17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Forde), - by leave - agreed to -
Thatso much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the notice of motion - Want of Confidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I have carefully examined all the matters with which the Leader of the Opposition proposes to deal, and rule that he will be quite in order in submitting a motion in the terms of which he gave notice.
– I mover-
That this House places on record its belief that -
by its public attack (made through a Minister speaking from his place in the House) upon the integrity of Justices of the High Court;
by its attempt (made through Ministers who still retain office) to intimidate a public officer in respect of Court Proceedings to which the Minister for the Interior was a party ;
by its attempt to put the Coal Tribunals beyond the control of the High Court;
by its interference with the discretion reposed in the Maritime Industry Commission presided over by a Judge; and (5). by its feeble failure to enforce the laws against war-time- strikers; the Government is undermining the authority of the Courts and of the Law and is thereby injuring the basic structure of Australian democracy, and is therefore deserving of the censure of this House.
Honorable members will observe that, in relation to each portion of the motion, the reference I have made is to the Government. It is the Government’s public attack upon Justices of the High Court that is involved; it is the Government’s interference with the normal process of justice in the cases referred to, that is involved. I say that, because there has been a growing practice in the last two or three years of Ministers making statements and attacks, of doing this or that, and then saying, “ I was speaking only for myself, not as a Minister”. Time after time, we have had instances in this House of the head of the Government or the leader of the House for the time being explaining that what had been said or written by some Minister represented only the private view of that gentleman. The time has come when it should be understood that no Minister who stands in his place in this House and speaks as a Minister, offers a private opinion. He speaks for the Government. It is because he is a member of the Government that he speaks from the table.
– That is not in accordance with the constitutional history of this country.
– It is in accordance with a very fine practice, established for very many years, that when Ministers speak at the table, particularly on behalf of the Government, in reply to a debate, their speeches are those of the Government. Otherwise, the position would be absurd; any Minister might say anything at all in respect of either policy or anything else, and the Government could always - as, indeed, it so frequently does - wash its hands of the whole matter, and say, “ You will never know when it is our policy; but whenever it proves to be an unsuitable policy, we shall be able to deny that it is ours and to say that it is merely something which the Minister himself has said “. A few days ago, in this House, a debate occurred on a motion submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
The reply to it by the Government was made through the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). There could be no ambiguity about that position, because he was the spokesman of the Government, and, acting as the spokesman of the Government,he thought fit, referring to the newspaper litigation, to say this -
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.
I do not recall any other case in which a government of Australia, speaking through its Minister for Information or any other Minister, has so glaringly charged the highest court in this country with dishonesty and corruption. “ If the action had been taken by another government, the High Court’s judgment would have been considerably different.” Of all the outrageous statements made about the judiciary in this country, that is the most outrageous; and it has never been repudiated by this Government, or any Minister - it still stands. The honorable gentleman went on to say -
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 en the High Court Bench.
Mr.Lemmon. - They did.
– The honorable gentleman was present?
– I repeat- .
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.
I do not know whether or not that is supposed to be a literal description of what ‘occurred. I have a reasonably close acquaintance with the High Court, and I am bound to say that over the lost ten years I have never seen Mr. Justice Starke wear a wig!
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman’s acquaintance with it will ever be any closer.
– I believe that I may still appear before it.
– Order ! I cannot preserve order if the right honorable gentleman replies to interjections.
– I am sorry, and apologize for having done so. I was craning my ear, because I am so frequently helped in that way that I do not want to miss anything that is good. I put on one side the assumption that this is supposed to be a figurative account, and concentrate on the charge that two justices who are supposed to he impartial in the exercise of their functions openly “ barracked for the press “. If this were a mere expression of ignorance, it could afford to he disregarded. If the position were merely that the Minister for Information does not know that, in the courts of this country - and I refer to practically all the courts - in the course of argument, justices put forward, for the purpose of eliciting argument, views which are in no sense their final views; I should overlook it. But this was a deliberately calculated statement, designed to satisfy the rabble of this country that the justices of the highest court in the land are politically opposed to them.
– Whom does the right honorable gentleman meanby “the rabble “?
– I mean the rabble. The honorable gentleman knows what I mean. If he does not know that, in every country of this kind, there is a rabble which can be stirred up to hate all authority, then he is very innocent of public affairs. This statement, I repeat, was designed to stir up that mob feeling, and to bring into contempt the authority of the judiciary of Australia.No authority could be possessedby a judiciary which was, in fact, corrupt or biased. Does the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) really believe that the High Court is a biased and corrupt tribunal? If he does not, why has he, as the chief law officer of the Crown, preserved silence for days after the making of this dastardly and contemptible attack ? It is quite unnecessary for me to say that the two learned justice referred to have been on the judicial bench of this country for many years.
– Too many.
– They have a record which, at the moment, is superior to that of the gentleman who has interjected; and their record includes an unquestioned reputation for learning, for knowledge of the law, and for complete integrity.
– And politics, one of them particularly.
-Did I understand a Minister to interject, “ And politics,one of them”?
Mr.Lazzarini - One of them, for a long time, was the leader of the right honorable gentleman’s party.
– Order ! The Minister forHome Security must preserve order.
– The interjection was disorderly, sir, but it was made. I should be interested to know which of these judges this Government, speaking through another Minister, will name as “ political”; because each of the two learned judges in question is a gentleman who has never been in any sense, either directly or indirectly, associated with politics.
– I am talking about the High Court itself and the man you people put on the bench.
– I do not want to d well on this unsavoury incident. Brit I say thison behalf of decent opinion in this country - that until some responsible loader of this Government publicly repudiates that attack, the people will continue tounderstand thatit is the view of the Curtin Government about the High Court of Australia.
The second item in my motion deals with the attempt, so notoriously and so recently made.to intimidate a public officer in respect of court proceedings in which the Minister for the Interior (Senator Colling’s) and the Commonwealth were defendants. The action was, one which involved the consideration of whether or not an appointment to the post of secretary to the Commonwealth Railways had been validly made and the judgment of the court said this -
Upon the death ofMr. Moyes, the then secretary, the Commissioner– that is Mr. George Gahan - consulted withthe defendant Minister, and obtained from Him a statementthathe approved of the appointment of the plaintiff to the position- the plaintiff being a gentleman called Wa tson -
The Minister, on July 7, 1943, recommended to the Governor-General plaintiff’s appointment at a salary of £900a year, and on the same day this was” approved by the Governor-Gcneral. It was not until July 19 that the Minister informed the Commissioner that a returned soldier must be appointed as secretary, and on July 20 he gave the Commissioner a declaration that Mr. Harding was to be appointed. The Commissioner protested, taking up the attitude that under the act the appointment of employees was a matter for him- a point which, as the judgment indicated, was well taken. Then a very curious incident occurred. A letter was sent by the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to the Minister for the Interior. The letter was reproduced in a telegram by the Minister for the Interior to Mr. Gahan, who was at that time a prospective witness and his view, of course, being contrary to that contended for by the Minister, he was likely to be a witness in favour of the interests of the plaintiff. The letter fromthe Acting Prime Minister to the Minister for the Interior was as follows: -
As mentioned in my letter to the AttorneyGeneral whether the procedure taken by your department to give effect to the decision of Cabinet was good or bad in law, it is not fitting for the Commonwealth to be brought before the High Court as a defendant in an action instituted by an employee. Ilearn from the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities that the case is’ listed for hearing this month, and that application for certain subpoenas has been taken’ out in the name of the plaintiff. It is understood that one will be served onMr. Gahan. It would be unfortunate
– I rise to order. I understand that further legal proceedings may be pending. In the Circumstances I Submit that the matter is sub judice, and that if would be quiteunf air for the right honorable gentleman to proceed with this part ofhis motion.
– I have already considered that matter deeply. So far as I am aware, no legal proceedings are pending. In any case the matter cannot be declaredtobe sub judice until some action is taken, either by an individual or by the Crown. Therefore, inmy opinion, the matter is not sub judice
– I resume my reading of the letter sent by one Minister to another. It further said -
It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who, I understand, desires his re-appointment to be considered by Cabinet were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth.
The presiding justice, in referring to that letter in his judgment, pointed out, as I myselfpoint out, that as a communication from one Minister to another it was perhaps not impossible to regard the letter as having no further intention than to influence the receiver of it to bring about a settlement of the litigation rather than allow ‘the case to go to trial. His Honour said that that is a not impossible view in theory, but of course the one thing that is clear is that the Minister for the Interior did not take that view, because he hastened to pass this letter on to Mr. Gahan. When the latter read in the letter the statement that it would be most unfortunate for him, as he desired reappointment, we can very well imagine that he knew he was being told that the kind of evidence be gave might influence his prospects of being re-appointed.
– Be fair. The letter does not say that it would be unfortunate “ for him “.
Mr.Forde. - The right honorable gentleman must admit that that was never suggested in the letter.
– The right honorable gentleman must be allowed to present his case in his own way.
– I shall be abundantly fair, and shall read that part of the letter again. It states -
It is not fitting for the Commonwealth to be brought before the High Court as a defendant in an action instituted by an employee. I learn from the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities that the case is listed for hearing this month, and that application for certain subpoenashas been taken out in the name of the plaintiff. It is understood that one will be served on Mr. Gahan. It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who, I understand, desires his re-appointment to be considered by Cabinet, were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth. “Who, I understand, desires his reappointment tobe considered by Cabinet”! Let every honorable gentlemen opposite ask himself what on earth that had to do with the kind of evidence Mr. Gahan had to give, if it were not a persuasion to him to give evidence that would suit the people in whose hands his re-appointment lay? What other purpose could there be? No human being in this country could possibly read it and have the slightest doubt that Mr. Gahan was being told: “If you want reappointment, you see that you get on side.”
– He was re-appointed before judgment was given, and there was no intention to influence him.
– It has been said benignly, and, I hope, inaccurately, that his re-appointment was for twelve months. It was one of those re-appointments designed to salve a tender conscience, but not a re-appointment which will get rid of an incident which constitutes the worst instance of a threat to a witness that I have come across in the whole of my experience. It was held out by a Minister of the Crown to a ‘public officer whose sole interest was to do what he thought was best in the interests of the public. It is right to say that the learned justice remarked -
No court can allow to pass without observation an act calculated to affect the testimony of a witness or to embarrass him in giving evidence, although in the result the transmission of the letter did not appear to have influenced Gahan to disregard his duty. As he gave his evidence freely, independently and candidly, it is necessary to say that it is against the law for any person who has any authority or means of influence over a witness to use it for the purpose of affecting his evidence.
I hope that this case is without precedent, but the astonishing thing about it is that for days and days after it has become notorious, no action whatever has been taken in relation to the Minister. I do not believe that in Great Britain, from which we derive our parliamentary institutions, a Minister could hold office for five minutes after the publication of such a threat. Yet here what do we find ? On the 16th November, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) received an answer to the following question which he had placed on the notice-paper : -
The answers given to those questions were -
What does the reply mean when it says that the Minister for the Interior accepts full responsibility? Does it imply that ho accepts full responsibility as a private individual, and not as Minister for the Interior, or does it mean that as Minister for the Interior he accepts full responsibility? If he accepts responsibility as Minister for the Interior, the Government of which he is a part, must accept responsibility. Make no error about this : the threat made to Mr. Gahan in relation to this case was made by this Government through its appropriate Minister, who was, in fact, the defendant in the proceedings.
– Absolutely fantastic and untrue!
– All the sidestepping in the world will not get rid of that fact. What a ludicrous/ position it would be if some act of this kind were performed by this Minister and then by another, until nineteen of them had done it. We should still be told, I suppose, that it was not the act of the Government, but only that of nineteen individual Ministers, who were utterly distinct from the mystic body, the Government, which alone has the power to declare policy and perform public acts. Of course, that suggestion is perfectly ludicrous. This Government stands condemned through having, through one of its members, used an utterly corrupt, or designed to be corrupting, threat to a prospective witness, for which there is no apology, no withdrawal and no explanation.
Then I turn to the third paragraph of my motion, which relates to the attempt, in fact more than an attempt, to put the coal tribunals beyond the corrective jurisdiction, on questions of law, of the High Court. Honorable members will recall that, when the Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944 was before this House, an assurance was given by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that the wage-pegging law contained in the economic regulations would apply to the coal-miners as much as to anybody else. This House, then in committee, accepted that assurance. Notwithstanding that position, Mr. Connell, the chairman of one of the tribunals, gave certain decisions later increasing the pay of the miners, and the result was that proceedings were taken in the High Court. The court first decided that those regulations did apply to the coal-miners, thus supporting the undertaking given to this House, and in the second place it decided against the validity of the orders made by Mr. Connell. What then happened? Did the Government say, in effect, “ We are delighted to find that our view of the legal position has been upheld, and that what we told this House about coal control is now authoritatively declared to be the law”? Not at all. It made another regulation, which is found in StatutoryRule No. 157of 1944. It refers to the coal tribunals, and says that the awards and decisions made by them prior to the commencement of this regulation are to stand, as if they were valid laws.
– What is the date of that?
– The 1st November, 1944.
– Which Minister gave the information to the House?
– The AttorneyGeneral. I raised the matter in committee, and the right honorable gentleman’s view was upheld in the High Court, although unfortunately, contrary to the submission of counsel for the Commonwealth. Immediately the High Court upheld that view, saying that these interferences with wage-pegging were invalid, the Government replied, “ That will never do. We shall overcome, as far as we can, the effect of the decision “.So it gave validity to decisions made in the teeth of its own law, and in the teeth of its own assurances given to this House.
The fourth paragraph relates to -
I am referring now to the events which led up to the recent resignation of Mr. Justice de Baun from the chairmanship of the Maritime Industry Commission.
At the time he was appointed, it was said that it was very desirable that the commission should possess a judicial quality in its chairman, so that it might give to the public an assuranceof firm, impartial treatment. Mr.Justice de Baun was appointed because of his judicial training, experience and office. On the 3rd May of this year, the commission was considering whether war risks in certain waters near Australia had been reduced. It was considering whether a bonus paid to seamen, and designed to be accommodated to the quality of the risk, should be reduced. On the 3rd May the commission asked its Minister to advise whether there were grounds for any belief that the risk in Australian waters was the same as in June, 1942. That was a fair question. What the commission said, in effect, was, “ We have our own ideas, no doubt, but the Government, in the last resort, is in the bestposition to assess what the risk may be, because it has all the naval and military intelligence on the matter “. The commission could get no reply to its question, and although it renewed its application several times, it received no reply, good, bad, or indifferent. Then the commission decided to reduce the bonus rate, because it found that the risks had, in fact, diminished, particularly in certain Australian waters, and it made an amending order which was to come into operation on the 15th September. As the result of discussion with certain Ministers, the date was altered to the 1st November, on which date the order was to become operative.. The Government then interfered, and: directed the commission toreview its decision.
– What did the Government mean by “ review “ - reach another decision?
– I suppose so. “ Review “ is an elastic term, but what it. meant was this : “ Look here, this order which you have made, and which is to operate from the 1st November, must be reconsidered “. If you tell’ somebody to reconsider a decision it is not so that he may immediately confirm it. The Government directed that the decision be reviewed, and, in the result, we know exactly what that, meant, because it was reviewed, and it does not operate yet.
– It has been postponed until the 31st January.
– I accept the word “ postponed “. The result of the review has been the postponement of the operation of the commission’s decision. We are not here concerned with the merits or demeritsof the case itself, but we are concerned with this point: Why wasa judge appointed as chairmanof this tribunal? Was it merely so that he might give a sort of judicial dignity to decisions’ made by other people, or was it so that he might exercise his Own judgment, thus” giving the public an assurance that there would be independent judgment? There is no doubt of what the judge himself believed, because, in resigning, he said -
Recent events have made my retentionof the position of chairman” impossible, and quite inconsistent withmy duty as a judge’ acting as chairman of the Maritime IndustriesCommission, appointed as I was to represent the public interest.
But, of course, the whole trouble was that the decision of the judge wasnot well received by the political ruler’s of the country, and so the decisionmust be reconsidered, even if it meant forcing the chairman off the commission. What did that matterto the Government ? Undermining the authority ofthe court is no new thing for thisGovernment. Setting aside the law,or allowing it to be treated with contempt, is nonew thingfor this Government. And so the judge went, and no doubt some other chairman will take his place. If he desires a long life the new chairman will do wellto study the wishes of the Ministry, because a condition of long life for him will be aclose adherenceto the political views of his masters.
– It will be unfortunate if he has views of his own.
– I have no doubt that every care will be taken to avoid so dangerous a contingency.
Paragraph 5 of the motion refers to the Government’s - feeble failure to enforcethelaw against war-time strikers.
This matter has been referred to many times. Nothing thathas occurred this year gives any indication’ that the Government will enforce any industrial law, or exercise any industrial authority. Month after month we have witnessed the steadily growing industrial anarchy in Australia, and the steadily increasing total of industrial disputes. There have been threats by the Government, but not so many of late. There have ‘been promises by the Government, not whole-hearted promises but hints after this fashion: “Now, look; we know that you want a pensions scheme, gentlemen of the coal-miners union. We know that you want a Commonwealth pensions scheme which will put you in a position of great advantage as compared with any other industrial workers in Australia. We are not exactly promising that we will give you such a scheme, but, ah ! if you would onlyhelp us for the next month, and get the people’s minds off the coal problem, we might be able to do something for you “. In that sense, promises have been made, but even the promises have been feeble. It might have been better if the Government had said, a long time ago. We know we cannot exercise authority. We will not pretend that wo can. Therefore, we are cutting out all this fine talk about ruthless enforcement of the law “. The Government could then have said to the coal-miners and other militant unionists, “What is your price, and we will pay”. If the Government had done that, at least it would have been honest. It would, at least, have had a policy, however bad; but the Government has never had a policy. It has shuffled uneasily from one foot to the other. There has been a touch of ruthlessness, followed by more than a touch of weakness. Its whole attitude has been provocative, and I have no doubt that in every trade union throughout Australia, the very suggestion of discipline by the Government is treated with shouts of derision. The unionists know very well that what really amounts to treason to the country pays. The loyal, patriotic trade unionist, who goes on with his job, accepting wage restrictions, paying his taxes, and giving thought to the men who fight for the country, receives no industrial reward; but let the trade unionist be a man of dubious allegiance to his country, let him be a man who has, in many instances, done his best to sabotage the war effort by his utter disregard of the law of the land, and by his carelessness of the safety of the country, and everything will be added unto him. He. will get what he wants. He will even get headlines in the newspapers. He will have conferences with the Government, and be provided with transport to attend them. He will even be allowed, in suitable circumstances, to address a few Ministers by their christian names, and in the long run the wagepegging regulations will be eased a little in his favour. It is a sorry day for any country when it comes to be known that subversive activity is worth cash in hand. Yet that is the industrial policy of this Government.
The true foundation of democracy, so much discussed in this place and in this country, is to be found in the positive authority of a body of law, the nature of which is controlled by the people themselves through their own Parliament. When the rule of law goes, democracy goes. Of course, there are some people who think that, in order to be democratic, one ought to be moved solely by what I call rabble considerations.Such people arc not friends of democracy. There are others, and we have some conspicuous examples in this Government, to whom parliamentary and ministerial power presents a glorious opportunity for using authority, not to produce a common observation of the law, but to produce its sectional enforcement. For them, power is something tobe used for its own political sake. They are enemies of democracy. It is for those reasons that the motion concludes by directing the attention of the House and of the country to the fact that, because of the charges so abundantly proved against it - . . the Government is undermining the authority of the courts and of the law, and is thereby injuring the basic structure of Australian democracy.
– Notwithstanding the forensic ability of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), it is obvious that he has failed dismally to convince honorable members. His five-pointed attack was flat and anaemic. It lacked conviction, and savoured of petty, party political propaganda. It came from a man who to-day tries to convince the people of Australia that he could govern the country in a statesmanlike manner, although he failed to do so when given opportunities such as few men have enjoyed.
– He walked off the job.
– Yes, he walked offthe job, but he afterwards came back, and in 1940 he was given a mandate to govern. He was returned with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament; yet, despite his great eloquence, he failed to convince Parliament, or even the members of his own party, of his sincerity of purpose. It was because of the dissension within his party that he was cast overboard. Some honorable members, who were not elected to support the Labour party, considered that the only way to get constructive and fearless government in Australia, government that would re-organize the country’s war effort, was to support the Labour party. The record of the present Government speaks for itself. Its definite, progressive, and fearless administration is in sharp contrast to the policy of “ business as usual “, laissezfaire and procrastination which characterized the regime of the Government that was so misled that it fell to pieces around its leader in the Cabinet room. What are the charges that the right honorable gentleman makes? We know that he can go into the courts and argue for one side or the other.
– Unlike the Acting Prime Minister, I never attempt to argue for both sides at once.
– Notwithstanding his court experience, the right honorable gentleman floundered badly to-day. That was because he had a weak case. The right honorable gentleman charges the Government with having made a public attack upon the integrity of the justices of the High Court. His contention is absolutely fantastic.
– Hear, hear!
– There has been no attack by the Government whatever on the integrity of the justices of the High Court of Australia. I suggest that the prestige of the High Court is not enhanced by the effort of the Leader of the Opposition to drag it into, the realm of party politics.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be removed from the chamber if he does not cease his interruption.
– I have not interjected.
– If the honorable gentleman thinks that by loud laughter he can interrupt the Acting Prime Minister he will find that he is wrong. There is an organized attempt at interruption.
– By indulging in cheap party political tactics the Leader of the Opposition is trying to convince the doubting members of the alleged new Liberal party who are giving him conditional support for the present, but are not yet convinced that he is the man to lead them. By dragging this controversy into the realm of party politics he would do a disservice to the High Court - a body in which I, the acting head of the Government, have implicit confidence.
– It took the right honorable gentleman a long time to say so.
– I do not favour criticism in this Parliament of the justices of the High Court unless such criticism be followed by action in the terms of section 72 of the Constitution of Australia. There must be good reasons for taking the step set out in that provision. I was not present in the chamber when two honorable members indulged in some criticism of justices of the High Court, but I find, on reading the reports of the proceedings in the Parliament, that the criticism did not come from only one side of the House. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, as Leader of the Australian Country party, was deputy Prime Minister for a time in a government led by the present Leader of the Opposition, had a good deal to say on the subject. I believe that the honorable member isan estimable gentleman in many respects, and I have a high personal regard for him, but he set the lead in one ofthose characteristic speeches to which we have become accustomed. He criticized the Chief Justice of the High Court in these words -
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 cannot understand why, on an issue which called for an interpretation of the Constitution, he should sec fit to suggest to the litigants that they might confer in an endeavour to Teach a settlement. When a litigant challenges in thu High Court the validity of a Commonwealth regulation, or an action taken under that regulation, there can be no such thing as a 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. T nin sure he would agree with me.
In those words the honorable member for Barker referred to a man who occupied high ministerial rank in this country before he was elevated to the High Court Bench. No man in this country has had. the respect and confidence of honorable members in a greater degree than has Sir John Latham, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. The criticism of him by the honorable member for Barker was most unfair. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who has not had so long a parliamentary experience as the honorable member for Barker has enjoyed, rose in his place to defend the Chief Justice. As in his speech this morning the Leader of the Opposition entirely ignored what the Minister for Information had to say on behalf of the Chief Justice, I shall read to the House the words of the Minister -
The honorable member for Barker has taken it upon himself to reflect upon the Chief Justice for the action that he took in the rase. It was a perfectly legitimate exercise of his judicial functions for the Chief Justice to take the case himself and eventually make a decision upon it. Some other people perhaps did not like his action. I am told some of his brother justices were- not pleased, but. because the honorable gentleman or some other people are dissatisfied, that does not make thu action of the Chief Justice wrong or improper, but if the honorable member can reflect, as he lias done, upon the Chief Justice for his action, I can, I assume, express my views on the actions of several other justices in the case.
I believe that all. honorable members heartily endorse what was then said in praise of the Chief Justice. The Minis ter for Information in his own characteristic style - a style not unlike that of the honorable member for Barker - indulged in some criticism of two other justices, but he would be the first to say that his remarks were not intended as any reflection on their honour and integrity. We must remember that these incidents occurred during a highly controversial debate. That they occurred is to be regretted; but they do not constitute ground for any lack of confidence in the Curtin Government.
– There must be a conviction on that count.
– The Constitution provides that there shall be a legislature, an executive and a judiciary. Those are the three distinct constituents of the entity known as the Commonwealth of Australia. In my opinion, it is only right that each of those constituents should, as far as possible, refrain from criticizing the others, except in cases of grave misbehaviour, in which event the Constitution sets out the course to be adopted.
I come now to the second charge of the right honorable gentleman, namely, that there has been an attempt by the Government, through Ministers who still retain office, to intimidate a public officer in? respect of court proceedings to which the Minister for the Interior was a party. That charge also is absolutely fantastic. What- are the facts? A Mr. Watson was nominated by the Commissioner of Railways for appointment to the position of Secretary, Commonwealth Railways, and the appointment was approved by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). Urgent representations were then made by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia against the appointment on the ground that Mr. Watson was hot a returned soldier. That fact had been overlooked when the appointment was made, but on attention being drawn to it, the Minister for the Interior directed that the appointment of Mr. Watson ‘be rescinded and that Mr. Eric Harding should he appointed in his place. Mr. Eric Harding was awarded the Military Medal in the war of 1914-18 ; he lost a leg in action. He has been president of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Victoria for many years.
– Is he fully qualified for the position?
– He joined the New South Wales Railways in 1909 and the Commonwealth Railways branch at its inception in 1914. and he is next in seniority to the Commissioner.
– Why was he overlooked?
– On the outbreak of war, Mr. Harding was seconded to the Army Department as Assistant Secretary, and lias done valuable work.
– Hear, hear!
– In that position he has carried on the splendid service that he rendered to the country on active service in the last war. In directing that Mr. Harding be appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth Railways, Senator Collings was giving effect to the law that returned soldiers shall have preference in the Public Service. Mr. Watson contested the legality of that appointment and asked for a ruling from the High Court that he had been appointed to the position, and the court has ruled that his appointment is in- order. So, it stands. In the action, Mr. Gahan, the Commissioner, was not only a witness, but also a defendant. From that point of view, the Minister for the Interior considered that the sending of the telegram was justified, and it was only from that point of view that it was sent. I sent a letter to the Minister for the Interior. Certain passages of it were quoted in the telegram and others were not. The letter was intended to try to bring about an amicable settlement of the case. There is no reason why it could not have been settled, as one of the contenders for the position was one of the finest soldiers Australia ever produced. I said in my letter to the Minister for the Interior -
It is my desire sis Minister for the Army and the desire of the permanent head that Mr. Harding’s services, which have been of great value to the Army, should continue with this department for the duration; therefore, the question of his return to the Commonwealth Railways during Mr. Gahan’s term of office does not arise.
– What does “ during Mr. Gahan’s term of office “ mean?
– Mr. Gahan was appointed a little more than a year ago for a further twelve months, and he was appointed again recently for another twelve months.
– After this disclosure was made.
– As Minister for the Interior, Senator Collings had strongly recommended his appointment for a further period and I supported the recommendation. Mr. Gahan’s re-appointment as Commissioner was approved by the Cabinet subsequent to the hearing of the case, but before the judgment was delivered.
– But after the telegram.
– I had no knowledge whatever of any telegram being sent by Senator Collings to Mr. Gahan. My letter was a communication to Senator Collings himself, and the assertion of the Leader of the Opposition that it had any sinister significance shows his b.ase instincts. Obviously, the threat of dismissal that has been read into the telegram is imaginary and absolutely fantastic. Mr. Gahan, as Commissioner for Railways, gave his evidence fully and clearly. With his knowledge of the background of the whole matter and his knowledge that the Minister for the Interior had strongly recommended his re-appointment, he would be fully aware that Senator Collings desired his reappointment and did not wish to threaten him in any way. Therefore, this claim that there was a threat is untrue and malicious and is designed to gain a party advantage.
Another charge is that the Government has interfered with the discretion of the Maritime Industry Commission, presided over by a judge. Let us examine the facts. The commission decided at a special meeting on the 16th November last to restore the war risk bonus from the 1st November, 1944, to the 31st January, 1945. A previous order by the commission had reduced the war risk bonus from 50 per cent, to 33^ per cent., 25 per cent, and 15 per cent, in certain areas from the 1st November, 1944. The commission placed on record the fact that the statement that the Government had directed it to review its previous decision was incorrect. The meeting of the commission was convened in accordance with the by-laws of the commission. The chairman, Mr. Justice de Baun, in a public statement on the 15th November, announced that his reasons for resigning were contained in a letter to the Prime Minister, but that the immediate cause of his resignation was the failure of some members of the commission to abide by its decisions, particularly in regard to War Risk Bonus Order No. 46. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, dated the 15th November, 1944, Mr. Justice de Baun said, inter alia -
The industry has been very quiet recently mid is now upon a stable footing due to the work done by the commission during the last three years. This has been made possible through- the co-operation of members which, until recently, has been given freely; and with the assistance given to the commission and myself by members of the Government.
I wish especially to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping, Mr. Beasley, for the special interest both of you have taken, an.l the support you have given to the communion whenever required. 1 wish to place upon record, too, the help and guidance which the commission has received from officers of the Marine Branch of the Commonwealth Service: this help and assistance have been appreciated by me personally.
The Maritime Industry Commission consists of a chairman, four union representatives, three ship-owners’ representatives and a. government representative. The motion restoring the war risk bonus was carried unanimously at the meeting on the 16th November after a motion to suspend the new war risk order had been carried by five votes to three. The Government confirms the statement made by the commission that it gave no direction for the restoration of the bonus. We are a.ware that the members of the commission were given certain advice by the Director of Shipping (Sir Thomas Gordon). It will not be suggested that Sir ‘Thomas Gordon is one of the leading lights of the Australian Labour party. Indeed, he is well known by the Leader of the Opposition, who would not dare to cast any reflection on his integrity. Sir Thomas has done a splendid job in the control of shipping.
– I am sure he has.
– As Director of Shipping, he gave certain advice regarding shipping requirements. Was any other man in Australia more fitted to give advice? W,t> there any other man possessed of more comprehensive knowledge of the whole of the shipping requirements of the fighting services and the civilian population in the outposts of Australia than Sir Thomas Gordon? In reviewing its decision on the war risk bonus, the com mi sion would undoubtedly have gi vt n mort careful consideration to the advice of the Director of Shipping that the operational requirements of Australian and American force in forward areas would be seriously affected if there were any interference with the movement of ships. Because of the tremendous strain placed on the shipping tonnage possessed by the United Nations, Australia has not all the ships it needs and it is imperative to make the utmost use of those available, Any delay in ports would bring serious consequences in the operational areas. Apart from that aspect, it is essentia] to keep ships moving for the transport of fodder for starving stock, in addition to normal requirements in respect of céa ironstone and essential civil supplies. Many thousands of tons of coal has to be shipped every week from Newcastle to Victoria and South Australia to keep industries and essential services in operation. Coal stocks are low in those States and unless regular imports be obtained the operations of the railways and gas and electricity undertakings will come to a standstill. No one knows the needs better than Sir Thomas Gordon. On the 10th November, he advised that if the trouble on- the ships continued in the next week, shipping movements would become chaotic. All the heavy industries would be affected in a very short time and the consequent shortage of strategic and essential requirements would have very serious consequences for the country as a whole. The commission’s decision means that the war risk bonus will be extended for three months. The Government believes that an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia will agree that it is just that some recognition should be given to the valiant services of the men of the Australian
Merchant Marine. These men unflinchingly carried on when ships were being regularly torpedoed off the Australian coast with serious loss of life. Any honorable member who goes to a capital city and pays public tribute to the men in the merchant marine will be deafened by the applause from the people present, who know the dangers the seamen have encountered and the services they have rendered in sailing through dangerous waters to operational areas in order to supply the armed forces with foodstuffs and munitions. Those facts frequently are lost sight of.
The fifth charge made against the Government by the Leader of the Opposition is that it has failed to enforce the law against war-time strikers. The right honorable gentleman failed to substantiate that charge. Characteristically, like a dilettante, he flitted from one subject to another, and, indulging in histronics, endeavoured to embarrass the Government by pointing to stoppages in the coalmining industry. Any one would think that when he was Prime Minister his Government, was able to settle all industrial disputes. He used to pat himself on the back and say, “ I went to the coalfields. I addressed the coal-miners”; as if he had ventured into the very fire of the enemy and merited the Victoria Cross. He takes to himself great kudos for having addressed the miners, and having been addressed by them as “ Bob “. But, like his eloquent speech this morning, his action produced no results. He failed to stop strikes ; and during his very short period of glory as the Prime Minister of this country, coal production in Australia fell to a record low level. There are stoppages in the industry in this country, just as there is in any other country where the industry is carried on. But this Government has obtained more coal that would have been obtained by its predecessor; even had it remained in power until to-day. That fact is clear from the figures, which show that during the three years of office of this Government, coal production has totalled 35,360,537 tons, whereas in a similar period under previous governments, total production reached only 13,316,860 tons. The Prime Minister and I, and our colleagues, have done everything humanly possible to increase coal production. It is cheap for the right honorable gentleman to wave his hand and say, in effect, “Put me at the head of the Government and I will solve the problem “. When he was in office he proved a dismal failure in everything that mattered in the administration of this country in the dark days that then confronted us. He failed so dismally that he walked out of one government, and was kicked out of another. I shall not quote from the speech made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in this Parliament when he refused to serve with the right honorable gentleman in the same government. Although the right honorable member for Cowper had worked with him for many years previously, he would not serve under his leadership. Later, the Leader of the Opposition tried to induce the right honorable member for Cowper to reverse his decision, and, in the interest of Australia’s war effort the latter decided to co-operate with him. This is the man who endeavours to vilify and besmirch the reputation of other public men in this country, but, smarting under the rebuke meted out to him by the right honorable member for Cowper, he went around crying for sympathy, and claiming that a personal attack has been made upon him. No one could, make a more dastardly attack upon a public man than that which the Leader of the Opposition made upon the Prime Minister in this House last session when we discussed transactions concerning certain broadcasting stations. He knew that the Prime Minister was absolutely above suspicion in that matter. I, as Acting Prime Minister, have visited all of the coal-fields of New South Wales, with the object of familiarizing myself with the industry. I met the representatives of the coal-miners in conference.
– Did they call you “Frankie”?
– No, they reserved that approach for “Bobby”. I met representatives of the miners federation, the Colliery Proprietors Association, and the New South Wales Government. It is useless to try to fool ourselves in this matter. Let us tear aside the veil of hypocrisy, and admit that there is no short road to increased coal production. The Sydney Morning Herald of the loth November last published the following cablegram under a London date line -
All steps taken by the Government, coalowners and miners appear to be unable to stop the fall in Britain’s coal output, says the Industrial Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.
The output dropped by 3,159,300 tons in the second quarter of this year, compared with the first.
Output per wage-earner fell from 67.0 tons to C5.4.
The correspondent points out that at the present rate of production, coal won this year will be 8,805,000 tons less than last year.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has told us of the stoppages that took place in the industry when he was in Great Britain, He has told us also of the cooperation between all parties with the object of putting an end to stoppages in the industry and increasing production. The press of Great Britain is wholeheartedly assisting the Government in that work. Contrast that attitude on the part of the British press with the attitude of the Australian press which vilifies this Government, and the editors of which say, in, effect, “ If we were only on the front Government bench in the National Parliament instead of in our editorial chairs we could promptly solve this problem “. Only constructive criticism is levelled against that Government, and honorable members opposite in this Parliament would do well to follow that example. Too much bitterness has been engendered in the coal-mining industry over the years, and it will take a long time to establish a new outlook towards it. However, we hope that that day is not far distant. We must remember that at one stage over 500,000 coal-miners in the United States of America were on strike. Our great ally has had its troubles in this industry. The same can be said of New Zealand and of all countries in which the industry is carried on. I shall not take up the time of the House by reading the decisions made by Cabinet yesterday with regard to this problem. It is most unfortunate that stoppages occur at present. In view of the industrial machinery now available for the settlement of industrial disputes, stoppages should not occur when, Australia is . engaged in an all-in war effort, and must of necessity concentrate the whole of its resources -upon the prosecution of the great offensive which we are to undertake in order to do our share in the struggle with the other United Nations. I say emphatically that this Government, during its regime, has made a strenuous attempt to co-operate with the industry in order to prevent stoppages and allay unrest. It has improved machinery for dealing with the problems of the industry. All the penal provisions with respect to stoppages of work and refusal to work, and for keeping employees or sections of employees at their work, particularly work essential to the prosecution of the war, have been passed, not by the Government led by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister, but by this Government. Generally, the regulations have proved effective for the purpose for which they were passed. The Man Power Regulations are designed to ensure that the available man-power of the Commonwealth shall be used with the greatest efficiency and the least risk of wastage. Hundreds of prosecutions, in respect of which hundreds of pounds in fines have been imposed, have been made by this Government, which has taken more definite disciplinary action than that taken by any previous government. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to refute that statement. Moreover, this Government has averted considerable industrial trouble by conciliatory action. No man has done more in that respect than the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), whose long career in the trade union movement in this country is well known. The Government has also increased the number of conciliation commissioners, who have averted stoppages and interruptions by settling disputes on the spot.
Although the Leader of the Opposition has joined with a section of the press in attacks upon the Government, he knows in his heart that this problem cannot be readily solved. Does any one believe that any honorable member on this side of the chamber, having the interests of Australia at heart, would refuse to take any further action that might he. deemed advisable or necessary in order to increase coal production and put an end to stoppages ? We believe that, as the result of the recent conference between the Government and representatives of the industry, better results will be achieved in the future. However, some honorable members opposite have short memories. Let me quote for their special benefit the comment expressed by some newspapers concerning the failures of the Leader of the Opposition and the Government he led to grapple with this great problem. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th July, 1940, said-
It (the Government) has become stale; it contains too many dissentient factions, and its personnel is sadly deficient in administrative ability.
No one can say that, since that time, the party now led by the Leader of the Opposition has replenished its ranks with groat statesmen. At the last election, the Opposition parties ‘ were disgraced, and among their defeated candidates were some of the outstanding members of previous administrations. The same newspaper, on the 29th July of the same year, said -
Through deplorable political timidity the Government drifted on inactive for month after month.
To-day, the same journal is supporting the right honorable gentleman. On the 21st August, 1940, it said -
The mass of the electors would feel more confidence in Mr. Menzies if they were convinced - and they by no means are convinced - that he means to place national needs before party exigencies.
This is the right honorable gentleman who said that this Government should place national interests before party exigencies. We know that he adopted many expedients in his vain endeavour to hang on to office, but eventually he was cast out, not by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, but by his own colleagues. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Eadden) said during the last election campaign -
The stab in the back by Mr Menzies at this juncture makes another betrayal in the series for which Mr. Menzies has become notorious.
Those are strong words, and they were uttered, not by an honorable member on this side of the chamber, but by one of the colleagues of the Leader of the Opposition, who knew how he had acted as a member of the previous government during the most critical period of our history.
– The present Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) acted similarly towards a former Labour Prime Minister.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party must “ take it “. He said that the Leader of the Opposition was guilty of a gross betrayal. Now, the Leader of the Opposition lias the audacity and effrontery to pose here as a Heaven-sent statesman who could solve all our problems-. He tried to put forward, for petty party political reasons, propaganda that is distasteful to an overwhelming number of the Australian people, who believe that this Government saved Australia during the darkest period of its history. The Government transferred 300,000 men and women from peace-time occupations to war production, enlisted another 300,000 persons in the fighting services and geared the nation to an all-in war effort. The Government obtained much greater co-operation from the masses of the people, particularly the workers, than a government kd by the right honorable gentleman could have achieved. I believe that if he had remained in office this country would have been overrun by the enemy, and he and his Ministers would, as members of a refugee government, been on board a destroyer bound for Canada or South Africa.
– Had the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) occupied as much time, used as many words and devoted his undoubted enthusiasm to replying to the charges made against the Government instead of indulging in a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the nation and tins House would have been all the better for it. I take strong exception to the tactics of the Acting Prime Minister in using this motion to make a personal attack of a degrading nature on a member of this chamber.
It behoves me to redirect the attention of the House to the motion itself. Obviously, the Acting Prime Minister does not realize the gravity of the charges and has not a proper assessment of the destructive nature of the attacks upon the judiciary of this country; otherwise, he would be aware of the degree to which our national integrity has been dissipated. The Government always appears to be satisfied to answer serious charges against its administration by tediously repeating the assertion that it saved Australia from invasion. Those charges were made by a responsible Opposition that conscientiously believes that it is serving the best interests of the nation. The extent to which the Labour party contributed to the defence preparedness of Australia may be debated on a more appropriate occasion, when we shall dispose of the Government’s claims, and show that its pre-war policy was not in the national interests. The Acting Prime Minister failed entirely to answer, even by way of an. excuse, the charge against the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). He also overlooked the principle of Cabinet responsibility. As the Leader of the Opposition so aptly stated, the Government cannot accept the principle of Cabinet responsibility at one time, and on another occasion declare that any statements made by a Minister were made in his private or personal capacity. The Leader of the Opposition emphasized that when a Minister makes a statement, charge or criticism in Parliament, he does so as the spokesman of the Government, and the Government as a whole must bear the responsibility for it. As the Minister for the Interior has accepted full responsibility for his action, obviously the Government as a whole is responsible for it. It is not a personal matter between the judiciary and the Honora’ble Joseph Silver Collings. It is a matter between the High Court, arising from a statement by Mr. Justice Rich, and the Honorable Joseph Silver Collings as Minister of State for the Interior, acting for and on behalf of the Curtin Government. As the Acting Prime Minister has not attempted to answer the charges contained in the motion, I can only conclude that he does not realize the importance of them. Because they are factual, they should not require repetition; but in view of the attitude of the Acting Prime Minister, it will be necessary for me to refer to the events in order that some spokesman on behalf of the Government may give a satisfactory explanation of this unsavory and extraordinary occurrence.
Mr. Justice Bich presided in the case concerning the appointment of Mr. Watson as secretary of the Commonwealth railways and the. attempt to appoint Mr. Harding to the same position. His Honour granted Mr. Watson a declaration that he had been properly appointed to the position, in spite of a later cancellation of the Executive’s approval of. his appointment. Despite all the Acting Prime Minister’s platitudes and appeals to sentiment regarding Mr. Harding’s military service to Australia, it should be remembered that Mr. Watson was duly appointed to the position with Executive approval. That approval was ultimately cancelled, and an endeavour was made to appoint Mr. Harding to the position. All the crocodile tears shed on Mr. Harding’s behalf are of no avail when the facts are known. Mr. Justice Rich, in giving judgment, criticized the Minister for the Interior for having sent a telegram to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, at the time when Mr. Gahan was likely to bc called as a witness in the case. His Honour said -
No court onn allow to pass without observation an act calculated to affect the testimony of a witness or to embarrass him in giving evidence.
Outlining the facts surrounding the appointment of Mr. Watson, and its cancellation, His Honour said that on the 15th October last, when the present action was on the point of being heard, Senator Collings sent a telegram to Mr. Gahan at Alice Springs, giving the text of a letter which the senator had received from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). This letter was as follows : -
As mentioned in my letter to the AttorneyGeneral, whether the procedure taken by your department to give effect to the decision of Cabinet was good or bad in law, it is not fitting for the Commonwealth to be brought before the High Court as a defendant in an action instituted by an employee. I learn from the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities that the case is listed for hearing this mouth and that application for certain subpoenas has been taken out in the name of the plaintiff. Tt is understood that one will be served on Mr. Gahan. It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who I understand, desires his reappointment to be considered by Cabinet, were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth. All this shows the desirability of a settlement of this litigation before it reaches the Court, and I believe that if there is a right approach from both sides it can lie settled. It is my desire as Minister for the Army and the desire of the permanent hoad that Mr. Harding’s services, which have been of great value to the Army, should continue with this department for the duration of the war. Therefore the question of his return to the Commonwealth railways during Mr. Gahan’s term of office does not arise. As it will be necessary to act quickly I suggest you get in touch with the Attorney-General immediately with a view to reaching a settlement before the question cif the Commissioner’s reappointment comes before Cabinet.
The observation which I read earlier was made, not by members of the Opposition, but by a Justice of the Hight Court of Australia. The Acting Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition of being malicious, petty and spiteful in raising this matter. If he holds that view of the right honorable gentleman, he must, to be consistent, hold the same view of Mr. Justice Rich.
– Mr. Justice Rich was appointed to the High Court by a Labour Government, too !
– That is interesting. Evidently he is not one of the political appointees to which some honorable gentlemen opposite have referred. His Honour proceeded -
As a communication from the Minister for thu Army to the defendant Minister who administers the Commonwealth Railways Act, 1 1)17-1 925, and on the footing that it was intended for the perusal of the latter only, it is. perhaps, not impossible to regard it as having no further intention than to influence him to effect a settlement of the matter rather than to allow the case to go to trial.
But when the defendant Minister transmitted its contents to the Commissioner of Railways (Mr. Gahan) he necessarily gave it another, and very different effect.
To Mr. Gahan it could only mean that it would be unfortunate for himself, seeing that his reappointment as Railways Commissioner was about to be considered, if lie gave evidence prejudicial to the case the Commonwealth proposed to present.
No court can allow to pass without observation an act calculated to effect the testimony of a. witness or to embarrass him in giving evidence.
Although, in the result, the transmission of the letter does not appear to have influenced Mr. Gahan to disregard his duty as a witness, as he gave his evidence freely, independently, and candidly, it is necessary to say that it is against the law for any person who has any authority, or means of influence over a witness to use it for the purpose of affecting his evidence. And it is competent for this court, in cases where other remedies appear inadequate or unavailing, to proceed on its own motion by calling on the party concerned to show cause why he should not be dealt with for contempt of court.
The Acting Prime Minister lightly brushed aside these comments by Mr. Justice Rich and endeavoured to introduce sentiment into the debate. Also, at great length, and with considerable enthusiasm the fight honorable gentleman made a personal attack upon the Leader of the Opposition for having had the audacity to repeat in this House the opinions voiced by Mr. Justice Rich. His Honour said that primarily the responsibility for taking proceedings for the protection of the administration of justice rested upon the law officers of the Crown. From His Honour’s strictures, and from his action in leaving to Commonwealth Crown Law officers the responsibility to take proceedings for contempt of court, the House will appreciate the gravity of the position in which the Minister for the Interior has placed himself. It is difficult to believe that any man with even a rudimentary knowledge of law, much less a Minister of the Crown, would send a telegram such as that which the Minister for the Interior sent to Mr. Gahan. The text of the telegram was as follows: -
It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who, I understand, desires his re-appointment to be considered by Cabinet, were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth.
Obviously, the Minister’s intention in sending that telegram was to influence Mr. Gahan in giving evidence. However, it is to Mr. Gahan’s credit that be was not influenced in any way by that communication, and for his attitude he was commended by Mr. Justice Rich. The whole matter is so unsavoury that it is due to this House and to the country that the correspondence between the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and Mr. Gahan should be tabled in Parliament for examination by honorable members. I should like to know what action the Crown Law authorities intend to take in view of the remarks made by Mr. Justice Rich.
The next matter to which I shall refer is the practice that has grown up since this Government assumed office of Ministers of the Crown launching violent attacks upon the judiciary, which after all is the foundation of our democratic system. Nothing could be more calculated to undermine the established judicial system or to encourage Australian workers to treat with contempt our judges and the tribunals set up to administer justice, than these attacks. In fact, they provide irresponsibles in industry with reasons why justice should be overthrown in favour of the law of the jungle.
The most recent intemperate attack was made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), whose writings in the press of this country have inflamed the minds of patriotic and responsible citizens, sufficiently to convince them that he is not a fit person to remain in a democratic government. Speaking, not in a private capacity, but as a responsible Minister and a spokesman” for the Government, he made such a violent attack upon the judiciary that it was headlined in the press throughout Australia. The item was featured in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and carried the heading in bold black type “‘Calwell attacks High Court Judges “. In the Melbourne Sun Pictorial the heading was “ Mr. ‘Calwell attacks judges on press decision “, and in the Melbourne Argus “ Minister criticises High Court Judges “. Such publicity given to an outburst by a Minister must have an effect upon the national integrity of this country; but once again the incident was accepted with irresponsibility and apathy by the Government. It has been left to the Opposition to bring the matter before this House, and therefore, before the country in an endeavour to draw from the Government some indication that it has a sense of responsibility and due regard for the position of the judiciary. This is what the Minister said -
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 up in judgment of the actions of the Chief Publicity Censor in exercise of his discretionary powers, and the ease was prejudiced right from the start.
That attack was delivered by a Minister of the ‘Crown upon the High Court, a foundational structure charged with the interpretation of the laws of this country, and an indispensable part of democratic administration and constitutional authority. It is time that Ministers of the Crown realized their responsibilities, their relative importance, and the scope of their authority. It is time also that some government representative confirmed or denied on behalf of the Government the statements that have been made by irresponsible members of the Ministry. Apparently the Government wants to have it (both ways. It owns statements of Ministers which suit its book, but disowns others which it regards as unsuitable. The time has come for the people of this country to recognize that a statement made by a member of the Government is a statement for and on behalf of the Government. Ministers derive their executive powers from Chapter II. of the Constitution just as the judiciary derives its judicial powers from Chapter III. In relation to the three great functions of democratic government, the ‘Constitution provides first that the legislative power shall be vested in a federal parliament, consisting of the Sovereign, a Senate and a House of Representatives; secondly, that the executive power shall be vested in the Sovereign and exercised by the Governor-General and the Executive Council, comprising Ministers of State; and thirdly that the judicial power shall be vested in a federal Supreme Court, namely, the High Court of Australia, and certain other courts. Consequently, the executive authority of Ministers of the Crown is no higher than the judicial authority of the High Court. Each has its defined functions to perforin under the Constitution, and each is exclusive of the other. A Minister who attacks the judiciary is exceeding his authority in exactly the same way as a judge would be exceeding his authority, if he attempted to interfere in the exclusive functions of the Executive. This violent attack upon members of the High Court bench cannot be ignored by Parliament. It is far too serious to be passed over with the excuse that it is merely the view of a Minister. The Government should either own or disown the statement made by the Minister for Information. So far it has been left to the Opposition, to bring the matter before Parliament in order that the people of Australia may know where we stand in relation to this unsavoury behaviour, the only effect of which can be to undermine the course of justice and national responsibility.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) - whose association with the Minister for Information in matters such as this reminds one of the old-time comedy team “ Mutt and Jeff “ - achieved notoriety for attacks of this type when, he was Minister for Labour and National Service. For instance, at a Trade Union Congress in Melbourne, some time ago, he said that some judges of the Arbitration Court ou occasions seemed deliberately to create difficulties, and that he wa3 not satisfied that many men in judicial positions were assisting the Government in industrial matters to the degree that they might. In April, 1942, Judge Drake-Brockman, chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board, said that he would walk out of his position rather than have the then Minister for Labour and National Service set up a court of appeal over him. Having heard the representatives of the mine-owners and the miners, His Honour said -
I would prefer not to discuss Mr. Ward or’ his action. I do not want to criticize him or the Government. This board will not tolerate any interference with its authority.
Last year, the honorable gentleman, when still Minister for Labour and National Service, clashed with members of the judiciary in such a way that he was deserving of the most severe censure but apparently the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin) was blind to his Minister’s indiscretions, because the matter was treated by the Government with the same indifference as has been exhibited towards other equally grave occurrences. In April, 1943, the Minister criticized Judge Piper, Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, for a comment made by His Honour on decisions of the Women’s Employment Board. On that occasion the Minister was reported as having said -
It is Judge Piper’s job to administer the law and not to criticize it. He is a servant of the Government, like any one else in a similar capacity, and it is not his- prerogative to make political statements against the Government which employs him.
In May of the same year, Judge O’Mara. addressing counsel in the full Arbitration Court, said of the then Minister for Labour and National Service - >
I do not know whether your client, the Minister for Labour was correctly reported or not, but he expressed some very quaint views on the position of the judiciary under the Constitution.
When His Honour’s statement was brought to the Minister’s notice the latte said that he would call for the transcript of His Honour’s remarks, and would make a considered statement later. However, so far as I know, there has been no considered statement or explanation in connexion with that outburst.
In May, 1943, the Minister clashed with the President of the State Arbitration Court of Western Australia, Mr. Dwyer. The case in question arose out of a day baking dispute in Western Australia, and, according to the press, Mr. Dwyer said -
One paragraph in a letter to the Court from the office of the Minister for labour, Mr. Ward, might be construed as contempt of court.
Announcing the decision of the court, the President said in relation to the letter written by the Minister that perhaps one could not be too exacting in these days, when industrial systems had become the plaything of politicians; nevertheless, he wondered as to what stage in legal history the court had arrived. Although the Arbitration Act required the court to act according to good conscience, and the equity and substantial merits of the case, the Minister had instructed it, in effect, as to what decision he wished it to give. Subsequenty, Mr. Dwyer said -
The real point at issuewas, whethera Minister of the Crown was justified in issuing instructions or directions to a court with a view to having his wishes carried into effect.
He went on to say -
I have merely to say it would mean farewell to our boasted freedom and impartial administration of justice if bodies vested with judicial powers exercised such, subject to the wishesor desires or orders of ministerial authorities rather than to the dictates of pure justice and reason.
The Minister for Transport has made no secret of his vindictiveness towards members of the judiciary,.
Mr.Calwell. - That is rubbish, and the right honorable gentleman knows it.
Mr.FADDEN- His attacks have been without parallel in the history of responsible government, and he has now been joined in them by his colleague, the Minister for Information, who is the other half of the “ Bing Boys “ combination. On the 22nd June, 1943, the honorable gentleman said -
One of the great drawbacks to-day is that the Commonwealth Parliament is not the supreme constitutional authority in Australia. . . . Why, I ask, should the High Court be above the Commonwealth Parliament? The day is approaching when the people of this country should determine that this Parliament should be the supreme constitutional authority and that any other powers should be delegated by the Commonwealth authority.
We now have the Minister for Information expressing similar sentiments, and making attacks on the High Court, which is the guardian of the whole of our constitutional authority.
I shall not deal with the other matters that have been raised. In connexion with the Stevedoring Commission, the Government adopted an extraordinary attitude.
– What is the complaint about the Stevedoring Commission? That is a new matter.
– The chairman of the commission, Chief Judge Piper, and the deputy chairman, Mr. Nicholl, resigned from the Commission. Chief Judge Piper stated that the reason for his resignation was that his work as a judge kept him fully occupied. It is safe to assume that he considered that, in the existing circumstances, he could no longer retain the chairmanship of the commission as well as his self-respect. Mr. Nicholl stated frankly that a decision of the commission, designed to maintain lav; and order, had been rendered ineffective as the result of action taken upon the threat of a strike, thus depriving the commission, as constituted, of respect for its authority.
The Acting Prime Minister waxed eloquent in regard to industrial conditions in Australia, and compared the existing position with the unrest during the regime of the Menzies and Fadden administrations. Such a comparison is odious and ridiculous because, since December, 1941, this country has been engaged in a disastrous war, and we have had to strain our resources in every direction to the utmost of our capacity. The position in the coal-mining industry, and the industrial position generally, must be viewed in the light of that fact. The point that should be considered is, whether or not industrialists generally, and the coal-miners in particular, have been and are doing everything possible to meet the demands made upon Australia by the circumstances in which it has found itself. The latest available details in connexion with industrial lawlessness and anarchy in this country are interesting. They show that, during the twenty months up to the 31st August last, there were 1,432 industrial disputes, which involved588,951 workers and resulted in a loss of 1,461,671 man working days. Those figures illustrate in no uncertain way the industrial drift that has occurred. The loss of 1,461,671 man working days has contributed greatly to the impossibility of making effective use of the man-power resources of this country, and of utilizing adequately our industrial capacity. Indubitably, it has been a contributing factor in the failure of the dairying industry and of other great food-producing industries to obtain the labour they have needed. It is an indisputable barometer of themalutilization of the available man-power by a nation at war, (fighting to retain its place among the democratic nations of the world, and having international as well as national responsibilities; moreover, a nation that will , be judged in the peace yearsby the manner in which it has discharged its ‘responsibilities during the period of the war.
The situation at the Homebush abattoirs is a striking condemnation of the administration of the Commonwealth Government, and the strongest indictment of the lawlessness with which it has been either powerless to deal or too spineless to tackle. At Homebush to the 30th June this year, there hadbeen ten strikes of one day or two days, and 68 stop-work meetings affecting production. The number of sheep killed was 300,000 below the award tally. During the year ended the 31st March, 1943, no fewer than 75 stoppages in the metal trades were reported to the court. In the next twelve months, 81 were reported ; and between the 1st April and the 26th October of this year, a further 44 had occurred. (Extension of time granted].
– Tell us about the secret funds inquiry.
– I have carried all the odium in connexionwith that matter. If the honorable gentleman will make a charge against me outside this Parliament, I shall take adequate action against him.
– I shall make it here.
– Order ! Honorable gentleman are not in order inbandying words across the chamber.
– I am quite capable of looking after myself.
– Order ! The Chair will attend to that matter.
– I thank you, sir; your assistance is appreciated. I was dealing with the effect of the existing industrial position on the great food industries of this country. I have shown that the Government has been apathetic and spineless in its handling of the menace of lawlessness and anarchy. The nation can ill afford the loss of 1,461,671 man working days. In the meat slaughtering industry, the production has declined steadily since 1941, and strikes, stop-work meetings, and absenteeism have increased alarmingly during that period.
A 44-hour week is provided for all sections by the award. The average weekly working hours during the half year ended the 30th June last were: sheep section, 311/4; pig section, 321/4. The shortest weeks were respectively 161/2 and 251/2 hours. Is it to be wondered at that meat has been rationed, and that there is the prospect of further rationing; ithat we cannot meet our own requirements, much less discharge our commitments overseas and to the Allied forces? Between January and June of this year, the total number of sheep and lambs left alive in the pens at the end of the day was 293,117, representing 17.6 percent. of the number actually killed during that period. There were ten strikes at Homebush, most of them in the sheep slaughtering section; in which, in addition, there were 66 stopwork meetings, and on 117 of the 124 working daysthe men failed to complete their tally of 80 sheep a man, or the actual number yarded on the 25 days when fewer than 80 sheep a man were available. Although, during the first six months of 1944, nearly 300 men were capable of working as sheep slaughtermen, only on sixteen days was it possible to complete three full teams of 76 men each, a total of 228. Is it necessary for me to produce further evidence to show that industrial conditions in this country have got out of hand, and to prove indisputably the spinelessness and ineffectiveness of theGovernment’s administration? A contributing factor has been the encouragement given by the Government to those who would break down the very foundation of our democracy, by criticizing and attacking, maliciously and in other ways, the wholebasis of law and order, which enables us to maintain national integrity and discharge national responsibility, namely the judiciary. It is time the Government grappled with the position. It is all very well to say that there are only a few irresponsibles and Communists. The suggestion that I would make to the Attorney-General is that a searching investigation should be made as to the effect of communism in this country, and that proper action should be taken to stamp it out as expeditiously as possible. Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– I propose to deal carefully and frankly with the various matters that have been placed before the House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and I think that I can show that the House should be satisfied that there is no ground whatever for censuring the Government. At the same time, none of us can properly object to some of these matters being brought up for consideration. I have every confidence that when the facts are fully known and appreciated the Leader of the Opposition will be, or should be, satisfied that there is no ground for censuring the Ministry. In the first place, I shall deal with the remarks of the Minister for Information (Mr.Calwell) who, on Friday last, made certain passing criticism of the manner in which the constitutional case on censorship was dealt with by the full bench of the High Court. I use the words “ passing criticism “, because the issue on Friday had nothing to do with that case, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will be the first to admit that the matter arose incidentally in the course of a discussion, as to a new regulation.
At the outset I endorse without reservation or qualification what the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) has said. All of us have confidence in the impartiality and integrity of all the members of the High Court bench. Indeed, in this respect no member of the bench needs defence from the Government, and still less from the Opposition. I submit that we should carefully observe the real reasons of some of those who, from time to time, for political purposes, rush in to defend members of the judiciary. 1 speak without the slightest reserve or qualification. If there were any charge, or suspicion of a charge, against any member of the bench, it would be the duty of the Executive Government to investigate it, and bring it before the House for consideration and determination under the Constitution; but, as I repeat, such an occasion has never arisen in the history of Australia, and I hope that it never will arise. Having said that. I could part with the subject, but I do not think that I should do that.
I consider it to be my duty to this House to make one or two supplementary observations on the hearing of the censorship case. It would be a profound mistake for the House to accept any doctrine that the administration of justice in the High Court, or anywhere else, is immune from criticism. It is not immune, and constructive criticism may be of the utmost value to this country and to the High Court itself. Let me quote the words of a very great judge, a memlber of the House of Lords, and an Australian, Lord Atkin, who, in 1936, said -
But where the authority and position of an individual judge, or the due administration of justice, is concerned, no wrong is committed by any member of the public who exercises the ordinary right of criticizing, in good faith, in private or public, the public act done in the seat of justice. The path of criticism is a public way. The wrong headed are permitted to err therein. Provided that members of the public abstain from imputing improper motives to those taking part in the administration of justice, and are genuinely exercising a right of criticism, and not acting in malice or attempting to impair the administration of justice they are immune. Justice is not a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men.
The Minister for Information was the Minister, responsible for the seizing of newspapers which gave rise to the High Court litigation, and was, in a sense, like the Chief Censor himself, a. party to the litigation. The Commonwealth was a party to it. I am not going to examine the Minister’s words nicely. No doubt we shall hear from him later in this debate. I have carefully studied the shorthand record of the proceedings before the High Court, and, as my comments will he based upon those proceedings. I ask leave to incorporate the transcript inHansard. (Leave granted.’]
In the matter of
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA and others
Before the Full Court constituted by -
Mr. Justice McTiernan,
Sydney, Monday, 17th April, 1944, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr.C. A. Weston, K.C., with him Mr. Cassidy, K.C., and Dr. Frank Louat, ., appeared for Consolidated Press Limited.
Mr.Barwick, K.C., with him Mr.B. Sugerman and Mr.W. J. Dignam, appeared for the Defendants.
Mr. SUGERMAN. If the Court pleases, may I ask for an adjournment of this matter, as the Defendants have not yet been served with any affidavits. They were served this morning, I think, somewhat informally, with a copy of the Notice of Motion before it could be filed, but no affidavits at all have been served.
The relief is asked for in somewhat general terms, and the Defendants are not in a position to go on with the matter until they have the Plaintiff’s affidavits which might indicate more particularly the nature of the relief sought. I ask for a week’s adjournment.
Sir JOHN LATHAM G. J. One week’s adjournment? What do you say, Mr. Weston?
Mr. WESTON. That is opposed. My friend is obviously entitled to some adjournment, such as the Court thinks proper. The events which will have to be considered in this case are restricted to three days and three issues of the particular newspaper. My chief concern is in not having had the main affidavit filed, which I understand will be finished during the day and also a short supplementary affidavit which will be filed to-morrow morning. The Court will then see that there are no concrete facts in controversy between us at all. There will undoubtedly be questions of law at issue, and the matter is one of very great importance to the newspaper concerned. Its publication has been prevented for two days, and its publication will continue to be prevented completely unless it conforms to the directions of the Censor.
I appreciate my friend’s position, but I have also an appreciation of the difficulty in which my client is placed, and if it were consistent with the convenience of the Court to allow this matter to stand over until 10.30 to-morrow morning, the Court would then be able to judge whether or not a further adjournment is necessary. There is no controversy bet ween us at all.
STARKE J. - What is to happen to-morrow?
WILLIAMS J- - Do you ask that the papers be allowed to publish? Mr. WESTON.- Yes.
WILLIAMS J. - If any one applies for an adjournment, the application is generally made on terms.
Mr. WESTON. In any event, we want the matter heard as promptly as possible, but the immediate objection would disappear altogether if my friend were put on terms.
Sir JOHN LATHAMC.J. I have an affidavit filed in the other case, and it appears from it that there is a controversy between the parties as to the meaning of the direction given by the Censorship Officer, and upon one view it is suggested that there is a direction to seize all the copies “ hereafter to be published by the Sydney Morning Herald”.
Mr. WESTON. Yes.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. That isan affidavit filed in the other matter.
Mr. WESTON. Yes.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. Has a similar order been made in fact in this case?
Mr. WESTON. Yes.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. Is the Commonwealth contending that the publication of these newspapers - Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald is under an order similar. Has a similar order been made in the case of those newspapers?
Mr. WESTON. Only in respect of the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. Is it intended by the Commonwealth that that order would validly operate to prevent publication of the Daily Telegraph to-morrow?
Mr. SUGERMAN. At the moment, I cannot answer that question, because I have not seen the order to which my friend refers, and I do not know its terms. Those matters are a little extraneous to this present application. This application relates, not to the publication of the newspaper, but only to the publication of two particular articles.
STARKE J. - Why should the whole paper be censored and be not allowed to publish because of some small matter that is objectionable to the Censor?
Mr. SUGERMAN. That is a matterof policy which does not affect the legal aspect.
I have no instructions in the matter that would enable me to say that any steps have been taken which would operate as a perpetual ban or an indefinite ban or restraint upon publication of this paper. The only issue before this Court at the moment is, whether an injunction should be granted restraining the Commonwealth and its officers from prohibiting or preventing publication of these articles.
Sir JOHN LATHAM G.J. On a particular subject-matter?
Mr. SUGERMAN. Yes.
Sir JOHN LATHAMC.J. If Mr. Weston is prepared to undertake that that particular matter will not be published until the matter is dealt with by the Court, then are you in a position to say that no further action will in the meantime be taken by the Commonwealth in respect of that matter?
Mr. SUGERMAN. Would Your Honour pardon me for one moment?
Sir JOHN LATHAM G.J. Of course, the Court could hardly make an order saying that the newspapers might publish with any contents which the proprietors chose to insert in them.
Mr. SUGERMAN. No; but I submit there must be some misconception about the matter. I have had no instructions, but I do not see how there could be in existence an order or direction of such a nature as would place any ban upon future issues.
STARKE J. - Is it yourban that they can publish none of the ordinary’ information?
Mr. SUGERMAN. There is no such ban.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. This is the order in thecase of the Sydney Morning Herald - “ Whereas Mansell . . . Barnwell to seize all copies of the said newspaper which is about to be published.”
Mr. SUGERMAN. That relates to this morning’s issue.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. If that is your view of the meaning of the order, it would certainly be a more rational view. If one is to consider the reason for any action at all, then it appears tome there ought to beno difficulty in you stating that the Commonwealth does not propose, and will give an undertaking not to take any action in respect of the mere publication of the paper to-morrow if the paper does not contain any of the matter which is alleged to be in contravention of the order.
Mr. SUGERMAN . The difficulty about that is that the paper may contain other matter. But really, I submit that there is no real difficulty about the matter. That is not only the natural meaning, but it is the only meaning of that order which Your Honour has just read. It is an order relating to what is about to be published, which is alleged to contain matter in contravention of the Censorship Board.
STARKE J. - Why block the whole paper just because there is something objectionable in it?
Mr. SUGERMAN. That is a matter which does not arise at the moment.
STARKE J. - It arises very much.
Mr. SUGERMAN. No, this is simply an application for an injunction.
STARKE J. - It is to be apparently the whole paper, whether the news is nocuous or innocuous - just because of some little paragraph.
Mr. SUGERMAN. The publication was blocked this morning, but I understand that 100,000 of the Herald were published.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. We are speaking of the Telegraph now.
Mr. SUGERMAN. I do not know the position as to this morning’s Telegraph.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. In considering the application for adjournment the Court must consider the position which will be created if no adjournment is granted. In the affidavit in the other case, it is stated that a representative of the Sydney Morning Herald rang up Mansell and said, “ I am asking you as Chief Censor if, under the terms of this order, I am entitled to the belief that. I am to cease publishing ? “ - and there was no answer, and the question was … Of course, we have not heard the other side. It is to the effect that the newspaper has run the risk of having any edition seized, whatever its contents.
Mr. SUGERMAN. That is a very ambiguous statement. Of course, the newspaper runs the risk if it publishes data other than, or different from, this matter. But nothing has happened. As I understand the matter, it has this result, that merely because this contravening or allegedly contravening matter was proposed to be” published this morning, the future publication of the Telegraph has been banned. But nothing like that has arisen. But I put it that an undertaking is not called for. One is not asked to give undertakings as to things which one does not intend to do. I understand that there was really an order made in pursuance of the Press and Broadcasting Order - or the powers conferred by that order, and if Your Honour looks at the terms of the paragraph under which the order was made you will see (volume 2, page 1205, paragraph 12 of the Press and Broadcasting Censorship Order) - “ Where any newspaper, periodical or other publication has been printed or published incontravention of this order . . Commonwealth Officer or Constable may seize such copies … if necessary by force.”
That does not purport to relate to anything of the nature suggested by my friend, that is, the placing of an indefinite ban upon the publication. It relates only to the seizure of particular copies of the newspaper where the newspaper has contravened or where there is reason to believe that it is about to contravene certain orders. It is not a question of the difficulty of giving an undertaking in the light of the facts. It is rather a question of whether the Commonwealth should be asked to give an undertaking, when all that has happened is that an order has been made the effect of which related to the particular issue of the particular paper. As I put it to the Court, that does not arise in these proceedings. All my friends are asking for is an injunction to restrain the defendants until the hearing from preventing the publication of two specified articles - an article and one editorial. They have no ground, I submit, for asking for an injunction to restrain us from preventing them from publishing their paper. They are only asking for an injunction to restrain us from preventing them from publishing these two articles, which are named.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. If such an injunction were granted in an interlocutory form, they would be able to publish the article.
Mr. SUGERMAN. Yes. I am putting two considerations separately.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. When will these affidavits be filed this afternoon?
Mr. WESTON. I can undertake that a copy of the main affidavit will be served on the gentleman instructing Mr. Sugerman or will be handed to him direct by myself. It may be served after the filing time at the office has elapsed, but I can undertake that during to-day Mr. Sugerman will have the main affidavit. One will depose as to all statements made by Calwell, and I undertake to file the supplementary affidavit with all due despatch, and that may be served also to-day. However, Mr. Sugerman will have them as soon as they are prepared and sworn.
Mr. SUGERMAN. There is more in it than that. Your Honour pointed out in effect that he injunction is, in effect, mandatory. The effect of the interim injunction, if granted, would be to permit publication.
WILLIAMS J. - Publication of what?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; The two articles. They are not asking, and have no ground to ask, for an injuncture to restrain us from preventing publication of the paper. They are only asking for it in relation to the two articles. If that injuncture were granted, that would dispose of the whole matter.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; It would be all over then.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; It is an extraordinary position that would arise in interlocutory injunctions. It would be, in effect, granting a mandatory injunction on an interim application.
WILLIAMS J. - Is there anything in these articles whichhas anything to do with the safety of the Co mm on wealth ?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I have certain submissions about that, but what I wish to put to the Court very strongly on the question of the adjournment necessary to consider this matter is that it is not only a question of affidavits. There may be no dispute, or there may be very little, about the facts. It is possible the dispute about the facts is very little, and undoubtedly the facts are not in a big compass. But there are most important issues of law arising in these proceedings, and this injunction application would be equivalent to the hearing of an action and would not dispose of the most important issues.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; Mr. Weston, are you prepared to give an undertaking, that the matter objected to will not be published to-morrow if an adjournment is granted until to-morrow ?
Mr. WESTON.; Yes. May I add, that because the matter is sub judice. that undertaking will be given. I give it out of deference to the Court because the matter is sub judice.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; Mr. Sugerman, you have now had an opportunity of considering whether you are now able to state that the only matter to which the authorities object is the matter contained in these articles and that, on the facts which you understand will be placed on affidavit before the Court, the Commonwealth will not take any action except in relation to that matter or other matter which is published or is sought to be published in breach of such regulations.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; As far as my instructions go, the only effect of the order - the document which Your Honour read and which was served upon the plaintiff this morning, is its effect with relation to this morning’s issue of the paper, that effect being now exhausted.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; And matter being in relation to this particular matter.
Mr. SUGERMAN. I could not say that definitely without seeing the censor’s copy with his markings, but as far as I am instructed it is only these particular matters which were censored. It is only in relation to these particular matters.
STARKE J. - Supposing an injunction were allowed to go and that nothing would be published which would be to the danger of the public or security of Australia-
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That is determining the whole matter.
STARKE J. - No, it is putting them on a very severe undertaking. You are only sitting on the rail and are trying to enforce us to do something so that news which is not censored shall be published.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; If these articles do not appear, and if nothing censorable appears - there must be an “ if “. I put it, that nothing has happened which would stop publication. Any suggestion that there be an injunction now to stop publication would only be prejudging what is the vital issue in this case, that is, whether or not this Court is a court of appeal from’ the censor. That is a most important issue.
WILLIAMSJ.-If Mr. Weston’s clients keep that undertaking, what will be the course of events, as you see it?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; If they keep that undertaking, and if they do not publish anything that is in the nature of an infringement of the order, then there is no cause for complaint, and there will then be no difficulty. They have not asked for an injunction to restrain us from preventing publication of their paper. Their claim is limited to the two articles. They are quite well seised of the position.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; The position is, in the Daily Telegraph there was an article supposed to be published, which we have not seen, and that is not before the Court. That would be an article relating to the censorship. Was there only one, or were there two? It was relating to the censorship?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; Yes.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; Have you any objection at all to an undertaking on the part of the Common wealth, that the Commonwealth authorities will not take any action to prevent the publication of any matter contained in the proposed issue of the Daily Telegraph for the 17th - proposed to be published in the issue of the 17th April, other than the article or articles relating to the censorship?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That is, republication of matter which appeared in to-day’s issue?
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Yes.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I think so.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; That is the only thing to which the authorities object. It would mean that there would be no general stoppage of the publication of the paper unless it contained these articles.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That, of course, is related to matter in to-day’s paper. There would be no difficulty about the Telegraph publishing to-morrow other material which was intended to be published to-day. I see no difficulty about that; but there are other matters which should toe kept in mind. There are other ways in which the order may be infringed apart from publication of matter. The order provides, for instance, in one of its paragraphs, that nothing is to be published in such form as to show that there has been any alteration, addition or omission - the only possible way of infringing the regulations. That is what has happened in relation to some of the issues of the Telegraph in the last two or three days. There is a provision against publishing statements-
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Mr. Weston makes the application, but, in fact, uponno material at all; and the Court is in a difficult position because it has to consider the interests of the parties in a matter which is of interest to the public, and it is very unsatisfactory that Counsel should come here without definite views or instructions on important matters.
STARKE J. ; I do not think that every time an interlocutory injunction is asked for there should be an affidavit. I think that Counsel should just come here and state the facts.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J. ; We have not yet had even a statement of the facts.
WILLIAMS J. ; Has any of the statement anything to do with the safety of the public?
Mr. SUGERMAN.; That, I submit, isbeside the question.
WILLIAMS .J.; Could not you read the articles and tell us in what way they are related to the safety of the public?
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; I suggest it should stand over until later this afternoon.
Mr. SUGERMAN; You have said I have not come here with full instructions, but I have taken a proper stand in relation to this matter, (basing myself upon the nature of the injunction sought and the consequences of granting such an injunction and the fact that the injunction sought is not one relating to the whole issue. Perhaps half an hour’s adjournment could be allowed-
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; It would be more desirable to afford Counsel an opportunity to consider the various aspects of this matter and the application may be renewed at four o’clock, and the other case at that hour. The Court then proceeded with other business.
Upon resuming at 4 p.m. :
Mr. WESTON; Would Your Honour permit me to state that a writ has been filed in this Court Truth and SportsmanLimited v. The Commonwealth and Anor. concerning the two actions now before the Court, and Your Honours are asked, if Your Honours are pleased to do so, to give leave to serve short notice of motion upon the defendants for an interlocutory injunction in terms of paragraph 10 of the endorsement on the writ.
I appear with my learned friends Mr. Shand and Mr. Smythe on behalf of the plaintiff company.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J; Which paper is that?
Mr. WESTON. ; The paper affected is the Daily Mirror.
WILLIAMS J.; What issue have they suppressed now?
Mr. WESTON. ; The midday issue and they propose to suppress all the evening issues.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Issues containing any reference to the censorship?
Mr. WESTON. ; Yes, the Daily Mirror would have contained a similar sort of article to the others.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J ; Is the matter of the Daily Telegraph before the Court?
Mr. SUGERMAN.; Yes. In that matter, if I might state the Commonwealth position shortly, it is this: What the Commonwealth has done, and all it has done, so far, is by its proper officer exercising his discretion to make an order, as I put it, within the power which is conferred.
STARKE J. ; We do not want to know the defence. We want to know if you are prepared to give an undertaking.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I am putting this by way of preamble. The Commonwealth by its proper officer acting under the discretion and powers conferred upon him , by the censorship made an order relating to a certain issue ofthe paper in which there was published matter which contravened the order.In those circumstances the Commonwealth does not feel that it should give an undertaking. At the same time I have prepared a statement of what the Commonwealth is prepared to inform the Court as to its attitude. If I may read that statement, it is this - the defendants inform the Court that if the plaintiff refrains from printing or publishing the articles mentioned in paragraphs (1) and (2) of the endorsement on the Writ of Summons herein and otherwise complies with the provisions of the present censorship order and instructions given thereunder, the defendants will not prevent or endeavour to prevent the plaintiff from publishing its newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.
That, I submit, is all that the occasion calls for. That is a statement of the Commonwealth’s attitude. It says we have prevented you from publishing an issue which our proper officer found to contain contravening matter. If you do not publish that matter, and if you otherwise comply with the order or instructions you received under the order, we will not prevent or endeavour to prevent you from publishing your paper.
STARKE J; Is that the meaning of what you have just read out?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I submit it states with perfect accuracy what the position of the Commonwealth is.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Is the matter in the Daily Telegraph the same as the matter in the Sydney Morning Herald? I have only seen the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr. MAUGHAN. The article is identical; the editorial is somewhat different.
Mr. WESTON. ; The article is identical; the editorial is different, but there was interference with two other issues on other days in the ease of the Daily Telegraph, whereas the only interference with the other papers was with their editions published this morning.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; The earlier days do not arise here.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J ; I have had an opportunity now of looking at the Sydney MorningHerald, and if the matter in the case actually before the Court now is the same as in that paper, 1 would be inclined to make an order now for an interlocutory injunction subject to an undertaking by the papers that they would not publish any matter which was, to adopt the words of the National Security Act, prejudicial to the public safety or defence of the Commonwealth, or some such phrase as that. If they do so. then the plaintiffs will act at their own risk. I have looked at the material aud I am unable to see anything in it which would be of value to the enemy.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That, I submit, is judging the whole issue in the matter. The whole issue in the matter is what is the extent of the powers of censorship in war-time im& how is that power to be exercised. The whole issue in the matter is whether the censor is to have the discretion conferred upon him by the censorship order, or whether the censor with regard to every exercise of his discretion is to be subject to appeal to this Court or to a Court of Equity. That is the issue.
STARKE J. ; How has the censor power in determining whether the thing is contrary to the defence of the Commonwealth?
WILLIAMS J. ; He cannot go .beyond the defence power in censorship.
Mr. SUGERMAN.; I’ will put this, with great respect, that it is placing a somewhat onerous burden on Counsel to expect him to come here on very short notice and argue a question of this extent
STARKE J. ; They acted on shorter notice apparently.
Mr. SUGERMAN; That may be so, but the Court is quite familiar with certain lines of authority as to the extent of certain types of power. The Court is familiar with the cases of Ex Parte “Walsh, with Lloyd and Wal’ach and with Liversedge and Anderson, and cases of that description. Those in principle may turn out to be not very greatly different from the type of principle considered in this case.
The question is who is to perform the function of censorship, the. censor or this or a Supreme Court in Equity sitting as it were on appeal from the censor’s decision?
WILLIAMS J. ; How could a censor possibly suggest that anything in this article in the Herald, has anything to do with the prosecution of the war or defence of the Commonwealth under any circumstances whatever.
Mr. SUGERMAN.; With respect, is the point what Your Honour’s opinion is in that respect?
WILLIAMS J. ; It all conies down to what is the point of view of the Court.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; It did not in the other cases I have mentioned. What I am putting is that on an application on very short notice for an interlocutory injunction there is ho occasion for determining a question of law of the sort suggested, especially when the injunction if granted has the effect of determining the suit. This is an injunction which is really of a mandatory nature. It says 3-ou have, to’ let them publish these papers. I submit it is against all principle to do that by way of an interlocutory application.
WILLIAMS J. ; If the relief is clear it has been done over and over again.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; The relief is far from dear and if I may respectfully join issue with Your Honour on one point, the point is, is it the censor’s discretion which is to prevail in this matter, or is the censor in this and every other matter to be subject to the jurisdiction of this Court or the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Equity as to whether he has performed his functions properly.
STARKE J. ; They suggest that there is no possibility of the actions of the censor being done in the interests of the country. That is a matter they show prima facie.
Mr. SUGERMAN.; I submit they do not even show it prima facie.
STARKE J. ; My brother Williams has the paper here. Could you look at it and show us to what you are referring?
WILLIAMS .J.; Can you show mc anything in it relating to the movements of troops or ships, the making of munitions in this country or anything else relating to questions of defence?
Mr. SUGERMAN.; Those are only particular matters. The language is the same as occurs iri the National Security Act and it has been held over and over again the language is not cut down by the generality of the opening words.
WILLIAMS J. ; Do you say the matter was not submitted at all?
Mr. SUGERMAN; It was submitted and deleted and it was published in flagrant disregard of a clear order. The matter of principle involved is this, can a newspaper or broadcasting station openly and flagrantly contravene the provisions of a Press Censorship Order, and then when steps arc taken against it come to this Court or the Supreme Court and say, “We want the Court to adjudicate upon the question whether the censor has exercised his powers properly “. Can they say, “ Was the matter he dealt with one he was entitled to deal with “.
LATHAM C.J. ; Any person citing it does! so at his own risk. You are suggesting a breach ?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; The publication of the matter was forbidden. The newspaper man says, “ T do not care about your deletion or censorship order. I am going ahead and will publish what you have ordered to lie deleted.”
STARKE J. ; The specific question is what is there in this statement in the Sydney Morning Herald that endangers the defence of the Commonwealth. What is the statement that is dangerous to the Commonwealth? Can you indicate anything that is prejudicial to the Commonwealth from the point of view of defence?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That is not a question which I am required to answer. It is not, I say with respect, a question Your Honour is entitled to put. Putting that question, I say with respect, is begging the whole question.
LATHAM C.J. ; But what is there in the article which is reasonably capable of being considered as being prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth? If it were put like that, what would your answer be then? 1 agree with what you have said to the effect that the judgment of the Court is not to be substituted for the judgment of the censor. I think we would all agree with that. But that does not mean that the censor has absolutely unlimited powers and that he may suppress and censor matters which are obviously unrelated to the efficient prosecution of the war and the defence of the Commonwealth.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I put it even in the modified way in which Your Honour puts the question it is equally objectionable. It might as well have been asked in Liversedge and Anderson or Ex Parte Walsh that the Minister should come before the Court and produce to the Court the information he had so that the Court might answer the modified question Your Honour put, whether on that information it was capable of being said that the person ought to be detained.
STARKE J.; We do not have to guess at the statements on which he acted here. We have them here in Court.
Mr. SUGERMAN. There they are, and I Bay with respect there they have no right to be if the matter is viewed properly. I do not answer the question because I am not obliged to. It is a question I should not be asked, and for that reason I do not answer it.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; That is to say,it is for the censor to determine whether or not the matter proposed to be published is or may be prejudicial to the safety of the Commonwealth?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; That is the essence of it.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; You know the cases under the Income Tax Act. where the opinion of the Commissioner is a determining factor. There it has been held by the Court on more than one occasion that the opinion of the Commissioner is a determining factor, but if the facts show that there is no reasonable connexion between the actual facts and the opinion, then the opinion is not decisive.
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I submit that these matters depend upon context. I only put this to the Court to show-.-
McTIERNAN J. ; The question is, what are the newspaper proprietors going to do with their paper?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; If an undertaking is demanded of me, there should be a reciprocal undertaking. If the Plaintiff will undertake not to publish the two articles in question—–
Mr.CASSIDY. ; The Plaintiff will not.
Mr. SUGERMAN ; And that it will otherwise comply with the provisions of the order-
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J; You see the difficulty you create for yourself by insisting upon “ and otherwise comply with the censorship “. It is so vague in general with particular relation to the facts in this case.
Mr. SUGERMAN ; But I am asked to give an undertaking which has no particular relation to the facts of this case. The facts of this case concern only two articles.
McTIERNAN J.; Suppose that, without troubling about an undertaking, the Court grants an interlocutory injunction.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; You are not prepared to say anything which will make it possible for the press in Sydney to publish news to-morrow.
Mr. SUGARMAN , With respect,I have prepared this, which makes it amply possible, and no more can be said - “ The Defendants inform the Court that if the Plaintiff refrains from printing or publishing the two articles complained of and otherwise complies with the provisions of the Press and Broadcasting Order and instructions thereunder, the Defendants will not prevent nor endeavour to prevent the Plaintiff from publishing its paper, the Daily Telegraph.”
How can we give anything in the nature of an absolute undertaking that they may go on publishing their paper. We must qualify it by saying: “You can go on publishing your paper so long as you obey the law “.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Is there a copy of the Daily Telegraph hero containing these articles?
Mr. WESTON. ; Yes, I hand six copies to the Court (six copies handed to the Court).
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; I am reminded that the publication of this particular issue was not stopped because the issue contained this matter. It was stopped because the issue contained this matter after the censor had ruled that this matter should not be published because it was an offence against the order. It all gets back to the basic situation, that we are here on an application for an injunction to restrain us from preventing publication of the Press. That application is not made, for the very good reason that there has been no such threat. We are here only on an application for an injunction to restrain us from preventing publication of two named articles. Well, as to that, we say that issue is not a vital issue. That is not an issue of urgency. If we were herebecause we had threatened that we would not allow them to publish their paper to-morrow, it might give rise to very different considerations. But no such claim is made against us, and it is not suggested that we have so threatened.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Your point is, that if any injunction is granted the papers are able to publish articles to which objection is taken, and therefore the whole matter is effectively decided in favour of the Plaintiff, and the proceedings will then cease: they will obtain everything they want?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; Yes, and decided on such extremely short notice, without any opportunity to debate most difficult questions of law, quite apart from the ambit of the facts. So, 1 put it it is perfectly proper that I should inform the Court of what the real position is, and I am informing the Court that the real position is that we have no intention of stopping to-morrow’s Telegraph coming out so long as, in printing to-morrow’s Telegraph, they do not commit breaches of the order. Nothing could be plainer than that.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J; It would be plainer if you were to say that the authorities have no intention of stopping to-morrow’s publication of the Telegraph upon any ground other than the inclusion of these articles or some other quite separate breach of the Censorship Regulations, which has no reference to these articles.
Mr. SUGERMAN; I would say that certainly the Commonwealth has no intention of stopping publication of to-morrow’s Telegraph on any ground other than the publication of these articles.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Or, some other quite separate breach.
Mr. SUGERMAN; Or some other quite separatebreach, most certainly. If it is not committed, there is no harm.
STARKE J. ; Why should they want an injunction with respect to something that may never bo done?
Mr. SUGERMAN; We are not asking for such an undertaking.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Have you anything further to add, Mr. Sugerman?
Mr. SUGERMAN. ; Only on the question of the length of the adjournment, which should be such as will, having due regard to thePlaintiff’s concern about the two articles in question, allow the Defendant time to prepare properly its argument on the law as well as on the facts.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; There will be ample time for that if you are allowed two or three days.
Mr. SUGERMAN.; I should think so.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; Do you desire to sayanything further, Mr. Weston?
Mr. WESTON. ; Yes. I would ask the Court not to allow that period of time. Mr. Sugerman has addressed the Court, partly on the question of the adjournment and very little as to the length of the adjournment. He has not been able finally to challenge my remark
I wish to put it that it may be that Your Honours may not be aware of this, that we will not be able to publish as we have been doing, and interrupted publication may continue during that’ period of three days.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J; In this matter the majority of the Court, consisting of my brother Rich, my brother Starke and my brother Williams,are of the opinion that an injunction should be granted in the case of Consolidated Press Limited against the Commonwealth of Australia and others restraining the Defendants until the 21st instant from preventing or endeavouring to prevent by any means whatsoever the publication of the article and editorial referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of claims upon the writ in this action, the Plaintiff undertaking not to publish any matter which is prejudicial to the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth, or the official prosecution of the war.
Mr. WESTON. ; I give that undertaking.
Sir JOHN LATHAM C.J.; My brother McTiernan and myself would have made an order simply adjourning the hearing of the matter until to-morrow. The order of the Court, however, will be for an injunction in the terms which I have stated, the Plaintiff giving the undertaking which I have read.
The costs will be reserved. [The Court then proceeded with other business.]
My opinion is that the hearing of the case was unsatisfactory because of a number of factors. The Commonwealth has no privilege whatever in the High Court, or any other court, but it has the same right as every other litigant to have its case fully heard without undue interruption. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said that, in the High Court, it is the practice for members of the Bench to ask questions of counsel, without thereby committing themselves to any particular view of the case, and mainly with a view to clearing up the true issues. If that had been all, no criticism could be forthcoming. I draw the conclusion from the transcript that the majority of the judges reached a strong opinion, very early in the case, that the claim of the Censor supported by the Government was legally unsound. The unfortunate thing is that they made their opinions very plain and very evident before it was possible for the Commonwealth to have the case presented with the care and attention it deserved. “What are the facts? Here was a great and grave constitutional issue, namely, was the Censor acting in good faith to be judge of what was detrimental to the prosecution of the war or, on the other hand, was the court competent to say or right in saying, that despite the Censor’s opinion his order could be nullified and publication could take place in spite of that order? In popular language the constitutional issue was this : Did the regulations which had been operating ever since 1939, when they were promulgated by the Menzies Government, make the Censor the final judge of what was a detrimental publication or could the court, to use the words of Mr. Justice Rich in another case, “ censor the Censor “ ? I repeat that the case required careful consideration. It was a great case.
– I could hardly imagine a more important issue, especially having regard to many prior rulings in past cases by leading justices of the High Court, including Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Starke.
At the very outset of the case, counsel for the Commonwealth asked for an adjournment for one week. The application of the plaintiff was for an interim injunction, which in substance meant that, if it were granted, the offending matter could be published there and then. Counsel for the plaintiff newspaper opposed that and said that the ‘Commonwealth was obviously entitled to some adjournment, such as the court thought proper, and suggested an adjournment until 10.30 o’clock on the Tuesday morning. However, when the matter was discussed in a- way shown by the transcript, after an adjournment until 4 o’clock on the Monday, the court, by a majority of three to two, issued an injunction which in effect permitted the newspapers to publish the material which had been ordered to be excluded by the Censor. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, and Mr. Justice McTiernan, who dissented, desired to have the matter postponed till the Tuesday, obviously in order that the case for the Censor and the Commonwealth could be more fully presented. It is -no reflection on the impartiality or integrity of the majority of the members of the court that they decided to do as they did. At the same time, it is only right for me, as Attorney-General, to say that the Solicitor-General and all legal advisers of the Commonwealth considered that the case should not have been decided so shortly and so summarily, because, in fact, the decision on the Monday determined the real issue between the parties which was whether the newspapers could, in spite of the censor’s order, publish what he had prohibited, as he said, rightly or wrongly, in the interests of the successful prosecution of the war. They did publish it, and, if any harm to the war effort was likely to result then, that harm followed immediately upon the court’s order. During the course of the argument there was much interruption from the Bench of the argument of counsel, and no doubt the Chief Justice had a very difficult task in conducting the proceedings through to finality.
I have already referred the House to the general right of criticism of the administration of justice. There is another ‘principle. It is necessary that a case should he conducted in an atmosphere of calm and deliberation. Only a few weeks ago, when a federal judge in the United States of America had made an order, after expressing his indignation in what was called “ robust extra-judicial language”, a Court of Appeal quashed his order and remitted the matter for trial before another judge “ in an atmosphere of judicial calm “. I refer to the case of Moskun v. U.S.A. This is a striking illustration and application of the well-established principle of British practice laid down by Lord Hewart in 1924 in Rex v. Sussex Justices, reported in 1 K.B., at p. 259 -
A long line of cases shows that it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly bc seen to be done. . . . The answer to that question depends not on what actually was done but upon what might appear to he done.
I have said on behalf of the Government that we do not question the fairness or impartiality of the judge.
– But the Minister did.
– The right honorable gentleman will hear the Minister later. The Leader of the Opposition has given us his own interpretation of what was said. I ask him to hear what is said before he presumes to condemn. In ray opinion, the only possible complaint that could be made by the defendant litigants was the speed and hurry of the hearing, having regard to the vital importance of the case. I know that that criticism may be answered by emphasizing that the matter was an urgent one. On the other hand, publication of a matter deleted by the censor could have been postponed for several days without any irreparable injury to the plaintiff, whereas the publication in fact meant that the real issue in the case was decided so far as the injunction was concerned. Repeating the words of Lord Hewart, Lord Chief Justice of England, all litigants, including the Commonwealth, are entitled to expect from every court in the land not only an impartial administration of justice ; that, all of us are getting. They- are entitled to something more - that is, to have the business of the courts so conducted that litigants will be satisfied not only that justice is done, but that it is manifestly and undoubtedly seen to he done.
I say no more about this part of the case against the Government. I repeat the Government’s confidence in the essential impartiality of the Bench, but I am sure that I reflect the views of nearly every member of the bar practising before the High Court of Australia when I say that in all cases, particularly those in which intense public feeling is aroused, it is absolutely essential that the fullest opportunity should be given to have the case presented.
Honorable members will, I am sure, read the full transcript of the proceedings of the court on the Mond.ay in order to determine for themselves whether my comment is justified. I believe it is justified. At any rate, it would be most unfair if, this matter having been raised in this particular way, I failed to express it. In this instance, precedents existed and might have been followed. For instance, Mr. Justice Starke said during the last war in the case in which Mr. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland, was plaintiff, that you cannot censor the censor and you must accept his opinion as to whether a publication is likely to injure the war effort, which is binding on the court. Above all, in matters of this kind, it is vital that hurry, or the appearance of hurry, should be avoided. When honorable members read for themselves the transcript of proceedings before the court they will, I hope, agree that my comment is justified.
– It is not relevant to the matter before us.
– It is relevant. The Minister for Information made a statement, I presume upon reading the matter in the press of the day. It was fully reported, and he had before him very much what has now been put more fully before the House.
– ‘What comment does the Minister say was justified?
– My comment. The right honorable gentleman anticipated this argument by saying that the judges do, in fact, interrupt frequently. The only question is whether, in this case, they intervened too often or too early. I pay a tribute to the presiding judge, who had a very difficult task to perform at a moment of intense public feeling.
The second part of the complaint refers to another Minister of the Crown, Senator Collings, and relates to the case Watson v. Collings. The passage in the letter from the Acting Prime Minister to the Minister for the Interior, to which exception was taken, is as follows : -
It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who, I understand, desires his re-appointment to be considered by Cabinet, were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth.
If one does what the Leader of the Opposition did, that is, divorce that passage from its context, it looks like a serious attempt to interfere with the course of justice, but what are the facts? An attempt was made, during the proceedings before Mr. Justice Rich in the High Court, to construe the words as containing a threat to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Those who know Senator Collings, who know the way in which, in season and out of season, he has defended the administration of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, will know how absurd is the allegation that he was seeking to threaten the Commissioner. Apart from that, it is most unfair to tear the words from their context. If the whole letter is read, it is obvious that the sole purpose of the Acting Prime Minister was to avoid a public dispute between the Commonwealth and one of its employees. The aim of the Acting Prime Minister was to suggest a settlement of the case out of court. The word “ unfortunate “ was clearly intended to indicate that a public declaration of a difference of opinion between the Commissioner and the Government was to be avoided. The statement about the renewal of the Commissioner’s appointment was included to show that the relationship of employer and employee between the Commonwealth and Mr. Gahan was likely to be continued for some time.
– That is fantastic!
– Is every possible inference to be drawn against the Minister? Are not honorable members able to view the matter fairly? In a letter from the Minister for the Army to the Minister for the Interior the words complained of should not be construed to contain a threat against Mr. Gahan. Before such a suggestion could be entertained strong evidence must be adduced. It must be remembered that the Railways Commissioner was also a defendant in the action. He was a party to the litigation, and he was interested in any proposal for a settlement. Even if doubt were raised - and doubts can always be raised - as to the motive which prompted the writing of the letter, I suggest that those attacked should be given the benefit of the doubt. The better, and not the worse, construction should be placed upon the matter.
I come now to the court proceedings.
When the telegram was read, counsel submitted that it was not relevant to the case, and Mr. Justice Rich at first rejected it as’ evidence. Then Mr. Adams, counsel for the plaintiff, submitted that if ever a threat was made, it had been made in the passage referred to. That, of course, is the view put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. Counsel for the Commonwealth, Mr. Sholl, said that the passage meant this: “We understand that you have been subpoenaed. If you do not take the same view as the Commonwealth, we shall, unfortunately, be expressing different views in court. Therefore, we suggest a settlement.” That, I submit, is a reasonable construction to place upon the passage referred to, and on the action of the Minister in forwarding the telegram to Mr. Gahan. However, after submissions were made, Mr. Justice Rich admitted the telegram, subject to objection. Hedid not even admit it as relevant to the case, and it was not further referred to in the whole course of the proceedings. The court took no action on its own account for contempt of court, but referred the matter to the law officers of the Crown. The law officers have examined the circumstances, and expressed the opinion - in which I agree with them - that the matter is not one in which proceedings should be taken against the
Minister for the Interior. In the first place, Senator Collings was not a witness in the case. The passage complained of might have had more relevance if he had been. Secondly, those who know Senator Collings know that it is unthinkable that he would make any attempt to interfere with the course of justice by putting pressure on Mr. Gahan, whose administration he has defended so strenuously over the years. The raising of this issue is a further example of the dredging for little bits of evidence to justify the censure motion against the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition also charged the Government with having interfered with the jurisdiction of the High Court in following upon a decision of the court in a coal tribunal matter. It is true that the court, on the 1st November, invalidated a decision given by one of the local reference boards established some years ago. The Government accepted that decision, and in the regulations which were subsequently framed an exception was made of that particular case, and the law was applied in accordance with the rule laid down by the court. That, however, does not stop the Government which, in time of war, has authority over labour and industrial matters, from doing what it thinks it ought to do to preserve industrial peace. On the 26th October, the following letter was written to the secretary of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation in Newcastle -
In view of the recent High Court decision in respect of increases made in rates of remuneration to be paid to employees in the coal-mining industry, and the decision of the High Court in respect of economic organization regulations, I wish to notify you that we reserve unto ourselves the right at any subsequent date to consider what action, if any, we may take in respect of decisions made by the Northern and Central Reference Board, local and central industrial authorities, or any other authority under the present regulations acting in the coal-mining industry, where increases have been granted to employees in the industry, which may be at variance with the High Court decision referred to above.
Honorable members can. therefore, see how dangerous a position threatened. One decision was given by the High Court, and was honoured by the Government. Then Mr. Forster, acting on behalf of a section of the owners, advised the miners federation that, although he did not propose to challenge other awards immediately, he might do so at any time. The effect of this announcement was to cast a cloud upon the validity of dozens of industrial awards governing conditions of employment in a vital industry, some of them given a very long time ago. To have let the matter re”st there would have been to invite industrial unrest. Therefore, the Government thought it better to preserve the decision of the court in the particular case in which it was given, but to take steps to preserve the validity of other decisions which had already been given. That did not constitute ‘an interference with the decision of the High Court. It represented a decision by the Government to preserve decisions of the industrial boards which had never been challenged.
I come now to the fourth point of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he indulged in alliteration and referred to the Government’s “ feeble failure “ to enforce the law.
– That was an understatement.
– I suppose that it would be in order for me to compare the enforcement of the law by previous administrations with its enforcement by the present Government. That would necessitate some reference to past industrial disputes. In the enforcement of the law regarding absenteeism and other industrial offences, the present Government has steered a course between extreme repression on the one hand and extreme complacency on the other. In whatever it did, the Government had one object in view, namely, increased production in order to ensure the maximum war effort. I suppose that in concentrating on the war effort the Government has made some mistakes; it might have prosecuted more persons; but, on the other hand, it might have acted more wisely had it prosecuted fewer persons. The Acting Solicitor-General informs me that the Government has proceeded against workers in no less than 4,000 instances. That has been done under the law relating to man-power absenteeism. It may interest honorable members to know that under the law relating .to absenteeism the Government has not proceeded against a single employer of labour in this country. Why? How could the law be enforced against such a man? How could the Government obtain evidence on which to convict him ? No one can cheek the coming or going of an employer or manager. This law is one which operates against the workers; it is a one-way law. I do not say that the fact that prosecutions have been launched against 4,000 employees in industry, whilst not one prosecution has been launched against an employer, is likely to please the people whom I represent, nor do I think that anything would satisfy the Leader of the Opposition. But is the Government to do things which it thinks will satisfy the right honorable gentleman? No. I call attention to the fact that before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour there was no law of absenteeism in this country; it was then largely a matter of “go as you please “ and “ business as usual “. That was the state of affairs under previous administrations after the war had been in progress for over two years. There was no law against absenteeism until the Curtin Government brought it in. It is impossible to get a 100 per cent, enforcement of such a law. Things being as they are, I know that whenever an industrial dispute occurs a section of the critics will cry, “ Enforce the law against the workers “. The Government has enforced the law. For instance, the Prime Minister gave an undertaking in regard to the coal-mining industry. In August of this year, he announced that proceedings would be taken for breaches of the regulations, and the result has been that some hundreds of persons have been convicted. I make no boast of that. Those prosecutions -were launched because the Government had in mind, above all else, the production of the maximum quantity of coal. The policy announced by the Prime Minister has been followed : in every case which has arisen since he mentioned this matter in Parliament last August, action has been taken in accordance with the recommendation of the Coal Commissioner, to whom the administration of the act has been committed. In such cases as the Commissioner directs, an investigation is made by officials of the investigation branch of my department, and a report is furnished to the Coal Commissioner, who decides on the course of action to be taken. In no case has his recommendation been departed from. Efforts have been made to avoid blanket prosecutions. In pursuance of that policy, prosecutions have been launched in almost all cases in which persons could be identified as being mainly responsible for causing disputes. The Coal Commissioner has had complete freedom of action in this direction, and he will retain that freedom of action. The Government will not depart from that attitude. I ask honorable members to - imagine the position confronting the Government; on the one hand, it has had the miners complaining against the multiplicity of prosecutions, and asking that they should be withdrawn; and, on the other hand, it has had, the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him saying that there have not been sufficient prosecutions. The Government has acted in accordance with what it believes to be sound common sense. I realize that there are some, even among the supporters of the Government, such as the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who do not believe in prosecutions, and I hope that the time will come - and the sooner the better - when collective action by employees at a mine will be followed by the application of the pre-war practice, that is, action against their organization through the Industrial Court, and not by means of proceedings in the police court. However, that time has not yet arrived. I ask honorable members to be realistic, and to recognize that the Government, in taking action against the miners has had a most difficult task to perform. But has it had any assistance in that task from the Opposition, or its leader? No. On the contrary, the Government has been blackguarded.
The next point raised by the right honorable gentleman related, to the resignation of Mr. Justice De Baun from the Maritime Industry Commission. Mr. Justice De Baun is a judge of the Industrial Court of New South Wales. He accepted the position of Chairman of the Maritime Industry Commission, and
I believe that, on the whole, he did an excellent job for the Commonwealth during a difficult period. I pay that tribute to him. He held strong views on the subject of war risks. The tribunal consisted of Mr. Justice De Baun as chairman, four representatives of trade unions, three representatives of the shipowners, and one government representative. As -the Leader of the Opposition has said, the commission decided to reduce the war-risk bonus, and to bring that reduction into operation on the date mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). At the time that the decision was made, the facts before the Government warranted the conclusion that that was a just thing to do. Subsequently, however, further facts came to light. The War Cabinet considered them, and concluded, that the best thing to do was to postpone the operation of the order for three months. It had in mind the valuable services rendered by the mercantile marine during a period of great danger, when the risk of attack by enemy submarine was ever present. Perhaps the members of the War Cabinet were wrong; but they thought that it was right to postpone the operation of the order until the 31st January, 1945. They acted on the advice of Sir Thomas Gordon, but, as I have said, they may have been wrong. Let us suppose that they were wrong. Even so, was not War Cabinet entitled to ask the representative of the Government on the commission to support the Government’s view? Believing that it had that duty, the War Cabinet instructed the representative of the Commonwealth Government on the commission, within the terms of its constitution, to support the postponement of the operation of the order for three months. The Leader of the Opposition calls that interference with the work of the commission. The matter did not come before the chairman of the commission for his decisive or casting vote, but he thought that the operation of the order should not be postponed. I repeat that he accepted a position on the commission as one of eight members. Mr. Justice De Baun, as a member of the commission, was acting as an administrative officer, and not as a strictly judicial officer. He has paid a tribute to the administration of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) in a time of great crisis. Was it not reasonable that when the risk from enemy attack lessened there should be some tapering off of thebonus? Was it wrong to grant some little concession to these men who had run great risks? Perhaps what was done ought not to have been done; but, even supposing that the Government’s decision was wrong, was it not entitled to make that decision, particularly in view of the fact that these man had rendered to their countryser- vices equal to those performed by many men in the fighting forces?
On the 17th November the Loader of the Opposition launched an attack against the Government on the ground that it had interfered with the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Chief Judge Piper. During the present debate, the Leader of the Opposition made omissions. I shall show why he did so.
– That is not a relevant matter.
– That may be; but as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has mentioned the matter, it is relevant now. The Leader of the Opposition said that Chief Judge Piper had generously explained his resignation as chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission as being due to pressure of arbitration work. He went on to say -
It was quite clear that what had happened made it impossible for a self-respecting chairman to continue to preside over a commission which was being regarded by Ministers as a rubber stamp to record politico] decisions.
Chief Judge Piper contradicted that statement publicly in the press, but the right honorable gentleman omitted to tell the House that he had done so. There was no interference whatever with He judge. TheHouse should know that in the constitution of the Stevedoring Industry Commission there is power for the Director of Shipping, or the Minister for Supply and Shipping, to direct what shall be done. That power was exercised. The facts are that certain men working in gang 100 on the Sydney waterfront were suspended. That meant their exclusion from the industry.As the result of the Government’s direction, the Deputy Chairman of the Commission resigned.
– He resigned because of certain directions given by the Government.
– He was subject to direction. Can the Government he blamed for exercising a power that is vested in it? Among the fourteen men who were suspended were ten returned soldiers, some of whom had fought in the war of 1914-18, and the others in the present war. Taking all factors into consideration, the Minister for Supply and Shipping directed that those men be restored to the gang. How can that be said, to be an interference with the court?
I have dealt with the matter of the High Court proceedings.
– The right honorable gentleman has not done so. He ran away from it.
-I realize the impossibility of satisfying the right honorable gentleman. It would be strange indeed if he were to say that he was satisfied with my answer. I cannot expect that. However, if the right honorable gentleman will read the transcript of the evidence in Hansard he will, I believe, in the fulness of time come to the same conclusion as I have done. He may even say so publicly. The right honorable gentleman shows no. appreciation of what the Government has done during the crisis of war. He never says a word in praise of the war effort of the Government, yet he knows the difficulty of conducting the war organization of this country.
– Does the right honorable gentleman really expect me to do so?
– He never makes a positive suggestion. Because of his great skill in the law, and his administrative experience, he knows the difficulties of enforcing war-time regulations. [Extension of time granted.] The right honorable gentleman does not recognize the difficulties confronting the Government. I have mentioned prosecutions. I do not mention them as something to boast about, but as something for regret. I hope that the time will soon come when we shall get back to the old method of enforcing industrial awards. While the decision of the Prime Minister remains, it will he carried out faithfully by me. I deprecate the violence of the language of the Leader of the Opposition. He referred to the “subversive activities”. Does he apply that to the coal-miners?
– To the coal-miners who strike, of course I do.
– He really does not mean that. No one has been more appreciative than the Leader of the Opposition of what employees in the industry of coal-mining have done for this country.
– “ Kid-glove “ stuff !
– The honorable member for Richmond has done nothing to help; all he does is criticize. Let him do something to help. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the “ rabble “. I do not. think he really meant that, although he repeated the word several times. Does he mean that the citizens on whom we are dependent for the prosecution of the war are rabble?
– I. met a few in East Sydney during the last election campaign.
– East Sydney ! No case has been shown on any one of the points for censure of the Government. We have endeavoured to keep the ship of state on a steady course. Our object has been the successful prosecution of the war. All allegations have been answered. Instead of positive help in the prosecution of the war, all we have had from the right honorable gentleman has been an epic in exaggeration and distortion. I am confident that the House will reject his motion.
.– I support the motion and I shall restrict my remarks mainly to its first two points. Either the Government fails to understand the principle of the motion or it seeks deliberately to mislead the country as to what i$ involved. The first point involves the question of whether a Minister of the Crown made a charge of corruption against justices of the’ High Court. I propose to deal with that question first, and I shall not Be led- down the alley-way by the rather shrewd move by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to describe what took place in the court. I nsk Ministers who will follow me whether, if what was said by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) amounts to a charge of corruption, they defend him. If they do not defend him, what course do they intend to pursue ? That is the whole issue. To draw attention to what took place in the High Court is to evade the point.
The Attorney-General upon whom rests a very special responsibility as leading law officer of the Crown said, though, not in the same words, something not completely dissimilar to what was said by the Minister for Information. Before I come to what was said by the Minister for Information it is well that I should repeat what was said by the AttorneyGeneral. He said, “ Once and for all, let it be made crystal clear, these men are free from any charge of partiality. We have the utmost confidence in and respect for them”. Then he proceeded to say, “ Why, they made up their minds and gave their decision before the Commonwealth Government had argued the case “. I do not know what use there is in wrapping up meanings iri word*.
When one makes a charge one should make it without equivocation. The right honorable gentleman has said, if words mean anything, that the justices of the High Court had made up their minds before the Commonwealth had had the opportunity to put its case and had stuck to their view and had never given the Commonwealth the opportunity to be heard. I can see no other interpretation of his words. That is a grave reflection upon the Attorney-General himself and upon the Ministry that permits it. The Minister for Information will speak on this motion.
– I will.
– And I shall ask him some questions.
– The honorable gentleman should have been here last Friday to ask them.
– I am not to be led aside. The honorable gentleman must tell the House and country whether he meant that justices of the High Court were corrupt. If he did not mean that, it is surprising, because he is a Minister of the Crown, an educated man who knows the meaning of words, not an uneducated man who could plead that he did not know the meaning of the words he used. So the honorable gentleman must be held responsible for the contents of his sentences. This is a vital matter. No impartial observer could escape the conclusion that there is an infiltration of propaganda in this country designed to destroy confidence in the judiciary. Such confidence is a fundamental in a democratic state. The High Court is the custodian of the democratic liberties thatsome honorable members of this House would like to destroy.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable gentleman says “ rubbish “, but what were the words he used in replying to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who, at least, made no charge of corruption against the High Court? All he did was to challenge the wisdom of the Chief Justice in suggesting a compromise to the action then pending. But the Minister for Information went much beyond that. He at first said that the law was on the Government’s side. I do not see how the honorable gentleman can square that statement with the statement of the Attorney-General that justice was done. The justices are on the High Court bench to administer the law, and it follows from the Attorney-General’s speech , that the law was administered. The second statement made by the honorable gentleman was that if another government had been in office, the result would have been different, and the third “ Two judges threw away their wigs “.
If that is not a charge of corruption, I do not know what it is. Perhaps the honorable gentleman will tei! the people what he meant by those words if he did not mean to charge their Honours with corruption. Does he realize that that is the only construction that can be placed on the words? It is of great moment that the Government fails to understand that democracy cannot survive once confidence in the judiciary is destroyed. Students of the history of democratic liberties will acknowledge that most of those liberties have arisen from the impartial administration of the law by the judiciary for generation after generation. The judiciary, more than politicians who pay lip service to liberty, is the defender of liberty. Lately in our history we have had right through the country charges of partiality levelled against judges. I do not desire to instance particular cases. They are known to every honorable member. Whenever a decision is given which is not acceptable to the political wing or industrial wing of the Labour party, comments are made that the judges were appointed by another government of a different political colour. How can the Government expect democratic principles to be upheld and democratic institutions to be respected if those very democratic principles and institutions are allowed to be attacked in what should be the citadel of liberty, this Parliament. That state of affairs cannot be tolerated by any one. Unjustifiable charges of corruption against the judiciary ought not to be made by any one, least of all by a Minister of the Crown. Apparently the Acting Prime Minister knows nothing of the principle of collective responsibility of a Ministry. When a Minister rises in his place and makes public utterances in his ministerial capacity, it is clear, without a shadow of doubt, that he speaks on behalf of the
Government. I should like to know and the public would like to know why a Minister who has made a disgraceful charge of corruption against members of the High Court bench is not thrown out of the Ministry. Is it because, as I am inclined to believe, it is not the Ministry but the industrial movement outside that governs the country? If a Minister said in so many words, . “ I charge Justice so and so with corruption “, would the Acting Prime Minister or Attorney-General do nothing and just say, “ It is a personal opinion which he is entitled to express “, and cite Lord Atkin or some other judge as an authority to justify the right of a man to criticize a judge?
– I expect to be here for a good many years yet.
– The honorable gentleman may be, but if he is it will be a reflection on the country. The honorable gentleman’s colleagues are doing their best to defend him.’ But no impartial person with an understanding of the meaning of words can reach any other conclusion than that he meant to charge’ the judiciary with corruption. A selfrespecting ministry could do nothing else but discharge him from the Cabinet. The alternative is for it to accept full responsibility for the charge before the bar of public opinion.
The Attorney-General lightly passed over, and the Acting Prime Minister did not deal with, the second point of the motion of censure. On the firstpoint, the Attorney-General said, “ Here is a judge beyond suspicion, an impartial man who discharges his functions with ability. He is a man with a great reputation “. Then, although His Honour himself had said quite clearly that the telegram from the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, was an interference with the course of justice, the Attorney-General said, “ It is quite obvious that it is not “. So the judge whom he previously extolled is made to appear almost stupid and wrong. The Attorney-General said, “ Look at the terms of the letter ! “ The right honorable gentleman must be particularly innocent if he has reached the conclusion that its purpose was merely to settle the case. If that be so why do we find these words in the letter : -
It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan who, I understand, desires his reappointment . . .
Why? Because Mr. Gahan knows that he is subject to the political dispensations of the party in power. The Commissioner knows that it is within the power of the Government to throw him out, or re-appoint him. Therefore the words are used -
It would be unfortunate if Mr. Gahan, who I understand desires his re-appointment to he considered by Cabinet were to give evidence not completely in accord with the case presented by the Commonwealth.
I should like the Acting Prime Minister to inform me who drafted this letter, or tell us what he meant by those words. To date he has made no attempt to explain their meaning. He left that problem to the Attorney-General. It is a lamentable state of affairs when the Acting Prime Minister drafts a letter in that way; or perhaps he did not draft it, but merely signed it. So many Ministers seem to sign their correspondence without examining the contents. Perhaps the right honorable gentleman will explain to me, if he did not draft the letter, who was trying to put political pressure on Mr. Gahan. The letter concludes -
I suggest that you get in touch with the Attorney-General immediately with a view to reaching a settlement before the question of the Commissioner’s re-appointment comes before Cabinet.
Why was there any need for the Minister for the Interior to get in touch with the Attorney-General ‘before the matter of Mr. Gahan’s re-appointment came before Cabinet? It had nothing to do with the case. The only question to be decided was whether a man had been appointed to the position of Secretary of Commonwealth Railways. The reappointment of Mr. Gahan had nothing to do with the matter. The best case advanced so far on behalf of the Government was that submitted by the Attorney-General, who was called upon to endeavour to explain the meaning of a letter which he did not write. I always believed that when a charge was made against the writer of a letter, he should be the person to explain the meaning of the contents. But in these days, we become accustomed to almost any conduct in this chamber. The person who wrote this letter has not attempted to explain the meaning. Some one else is called upon to attempt to convince the House regarding the intentions of the writer of the letter.
One matter which has not yet been referred to requires mention, because it throws light upon the construction to be placed upon this letter. I refer to a letter dated the 5th February, 1944, from the Railways Commissioner to the Minister for the Interior. These words I shall read are of vital importance because they throw light upon the meaning of the letter of the Minister for the Army to the Minister for the Interior. Mr. Gahan’s letter reads -
I am conscious that my refusal to appoint Harding will not in the long run adversely affect him. On the. contrary it will eventually please him. it was made obvious by you to me that it was intended that he shall be secretary, and it was equally made obvious that as the result of this refusal of mine [ shall not be re-appointed after November next.
So we have on record a letter from a man holding the responsible position of Railways Commissioner, who recalled that political intimidation was used against him in connexion with the discharge of his duties. Any one who uses his eyes cannot fail to see that this kind of political intimidation is taking place not only here but also in public departments. Once it is known that a public official can be intimidated by those in office who owe their allegiance to industrial organizations, it will be the end of democratic government in this country. When the Leader of the Opposition sought to ventilate these matters, the Acting Prime Minister hurled all manner of false accusations against him.
– I shall give the honorable member cause to answer a few things.
– If the Minister will do it outside this House, I shall answer him in a couple of ways.
– I shall do it here, and outside, as it suits me.
– -I expected that the Government would attempt to reply to that letter, but it has failed to do so”.
– Mr. Gahan was re-appointed.
– That would not mislead blind Freddie. Undoubtedly Mr. Gahan was re-appointed, but for a period of twelve months, and the decision to re-appoint him was made between the time of the hearing of the case and the giving of the judgment. This letter was produced at the hearing, and even the Government, realized that in those circumstances it, would be too “hot” to dismiss him. Therefore, the Government re-appointed Mr. Gahan for the minimum possible period. The Government hopes that by the expiration of that period, the matter will have blown over and it will be able to do as it pleases. Consequently, the re-appointment of Mr. Gahan does not impress me very much. In my opinion, the letter clearly indicates that an attempt was made by the Acting Prime Minister to bring pressure to bear upon an important official and to interfere with the administration of justice, because the only question to be determined was whether the Crown was right or wrong in contending that an official had been improperly appointed as Secretary of Railways. The matter was before the court. Whenever we attempt to voice criticism of the Government in this chamber and the matter can by the wildest stretch of the imagination be considered to be sub judice, privilege is claimed, and discussion is stifled. In this instance, the case was ready for hearing and the subpoenas had been issued. I desire to refer to the words of Mr. Justice Rich who, on the testimony of the Attorney-General is a man of great ability and impartiality. His Honour said -
As a communication from the Minister oi the Army to the defendant Minister, who administers the Commonwealth Railways Act 1017-1925, and on the footing that it wax intended for the perusal of the latter only, it is perhaps not impossible to regard it as having no further intention than to’ influence him to effect a settlement df the matter rather than to allow the case to go to’ trial.
In my opinion that was a very generous possibility to concede, because it is obvious that one Minister does not write to another just for his own personal perusal. The Minister for the Interior had to do something. What he had to do is obvious.
He conveyed to Mr. Gahan the contents of the letter written by the Minister for the Army. His Honour continued -
But when the defendant Minister tran»mitted its contents to the Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Gahan, he necessarily gave it another and a very different effect. To Mr. Gahan it could only mean that it would be unfortunate for himself, seeing that his reappointment as Railways Commissioner was about to bc considered, if he gave evidence prejudicial to the case the Commonwealth proposed to present.
No court can allow to pass without observation an act calculated to affect the testimony of a witness, or to embarrass him in giving evidence. Although in the result the transmission of the letter does not appear to have influenced Mr. Gahan to disregard his duty as a witness, as he gave his evidence freely, independently and candidly, it is necessary to say that it is against the law for any person who has any authority or means of influence over a witness to use it for the purpose of affecting his evidence.
The seriousness of the offence is greatly accentuated when a Minister of the Crown, on whose decision depends the livelihood of this man, is involved. The Attorney-General disregarded the letter written by Mr. Gahan last February, and endeavoured to “ whitewash “ the Minister for the Interior. Does any one believe that it was an impartial judgment? Very clearly, it is a political judgment. The Government said : “ We must get the Minister out of this difficulty, and no action must be taken. We shall give some kind of explanation in the House “. That is precisely what has taken place. This reflects the very low level to which the public life of this country has sunk. If, as the Acting Prime Minister claimed, the Opposition should not raise these matters in the Parliament, there is absolutely no forum where they may be properly ventilated.
I come now to the interference with the discretion of the Maritime Industry Commission, over which Mr. Justice de Baun formerly presided. Here again, we heard a very specious argument advanced by the Attorney-General. The fact is on record that for five months the commission sought from the Government information as to whether war risks had decreased in certain waters. The Government was silent. Receiving no assistance from the Government, the commission gave its decision, reducing the war risk bonus. Immediately the unions were up in arms. We have not been told so, but are we expected to believe that not a word passed between the unions and the Government on this matter? Obviously, pressure was brought to bear on the Government, and it succumbed, as it always succumbs. The Attorney-General said that when the decision was made it was discovered for the first time that there was no diminution of war risk. I am a member of the Advisory War Council, and when that body assembles, the Chiefs of Staff give a review of the war position, and refer to danger zones. All I know is that if this information came into the possession of the Government, it was not made known to. us as a member of the council.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– I stated a negative.
– Why should the honorable member for Warringah not make that statement?
– Apparently only Ministers have the privilege of revealing what takes place in the War Council. I stated a negative, without revealing anything, and that immediately raised a howl from the Attorney-General. It is extraordinary that at the very time when the unions were exerting pressure on the Government, new facts about war risks should come to light. Again, that horse will not gallop. Obviously the reason why Mr. Justice de Baun resigned was that pressure had been brought to bear upon the commission. The AttorneyGeneral has contended that the Government is entitled to instruct its representative on the commission how to vote on various matters under consideration. I point out that the unions have four representatives and, with the Government representative, have an absolute majority on the commission of eight members. Again, it was left to the AttorneyGeneral to make a case; but he failed to do so. The Government is deserving of censure. It is time that we devoted attention to principles in government, and not go from one expedient to another. It is about time that the public realized that this Government is not governing the country, hut merely carrying out the behests of the industrial organizations which stand behind it.
– The greatest political humbug who has ever entered the political life this country is surely the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman has had the odious temerity to submit a motion in which he seeks to censure the ‘Government because I am alleged to have made a public attack upon the integrity of justices of the High Court whilst deliberately choosing to forget that on the same afternoon and in the same debate the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) delivered himself of certain views regarding another member of the same court, I shall begin my quotations from the speech of the honorable member for Barker at the point where the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) ceased his quotations this morning. The honorable member for Barker said -
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 had happened’ in court, notwithstanding that shorthand notes of the proceedings had been taken.
If those statements mean anything at all, they mean that the Chief Justice of Australia is, among other things, inept. Therefore he is not fit to be Chief Justice of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition chose to disregard that attack upon the integrity, probity, and capacity of the Chief Justice.
– I did not use those three adjectives in application to the Chief Justice at all, as the honorable member will see if he examines the Hansard report.
– I have the unrevised proofs of Hansard before me.
– Order ! The Minister knows that they are confidential and should not be quoted from.
– If what I have read is not a correct report of what the honorable member for Barker said, he may have an argument with the Hansard reporters, but the Leader of the Opposition had only the same document as I have to quote from and he deliberately ignored the recorded statements of the honorable member for Barker. That honorable gentleman went on to say -
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.
Surely that is a criticism of the Chief Justice! Whether it is a valid criticism or not is beside the point at’ the moment. If I am to be condemned because I sometimes use rhetorical flourishes in my remarks, what about the honorable member for Barker who usually expresses himself in much the same way but in more prosaic terms?
In making the remarks which I am quoting concerning the Chief Justice the honorable gentleman accused that distinguished and learned gentleman of, to use the vernacular, “ duck shoving “. He went on to say -
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.
In other words he accused the Chief Justice of throwing away his wig and abandoning his judicial function in order to become, to use the vernacular once more, a “ fixer “.
– Is the honorable member defending the Chief Justice?
– I am defending myself. I am neither accusing nor defending the honorable member for Barker in respect of his actions; I am merely using him as “ Exhibit No. 1 “. I say to the learned King’s Counsel, who happens to be the Leader of the Opposition, “While you are making charges against me of doing so and so, will you please explain the position of the honorable member for barker, who, at least in principle, did precisely what I did “. Am I right with the honorable member for Barker, or am I wrong with him? The Leader of the Opposition seeks to make a difference of principle, not of degree, between us. The honorable member for Barker then also said that the Chief Justice should not - suggest that the parties should compromise on an issue involving the interpretation of the Constitution.
Not one honorable gentleman opposite challenged the honorable member for Barker while he was speaking, nor did one of them challenge me while I was speaking. If I could judge the effect of my. speech on them by their more than usually vacant stares I would he entitled to believe that my sentiments received approval. A few days pass, and then the Deputy Leader of the United Australia party (Mr. Harrison) comes into this House with fury and indignation! But he was present last Friday and he did not raise a point of order, or criticize me, or interject while I was speaking. He did not even call for a division on a motion by the honorable member for Barker. He seemed quite glad that the issue was resolved and finished with. But then the gutless wonder from Kooyong-
– Order ! The Minister must use parliamentary language in describing other honorable members.
– The Leader of the Opposition, in making his motion this morning, attempted to stigmatize me as dastardly and contemptible. I suggest that such language is unbridled, intemperate and reckless. I usually express my views in guarded terms, but there have been very many incidents in this Parliament to which I could properly apply such epithets, adjectives, and adverbs as those which the Leader of the Opposition attached to me in the course of his outburst this morning. He said that my contribution to the debate constituted an “unsavoury incident “. Any fair-minded person would apply a similar expression to the part played by the honorable member for Barker. I do not say that that honorable member contributed to any “unsavoury incident”. He criticized the Chief Justice of the High Court, and I defended him.
Subsequently I proceeded to make some remarks about censorship which was the suBject on which the honorable member for Barker had been speaking. In effect, I said that Mr. Justice Starke, Mr. Justice Rich and Mr. Justice Williams had given a decision which, on the evidence, I consider they should not have given. Surely I am entitled to say that much. Are justices of the
High Court, or members of the Executive Council, or members of .the Parliament, to be above reproach or criticism in regard to their actions? I did not criticize the judicial system as such, nor did I criticize the judiciary. I made some observations in regard to a majority decision which was given in one case by three members of the High Court and, for doing so, I had the terms “ dastardly “ and “ contemptible “ applied to me. Before I conclude my speech I shall involve honorable members opposite - including some of those who have interjected - in certain incidents to which those terms could be applied.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about a “ rabble “. When he uses that expression, of course he means it to apply to the people who vote for Labour party candidates. When he talks about the working men and women of Australia as a rabble he is attacking them because they will not vote for him or accept him at his own valuation. They have refused to place him back on the ministerial bench, and so he talks of them as rabble.
– He did not mention working people.
– He did not use the words “ working people “, but his remarks could be applied only to the supporters of the Labour party, who, in his opinion, are the rabble of this country.
– Only a diseased mind could put that interpretation on his words.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has favoured me with an interjection.
– Quite so !
– He also was in the chamber last Friday and he made no protest against my remarks. Like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) he is the victim of a delayed action bomb.
– No action was taken because the Treasurer moved the “ gag “.
– The honorable member for Wentworth did not object to my remarks or criticize me, nor did he call for a division when the closure was moved. The honorable gentleman “squibbed it” then, and he will doubtless “ squib it “ again.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) read his speech. He generally reads what somebody else has written for him. I might add that he did not read it very well. What he said was merely a re-hash of what previously had been said by the Leader of the Opposition who, apparently knowing something of the subject, gave to the Country party Leader a carbon copy of his speech in order to help him out. Then we had the spectacle of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the independent gentleman who is also a King’s Counsel, addressing this House. It is particularly easy to deal with King’s Counsel in debate. This honorable gentleman, who criticized me so bitterly today, and said that I should have to answer to the country for what I had done, knows at least that what I say and do I say and do in the open. For weeks past, he has been crawling to Ministers, seeking travel priorities to America. He even approached the Director-General of my department for special facilities in America, so that he could pose there as Australia’s Abraham Lincoln. The honorable gentleman knows that his political days are numbered, and that he will not be a member of the eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth. I congratulate, in advance, the members of that Parliament, on the fact that its atmosphere will not be poisoned by the pestiferous presence of the honorable gentleman who now represents Warringah. “Dastardly” and “contemptible” are the terms that have been used in regard to me and other Ministers of this Government. Nothing could be more dastardly or contemptible than the actions of honorable members opposite when they were the Government of this country, in failing to provide for its defence. Their incapacity made the position such that, had they remained in office, the whole of Australia north of the Brisbane line and north of the Perth line would have been abandoned to the advancing Japanese. These persons who talk about dastardly and contemptible conduct are those who sold pig iron to the Japanese before Japan entered the war. They have a lot to answer for at the bar of public opinion, to the present generation of Australians ns well as to posterity. It would seem that the honorable member for Warringah desires to ingratiate himself once more with the powers that control the finances of the anti-Labour parties. He spoke about trying to “stir up the rabble “. That is a European expression. We who sit on this side of the House are an Australian Labour party and government; in fact, we are the only. Australian party in this Parliament. Those with European appreciations of and outlook on our problems are entirely unfitted again to be entrusted with the government of this country. The Leader of the Opposition was particularly offensive in the style of his delivery. He talked about “ the rabble”, “dastardly and contemptible conduct “, and “ unsavoury incidents “. Yet he is the person who addressed the last meeting in Canberra of the Summer School of the Institute of Political Science, and the best subject that he could think of for his speech was a plea for a prosperous postwar Japan. He made it at a time when men were still fighting for Australia, and everybody in this country was realizing that, if Japan were prosperous and strong in the post-war world, the peace would be only an interlude between this war and another and more terrible war. I am entitled to say of the right honorable gentleman, and of those who cheered him, that that attitude was dastardly and contemptible. There are honorable members opposite who do .not agree with his sentiments, yet none of them has yet repudiated him. I know that the vast majority of them do not believe in the dictum which he uttered because he thought that it might suit international finance. I could talk about a lot of other things which the right honorable gentleman has said and done in the past. I can best comment upon his conduct by repeating what was said of him as late as the 20th October last by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The press reported that right honorable gentleman as having said -
People will remember that the man who ls to-day appealing for unity led the breakaway movement when I was leading the United Australia party. It was awfully good of Menzies to say I could join the new show if I applied. Menzies formed a group of the outstanding tories under the style of the national service group; he damagingly renounced overnight the post-war credits points of the 1943 policy speech, jolting the then Leader of the Opposition into the cry that he had been stabbed in theback. No one is going to be leader if Menzies cannot.
There is no need to “ paint the lily “, to “ gild refined gold “. That is the statement of one who knows the Leader of the Opposition better than he is known by any one else. The right honorable member for Kooyong also accused the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and me of breaking Cabinet solidarity, and of being a law unto ourselves. He has always been a law unto himself. He is the only political leader in Australian history who has succeeded in dividing his own Cabinet on the floor of this House. The honorable member for Warringah also talked about Cabinet solidarity and collective responsibility. On the 30th May, 1940, the House of Representatives divided on the subject of the Motor “Vehicles Agreement Bill. Every Australian Country party Minister in the Government of that day voted against it, and all United Australia Party members voted with the Australian Labour party after the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had asked for leave to withdraw an amendment he had moved. There has been no division in the present Cabinet: there have been no crises of that sort. Before the Leader of the Opposition ran successfully charge the Minister for Transport and me with breaking Cabinet solidarity he will have to explain, if possible, how he obtained leadership of a government at a time when the then Prime Minister described him as lacking in loyalty, courage, and a lot of other things, and how he eventually proceeded to the point of destroying that same government. He took three new men into his Government, in the hope that he would thereby secure a majority in his favour; he created three new portfolios to bring them in, but it did not take those new Ministers long to find out the real position. . They soon voted the right honorable gentleman out and voted in as Prime Minister the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden). Yet he stands here to-day. and presumes to lecture this Government ! He has made the incident of last Friday the important one on which to base his charges. His motion to-day is a fivepoint programme. He had a. fivepoint programme last week, and he will have another when we meet again. He will try to censure or criticize us on some collection of five points that will arise between now and the next meeting of the Parliament. All that I have to say is that I accept responsibility for what I did; but I refuse to accept the interpretations that have been placed upon my actions. I have been attacked in this Parliament, and in the press of this country. The Leader of the Country party built a part of his case on the fact that my speech had been featured in the press, of this country. I care nothing for the press. I am concerned about only the common people of Australia and their interests. If people malign me in this House, I shall defend myself as best I can ; and when I am maligned and attacked outside this Parliment I shall take such action as will ensure my protection. I was attacked in a certain newspaper last Saturday, and was called “ a malicious liar “. I have to-day issued a writ in the High Court of Australia, claiming damages for libel, and have set the amount of the damages at £25,000. Whatever may be charged or alleged against me, it can never be said that I have uttered sentiments in favour of Germany or Japan. In reply to the talk of dastardly and contemptible conduct, I quote finally the words uttered by the gentleman who now leads the Opposition after his return from Germany in 1938. The words more fittingly apply to him. He then said -
Justice must be done to Germany, in spite of the dreadful things done there, and we must do justice without fear of being called proGerman, or - as I have been called - a Fascist.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2301) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 28th November (vide page 2253), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fadden had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn for the purpose of referring the matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and report”.
.- I commend the Government on its enterprise and foresight in taking steps to establish the aluminium industry in Australia on a sound and permanent basis. The bill provides for the allocation of £1,500,000 of Commonwealth money for this purpose, and it has been agreed with the Government of Tasmania that it shall provide the same amount. It is proposed to produce aluminium ingots from local bauxite. I am glad that it is to be a purely government concern run by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments in conjunction. Many thousands of workers in my electorate are vitally interested in the aluminium industry, particularly those employed in aircraft production and in the extrusion plant at Granville. When this proposal is put into effect, we shall no longer foe dependent upon overseas supplies of aluminium, and the fact that the industry will be under government control will foe a guarantee that it will not close down after the war, as might happen if it wore controlled by private enterprise. Millions of pounds have been invested in the Australian aircraft production industry, and the many thousands of workers employed in it are anxious that the continuity of their employment shall be assured. As was pointed out by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley), when introducing the bill, theestablishment of the aluminium industry in Australia is vital to the defence of the country, not only during this war, but also after the war. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) explained how serious the position was some time ago when there was only three weeks’ supply of aluminium in the country. When I was a member of the War Expenditure Committee, we visited the works at Granville, and the manager, pointing to a small quantity of aluminium lying in a yard, said that that was all they had with which to carry on the industry, and his was the only firm engaged in fabrication at that time. He then took us to another part of the premises where there was a dump of scrap aluminium. Honorable members will recall the campaign to obtain scrap aluminium from anywhere, even the halt, the lame and the blind. Amongst the heap of household pots and pans there was an artificial limb passed in by a cripple. We all know that aluminium imports were limited severely by the sinking of ships in the Pacific and other seas and by the fact that one British factory producing aluminium ingots was blown up by German bombs. That was one of the reasons prompting this Government to set up its own factory. I -know that the factory at Granville is controlled by the international cartel, Alcoa, and that twothirds of the shares are owned and controlled by overseas interests. I have nothing to say in disparagement of the manner in which the owners have conducted the works. It is a credit to them ; they have materially aided the prosecution of the war. I understand that there was an agreement with the company that it would obtain its supplies of aluminium ingots from overseas. But we have learned our lesson. We cannot allow ourselves again to be in the plight that threatened us when supplies of aluminium were virtually non-existent. We must be self-reliant. Doubtless, there were influences at work, particularly early in the war, to prevent the setting up of the aluminium industry in Australia. How those influences worked has been referred to many times in this chamber. On one occasion, when I was dealing with the retarding effect of monopolies on the war effort in the early stages of the war, I pointed out that certain activities, including the manufacture of aluminium, were being held back until big interests were able to deal with them. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) last night referred to a process for the manufacture of aluminium devised by certain engineers in conjunction with the Sydney Technical School. As a private member in opposition, during the Menzies regime, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to an engineer in Sydney who offered a certain process for the manufacture of aluminium to the then Director of Materials, who replied that the Government was not interested and referred him to Electrolytic Zinc and Metal Manufactures Limited, a private concern in which ‘he was interested. Those examples show that the previous Government was not interested in setting up the aluminium industry as a governmental activity, but was prepared to leave the industry to private vested interests. A group of people in Berrima, where there are bauxite deposits, was interested in a project for the establishment of a factory to manufacture aluminium. Among them were some engineers who formerly occupied fairly high positions in an aluminium factory in Yugoslavia and had brought the blue prints of that factory to Australia. That proposition was put to the Menzies Government. 1 saw the correspondence, including the reply of the then Prime Minister that the matter had been referred to the Director-General of Munitions, Mr. Essington Lewis, but nothing further about the proposition was heard by those people. Then there was the offer by an outstanding Australian engineer. Dr. Bradfield, who recently died, to act in an honorary capacity in developing resources of bauxite in Queensland which he, in conjunction with the Mines Department of Queensland, had tested and found to be 90 per cent, pure alumina. Unfortunately, his offer was not accepted, again showing that the Menzies Government was not interested in establishing a government factory. I am glad that this Government takes a different attitude. Sir Ronald Charles came to this country at the invitation of the Menzies Government to report on the proposed establishment in this country of the aluminium industry. He is interested in the overseas combine and he was mainly interested in setting up a privately controlled factory. It was submitted to the then government that the overseas interests would establish, at the estimated cost of £2,500,000, a factory for the manufacture of aluminium on the condition that at the conclusion of the war the plant be dismantled and sent back overseas. That was the catch. That shows that overseas interests are not concerned about the development of this country in times of peace.
It has been proposed by the Opposition that the establishment of this industry should foe referred to the Tariff Board or some other body for further inquiry, but there is no necessity for that, because I have no doubt that the commission that will be set up to govern this enterprise will fully inquire into all aspects of the industry and ensure that the most modern plant shall be installed. It will not necessarily accept the plant offered by Sir Ronald Charles. I hope that the commission will investigate the other propositions, including the one emanating from the Yugoslavian engineers. Now that Yugoslavia has been almost liberated by the United Nations, there should be ample evidence available from that country as to the type of plant in operation there.
It is important that this asset should be controlledby the people, because, if the industry were left to the control of private interests and dismantled after the war, as was proposed, the users of aluminium would have been saddled in the price of aluminium products with huge costs for the establishment of something which would no longer exist. Never again shall we believe that we can find millions of pounds to expend in a war for destruction, but nothing in time of peace for construction and the development of this country. This industry, among other secondary industries, . is not only essential to the development of this country, but also vital ‘to its defence. Never again shall we allow ourselves to be in the position we occupied at the outbreak of this war, particularly when Japan entered the conflict, when we had to beg aid from overseas, and when, in the words of the Prime Minister, we had to start from scratch, with the great defence undertakings like the Cockatoo Dock and the Small Arms Factory almost motionless. The aluminium industry also is an important subsidiary to the aircraft industry, which mustbe developed in this country. The next war will be a fast-moving war and it will come from the north. The very fact that this industry will be in Tasmania may be advantageous, because Tasmania will be isolated. Tasmania has suffered considerably in this war because we have had to divert to the mainland not only industrial activity, but also man-power. After the war, aluminium willbe needed not only as a defence material, but also for the manufacture of household and office equipment and in railway construction. Railways will have to compete against speedier methods of transport, and it will be necessary for the rail services tobe accelerated, and that will entail lighter rolling-stock, for which aluminium will be needed. I feel sure, therefore, that there will be a considerable market for aluminium. The light car industry will be a further avenue for disposal of the product of this proposed factory. Other ways in which the products of that factory willbe used could be mentioned.
This (bill cannot be challenged constitutionally. There will certainly be no challenge . from the Government of Tasmania, which is contributing one half of the cost. Tasmania is ideal for the development ofthe industry. Experts have approved of it. The hydro-electric power is cheap and, as in the other States, deposits of bauxite are available. The climate is ideal for the establishment of engineering activities. Moreover, it is only fair to Tasmania, which has lost so much of its man-power ito .the mainland, that the Commonwealth Government should take some steps to redirect manpower to that State. The hill provides in clause 9 -
The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament.
That is an assurance that this industry shall not be sacrificed as other important governmental enterprises like the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers were sacrificed by executive action, after the last war. Paragraph j of clause 3 of the agreement provides -
The Commission shall not enter into or bc in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking; and
I fail to see any justification for the criticism, doubt and suspicions cast by members of the Opposition upon the bona fides of the two Governments in setting up this industry under their control. Without the approval of both Houses of the Parliament, it will be impossible to dispose of this undertaking, or to come to any arrangement with any overseas cartel which may affect the price or the control of the industry. Another important item which protects the Australian industry and which will create more employment and assist in the development of this country, is paragraph h -
Other things being equal the Commission shall give preference to goods manufactured in the Commonwealth or its territories when purchasing machinery plant and supplies.
That is a step in the right direction. It is proof of the Government’s determination to honour its promises to Tasmania, to workers in industry and to members of the fighting forces that the wheels of industry shall be kept revolving in the post-war period, and full employment shall be provided for every one. It is a step in the implementation of the Labour party’s policy of nationalizing the basic industries of this country, and will help to provide economic security for all the people.
– A Commonwealth Government in the future may desire to dissolve the partnership between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania. ‘Can the honorable member suggest any ways in which the State could carry on the undertaking?
– The AttorneyGeneral may be able to elucidate that matter; but I do not see how the State of Tasmania could act independently without the approval of the Commonwealth.
– If the Commonwealth ‘ were to dissolve the partnership, would it mean the end of the industry?
– I do not know whether the Commonwealth could terminate the partnership; but such action would have a detrimental effect on the industry. The agreement ensures that each party shall carry out its obligations. [Quorum formed.’]
.- It is scarcely necessary for me to say that I am anxious to see the aluminium industry established in Tasmania. At the same time, I desire to ensure that it shall be established on a firm and satisfactory basis. An unanswerable case has been made for an independent investigation in order that honorable members may better inform their minds regarding the proposal. Many people are gravely concerned about the alleged satisfactory nature of this proposed undertaking. There is a definite lack of reliable information regarding the technical and economic aspects of the industry. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who introduced the bill, gave little or no information to honorable members about the proposal, and it is no wonder that a good deal of confusion and doubt exist regarding the practicability of establishing the undertaking on a satisfactory basis. I do not blame the Minister. Doubtless he gave to the House all the information in his possession, exceedingly limited though it was. Honorable members should ask themselves, not what Tasmania or Australia will gain from this industry, but what disabilities Tasmania and Australia may suffer if the industry be established on a false foundation. I shall support the request for an independent investigation of the proposal in order that honorable members may obtain a better knowledge of it. An exceptionally strong case was submitted by the honorable member for Gippsland’ (Mr. Bowden) for this inquiry. He proved conclusively that neither the Minister nor his advisers had. much knowledge of the technical side of the industry.
As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) declared, Tasmania welcomes Commonwealth expenditure in the State, because it has received very little money from the Commonwealth in the past. Towards the establishment of the aluminium ingot industry, the Commonwealth proposes to expend at least £1,500,000. As a Tasmanian and an Australian, I am undoubtedly entitled to make an effort to ensure that the money shall be wisely expended in such a manner as to give some reasonable assurance of success. I must be certain that Tasmanian taxpayers will not be committed to pay interest on borrowed money for generations to come. I require all the information that I can secure on this subject in. order that I may cast an intelligent vote upon this most important proposal. If the House in its wisdom - or lack of wisdom - decides that it does not want an inquiry, I shall support the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– The honorable member believes in having a few shillings each way.
– But the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) never wins. I am somewhat unhappy about the fragile promises that were made for the establishment of this industry in Tasmania. As has already been pointed out, a definite promise was made just prior to the last election. No strings were attached to it. When the Minister for Supply and Shipping was in Hobart on the eve of the last election, he stated definitely that the industry would be established in Tasmania and that the Government would set aside the sum of £3,000,000 for that purpose. Undoubtedly the Minister dangled an electioneering bait. Huge advertisements were published in the Tasmanian press bearing the words, “Vote Labour and secure the aluminium industry “. But people were not told that Tasmania would be obliged to provide one-half of the capital. Now, with the election a matter of history, Tasmania is called upon to find £1 for £1.
– The Government of Tasmania agreed to do so.
– It did. I do not deny that. The first instalment of £1,500,000 is provided ‘ in this bill. I use the words “ first instalment “ advisedly, because I am informed that the two Governments will not establish aluminium smelteries at the cost of £3,000,000. As I may be wrong, I ask for an inquiry to be held into the Government’s proposal, in order that honorable members may inform their minds. If the establishment of the industry is to cost more than £3,000,000, another call for money will have to be made on the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania.
The Government may contend that it could not constitutionally establish this industry without entering into partnership with the State of Tasmania. That assertion will not bear examination. Last February, the Minister for Supply and Shipping stated that the bill had been printed and was ready for presentation to this Parliament, and no obligation had then been imposed on Tasmania to subscribe a proportion of the capital cost. Under the Constitution, the Commonwealth may grant any sum of money that it sees fit to any State, and may attach thereto any conditions that it chooses. Under that provision, the Commonwealth could and should accept the whole of the responsibility for establishing this industry, as Tasmanians understood the Commonwealth would do when the promise was made prior to the last election. But what do we find? Tasmanian taxpayers will now be called upon to bear one-half of the financial responsibility for this undertaking, and a huge interest bill for many generations to come. 1 cannot understand why the Commonwealth asked Tasmania to accept a share of the responsibility, because the Commonwealth did not find it necessary to enter into an agreement with the State of Victoria, where the other section of the industry has been established. Without the Government of Victoria providing one penny, a part of the aluminium industry has been established in that State. If it is constitutional to erect fabrication works in Victoria, why is it unconstitutional to build a smelting plant in Tasmania? Tasmania can provide both the bauxite and the hydroelectric power for the industry. Huge quantities of high grade bauxite occur in Tasmania. In the Ouse district alone two million tons is in sight, and valuable deposits are also found in the Tamar and Campbelltown districts, and I am anxious to see it established on a sound foundation. Consequently, we must consider some of the points mentioned by previous speakers.
We must ascertain whether the aluminium industry has an established future in the markets of Australia and the rest of the world ; whether the development of magnesium and plastics offers a serious threat to aluminium ; and whether the fact that the world’s productive capacity has been multiplied several times to meet the demands of war will have any influence on the future of the Australian industry. Are there not, in those doubts, excellent reasons for an inquiry into the Government’s proposal? We must also consider whether Australia can produce aluminium which will be able to compete in price and quality with that produced elsewhere; whether Australian requirements are sufficient to keep the Australian industry going; and what protection will be required to ensure that no imported aluminium shall enter this country. We must not and cannot afford to depart from sound business principles.
A new world is in the making. If we are to share in its benefit which we all hope it will have to offer, our industry must be founded on a firm basis. I hope that the Government has examined the effects of international contracts and agreements upon this industry. What is the position of Australia in relation to the Aluminium Company of Canada? Early in the war, the Commonwealth Government, together with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Canada, entered into an agreement to erect an aluminium plant in Canada. Australia provided £1,000,000 for the work, and the money could be regarded as an advance payment for aluminium to be supplied to this country. I believe that 20,000 tons of aluminium was to be provided during a period of six years. One-half of that period has already expired. How much more of that 20,000 tons still has to come to Australia I do not know. Advice that I have received from a Tasmanian Government official is thai in 1938-39 only 1,320 tons had been imported. At pre-war consumption rates it would take a long time to absorb 20,000 tons, but with the war emergency conditions of the last few years the situation may have altered completely. I desire more information on the subject.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that after the war Australia would require approximately 6,000 tons of aluminium per annum. That envisages a consumption four and a half times greater than our post-war importations. Many new uses for this metal will undoubtedly be found, but whether they will require four and a half times our previous importations is another matter. We know, too, that magnesium is superseding aluminium for many purposes, but here again lack of information prevents us from exercising sound judgment. In these circumstances it would be highly advisable for the Government to order an independent investigation of the whole subject by a competent authority, including the future of magnesium. It is beyond question that the world production of aluminium at present exceeds world demand. American Government plants, apart from those operated by private enterprise, are producing as much aluminium as was used throughout the world prior to the war. Allied production of aluminium is now six times greater than the pre-war world demand. The plant at Arvida, in Canada, in respect of which the Commonwealth Government has expended £1,000,000, produced 340,000 tons of aluminium in 1942. Last year it was producing at the rate of 1,000 tons a day, and provided 40 per cent.” of total Allied requirements. Over-production in the United States has resulted in two plants, which cost £23,000,000 to establish, being closed down before reaching the production stage. To-day’s output of aluminium is far greater than the demand, and unless many more uses can be found for this metal the new industry is not likely to be the success we would desire.
We know, of course, that the aluminium industry is the basis of the aircraft industry and that that industry is basic to national defence; but with the cessation of hostilities, which we hope will not be long delayed, the demand for aluminium will shrink greatly. I should like to know whether there is any truth in the statement which has originated in America that magnesium is being used as an alloy to the degree of 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the finished metal. The plain fact is that we have not sufficient information on this subject to register an intelligent vote. It is particularly import tint that we should obtain reliable information concerning the increasing use of magnesium. No honorable member of the House has given us dependable information on this point.
I direct attention to the following paragraph, which appeared in an article in the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of the 15th October, 1944 :-
In our issues of 1st April, 1943, and 1st April, 1944, the likely damage to he done to other industries by saddling them with expensive light metal was pointed out. It was shown that production of the metal in the United States of America, where it can be produced at a fraction of the cost of manufacture in Australia, has increased from 521,106 tons in 1942 to 920,000 in 1943, and that during the last quarter of 1943 production was at the rate of 1,12S,000 tons a year, and has to be reduced. The main argument for the extraction of aluminium in this country during recent discussions was that we should make ourselves secure for defence reasons by having the industry here. The effective answer to this was that an ample stock of the cheap aluminium produced in America could be established here with a very small percentage of the huge sum mentioned in the bill. In any case, petrol has to bc imported, so a local aluminium supply would not make us selfcontained in war-time.
The article proceeded -
With a world glutted with aluminium the proposal bids fair to commit the taxpayers to large losses and the industries which use aluminium as a raw material to unwarranted expense. With the cheapest steel and zinc in the world available in Australia it would be a pity to allow a political stunt to superimpose a high-priced light metal on manufacturers. The alternative is to add the losses of this undertaking to our taxation burden.
I am not able to say whether the statements that I have read are true, ‘but they certainly require careful investigation.
I now direct the attention of honorable members to clause 7 of the bill, which reads -
Subject to the provisions of this Act and of the Agreement, it shall be the duty of the Commission, with all possible expedition, in order to promote the naval, military and air defence of the Commonwealth and its territories, to do all such acts and things as arc necessary for the production of ingot aluminium, and for that purpose it shall have and may exercise the powers and functions, and shall perforin the duties and obligations, of the Commission set out in the Agreement.
If the Government were requesting the establishment of this industry as a purely defence measure it would be standing on firmer ground. We all know that in the earlier days of the war the Allied Nations were in . very great need of aluminium, but to-day the market is glutted. The industry cannot be justified, even on defence grounds, if we confine our outlook to the present war; but if Australia ever again became so isolated geographically as it was some time ago, an industry of this description would be of great value to us. We are justified in accepting as our motto, “ In our preparedness lies our safety “. Any Australian government is under an obligation to provide for future defence needs, but if the measure is being put forward as a defence project, it is quite unjust to call upon Tasmania to contribute so heavily towards its establishment. In that circumstance there is no justification whatever for requiring Tasmania to contribute half the capital cost.
– Victoria would accept, this industry very quickly if Tasmania did not desire it.
– Victoria has not been called on to contribute one penny piece towards the establishment of a fabrication plant in that State. Why then should Tasmania be called upon to contribute towards the establishment of the ingot manufacturing industry? The Tasmanian people are being asked to accept a double risk. First of all, our people are being called upon to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis with the Commonwealth ; and, secondly, they are being required to find between £1,000,000 and £1,500,000 to provide additional hydro-electric power for the industry. It is obvious to m( that there is a danger that the Tasmanian taxpayers may be called upon to pay interest, through many generations, on an expenditure of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 involved in the establishment of an industry which is required mainly for defence purposes. “We have been told that the Wangaratta fabrication plant is owned by the Government, but will it be controlled by the Government?
– It will not be so controlled.
– There are grounds for some inquiry into this aspect of the subject. In fact, a great deal of mystery surrounds this whole project. It is unsatisfactory to me that only the smelting plant is to be established in Tasmania. I consider that the whole industry should be located there. Competition will be keen enough, we all realize. I shall be happy if the Government will agree to an independent investigation of the whole proposal, in order to resolve doubts that have arisen in the minds of honorable members as to the justification for the expenditure of this money. Surely honorable members opposite do not desire to launch out on this project before important questions in regard to i its future have been properly considered. After all, we are public trustees. The people rightly expect us to safeguard the expenditure of their money, and to satisfy ourselves that new industries which depend upon Government funds shall have a reasonable assurance of success.
.- Normally every honorable member would welcome proposals from the Government for the establishment of important new industries, and would readily give their approval to such projects. If we could be assured that the proposal to establish the aluminium ingot industry in Tasmania was soundly based, we would quickly commend, it, for we would be glad to know that a State which had not hitherto enjoyed an undue proportion of the industrial development of the Commonwealth was to be the home of the new industry. We realize, of course, that new industries which are soundly based, provide employment for our people, and ensure industrial progress. 1 am certain, however, that the Government must have been impressed by the criticism of this measure. The Opposition is asking, firmly, that before this industry is established proper investigation shall be made to ascertain how it will stand in the face of future world competition. Our practice in the past, has been to give adequate tariff protection to new and economically sound Australian industries, because we believe that they are good national assets; but we have not been given sufficient information to justify the conclusion that this industry would have reasonable prospects of success, considered apart from its importance as a defence measure. We must pay some regard, of course, to the possibility of threats from aggressor nations in the future, and it may be that a strong case can be stated for the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country on security grounds. I do not wish to repeat the arguments of honorable gentlemen who have already competently put their views before the House, but I say without hesitation that a clear and compelling case has been made out for further inquiry, in order to justify our proceeding with this proposal. I base that, not merely on the fact that the Government itself has made so little information available to us; both the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) who, obviously, have given a great deal of study to this matter, are in. direct conflict in regard to what they believe to be statements of fact. The honorable member for Gippsland, in a clear and interesting statement, informed us that, without further development in Australia, this industry would bc virtually in the hands of the overseas combine which controls the production of aluminium at the present time. The honorable member for Calare challenged that statement, and stated his view, .based on such information as he had - which, in his opinion, provided a complete answer.
– I am informed that cryolite is now being made in Australia.
– I accept that interesting statement. We are gathering information as the debate proceeds. I am certain that, at its conclusion, few honorable members will consider that they have such a complete picture of a projected new industry as they ought to have, particularly in view of their serious misgivings as to whether or not the industry can be conducted in Australia so economically as to permit it to compete on favorable terms with the production of other countries. The important question is not so much whether the honorable member for Gippsland is right and the .honorable member for Calare is wrong, or whether or not other honorable members have stated facts accurately but whether or not there has been that full presentation of the facts which would enable this House to make up its mind on such an important matter. But even that is not, to me, the phase of the highest importance to which this House should be devoting its attention. The international aspect has been comparatively untouched in the debate, although it was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. If we have a realistic appreciation of our place in the world, we know that Australia of itself can fill only a minor role. If we are to have any influence on the conduct of international affairs, there are two important ways in which it can be exercised, namely, asone of the components of the Englishspeaking group of nations, or, in the way to which we have become accustomed, as a unit of the British Commonwealth. In either of those two ways, we should have an influence and an authority out of all proportion to the number of our people. I do not need to dwell on that matter, because it should be clear to all honorable members. I fear that the Government is treading on dangerous ground, and is setting a hazardous course, when it adopts the procedure that has been followed in connexion with this measure. It may be convinced that it has “all the information it requires to justify the establishment of the industry. Certainly, it has not yet given all that information to the House. But let us assume that it has taken all those precautions which a prudent government would deem necessary before embarking on such an important undertaking. It has not discharged its responsibility to the full, having regard to the significance of an economic development of this kind at the present stage in our history, and its possible repercussions on other English-speaking countries. From time to time in this place, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has stressed the importance of the text of the Atlantic Charter. We know that the spirit of that document, and a good deal of its language, deal with future economic relationships between the peoples of the world. The whole spirit of the Charter is that there should be a freer and wider movement of trade between the peoples of the world. Those who have some knowledge of the recent political history of President Roosevelt and of Mr. Cordell Hull in respect of economic policies, can readily imagine that they have contemplated some lowering of world tariff barriers and a very much freer movement of goods than was the case immediately prior to the war. The Atlantic Charter was followed by a document a little more explicit in its terms, to which to-day Australia is a consenting party. The Leader of the Opposition has recited the terms of Article 7 of the Lend’-Lease Agreement made between the United States of America and the United Kingdom in February, 1942, and has pointed out that that article was adopted as the basis of an agreement between the United States of America and Australia. It sets out one of the international obligations into which this country entered. If honorable members will examine the text of it, they will see that the terms and conditions of the lend-lease arrangement were to be such as would not burden commerce between the two countries but would permit mutually advantageous economic relations between them and promote the betterment of world-wide economic relations. Later, reference is made to the appropriate international and domestic measures to be taken by both countries in regard to production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods, which the document describes as the material foundations of the liberty and welfare *a** all peoples. It proposes the elimination of discriminatory treatment of all forms in international commerce, and the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers. Yet, deliberately, as we approach the conclusion of this protracted war, this country is about to establish a new industry, knowing that there is a world glut of the metal which it is proposed to manufacture, and that the United States of America and Canada are significantly involved in its world-wide distribution. That knowledge of itself, may not be. sufficient to deter us from proceeding with a proposal which we believe to be desirable from the stand-points of development and defence. But surely our commitments in relation to international obligations, and a realistic appreciation of what we may expect to be the state of mind of the governments in countries with which we are to-day on most friendly terms, should compel us not only to make the most searching inquiries, but also to see that the findings of that inquiry shall be made known to those countries. I should feel a good deal happier about the measure had I the knowledge that the Tariff Board had conducted a full investigation of the prospects of the industry, including an examination of its economics, and of world production, the present condition of world stocks and prices, and the relevant local and defence considerations, as well as all the other items that would be part and parcel of a full dress inquiry; and, having taken evidence for and against the proposal from interested parties, had published its findings in the full light of day, so that not only this Government and. Parliament, but also those other countries with which we must preserve the most friendly trade and political relations, might be fully informed of the reason for our making this important decision. That has not been done ; and so long as it remains undone we shall run the very grave risk of having Australia’s attitude and policy misunderstood by those other nations. Australia is not entirely a manufacturing country. It is true that, in recent years, all the emphasis internally appears to have been on industrial manufacture. During the war years we have given a great impetus to the development of our secondary industries, and our discussions in this place have been largely concerned with matters relating to them. But surely we have not forgotten that this is a great exporting country, which must rely on the satisfactory disposal overseas of its surplus primary production in order to maintain a sound internal economy ! If we accept as verity that we are largely dependent upon the successful sale of that surplus in order to have prosperity within this country, then we shall not by any deliberate act do anything that might jeopardize those world markets that are available to us. Yet, I submit, that is the very consequence that is threatened by the actions of the Government in this matter. We know that Great Britain, for example, has increased its primary production by more than 50 per cent, during the war years. It has expanded its acreage, and has produced additional foodstuffs in order to keep its people alive. I have heard it suggested that, having so developed its agricultural industries, it is determined to maintain them after the war, even should that mean the erection of high tariff barriers. That, perhaps, is a natural state of mind in the people of Britain, who have experienced the deprivation arising from a scarcity of foodstuffs. Similarly, it may be argued that our experience in trying to obtain aluminium in the early stages of the war impels us to the decision to establish this industry. But in doing that, we are disregarding the spirit of the Atlantic Charter and, in fact, the actual text of the lend-lease agreements. Are we to give only lip service to those undertakings? Is each country to take such economic action as would nullify them completely? Australia can ill afford to be the first country to move in the direction of the defeat of those important objectives. Yet that is what is being done. So I have very great uneasiness in regard to this measure. I do not condemn the establishment in Australia of the aluminium industry because, frankly, I would not claim to have the information on which a sound judgment could be based. Only by the inquiry suggested could honorable members be placed in a position to give a worthwhile judgment. But I am. even more concerned in regard to what I believe will be the repercussions in the other English-speaking countries, particularly the United States of America and Canada, and to a less degree Great Britain, of an act of this kind which cannot be justified in their eyes without their perusal of a public and detailed document warranting the establishment of the industry, and which is performed in such a casual manner by the government of the day. It is still not too late for the Government to take the action suggested. I do not believe that the House is hostile to the creation of an aluminium industry in Australia, and if the facts were properly presented there might be overwhelming support for the project. We should be failing in our duty, having in mind the need to maintain healthy economic development, if we did not demand a full inquiry; and the Government will be failing in its duty to the people if it takes action likely to create friction with our friendly neighbours and trading colleagues by refusing a full and reasonable inquiry so that the reasons for its decision may be patent to all who are interested. I wish to impress this particularly upon the Attorney-General, who is also Minister for External Affairs. In that capacity he must have a very lively regard for what people in other countries may think of this proposal. Presented as it has been, it lays us open to the suspicion - indeed, to the resentment - of other countries which are looking forward to a post-war era in which industry will not be seeking the same high protection as before the war. The Governments of all countries will be seeking to discover ways in which the most economic production can be most widely distributed. Because this matter is so internationally important, I heartily endorse the amendment, and will give it ray full support.
.- I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). It has been established that this project has been commenced with an insufficient knowledge of the relevant facts, or it has been done under pressure from interested or sinister groups which are exercising an influence upon the Government. In either case, the searchlight of investigation should be turned upon the case.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– To the group named last night by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), a group represented by a gentleman named W. S. Robinson, who is head of the Aluminium Company of Australia. He is also, I understand, head of the British Aluminium Company. Limited. He accompanied the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on his visit to America, and he has been identified with almost every political party which has been served by the financial group that he represents. I wish to give something of the background of this gentleman who seeks to control the aluminium industry of Australia, and to push the Government into doing something which, so far as I can judge, will be in the interests of the group which he represents. The Premier of Tasmania named him as the man whose advice on this project had been accepted, and whose recommendation had .substantially guided the Government.
– That is not correct.
– I give these particulars for the benefit of honorable members on the back Government benches, who have always declaimed against any government tie-up with big business. In this instance the Government is proposing a direct tie-up with the Baillieu group in Melbourne. I quote the following, from the Australian Who’s Who : -
Robinson, William Sydney, Anglo-Australian Business man, member Evatt missions to London and Washington 1942-43.
– He helped on both occasions to obtain a supply of aircraft for Australia.
– And we were very glad to get them.
– That is so.
– It is somethingnew for the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) to be defending the chairman of the Collins House group. The reference to Mr. Robinson continues -
Managing Director National Smelting Company Limited, the Zinc Corporation Limited,. Imperial Smelting Corporation Limited, Director Atlas Assurance Company Limited, Australian Ore and Metal Company, Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie Limited, Gold Exploration and’ Finance Company of Australia Limited.
– Bead it all. That is nothing against him. _ Mr. ANTHONY.- The balance of the biography mentions only -whom he married, and other personal and family details. However, it should be of interest to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to know that Mr. Robinson is a member of the Union Club in Sydney, and of the Melbourne Club in Melbourne. Thus he appears to be a fitting associate for honorable members opposite. The Government’s proposal has been forced on despite protests from many quarters, and. in spite of requests that it be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. The proposal is being pushed from behind by these interests.
– That is absolutely incorrect
– It is being pushed by the Collins House group, through the gentleman who accompanied the Minister for External Affairs on his trip abroad, and is a business friend of influential members of the Ministry. He is attempting to accomplish something - I do not say improperly - for the benefit of himself and the interests he represents, and not necessarily for the benefit of the people of Australia. I learn from another authority to the effect that Mr. W. S. Robinson is a director of the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, which was registered in 1939 with a nominal capital of £3,000,000. It is a subsidiary of the British Aluminium Company Limited (England), and Aluminium Limited (Canada) both of which are allied to Electrolytic Zinc and Metal Manufactures Limited, of which Mr. Robinson is also a director. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) is interjecting in defence of the Baillieu group, although in the past he has been loud in its condemnation… Now, he and his colleagues seek in some way or other to confer benefits upon this group.
– In some way or other?
– Yes, and I want to find the nigger in the woodpile.
– There is no nigger and no woodpile.
– If there is no nigger the Government should not hesitate to authorize the investigation called for in the amendment. If the Government fails to do so, it can only mean that there is- something sinister which will not stand investigation.
– Does not the honorable member’s main objection to the proposal arise from the fact that the industry is going to Tasmania?
– That is an unworthy interjection. I am not concerned as to where the industry is established, and I have no axe to grind. I am looking at this matter from the national point of view, and I do not want to see public money expended upon an enterprise which experien.ee may show should never have been begun. The adoption of the course proposed in the amendment would delay the project hardly at all.
– Has not the project the recommendation of a good business man in Mr. W. S. Robinson ? That should be an assurance that there is nothing socialistic in the proposal.
– The interjection indicates that honorable members opposite have made a complete volte-face. I am not questioning the ability of Mr. Robinson as a business man. I confess, however, that I am afraid of his excellence as a business man in that he may look after his own interests, and not necessarily be so concerned about the national interest. If there is anything in the repeated allegations of honorable members opposite that big business interferes too much in politics, then this matter certainly calls for investigation. What is the position of the aluminium industry al the present time? It is true that about three years ago, when the party, of which I am a member, was in office, aluminium was in very short supply, not only in Australia, but also in other countries. We were calling in pots and pans and all aluminium utensils. In the United States of America, the Government was doing the same, as were the authorities in England and ils Germany. There was a world shortage, but owing to the enormous productive capacity of the United States of America and Canada the shortage has been overtaken, and there is now a stockpile of aluminium in the United States of America and Canada which is an embarrassment to both those countries. The situation which existed when we were in office, making desirable the establishment of an aluminium industry in Australia, no longer exists. Here is an extract from the Chemical Market Review of the 25th September, 1944, issued by the Republic Corporation of New York City -
Officials do not know where to turn to make use of all the aluminium now being produced. In spite of recent production curtailment orders, the output of aluminium remains many times greater than in peace-time.
Whether these are facts remains to be established, not by statements made in this House, because the House cannot fairly determine the rights of a proposition like this. We endeavour to secure information wherever it is obtainable; we listen to statements by Ministers and experts who have made great research into a particular subject, but we have no opportunity to interrogate witnesses, collate information and present it as the Tariff Board has done for many years in respect of other industries. Therefore, it is important, if the sum of £3,000,000 is to be expended, to know first whether the industry is necessary from the point of view of the defence of Australia, as has been stated by Ministers, and secondly, whether it is economically sound and practicable or whether we would be wiser to buy aluminium from Canada, the United States of America or Great Britain. For £3,000,000 Ave could lay up a stockpile of aluminium which would probably last us for a couple of wars. But I am not suggesting that we should not go on with this project. I am not in a position to know, and I venture to say that most honorable members are similarly insufficiently informed. When the establishment of new industries was projected years ago, the Tariff Board was appointed to determine the very questions that honorable members have not the means to examine for themselves. The very cogent amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party indicates that we should do something in that direction. We should first examine, if we are going to manufacture in Australia everything that Australian workmanship and ingenuity can devise, how our overseas markets will be affected. We must reciprocate in some form or other. We cannot expect to sell our wool, butter and meat - and apples from Tasmania - unless we are prepared to buy from countries with, which we trade some of the commodities that they want to sell. Therefore, examination must be made of the commodities which can be best made in Australia and those which it would be best, from the point of view of economics and international trade, to buy from those countries with which we have trade relations. It is most vital from the point of view of the primary industries of Australia, and it is largely because of that I have risen to speak on this project, which calls for the expenditure of £3,000,000 and is likely to have some very great effect upon our trade relations with other countries. It should not be entered into lightly, and certainly should not be entered into at the behest of some group which may have an axe to grind. I do not attribute altruistic motives to the gentleman whose record I have given.
Mr.Lemmon. - The honorable member is squaring off now.
– I am not. I do not give the Collins House group credit for altruistic motives. I think there is some self-interest behind this, and I want to know why the Attorney-General takes so much notice of those gentlemen. It may be a compliment to the gentlemen concerned or even to the Attorney-General himself that he does so, but it requires examination to determine whether the Attorney-General has not been over-influenced by the Collins House group and by the Baillieu group. This is not something to be lightly treated. I charge that Mr. W. S. Robinson, who went abroad with the Attorney-General and who was with him week in and week out and month in and month out in England as well as America had no official status.
– He was an official member of the mission, and was appointed by the Prime Minister.
– So far as I am aware, he did not occupy any official position. He was appointed by the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General to accompany the latter on his trips abroad.
– The Prime Minister appointed him. I did not know him until I met him on the plane.
– The AttorneyGeneral could just as easily take Sir Alfred Davidson away with him and say that he was a government appointee.
– “ Laz “ would take him.
– Yes. This gentleman insinuated himself into the confidence and counsels of the Government just as he insinuated himself into the confidence and counsels of the Menzies Government. He will “have a go” at anything. Apparently, he will tie up with whatever political party is in power.
– So that is what the honorable gentleman has against bini. It is just political !
– No. I am suspicious of this project because of the influences behind it. That is why, during the eloquent speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) last night, I interjected that this project called for not an inquiry by the Tariff Board, but a royal commission. Now that the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), the author of Money Without Tears, is about to interject, I should like to know where the money is coming from. Are the taxpayers to be further taxed or is the money to be diverted from loan moneys, and if so are the people to be invited to contribute to war loans and have some of their contributions used on such a project as this which has never been examined by any competent authority in this country?
– Did not the Menzies Government appoint Sir Ronald Charles to investigate it?
– That was three or four years ago, and conditions have altered since then when we had only a few tons of aluminium in this country, and ‘there was a world shortage of aluminium to the point at which to-day the producing countries do not know what to do with it. As a matter of fact, I was talking to honorable members who have recently been to Canada, and they told me that the stockpiles of aluminium there were such that the Government did not know which way to turn to get rid of it. In the United States of America, the Government is now appealing to manufacturers to manufacture all kinds of aluminium commodities in order to use the excess produc tion. This is what the Chemical Market Review of the 25th September last said -
Officials are urging the use of more aluminium In all types of products. Unless new uses for the aluminium are rapidly developed, the supply will continue to exceed demands. The War Production Board is encouraging the use of aluminium wherever possible. So far, however, there has been no large increase in orders for aluminium for use in civilian products.
So the position in America is that the authorities are trying to encourage the use of aluminium to get rid of their surplus. At the very time when that position exists in the world, when there is an acute shortage of labour, and when there are huge surplus stocks of aluminium in other places only requiring ships to bring it here, we are going to divert labour, material and money to an industry which could well be allowed to stand over until after the war. The Government has no regard at all for its responsibilities, particularly in view of the charges that have been made in this House in respect of this industry. I do not object to the industry going to Tasmania or anywhere else. As a matter of fact, if the industry is to be established in Australia the claims of Tasmania are very strong. So I am not biased. All I want to do is to ensure that when this industry is created its footing shall be on firm ground and that it shall not be simply a “ stooge “ for the Aluminium Company of Australia, the Aluminium Company of Canada, and the Aluminium Company of the United Kingdom, in all three of which Mr. W. S. Robinson has a very potent interest. If he is not chairman, he is a director.
– That is slander.
– What ?
– The honorable gentleman has no right to say that he is controlling this government project.
– I say that he controls the Aluminium Company.
– But six or seven times the honorable gentleman has said that he will control this project,
– This has been largely carried through because of thi influence of Mr. W. S. Robinson. I say this on the evidence of the Premier of Tasmania, which cannot be denied by the Attorney-General. If Mr. W. 6. Robinson is the influential figure behind this and is also the controller of the Aluminium Company of Australia and a director of the Aluminium Companies of the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada - the lot are associated - there is room to look at the project with suspicion. We want to know why he has influenced the Government as he has.
– When the Menzies Government decided in 1941 to proceed with the establishment of this industry under private enterprise, was he connected with it?
– Not as far as I am aware. I do not think so. In 1941, it was a matter of great urgency, because we could not get aluminium from the United States of America or anywhere else, and it was absolutely essential to go ahead with the production of aluminium then, just as to-day it is essential to go ahead with the production of synthetic rubber and other commodities vital to defence. We decided to go ahead because we were unable to obtain aluminium, which was essential, from the United States of America. If war comes again, we shall be dependent on other countries not for only aluminium but also rubber, oil ‘and a number of other commodities which, regardless of what efforts we may make, we shall be unable to produce sufficiently. When we hear a quibble from the opposite side about our responsibility to make Australia selfsufficient in defence, we are bound to point out that if we cannot obtain aid from powerful allies, particularly the United States of America, and are forced to depend on our own resources, we shall not be able to stand very long against a mighty foe such as we are fighting to-day. Wo must have outside aid. Although we have performed mighty deeds in battle and prod-notion, our own accomplishments alone in this war have not saved us. Only with the assistance of Great Britain and the United States of America has it been possible for us to retain Australia. Our dependence on them will continue in the future. Unless by some marvellous stroke of fortune, we discover oil in Australia, we roust depend on other countries for it. In addition, we must rely on other countries for supplies of rubber. If the
Commonwealth Government had a project for the manufacture of synthetic rubber, there would ‘be good reason to regard it as a matter of urgency. To-day, we require not aluminium, but rubber. Unfortunately, money, materials and man-power are being diverted to the establishment of a useless industry. At this juncture, the aluminium industry will be useless, as we have more aluminium than we can use, and we have neither the man-power nor the resources to waste upon the production of this metal.
I support the amendment. A strong case has been made for the investigation of the Government’s proposal by the Tariff Board or a royal commission. The matter is not urgent; there is no necessity for haste. The Tariff Board could be requested to complete its inquiry within two or three months, and then the House would be satisfied that the proposal had been properly investigated.
– What has most deeply interested me and, indeed, deeply touched me during this debate has been the concern that almost every speaker has evinced for the welfare of Tasmania. At last, it has become obvious to ‘honorable members that Tasmania has a right to participate in the allotment of Commonwealth money and expenditure upon war-time establishments or any other projects that from time to time may be necessary. The Government must have noted the absence of any real opposition to this bill. All that honorable members on this side of the chamber have asked is for a further investigation of the Government’s proposal before a decision is reached. I am most anxious for this industry to be established. Yesterday, during this debate, I heard a cynical interjection to the effect that Tasmanians were sure to vote for the measure. But, to date, I have not ‘heard any convincing argument against the establishment of the aluminium industry. Some honorable members asked whether aluminium will .he of the same importance to industry in the future as it has been up to the present, and I confess that I am not in a position to make any comment on that. Nevertheless, one argument adduced was most pertinent. The honorable member for
Flinders (Ifr. RYan). speaking of a proposal for the production of aluminium in Sumatra, advanced it- as an argument against Australia rushing into the manufacture of this metal. I disagree with his contention. The fact that the careful Dutch are prepared to establish an aluminium industry during the next few years, .because they cannot begin with the project immediately, must he a cogent reason for the foundation of the industry here.
Several honorable members referred to the proposed ownership of the industry by the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Tasmania. With that arrangement in this particular instance, I have no quarrel, although, like other honorable, members on this side of the chamber, I am not a warm supporter of government, participation in industry. Certain industries must be established, and if private enterprise is not in a position to do it, the Government must undertake the responsibility. On that point T have this criticism of the bill to offer. Tt is not proper that the disposal of this industry at any future date 3hall be subject to the approval of only the Parliament of the Commonwealth. When we have an equal partner in an undertaking, the partner should have an equal voice in the conduct of the industry, and in determining whether it should be sold.
The only other matter which has directly interested me is defence. One argument which weighs with me more than another is that of our international relationships. The subject should give us considerable, thought. I cannot subscribe to the view, which the honorable member for Flinders evidently holds, that in this matter we are under some obligation to stand aside because of certain commitments into which we have already entered. On the first occasion on which I spoke in this chamber I made it clear that I stand for international co-operation, wherever and whenever possible, in every field for the purpose of promoting international peace. But each country must attend to certain things for itself, and I should like to direct attention to a statement published in the press recently. Issued by the Soviet Legation in Canberra, it contained a highly significant passage, as follows: -
Russia bases its foreign policy on the strength of the Red Army.
That is a realistic approach to the subject of international relations after the war, and we cannot afford to ignore it. Every country, while subscribing to every possible measure for achieving international co-operation, must see to its own defences. I agree that Australia could not have survived in this war if we had been left to stand alone, and that will apply in the future. But it is nothing short of a miracle that at no time during this war were we entirely cut off from the rest of the world. I see no guarantee that in our lifetime we shall not again be involved in another war. I shall do everything I can to prevent it. Such concessions as lie in my power as a representative of the people will be made towards this consummation of our hopes; but we cannot allow our hopes and dreams, as we did in the last few decades, to override our sense of what is probable, and what, we must at all costs be prepared to meet. If this industry be established, aluminium will be one item that we shall not require to bring from overseas in war-time, sacrificing precious ships in doing so. Therefore, I hope most devoutly that this industry will be established. Strangely enough, I have no particular axe to grind in this matter. Every honorable member will agree that the right of Tasmania to be the home of the undertaking is not to be spoken of as “ claims “ in this case. In the present circumstances, Tasmania is the only State that can provide the conditions necessary to make the aluminium industry a success.
The honorable member for Gippsland made a most telling contribution to this debate. In my opinion certain aspects of the Government’s proposal demand further investigation. In the interests hot of the proposed industry alone, nor of the State of Tasmania and the people of the Commonwealth, but in the interests of the Government also, this inquiry should be conducted. I suggest, probably in my guilelessness, that the Government would be wise to accept the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). If necessary, let the Government make it a condition that the inquiry shall be completed within three months. I am opposed to any long delay in reaching a decision. Procrastination has been one of the treacherous things with which we have had to deal in the past. “Whilst supporting the whole idea of the establishment of this industry, I warmly urge that the House should ask the Tariff Board to secure information which at present is only vaguely held by many honorable members and not at all by others. The Government, in its wisdom, should accept the amendment which is in the interests of all concerned.
Sifting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
.- The purpose of this bill is to establish the aluminium ingot industry in Tasmania. A commission of four persons is to be appointed to inaugurate and manage the enterprise. The Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government will each contribute £1,500,000 to the capital of the concern. It has been stated that the Commonwealth representatives will be Mr. A. V. Smith, secretary of the Department of Supply and .Shipping, and Dr. Wark, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Tasmanian representatives will be Mr. L. R. Benjamin, manager of the newsprint manufacturing enterprise of Tasmania, and Mr. Williams, Director of Mines of that State. It would appear that only one of those four persons has ever had any practical business experience. What strikes me as most remarkable in this set-up is that, although the two governments will subscribe £3,000,000 between them, no provision has been made for a Treasury representative to be a member of the commission. Usually, when large sums of pu’blic money are to be invested in an enterprise of this kind, care is taken that a Treasury official shall be appointed to the managerial body. I hope that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will take special notice of my reference to the omission to make provision for such an appointment in this case. At least it can be said that no harm could be done by, and much good might follow, the appointment of a Treasury representative to the commission. I hope that, at a later stage, the Government will accept an amendment to provide that such an appointment shall be made.
When it was first suggested, some years ago, that the manufacture of ingot aluminium should be undertaken in Australia, there was a world shortage of this vital metal, due, of course, to war conditions. That is no longer true. We have been informed that the productive capacity of the United States of America is now 1,1S0,000 tons per annum, whilst that of Canada is 500,000 tons per annum. Over-production ‘in America has become so serious that the output of the American factories has been reduced by 33 per cent. It is estimated that the Australian post-war demand will be 6,000 tons of aluminium per annum. Our prewar consumption was only 1,700 tons annually. Without doubt, the post-war use of aluminium will be much larger than our pre-war use of it, but we should know, with more assurance, what the position is likely to be prior to entering upon this project.
I have listened to many of the speeches that have been made on this measure, and they have been most remarkable for cant, hypocrisy and humbug.
– The speeches have been made mostly by honorable members opposite.
– In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is always king. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) would be a serious contender for that title, for he is the most one-eyed individual I know. The principal theme of the speeches made in support of this bill has been that aluminium is absolutely essential to the security of Australia. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and, later, the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) both told us that, for security reasons, .we must make Australia selfcontained. The aluminium position in the world to-day is such that it would not make one iota of difference to our security if we postponed further consideration of this bill until the whole matter had been investigated and reported upon by .the Tariff Board. For that reason, I intend to support the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
One of the most remarkable provisions of the bill is contained in clause 7, which reads -
Subject to the provisions of this act and of the agreement, it shall be the duty of the commission, with all possible expedition, in order to promote the naval, military and air defence of the Commonwealth and its territories, to do all such acts and things as are accessary for the production of ingot aluminium, and for that purpose it shall have and may exercise the powers and functions, and shall perform the duties and obligations, of the commission set out in the agreement.
Whoever drafted this bill must have blushed with shame when he prepared th at clause. It is pure hypocrisy to suggest that expedition in the establishment of this industry is necessary for the security of Australia or for the earlier winning of this war. Nothing that we can do in regard to this industry can contribute in any way to the winning of this war, but, unless we are careful, we may do something that will hinder the achievement of that most desirable end. If we rush into this industry, we “will divert man-power from other essential industries. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following quotation from the September issue of Facts and Figures which the Minister for Information makes available to the public -
There was growing evidence that Allied supply plans might be embarrassed unless there was a further redistribution of Australian labour. The Prime Minister announced moans by which some of the deficiencies could be remedied.
It is absolutely essential to the successful prosecution of the war, particularly in the South- West Pacific Area, and in Naziridden Europe, that we shall maintain the supply of vital footstuffs to the Allied armies. All honorable members have received numerous letters from their constituents concerning the need for more man-power for essential food production industries. One of these is dairying. We must maintain maximum production in this industry in the interests of both the Commonwealth itself and our Allies. Only to-day I received a letter from the wife of a dairyman in my constituency who is at present in the forces, telling me that although her husband is B class, and 45 years of age, she cannot obtain his release, and is therefore obliged to continue to try to carry on a dairy farm with the help of only one daughter fourteen years of age. That is not an unusual case. It is for this reason, among others, that I say that it is not serving the best interests of the war effort for the Government to proceed with this enterprise at this stage.
The bill states that the commission should take up its work - with all possible expedition, in order to promote the naval, military and air defence of the Commonwealth and its territories.
– Hear, hear !
– The Minister for Repatriation would say “ hear, hear “ to anything. The honorable gentleman would be much better engaged in trying to increase production in our vital foodstuffs industries.
There is another important aspect of the whole proposal which should be inquired into by a responsible and independent authority, such as the Tariff Board. It may be, though at this stage I do not say that it will be, detrimental to the export industries of Australia to proceed with this project at present. Such action may seriously interfere with the post-war export prospects of not only our primary industries, but also some of our secondary industries which hope to gain a footing in world markets after the war.
It has been put to us that if the Government establishes this industry under government control, aluminium production in Australia will be free from the influences of the international cartel which has had such an important effect on aluminium production in other countries. I consider that it will be impossible to keep this industry free from the influences of the international cartel, which, as honorable members know, has practically crucified those outside the cartel who have endeavoured to manufacture ingot aluminium abroad. It is worth noting, however, that although the Government is taking this step to establish ingot manufacturing in Tasmania, the Australian Aluminium Company controls the fabrication plant at Granville, near Sydney, where one of the largest forging hammers in the world has been installed with the help of government funds. I do not believe that anyone ever envisaged the possibility of that great hammer being handed over to the representatives of one of the most concentrated financial groups the world has ever seen. I understand also that the fabrication plant at Wangaratta is under the control of the same company. Of course, we know that one of the close associates of this great citadel of finance in Australia, which also has world-wide contacts, has accompanied a member of this Government on his journeys overseas, and has been instrumental in introducing him into the best circles of the highest social life of the capital cities of the United States of America and Great Britain. He is representative of the people who will control this industry and to whom assets paid for by Commonwealth funds are to be released. I believe I am correct in saying that only one small fabrication plant in Australia is at present operating outside of the combine. I suggest that the handing over of the fabrication plants in the Commonwealth to the combine will absolutely strangle this industry at birth. The ingot manufacturing branch of the industry will have no power to struggle effectively against the cartel, which will be able to fix prices to suit itself; and the industry will ultimately come under private control, as did the carbide industry in Tasmania, in circumstances which the Minister for Repatriation so eloquently explained to us yesterday. The industry was eventually taken over by the Government of Tasmania, which could not manage it and had to hand it to private, enterprise.
– It has been a godsend to Australia since the outbreak of the war.
– I say to the defender of cartels and combines-
A Government Member. - Ha, ha!
– It is all very well to say “ Ha, ha “. A donkey is judged by the load it carries on its back, not by its bray. The Government is placing on its back a load in the form of the greatest combine that exists in the world. I shall give the pedigree of the Australian Aluminium Company, and shall show that its relatives throughout the world are tied up with the greatest cartels and combinations that the world has ever had.
It looks as though the government factory could quite easily fail, because there will he no purchaser of its product, the potential buyers being more interested in obtaining control of the industry than in having it run by the Government. Should it fail, the combination will purchase it at scrap value. Probably, even now, it is rejoicing and thanking Heaven for what the Government is doing, in the belief that later it may be able to obtain the factory cheaply.
– That would be likely only if there were a change of government.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite make rash statements about what happened in the past. We did not hand the manufacturing industries of Australia to those combines and cartels which our friends opposite loudly condemn on the hustings, but accept as blood brothers when they have the opportunity to associate with them.
I shall give to the House information concerning the history of the Australian Aluminium Company - its shareholders, associates, and directors. In November, 1936, a company was registered, styled British Aluminium (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Sir Colin Fraser and Mr. A. J. C. Bult, of 360 Collinsstreet, Melbourne - more popularly known to my friends on the Government benches as “ Collins House “ - were the first directors. In 1939, the name of the company was altered to Australian Aluminium ‘Company Proprietary Limited, and it had its registered office at 360 Collins-street, Melbourne. At, this time, it was announced that one-third of the capital was being supplied by Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia, and that the balance was being supplied by overseas interests, who were reported to be Aluminium Limited, of Canada, owned and controlled by the Aluminium Company of America - Alcoa - and British Aluminium Company Limited. A search at the titles office revealed that in April, 1940, the shareholders were: Electrolvtic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited; Metal Manufactures Limited; British Aluminium Company, Limited; Aluminium Limited, Montreal, Canada; and Aluminium Limited, Geneva, Switzerland. Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, and
Metal Manufactures Limited held approximately one-third of the capital, whilst British Aluminium Company Limited also held one-third, and the balance was held by Aluminium Limited, Montreal, Canada, and Aluminium Limited, Geneva, Switzerland. I may mention that Aluminium Limited, Geneva, Switzerland, is the organization through which the American company carried on its business in Norway, Germany, Italy and Japan. The directors of Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, in June, 1940, were Sir Alexander Stewart, Sir Colin Fraser, John Seymour Toulon, William Sydney Robinson, Lawson Greene Bash, Norman Warren Waterhouse, and Leslie Vickery Waterhouse. Alternate directors were Sir Walter Massy-Greene, Henry St. John Somerset, and Aubrey John Clifton Bult. Mr. Lawson Greene Bash is an American citizen, whose address was given as Montreal. Together with Mr. Norman Warren Waterhouse, he represents the interests of the Aluminium Company of America - Alcoa. The remaining directors represent between them the interests of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and British Aluminium Company Limited. A search at the Titles Office on the 30th June, 1941, indicated that Aluminium Limited, Geneva, had disappeared from the shareholding register. Apparently, this shareholding had been transferred to Aluminium Limited, Canada. The position of the company then was: Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, and Metal Manufactures Limited, 150,000 £1 shares; British Aluminium Company Limited and Aluminium Limited, Montreal, Canada, 150,000 shares each. The directors were the same as they had been at June, 1940, with the exception that Mr. W. S. Robinson had retired from the board and Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who previously was an alternate director, became a full director. I understand, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has made it perfectly clear, that Mr. W. S. Robinson, Sir Walter Massy-Green, and many of the other gentlemen mentioned, are members of what is called the Collins House group, which in the past has been anathema to the Government ; yet the Government has demonstrated openly to-night that that is no longer the case, but that in reality these people belong to the same brotherhood as the Government and should be treated in the best possible way. The articles of association provide that two directors shall be nominated by British Aluminium Company Limited, Aluminium Limited, Canada, and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and Metal Manufactures Limited. It will thus be seen that four of the six directors of the company to which the Government has seen fit to hand the fabrication of aluminium in Australia, are directors of overseas corporations which are tied up with the great aluminium cartel. The shareholding discloses that Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, as at present constituted, is controlled by nonAustralian interests so far as its capital and directors are concerned. Both British Aluminium Company Limited and Aluminium Limited, Canada - which is owned by Alcoa - were members of the original aluminium cartel formed in 1904, when the price of aluminium had fallen to the lowest figure on record, namely, £60 a ton. They were also members of the same syndicate or cartel formed in 1909. On the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, aluminium was selling for approximately £85 a ton, but during that conflict it rose to £220 a ton, through the instrumentality of these patriotic gentlemen. A very large development of the American and Canadian production was financed out of war profits. The price did not fall below £100 a ton until 1922, and it was more or less maintained at that figure until the outbreak of the present war in 1939, when it was pegged at £110 sterling a ton by the British Ministry of Supply. The international aluminium cartel is world wide, and operates in all the producing countries with the exception of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Even in Nazi Germany Aluminium Limited of Geneva - which until some time in the war was tied up with Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited - held large interests, particularly through interlocks with the German I.G. Farben Industrie, tho great German dye, chemical and metal trust. It will, therefore, he seen that the controlling interests in Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited represent two of the oldest and strongest members of the great international combine. Since the fall of Prance and the attack on Pearl Harbour, the aluminium industry has been increased stupendously. Millions of pounds of British, Australian and American money has been poured into it. It is reported that Australia has invested £1,000,000 in Aluminium Limited, Canada, for the development of power schemes. The production of Canada has been increased to 500,000 tons per annum, the whole of it monopoly-produced. The production in the United States of America has been increased to 1,180,000 tons per annum, 95 per cent, of which is produced by Alcoa. The debates in the Canadian Parliament last year clearly stated the policy of the cartel in relation to the protection of this vital industry. This is the largest combine for the production of light metals in the world. Curiously enough, the present Government has a particular flair for cultivating combines of this sort. Only recently, we were told that Courtaulds Limited is to be established in Australia for the manufacture of rayon and nylon. It is a part of the great world rayon combination, and prior to the war had cartel agreements with the rayon combine in the United States of America as well as with that other monopoly, I. G. Farben Industrie, Germany. It may interest honorable members to know that I. G. Farben Industrie was such an enormous concern before the war that it had 163,000 persons on its paysheets. These are the interests to which the Australian industry is being handed, without proper protection. An inquiry by the Tariff Board into the agreement is absolutely essential. That body should investigate the handing over of the fabrication plant to the company whose history I have given to-night, and the persons whose personal history was given this afternoon by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I am not in a position to say whether or not any other areas in Australia should be developed. I received this afternoon a telegram from northern New South Wales, suggesting the development of hydro-electric schemes and bauxite deposits in that region. I cannot say whether or not these have a preferential right to be developed before the resources of Tasmania or any other part of the Commonwealth. But I do contend that there should not be a handing over of this industry to any part without a proper investigation of the resources of all parts; and the Tariff Board is the proper body to make that investigation. It should inquire as to whether or r.ot the aluminium industry could he carried on more economically and with better chances of successful development in the post-war period than could many other industries. Australia has not unlimited man-power. It is stupid for the Government to consider, as many Ministers have stated during the debate, that the Commonwealth must bc absolutely self-sufficient. It is impossible for 7,000,000 people to be self-sufficient in relation to all of their requirements. If we embark on such a policy, it will not be long before we shall revert to the self-sufficiency represented by the oyster middens of the aborigines at Port Jackson prior to the arrival in Australia of the white man. There should be a proper selection, of the industries we are to establish, and a determination should be reached as to whether or not those chosen will utilize our man-power in the best possible way.
For the reasons I have given, and particularly because of the possibility of the industry being strangled by a great combine, I consider that the closest investigation by the Tariff Board is warranted before the bill is proceeded with further in the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
– A significant feature of this debate is the fact that the Government has studiously refrained from supplying those facts and figures which are essential if the House is to reach a considered decision. The Government has merely said that it would be a good idea to make aluminium in Australia because there are bauxite deposits and electric power here. The Government has avoided acquainting the House with the fact, as did the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), that certain other essential ingredients in the manufacture of aluminium have to be imported. How much else the House has not been told we, not being experts, do not know. Therefore, it is proper that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should have moved that the measure be postponed until the proposal can be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The status of the Tariff Board is well established, and no authority in Australia is better qualified to make an inquiry into the issues involved. There is no real urgency. Government spokesmen, in order to give weight to their arguments, have stated that the manufacture of aluminium in Australia would be a contribution towards the country’s war effort. A lurid picture was painted by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) of the scarcity of aluminium ingot at one stage during the war, and he argued that it would be much better to manufacture the aluminium here. The facts which he presented are, less the trimmings, substantially correct, but no one with any real knowledge of the position believes that the manufacture of aluminium in Australia, by the time it would be possible to begin manufacture, could be any contribution to the country’s effort in this war. Insofar as the establishment of an aluminium industry has any relation to defence, the Government must be thinking in terms of the next war. So far as this war is concerned, the diversion of labour, materials and machinery on the vast scale necessary to establish the industry could only represent a substantial subtraction from the country’s war effort. In addition, it would be necessary to ask manufacturers in allied countries to produce for us certain intricate machinery which at present we cannot manufacture here. Those overseas manufacturers would have to suspend the manufacture of certain weapons of war while they made for us electrical conversion machinery, &c, necessary for the establishment of the aluminium industry, and this so that we may be prepared for the next war. That is not a good enough reason for asking Parliament to vote money which can be obtained only by appealing to the people to increase their contributions to the next victory loan. Insofar as we may have been remiss in not having provided ourselves with the aluminium needed for this war, nothing is achieved by crying over spilt milk. For the present, there is a stockpile of aluminium in America upon which we can draw to the amount of thousands of tons. The House should not be misled into believing that the Government’s proposal has anything to do with the war effort.
As for the post-war period, I wish to see established in Australia all the industries which it would be reasonable to establish. I look to the balanced development of Australia’s economy. I know that the basic industries are those associated with the land, but I hope to see grow up side by side with them secondary industries which will provide us with the requirements of peace and war, and which will give employment to the consumers of our primary products. However, I do not want to see established uneconomic industries merely so that we may boast that they are here. I do. not, for instance, wish to see established an aluminium industry if it can be done only by imposing a tremendous cost burden upon the public. I realize that, since we are so dependent upon the export of our primary products, we cannot afford to close foreign markets against those products. If we set out to produce here everything that it is possible to produce, regardless of cost, there will be an inevitable reaction abroad which will result in the closing of markets against us. It is true that we can produce aluminium here; nobody denies that. It is true that Germany can grow wheat, but while we could grow it at 4s. a bushel, it was costing Germany 12s. a bushel to grow. It is true that we can produce aluminium here at costs which are fantastic in comparison with those in countries more favorably situated for the production of this metal. The Government has brought before us an example of that economic nationalism - which was the subject of criticism, derision and contempt when practised by those nations which are today our enemies. This same economic nationalism has, in a thousand speeches, been arraigned as one of the chief causes of the war. “What does the Atlantic Charter mean? “What do the pledges regarding freer trade between the nations mean, if we, applying a policy of economic isolation, decide to close our country against the products pf other nations, including our sister dominions, when those countries are much more favorably situated to produce certain commodities than we are? I am not competent, nor is this Parliament competent, to estimate the prospective requirements of Australia in aluminium ingot after the- war, and it is with the post-war period (hat we are concerned. Not only are wo unable to estimate the prospective consumption of aluminium in Australia, but we do not know what would be the minimum economic unit of production, yet those two factors must be related. We have not been told what will be the probable cost of production of aluminium here. We have been told nothing of other metals or plastics which, after the war. may compete in the market against aluminium. These facts are relevant to the proposal before the House, a proposal which involves the expenditure of £1,500,000 of Commonwealth money. If the Government’s scheme be adopted it will possibly have the effect of closing certain overseas markets to our primary products, which are the natural products of Australia. The policy of the Australian Country party calls for the establishment in Australia of new industries which will make for a balanced economy, which will attract that larger population which is so necessary, and which will support new consumers of our primary products. We do not agree, however, that we should rush in to establish an industry merely because a Minister walks into the House with a proposal, and insults us by failing to put before us information to which we are entitled. We are invited to write a cheque for £1,500,000, and it looks as if the Commonwealth will also have to find the other £1,500,000 which ostensibly to be provided by the Government of, Tasmania. Seeing that (here is no urgency in the matter, the proper course is obviously to refer the proposal to the Tariff Board, and then to bring it before the House again at a more appropriate time, when the House will have before it the information to enable it to reach a proper decision.
Ifr. McE wen.
I know that there is no more popular course than to stand up, either in this House or in the Domain, and make a virulent attack on trusts, combines and monopolies. One can always get a cheer by doing that, but I also know that there are some highly technical processes which must necessarily be carried out on a vast scale, so that there is no alternative to government ownership other than ownership by companies which, because of the large amount of their capital, arc described as wealthy companies. I see no sense in standing up one day and attacking the Government for nationalizing interstate airlines, and the next day attacking companies which, while admittedly highly capitalized, are also in possession of those technical facilities which are necessary for certain manufacturing processes. I say to my friends who are for nationalization of industry that we should welcome the establishment in this country of certain industries, first, proved to be economic and, secondly, established in such circumstances that they are controlled in respect of prices and activities along lines which are for the public good. I know from the experience I had when administering the Department of Air that there are few industries more involved in a technical sense than the aluminium industry. I recall that in the course of our programme to manufacture Beaufort aircraft we were seeking certain tubular sections for those aircraft. The designers had chosen a tubular section of peculiar character. The British manufacturers were unable to supply it and we had to turn to the alternative source of supply - the United States of America. We placed orders with one of the greatest aluminium companies in that country, but after having expended 250,000 dollars in endeavouring to manufacture a certain kind of tubular extrusion according to the specifications, it had to confess that it was unable to manufacture it, and we had to wait until the British manufacturers were able to supply us. When an industry is so intricate in some of its processes that a great American company with millions of dollars of capital and great experience is unable to make an extrusion we take long odds if we brightly say that we need merely to vote so much money and set up a Government factory in order to succeed. Quite clearly snore than money is needed in some of the modern industrial processes. What the trades call “ know how “ has to be . added to the money. I am not prepared to Relieve that, because the aluminium fabrication plants in the Commonwealth arc owned by a company known as the Australian Aluminium Company the capital derivation of which has been explained by some of my colleagues, that is entirely bad and that the right thing for the Government to do is to take it over and run it. I should be unable to argue that that should be done and at the same time argue that it is entirely bad that the Government should acquire and operate the interstate airlines. Every activity in this country, whether it be the conduct of airlines or the manufacture of aluminium or anything else is under the control of the Government and, insofar as any activity is against public good, it is not only the duty but also the power of the Government to take such steps as are necessary to correct the position. I, as one who believes in private enterprise as against nationalization of industry, much prefer that this industry should be established with Australian capital and Australian labour and with all the prospects of success that would arise from the ingenuity of great Australian privatelyowned industries such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. To proceed with the manufacture of aluminium ingots instantly can mean no more than a subtraction from our war effort, and to proceed with it at all, without first acquainting the Parliament with the results of a most thorough investigation, by the most competent authority, unquestionably the Tariff Board, is a grave mistake and in conflict with the traditional policy of this Parliament in respect of proposed new industries during at least the last ten or twelve years. I am wholeheartedly in support of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party.
Dr. EVATT f Barton Attorney General and Minister for External Affairs) [9.50]. - I ask leave to reply on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley).
– I submit that the House should accept this bill which gives effect to an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Tasmania for the establishment in Tasmania of the aluminium ingot industry. In many instances, the attitude of honorable members opposite has been one of qualified support for the bill, but, in other instances, it has been one of complete negation, and some of the arguments used, I submit, if given effect to, would only result in the indefinite postponement of this project. In 1941 the Menzies Government, which was supported by both parties now in opposition, decided that the aluminium ingot industry should be established in Australia. Now, in order to delay its establishment by the Curtin Government, it appears that some honorable gentlemen opposite desire a further investigation.
– The right honorable gentleman will recognize that three years have elapsed since then and that the whole situation has changed.
– Yes. I quite admit that the need for ingot aluminium is not what it was then, but any one who believes that after this war, we shall be able at once to beat our swords into ploughshares, is very much mistaken. We should like to be able to do so, but we must be prepared to defend this country’. We were caught napping in this war. But we must not be caught again. We have made this agreement with Tasmania after investigation by one of the greatest experts in the world, Sir Ronald Charles. I suppose that he is associated with one of the aluminium companies. If an international cartel controls the production of aluminium, the main experts available will be under its control. I know nothing about Sir Ronald Charles except that he was selected by the Menzies Government to advise it.
– That is enough !
– I want honorable members to understand that he reported to the Menzies Government in favour of the establishment of the aluminium ingot industry in this country. It was not just a Cabinet secret; it was announced to the world, and negotiations were entered into with, or invited from, private interests in this country; but, apparently, nothing came from them. We intend to carry out the agreement with the Tasmanian Government. Already there has been delay and we want to get on with the job quickly.
– What is the Minister’s objection to an inquiry by the Tariff Board ?
– My only objection is that it would delay action considerably.
– Only by a month or two.
– We want to carry out the agreement that we have made with the Government of Tasmania.
– The Government entered into that contract before bringing it to Parliament.
– Certainly. We could not make a contract in the House. It must be made subject to the approval of the Parliament. That is why the proposal has already been delayed. We have made available to the ‘Government of Tasmania certain internee or alien labour for the development of the Butler’s Gorge hydroelectric project; we are absolutely bound to go on with this, and we intend to make a success of it to the benefit of Australia, including Tasmania.
– What about the international aspect?
– Two or three honorable gentlemen opposite have constructively dealt with that aspect and I shall come to it later. We are satisfied that we have the raw material, the power, and all the other requirements for the establishment of the industry. We are not rushing into the matter. The commission to be set up under the bill will have all the evidence at its disposal and will determine step by step what is to be done in the establishment of this project. At one time during this war, the Commonwealth had only three weeks’ supply of aluminium. The Opposition has made much of the fact that the supply position now is not what it was, but that situation cannot endure. The emphasis laid on the international combine or cartel shows that that vital supply could be kept away from this country at any stage by the financial interests controlling that cartel. If this hill be passed, the Commonwealth will have sufficient time to consider every aspect of the industry, including its development past the ingot stage, and to ensure its working in the most economic manner. Good quality bauxite is available in adequate quantities accessible io transport, and the necessary power at reasonable cost comparable with thai in other parts of the world will also be available. The cost of labour too is favorable. The previous Government set up a Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee which reported the existence of adequate bauxite deposits in Australia. Then it had the report made by Sir Ronald Charles, the British expert. The Menzies Government also announced that it had decided to establish the aluminium ingot industry in Australia. After that, private enter-prise showed little or no desire to establish the industry, and failed to do so. This Government is convinced that if we left the development of this industry to private enterprise, there would be no aluminium ingot industry in Australia. We are not prepared to have further delay. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) went to considerable trouble to obtain the information which he presented to the House. I think he himself knows that that information had little to do with the establishment of the aluminium ingot industry and concerned more the process that will be adopted in the development of the industry. I think that the honorable member would be the first to admit that some of the information which he used must have been supplied to him by a party with business interests in this concern - a party interested, not only in- the process of manufacture, but also in the prospect of the sale of bauxite from certain leases. I do not complain of that.
– Is there only one set of business interests with access to the Government ?
– The honorable member was most emphatic that the industry should be established, and that the Government should take care not to be at the mercy of a world combine for the supply of certain parts of the process. He referred to natural cryolite. According to the information supplied to me, cryolite is also being produced synthetically. As the honorable member stated, the natural article comes from Greenland’s icy mountains, but synthetic cryolite now seems to be made in all countries producing aluminium. In fact, the synthetic product which the honorable member showed to the House last night, was manufactured by Sulphates Proprietary Limited of Melbourne.
– That is correct.
– If that is an essential ingredient, it is well .that it is obtainable here. No one believes that if an essential ingredient is being produced by an Australian company, the Government will not use it, and that it will not be profitably employed in this industry.
– Why should not that company be able to make aluminium?
– It may be able to make aluminium ; but the ingot which the honorable member for Gippsland showed to the House seemed to be slightly heavier than aluminium. I suppose that the material has a substantial percentage of aluminium in it.
– It is the genuine article.
– If the company has discovered a new process for manufacturing aluminium from the other products, it will be of great value to Australia, and the persons responsible for it deserve congratulations.
– How can the company compete with a government concern which will not worry about the cost of production?
– It is a matter, not of competition with a government concern, but of paying for the technical process which the company apparently controls. If the material is not available from this firm, the manufacture of the relatively small quantity required, could be developed from other sources - from indigenous raw materials - without great expense or difficulty. Honorable members will understand that I do not claim to possess any special knowledge of these matters; I am only supplying to the House information furnished to me by the secretary of the department, who will be chairman of the proposed commission. The honorable member for Gippsland may rest assured that because of the vital importance of this industry, the Commonwealth Government will not allow itself to be dependent for constituent materials on any combine or . monopoly, either local or abroad.
The process to be used has also been mentioned in this debate. This is a matter for determination by the commission in the light of availability of raw materials and the economic factors involved. It will become the responsibility of the commission to see that the most effective method® of manufacture are adopted. I understand that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) claimed that magnesium was displacing aluminium to the extent of 98 per cent. My information is that his statement is incorrect.
– I did not make that statement. I mentioned that magnesium was being used as an alloy. I asked for an investigation to be made for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which it was superseding aluminium.
– At all events, my information is that the statement that magnesium is displacing aluminium to the extent of 98 per cent, L<j incorrect. In many fields, magnesium is not a competitor with aluminium and in other fields it is used as a complementary metal.
Some of the suggestions of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) were wide of the mark. He claimed that Mr. W. S. Robinson was the person who was advising the Commonwealth Government (regarding this project. Whatever may be the position in relation to Tasmania, I inform the House that Mr. Robinson is not concerned directly or indirectly with the Government’s plans for the establishment of the aluminium industry. Neither Mr. Robinson, nor any of his associates and associations will derive any benefits.
– The officer who made the report, is employed by Mr. Robinson.
– If the honorable member’s allegation that Mr. Robinson is associated with the international combine, were correct, the very opposite of what he suggests, would apply. It would not help him or an international combine to have the Government of Tasmania, which administers the affairs of that State, and: the Government of the Commonwealth, which has supreme power to control imports and exports, controlling the manufacture of ingot aluminium. The Commonwealth Government could prohibit the importation of aluminium into Australia. The Government would hold the whip hand over persons who have to use the raw material.
– Is not Mr. Hey, who made the report, an employee of Mr. Robinson ?
– The honorable member for Richmond stated quite correctly that Mr. Robinson accompanied me on missions abroad which I led in 1942 and 1943. He did so as the result of a decision by the Prime Minister and in his capacity of adviser to the Commonwealth Government, But his services had nothing to do with the production of aluminium, on which he is not advising the Government. It. is true that at one period Mr. Robinson placed at the disposal of the Menzies Government and the Curtin Government the services of two technical officers, Mr. Keast and Mr. Hey. I regret this unfair attack on Mr. Robinson, but it affords me the opportunity to say that in Great Britain and the United States of America he rendered great service to this country, particularly in the procurement of aircraft and other urgent supplies for war purposes. He has also served the British Government in the capacity of adviser, and when he returned from his mission, he was publicly thanked for his services to Australiaby the Prime Minister. He assisted us in 1942 when we were desperately short of aircraft, munitions and other supplies.
– Is the Attorney-General suggesting that Mr. W. S. Robinson had more influence with the British Government than didthe Commonwealth Government?
– What a question to ask! I did not say that. I stated that Mr. Robinson contributed to the success of my mission in obtaining those supplies. He is a gentleman who has been a lifelong friend of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and he should not be slandered here. He is one of the persons who founded the Zinc Corporation at Broken Hill, and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) will support me when I say that he did great work there, and that the labour conditions in that industry are among the best in the world. Mr. Robinson was also a founder of the aircraft production industry in this country. Instead of being criticized as he has been by some honorable members opposite, he deserves the thanks of this Parliament for what he has done on behalf of Australia. The honorable member for Richmond, in his endeavours to discover something about Mr. Robinson, got a fairly old edition of Who’s Who-
– It is not such an old edition, because it contains a reference to Mr. Robinson’s mission in 1942.
– The honorable member for Richmond was corrected by his colleague, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Mr. Robinson is no longer associated with the Aluminium Company.
– But he placed one of his lads in the office.
– Would that be a reprehensible thing? The establishment of this portion of the industry is a very necessary step in the post-war air defence plans of Australia. Under this legislation no private person or company will have any interest in the project. The extension of the project into States other than Tasmania for undertaking other portions of the process, or into the field of fabrication or to obtain bauxite, are all matters that will be investigated by the commission. It is true, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) suggested, that the aluminium cartel has been all-powerful in the past, and no doubt that is one of the reasons why Australia was left so short of aluminium in 1941. But there is no reason why that position should continue. I believe that some of the information furnished to some of the critics of the bill was supplied by overseas interests. The object of the Government in establishing this industry is to make Australia independent of outside sources of supply for its requirements of aluminium. The honorable member for Eawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to Australia’s obligations under the Atlantic Charter.
– And the lend-lease agreements.
– These international arrangements must be read very carefully. The documents and agreements are most important, but they do not prevent - and here I agree with the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) - a nation like Australia from providing for its own defence in the postwar period. One of the post-war plans is for a world security organization, and in that connexion, the production and control of aircraft will be of fundamental importance. No doubt Australia will play its part in that matter. For that purpose, it seems best that Australia should no longer be dependent upon overseas sources for its requirements of aluminium. In war-time those supplies may be cut off.
– I admit those considerations; but does not the Attorney-General accept the wisdom of making our reasons public and widely known?
– The Government is already doing that. It is the duty of Australia and New Zealand - the outposts of European civilization in the South-West Pacific - to make provision for the manufacture of their own aircraft. If that is to be done effectively, and we are to have proper insurance against a disaster such as the one which nearly befell us three years ago, the manufacture of aluminium in Australia is surely one of the steps that we should take.
The honorable member for Indi referred to some other companies. I do not think that it has much bearing on this bill to have a general discussion of the control of companies in other sections of the aluminium industry. But the facts are that the Australian Aluminium Company exclusively owns the GranvilleRolling and Casting Works.
– What about the hammer ?
– It is a very heavy hammer. A small annexe was established by the Department of Munitions, first for the re-milling of scrap aluminium. That is owned by the Commonwealth Government. A large annexe was established by the Department of Aircraft Production and it included the forge, the anvil, the hammer and all other equipment. This annexo was established during the term of office of the previous Government, but the whole of it is Commonwealth Government property.
I shall be glad if, at some future time, steps can be taken to extend this new industry, including the fabrication section of it. I ask the House to permit the Government toproceed with its plans. It will be the duty of the commission to exercise the greatest possible economy, and I believe that it will act so as to provide the Commonwealth and Tasmania with an industry of which all Australia can be proud.
– Why is the Minister afraid of a reference to the Tariff Board?
– I am not afraid ; I am desirous that the Government shall be allowed to proceed without delay. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has a Tariff Board obsession.
– I know of the good work that it has done, and I know that it is an expert body.
– If any aspects of the project require investigation at a later stage the appropriate steps can then be taken. I am sure that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), on whose behalf I am speaking, and who is entitled to credit for the planning of this project, will be happy if the bill has a speedy passage.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 22
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma,; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rulebe suspended for the remainder of this week.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
. - by leave - Questions regarding the release of internees have been asked in the House during this sessional period by the honorable members for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). In view of these questions, and of other questions asked in the Senate, it is desirable that a comprehensive picture be given regarding the release of internees in Australia, in order to clear up doubts and misunderstandings which otherwise may arise.
There has been criticism regarding the release of Italian internees, but much of it is ill-founded,because it is based on an improper appreciation of the policy governing releases, and does not pay any regard to the economic necessities which have made the policy of releases essential. Aliens employed in various forms of industry fall into four different classes: (1) aliens who have never been interned, and who remained in industry; (2) aliens resident in Australia who were interned and have been released; (3) aliens who were held in Australia at the request of overseas governments, and who have been or are being released; and (4) enemy prisoners of war allotted to farmers and employed on rural work.
I shall deal with these classes of aliens more fully, and shall give to the House a summary of the position regarding the employment of the aliens in each of the classes.
Class 1. - The principal cause of complaint is against the employment of the Italian element in our population. The fact is that 7,051 Italians, not being a security risk, have been permitted to live at large throughout the war. Their employment has been entirely a matter for the Man Power Directorate, except in very few cases in which some form of restriction has been necessary. Some of these 7,051 Italians are members of the Civil Aliens Corps, which includes also aliens released from internment.
Class 2. - The number of Italians, both aliens and naturalized British subjects, released from internment up to the end of October this year, is 3,510, of whom 3,799 are aliens and 711 are naturalized British subjects. The figure 2,799 represents the total number of all Italians who have been released and are available for the Civil Aliens Corps or private industry. The nature of their employment has been governed by three factors: (ti) if physically eligible, they have been drafted to the Civil Aliens Corps; (fc) where medically unfit for the Civil Aliens Corps, they have been placed at the disposal of the Man Power Directorate for employment, subject in some instances to the approval of the Director-General of Security; and (c) a small number have been directed to return to their homes, as being medically unfit for any employment by reason of age and infirmity. Many released internees became medically unfit after being in the Civil Aliens Corps for a time. A number of Queensland Italian internees who were experienced workers in the sugar industry have been released temporarily from the Civil Aliens Corps for work in the sugar-fields of north Queensland, following the strongest representations hy the Food Production Executive.
Class 3. - Under a War Cabinet decision, internees from the Straits Settlements and the United Kingdom became eligible for release and employment in Australia. Individual releases were made by the Minister for the Army, after a decision had been made by the Home
Office. The number released in this way to October, 1944, is 487. The majority were released for work of national importance, but a considerable number were aged and infirm people, not capable of working at all. Some of them have been employed in the Civil Aliens Corps. In addition, some hundreds of internees from the United Kingdom and the Straits Settlements were released for service in employment units of the Australian Military Forces. More recently, Cabinet’s decision was extended to cover the release of all overseas internees in Australia not having a security risk, at the discretion of the Minister for the Army.
In July, 1944, the Government appointed the Overseas Internees Investigation Board, of which Mr. Justice Hutchins is the chairman.” The board has recommended the release of approximately 100 internees, some of whom have, in addition, wives and members of their families in internment camps. The release of these internees is being implemented.
Internees released are medically examined, and those found fit are enlisted in the Civil Aliens Corps. It is the Government’s policy not to release any internees for whom suitable employment and living conditions cannot be found.
Class 4. - There are 11,842 prisoners of war now employed in prisoner-of-war control centres or hostels on rural work throughout Australia. They have been allotted to the various States as follows : -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in July, 1944, informed the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that prisoners of war would not be allowed to remain in Australia after the war.
I emphasize that former internees are employed on work of national importance because of the grave shortage of manpower. It is far better that they should be usefully employed if no security risk is involved, rather than that they should remain in internment camps and be a charge upon the nation. They are not depriving any person of employment, because our man-power shortage is so great that employment exists for tens of thousands of additional persons.
On the question of whether or not certain aliens from abroad will be allowed to remain in Australia after .the war, I say that no person will be allowed to remain unless he or she is likely to make a desirable citizen, and no prisoner of war will be permitted to remain after the conclusion of hostilities. Arrangements will be made for internees from abroad who have been released in Australia to be returned after the war to their country of origin. Cabinet approval has been given for the Minister for the Interior to consider, on their individual merits, applications by any white former internees released in Australia for permission to remain in Australia, on the basis that - (a) the applicant has been certified as a refugee alien; (o) nothing detrimental is known against him; and (c) the Minister is satisfied that the applicant is likely to make a desirable citizen if allowed to remain in Australia.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an act to approve and give effect .to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania with respect to the production, for the purposes of defence, of ingot aluminium, and for other purposes.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) [9.40 1. - The motion proposes an appropriation for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. There is one matter that should be determined at this stage. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) made his secondreading speech on the 20th September last. On the 29th September, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked him this question -
Will the Minister’ for Supply and Shipping make available the report and estimates of experts in connexion with their investigation of the aluminium industry, to which the honorable gentleman referred in his second-reading speech on the Aluminium Industry Bill, so that honorable members may speak with informed minds when the matter next comes up for consideration?
The Minister made this reply -
I shall consider .the request. Honorable members will be able to deal fully with every aspect of the matter when the bill is in committee. All documentation will then be available, and information will be supplied in response to any questions that may be asked.
The honorable gentleman promised that all documentation in connexion with the matter would be made available. This includes especially what has been referred to as the Keast-Hey report, which was made as the result of an investigation by Messrs. Keast and Hey, of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia
Limited. Earlier in the evening, I mentioned the name of Mr. W. S. Robinson, who, I understand, was a director of that company. Thus it will be seen that the gentleman who was sent, to America to make investigations, and subsequently reported to the Government, was, in fact, an employee under the direction of Mr. W. S. Robinson. I do not know what he may have said in his report; but it dealt with the establishment of a £3,000,000 industry, and the various costs which it would be necessary for the Government to meet. We are entitled to see that report, especially in view of my earlier statement, as well as the very definite promise of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I presume that it is a voluminous document, which honorable members would need time to assimilate. Continuation of the committee stage of the bill immediately upon its production would make that action farcical. I therefore request the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) not only to produce’ the document but also to report progress until honorable members have had sufficient time to study it.
– This matter was raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) last night. At the time, the only reports I knew of were the Charles report and the report of the Copper and Bauxite Committee. I find now that a report was also obtained from Messrs. Keast and Hey, whose services were placed at the disposal of the Government by the company concerned. I do not object to those reports being examinedby honorable members, but I do not want the passage of the bill to be delayed.
– In other words, the reports are not to influence our judgment. We are to read them after the bill has been passed.
– I have given the substance of the main report, and a promise was given that it would be made available in the committee stage. I should like to make as much progress as possible with the bill to-night. I suggest that perhaps one clause might be postponed until later, and in the meantime honorable members could examine the reports. I can make available to honorable members the Charles report which was obtained in 1941, and a summary of the Copper and Bauxite Committee’s report. I have not seen the Keast-Hey report, but I am informed by the secretary of the department that it is a short one. As an undertaking to produce the reports was given by my colleague, I shall honour it.
– Ido not object to the machinery clausesof the bill being passed, but the other parts ought to be postponed.
– I suggest that we might postpone clause 4, which provides for the approval of the agreement.
– The vital clause is that which provides for an appropriation of money.
– Both clause 4 and clause 10 might well be postponed.
– I am prepared to agree to that.
I can appreciate the point raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) insofar as he is seeking the fullest measure of information on this proposal. It is ‘unfortunate that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who introduced the bill, cannot be here now because of sickness. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is at some disadvantage in handling the measure. However, it is an amazing thing that some honorable members opposite should be prepared to do their utmost to prevent the passage of the bill. I cannot accept as genuine some of the reasons which they advance for delaying the measure. The point taken just now by the honorable member for Richmond may have some merit, but the fact remains that the Government’s proposal has been examined by experts, and I shall resist at. every stage the efforts of honorable members of the Opposition to prevent the bill from being passed with the least possible delay. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament all measures designed to establish industries in Tasmania have been opposed by the representatives of the larger States. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) had the courage to come over and vote with the Government on the second reading of the bill, and I give credit where credit is due. But the representatives of the larger States, whatever their motives, are doing their best on the pretence of soliciting information, to prevent the passage of the bill. I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Government that a thorough examination of the proposals has been made by experts. I hope that the Attorney-General will not agree to the postponement of the bill, which ought to be passed by this chamber as quickly as possible. The Senate is waiting for business, yet the honorable member for Richmond and others are stone-walling the bill, doing everything possible to impede its passage, simply because it proposes to establish an industry in Tasmania, the most suitable State for the purpose. I trust that the Attorney-General will not agree to postpone any of the clauses.
– At last it looks as if the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) proposes to make some concession to reason. It is customary, when measures of this kind are before Parliament, to make available to honorable members all the information in the possession of the Government. On this occasion that has not been done. Certain promises were made by the Minister who introduced the bill, but they have not been honoured. As for the anti-Tasmanian complex mentioned by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), I assure him that it exists only ‘ in his own imagination, and his references to the matter are purely for home consumption. It is usual for the committee to know, before it votes money, to what it is committing the taxpayers. In the absence of full information, the AttorneyGeneral cannot ask the committee to pass the clause approving the agreement, nor the clause appropriating money for the carrying out of the agreement. The honorable member for Bass mentioned experts. Only last week, it was shown conclusively that the Government is about to embark upon the nationalization of interstate airlines in defiance of tho recommendation of its experts. I should not be surprised, if we are able to obtain the reports on the aluminium industry, and have time to read them, to learn that a similar’ state of affairs exists in regard to this proposal. If the reports of the experts support the Government’s proposal as we have been assured by “Ministers, those reports should have been produced earlier so that members of the Opposition would have no cause for complaint. The fact is that the Government is trying to get the bill through without laying its cards on the table. The Attorney-General, when he was a Justice of the High Court would, I am sure, have indignantly repudiated the suggestion that he should arrive at his verdict before hearing the evidence and seeing relevant documents. Nevertheless, he is now asking the committee to agree to this bill without knowing the facts. Not one report of any kind has been produced in support of the Government’s proposals. We are asked to.be a lot of good little boys, and to believe in Grimm’s Fairy Tales and in the story of the Babes in the Wood; to believe, in fact, that only the most angelic actions are likely to proceed from the Government. There have been other occasions on which we could hear wings flapping when Ministers were speaking, and we had a good idea that the feathers were not white. I submit, therefore, that the two vital clauses of the bill must be postponed until honorable members have had an opportunity to study the report. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.
Bowden) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) have taken a keen interest in this matter. I suggest that they, and two members of the United Australian party, should examine the reports and, if they are satisfied, other members of their parties will accept their’ assurance. That is not too much to ask.
– I find that the Keast-Hey report is a much longer document than I thought it was. Half a dozen copies are available, and it would be out’ of the question to have the report roneoed, so that, more copies could be distributed. I shall immediately make available to honorable members copies of the Charles report and a summary of the report of the Copper and Bauxite Committee. The secretary of the department assures me that the summary is a fair one. I ask honorable members to complete consideration of all the clauses of the bill except clause 10.
– Will honorable members be given a day in which to study the report?
– No. Honorable members who are really interested in the technical side of the matter can go through the report fairly quickly.
– But we cannot be expected to assimilate the contents of highly technical reports unless we are given time.
– It is not expected that honorable members will want to assimilate the contents of the reports in a technical sense, but they can quickly gather from them sufficient information for the purpose of this discussion. That is a fair offer to the committee.
– It could be postponed until to-morrow afternoon.
– I could not possibly agree to that, because, when honorable gentlemen have seen that report, they will probably be quite satisfied.
– If they are satisfied, the right honorable gentleman can go straight ahead.
– Exactly. I ask the committee to go straight ahead with the consideration of all the clauses, except clause 10, which I am prepared to postpone until to-morrow morning. I am offering what my colleague offered in the passage that has been read. I should have liked to complete the bill to-night, but, in view of my colleague’s offer, I am prepared to postpone the appropriation clause until to-morrow morning and to have the reports now available distributed among honorable members in order that they may, in the meantime, study them and return prepared to consider that clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the resolution be reported to the House.
.- I had to leave the Chamber and I did not hear the full statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). I hope that we have his assurance that this measure will go through to-morrow and that there will be no further delay. I understand that the Attorney-General has agreed to circulate a technical report which not many, if any, honorable members will be able to understand ; but so long as the AttorneyGeneral assures me that the committee will proceed to-morrow to the completion of this measure, I shall be satisfied.
– I certainly give the honorable member that assurance.
– This is one of the toughest things I have even seen in my life. For hours we argued that certain evidence should be produced, and we were told about the typing and copying difficulties, but no sooner is it agreed that the reports should be produced than copies are produced and distributed to every honorable member. I have never seen the equal of this in parliamentary history. Every honorable member now has before him two reports, one headed “ Summary of Conclusions of Copper and Bauxite Committee “ and the other, “ Report by Sir Ronald Charles - The Production of Aluminium Ingot in Australia ‘ “. There is such a thing as overdoing it, and this is one of the occasions on which I regret that we are so civilized. A couple of hundred, years ago we should have had a better method of dealing with anyone responsible for such tactics than the method of mere protest. It is a thundering pity that we cannot adopt that method of procedure now. So I simply place on record my protest. I have not the foggiest idea who is responsible. It is unfortunate that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who presented this bill, is not here, but it is beyond the faintest shadow of doubt that someone has tried to force this bill through without producing to honorable members vital evidence, which was available.
– I do not know what the honorable gentleman means. The documents now in, the possession of honorable members were not copied until after the House met.
– They were promised in September.
– At the committee stage. When the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) drew the attention of honorable members to them last night, the reports were not public information. I think what the honorable gentleman saw was an original document. The copying of the documents has taken place since then. Instead of being thanked for my courtesy in making the documents available, I am criticized by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I have done everything within my power to help the committee. Only a few copies of the third report are available and I should think that, owing to the difficulty involved in copying that report, that number should be sufficient to meet the purposes of honorable gentlemen.
.- I called for the Hey report and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) courteously agreed to postpone the consideration of the appropriation clause until honorable members had had a fair opportunity to examine that document. I have just received it, and find that it consists of more than 50 closely typed foolscap pages. It will not be possible to examine the document if the bill is to be put through later to-night.
– I said that I proposed to postpone clause 10 and finally dispose of the bill in the morning.
– I am satisfied with that.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) may be satisfied, but I regard this as one of the most remarkable performances in my experience of this Parliament. During the second-reading debate, member after member on this side protested that he was unable to give proper judgment as to the necessity for and the value and consequences of this industry, because he had not been supplied with adequate information. We pressed for an inquiry by an impartial body which could take evidence from those who favour the establishment of this industry and those who argue against it. Now we are due to consider the bill in committee after having had to agree to the second reading in the absence of the evidence that would have enabled us to form a proper view. We have now been given two reports which we must digest at this late hour in order that we may be able in the morning, after all the other clauses have been dealt with, consider the appropriation clause. Even now we are not in possession of all the information available to the Government, because we are told that there is a more detailed report, of which only four copies are available for distribution to that number of favoured honorable members. The Government has been either most casual or utterly contemptuous in its treatment of honorable members. I am amazed at its attitude. Our requests for information were brushed aside during the second-reading debate with all sorts of assurances. We have the information for which we asked during the second reading presented to us just as we are about to begin the committee consideration.. I am reminded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the contract was signed in April. The Government had from then until now to supply the information needed by honorable members to deliberate on this proposal, but we were denied the information necessary to enable us to exercise an informed vote on the second reading. It may be unkind to the Attorney-General to cavil at his production of this information at this late hour, but we have a responsi bility as the parliamentary representatives of the people to protest against such cavalier treatment.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4: -
The Agreement is hereby approved.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “, subject to the Commonwealth representation on the Commission being increased to three, one of whom shall be a representative of the Treasury “.
I stated earlier my belief that it is necessary that, as so much Commonwealth money will be invested in this project, the Treasury should be represented on the commission. I have glanced through the Hey report and it seems that some of the estimates are very empirical. There is no doubt that most careful checks on the expenditure are required. The only way in which the expenditure maybe properly checked is by having a representative of the Treasury attending the meetings of the commission. It is futile to say that the Treasury will be able adequately to supervise the expenditure in any other way. In this project, commitments may be entered into involving vast expenditure which might not be undertaken if the Commonwealth Treasury were represented at the discussions of the commission. The amendment is not critical of the bill ; it is helpful, and will improve the measure.
– Following the suggestion which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) made earlier in the debate, I discussed this matter with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and he expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Treasury prefers to have its interests watched, not by a member of the commission, hut by an officer associated with the work of the commission. The Government is not able to increase the personnel of the commission in the manner suggested by the honorable member, because the agreement with the State of Tasmania provides for a commission of four members, and the acceptance of the amendment would destroy the agreement. I agree that the Treasury should be closely associated with the operations of the commission, and that will be done in the manner which I have indicated. The Treasury officer will act as watchdog over the expenditure of public money.
– It is regrettable .that ‘a representative of the Treasury is not a member of the commission. Expenditure on this undertaking will total £3,000,000. The sum of £1,500,000 will be provided by Commonwealth taxpayers generally, whilst a similar amount will be paid by taxpayers resident in Tasmania. Consequently, expenditure by the commission should be checked by an officer who will be more than a mere watch-dog for the Treasury. However, I realize that the agreement cannot he varied to meet that requirement, and I can only express my regret that this matter was not foreseen when the agreement was being drafted.
.- I agree that expenditure by the proposed commission should be carefully scrutinized by a representative of the Treasury, and the Attorney-General has assured honorable members opposite that such, an officer will be associated with the commission. The speech which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made would have been excusable if it had been delivered by a private member, but the right honorable gentleman, a former Commonwealth Treasurer and Prime Minister, knows how Commonwealth finances are protected by legislation.
– It is because I know it that I want this safeguard.
– I suspect that there i3 another reason. The explanation given by the Attorney-General is an assurance that the Commonwealth Treasury will closely scrutinize expenditure. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) interjected about “preaching the divine gospel of discontent “ and that spirit appears to have actuated the honorable member for New England in submitting the amendment.
.- I understood the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to say that clause 4 and clause 10 would be postponed until honorable members had an opportunity to read the two reports which have just been circulated.
– No, I said that I would agree to the postponement of clause 10, and that was apparently acceptable to the honorable member for Barker.
– I am concerned, not with what the honorable member for Barker agrees to, but with what this committee agrees to. It is utterly farcical to hand these reports to honorable members and before any one has had an opportunity to read them, ask them to agree to a clause which reads -
The agreement is hereby approved.
The agreement is contained in the schedule, and our attitude to it will be influenced by our reading of these reports. As we have not yet had an opportunity to read them, their distribution at this juncture is only so much windowdressing. I protest against this procedure, and I am amazed that some honorable members opposite have not registered their protest against the contempt which the Government is showing for parliamentary practice and the rights of honorable members in this chamber. As I stated, we have not had an opportunity to read the two reports which have just been circulated, whilst the third report has not yet come to hand.
– The Attorney-General stated that he would agree to postpone clause 10, and .proceed with the remainder of the agreement. The matter does not mean a great deal to me, because the Government has the numbers to enforce its wishes. We are now asked to give our assent to a clause consisting of these simple words -
The agreement is hereby approved.
If clause 10 be postponed for the time being, clause 4 should also be deferred. But since we are expected to speak on clause 4, I take this opportunity to protest at the manner in which this important subject has been presented to this chamber. Honorable members should have been afforded an opportunity to examine these reports without bias, because most of us approach this matter with an Australian outlook. “We have no personal axes to grind in either approving or opposing thebill. We simply require -information in order that we may best determine what should be done in the interests of Australia. Earlier, I pointed out that circumstances surrounding the presentation of this project call for careful thought. Honorable members have not been given a fair opportunity to acquaint themselves with the details of the bill. This afternoon, I mentioned the names of certain individuals who, it is suggested, have some vested interest in forcing the Government to expedite the passage of the measure in case something should leak out, and the bill not be approved.
The Parliament of Tasmania had to approve this legislation, which was submitted to it on the 19th April last. Even in the State legislature the bill was not supported unanimously by honorable members. Members of the Opposition called for a report, and asked for an inquiry, and the Launceston Examiner published a news item entitled “Aluminium Bill Approved - Move for Inquiry Defeated “. That occurred six months ago. The Government of Tasmania did not authorize a public inquiry into the proposal, even though the Opposition pressed for it; and now, no information has been given to the House of Representatives, even though the Opposition has asked for it. The only conclusion is that some reason exists for this cloak of secrecy. I propose to read an extract from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, because an endeavour has been made to convey the impression that all the Tasmanian people are just gasping for this bill. The report states -
Mr. Baker said he felt both sides of the House would do their utmost to bring about the industry. Every member of the House should be as careful about the spending of £1,500,000 of the people’s money as he should of his own money. “ Surely it. is not for me to be called upon at five minutes’ notice to reply on behalf of the Opposition on this bill “, he said. “ I regret that a splendid industry for this State should be prejudiced by this stupid piece of bungling by the Premier in its introduction. Whether it would be £1,500,000 or not history would disclose. Judging by previous estimates it might be £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 “.
Evidently the same hasty tactics were adopted in the Parliament of Tasmania as those that are being adopted in this chamber, because the Leader of the Opposition protested against being called on at five minutes’ notice to deal with the bill. The people of Tasmania may be committed to the expenditure of millions of pounds more than they anticipated. The procedure adopted in the Commonwealth Parliament by a Labour government is almost parallel with that adopted in the Tasmanian Parliament by another Labour administration. In view of the allegations made in the debates to-day and yesterday, it is the duty of the Government to protect the interests of the Treasury to the maximum degree. The money required for this project cannot be found by any easy method. It will have to come from either taxation or loans. If it comes from loans - and that is what unundoubtedly will happen - it will be a part of a huge sum of probably £150,000,000 which the Government will raise for war purposes and other requirements. In short, the people of Australia will be called upon to subscribe the money. It may be said that Mr. A. V. Smith, who is to be chairman of the commission, is quite capable of safeguarding the interests of the Commonwealth, but. we should remember that he is already chairman of the War Disposals Commission and secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping. Consequently, it will be impossible for him to devote a groat deal of time to the work of this commission. We understand that whenever possible the meetings of the commission are to be held in Tasmania, so that Mr. Smith will be under some difficulty in that connexion.
– Why? It only takes about two hours to go across to Tasmania by air.
– Even the Minister cannot get across to his home State as frequently as he would like to do. I consider that the amendment should be agreed to.
agreed to the postponement of clause 10, but of what use will it be to postpone clause 10 after we have agreed to clause 4, the purpose of which is to ratify the agreement? Of what use will it he for us to defer consideration of clause 10’ in order that we may study a certain report if we have already agreed to the terms under which the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government will enter into this partnership? The report promised by the Attorney-General will be of no value to us unless this clause can be postponed, for the purpose of this clause is to approve of the agreement in respect of which clause 10 provides that there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue fund, or out of the proceeds of any loan raised, the sum of £1,500,000 for the purposes of the commission. It would be farcical to agree to clause 4 at this stage, and I therefore hope that the Attorney-General will agree, to its postponement.
.- The committee accepted the offer of the Attorney-General to postpone clause 10 on the condition that the remainder of the bill could bc proceeded with, and no reasons have been advanced why that arrangement should not be honoured. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) read certain passages from a report which appeared, last April, in the Launceston Examiner relating to a debate in the Tasmanian House of Assembly. I point out, however, that the bill relating to the aluminium industry which was, at that time, before the State House was subsequently passed by it. Later it was also passed by the Legislative Council of Tasmania. Labour has only four out of the eighteen representatives in that chamber, which shows that the anti-Labour members of the chamber must have supported the bill. The agreement contained in the schedule to this bill was signed by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on behalf of the Commonwealth, and by the State Premier (Mr. Cosgrove) on behalf of Tasmania. In the circumstances I can see no reason why we should not approve of this clause. If the agreement were amended in any way a new measure would have to be submitted to the Tasmanian Parliament. I point out to honorable members that similar reasons to those which have been advanced against this proposal were advanced years ago against the proposal to establish the newsprint industry in Tasmania, in which substantial sums of Government money are invested. Probably the reason why anti-Labour members of $he Tasmanian Legislative Council agreed to this scheme was that the Tasmanian newsprint industry has been so successful. We all know that that industry is to be expanded. There has been no attempt to “ steam-roller “ this measure through the Parliament. The suggestion that transport difficulties might make it hard for the chairman of the Commission to visit Tasmania frequently is ridiculous, for it is possible in these days to travel from Melbourne to Tasmania by air in a couple of hours. I hope that the clause will not be postponed.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), in discussing this proposal, mentioned the names of certain Australian business men. Of course, he has a right to do that if he considers such a course necessary. But I have personal knowledge of some of the men whose names were mentioned. I consider that I have a responsibility to tell honorable members what I know of them, in order to counteract any adverse interpretation of the criticism to which they have been subjected. I have personal knowledge of Mr. W. S. Robinson and Sir Walter Massy Greene, whose names were mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond. Mr. Robinson is a member of one of the most respected families in Victoria. He is one of four brothers, each of whom has made his mark in the public and commercial life of Victoria. His eldest brother, Mr. F. F. Robinson, is an outstanding personality in the textile industry. Another brother, Mr. Gerald Robinson, is prominent in business circles in Victoria. The other brother, Sir Arthur Robinson, was at one time known to some of the older honorable members of this chamber as the member for Wannon. He is to-day one of Victoria’s leading solicitors. After his term of office as member for Wannon in this Parliament, he became Attorney-General in Victoria, and rendered distinguished service to the State. These four brothers are sons of a sister of Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Sir Arthur Robinson was at one_ time financial editor of the Melbourne Age, and Mr. W. S. Robinson also, at a later stage, filled that position. Some of the men whose names have been mentioned reside in my electorate, and for that reason also I consider that I have an obligation to place these facts before the House. Mr. W. S. Robinson has become an international financial figure. Some honorable members may attempt to attach a sinister significance to that. To my mind, it certainly means that he is a man of very great capacity. He has been accepted as a friend and, indeed, an adviser, by such a prominent and eminently respectable person as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. I have not an intimate knowledge of his business activities, but I recall hearing, as a member of a former government of the Commonwealth, that in the years before the war he had been prominently and, indeed, dominantly associated with the establishment of the aircraft industry in Australia, at a time when there appeared to be very little prospect of a financial return to those who invested their capital in the enterprise. He helped to persuade fellow industrialists in Australia to provide the finance that was required to establish the industry, so that it would be an important and, indeed, an essential adjunct to any future Australian defence programme.
Reference has been made to the Zinc Corporation works at Broken Hill. I cannot deal adequately with that matter in the absence of first-hand knowledge of the enterprise, but I have been told by those who know something about it that the industrial conditions represent about the highest standard that has been attained in the Commonwealth or any other part of tie world. The industrial relations that exist between the men and the management are entirely satisfactory. Completely disinterested parties have stated to me that the organization represents a model arrangement between the employees and the employer, ifr. Holt.
Other members of the family are very well known in the life of Victoria. A nephew, Commander Robinson, served with distinction in the last war; another nephew, Norman Robinson, is a notable figure in Melbourne life, whilst nephew Major Gluth is serving ably in the Australian Imperial Force in thos war.
I make these observations, because we should have in proper perspective criticisms made, no doubt, in good faith and from a sense of responsibility, but which may have the effect of casting a cloud over, not only an individual, but perhaps a whole family which has served Australia well.
Sir Walter Massy-Greene, to whom reference has been made, will be well known to most honorable members. For nine years, he was a member of this House. Curiously enough, he represented the electorate of Richmond, the present member for which will agree that it would not be likely to return for nine years one in whose capacity and probity it had not confidence. Later, he served for fifteen years as a member of the Senate. During the war years he has rendered valuable, and, I believe, honorary assistance to the Government in a variety of capacities.
Whilst it is easy for us, in the heat of debate, to exchange personalities that may mean little to us who are able to answer them, we have the responsibility of saying what we know concerning men of capacity and probity who may unjustly be maligned.
– The clause provides : “ The agreement is hereby approved “. The agreement is spoken of as a partnership between Tasmania and the Commonwealth, whereas it is nothing of the sort, but is simply an agreement by which Tasmania will provide a certain sum and thereafter will have very limited obligations, whilst the Commonwealth will have full responsibility in respect of the industry. Clause 4 of the agreement contains a vice to which previously I have drawn attention. It says -
Subject to any directions given on behalf of the Commonwealth and the State by the Minister of State for the Commonwealth administering the act- certain powers shall be conferred on the commission. It is obvious that those will be powers only insofar as they are not subject to any direction given upon any matter of either policy or detail, by the Minister of State administering the legislation. My objection is that the very vice of which I previously spoke in respect of the power of the Coal Commissioner is repeated with emphasis in this bill. The powers of the Coal Commissioner were made subject to any direction as to policy, given by the Minister administering the act. Similarly the powers of the Aluminium Commission are to be subject to any direction given by the Minister of State of the Commonwealth in respect of any matter of detail or policy. The Parliament is asked to commit itself to a vicious principle, when it is asked to agree to the establishment of an organization that will be subject to complete political control in respect of any detail of its business.
I can expect no help from the Parliament on my second point, because the Government, which so often has spoken about the principles of democracy, seeks to impose its will upon every aspect of life in the country, and, in relation to this industry, upon every branch of its progress and policy and every technical and other detail of its administration. Although I approve of the establishment of the industry, I take this opportunity to object to the way in which the Commonwealth Government seeks to engage in it although the Constitution, in general terms, prohibits the Commonwealth from engaging in business. This is a direct engagement in business by the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the Commonwealth will seek to defend its right to enter into this agreement by saying, “ The State has complete power to make such an agreement “ ; and if it3 power be challenged, it will have recourse to the justification that the aluminium industry is essential for the defence of the Commonwealth. It is obvious that the industry has no real relation to the present war. It can have relation to the post-war period, and a relation to defence, only insofar as it may be said that any basic industry is related to the defence of the country. In modern warfare, it is exceedingly difficult to draw the line as to what form of industry the
Commonwealth may not be able properly to say is directed to the defence of th« country. 1 warn the Parliament that this seems to be the preliminary to a further adventuring by the Commonwealth into industry. If the agreement can be supported under the Constitution - upon which point I do not offer an opinion- then it seems to me a logical step that any other basic industry can be related to the defence plan; and if an agreement can be made with a State, one can be made also with an individual. By making an agreement with an individual or a State, the Commonwealth may be able to defend its investment by saying “ This is related to the defence of the country “. If that be so, it is not easy to see why any form of economic life cannot be similarly related. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has suggested that the Commonwealth should engage in the fabrication of aluminium. If it can do that, I see no limit to its power to enter any industry by means of an agreement linking it with a State or an individual. Upon both grounds, I object, not to the purpose contained in the bill, but to the form of the agreement.
– I have not yet had much time to examine the Hey report, but what I have already examined makes it appear that there is in it a lot of dynamite which will blow up somebody. I first direct attention to a letter dated the 1st December, 1942, from British Aluminium Company Limited of Oakleigh Manor, Shropshire, to Mr. A. J. Keast, c/o British Aluminium Company Limited, London. The letter purports to give certain information regarding the cost of producing aluminium. If that information was ever in the letter, it has been excised, because no longer is it there. The letter reads -
Dear Mr. Keast,
We have not had much time to give you the information you require, but I enclose herewith the following schedules as prepared in accordance with Mr. Morrison^ instructions to me: - Capital costs, 20,000-ton Alumina plant with notes; capital costs, 10,000-ton Aluminium plant with notes; alternative capital costs of Aluminium plant if power is generated and not purchased. (The information is based on that given to us by Babcock and Wilcox on the telephone as regards boilers, and similar information for the power plant from the English Electric Company Limited.)
The information which, I say, apparently has been excised from this report - if it appears elsewhere in the report I have not yet been able to find it - is this -
Estimate of cost of producing alumina, excluding interest and depreciation on capital, taxation, &c.
That is followed by a blank space. The next paragraph reads -
Estimate of cost of production of aluminium which we have built up as best we can from the costs of our various factories, but here again, they must be taken with all due reserve.
That, -too, is followed by a blank space. I cannot say whether or not the figures were ever there. Is this the kind of information which should be tendered to the committee? I am not, at this stage, able accurately to analyse 40 pages of a report.
– The report consists of only five pages, and the other documents are appendices to it. To which appendix is the honorable gentleman referring?
– The pages are not numbered, but I shall pass the letter over to the Minister so that he may see the passage to which I am referring.
– This is a letter dated the 1st December, 1942. It says, “I enclose herewith the following schedules,” and certain schedules are attached which give the figures.
– So far as I can see, there is no schedule which discloses the cost of producing aluminium. There is a schedule which shows the costs of establishing a 10,000-ton plant and a 5,000-ton plant, but there is nothing about the cost of producing a ton of aluminium.
– There is a document about capital costs.
– Yes, but not about working costs. The schedule refers to estimates of the cost of producing alumina, excluding interest on capital, hut no figure’ is supplied. That information might be included in some other part of the report which I have not yet had time to read. However, I do not think that it is, and if, as the letter states, that information was included at one time, I want to know why it was excised, if it has been excised.
– The sensible thing would be to postpone further discussion of this bill until to-morrow. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has made a discovery, and we ought to prospect the find a little further. I am not a bit enamoured of the bill, not because I am opposed to the agreement, but because I think that there ought to be a proper inquiry. I have had some experience of Labour governments, both State and Federal. and I know that if you want to obtain approval for a real, healthy monopoly you must go to a Labour’ government. You would have no chance with a government drawn from honorable members on this side of the House. Take, for instance, the proposal for developing the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits. It was proposed that an agreement should be entered into between the Government of Western Australia and the Commonwealth Government, only in that case the Commonwealth Government would not play. That agreement, had it been made, would have given the Japanese 100,000,000 tons of iron ore. The Labour Government then in office in Western Australia was prepared to do all sorts of things to help the Japanese. The actual _ development was to be done by a British company registered in Australia, with a Yankee manager and a Portuguese secretary. It was an extraordinary set-up.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– These matters have a vital bearing upon the question of whether or not the proposed agreement should, be approved. The committee is entitled to discuss agreements of the kind entered into in the past. If we are able to elicit information for the benefit of honorable members who will not be here for another parliament we are justified in discussing the suggested Yampi Sound agreement. Further consideration of the bill should be postponed until to-morrow morning so that honorable members may have an opportunity to study the reports.
– This bill provides for the establishment of a great, new industry in Australia at an estimated cost of £3,000,000, yet neither the Minister in charge of the bill nor his experts can say what will be the cost of producing aluminium. Attached to this report, which has been put into our hands, is a letter from the British Aluminium ‘Company in which mention is made of the cost of producing aluminium, “ . . . excluding interest on capital . . . based on our own costs, and costs can vary enormously according to the ore used . . . “ That is the most empiric form of costing that I have ever seen, but then, to crown everything, no cost is shown at all. There is an estimate of the cost of plant, and also an estimate of “ red mud disposal “. It seems to me that this is a “muddy” sort of agreement, one which has never been properly examined by the Government. An attempt has been made to rush it through the House. We have had to drag the report out of the Government, and the operation was as difficult as that of dragging out a man’s wisdom teeth. The Government did its best to suppress the report. It is proposed to commit the country to vast expenditure, yet we are not told what the cost of production will he. When I proposed that a Treasury official be appointed to the commission to watch expenditure, the Government refused to consider it. Why the AttorneyGeneral will not postpone further consideration of the bill until to-morrow morning so that honorable members may study the reports, I cannot understand. The attitude of the Government in this respect is on a par with its attitude regarding this whole proposal. Discussion has been stifled as far as possible, and now, when the report has been finally made available, it is evident that the Attorney-General knows nothing of its contents. Notwithstanding the fact that a promise was given on the 17th September last that the reports would be made available, only six copies of this particular report have been placed before ns. I should like the Attorney-General to say why more copies were not prepared. He knew that the honorable memher for Gippsland had asked for the report last night or. if he did not know, it is a reflection on his secretarial assistants. On the matter of this vital report the Attorney-General misled us when he was speaking earlier this evening. He said first that it was a short report, and then he suddenly discovered that it was a long one. That shows how much study he gave to the report, and probably Cabinet studied it just about >as much. This attempt to push through the bill without proper study or consideration is unfair to the Parliament and to the people. Parliamentary sessions are few and far between. It would be better if they were more frequent so that, more consideration could be given to the business of the country. The Attorney-General should adjourn this debate straight away so that more copies could be made of the report, and so that honorable members might read it. through before the House meets to-morrow.
[11. 13 J. - I have given every assistance I can to the committee. Earlier in the evening it was pointed out by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) had promised that certain reports would be made available when this bill was being considered in Committee. The reports were not previously called for, although it is true that last night the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) referred to the KeastHey report. I then gave directions that copies of the Charles report and of the summary of the Copper and Bauxite Committee’s report should be prepared for all honorable members; all that has been done. This evening the honorable member for Richmond asked me about the Keast-Hey report, a technical document, and the few copies available have been distributed. Even my adviser, the Secretary of the Department, has not now a copy. It was suggested by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the fairest way would be to postpone clause 10 while the machinery clauses of the bill were agreed to. Then, discussions on clause 10 could be resumed later in the light of such information as might be obtained from an examination of the reports. I had agreed first to postpone clauses 4 and 10, but it was agreed that full discussion could take place on clause 10. I am both willing and anxious to do that. I ask the committee to proceed with the rest of the bill to-night.
– Shall we be given sufficient time to-morrow to discuss it?
– That must be done. I do not claim to be familiar with the details of the Keast-Hey report, which is of a technical nature. Indeed, I did not know of its existence as a separate report until to-night. I do not consider that it is necessary that every report received by the Government should be made available to honorable members. The report referred to provides the ground for some estimates. It has been pointed out that further information might be available either from that report or from some other source, and I shall look into that matter.
– Will the information be available for honorable members tomorrow?
– 1 shall do my utmost to have it available. I have told the committee the reason why the Treasurer does not desire that a Treasury official shall be appointed to the commission. I wish to assist the committee, and I ask it to assist me by passing the rest of the bill to-night, so that to-morrow morning the whole measure may be completed in the light of the information obtainable from the reports. I do not think that some of the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) were justified, but I shall pass them over. I am acting on behalf of an absent Minister and am doing my utmost to carry out his duties.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to S agreed to.
Clause 9 -
The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament.
– I move -
That the following words be added: - “and by both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament.”.
This afternoon I said that the bill did not provide a sufficient check on the disposal of the asset, which is a joint asset of the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliament of Tasmania. It is desirable that both parties to the agreement should have control of the disposal of the assets should that position arise.
– I think that the objective of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) can be attained if the bill is left as it is. This is a clause in a Commonwealth law. The schedule to the bill is an agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania. The object of clause 9 is to prevent the Executive Government of the Commonwealth from consenting to the sale of any part of this undertaking without reference to this Parliament. Similarly, the power of the Executive Government of Tasmania to consent to any such disposal should be conditioned by the necessity to obtain the consent of both Houses of the State legislature. If the honorable member will look at the clause, she will see that there is a condition against the sale or disposal of any part of the undertaking. It cannot be effected until approved by both Houses of the Parliament. That does not mean that it could be disposed of without the consent of the Parliament of Tasmania.
– The Commonwealth will have a majority on the commission. Could not the commission itself dispose of the asset?
– The commission’s power to sell is conditioned by the necessity to obtain the consent of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. It seems to me that the appropriate place to insert the words suggested by the honorable member for Darwin is in legislation to be massed by the Parliament of Tasmania. But I have no objection to the amendment. Indeed, I should like to see it incorporated in the bill.
– I thought that the right honorable gentleman’s point was that the effect of clause 9 was to impose a limit on the power of disposal. Otherwise, that power would be vested in the commission on which the Commonwealth Government would have a majority of members. Therefore, this limitation of the power of the commission is a limitation referring only to the Commonwealth authority. Why should there not be a provision that the consent of the State Parliament also must bo obtained before any sale can take place?
– I appreciate the point which has been raised. In effect, it would create the same position as a law passed by the Parliament of Tasmania on the matter. I should imagine that under Tasmanian law a similar result could be achieved. I repeat that I arn sympathetic to the object which the honorable member for Darwin seeks to achieve.
– I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should look at the amendment overnight, and. if he finds that there is substance in it, the matter can be dealt with later.
– I am agreeable to that. If I can do so, I shall include the words suggested by the honorable member for Darwin because I agree with the object which she seeks to achieve, namely, the prohibition of the disposal of any part of this undertaking by the commission except with the consent not only of the two governments but also of the two pa r li a m ents affected .
Clause postponed until after consideration of Schedule.
Clause 10 postponed until after consideration of schedule.
Clauses 11 to 15 agreed to.
.- The Minister made a statement this evening which I should like to be more specific. The schedule contains the agreement between the two governments. Paragraph 4 (c) provides thai the commission shall have power to determine the processes to be employed for the production of ingot aluminium. Will the Minister give a specific undertaking, along the lines indicated by him earlier, that before any work is done in the manufacture of aluminium, every system of processing will be fairly and impartially investigated ?
– It lies within the authority of the commission and the Government to make a determination as to processes. I gladly give that assurance on behalf of the Government.
Schedule agreed to.
– I move -
Th:, t the bill bo now read a second time.
The Wine Export Bounty Act, which was promulgated in 1939, had a currency of five years and is due to expire or. the 2St,h February, 1945. The Government has given consideration to the question of the continuance of the act after February next, and, in view of the importance of the wine industry to the economic life of Australia, and particularly to certain districts, the population of which is composed chiefly of returned soldiers from the 1914.-1S war, it has decided that the act should not be allowed to expire. During the past five years, the wine trade has passed through a period unparalleled in its history, inasmuch as it has practically lost an export trade of approximately 4,000,000 gallons a year but has not felt any immediate adverse effect, for the local market expanded owing to war-time conditions and the general prosperity of the community to such a degree that there has been no accumulation of stocks. In fact, the local market has absorbed the quantity sold thereon prior to the war, plus the equivalent of the quantity exported in pre-war times.
It is not anticipated, however, that the increased sales on the local market will continue on the same scale when conditions return to normal, and there is no doubt that, in the post-war period, the Australian wine industry will have to look to overseas trade to absorb some portion of its production. The wine trade has made representations’ to the Government for the continuance of the act for a period of ten years, with certain other amendments, but, in view of the difficulty of anticipating, at this stage, when the war will finish, and the conditions that will exist in the immediate post-war period, the Government has decided to continue the operation of the present act for a period of two years. The proposal for the continuance of the act for this comparatively short period is not to be taken as an indication of the Government’s intention to withdraw, at the expiration of the two-year period, the assistance rendered to the industry by the act. As a matter of fact, the bill is a protective measure which ensures the continuance of the bounty pending examination of the conditions likely to confront the industry in the immediate post-war period. It is unlikely that those conditions can be thoroughly examined before the 28th February, 1945, but, if this bill were not introduced, the bounty on wine would lapse automatically on that date. The extension of the act to the 28th February, 1947, does not necessarily mean that the Government will allow the act to remain in its present form until that date. The Government will introduce amending legislation to meet the postwar problems of this industry at an earlier date if the necessity arises. As honorable members are well aware the act provides for a bounty of1s. a gallon on fortified wine exported, and the amount of money standing to the credit of the trust fund from which the bounty is paid is £708,285. There is, therefore, no shortage of money with which to pay bounty on all wine that may be exported during the next two years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Alleged Breach of Regulations at
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In recent weeks a campaign has been in progress in New South Wales and other States in connexion with the Government’s banking policy. It does not appear to have reached great dimensions in New South Wales, but to-day I received about a dozen telegrams from supposed constituents of mine on this subject, and they are so interesting that I bring them to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), particularly, and the Government, generally. These telegrams refer to a change of banking legislation which may take place in the near future. Peculiarly, although the telegrams ostensibly come from different people in different parts of my constituency, they were all lodged at and sent from the telegraph office at Five Dock between 3 and 3.5 p.m. The first I received was from the organizer of the United Australia party in my electorate. Evidently he canvassed the electorate for names to attach to the other telegrams, because among the names I recognize those of supporters of the Opposition party. This appears to be a deliberate attempt sponsored by the parties opposite, the private banks and other interested organizations or persons to undermine the people’s confidence in this Government and to destroy the unity of the people which must be preserved for the battles that still lie ahead. I am amazed that such a campaign should have the backing of a party which is held by some to be reputable. I think the Government should immediately investigate the activities of the people who are fostering this campaign, which has resulted in my colleagues and me receiving many letters and telegrams signed by every Tom, Dick and Harry who have been induced by the organizers to subscribe their names to statements in ignorance of their contents. So that this campaign shall be nipped in the bud, I urge the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Treasurer to say definitely just what this Government has in view with regard to banking legislation. I am prepared to support the policy which will be placed before the Parliament.
– What is that policy?
– It is amazing that the honorable gentleman should ask that when his party is sponsoring a campaign in which it is alleged that the Government’s policy is to socialize banking. Instead of trying to undermine national unity and the prestige of this Government, the honorable gentleman and his colleagues would do well to hide their time and carefully study the banking proposals when, at the appropriate time, they are placed before them. Appropriate action ought to be taken in the meanwhile to prevent the already overworked postal employees from being saddled with the needless labour involved in handling the letters and telegrams to which this objectionable campaign is giving birth and to prevent the needless waste of valuable newspaper space on furtherance of vicious propaganda, which is a disgrace to every party and person associated with it. The whole campaign is in keeping with the fascist tendencies of certain newspaper interests and other bodies determined to do all within their power to bring about the downfall of probably the best .government this country has enjoyed.
.- I rise only because of the extraordinary statement made by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), who has discovered that Fascists are responsible for the campaign. It is customary for Communists to call everybody who is not a Communist a Fascist. I hope that the honorable gentleman will not fall into that rash habit. Wo all are receiving protests. I do not know many of the persons who have sent protests to me, but some I do know; they are not members of a political party, but they send their protests with good reason. I have had letters and telegrams from many kinds of people who are genuinely alarmed at the prospects outlined by certain Ministers in interjections in this House and otherwise, that Australia’s banking system will be socialized and the Commonwealth Bank Board abolished. There have been inspired statements to that effect in the press, and wild utterances by irresponsibles in the Ministry that now that Labour has the power it will socialize whatever it wants to. The honorable member himself, if he had money in a bank which he thought would be interfered with, might think it wise to transfer it to another bank. One of my correspondents, a retired bank manager, says, “ I point out this to you in case you are supporting this action: it is most unwise to centralize all banking in one concern “. The very fact that there is competition among trading banks is a spur to efficiency and an aid to business because few small enterprises can carry on without overdrafts. A government bank is usually a soulless thing mainly concerned with national finance and with no interest in the individual customer. It may be too large to interest itself in individuals. Any person who has been in business, or conducted an enterprise, in which he has utilized the services provided by a bank knows that the outlook of private banks is not uniform, that a bank which may grant an overdraft 1o one person may refuse the same facility to another person. We know also that the banks render valuable service to the business community, and to private individuals in facilitating travel, and in other directions. Therefore, it is useless for the honorable member to rail against people who may be genuinely alarmed. The responsibility for such unrest lies at the door of the Government, because it is responsible for public uncertainty with respect to this matter. Although Parliament is about to go into recess, the Government, has not issued an official statement concerning its policy in relation to banking. There may be some sinister motive behind the statements that there are to be certain changes. What changes exactly does the Government propose to make? If the Treasurer would reveal the Government’s intentions, the honorable member for Martin would not he worried in the way he has indicated.
– Let the honorable member exercise a little patience.
M.r. WHITE.- The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has now reached the summit of his ambition, because verysoon the airlines will be operated under his efficient command.
– Who are these people who are supposed to be alarmed?
– The other day ] showed the Treasurer a bundle of twenty telegrams, which I had received from various people, some of whom are strangers to me, and some of whom I know.
Mr.Chifley. - They all were paid for by the private banks.
– Surely the Treasurer does not believe that.
Mr.Chifley. - I do.
– If the Treasurer studies the telegrams I have received he will see from the language in which they are couched that the individuals who transmitted them were wholly responsible for them. Some of those people wanted to know whether it would be safer to transfer their savings from the Commonwealth Bank to the Victorian Savings Bank.
Mr.Chifley. - I have also seen the circular sent out by the private banks.
– The publication of that circular is the concern of the private banks, which have taken that action in self defence. I am now dealing with the irresponsible statements made by certain members of the Government on this subject. One does not need a long memory to recall what happened in New South Wales during the depression when the State Savings Bank closed its doors.
– That was a political stunt.
– Whatever the cause might have been, the fact remains that the State Savings Bank in the largest State in Australia closed its doors during the depression; and, at that time, advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers advertising savings bank books for sale. We do not want a repetition of such happenings.
– The honorable member can read the story of how that happened in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems.
– The Treasurer knows that during the depression the State Government of New SouthWales would not pay certain of its debts, and the people became alarmed, with the result that a run started on the State Savings Bank; and once a run starts on a bank it is difficult to stop. I again urge him to make a clear pronouncement of Government policy on this subject. Statements have been made that the
Government intends to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board. That statement meets with the approval of the enthusiastic, but irresponsible, Minister for Transport, who no doubt in Caucus will say, “ Now, let’s churn out the notes “.
– I do not know of anything calculated to do more damage to the banking system than the statements which the honorable member is now making.
– I should not have spoken on this subject but for the fact that it was raised by the honorable member for Martin.
– When did any Minister talk about churning out notes?
– That sort of talk would go on in caucus. I know that in caucus the majority of honorable members opposite are only fettered deaf mutes, and do not dare to speak on anything but simple tub-thumping matters. However, the honorable member for Martin raised this subject, and placed responsibility for the action of which he complained, upon a political party which he alleged had a Fascist origin. He knows that perfectly good citizens are alarmed by the statements made on the subject by the Treasurer and the less responsible Minister for Transport.
– By me?
– The Treasurer stated that the Government intended to make amendments to the existing banking legislation.
– That is true.
– In that case the Trea-. surely should explain exactly the amendments the Government has in mind. He has an obligation to give that information to the House. If he fails to do so he will aggravate public alarm, and, thereby, jeopardize the Government’s chances of raising future loans. In the past I have spoken from the same platform with him in loan campaigns, and I am prepared to do so again; but if he wants to establish stability, and’ desires the people to believe in the Government’s policy, he should not make statements of the kind he has already made, backed up by the proletarian play-boys sitting behind him.
.-Some months ago I had occasion to refer to the construction of a building at. Bankstown by a man named Fitzpatrick, and in endeavouring to bring the matter to a head I became involved in a brush with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). In view of the high esteem in which I held the Minister, J regretted that incident very much; but I knew that certain influences were at work which tended to compromise him in that matter. In fact, overtures had been made to me with the object of deflecting roe from my duty in the matter, and that was followed up by threats to i ii v political future. The delay in the policing of relevant regulations embarrassed me as the representative in this Parliament of that district, because the matter had been brought to my notice by local people and members of branches of l lie Labour party; whilst the boastful attitude adopted by the individual concerned was creating the impression, which was entirely unwarranted, that he enjoyed immunity so far as the enforcement of the regulations was concerned. In consequence, a situation arose in th«> district which was intolerable to me as iti? representative in this Parliament, and also as a supporter of the Government, particularly as I had been asked to support applications for permits to build homes on behalf of persons who were living in deplorable conditions. Some of (hern were living in brick kilns, and others in fowl houses. Only this week the circumstances of a family of twelve persons living in a 14-ft. tent in the same district were brought to my notice. Honorable members will appreciate the invidious position in which I was placed in relation to this matter. The only way in which we can get people to put up with the restrictions and sacrifices imposed on them to-day owing to war conditions is by ensuring that everybody shall be treated equally under the law, and no favours extended to any individual, no matter how wealthy or privileged he may appear to he. My attitude in that matter has since been vindicated, because this individual was convicted on two counts of having committed breaches of the National Security Regulations.
But a more serious aspect than the breaking of the building regulations is the matter of the source of the materials used in the structure. I received information - I did not disclose it to the House at the time - relating to the source of certain materials. I realized that proceedings of a serious nature would probably be instituted against this individual, and I was anxious not to prejudice the case. Therefore, I handed the information to the proper authorities. I realized also that any delay would prejudice the proceedings, because certain of the property involved was movable, and evidence could be destroyed. Commonwealth authorities who are responsible for policing the building regulations, and officials of the Bankstown Council, who are charged with the supervision of building construction, may be examined regarding the source of those materials. I should like to be informed why the proceedings have been obstructed and delayed, and I trust that the Minister will fully inquire into this aspect.
The other matter has been referred to the War Expenditure Committee for inquiry, and also to the Crown Law authorities, and I understand that a report from the committee has been submitted to the Attorney-General. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman will act in this matter as promptly as he did in the other. Three months had elapsed before the case came before the Attorney-General, after I had submitted it to the Department of War Organization of Industry, but the right honorable gentleman, within 24 hours, instituted proceedings. I am confident that he will act just as promptly on the report of the War Expenditure Committee. However, nearly twelve months have passed since I first directed the attention of the authorities to this occurrence. I touch upon the matter this evening only because I desire to make a personal explanation about my own position. Prior to the previous proceedings, I was informed that attempts would be made to undermine me politically in my constituency. Since -the proceedings were launched, a definite campaign has been organized against me, and I feel bound to refer to it in this chamber. As a part of the campaign to undermine me, poisonous propaganda has been circulated by this individual in my electorate, and a lying and scurrilous letter signed by him has been sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), the secretary of the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labour party, which is the governing body of the movement in New South Wales, and the secretary of the Reid Electoral Council. These letters have also circulated in this House and throughout industries in my constituency. I was not aware of what was happening until some time later, when a loyal supporter directed my attention to it. The letter imputed all kinds of motives to me, and I cannot permit it to pass unchallenged. This individual has attempted to intimidate me in the performance of my duties to my constituents and to this House, but I am not deterred by his efforts. Others are associated with this campaign because the letter itself was prepared by a skilled hand. Although this gentleman may possess sonic native shrewdness, he has not the ability to produce the phrases which occurred in the letter. Obviously, a very subtle and skilful hand is behind it. I have some idea of the identity of the author, but, as proceedings are pending, I shall not disclose it. I am handicapped to a certain degree in not being able to give the whole of the details, but I hope, at a later stage, when the proceedings have been completed, to refer to them and to the attitude of some of the persons associated with this individual in trying to obstruct the course of justice. It is an offence to aid and abet a wrongdoer, and any one doing so may be guilty of being an accessory after the fact. Some of the people who are associated with this individual in his activities, or who are trying to cover their tracks, should know better and may receive their deserts.
I must refer to one phase of the matter which greatly concerns me. Certain phrases which occur in that letter relate to material which I gave some time ago in strict confidence to security officers of the Commonwealth. That information could have been handed to this individual only by some one associated with the Security Section. That i3 a serious offence.
– A. leakage from the Security Section?
– I exonerate the present Director of Security, because I am sure that he would not approve of the handing out of this information. Incidentally, I gave the information to the Security Service during the regime of a previous government. When the AttorneyGeneral is investigating this matter, he should seek to elicit how this individual is able to circulate a letter in the manner which I have described, and to include in it confidential matters relating to security which should not be used for political purposes. This individual stated to the press, and also in this letter, that, bo was one of my political supporters. To that assertion I give the lie direct. To my knowledge, he has never supported or financed me politically. In fact, I understood that he supported (mother organization whose activities are more in keeping with his reputation. In is 11 v event, whether he was my supporter or not, he is not immune from the law. That sort of thing does not “go down” in Australia, although it might “go down” in other countries. The Labour movement, of which I am a member, would not stand for anything of that nature. I am confident that the Attorney-General will expedite this matter which already has been long delayed, and see that the channels of justice in this country remain clear and unpolluted.
– I desire to direct attention to .some matters that vitally affect the services, and the treatment which this Government is meting out to servicemen generally. I have received a letter from Mr. Maurice Francis, of the Macquarie broadcasting network. He acquaints me with certain facts which should be brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), and the country. He says that he has attempted to ventilate this matter in certain newspapers, but that the censor banned the publication of any ‘reference to the case. I cannot understand the action of the censor, because the matter does not disclose information that may be of value to the enemy. But it definitely affects the parents of unfortunate men who have met their death in carrying out the normal exercises of war. I shall read extracts from the letter, and I hope that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) will take particular notice of them, as the Acting Minister for Air is not in the House. The letter states, inter aim -
On thu afternoon of Wednesday, the 8th November, .1044, my son-in-law, Warrant Officer David Forces Clare of the Royal Australian Air Force, was killed in an air crash at Bankstown, as a result of a technical fault in a mosquito plane. His co-pilot, Pilot Officer Nelson Crouch, was killed at the same time. The Royal Australian Air Force authorities contacted mc and arranged to hold back the funerals until Saturday, the 11th November, to enable the parents of the deceased airmen to attend. Both these men had seen service overseas, and were acting as test pilots to the Royal Australian Air Force on service pay.
Mr. .1. Clare, the father of Warrant Officer Clare, attempted to obtain an air priority from Adelaide to attend his son’s funeral. This was refused un account of the heavy Melbourne Cup traffic. Mr. Clare, by the way. is manager of the Bank of Adelaide at Brinkworth, South Australia. Mrs. Crouch, the mother of the other casualty, attempted to obtain an air priority from Brisbane to attend the funeral. This was also refused because of the heaviness of Melbourne Cup traffic. Mrs. Crouch arrived a day after the funeral, and was in a considerably distressed state owing to the fact that she has already given her husband and two sons to the war effort. 1 urge the Acting Prime M’inister to make complete inquiries regarding the allegations that I have brought to the notice of the House to-night, because I do not believe that the present Government would tolerate the completely soulless action which has been taken by departmental officers, who, although the time fixed for the funeral had been postponed to enable the parents to ; be present, did not grant the necessary air travel priorities. The whole of the information necessary for a thorough investigation of the facts is contained in the statement that I have made. This letter would not have come into my possession unless the facts were as stated. The Government should prevent a repetition of this conduct, so that proper consideration may be shown to the parents of airmen who lose their lives in the service of their country. Officers who refuse to supply travel priorities in these circumstances should receive a severe reprimand, so that their mistake will not be repeated.
I have particulars before me of two other cases that I have no intention to discuss at present, because the Acting Prime Minister is not. at the moment in a position to obtain, the information which I require, but I shall supply him wilh the details and discuss them with him at a later date. There is another case, however, which I should like him to refer to his ministerial colleague. About ten months ago I referred to the case of Sergeant Martin, and recently 1 brought the case of a man named Wilkinson to his notice. There is clearly something seriously wrong in the administration of the medical services of the Army. In both instances the medical officers had diagnosed the complaints of those men. wrongly, and had imposed certain restrictions which, upon inquiry, had to be completely lifted. As the result of action taken in this House, these men were re-examined and their complaints were diagnosed in the correct way. As isolated cases of thi* kind come to the notice of members of this House, I am led to believe that many other cases to which little publicity is given occur. I shall read a statutory declaration .by Gunner A. C. Coombes, who enlisted on the 21st October, 1939. and served for three years in the Middle East and niue months in New Guinea. The following is his sworn declaration, dated the 19th November: -
I, Gunner A. C. Coombes, NX7576, 23rd Battery, 2/12th Australian Field Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, do solemnly declare that the following statement by me in correct and true: -
On my return from the Convalescent Home at Bowral on the 0th November, 1944, I was sent to 103rd Australian Convalescent Depot, at Ingleburn. As my wound was still discharging, I reported to the medical officer, who issued an order that I report for daily dressing to the regimental aid post. On Friday, the 10th November, 1944,- I was ordered on a route march, on which I refused to go. and so was paraded before the captain, wlm reprimanded me and told me not to let it occur again. On Tuesday, the 14th November, 1844, I was again ordered out on a route march, and on advising the sergeant that I did not feel up to marching, he told me to lodge my complaint on my return. During the evening I collapsed and was taken by ambulance to the above address, where I was operated on last Friday, the 17th November, 1944, making two internal operations in less than eleven weeks.
There is a similarity between this case and that of Sergeant Martin, because of the fact that his illness prevented him from going on a route march. He was ordered to proceed on that march while his wound was still discharging. Obviously, he was under medical treatment, and some days later he collapsed. He was operated upon for the second time, and thus underwent two operations in less than eleven weeks. I have before me a copy of a medical certificate from Dr. Ruth Stephens, of 77 Old South Headroad, Bondi Junction. It is dated the 11 th November, and states -
Mr. A. C. Coombes consulted me to day. He complains that he was operated on for appendicitis in 1940, and has been operated four times since for complications of that operation. He has scars on his abdomen, which substantiate this fact that he has been operated upon on several occasions, and has an unhealed wound at present from an operation. He states further that he has had malaria on numerous occasions, and is at present taking atebrine.
Apparently this soldier should have been under close medical observation, and should not have been ordered to go upon a route march, but, as happened in a couple of other cases to which I have referred, the medical officers of the Army did not take the necessary interest in him, and he suffered accordingly. It is useless for me to bring cases before the Acting Prime Minister, unless he intends to take action in regard to them. It is useless for him to call for a report, and, having received it, completely forget the matter, as has been done in respect of Sergeant Martin, whose case I brought before this House ten months ago. This is a case of more recent date - the 11th November last. I plead with the right honorable gentleman to do something in regard to this unfortunate man, and to see that the members of the medical section of the Army shall not be completely soulless in their dealings with those who come before them. They may have an answer to this case, but on the face of it I cannot imagine what it could be. The man had an unhealed wound, and should have been under close medical control. He had had two operations in eleven weeks for a bowel obstruction following an appendectomy operation. He enlisted in 1939, and should have received the maximum consideration from the Army doctors. He was ordered on a route march, and when he said that he was in such a state of health that he could not go, was reprimanded, by his captain and told not to offend again in that respect. He was sent on the route march on the following day, collapsed, was taken to hospital, and underwent a further operation.
– Can. the honorable gentleman give me his number and unit?
– Some days ago, J placed the case before the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser). I told him that, if action were not taken, I would’ raise the matter in this House. He assured me that immediate action would be taken. I have not received a reply, and as we are drawing to the close of this sessional period I regard it as my duty to bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister. I ask him to give consideration to this serious repetition of lack of efficiency in the Army Medical Service.
.The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred to a report by the War Expenditure Committee in connexion with matters he had submitted to it, affecting a man named Fitzpatrick in his electorate. It is true that a report was made by that committee to the Government. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) may know that the committee recently wrote to the Government asking what stage its consideration of the report had reached. It is now, I believe, about three months since it was submitted. I hope that the Government will not delay further the taking of such action as it may consider appropriate in connexion with the matters which the committee brought to its notice.
I endorse strongly the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) concerning the Government’s proposed banking policy. I have the same realization of the seriousness of the matter and of the danger that lies in the use by honorable members of intemperate or extravagant language when dealing with the public concern that has developed in regard to the proposal of the Government in relation to banking legislation. It is said that the sheaf of telegrams and letters we have received is a direct result ofa campaign instituted by the private trading banks. Certain of those institutions - I do not know how extensive has been the practice - have made no secret of the fact that they have circulated what they call their constituents - possibly their clients - and have told them of their concern in regard to the projected legislation. The Government cannot have this sort of thing both ways. Only yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister told the House that, despite the attempts by a highly influential newspaper - which, he said, would be read by approximately half a million people in the State of New South Wales - there had been a very lukewarm response by the public to its suggestion that telegrams and letters should be sent to members protesting in regard to the coal situation. If it. be the view of the Government that the public does not respond readily to suggestions of that kind, we are entitled to interpret the protests on the subject of banking that have reached us in such large numbers, as an indication of the very real concern which the people are feeling. I impress on the Treasurer my conscientious belief that, whatever may have been the action of the banks, there is no doubt that, at present, there is a very real fear and concern in the minds of many people that the programme of the Government will have a detrimental effect on the banking structure of this country.
– The bank-tellers write the letters on behalf of the bank.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) misunderstands the situation, if that is his view. I have had my share of these letters. Their contents clearly show that, whatever may have been the original prompt ing which the writers received, they have written them in their own terms so asto express their own views. There is no uniformity about their tone or their context. It is noticeable, in my case at all events, that by far the greater proportion come from women. It is understandable that women whose entire savings and perhaps the bulk of whose resources are represented by bank deposits, and who do not understand very much about the niceties of banking practice or the vagaries of government or parliamentary procedure, should be alarmed at any radical change that may be contemplated in respect of accepted banking practice. This is only one phase of the practice that has developed within recent months. The Government is following a very dangerous course when it indicates in this House vital changes of policy without proceeding forthwith to carry them through by means of legislation. Only recently, there was an announcement in regard to the acquisition of commercial interstate airlines. The Government acted very unwisely in not delaying an announcement on that matter until it was able to present to this House the legislation by means of which it proposed to acquire those lines. Then, there would not have been the hiatus, causing uneasiness, that we are about to experience between the announcement and the implementation of the policy.
– -The interstate airline companies were anxious to know whether or not the Government intended to acquire the airlines. They have been advised of the Government’s intentions, and will be able to plan accordingly.
– On the evidence produced, and from the discussions they had bad with individual members of the Government, the companies were under the impression that an expansion of their present activities would be favoured. My point is, that if the Government was in a position to make a clear statement it should have proceeded with its legislation forthwith. “Statements have been made in general terms, and it has become generally accepted throughout the community that the Government proposes to bring down in the course of the next sessional period legislation which will permanently and radically affect the banking structure of this country.
– The honorable member means a policy which will improve the banking structure.
– I do not know what the Government has in mind, and I am not prepared, on the strength of the vague statements which have so far been made, to accept the proposition that any improvements will take place. If the Government has decided on the principles which it proposes to apply it should make a clear statement now. The Australian people are not prone to panic, and they can stand up to fundamental changes of government policy, but they are entitled to know what the Government has in mind. The people are afraid to-day that in place of the freedom which existed before the war to take a business proposition from one bank to another in search of financial accommodation, some other system will be instituted. There is a fear that the present satisfactory system by which a central bank exercises control over currency whilst private banks provide financial accommodation to private citizens will be replaced by a government monopoly directly created by the Government, and directly influenced by it. We do not have to go back very far in order to see how government-controlled banking systems have operated in other countries. For instance, when the Government assumed control of hanking in Germany, success or failure of one’s dealings with the banks depended largely upon whether or not one was sympathetically inclined towards the Nazi party. There is a fear in Australia that with direct political control the banking service will be influenced by the political patronage which the client of the bank is prepared to show to the governing party.
– I challenge the honorable member to show where that is evident in any letter which he has received.
Mi-. HOLT. - It is my own observation. If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) wants a letter on the subject I shall, as an elector, write him one myself. I do not. think that any political party should be placed in a position where it can influence the applications of private citizens for banking accommodation. The Government has a definite responsibility to the community to make known as soon as possible its policy on these matters.
I refer now to the overhaul of the National Security (Landlord, and Tenant) Regulations, which the Government has been considering for some time. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) told a deputation in February last that he would give consideration to a number of suggested amendments, and in June of this year he wrote intimating that six amendments would be put into effect. So far, however, no amendments have been made. I raised this matter during the last sessional period and the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs told mc that if the amendments had been promised it was time that they were made. I have since brought the matter to the notice of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and have had discussion with the Parliamentary Draftsman. I now bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) for hi? consideration, because there can bc no justification for delay.
– L bring to the notice of the Government the shortage of superphosphate throughout Australia, and particularly in Victoria. Because the island of Nauru has been occupied by the enemy for so long there is a shortage of phosphatic rock, hut we now have an opportunity to obtain supplies from Transjordania. At present, we are obtaining from North Africa phosphatic rock of very low content which is hard to process. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said that, in the coming year, it would not be possible to sow as much wheat as we would wish, because of the shortage of superphosphate. The richest deposits of phosphatic rock are those in Nauru, the phosphatic content being about SO per cent. The deposits in Transjordania have a phosphatic content of 74 per cent. I know the Transjordanian country particularly well, where there is one deposit which is estimated to contain 16,000,000 tons of rock, which canbe landed at Akaba for about half the price which we pay for phosphatic rock obtained from America. The Transjordanian rock is very friable and easily worked. Those interested in the deposit have offered to send a trial shipment to Australia, and thereafter to send monthly shipments at a reasonable price. Therefore, there seems to be no excuse for curtailing sowings of wheat next year because there is a shortage of superhposphate. In the Corio electorate there is a cooperative fertilizer company, one of the biggest phosphate processing companies in Australia. In its factory eight or nine employees, for weeks at a time, refused to handle a machine to mix superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia which were urgently required for the growing of potatoes and other vegetables. The Government took no action against them, although the other employees of the company continued to work. The men in question claimed that the work was dusty. That may be. Farmers who use fertilizers know that it is dusty.
– Has the honorable member seen the conditions in that factory?
– Yes, and I have seen worse conditions in other industries in the Minister’s electorate.
– That is not so.
– Working conditions are worse in the cement-making factory near Geelong. The machine can be closed after the sulphate of ammonia and superphosphate have been placed in it, thereby reducing the dust. Other men have to work in dust and under bad conditions. That applies to many men in the Army who, in addition to working under unpleasant conditions, are in constant danger of losing their lives. The Government submitted a programme to the people for the greater production of vegetables, and yet it allows eight or nine men to hold up production.
– How many shares has the honorable member in the company?
– I have ten shares in it. I should be prepared to do some work in the factory, as was done by New Zealand farmers on one occasion when wharf labourers refused to work. The New Zealand lumpers have not forgotten the lesson that they then learned. It would be a good thing if the shareholders of the company were to teach the men to whom I have referred a salutary lesson. The Government should not allow Mr. Gazze, who apparently has been “ nozzled “ by the British Phosphate Company, which has large deposits of phosphatic rock in North Africa, to hold up all attempts at trial shipments from other sources. If the phosphatic rock to which I have referred is as good as has been claimed, it should be of great value to the primary producers of this country. It is the duty of the Government to see that a trial shipment is imported, in order that the growth of vegetables and other primary products may be encouraged.
– in reply - At this hour I shall not reply to all the matters that havebeen brought forward, but I promise to bring them to the notice of the appropriate Ministers, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible. However, I shall refer to the subject mentioned by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), namely, the Government’s banking policy, and the alleged fears prevalent in the community as to what the effect of that policy is likely to be. I have before me a circular letter which was sent out by the manager of the National Bank of Australasia in a country town in Victoria to all clients who have overdrafts at that branch. I have been informed by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) that hundreds of such letters have been circulated in his electorate. The similarity of the letters is amazing. Apparently the same typewriter was used to type the addresses, and the wrong initials of the honorable member for Grey were put on 30 or 40 envelopes. Evidently, the letters were all despatched by the same organization. The circular which I have before me states -
As the threatened permanent political control of the banks is a matter which is likely to have effect on your personal financial affairs. I enclose for your guidance copy of a statement on the subject issued by this bank. Please do not hesitate to communicate with me if you want further information.
One man who received this letter wrote to his representative in the Commonwealth Parliament stating that he owed. £80 to the bank, and added that his neighbour, who also had received a circular from the bank, had formed the impression that the bank would sell up his property if the threatened legislation came into force. In writing to his federal member, the man said : “ This circular letter has worried me very much because my boy is in the Army and it is my intention that,, on his return, he should take over the place and clear off the debt”. He concluded by asking if there was any truth in the statements contained in the circular. As Acting Prime Minister, I say that, in my view, this organized propaganda engineered by the private banks of this country is doing a great disservice by affecting the morale of the people in this most critical year of the war.
– It is subversive.
Mr.FORDE.- Whilst I do not say that it is intended to be subversive, there is no doubt that it is calculated to undermine confidence in the Australian Government, which is responsible for organizing and financing the war effort of this country. Proposed banking legislation will be considered by the Government early in the new year in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and I expect that that legislation will be placed before Parliament shortly after a decision has been reached by the Government. When that is done, honorable members will be given a full opportunity to debate it. At present, I am unable to say, and no private banking company is able to say, precisely what will be the nature of that legislation. I cannot give details of it at present, but I can give an assurance that the people of Australia will find that any changes in the present set-up of our banking organization will not be in any way detrimental to the interests of the public, borrowers, or depositors. There is absolutely no justification whatever for the fears that have been engendered by this propaganda, which is being disseminated throughout the community to-day for party political reasons. I sincerely hope that those people who in past weeks have been busily engaged in spreading this propaganda will cease their activities and will show that spirit of co-operation with the Australian Government that they consider the working-class sections of the community should show, and I believe are showing overwhelmingly at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired. -
For Commonwealth purposes - Pearce, Western Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulation - 1944 - No.5 (Education Ordinance) .
House adjourned at 12.41 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
e asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the cost to the Government of the publicity and propaganda campaign conducted by the Department of Information, showing separately (a) press, (b) radio, and (c) books and pamphlets?
Mr.Chifley- Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
Snowy River H y dro-electric Scheme.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
State government to destroy the possibilities that present themselves for the full development of a hydro-electric scheme on the only river which lends itself to such development in Australia?
Mr.Forde. - Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
n asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Mr.Forde. - The matter is at present under consideration by the Government.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What power in respect of aviation, other than the compulsory acquisition of airlines, did the Commonwealth propose to exercise if the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill had been approved by the people?
– Had the bill been approved the Commonwealth Parliament would have had power to legislate on each and every aspect of aviation including aviation within each State. The power would not have been limited (as it was and is) to interstate and overseas air traffic and to the carrying out of the international aviation conventions. No government decision was reached as to how the power of. aviation would have been exercised if the referendum were carried.
Australian Army: History Section -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
e. - On Wednesday, the15th November, the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Harrison) asked the Acting Prime Minister, without notice, to obtain information as to the number of members of Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces who are serving terms of imprisonment in civil gaols for purely military offences.
The Acting Minister for the Army has informed me that the answer to the honorable member’s question is 51.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e. - The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Australia First Movement : Inquiry by Mr. Justice Clyne.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Evidence of Captain Mood, 9th November, 1944. (Captain Francis Bindon Blood.]
Mr. Maund (Solicitor). Did you know at this period that the Communists were a banned organization?
Captain Blood.- Yes.
Mr. Maund. And did you take any action to have the men who created this disturbance (i.e., at a meeting of the Australia First Movement at the Adyar Hall, 19th February, 1942, when the Chairman was knocked down and trampled and kicked by several men) interned ?
Answer. - No.
Who were they!
Answer. - I do not remember their names.
When you received the report of the disturbance at the meeting you then knew that the Communists had created the disturbance?
Answer. - From the report, yes.
Did you lake any action at that time to try and intern any Communists to prevent disturbances of this kind in future?
Answer. - No: Do you want to know why?
The Commissioner - Why, I ask you?
Blood’s Answer. - Because there was a Ministerial Direction that no more Communists were to be submitted for internment.
Mr. Maund. What would you say about this? “At our previous council in 1941, we criticized the war which was being fought as an Imperialistic Warand we then declared in favour of a democratic peace. Our delegation at the 1941 Congress supported a resolution demanding negotiations for a democratic peace ‘’?
Answer by Blood. - That is obviously an extract from something Communist.
Do you regard itas loyalor completely disloyal?
Answer. -A completely disloyal.
That was a statement made by the secretary of the Federal Ironworkers Association, W. Thornton, in 1941. Did you take any action against him for this:
Answer. - No.
Can you imagine anything more likely to cause dissension in the community?
Answer. - I agree with you.
Why did you not take action against Mr. Thornton?
Answer - Because you would have to get Ministerial approval for action being taken.
Not to arresting him. Did you arrest him ad hold him?
Answer. - No.
That was in 1941 ?
Answer. - Yes.
Is that before or after you had instructions to do nothing against Communists?
Answer. - I do not know.
The Commissioner (Justice Clyne). - Was that instruction given after the High Court declared they were not an illegal Association.
Answer. - No before. It was on the release of the Communists who were interned.
Did you have a dossier relating to him (Thornton)?
Mr. Dover (Assisting the Commissioner). I object to that.
The Commissioner. - Have you a dossier relating to Thornton?
Answer. - I believe there would be one, I do not know definitely.
e. - The transcript of the evidence is beingasked for and I hope to be in a position to furnish a reply to the honorable member before the House rises.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441129_reps_17_180/>.