether, motives which had nothing whatever to do with the prosecution of the war. He must take his stand on one of three pieces of ground.
– I shall take my stand on ground of my own choosing.
– The honorable gentleman will have to choose one of the three that I am about to mention; otherwise, he will have to indulge in a rather favorite pastime of his, that ofl evading the issue completely. In his reply, he must first show whether or not he took this action in order to safeguard the nation or the interests of the nation. Then, he must show whether he took this action in order to vindicate authority rather than to safeguard the nation. Then, he must show whether he took this action in order to prevent certain political criticism of the Government, and of himself and others associated with it. I want to hear the Minister on those three grounds. The next thing that I want to know from him is whether his action was taken of his own volition, or whether he was acting at the request and upon the advice of the DirectorGeneral of Information, or the Chief Publicity Censor, or whatever he may be called ; there are so many titles nowadays that we do not really need any knighthoods. I want to know whether the Minister secured legal advice from the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General or some other properly accredited legal authority, before he did this.
– The answer is “ Yes “.
– When the Minister replies, I want to have that adviser identified. There are very urgent reasons justifying our having some knowledge of the legal foundations on which this action was taken.
– I acted on the advice of the Solicitor-General.
– Much as I respect that gentleman, I affirm that, in a matter of this sort, the advice of the Solicitor-General is not enough. The proper authority to give advice to any Minister is not the Solicitor-General but the Attorney-General, who is the legal head of the Government and the legal authority to whom any Minister ought to appeal and look for advice before taking extraordinary action. When we consider the method of suppression adopted, we find that there were certain most extraordinary features. For the first time in the administration of the ordinary civil law of this community, so far as my knowledge goes, either the Minister for Information, or somebody acting on his behalf, saw fit to introduce the use or the threat of arms in the carrying out of what, after all, was entirely a civil responsibility, a civil decision, a ministerial judgment; not the judgment of a court, not the judgment of any properly constituted authority outside the Minister, but something which the Minister decided to do under the authority with which he is clothed as a Minister of State by an order under certain regulations in a time of war. We have to look at the effect on the community of action of that kind. About a fortnight ago, in this House, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) made some remarks on the subject of public morale. No action during this war has had a greater effect on public morale than had the extraordinary and unprecedented action of. the Minister for Information.
– In fact, so much so that had the Japanese landed at Sydney Heads on that day the incident would have been back-page news, because the people were very much more concerned to discover what had actuated the honorable gentleman than about some other matters which, in my view, were entitled to precedence.
There is another explanation which I want from the Minister. I have not all the newspaper clippings with me. These are matters of history, but they are also matters of interest to this House. There was a most interesting exchange of -telegrams between the Minister for Information and the Premier of New South Wales, messages which I read with a great deal of interest, and in which you, Mr. Speaker, might have revelled in former times; I know that, at present, your duties would not allow you to do anything of the sort. There were the demands that were made on the acting head of the Government, the same person who is the acting head of it to-day, by the different party leaders. Another extraordinary feature of the whole transaction is that the requests of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) were not only ignored, but also, I consider, treated with contumely. The Ministry, apparently, felt completely secure in its position, and completely safe in relying upon the absolute acquiescence of its overwhelming majority. Therefore, the Minister for Information was able to adopt the attitude that he was not accountable to party leaders while the Parliament was not in session, and was not accountable to anybody in this country for the extraordinary actions which he took. Then, there was the reference of the dispute to the Parliamentary Censorship Committee, then sitting, of which the Acting Leader of the Government was the chairman. I am not sure as to whether or not he had resigned the chairmanship at that stage. I have never been able to understand why he accepted the position, seeing that he never attended, a meeting, and that he got out in quick time. The Minister for Information and myself, at any rate, were members of that committee. Although the Government was asked to refer this matter to the committee, which had been appointed to deal with matters in relation to censorship, it refused absolutely its consent to that course being adopted.
– That is not true. The committee was dissolved because of the improper conduct of one of its members, before it had reached that matter.
– That is a most unwarranted and ridiculous suggestion. The committee was in being for months after this incident. It did not meet for weeks after the incident, and did not attempt to carry out the duties which it had been appointed to discharge. If there was one matter of a special character which justifiably could have been referred to the committee, it was an investigation of the circumstances in which the Minister for Information had taken this extraordinary action. The matter concerned, not only what the Government decided to do; the Government was not the only party to do it. There was also the question of what the newspapers decided to do. ,So far as I can see, they had three alternatives open to them : They might appeal to the Government, which they did ; and, as one might expect, without any degree of success. They might appeal to the committee ; but they did not. Or they might go to the courts, which they did. There was a succession of court cases, arising out of the action of the Minister for Information. There was an appeal to the High Court, and subsequently a hearing by another court, which I believe is called the Court of Petty Sessions.
– Tell us about the committee on privileges which reported in respect of charges made by the honorable gentleman.
– The report of that committee was quite all right. T. was offered an apology, and received one on the following day, as the honorable member well knows.
– Did not that committee find that there was no basis for the complaints of the honorable member?
– When I had a look at the personnel of the committee, I said that frankly I would not bc surprised at anything which it might report. There is sv.ch a thing as going to law with the devil and holding the court in hell. However, I have had similar experiences- before, and have survived them.
– It was a unanimous decision.
– The reference was very restricted. However, if the Minister for Information wishes to re-open the matter I have no objection. I have plenty of fresh evidence, some of which has come to light within the last few days. From the Court of Petty Sessions an appeal was carried to the Supreme Court, and then the matter went back to the High Court. This business of appealing from one court to another is of great importance to an ordinary citizen. Not many people can take tie financial risk involved in fighting government regulations through the courts, and that is the only reason why so many of the actions of Ministers, and of officials to whom ministerial power is delegated, have gone unchallenged. Only people whose financial resources are as strong as those of the metropolitan daily newspapers can afford the luxury of going to law with the Government.
One of the most extraordinary features of this affair was that it seemed to be impossible at one sitting of the court for the judges and barristers to reach any agreement regarding what had occurred at the previous day’s sitting. It is clear, however, that something was done in a very amateurish, inept, and awkward way, so that the judges and lawyers were not able to come to any clear agreement even as to what bad happened in court, notwithstanding that shorthand notes of the proceedings had been taken. After some moving from one court to another, and after various adjournments, the Chief Justice of the High Court finally appeared in an entirely new role. I am one of those who have kindly feelings towards the Chief Justice, but I cannot understand why, on an issue which called for an interpretation of the Constitution, he should see fit to suggest to the litigants that they might confer in an endeavour to reach a settlement. When a litigant challenges in the High Court the validity of a Commonwealth regulation, or an action taken under that regulation, there can be no such thing as compromise. In such a case the court is constituted primarily, if not solely, for the purpose of determining the rights of citizens and other interests under the Constitution. I trust that this will prove to be the last time that a. member of the High Court bench will adopt the role of mediator, and suggest that the parties should compromise on an issue involving the interpretation of the Constitution. If the Attorney-General were still a brother judge, instead of being merely a kind of step-brother, I am sure he would agree with me.
The only matters to be determined were, first, whether the order issued under the regulations under which the “Minister or his minions took certain action was valid ; secondly, if the order was valid, was the action of the Minister or his subordinates a valid exercise of the power conferred by the order. Strangely enough, these essential points were neither discussed nor resolved. The issue was determined, not in open court, but behind closed doors, between representatives of the Government and of the daily newspapers. In this matter, an important principle affecting public administration was involved. Either the action of the Minister for Information was right or it was wrong. Either it was defensible or it was indefensible, and in either case, the matter should not have been determined as this one was. Parliament has not been told who were the representatives of the Commonwealth Government who took part in the conference with the newspapers’ proprietors, nor the terms of the settlement reached. In answer to a question I have been informed that each party paid its own costs, and I am not surprised at that, but I have not yet been told what were the terms of settlement. It is extraordinary that out of a settlement so reached there should emerge the order of which I am now complaining, and which I am asking Parliament to disallow. I propose to read part of the regulation, because I believe it should be recorded in Hansard. The relevant part is as follows : -
Powers of publicity censors. 12a. Every direction, order or prohibition issued, given or made under this Order by a Publicity Censor in relation to the publication of any matter shall be issued, given or made solely by reference to the requirements of defence security, as they exist at the time of publication or proposed publication of the matter in question.
Limitation of power to seize. 12b. The power conferred on a Publicity
Censor by paragraph 12 of this Order to authorize the seizure of copies of a newspaper, periodical or other publication may be exercised only in cases where immediate and obvious danger to defence security is likely to arise from the circulation of the newspaper, periodical Or other publication.
Power of Supreme Court to order suppression. 12c. - (1.) Where a person is convicted under paragraph 11 of this Order, the Commonwealth may, within seven days after the conviction, make application to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of the State in which the conviction takes place for an order directing that during the period specified in the order the newspaper or periodical in relation to which the conviction took place shall not be published. (2.) Notice of such application shall be served upon the proprietor and publisher of the newspaper or periodical. (3.) The Full Court of the Supreme Court of the State shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the application. (4.) On the hearing of the application the Court shall take into consideration the seriousness of the contravention in respect of which the conviction took place and the extent to which previous contraventions have occurred in the case of newspaper or periodical. (5.) The Court may at any time vary any such order upon further application either of the Commonwealth orof the proprietor or publisher of the newspaper or periodical.
General principles of censorship. 12d. In the administration of this Order the following general principles shall be applied : -
Censorship shall be imposed exclusively for reasons of defence security. Owing to the many and changing phases of the war, “defence security “ cannot be exhaustively defined. Primarily, “ defence security “ relates to the armed forces of all’ the Allied Nations and to all the operations of war. It covers the suppression of information useful to the enemy. It may at times include particular aspects of Australia’s war-time relationship with other countries. Censorship shall not be imposed merely for the maintenance of morale or the prevention of despondency or alarm. Censorship shall not prevent the reporting of industrial disputes or stoppages. Criticism and comment, however strongly expressed shall be free. Mere exaggeration or inaccuracy shall not be a ground tor censorship. “Defence security “ shall be the governing principle for every application of censorship.
It sounds more like an excerpt from the Koran than from a government regulation. The most delicious part of it is that which says that mere exaggeration or inaccuracy shall not be a ground for censorship. Such a provision is certainly necessary in the interests of some newspapers, because, if all exaggerations and inaccuracies were expunged from their pages, they would be very much reduced in size.
– I thought that the regulation was introduced for the express purpose of satisfying the honorable member himself.
– I was not consulted about it. One thing above all others which I expected to be raised in this House in a vigorous manner as soon as it met after the newspapers had ceased publication was this issue, but, up to date, it has not been raised. It now comes as a motion by me for the disallowance of the order. I consider that the terms of that settlement are not only the terms disclosed in the order but that there are some secret terms. I believe that certain threats were made to the Government and that no Government ever raised the white flag so quickly as did this Government of which the Minister for Information is a vociferous supporter. It is open to question whether two leading .Sydney pressmen were “not given trips to England at the country’s expense as a part of the settlement arrived at in the dark hours of early morning.
– That is wrong.
– The Treasurer may deny it if he likes. I am simply asking for information. We have had none up to date.
– What evidence has the honorable gentleman for his allegation?
– Allegation ! I am asking questions. I said it was open to question whether they were not sent abroad at the country’s expense. It is a remarkable thing that the two men went immediately after the settlement took place. It is open to question whether their trip was’ not amongst the secret terms of settlement.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that I should give a trip to any newspaper baron at public expense ?
– I do not think the Minister would give anything to anybody. My view is that he would be perfectly loyal to the Scotch name of Calwell.
– At any rate he gives us no information.
– No. There are points which require clearing up. Matters of this description can never be satisfactorily settled behind, closed doors. The Government should have come into Parliament in July last, when Parliament met for the first time after the incident and volunteered a statement on this most extraordinary transaction.
– Why did the honorable member not ask for one?
– It would be a waste of time. One would never get it from the Minister. I now leave it to him to make the best .case he can on behalf of the Government.
– I find that there is not very much for me to answer in the volume of. verbosity of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). He said nothing fresh, but merely rehashed in part the story of the censorship dispute and put his own interpretation upon certain happenings, real andi fanciful, which he thinks were associated with the dispute or its settlement. If the House disallows this order, there will be no censorship to protect this nation against the actions of any persons unfriendly to it. I have no doubt that the House will not do as he suggests, that is, leave this country without any power to maintain proper censorship of newspapers and broadcasting stations in Australia. How this matter comes to be raised is strange. The Opposition, since April, has never thought fit to move the adjournment of the House on the matter, ask pertinent questions about it, or call for any reports or files. Now, on the 24th November, many months after the happenings in Sydney of April last, a backbench member raises the matter of the dispute, not on a specific motion, but in an oblique way by trying to disallow the order under which the censorship is now exercised. I thought the honorable gentleman was going to devote some attention to criticism of and comparison between the censorship order that existed before the dispute and the new order that replaced it, but, instead of doing what every reasonable person would expect him to do, he just engaged in a tirade of abuse of me and the Government because we defended the interests of the nation. He asked what our motives were and said, “ You shall have to say ‘ Yes ‘ to one of three grounds upon which I suggest you took action “. He made a right choice, because his No. 1 suggestion was that the Government acted to defend the interests of the nation. The officers of my department and I had no other motive at any time during the dispute than to protect the interests of the nation against a number of people in the press world of Sydney whose itching desire to make money transcended any patriotic instincts they may have had. These people were prepared to jeopardize the fate of this nation in order to bc able to write what stories they thought the public should be permitted to read, and to deny the right of any official appointed’ by the Government to say whether, for security reasons, those stories should be published. The regulations under which action was taken were promulgated in the first instance by the Menzies Government, and they were drawn up in all probability by the first Director-General of Information, Sir Keith Murdoch. The DirectorGeneral of Information who took action against ‘ the newspapers, Mr. E. G. Bonney, was appointed Chief Publicity Censor by the Menzies Government when he was editor of the Melbourne Argus. He was never associated with Labour journalism, and no one would suggest that the Argus is a journal which gives expression to any democratic or progressive thought.
– Does the Minister for Information really say that what was written affected the security of the country?
– The Government supported: by the honorable gentleman appointed the Chief Publicity Censor, who has the sole responsibility of determining an issue. We did not at any time interfere with his discretion. Neither I nor my predecessor the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), nor the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), -while he was exercising the censorship powers, at any time or in any circumstances influenced or tried to influence the judgment of the Chief Publicity Censor upon any matter which came before him for censorship.
– Then the full responsibility was his?
– The responsibility was his, and I, as the responsible Minister, supported him to the utmost once he decided to take action. When he told me of the incipient revolution in the Sydney newspaper offices and that, certain action might have to be taken to uphold the law. I asked him if he had consulted the Solicitor-General upon the powers that we might be called upon to exercise. He told me that he had done so and that the Solicitor-General had expressed the opinion that we should be entitled to seize the newspapers if they were published, in defiance of a censorship order that articles in such newspapers were not to be published. That being so, I had not the slightest hesitation in saying to him, “ Well, if you go ahead, I will support you in all you do and accept full ministerial responsibility for everything you do”. It is true that the Solicitor-General’s opinion of the law was different from that of some justices on the High Court bench, but I still prefer to believe that the SolicitorGeneral is a better lawyer than some members of the High Court bench. The honorable member for Barker has taken it upon himself to reflect upon the Chief Justice for the action that he took in the case. It was a perfectly legitimate exercise of his judicial functions for the Chief Justice to take the ease himself and eventually make a decision upon it.
Some other people, perhaps, did not like his action. I am told that some of his brother justices were not pleased, but, because the honorable gentleman or some other people are dissatisfied, that does not make the action of the Chief Justice wrong or improper. If the honorable member can reflect, as he has done, upon the Chief Justice for his action”, I can, I presume, express my views on the actions of several other justices in the case. I believe that the law was undeniably on the side of the Government in the action taken and that, if it had been taken by another government, the High Court’s judgment would have been considerably different. At any rate, a rather disgraceful spectacle was presented to the people of Australia ‘by the conduct of two justices in that case when the matter was mentioned to them on the Monday morning. Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Rich threw away their wigs when they took their seats on the High Court bench and openly barracked for the press. It is a matter of very great regret that the matter was not viewed with judicial calm. Mr. Justice Starke said, “Why can’t I read what I want to read in my morning newspaper ? “ He presumed to usurp the function of the Chief Publicity Censor. The issue he’ had to decide was whether the Chief Publicity Censor had acted within the law. His Honour set himself ivp in judgment of the actions of the Chief Publicity Censor iii exercise of his discretionary powers, and the case was prejudiced right from the start. The case was eventually finished, and as a result of a Cabinet decision a new censorship regulation was gazetted. Still we find that some Sydney newspaper proprietors are prepared to disregard entirely the safety of this country and to jeopardize the fate, not only of the people of Australia, but of Australian prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, in order to get what they call “ a good story “ for the people of Sydney.
– Does the Minister seriously say that?
– I do, and I will name the man. Some few months ago I was in Cowra talking on the referendum when some Japanese prisoners of war broke out of camp. I actually met a military convoy searching for the Japanese when I was on my way from Orange on the Saturday night. I discovered, after consultation with officers of my department, that Mr. Packer, of the Daily Telegraph, had, in defiance of an instruction, published stories of that escape. He was told that the military authorities had laid it down as a firm rule that nothing beyond a report from Land Head-quarters was to be published, because anything else might jeopardize the fate of Australian prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. Instead of that, Mr. Packer published a story in the second edition of the Sunday Telegraph. On Sunday evening, he was threatened that if he repeated the offence and did anything which would jeopardize the lives of Australian prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, he would be dealt with. He said that he was just as good a judge of these matters as any censor. He actually went to the head-quarters of the Sydney Morning Herald to see what support he could get for another act of defiance against the Government. He did not tell us that, but he said that he would have to consult the management of the Sydney Morning Herald to see what attitude it would adopt. The Sydney Morning Herald, to its credit, faithfully observed the instruction which was issued to it. So did every other newspaper in Australia. When he could not get another newspaper to stand in with him in an act of defiance, and when he could not publish photographs, which I believe he had, of Japanese hanging dead in the hills after they had committed hari kari, he showed what he was. He turned “yellow”, and did not “pull on “ another fight with the Government.
Twice within a period of six months the people of Sydney were denied newspapers by the actions of newspaper barons. What I said at the time of. the censorship dispute, I repeat now, that there are more fifth columnists in newspaper offices in Australia on the proprietorial, managerial and editorial level than there are in any other walk of life. I make no apology for the opinion which I offer about the press. At some time or other every honorable member in this House has had reason to criticize the press and to feel bitter at the manner in which newspapers have dealt with matters of public moment, and the manner in which they malign, slander and traduce members of all parties. The honorable member for Barker took legal proceedings against the Sydney Daily Telegraph for a filthy libel against him, and he had the sympathy of every honorable member for the treatment that was meted out to him. He is not the only one who has had reason to make strong protests against misrepresentation by the press. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, he denounced in unmeasured terms the Sydney Morning Herald for the manner in which it distorted and misrepresented decisions of his Government.
I wonder why the honorable member for Barker, at this late hour, raised this issue. Is he the representative, in this chamber, of the press barons, as some other honorable members opposite are the spokesmen for the banks, and others are the spokesmen for the managements of interstate airlines? Is he really concerned with the safety of this country, or is he advocating special privileges for particular vested interests? Is he making speeches to try to get donations for the funds of the new Liberal organization, with which to fight the next election campaign, or is he concerned with the protection and salvation of Australia? I am sure that his motive in bringing forward this issue to-day was not a noble one. He does not object to the exercise of power. No one exercised power more ruthlessly than he did when he was Minister for the Navy and Postmaster-General. He closed broadcasting station 2KY, which was owned by the Labour party, and exercised powers which were vested in him by the act. He made no apology for having done so, and does not propose to apologize for it now. I am in exactly the same position regarding the Sydney newspapers and the rest of the newspapers in Australia that defied the censorship order. They broke the law. They should have been punished. Mr. Packer could be punished now for theaction that he took over theCowra incident. There cannot be a state within a state, or a nation within a nation, and newspaper executives are just as liable before the law as any other member of the community. All this vaunted freedom of the press on the part of newspaper magnates will not permit views to be published which they do not desire to be published. There is no such thing as freedom of the press, except for those who own and control the newspapers of Australia. When the honorable member talks about freedom of the press, and associates it with the referendum campaign, he is just indulging in that usual persiflage for which he is so properly notorious. Members of the Opposition, had they so desired, could have made a case upon this issue at any time in the last six months. I do not consider thatI should waste any more time in answering the charges made by the honorable member for Barker who, after all, represents no one but himself. He has taken this action on his own initiative. He has not consulted any party. The party to which he formerly belonged has not given him any support upon the issue, and his present allies in the Liberal party or the “ bitzer “ party -bits of this and bits of that - are not disposed to give him any better support. But all this is tied up with a campaign to try to destroy and discredit this Government. Those attempts will fail on every other issue as they will fail upon this censorship issue.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) read a first time.
Royal Australian Navy: War Service - Landlord and Tenant Regulations - Trade with India - Income Tax: Service Personnel - Housing - War Pensions - Banking - Civil Aviation: Government Ownership of Interstate Airlines - Release of Aliens - Royal Australian Air Force: Future Activities of Personnel - Northern Territory.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– As Minister for the Navy, I feel it is due to our own Royal Australian Navy that the great valour of its personnel on active service should be suitably expressed to the House.
Through the perilous days of 1940-41, there were never fewer than one Australian cruiser and five destroyers serving with the Mediterranean Fleet at any one time, while other units of the Royal Australian Navy were in action against the Italians in the Red Sea, in local engagements in the Persian Gulf, and employed in the continuous duty of escorting convoys across the Indian Ocean. Australian naval expansion has been phenomenal. Building had been commenced before the war, but was considerably stepped-up from 1940 onwards. To-day, there are 347 Royal Australian Navy vessels of all kinds serving in different parts of the world. Eighty-five per cent. of them are in operational areas. Nine of Australia’s original naval vessels have been lost in action, but on every occasion their loss has created one of those pages in the country’s history which will for ever remain a source of pride. On many occasions the Royal Australian Navy has made its presence felt. H.M.A.S. Sydney in this war doubled the exploits of her forerunner in the last war when she sank the modern Italian cruiser. Bartolomeo Colleoni in the Mediterranean. In that theatre, too, are numbered many successful attacks upon submarines; participation in the Battles of Calabria and Matapan; the transport of troops to, and their evacuation from Greece; escort for the Malta convoys; support of the Syrian operations; and continuous duty on the “ Tobruk Ferry “ run. In those days Britain had its back to the wall, but the Royal Navy kept the “ Narrow Sea “ - that vital link between the Suez Canal and the Atlantic which the Italians referred to as their own - and in all those operations the Royal Australian Navy can claim its share of credit. Coincidental with those events, Australian naval units were supporting land forces in the British Somaliland campaign, covering the evacuation of Berbera, and carrying out the final bombardment of that port. In the Atlantic Ocean, under British command, naval vessels belonging to this country participated in guarding those endless streams of ships taking supplies to Murmansk for the Russian forces, which were to assist materially in throwing back the Germans to those last defensive bastions to which they now cling so desperately. In. the Indian Ocean, convoy escort work, especially the guarding of Australian Imperial Force convoys, was a long and steady routine. During that anxious time, the depredations of German sea raiders reached their height. On one occasion there was even a German pocketbattleship in the area, but the Royal Australian Navy accounted for three German raiders, and prevented any serious interruption ofour ocean communications.
With the outbreak of hostilities with Japan, the scene of active operations for ships of the Royal Australian Navy extended to Far Eastern waters. As in the case of the war with Italy, so in the war with Japan,ships of the Royal Australian Navy participated from the start. Eight Royal Australian Navy ships were in Malayan waters when Japan struck on the 7th December, 1941. They were the armed merchant cruisers ‘Kanimbla and Manoora; the destroyers Vendetta and Vampire; and the corvettes Bendigo, Burnie, Goulburn, and Maryborough. Others shortly to proceed there, and to take part in the operations against the Japanese during and subsequent to the Malayan campaign, and throughout the battles for the Netherlands East Indies, were the cruisers - Hobart and Perth, the sloop Yarra, and the corvettes Ballarat, Toowoomba, and Wollongong. H.M.A.S. Vampire was on the screen of H.M. ships Prince of Wales and Repulse when they were sunk off Malaya by torpedo bombers on the 10th December, 1941, the Vampire rescuing 225 survivors. The following month the Vampire, in company with H.M.S. Thanet, was in a night action against an enemy force of three destroyers and a cruiser, off Endau, on the east coast of Malaya. One enemy destroyer was sunk and another driven ashore. H.M.S. Thanet was lost in that action. The seven corvettes - Bendigo,
Burnie, Goulburn, Maryborough, Ballarat, Toowoomba and Wollongong - were engaged on various duties throughout the Malayan and Netherland East Indies campaigns including minesweeping, anti-submarine protection, patrolling and convoy escort work. They also performed special duties as demanded, as in the case of H.M.A.S. Ballarat, which landed salvage . and demolition parties at Oosthaven after the Japanese occupation. They eventually reached Australia safely at the end of March, 1942. The sloop Yarra, after doing a fine job of rescue work - aided by Australian corvettes on the spot - of troops from the bombed and blazing Empress of Asia, at Singapore, was on patrol and escort work, and was eventually lost in action while endeavouring to defend a. small convoy against a Japanese force of three heavy cruisers and four destroyers. She went down fighting, all of her officers and most of her ratings going with her. The cruisers Hobart and Perth were both in the striking forces endeavouring to prevent the Japanese invasion of Java in late February, 1942. After the almost complete destruction of allied naval forces in Netherlands East Indies waters, the Hobart managed to reach Australia via Colombo. The Perth, however, was lost in a night action against numerically superior enemy forces in the Sunda Strait, between the 28th February and the 1st March, 1942. Some 300 of her crew are believed to be prisoners of war. All the Australian ships concerned, including those which eventually reached Allied ports, and those which were lost, were among the last to leave Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. All suffered constant enemy air, submarine and surface attacks. Meanwhile, “ N “ class destroyers of the Royal Australian Navy had been concerned in the immediate defence of Australia through the support of the Netherlands East Indies screen. H.M.A. ships Napier, Nizam and Nestor were off the coast of Java in January, 1942, forming part of a British force which brought out aircraft reinforcements for the land forces in Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies. Nearer home, the Royal
Australian Navy was active in the close defence of Australia. Troops and supplies were carried to Ambon and Dutch Timor in the north-west. In the northeast, Papua and New ‘Guinea were reinforced, the Royal Australian Navy being responsible for all shipping movements and supplying convoy escorts and anti-submarine protection. Much of this work was carried out under heavy enemy air attack, and without our own air cover.
With the resurgence of allied naval strength in the Pacific, the Royal Australian Navy was to the forefront in action against the enemy in the SouthWest Pacific Area. An allied cruiser and destroyer task force, in which the preponderance of cruiser strength was Australian, under the command of the RearAdmiral Commanding His Majesty’s Australian Squadron, Rear-Admiral J. G. Crace, CB., was the covering force for Port Moresby during the Coral Sea Battle, and, without itself suffering damage, although lacking air cover, inflicted casualties on a strong Japanese force of high level and torpedo bombers which delivered heavy attacks. Throughout the building-up period and the eventual mounting of the offensive against. Japan in the South- West Pacific Area, the Royal Australian Navy has been consistently on the flood of the tide. Throughout, it has been responsible for the maintenance of essential sea communications, between Australia and New Guinea, without which the Papuan and New Guinea campaigns could not have been carried through successfully. It has been responsible for the maintenance of the Australian coastal trade, without which, since all the raw materials required by our heavy industries, notably iron ore and limestone, are transported by sea, adequate Australian war production would have been impossible of achievement. Corvettes and smaller ships of the Royal Australian Navy led the gradual encroachment of allied power round the southeastern tip of New Guinea and along the northern coast, and made possible the successes of Buna, Gona and later campaigns. Preliminary surveys, chartings, carriage of supplies and of troops, were done by the Royal Australian Navy, or under Royal Australian Navy escort.
Again these feats were performed often under enemy air attack. Cruisers of the Royal Australian Navy, including the Australia, Canberra, and Hobart - the bulk of the cruiser strength of the Royal Australian Navy - led the allied attack on the Solomon Islands in August, 1942. During this operation, in which H.M.A.S. Canberra was lost, the Australia flew the flag of the Rear-Admiral Commanding His Majesty’s Australian Squadron, Rear-Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley, V.C., D.S.C. Since then, ships of the Royal Australian Navy have participated in many attacks on enemy positions in the South-West Pacific, including Gasmata, Arawe, and Talasea in New Britain; Saidor in New Guinea, Seeadlor .Harbour in the Admiralty Islands, and all subsequent amphibious operations against New Guinea, the Halmaheras and the Philippines. Meanwhile, since Japan’s entry into the war, ships of the Royal Australian Navy overseas have been in many major operations against the Axis Western Powers. In the Bay of Bengal, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, at Madagascar, the North Africa landings, and the invasion of Sicily, ships of the Royal Australian Navy, including destroyers and corvettes, have taken part.
Honorable members will have seen recent press statements telling of naval actions in the South-West Pacific Area, where major naval engagements followed the important initial operations in the Philippines. Our Royal Australian Navy was worthily represented by the flagship Australia, with the cruiser Shropshire and the destroyers Arunta and Warramunga. These vessels constituted a part of that great allied force engaged in these operations which so decisively defeated the Japanese. Unfortunately, certain damage was inflicted on the Australia during the attack on Leyte, and, most regrettable of all is the fact that when she was hit by a falling Japanese bomber, 30 men, including the captain, were killed or have since died of wounds, and 61 men were injured. A gallant part was played by the cruiser Shropshire and the tribal class destroyer Arunta, in association with allied naval forces, during one of these actions, when an entire force of eighteen Japanese warships was wiped out. The Shropshire attacked one of the enemy battleships which later sank, and in addition scored hits on many other opposing vessels, whilst the Arunta formed part of the destroyer force which closed with the enemy battleships and fired torpedoes at short range. These engagements showed skill, courage and tenacity equal to the best in naval history.
The Australian force which participated in the invasion of the Philippines was the Royal Australian Navy Squadron, consisting of the cruisers Australia and Shropshire; the tribal class destroyers Arunta and Warramunga ; and the landing infantry ships Kanimbla, Manoora, and Westralia. The Australian Squadron was attached to Vice-Admiral Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet, and; participated in the preliminary bombardment of the landing beaches. The operation took a heavy toll of Australian personnel, among those killed being two of Australia’s most outstanding naval officers. These were the commanding officer of the Australia, Captain E. F. V. Dechaineux, D.S.C, and Acting Commander J. F. Rayment, D.S.C., who was the Squadron Navigating Officer. Commodore J. A. Collins, C.B., was among those injured. The fatalities occurred when an enemy plane crashed into the ship, with a resultant loss of life of 30 killed or died of wounds, and 61 injured. The many hazard’s associated with the invasion were revealed in reports of the risks taken by the Shropshire, in carrying a Japanese mine in her paravane, 15 feet from the ship’s side, for six hours. The mine was picked up at midnight, as the Shropshire was approaching Leyte Island, but in order to preserve the element of surprise in the attack, no attempt was made to destroy it. Three days prior to the invasion, a dangerous, but little publicized role was played by the Australian frigate Gascoyne, with other smaller craft, under the command of Commander R. B. Hunt, O.B.E., of the Royal Australian Navy. Under cover of night, and with constant threat of enemy shore and aircraft attack, these ships surveyed a safe channel for the invasion fleet. In addition to buoying shoals to the landing beaches, they were also able to secure vital information regarding underwater hazards, which was of invaluable aid in the landings. The converted merchant ships, Kanimbla, Manoora, and Westralia, stood in close to the beach heads, while the landing barges ferried the troops to the shore. Appreciation of the part played by the Australian ships and their crews, was expressed in a personal message from the Commander-in-Chief, South- West Pacific Area, General MacArthur, to Commodore Collins, commanding the Australian Squadron. General MacArthur’s signal read -
The Australian Navy has played a full and splendid part in the successful landing at Leyte. It was my great pleasure personally to see them in action.
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes, who was an observer of the Philippines invasion, also paid a high tribute to the Australian Navy. In the subsequent naval battles fought with the Japanese fleet off Leyte, the Shropshire and the Arunta formed part of the allied naval forces which, in the early morning of the 25th October, inflicted a crushing defeat on an enemy force consisting of battleships, heavy and light cruisers, and destroyers. Our air and light naval units kept the allied naval commander well informed of the enemy movements, and at about 3.30 a.m. the Japanese force sailed blindly into the trap that had been prepared for them in the Surigao Strait. The Arunia. commanded by Commander A. E. Buchanan, Royal Australian Navy, led one of the American forces of destroyers into the attack, and closed in to decisive range of the enemy battleships before firing torpedoes. The destroyers then engaged the enemy force with gunfire. The Shropshire, commanded by Captain C. A. G. Nicholls, Royal Navy, was with a. force of cruisers which, with exact timing, engaged the enemy force with intense, accurate and devastating gunfire. A continuous succession of hits was observed, and in a short time one Japanese battleship and several other enemy ships were seen to be heavily on fire. The enemy fleet found it impossible to continue against this annihilating gunfire, and, with their speed seriously reduced, turned and made off to the southward. For some two hours our forces pursued the enemy, inflicting further punishment on them, before it was necessary to recall our units to deal with another Japanese threat from the northward. Full details of enemy losses are not available, but it is known that as a result of this action, two Japanese battleships, at least two cruisers, and at least eight destroyers, were sunk. Despite the decisive range at which this action was fought, and the immense results achieved, no damage or casualties were suffered by the Shropshire or the Arunta. The Royal Australian Navy felt privileged to take part in this major naval action of the war, and to exact revenge for its earlier losses in ships and gallant men. Our ships were handled and fought with the utmost skill, coolness and determination, . and the chance of further action against the Japanese fleet is eagerly awaited.
Great is the pride which this nation can feel in the distinguished part taken by the men and ships of our Royal Australian Navy. It is a record of brave men and deeds unsurpassed in naval history. Generations to come will learn with everrefreshing pride of these exploits that characterized righteous resolve and devoted endeavour when this country faced the grave perils of a ruthless enemy attempting for the first time to disturb our ways of life and to destroy those institutions which express our rights as a free people. Naval organizations on the mainlandsuch as those at Harman and Belconnen have given invaluable aid during operations. I cannot speak too highly of the efficiency of all these branches of the service. In all, ships of the Royal Australian Navy are credited with sinking, or probably sinking, 27 enemy submarines up to November, 1944.
The following His Majesty’s Australian ships have been lost in action against the enemy: -
Up to the end of October, 1944, total personnel casualties, excluding deaths from natural causes, suffered by the Royal Australian Navy, were 269 officers and 2,346 ratings. Awards to Royal Australian Navy personnel to the end of October, 1944, numbered 568, including nineteen foreign decorations.
On Saturday last I visited Commodore Collins and other officers and men who are in hospital. The House will be pleased to learn that they are all making very satisfactory progress towards recovery from the injuries recently received on the Australia.
The devotion to duty and the great exploits that have characterized the service of our fighting men, what their efforts mean to the deliverance ofthose who to-day whilst subject to the cruelties imposed in the prisoner-of-war camps, are denied even the decencies and treatment of human beings, must draw from our Australian communities the firmest resolve to afford to the nation at this time a service worthy of the sacrifice and suffering that makes our own liberties possible.
.- The notice-paper to-day contained the terms of a motion to he submitted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) for the disallowance of National Security Regulations affecting landlords and tenants made recently under Statutory Rules 1944, No. 137. This motion has appeared on the notice-paper for sixteen sitting days, and because it was allowed to remain there until the final day on which it could be debated the honorable member for Warringah had to seek to elicit the intentions of the Government by putting a question to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to-day. This is consistent with the delay that has characterized the Government’s handling of the problem of landlords and tenants throughout this year. I, too, have had representations made to me in regard to these regulations. It has been suggested to me that in certain circumstances no provision exists for a payment to be made by a tenant in possession to the owner of a property, and it is claimed that the validity of the regulations is doubtful. The Acting Prime Minister gave to the honorable member for Warringah the bland assurance that the regulations are being examined, and suggested or implied that a suitable amendment of them would be made if that were found to be desirable. Bland assurances have become the painless technique which the Government has adopted in dealing with problems that arise under these regulations. As early as February of this year, after various complaints had been published from time to time, the Property Owners Association placed before the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) a series of proposals which, it claimed, embodied justifiable amendments of the existing regulations. Having considered the proposals, the Minister for Trade and Customs replied to the association in June, that he had agreed to their view in respect of half a dozen of them, and that amendments would be made accordingly. A little later, I mentioned in this House another anomaly regarding the letting of seaside premises or premises in country districts, in which it had never been intended that tenants should be permitted toremain for any lengthy period, yet they had remained, and had taken advantage of a quite unintentional cross-operation of two sets of regulations affecting the matter. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, was at the table at the time, and was so impressed by my case that he promised to put me in touch immediately with the parliamentary draftsman, so that a suitable amendment might be drawn. The matter was quite simple, and I anticipated that the amending regulation would be made in the course of a few days; but the months have rolled on, and so far nothing has been promulgated. During the debate on the Estimates, I again raised these matters, and again the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs was at the table. T. recited, in some detail, the circumstances and the history of the matters, and he agreed with me and said that it was high time the suggested amendments were made. That is two months ago. The best part of a year has now elapsed since the representations were first made to the Minister for Trade and Customs. In view of the fact that that gentleman has accepted as desirable certain of the proposals that were placed before him, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping has concurred in. the view that rectification is needed of certain other anomalies that have been placed before him, the delay in promulgating the regulations is nothing short of- scandalous. I do not blame the parliamentary draftsman and his officers. I know that those overworked gentlemen would have produced the amendments had the Government provided the necessary stimulus. The fact is that amendments which are necessary to avoid a continuance of proven injustices have been delayed unwarrantably throughout this lengthy period. J_ doubt whether there are any regulations operating under the National Security Act at the present time which are so lop-sided and inequitable in their application as are those governing landlords and tenants.
– There is a motion on the notice-paper dealing with that matter.
– The honorable gentleman said that this was the sixteenth day on which it had appeared on the noticepaper, whereas it is only the eighth day.
– The Acting Prime Minister to-day accepted the statement of the honorable member for Warringah that this was the last day on which it could hp debated. In any event, I am not now dealing with those particular regulations.
– The honorable gentleman referred to the fact that the honorable member for Warringah intended to submit a motion in regard to those regulations, consequently I assumed that he was referring to them.
– Not now; I have passed from those regulations to the general Landlord and Tenant Regulations. The matter has been brought prominently to the attention of the public of Victoria, at any rate, in a rather sensational manner within recent weeks, by the action of members of the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, in taking up a location on the verandah of a constituent of- mine, in order to make known to the Government and the people of this country the unfair manner in which the regulations have been operating up to the present time. On a previous occasion, the brotherhood staged a demonstration in support of u sub-tenant who had been ejected. On that occasion, the Minister acted very speedily, following the rather sensational publicity that was then achieved, in order to effect a hasty amendment to cover that particular point. In fact, I complained subsequently that when representations had been made many, months earlier in regard to an anomaly that was equally serious, and they had been accepted by the same Minister, he had shown very much less speed or anxiety to amend the regulations in the direction then sought. Admittedly, the case is a very grievous one. The woman concerned, who is 85 years of age, came to see me months ago. She had lived in the one house during the whole of the 50 years of her married life. On the death of her husband she became so distressed and ill that her doctor placed her in a nursing home. Expecting to be there for some time, she let. her home for a short term ; six months was the period she had in mind. The tenant, without her knowledge or consent, sub-let the premises to the young wife of a member of the Royal Australian Air Force who had come down from Queensland, and had obtained employment in a munitions factory. Although the owner desired to get back into her own home, and even offered to share it with this young woman, she was denied access to it, and the house remained in the sole occupancy of the sub-tenant. Inducements of ail sorts were made, and the sub-tenant was requested to leave, or alternatively, to make some accommodation available for the elderly owner, but these were refused, the woman relying on her rights as the dependant of a serviceman. The elderly woman is paying £4 4s. a week elsewhere for board, and lodging, and is receiving £2 5s. a week by way of rental for the home to which she cannot obtain access; and on this rental she is required to pay income tax at property rates. In thu early part of the war, when these regulations were introduced, they were sound and doubtless necessary to protect the dependants of service men and women. At that time, the number of persons involved was small compared with the vast increase which took place later, and it could not be foreseen that the war would drag on as it has. But we have now reached the stage at which people who had scraped and saved throughout their lives in order to acquire a home of their own are denied access to their property. Men discharged from the present war are unable to secure repossession of their homes. There arc returned servicemen for whom homes were purchased by their parents so that they might enjoy a comfortable married life, who are unable to enter into possession of them. Quite clearly, if these injustices are not to continue, the regulations need to be thoroughly overhauled. The proposals previously submitted to the Government are known to the parliamentary draftsman, and I am certain that if the Government agreed to act speedily there need be no further delay in having the approved recommendations implemented immediately. But quite apart from those proposals, the whole problem of access by the dispossessed owner to bis own home calls for a further approach by the Government. One suggestion which I regard as reasonable is that, if an owner who wishes to regain possession of his or her home gives six months’ notice to the tenant, that should be sufficient to enable the tenant to find other suitable accommodation. At the present time, the whole of the onus is thrown on the owner of finding, not reasonable, but suitable accommodation, and in consequence we are having brought to our notice a large number of cases of very real hardship. I believe that this is the first occasion on which I have addressed myself to this matter in the presence of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I have no real complaint against his colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who acted promptly on what L placed before him. T hope that, a3 these representations have now been brought directly to the notice of those two Ministers, the unnecessary and unfair delay which has already occurred will not be further protracted.
.- 1 bring to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who is representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) a matter which I regard as of the greatest importance, namely, the development of our export trade, particularly to the East, after the war. Recently, the representative of a Tasmanian business firm visited India, and explored the possibility of post-war trade with that country. Indeed, 1 think that hi- was authorized by the Government to make the investigation. He is the representative of a very progressive business firm in Launceston, and he made a close study of the Indian market. I do not know whether he has yet reported to that Government, or whether the Government has done anything about it. lie discussed ihe subject with me recently, and informed me that, after the war, we ought to be able to establish a valuable export trade to India in blankets and other woollen goods, and in fruit, particularly apples from Tasmania. We have had experience in the manufacture and export of blankets during the war, and the trade could be expanded when the war is over. Despite the exchange rate, the export cf blankets to the East should be profitable, lt is important that the possibility of expanding our trade to India and other Eastern countries should be examined as soon as possible. Some years ago, a representative of the firm producing Ovaltine obtained permission to establish a branch in Tasmania, but the war intervened and nothing further was done. The idea was to manufacture this firm’s foodstuffs for export to the East, and Tasmania was selected for reasons which I need not, detail. It has been suggested to me that it is important that goods exported from Australia should bear an Australian brand, and that the export trade should be carefully policed so that this brand would be a guarantee of quality. In the past; Australia’s reputation has suffered because sufficient care has not been exercised to ensure that only first-quality goods were exported. I was very impressed by the possibilities which apparently exist for developing our trade with Eastern countries. Those who have discussed the matter with mc arc noi just, representative of the man in the street; they are men possessing the necessary business capacity to recognize the opportunities which exist, and to examine the situation competently. They are satisfied that a market exists in the East, and thai the trade should prove to , be lucrative. There is no need to stress the importance of the woollen industry to Australia, which is the greatest, wool-producing country in the world. We manufacture a certain percentage of our wool into finished articles for sale in Australia, and we hope that the local market will develop after the war when our population is increased by the bringing here of immigrants. We should also try to develop an export trade in manufactured goods, as well as in the raw wool. Because of the development of synthetic fibres, and of the inroads which they are making into iiic woollen trade, this matter should be examined very carefully, and new markets developed wherever possible. I should like an assurance that an investigation will be instituted, and that those competent to advise the Government regarding the development of trade with India will be consulted. If possible, plans should be prepared now so that we may be ready, as soon, as the war ends, to capture markets in the East. Those markets are rightly ours because of our geographical proximity to them.
– I bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a taxation anomaly which affects certain sendee personnel. I have a letter here from a squadron leader serving somewhere in Australia in which he points out how the present system of administration discriminates against service personnel operating in similar areas. It is, he says, causing great dissatisfaction. To make his case he cites as an example, using approximate figures, two Royal Australian Air Force squadron leaders with out dependants, calling them A and B. Both are in receipt of £300 a year as private income outside of their service pay. A is serving in New Guinea, so that his service pay is not taxable. He therefore pays only on a private income of £300 a year, and in this group ho would pay almost £55 income tax, leaving him £245 of his private income, besides his service pay and living allowance amounting to approximately £640, so that his net income would be £885. B is serving at Darwin. His service pay is taxable, and is added to his private income of £300 a year for tax assessment. He is thus brought into a higher income tax group. His service pay is £640, plus a private income of £300 a year making a total of £940. That is the amount on which he is assessed, and he has to pay approximately £320 in income tax, which absorbs his private income completely. The writer then asks -
Why should the rate of tax on private income of a man in the Australian Imperial Force or the Boral Australian Air Force, vary according to the place in which he serves. You would be surprised at the amount of dissatisfaction and unrest that this unjust position creates throughout the services generally. I think that service pay should not be lumped with private income for tax purposes, but that each bv. assessed separate])’. The services deduct regularly the amount of tax appropriate to the pay one receives. This should be the final amount of tax one has to pay on his service income and his private income would be taxed according to his tax group.
It seems to me that an injustice is being done, intentionally or otherwise. This is different from the usual taxation complaint, in that it does not arise out of the Taxation Act itself, but out of an administrative decision. If it is competent for the Government to proclaim any area an operational area, it is equally competent for the Government to determine the conditions under which servicemen operating in that area shall be taxed. Operational areas are limited in extent, and if this anomaly were corrected the loss of revenue would be negligible, and no precedent of an embarrassing nature would be created. I urge the Treasurer to give this matter his immediate consideration, because much dissatisfaction is being caused by the present arrangement. I am asking that the change be made only in the case of men serving in operational areas.
– I endorse what was said by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) on the landlord and tenant regulations, which in some instances are penalizing the very people whom they are intended to protect, namely, members of the services and their dependants. It was proposed to make certain amendments to correct the anomaly, but they have not been made. As an illustration, I cite the case of a blind woman who cannot repossess her home because the person occupying it is a widow whose late husband served for a few weeks in the forces in Melbourne. The occupant can get accommodation elsewhere, and, in fact, has relatives in the same street who conduct a guest house. That may be an extreme case, but. it illustrates my point. In another case, a man discharged from the Australian Imperial Force with tuberculosis cannot repossess his home because it is occupied by a well-to-do family whose association with the services is of the slenderest kind. Some junior member of the family is in a home-service job. It was never intended that the regulations should act in that way. Because this man is tubercular, he has the greatest difficulty in staying even temporarily anywhere. In the amendments of the regulations, which I should think would be more appropriately administered by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) than by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), there should be a provision restricting the protection of tenants to the dependants of servicemen in a theatre of war in order that the regulations may operate in the way intended. I also hope that it will be left open to magistrates to exercise equity when matters come before them. More than one remark has been made in court by a magistrate or a justice that he is bound by the regulations to take a certain course, whereas, if he were free to exercise the principle of equity, he would allow the owner to repossess himself of his property.
This debate directs attention also to the shortage of houses in Australia. I do not intend to dilate on that to any great length, but ithas been said from the Government side of the House that Australia is 330,000 houses short of its needs. Only six houses in Australia have been destroyed by enemy action and only 200 damaged; so we have not the problem confronting Great Britainwhere millions of homes have been destroyed or damaged. It should not be beyond the competence of the Government to embark on a homebuilding programme. A housing trust i? operating and houses are being built for workers, but I do not know how many are being built. The War Service Homes Commission is inert and needs galvanizing into action. I am sick of asking questions in order to provoke the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) to do something. Since this war began, only fifteen homes have been built by the War Service Hornet Commission, twelve for soldiers of the last war and three for soldiers of this war. The department has a commissioner and six deputy commissioners, six architects and a staff of one hundred. The commissioner’s annual report shows that those figures are correct. When I have asked what the commission is doing, I have been answered, sometimes soothingly and sometimes petulantly, that there is a plan. If there is, why does not the Minister tell us what it is? Why does not he give the servicemen and their relatives the knowledge that they will have homes to live in? If he delays until repatriation really starts, the commission will be overwhelmed and bitterness will be sown in the hearts of the servicemen. The commission has the architects. What have they clone? That the War Service Homes Commission is efficient has been amply demonstrated. It, has built about 17,000 houses since the last war, but its operations have ceased. Why? We know that there is a shortage of material. That can be conceded. But no big defence works are being undertaken in Australia. The war is receding from us. If building material can be obtained by the Workers’ housing Trust, it can be obtained by the War Service Homes Commission. Let me emphasize that the soldier is not eligible to obtain a home from the trust. So, far from receiving preference in housing, the soldier has preference exercised against him. He is disqualified from getting a home as a citizen, but the department which is supposed to serve himis not functioning. That is a bad slate of affairs. If there is a plan, it should be produced and accelerated.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) ought to be goaded into action on matters brought up from time to time, for instance, pensions for the dependants of deceased soldiers. If parents, even if they have lost two or three sons in the war, have an income of £1 19s. 6d. a week each, they are disqualified from receiving a pension, notwithstanding that the allotments that they formerly received from their sons cease when death is established. They do not know that there is a means test, and they are profoundly disappointed when, after having been told to apply for a pension, a policeman investigates their circumstances, as does happen, after which they receive a brief, formal letter saying that they are ineligible for a pension. The Minister for Repatriation should also give close study to suggestions which have been made for improving the means by which ex-servicemen may have their cases considered by the various repatriation tribunals.
I direct the attention of honorable members, particularly Ministers, to a sheaf of telegrams which I have received in one day from people who want to know what is the Government’s banking policy. Who knows?
– It is just a red question mark in red.
– Yes, red is right. The people can be pardoned for wondering, seeing that this Government has made one of the most momentous decisions any government could make in deciding to take over the control of the interstate airlines. The interstate airlines of Australia are most efficient and are almost entirely pioneered and staffed by exservicemen. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who, I regret, has gone home, no doubt in his high-powered car - other honorable members are less fortunately placed - endeavoured this week to lead us to believe that the pioneers of interstate air transport services in Australia have been driven out of the business. That is not so, notwithstanding the share-list produced by the honorable gentleman regarding one company. The man who pioneered the Qantas company, Mr. Hudson Fysh, a pilot of the last war, is still managing the company that he pioneered.
– But he is not a shareholder, is he?
– I do not care whether he is a shareholder or not. He still manages that company. I am not a shareholder in any air transport company, and I do not intend to be one, but I am still an enthusiast, as I have been for 30 years, in aviation matters and I resent the fact that the Government announced its decision without consulting those controlling the various airlines or even informing them before making the announcement. When the decision was made, the PrimeMinister (Mr. Curtin) was in hospital and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), whose special subject this is, was in. the United States of America. It. is amazing that a matter of such importance should have been settled in those circumstances.
– Such a decision has never been made in similar circumstances.
– That is so. It is a gesture to those people who put pressure on the Government and have been asking, “ When are you going to introduce socialism?” The air services will work, whether they are controlled by the Government or by private enterprise, because of the excellence of the personnel and the experience gained by the companies. I got short shrift from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) when I tried to ask what was going to become of the men with distinguished records in the Royal Australian Air Force who sacrificed a career in that force to transfer to one of the principal companies. I got a facetious reply, something like, “ Read it to me over a cup of tea “.
– No. The honorable gentleman got a serious reply that their interests would be fully protected.
– I am glad of that; but the fact remains that a great going concern is to be taken over by the Government. Naturally, the people are anxious to know what is to be the next socialist step. I submit that, although there are certain things which can be controlled by the Government, the best control that the Government can exercise over air transport is that exercised on the outside, as at. present. But it need not have taken over ownership of those lines; because, once the dead hand of government is placed upon an industry there is a decline in efficiency. Therefore, the anxiety of the public as to what, will be the Government’s next move is more than justified. Does the Government intend to nationalize banking? 1 was a member of this Parliament when the Scullin Government was in office. It did not last long, but, while it was in office, its policy with respect to finance created a serious panic. All of- us know some of the dire effects of that policy upon banking at that time. To-day, many people are asking whether they ought to withdraw their money from the banks. That is a difficult question to answer, mainly because the Government shirks the responsibility of announcing its policy on this matter. Last week I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether a pamphlet published by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) represented the views of the Government on this subject; but 1 did not receive a satisfactory reply. 1 have endeavoured unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of that pamphlet.
– It is a “ museum piece “.
– It may soon ,be used as a “ political piece “. I remember occasions when the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) or the then honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Yates, had something to say on banking. They spoke about paying off the bondholders, who were described as bloodsuckers on the community. The terms in general were to the eff ect, “ Pay off the bloodsuckers. Get the printing presses busy, and get the notes; and pay off the bondholders “. The Government has adopted a different tune to-day, because it is imploring the people to invest their money in war loans. Is it any wonder that people who do not know what is going on in this Parliament are panicked by a pamphlet of the kind circulated by the Minister for Home Security, and other sinister reports that the Government intends to change its policy radically with respect to banking? I; it any wonder that people are becoming alarmed at this prospect, of government interference with the banks which are doing their work efficiently, and cooperating fully with the Government? 1 hold no brief for the banks, or for the companies controlling the interstate airlines which the Government now intends to nationalize; but if any more of this silly talk of socialization is inflicted upon the community, Australians will cease to be regarded as a healthy branch of the British race. There is no sign of this insanity in Great Britain where dogmas are dropped and changes are taken on their merits. I urge, the Treasurer to make a statement on the Government’s intention with respect to banking, because such a statement is long overdue. Should he fail to do so he will accelerate a panic which is beginning in the community, and which may cause him a good deal of sorrow later with respect to the raising of government loans. Surely, he cannot be satisfied when some Ministers are piping one tune, and talking revolutionary finance, while he himself says that there is nothing “ in the wind “. Otherwise, we can expect something from the blue with respect to banking as has been the case in connexion with the Government’s announcement of its decision to nationalize interstate airlines.
– Recently I received protests from several branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia concerning the release of enemy aliens including Japanese. I know that questions have been asked on this matter, but the replies given by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) have not, been satisfactory.
– How many Japanese does the honorable member say “have been released ?
– These bodies protest against the release of one particular Japanese. The Dirrinbandi Branch protests against a single Minister having power to release enemy aliens. That branch also protests against the release of a Japanese; and wants to know why the Minister tor the. Interior (Senator Collings) did not publicly reply to the challenge issued to him by the president of the Queensland Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia with respect to the release of the Japanese internee. The Proston Branch protests against the release of refugee aliens who are thus enabled to become entrenched in civilian jobs while our own boys are serving with the armed forces. The Dalby Branch, supports the protest by the Proston branch, and urges that the future civilian rights of our fighting men be protected. It protests against the birth-right of service personnel -being stolen in this way. The Inglewood, Yuleba and Charleville branches protest against the right of the Minister for the Interior to approve applications by internees sent here from the United Kingdom and other British territories to remain in Australia, because thereby they will be given the opportunity to compete for civilian jobs to the detriment of members of our fighting services. The Yelarbon branch protests against the release of enemy aliens, and also against the Government’s action in giving to the Minister for the Interior power to decide which internees, or prisoners of war, shall be allowed to remain in. Australia after the cessation of hostilities. The Yelarbon branch urges that all prisoners of war be returned to the country of their origin upon the cessation of hostilities. These protests are widespread, and call for investigation, particularly with a view to preserving the future civilian rights of members of our fighting services.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the grave dissatisfaction existing among large numbers of air force personnel and their relatives and friends, regarding the treatment being meted out to them by the Government. A few clays ago the Government announced that it was investigating the question of the future recruitment of personnel for the Air Force, and the demobilization of surplus personnel.
This matter is of vital importance to a fine body of men, and involves the prestige of the Government. The background of the situation is well known to honorable members. Under the Empire Air Training Scheme, large numbers of young men were recruited in this country for the Royal Australian Air Force. Some wen; overseas, and others remained in Australia to be trained. Those who went abroad completed their training, and raised Australia’s name high among the United Nations for their flying ability and personal character. They deserve fair and just treatment. The result of all this training abroad and in Australia has been that we have to-day a large number of highly trained personnel, and, in addition,, a large number of personnel now in an advanced stage of training. Compared with those numbers of aircrew, we have a comparatively small number of aircraft. In addition to that, I understand that 20,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force may shortly return to Australia from Europe, because their services will no longer be required there when Germany is eliminated from the war. That may occur possibly towards the beginning of next summer. Therefore, we may expect io have in Australia not only the existing personnel in excess of present requirements, but also the highly trained personnel now serving abroad. I believe that the surplus of pilots in Australia is now 1,500. I do not know whether that figure is correct, but the actual number is large. To date, the Government has evolved no considered policy to deal with this matter. Its policy varies from day to day, with the result that a good deal of dissatisfaction has been caused, and injustice has been done to these men. Members of aircrew who participated in long operational flights have been discharged or diverted to other jobs which they do not want and for which they have had no training. Former instructors - pilots, navigators and wireless airgunners - have been “scrubbed “ and others are being told to return to the Australian Imperial Force.
In one instance, a major in the Australian Imperial Force gave up his rank and joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an AC2. When he had completed his initial training course, he was fold that he was not required for aircrew, and should return to the Australian Imperial Force. What will happen? Will he re-enlist as a private, or will he be granted commissioned rank? Whatever happens, it, is most improbable that he will resume the rank of major. That is only one example of many, and I consider that a great injustice is being done. Another class is sent to a personnel depot and do either nothing at all or “ fatigues “ and menial jobs that any labourer could do. Last, week, it was reported to me that men were taken to one of these depots and thence were sent to unload ships at Williamstown. That is not a job for skilled air force personnel. The cost of training a pilot, I understand,is£2, 000. These men should not be required to work on the wharfs and do a menial job that the waterside workers are doing, or are not doing, as the case may be. It is time that these matters were considered by the Government.
I have some knowledge of the intake into our Air Force from cases brought to my notice recently. The Air Training Corps is asked to send youths forward to be trained in the Air Force. Other enlistments are made from the general public. After a short course, the best recruits are selected at the initial training school as pilots, navigators and airgunners, and are sent to more advanced schools. Whenthey get there, I know what happens to them. For weeks, they do nothing except clerical work in offices, scrub floors or act as grocers’ boys in the canteens and mess rooms. That treatment dampens their enthusiasm. The Government should encourage them by seeing that they have more suitable work to do. Results to date have been most unsatisfactory to every one concerned, and I am sure that the Government is beginning to realize it.
What points should the Government consider when it is examining the policy to be adopted in the future? I suggest t hat four points should be taken into consideration. First, we have to-day a large number of highly-trained personnel for whom no aircraft are available. As the war in the Pacific progresses, let us increase the number of our squadrons. We have the personnel. All we need is the aircraft. With the enormous production of aeroplanes inthe United States of America and Great Britain, we should be able to obtain more aircraft, and play our part fully in the Pacific war. My second point is that highly qualified personnel, instead of being discharged, should be given an opportunity to take a permanent post in the Royal Australian Air Force. The time has come when the Government should consider what the future strength of the Royal Australian Air Force shall be, and make the necessary arrangements for staffing it with experienced personnel.
Thirdly, we must have a balanced intake in order to compensate for wastage. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) described it to me, the plug has been pulled out of the bottom of the sink and the tap has been turned on fully. In other words, all the best men are going out and recruits in excessive numbers are coming in. The sink itself is overflowing. Fourthly, if it is impossible to retain the ser vices of these men, they should be encouraged to leave the Royal Australian Air Force on just terms and to resume civil life.
Like the honorable member for BalaclavaI have been deluged with telegrams from people who are protesting against the Government’s attitude towards the private banking institutions.
– What do they say?
– They protest strongly against the proposed governmental control of banking. I do not mind protesting against government bills; I nearly always do so, because they appear to be half-baked measures. However, it is impossible for me to protest at this moment against the Government’s plans for the control of banking, because I do not know what they are. But the public want to know what they are, and the Government should make a general statement of policy on this matter. At present, there is almost a “ run”, or there will be, on the banks if this anxiety among the public continues. I urge the Government to make a definite pronouncement without delay.
. - There are many matters about which I desire to complain, but I shall be unusually modest this afternoon. I wish to raise one matter relating to affairs in the Northern Territory, and I hope that the Government will examine it. It has an inter-departmental committee, which is apparently to determine some future policy for the territory. There has been for some time in the territory a body known as the Northern Territory Development League, which has asked for representation on that committee. The league has sent me a copy of a letter which it has received from Dr. Coombs, Director-General of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, dated the 11th October, passages from which are as follows : -
I regret to inform you that it is not possible to include representations from the league on the Inter-departmental Committee as the latter will consist of representatives of appropriate Commonwealth Government departments only. However, I would be pleased to receive further details of the skeleton plan forNorthern Territory development outlined in your presidential address, as well as a copy of theproposed revised report so that I may place your views before the committee.
I am in sympathy with your view that people who have lived in the Territory for longperiods are in an excellent position to produce sound, practical plans. Hence, the activities of your league are to be commended, and I feel certain that the proposed investigations should lead to results of considerable value.
This letter was addressed to Mr. E. J. Connellan, president of the league, who runs the Connellan Airways in the Northern Territory, The following are extracts from a letter which I have received from Mr. Connellan: -
We feel that the second paragraph of Dr. Coombs’ letter is most unsatisfactory. We feel strongly that the post-war development of the Territory should not be handled by an inter-departmental committee which by its very nature excludes the possibility of representation for local residents of the Territory from the Northern Territory Development League. We desire to take strong and immediate action to have this position remedied. We would appreciate your advice as to how to proceed in this matter, and of course would also appreciate your own participation in our campaign. We do not consider that Dr. Coombs’ suggestion reputting our views in writing before his committee is anything more than a sop to our pride, intended to keep us quiet. There would be no guarantee that our views would receive any consideration; we would have no opportunity to justify them Before ill-informed criticism: and we would have no opportunity to discuss and criticize alternative proposals brought forward by departmental officers.
With every word of that criticism I agree. If we are to get anywhere with a future policy for the development of the Northern Territory, those people who have lived and worked there and made the development of the country part of their lives should be consulted and allowed to participate in a real and effective way in arriving at decisions. I should say that no one man from the Northern Territory would declare that he could faithfully represent all interests there. There are, first, the pastoral interests, and, secondly, the big mining interests to be considered. I know some of the departmental officers connected with mining activities. There are able men amongst them, but they do not know everything that is going on up there. It is utterly impossible for them to do so. Knowing these things, I suggest that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) might discuss the matter with the Minister concerned and see whether some measure of satisfaction might not be accorded to the league by allowing it to have somebody on the committee to put the case from the point of view of those resident there. We have had a similar experience in regard to the plans for a new Darwin. I should like to see those plans; I am told that they are departmental plans and that nobody up there knows anything about them. If the Government thinks that it is going to keep the Northern Territory quiet in that manner, and that local people are to be excluded from any say in the future of the Territory, I suggest that it is making a very sad mistake.
In support of what has already been said on banking, I have not had telegrams - my electors appear to be a little more careful with their money than some other people - but I have received dozens of letters, and as fast as they come in I propose to hand them to the Treasurer. I have had one signed by 40 or 50 people from one town. Honorable members on this side do not know what the Governments’ policy on this matter is, so that we are completely at a loss to tell our constituents what the Government proposes to do. We have our own fears, but they may not be completely justified by events. My personal view is that the caucus has not yet told its servants what to do, and, therefore, the shape, time and manner of the degree of banking control which the Government is to bring forward has not been decided upon.. In fairness to the people of Australia, now that the Government has made certain announcements on this matter, the Government should come out with a clear-cut statement and let Australia know what it proposes to do.
– All the matters raised by honorable members will be considered by the appropriate Ministers, and where replies are called for, they will be given. I note particularly what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said about the Northern Territory. Although he brings up in this House matters which arouse no enthusiasm at any rate on this side of the chamber, I think that we are all indebted to him for watching the interests of the Northern Territory and of the absent member, Mr. Blain, who is now a prisoner of war. There is one matter relating to the release of internees which I think I should answer at once. It was raised by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). Three points were raised by the honorable. member in relation, I think, to Queensland, and the following answers have been supplied to the Government by the Director-General of Security: -
The next paragraph refers to the Japanese who was spoken of - a matter which I wish particularly to emphasize -
In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) I point out that the landlord and tenant regulations are administered by the Department of Trade and Customs. The moratorium regulations, however, are administered by my department.. As the honorable member no doubt is aware the matter which he has raised involves questions of extreme difficulty and complexity, very few of which can be disposed of easily. The object of the moratorium regulations is to protect servicemen and their dependants. If the regulations be relaxed, there is always a danger that the new regulations may be abused.
– I understand that six amended regulations were approved six months ago.
– The honorable member is referring to the landlord and tenant regulations. That may be so, but there again there is great difficulty in determining the policy required to meet the tremendous shortage of houses which exist at present. However, as the honorable member knows, a number of regulations affecting the moratorium regulations have been drafted and will be in force soon. In regard to the landlord and tenant regulations, I shall place the honorable member’s representations before the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), who, at present, is charged with the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs.
Mr.White. - What about banking policy?
– The honorable member will appreciate that this is the “late” afternoon for Victorians and Tasmanians, and that it would not be fair to say anything about that matter in the absence of members of other States and particularly in the absence of the Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act-Regulations - Statutory Sales 1944, No. 164.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 163.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No.. 165.
House adjourned at 4. 57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Mr. W. A. O’Carroll.
n asked the Minister for
Information, upon notice -
– I have no personal knowledge of the activities of the Mr. W. A. O’Carroll mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but I shall make inquiries as to whether he was expelled for life from the Australian. Journalists’ Association, as to whether he is a regular contributor to Colonel McCormick’s Chicago Tribune, and as to whether he made broadcasts over radio stations that were Fascist-like in character. Knowing Sydney’s press proprietors as I do, and realizing how annoyed they feel at the defeat they suffered recently when they locked out the employees of at least two of Sydney’s daily newspapers for thirteen days, I would not be surprised at anything they might now attempt to provoke the journalists of Sydney into some form of protest against pin-pricking both inside and outside their newspaper offices. I might say that I have been advised of certain of the pin-pricking methods, likely to provoke industrial trouble, now being vindictively pursued by the management ofthe Mirror newspaper, and, indeed, by the managements of the other three Sydney dailies.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tax Agents in the Northern Territory.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441124_reps_17_180/>.