17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Recently, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me, without notice, whether I would learn from the Army authorities whether or not they had in South Australia reserves of bore casing and pumping plant which might be made available to orchardists and others who badly needed them in consequence of drought conditions. I informed the honorable gentleman that I would be pleased to confer with my colleague. I now advise him that, following the discussion which I had with that right honorable gentleman, the Department of “the Amy has approved of the release of 3,500 feet of bore casing. This will be made available to meet urgent requirements through the representative, Material Supply, Adelaide.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. This morning, the Sydney Daily Telegraph headed its report of yesterday’s debate on the Aluminium Industry Bill with the words “ Aluminium Plan Claimed ‘ Sinister ‘ “, in heavy black type. The report states -
An allegation that a “ sinister “ motive was behind the Government’s refusal of n Tariff Board inquiry into the proposed ‘ new aluminium industry wag made to-day by Mr. Holt (United Australia party, Victoria).
That language does not represent in either substance or actuality the remarks that I made on the bill. It is true that I expressed criticism of the Government for its failure to have an inquiry by the Tariff Board; but at no time did I imply that there was anything sinister in its action. The Hansard report confirms this. It would appear from the “ stop press “ column of the newspaper that the use of the expression should have been attributed to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and that there must have been confusion in the office of the newspaper. I mention the matter in order to make my position clear.
Price at Townsville.
– I have received the following telegrams: -
As a result of prices fixed for bread in Townsville by Commonwealth authorities master bakers as from the 27th instant have ceased to produce bread until further notice. Meeting of the City Council Trades and Labour Council and Australian Workers Onion cn 11 upon you firstly to enforce Commonwealth regulations on master bakers with same rigour and despatch as they are enforced upon workers and secondly direct that master bakers produce bread to meet all civilian requirements failing which this meeting calls upon the Commonwealth Government to acquire compulsorily existing bakehouses for purposes of producing bread to relieve the threatened famine at price consistent with government regulations. Immediate action is necessary to prevent industrial upheaval. Employees are not involved in this dispute. Reply.
Acting Town CLERK
Bread situation Townsville. Lindsey reduced price pending investigation. Master bakers recommence production when price restored and agreeable any investigation then. All seriousness no bread baked throughout State from Saturday unless position rectified. Master bakers demands reasonable.
Has the Acting Prime Minister seen these communications? If so, what is being done to rectify this shocking state of affairs, caused not by coal-miners, waterside workers, or the employees at Homebush Abattoirs, but by master bakers? “Will the right honorable gentleman, in the light of what has occurred and of what Mr. Ford has threatened will occur next Saturday, immediately instruct the master bakers to open their bakehouses forthwith?
– by leave - I have received a number of telegrams on this subject. The whole matter of the strike by master bakers in Townsville is being investigated. It is understood that the Prices Commission has adjusted the prices of bread in Townsville in conformity with adjustments made in other northern towns where house-to-house delivery has ceased. The Government is determined that this strike by the employers in the baking industry in Townsville shall not continue to deprive the people of bread. The master bakers have been informed that a full investigation of their case for the retention of the old price will be made so soon as they resume baking, and that any adjustments considered necessary will then be made. A continuance of this strike on the part of the master bakers would be damaging to the war effort, particularly in a locality that is so close to operational areas. The Government is examining the matter of taking action under the Mobilization of Services and Property Regulations. I hope, however, that common sense will prevail, and that the master bakers will resume production, leaving the dispute to be settled by means of an appeal to the Acting Prices Commissioner in Canberra.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister to state whether or not the Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee has forwarded to commercial broadcasting stations a letter seeking details of their revenues within recent years? Was this action taken at the direction of the Postmaster-General or any other member of the Government? Why were not the non-Government members on the committee consulted before the letter was sent? Is the information required by the Government as a preliminary to the nationalization of commercial broadcasting stations?
– I am not aware of whether or not a letter in the terms mentioned has been sent by the Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee to commercial broadcasting station’s, but I shall have an inquiry made in order to ascertain the position. I cannot say what motives may have actuated the chairman of the committee if he instructed the sending of such a letter.
MORTGAGE Bank Department.
– I ask the Treasurer-
– It is not true that the mortgage bank department refuses to grant a mortgage to an applicant merely because he has an overdraft with a private bank. Mortgages are granted by it irrespective of whether or not the applicant already has an overdraft with a private bank if, in its- opinion, the mortgage is a sound banking proposition. The limitation on the amount that can be advanced under the act is £5,000. The mortgage bank department does not grant a mortgage on a property on which there is an existing mortgage to a private investor, until that mortgage has expired.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the bogus boot strike in which 1,700 employees at eight large boot factories in Sydney ceased work as the result of unofficial agitation by certain persons who were not connected with the executive of the union? In view of the fact that the activities of these agitators may be construed in time of war as acts of sabotage warranting immediate investigation by the officers of his department, has the right honorable gentleman moved in the matter? If not, what action does he propose to take?
– I am not acquainted with the details of the matter. Investigations in respect of it are proceeding.
– In view of the importance of Queensland in relation to the war, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs press for the appointment of a member of this Parliament from that State to the Rationing Commission!
– Consideration will be given to the representations of the honorable member.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what progress, if any, had been made in connexion with the work preparatory to the opening of the Wyndham meat works. Will the honorable gentleman now supply the information?
– In response to the repeated efforts of the honorable member -to have the Wyndham meat works reopened, an investigation has been made, and all is in readiness for the re-opening of the works immediately the wreck of a vessel sunk by Japanese action at Wyndham jetty has been removed. Negotiations for salvage operations to be undertaken are being conducted with the Department of Supply and Shipping. The whole of the plant is in first-class order, and the engines are being turned over repeatedly. The manager of the works stated yesterday that a start canbe made as soon as the wreck has been removed.
Propaganda by Mail.
– I have before me a great number of letters which represent a concerted effort on the part of certain bankers to harass and embarrass members of Parliament. In all the letters I am asked to state the policy of the Government with regard to banking. The writers say that they have noticed comnents in the press on the subject, and they ask for information. I have received about 200 letters from the same centre, and in every one my initials have been wrongly written. I notice also that the envelopes, note-paper, typing and phraseology in all the letters are practically identical. I appreciate the fact that the Postal Department at the present timeis rendering yeoman service-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question.
– In view of the possibility that persons working on bank overdrafts might be asked by the bank authorities to sign letters of this kind, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will make a statement to ease the minds of those who are being embarrassed by the banks, particularly as there is no need for them to be thus humiliated and worried?
– This subject was discussed last night on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and early this morning I made a statement on it. It is evident from what the honorable member has been good enough to tell me that all the letters to which he has referred were despatched from the one source, and that they are the result of intensive organization by interested financial institutions. I say to the honorable member and to the House that the private banks in Australia have no knowledge of what the Government’s proposed legislation will be. The Prime Minister, in a statement to this House some time ago, and I, in a statement last night, said that the Government Would, early in the new year, give full consideration to certain amendments of the law relating; to banking. However, the people of Australia can accept my assurance that borrowers, depositors, and genuine clients of the banks have absolutely nothing to fear. The Government will make its decision in regard to banking policy in its own way and in its. own time, and that decision will be embodied in legislation which will be fully discussed in this Parliament. All honorable members will have an opportunity to express their views on it before it becomes law.
– Unless the gag is applied.
-I repeat that borrowers, depositors, and clients will have nothing to fear. Rather will they benefit substantially from the proposed amendments.
– Will the proposed banking legislation be in accordance with the first objective of the Labour party - the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange?
– In reply to the honorable member-
– Tell us whether you are going to nationalize the banks - yes or no.
– Order! Honorable members on the front Opposition bench have unfortunately developed the habit of continually interjecting while other members are asking questions, and while Ministers are trying to answer. The right of all honorable members is to ask questions in their own way in conformity with the Standing Orders, and it is the right of Ministers to reply. It is not only in bad taste, but it is also unparliamentary for any honorable member to interject continually, either when a question is being asked or when it is being answered.
– The decision in regard to banking policy will be made by the Government after a full investigation of the whole subject. Intensive research has been proceeding for some time. Honorable members may rest assured that the decision will be in accordance with the Government’s policy in regard to banking and monetary reform.
missing Official Documents - Alleged Breach of Regulations at Banks- town.
– Has the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry been directed to the report published in the Sydney Sunday Sun of t he 19th November, that a file of documents had disappeared from lis department? Is it a fact that the documents in question are vital to a pro- secution that has been demanded by certain members of the Parliamentary Labour party, for an alleged breach of t he building regulations by a Sydney r esident? Is there a conflict of opinion between certain members of the Govern- ment concerning this prosecution ? Will be honorable gentleman make a full statement on the subject?
– The answer to all the honorable member’s questions is “ No “.
– I understand that the Attorney-General is now in possession of a report issued some time ago by the War Expenditure Committee dealing with the activities of a man named Fitzpa trick, of Bankstown, and with alleged frauds of an extensive nature by a number of people against the Commonwealth. In respect of these matters, understand that certain officials have been dismissed. Has the Attorney- general had an opportunity to peruse his report? Will he take steps to ensure that the matter will not be allowed to est with the mere dismissal of some officials, but that the law will take its course in regard to all those involved in his unsavoury affair ? Will he also have e nquiries made in regard to a letter circulated byFitzpatrick, which I have already brought under his notice, and which contains information of a confiden- t ial nature taken from the files of the Security Department? Will the Attorney- General have a thorough investigation made with a view to discovering how the l eakage of information occurred, and will to see that appropriate action shall be t aken against those responsible?
– The report of the War Expenditure Committee which the hon- orable member mentioned was referred to the Crown Law authorities, and investigations regarding it are practically complete. It would be wrong of me at this stage to indicate what action is likely to be taken. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) wrote to me and to the Prime Minister regarding the alleged leakage of information, and I have directed the Security Service to make inquiries. If there has been improper use of departmental files action will be taken.
– Some days ago, I placed upon the notice-paper a question, which is now No. 6, directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, and asking for information about deductions of pay from Australian prisoners of war in German and Japanese camps. Can the Acting Prime Minister say when I may expect an answer to this question, which is now some days old?
– I had inquiries made this morning into the matter, and the information will be supplied to the right honorable member in the course of the day.
– Can the Acting
Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the Minister for Customs has lifted the embargo on the importation into Australia from the United States of America of the Master Detective Magazine, mystery thrillers and other cheap, paper-covered magazines specializing in murder and sex crimes? If so, what was the reason for the lifting of the embargo? Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that Australian publishers, authors and artists producing paper-covered novels locally are being adversely affected by the lifting of the embargo? Will the Acting Prime Minister make an immediate inquiry with a view to the early re-imposition of the embargo in the interests of Australian publishers and writers?
– Immediate inquiries will be made into the matter, and the fullest consideration will be given to the honorable member’s representation.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question about the publication known as the Digest of Decisions and Announcements. As everybody knows, the contents of this document are merely extracts from Hansard, or from the press, of ministerial and other statements which have already been widely published. That being so, can the Acting Prime Minister say what useful purpose is served by this publication? How many copies of each issue are circulated? The copy I have in my hand is No. 89, and contains 4S pages. Taking that as the average number of pages, already 4,300 pages have been published. Does not the Acting Prime Minister believe that the paper so used might be more usefully employed to increase the number of books published in this country, seeing that the number is at present restricted by a grave shortage of paper?
– The publication mentioned was decided upon in order to meet a great demand for authoritative statements from the Prime Minister and other Ministers, and there is no justification for stopping it now. In any case, the difference which it would make to the publishing of books in Australia would be negligible. I shall consider the suggestion that more paper should be made available to meet ‘the growing demand for books in Australia. However, honorable members opposite would speak with greater knowledge on many subjects if they were to read very carefully every issue of the publication in question.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read the statement of Mr. L. L. Webster, who was the Country party candidate in the BullaDalhousie by-election, to the milk producers conference in Melbourne on Tuesday last,” that there appeared to be plenty of bran for race-horses, but not for farmers’ stock? Does the Victorian Department of Agriculture control the distribution of mill offals? If so, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take steps to ensure that the Victorian
Department of Agriculture institutes i proper scheme for the distribution o:’ bran ?
– The Department o. Agriculture in Victoria, as in the other States, controls the distribution of mil. offals. If an anomaly exists in regard i> the distribution of present supplies it i< the responsibility of the State Ministe of Agriculture to rectify it.
– Following my lette to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction on the problem of soil erosion an. his promise to have a thorough investiga-tion made of my proposals, I ask hit whether during the parliamentary recess he will have that examination treated a one of extreme urgency,
– The Rural Reconstruction Commission has made certain recommendations and observations rrgarding soil erosion which are now being considered by the Government. The ma1ter will be discussed at a conferenc of Commonwealth and State Minister for the purpose of formulating a nations plan on this most difficult subject.
– A - A correspondent tell me that, although his property is over run with rabbits, to keep down which he can neither buy cartridges nor engag trappers, the only meat he is able to bw is tinned New Zealand rabbit. Is th’ Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that tinned rabbit is being inported from New Zealand? Does b think that that is necessary? Is it i part of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement ?
– I can hardly imaginethat a man who has plenty of rabbits oi his own property would buy tinne rabbits, but I shall have, inquiries mad We are doing all we can to encourage thtrapping of rabbits in order to supplement the meat supply. Officers in chargof that activity in the different State> report that since early last season th» meat supply from that source has bee increased threefold.
– Why is tinned rabbi being imported ? It is boneless an< jellified according to the label.
– It is not being imported by the Government.
– Private enterprise !
– Yes. The result of my investigations will be conveyed to the honorable gentleman.
– Did the Acting Prime Minister hear a broadcast last night by the Australian Broadcasting Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Bertram Stevens on the important problem of the birth-rate entitled “ The Battle for Population “ ? Does he not consider the title fatuous and offensive, and that it must lead to further stupid talk titles such as “ The Eight for Fertility “ and “The Struggle for Six”? “Will he insist that this vital birth-rate problem be. treated with dignity by Sir Bertram Stevens
– I did not hear the talk, and I have not given consideration to the suitability of talk titles, but 1 agree that the birth-rate problem should be treated with the greatest dignity.
– When may I expect from the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs an answer to my question, No. 12 on the notice-paper? I ask that the Minister make u public statement in reply to that question during the present sitting. The House, may go into recess to-morrow and if the reply is to be published it should be given to-day or t’i-morrow.
– I shall ascertain whether the information sought by the honorable gentleman can be supplied to him. If it is not possible to supply it before the House adjourns, I shall supply it in writing.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, if it cannot be done now, he will include provision in the next budget for the remission of the 25 per cent, sales tax on ammunition required by primary producers for the destruction of pests ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, and I shall supply him with a full reply.
– I refer the Treasurer to remarks attributed yesterday to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) who is reported to have told a press conference in New York that the Australian Government wanted to return to lower rates of taxation in order to promote business incentive. He went on to say -
The employer is very highly taxed, and his war profits are taxed, and the prices of’ hia commodities are pegged. The Government feels that we have gone far enough with him.
Does that statement represent the view of the Government ? May we expect a reduction of taxation in order that businees incentive may be promoted as suggested by the Minister?
– I have not seen in detail the statement reported to have been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Taxation is constantly under review. I have full sympathy with the wish that taxation could be reduced, but I realize that this country has great commitments, and, as I have said before, we ought to pay for this war as far as we can while it is on.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen in the Standard, the official organ of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, the statement that in caucus the lowliest and most inexperienced member has as much voice in moulding policy as has the most senior Minister? Is that the explanation of some of the recent announcements of policy ?
– I have not. seen that issue of the Standard, but I tell the honorable gentleman that at the periodical meetings of the Parliamentary Labour party every opportunity is given to every member of the party to express his views. Probably the honorable gentleman will not be pleased to learn that the party is very united, co-operative, and democratic.
Opposition members would do well if they emulated the unity in the Federal Parliamentary Labour party.
– As Chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by have - adopted.
Australian-New Zealand Agreement 1944 - War Crimes Commission
– When the House assembled about three weeks ago I asked the Minister for External Affairs whether he would make a statement to the House concerning the discussions that he and the Acting Prime Minister had had with the Prime Minister and other Ministers in the New Zealand Cabinet regarding the Australian-New Zealand Agreement in order that honorable gentlemen might debate the matter before the House rose. Will the right honorable gentleman make that statement and give an opportunity for debate before the House rises?
– I ask leave to make a statement dealing with the War Crimes Commission and its work and also with the recent conversations between the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government.
Leave not granted.
.- I lay upon the table the following paper: -
International Affairs - Statement dated the 29th November. 1944, by the Minister for ExternalAffairs. and move -
That the paper (vide page 2531) be printed.
– The paper that has just been laid upon the table, I assume, is a paper containing the substance of what the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) desired to make by leave at an earlier stage, and it is, therefore, desirable that I should say why I refused leave for the making of that statement. It is, of course, very desirable that such matters be brought before Parliament, and I have no quarrel with the willingness of the right honorable gentleman to make such statements, but I point out that, although these statements are made, it has become a fixed habit that they are not debated. Earlier this year a very important statement was made on the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. No opportunity has ever been given to this House to debate it. and it is now months old.
– The right honorable gentleman usedso much time on censure motions.
– I must say that the Minister took his own way to cut down the time for the censure motion by applying the “gag”. But there is no occasion whatever why thin House should not be permitted to devote time to discussion of these very important matters. The notice-paper contains, as item number 6, the order for the resumption of the debate on the review of the war and the Australian war effort, and I remind the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) that that statement, which opened a most important field of debate in this House and was one of the very reasons . why this House was brought together, has been debated by only three speakers. The adjournment of the debate was secured by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). who has a perfect right and a duty on such a matter to present the views of his party. He is apparently to be deprived of that right, because it is Order of the Day No. 6. Order of the Day No. 9 is the resumption of the debate on the statement relating to food supplies to the United Kingdom,a topic of very widespread country concern, and there again the right of resuming the debate is with the Leader of the Australian Country party. The debate ha? not been resumed. The next order of the day is entitled, “Surplus Primary Products, Sale to United Kingdom and again the Leader of the Australian Country party secured the adjournment. The debate has not been resumed. Another order of the day is, “ Civil Aviation Policy “, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. “White) obtained the adjournment of the debate, which has never been resinned. If Ministers are to exercise their privilege to make statements in this House on important international matters, the Opposition proposes to demand its right to debate them. Otherwise, the conception of international affairs which goes out from this Parliament will be, of necessity, purely onesided. Many things need to be said on international affairs, and the Government must allow the House an opportunity to say them. Under present conditions, the matter is becoming one of routine. A Minister obtains leave to make a statement, and concludes piously with a motion that the paper be printed. The adjournment of the debate is granted to a member of the Opposition, but the matter is never brought on again, lt ill ways happens at the last moment that every one is in a terrific hurry and wants to go home.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concluded his remarks with the words “ every one is in a terrific hurry and wants to go home Last September, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) offered him an opportunity for a debate on international affairs, but the right honorable gentleman declined-, and left Canberra before the end of the sittings. I speak from knowledge of this matter. The opportunity was given to the Leader of the Opposition to debate international affairs, but he departed from Canberra before the completion of the sittings.
– That is not true.
– The statement which Hie Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) desired to make to-day would have dealt with two most important subjects, international affairs and war crimes. Honorable members opposite repeatedly asked when he proposed to deal with these matters, and, frankly, I was amazed when the Leader of the Opposition declined to grant the right honorable gentleman leave to make his statement.
.- I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has taken this opportunity to direct attention to the constant practice, which Ministers follow, of making statements involving important matters of policy and then denying to the Opposition an opportunity to discuss them. The Leader of the Opposition has mentioned several orders of the day, discussion of which has been either extraordinarily curtailed or completely denied to honorable members. I remind the House of a most extraordinary incident which occurred in the closing stages of the last sittings. The Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), on the eve of his departure overseas as the representative of the Government at an importantinternational conference on aviation, rose in his place and. obtained leave to make a lengthy but certainly not comprehensive statement on civil aviation. The statement set out quite clearly that the Government held certain views, but immediately acknowledged that those opinions would not be acceptable to other countries represented at the conference. In that manner, the Governmnent displayed a complete barrenness of policy regarding civil aviation. Being denied an opportunity to debate that statement on a motion for the printing of a paper, I sought on the motion for the adjournment of the House, to offer my observations upon the general policy of civil aviation. I hoped to assist the Government in this matter, which is above party politics. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who happened to be sitting in the House, instantly directed the attention of Mr. Speaker to the fact that this subject appeared on the notice-paper, and therefore I was not in order in referring to it on the motion for the adjournment.
– That is the Government’s technique.
– Civil aviation is a subject upon which, normally, honorable members would be permitted to offer their observations on the motion for the adjournment, but this studied and constant practice of the Government is imposing a most efficient censorship upon their utterances. The Government has announced its intention to prorogue the Parliament after the termination of these sittings, and, in consequence, these orders of the day will disappear from the noticepaper.
– As the Australian-New Zealand Agreement disappeared from the notice-paper some time ago.
– A censorship even more effective than that imposed upon Sydney newspapers recently has been imposed upon the Parliament. If this Parliament is to serve a useful purpose, honorable members must be permitted to offer their observations upon important questions of policy raised in ministerial statements.
– No one occupies more time in making speeches than the honorable member does.
– I do not desire to exchange insults with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), but I remind him that no one speaks more drearily, and uttersmore humbug, than he does.
– Exactly, Mr. Speaker. I thought that you might have called the Minister to order.
– Both the Minister and the honorable member were out of order.
– The Opposition is not numerically strong in this chamber. Inside and outside the Parliament, Ministers have boasted of their preponderance of numbers. As they can always force their will upon the Opposition, the least they can do is to allow us to offer our views upon such subjects as international affairs, civil aviation and food supplies, which are above party politics. There are honorable members on this side of the chamber who are competent to make useful contributions to debates upon those subjects. If we are denied the opportunity to do so, what is the use of having an Opposition? Why not adopt a oneparty system, such as operates in various so-called parliaments in other countries, and let democracy go down the slide completely? The Leader of the Opposition did the right thing in taking the only opportunity left to him to direct attention to the very badpractice which the Government has adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Makin) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- As Chairman, I present the seventh report of the War Expenditure Committee and move -
That the paper be printed.
The report deals mainly with defence works in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
In view of the criticisms that have been levelled at the administration of the Allied Works Council, I take this opportunity to make a few observations relevant to the report. The Allied Works Council was formed in February, 1942, to take over the works previously carried out by the Works and Services Branch of the Department of the Interior. The council thus became responsible for the implementation of the huge programmes of works to be carried out in Australia for the Navy, Army and Air Force including also the vast amount of work required by the American services. In addition to this special work the council became responsible for the construction of all such Commonwealth works as were previously dealt with by the Works and Services Branch of the Department of the Interior.
Following this change-over, the Civil Constructional Corps came into being in order to assemble and utilize, so far as was practicable, the man-power available for the work. Corps conditions, by reason of- their exceptional nature, necessitated conditions of employment quite different from those of the usual peace-time standards, under which men were paid in accordance with industrial awards. These conditions were provided for in the first instance, by determinations of the Director-General of Allied Works made under powers conferred upon him, and later by a special award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In addition to the costs as a result of these determinations, the administration had to incur expenditure in providing improved camping and messing facilities which contributed towards the comfort- of the workmen, and made it possible for the men to endure the arduous tropical conditions in the areas where the major defence projects were required. The committee believes that the provision of these improved living conditions has had a most beneficial effect on the morale of the workmen, and contributed very largely to the successful carrying out of our defence projects.
It has to be recognized that, following upon the drain on our man-power resources by the Navy, Army and Air Force, there was little left for the council to choose from, with the result that labour from already well-combed sources had to be utilized. The big majority of the men available had had no previous experience of, and were totally unaccustomed to, the living conditions associated with the work to be perfomed. A large number of the men were conscripted from the southern States and separated, in many instances for the first time, from their families. They had to work and live under conditions that were a severe test even to men accustomed to them. The fact that they survived and completed their tasks is to their everlasting credit, and this is not overlooked by the committee in the report which I have just tabled.
We are too often prone to fail to appreciate such services, and I suggest that the only way to get a true conception of the gigantic achievements of this organization would be to see the actual work as it was seen by the committee responsible for the report now before the House. I have had many years of experience of and close association with constructional works carried out by men accustomed to that class of work during peace-time, and I frankly admit that I have not seen anything that could excel the projects carried out by the Allied Works Council which were inspected by the committee during its recent tour. The huge constructional programme undertaken demanded the use of all existing organizations capable of carrying out such work. All State organizations were readily made available by their respective governments; all available contractors, both large and small, co-operated fully; and the Allied Works Council itself set up a day labour organization which, it directly operated. Many contracts were carried out under the cost-plus fixed-fee system specially developed for conditions which did not permit of the expenditure of the time necessary to prepare detailed surveys, plans and specifications, and to invite public tenders. This system actually provided for the fullest use and co-operation of all available contractors, and at the same time imposed terms which would ensure the utmost possible speed in completing contracts.
As I have already stated, both Queensland and the Northern Territory, but particularly the Northern Territory, were largely dependent on man-power and materials from the southern States. Shortage of shipping space, and the uncertainty of shipping time-tables made it very difficult for constructing authorities to keep adequate supplies of materials in store to meet all requirements. It is significant, however, that the majority of the air-fields built to service requisitions in Queensland were undertaken and finished at least to the extent necessary to enable them to be used for operational purposes in the crucial period before the northern shores of Australia could be regarded as reasonably safe from imminent attack. Speed of construction was the essential factor. In addition to the rear line of. air-fields in southern Queensland, the programme of front-line operational fields in the north and far-north required, aud was accorded, what now stands out as a gigantic effort. The air operations which turned back the enemy advance towards the Australian mainland, and subsequently forced him te continue his retreat, were launched from the Townsville, Charters Towers, and Mareeba air-fields, which had been prepared at the greatest possible speed, and with the maximum effort on the part, of the engineers, their staffs and the workmen on the jobs, with all the plant which could be obtained from every possible source in the time available.
At Charters Towers, where no facilities existed for landing any of the types of aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps, or the Royal Australian Air Force, a signal from head-quarters was received at S.30 p.m. on Saturday, the 14th February, 1942, by the Deputy DirectorGeneral, who was in Townsville at the time. Instructions were issued to the Main Roads Commission to start work at the earliest possible moment. The removal of the huge quantity of earth to be excavated was commenced by 200 men, and a large collection of plant was brought on the job at 7.30 a.m. on the following Monday - 35 hours after the originating signal was sighted. In the meantime, the men and plant were assembled from other jobs over a wide area, and three special train-loads of plant and materials were despatched on the Sunday, and arrangements made at Charters Towers to accommodate and feed the men. An aircraft landed on the first runway sixteen days after commencement of the work. This was not an easy job, as the conformation »f the country required much excavation and the handling of much filling, as well as the production and use of a great quantity of crushed metal and screening.
Several airfields in the Townsville area were roughed from virgin forest to a stage when aircraft could land on them, notably Antill Plains, Woodstock and Reid River. As to Antill Plains, the Allied Works Council was advised in Townsville at 7 p.m. that 50 pursuit aircraft were actually en route, and expected to land on this field at 9.30 the next morning. This was a day prior to the day on which the Main Roads Commission expected to have the strip fit for the landing of such aircraft. However, by working shifts throughout the night, the strip was completed and the aircraft landed according to schedule. Reid River was another place where urgent action was demanded and the requirements were complied with. One strip was cleared and smoothed from virgin forest and put into use in approximately two weeks.
The full improvement schemes were proceeded with on these fields while they were under actual and intensive use by fighter and bomber aircraft, the squadrons being operated off a cleared and smoothed strip while another strip on the same field was being gravelled or metalled. The total programme of urgently required operational airfields in North Queensland alone comprises 22 fields, on which were laid a total of 33 flight strips, aggregating 36 miles. To this must be added a vast aggregate length of taxiways and roadways on the field, which would total approximately 100 miles.
General inspections carried out by the committee included aerodromes, stores depots, repair shops, aeroplane assembly works, naval installations, fuel storage depots, munition dumps, hospitals, camps, gun emplacements, cool storage installations, ordnance depots, control stations, harbour installations and berthing facilities, and many other constructions, all of which have been erected within the last few- years and so have converted Northern Australia from a comparatively defenceless area into, not only a strongly defensive zone, but one from which mighty offensive operations can and are being launched. The committee was gratified to note that almost all of the major defence projects, including roads, aerodromes and air strips, and the like, had been planned to provide a peace-time, as well as a war-time need.
Special attention was given by the committee to the K.40 and East Arm projects in the Darwin area because of the special criticism that had been levelled against these two undertakings. In regard to. the former, which is one of the largest of its kind, and was urgently required for the carrying out of the gigantic offensive campaign nowbeing waged against the Japanese, the committee was not only satisfied with, but was astounded atthe amount of work completed in the time. The work reflected great credit on the Allied Service and the Allied “Works Council engineers, who organized and supervised it. In view of the magnitude of t his undertaking I direct the attention of honorable members to the paragraph in the committee’s report which relates to the job. It reads -
Briefly, the work carried out, which commenced, on: 13th March, and which was scattered over about 12 square miles of country, included - Erection of workmen’s camp-, to house 1,200 men; clearing of timbered areas for roads’, camp sites, storage areas, hospital, &c. - approximately 770,000 square yards; erection of igloohangar - 369- feet by 205 feet; several steel butler hangars; ten large tubular steel warehouses; a 500-bed hospital, complete with sewerage and water supply, and approximately 40 other small timber frame: buildings; railway siding, loop line; unloading platform and. truck unloading platform; water reticulation and fire services to hangars; tarmacs and taxiways-construction of 200,000’ square yards of pavement, with gravel and double seal coat of bitumen; several miles of roads - about 120,000 square. yards sealed in bitumen; about 20,000 cubic yards of concrete to be mixed and placed; 20,000 cubic yards of metal and concrete aggregate, and 150,000 cubic, yards of gravel; development of quarries; erection of old storage warehouses, and a number of air- conditioned repair shops.
All of that work was completed in 120 days.. A member of the committee remarked, “Somebody must have worked here”.
The report deals, fairly extensively with a road construction programme which costapproximately £11,000,000, and included: Inland defence road, 980 miles; Mount Isa to Tennant Creekroad, 405 miles ; Charleville-Blackall road,187 miles; and Stuart Highway. Alice
Springs to Darwin, 954 miles. An outstanding feature in connexion with the construction of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek road is that water bores were established at every ten miles along the 286 miles of road between Camoowealand Tennant Creek. This, in itself, will prove of inestimable value to Australia, insofar as it provides for an area of very valuable sheep and cattle country which extends over a portion of the Barkly Tableland, previously considered waterless. The report recommends that both this and the Alice Springs to Darwin road, particularly, should receive the maintenance supervision necessary tokeep them in good repair. I also point out that, from observation and the information supplied, whilst it was not possible for the committee to express a definite opinion as to whether or not construction costs were unnecessarily high, it had arrived at the conclusion that, for the reasons’ given in its report, they were in excess of prewar standards that, the committee added was inevitable in the circumstances.
– Was the committee unanimous in arriving at that conclusion?”
– The report is a unanimous one, and I am quoting extensively from it. I am always fair in the statements that I make. If the honorable member were as fair as I have always been in this House, we should have better politics. The committee realizes that.) during’ the period of the construction of a great proportion of the defence works, their extremeurgency was of paramount importance and overrode all other consider ations. If some confusion did exist, and’ public” money was wasted in consequence, thatwas a minor consideration compared with the gigantic task that had been so successfully carried out by all the constructing authorities concerned. The committee holds the view that, without the most efficient organization, the Allied Works Council and the other Constructing authorities associated with it could not have achieved such success. In’ this” connexion, it pays tribute to the organizing ability of the ex-Director-General of Allied Works, the HonorableE. G. Theodore, as well as to his deputies and assistant deputies. The committee has had the opportunity of conferring with several of these gentlemen, and has been most impressed by their zeal and ability to carry out the important tasks allotted to them.
The report also contains the supporting opinion of a very high official of the United States of America, expressed in a letter written to the Director-General of Allied Works in these tennis -
May .[ also take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for the splendid work performed during the past year by the Allied Works Council, the Civil Constructional Corps and by thu other Com.mou.wca I lth and State agencies engaged on the important construction programme in Australia, including pai ticularly the operationally important Darwin and North Queensland areas.
The works constructed by these agencies have been of vital importance to our entire war effort. The difficulty under which they have had to be performed has not huon tully appreciated by many. Shortages of personnel, plant and material.. delay* and shortages in transport, and conflicting and changing stress of priorities have made the task a difficult une. hi spite of these difficulties, a major record of accomplishment has been made.
Honorable members should secure a copy of the report for their own information, as early as possible, .because the committee made investigations in. considerable detail at every inspection throughout the tour, and unanimously agreed, that what had been accomplished was a revelation, in the conditions under which many of the projects had been carried out. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to those responsible for these defence works, which made it possible for our fighting services to move quickly from point to point; by defeating the enemy at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, they gave us much-needed time in which to marshal our resources.
Although the matter may not come within the scope of its investigation, the committee nevertheless recommends that the Com.inonwe.alth should immediately take steps for the rebuilding of the city of Darwin. It considers that for too long has the northern portion of the continent been neglected by the Commonwealth. We have a valuable asset at Darwin, which could be ruined in the absence of effective administration and proper control by this Parliament. Tt goes without saying that eventually Darwin will become a permanent garrison centre. That, in itself, will ensure a substantial permanent population in the area. Therefore, steps should be taken as early as possible to have the necessary work carried out in a proper maimer.
.- I have valued the friendly relations that I have .always enjoyed with my colleagues on the War Expenditure Committee, and have welcomed the co-operative spirit that has always existed, irrespective of the political party to which the members of it, drawn from this House and the Senate, have belonged. It is, therefore, with very great regret that I record a most emphatic protest against the manner in which this report has been prepared and presented to the House. In order to explain the circumstances, 1 refer honorable members to the fact that the tour of inspection which formed the basis of the report was made by me as the deputy chairman and the only nongovernment member of the committee, in the company of three government members, who were the chairman (Mr. Johnson), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and Senator Large.
– Whose fault was it, that the honorable gentleman was the only non-government member?
– I am not attaching fault to anybody in that regard, but am endeavouring to explain the circumstances under which the tour was made and the report was prepared.
– I. rise to order. The complete report was submitted to the whole of the members of the War Expenditure Committee, and the honorable member is not correct when he makes a statement to the contrary.
– I have not said that.
– The honorable gentleman is also wrong in stating that I quoted what is not embodied in the report.
– No point of order is involved. If the honorable member has been misrepresented, he may make a personal explanation later.
– I have not made either of. the statements mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I have attempted to explain that four members of the committee made this tour, and that I was the only non-government member. Subsequently, the chairman and the secretary prepared in Canberra a draft of the report. A formal meeting of the committee had not been held up to Monday of this week, but an informal meeting was held when the House first met during this sessional period. At that meeting, I was handed the first twenty pages of the draft report. I then said that I should like to examine, the matter in order to determine whether or not I wished to make any comments. No other meeting of the committee was held prior to lastFriday, when the secretary asked me whether or not I would be available for a meeting on the following Monday. I replied that I would not be available on that day.
– The honorable gentleman did not regard the matter as sufficiently important to warrant his attendance.
– The secretary said : “ I believe that the chairman wants to get on with the report”. He then told me that a good deal more of the report had to be considered, and handed to me 60 additional type-written pages, with the request that I should study them. I said thatI would take them away with me, and go through them during the week-end. At no time did the chairman of the committee contact me and advise me of his intention to go through the report and have it dealt with by the committee as a whole. When I returned to Canberra this week I learned that, in fact, the report had been presented to a meeting of the committee. I had had no formal written notice of that meeting. Subsequently, I was advised that the report had been adopted by the committee. As my non-government colleagues did not make the tour of inspection, that means that in substance and in fact the report is one that has been made by three government members of the committee. I very much regret that that should be the case ; beeause, as we made the inspections there was considerable agreement between myself and the other members of the committee as to the conclusions that might be drawn from what we bad seen. Although I have noted several amendments in my copy of the draft report, in substance I should have been willing to subscribe to most of the findings of the committee. I regret the interjection of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) that I did not consider the matter important enough to attend the meeting of the committee. I considered it important enough to devote three weeks of the year to the tour that was made, and I was largely responsible for the arrangements in connexion with it. It is not unusual for a member of the committee to find that he is unavailable for a meeting of it. In fact, the chairman would be thefirst to admit that during at least six months he was unable or did not find it convenient to attend meetings, and that during that period I acted as chairman in his stead.
– The honorable gentleman has been in Canberra for two or three clays, but has not approached me with any suggestions.
– I do not offer any criticism of the honorable gentleman because of, his inability- to attend meetings of the committee. I assumed that the chairman of the committee, of which I was deputy chairman, would have consulted me before concluding the report and issuing it to Parliament, particularly as I was the only nonGovernment member who had made the tour. He did not do me the courtesy of telling me that he intended to bring the matter up to-day and make a long speech on it. He claims that the report is unanimous. I repeat that it is, in effect, a report by three Government members of the committee. The other two non-Government members, who were present at the meeting of the committee on Monday, did not participate in the tour. I understand that they were under the impression that I had seen the report, that I was, in fact, partly responsible for the drafting of it, and that I was a consenting party to it. I make this comment with regret, because I do not want to detract from the very big job of work that has been done by the Allied Works Council organization in the Northern Territory and in northern Queensland. I was very favorably impressed by what I saw of that work. As to the cost, I do not think any one will deny that it has been extremely high, and Allied Works Council officials would themselves be the first to admit it. Indeed, high costs were inevitable, having regard to all the circumstances. The Allied Works Council had last call on the labour pool. It had to take men of middle age, who were quite unsuitable for the work they were called upon to do. These men were taken long distances and had to work under trying conditions without adequate transport and frequently without regular deliveries of the materials required. When I returned from the Northern Territory I made, publicly, my own favorable comment on the work done. However, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the report is not based substantially upon evidence, but upon information supplied by officials of the Allied Works Council. The committee took no evidence from service heads as to their experience with the Allied Works Council, nor did it take evidence from the contractors who worked with the council. The report is, in effect, a factual statement compiled in the main from information supplied by Allied Works Council officials. That does not mean that it necessarily conveys a misleading impression. The council officials whom we met impressed us with their keenness and ability to do their job.I am fully prepared to subscribe to the statement that the council and its officers, whatever the blemishes - and it would be stupid to say that there are no blemishes - have done a big job for Australia. The country owes a debt of gratitude to them, as it does to all the men and women who were taken out of their normal occupations and called upon to sacrifice their time and health in the service of the nation.
Therefore, I regard it as most unfortunate that the good relations between members of the committee should be damaged in the way which must inevitably follow the action of the chairman and his colleagues in this regard. The report is not unanimous in the sense that all members of the committee knew its contents and subscribed to them. There is in the report so much that, I would have willingly accepted as a statement of my own views that I regret that its presentation could not have been delayed for the 24 or 48 hours necessary to enable me, as deputy chairman of the committee, to be a party to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) adjourned.
– In view of the fact that the House has sat on only 56 days this year, and. in view of the practice of the Government to gag important debates, can the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) say whether the people of Australia are to understand that it is the policy of the Government, not only to restrict freedom of speech in Parliament, but also to deny the representatives of the people the right to carry out the duties for which they were elected ?
– It is not the practice of this Government to use the gag. The gag has hardly been applied during the life-time of this Parliament. Take, for instance, the Aluminium Industry Bill. The debate on this measure covered a very wide field, and no attempt was made by the Government to apply the closure. As a matter of fact, no government has been more careful of the rights of all members of this House than has the present Government under the leadership of Mr. Curtin.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Question put -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . lb
Question so resolved in the negative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 29th November (vide page 2387).
Postponed 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.
Upon which Dame Enid Lyons had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words bo added: - “and by both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament.”
– I said last night that I would gi ve consideration to the amendment. The Government has decided to accept it, but for purposes of convenience, I propose to have the amendment moved in the Senate. I am much obliged to the honorable mem- ber for her suggestion, for I think it will stabilize the undertaking and prevent i ts disposition without the consent of both Parliaments concerned.
– In the circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment - by leave. - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 10 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of any Act, the sum of One million five hundred thousand pounds for the purposes of the Commission, and that Fund and those proceeds are hereby appropriated accordingly.
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs) what was done last night with regard to putting certain reports at the disposal of honorable members. One was a document signed by Mr. Keast and Mr. Hey. The main body of that report consists of five pages and there are several appendices. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) pointed out that, although, in the body of the report, there is a letter indicating that a report on working costs was being obtained for inclusion, no such report could be found in the document. He suggested that there had been some omission. ‘ I have had the most careful inquiries made by the Secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping, and the fact is that the report, as made available to honorable members, is the full report made available to the Government. Nothing has been added or subtracted. On page 5 of the main body of the report there appears the following passage : -
The following appendices are attached.
Description of the Bayer process for producing alumina, includinglabour distribution.
Power characteristics of the alumina reduction plant.
Description of the reduction plant, including labour distribution.
Availability of plant.
Notes on the calcination of shale coke.
There was nothing in the report furnished to the Government going beyond that. My information, which I am quite certain is correct, is that the report made available to the committee is the report furnished to the department.
– Has the Government any idea of the working costs?
– Only what appears from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). These are very difficult to estimate, because they involve an estimate of the production costs here, and these, in turn, will depend largely upon the point at which bauxite is obtained, and matters of that kind. On page 4 of the main body of the report there appears the following: -
An estimate of the cost of producing alumina and aluminium cannot be prepared until more data areavailable regarding the bauxite to be used, and the carbonaceous material needed for the anode base, but key figures have been obtained which permit of the preparation of detailed estimates immediately the basic cost figures have been determined.
Those estimates, which, according to the letter, were intended to be included in the report, were not included, and the information given to the committee, which is, of course, a confidential report, a departmental document, is the whole of the information obtained from those two persons.
– Are those reports the only information in the possession of the Government?
-I suppose there must be other departmental reports, but these are substantially themain documents. First, there is the report of Sir Ronald Charles; that, of course, is not a recent report. There is also the summary of the report of the Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee and, finally, there is the report on the production of aluminium made by Messrs. Keast and Hey. . .
– I move -
That the words “live hundred thousand” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “four hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine’’ - as an instruction to the Government - that a royal commission he appointed to examine every aspect of the proposal to establish the aluminium industry in Australia.
I take this course because of the debate in this chamber, the information which has been disclosed, the infor- mation which has been extracted, and the information not yet forthcoming. The proposal smells to high heaven. I say that advisedly. Here we have a proposal to expend £8,000,000 of Commonwealth and Tasmanian funds on the establishment of anew industry, when there has not been, sufficient,investigati on to justify the erection of a fowl-house.
– Hear, hear !
– I have asked for information relating to cost of production. It was stated in a letter in. the Keast-Hey report that this information had been furnished to the authors of that report. It. is, now disclosed that it was not furnished to the Government. I accept the assurance of the AttorneyGeneral(Dr. Evatt) that it hasnot been excised, but the very fact, that it was not even furnished indicates that there is not sufficient data from these gentlemen, who were sent to Englandto inquire into the aluminium industy. It must be remembered., too, that this report was given to honorable member only at the last moment and that only four copies were provided. Neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies nor the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was given a cop; in order that he might study , i. I have a more serious charge to make. I asked yesterday when the promise made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) on the 29th September 1944, to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden),would be honoured. The honorable member for Gippsland asked -
Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping make available the report and estimatesof experts in connexion , with their investigation of the aluminium industry to which the honorable gentleman referred in his secondreading speech on the AluminiumIndustry Bill, so that honorable members may speak with informed minds when the matter next comes up for consideration?
The Minister for Supply and Shippingreplied - 1 shall consider the request. Honorable members will be able to deal fully with ever? aspect of the matter when the bill is in committee. All documentation will thenun- available, and information will be supplied
– Confidential reports were supplied. Honorable members really had no right to see these reports.
– Was the Keast-Hey report then in existence?
– Yes. It has been in existence since early in 1943. The Minister for Supply and Shipping promised that all documentation wouldbe made available to honorable members but I have the report, which I have obtained by other means, made by the Council for Scientific and Industrie Research, which deals comprehensively with this very matter, and this House has not been fold one word about the existence of that report.
Mr..CALWELL.- By what devious mean did the honorable gentleman possess himself of that report?
– I got it by devious means, if , the honorable gentleman warn to have it that way.
– What is the report? This is the first time I have heard of it.
– It is headed “ Council for Scientific and Industrial Research : Report on examination of processes submitted for the production of alumina in Australia”, and the date is July, 1942.
– Is it an official document ? It may be “ phoney “.
– It is a document which has been handed to me.
– By whom?
– This document was compiled by trusted officers of the Commonwealth Government.
– Who handed it to the honorable gentleman?
– I am not going to submit myself to cross-examination here. Appoint a royal commission to find out how I got it, as well as everything else about this proposed new industry.
– Lay it on the table of the House.
– I shall.
– Do so by all means.
– I shall supply a copy to the Minister.
– Do so. I have never heard of it before.
– In spite of the promise by the Minister for Supply and Shipping that all documentation would be provided to members in connexion with this aluminium business, a vital report, I think the main report, one compiled by officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and a most comprehensive document, was withheld from the House.
– That is an absolutely false statement.
– It is a true statement. This report has never been produced, except by myself, and I got hold of it by some other means. How can it be said that I made a false statement when I can produce the document that has not otherwise been made available?
– It does not belong to the Department of Supply and Shipping.
– I shall indicate why it was suppressed.
– The honorable member is making some charges now.
– I am making very serious charges that call for a royal commission. I say, first, that the KeastHey report was compiled by two officers who were the employees of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, or in other words, the employees of Mr. W. S. Robinson. I make this charge : That these men went to England at the expense, not of the Commonwealth Government, but of Mr. W. S. Robinson, and that they made a report there in their own time and upon that report the Commonwealth is basing its plans for an aluminium manufacturing plant costing £3,000,000. I make this second charge: That the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in this report, has suggested that the proper process for starting the industry in Australia is different altogether from that recommended in the Keast-Hey report. I make this third charge: That the indications are that the. aluminium combine of the world is selling to the Commonwealth £2,000,000 worth of junk plant, which will be obsolete in no time. Those are the assumptions that spring from my study of the report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the adoption by the Government of the Keast-Hey report.
Mi1. Calwell. - All assumptions.
– Those assumptions will be made by the people of Australia. The Minister for Information is the defender of the Collins House group. I have nothing, against that group, except that it represents vested interests, and has certain interests of its own to serve. The Minister for Information is now the bedfellow of Mr. W. S. Robinson.
– I do not know him, and I know nothing of the Collins House group. But that group provided the Opposition with funds for its election campaign. .
– Apparently the Collins House group will supply the Minister with quite a lot for the next election campaign. I have said enough to justify the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into this matter. I should like to know why this report was suppressed.
– It was not suppressed.
– I want to know why the recommendations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have never been seriously considered, and why they were not placed before honorable members.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I have the report here.
– The Attorney-General said that he had never heard of the report.
– That is true. I had not heard of it before this occasion.
– There is some funny business going on when the honorable member for Richmond is able to obtain possession of a confidential document which even the Attorney-General has not seen.
– The Minister in charge of the bill admitted that he had not heard of the report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It consists of 50 or 60 pages, and the document is highly technical in parts. It includes maps, charts, graphs and data of all kinds compiled by officers of the Government.
– The honorable member said that the document dealt with proposed processes.
– I shall read a portion of the report, including some of the recommendations. For example the report states that the sulphide process has been tested on bauxites of different localities and is being used intermittently for the commercial production of relatively pure alumina for other industries. The report states also that technically the sulphide process is simple to operate and that the plant should be procurable in Australia. That is the alternative to the Government’s proposals. The report adds that this process can be brought into operation sooner than any other process. But the report has been cast under the table, or put into a barrel, and I have, by means of my own, been able to get hold of it. There is evidence here of some collusion between the Government and the Collins House group, headed by Mr. W. S. Robinson, who is head of the Aluminium Company of Great Britain, I understand, and of America as well. He is a very notable figure in the aluminium business. The combine is endeavouring to sell to the Commonwealth - or that is the assumption that one can make from the evidence - a lot of obsolete plant which is no longer of any use in Great Britain. It is selfevident that if Great Britain can spare this plant in the middle of a war and is willing to send it to Australia when its own aircraft industry requires large quantities of aluminium, the proposal merits close examination. I am not in a position to make specific charges. I cannot say who is getting something out of this, or whether anybody is getting something out of it; but the whole evidence ‘placed before this committee as the result of these disclosures merits an examination by a judge of the High Court or by a select committee.
– All that the honorable member is doing is to sling mud.
– The Minister is an expert on deciding what constitutes mudslinging.
– There are several matters which require examination by a royal commission. First, it has been alleged that this industry is being established for defence purposes. I should like to know whether any officers of the Defence Department, or high Army officials have been consulted regarding where this plant should be established for strategical reasons. Do the Army authorities agree that Tasmania is the best site strategically for the aluminium industry? Or do they consider that it ought to be placed inland beyond the reach of bombers and raiders? Whether those factors have been examined, I do not know. But I want to know. I am not questioning where the industry is to be established. I merely ask as defence considerations have been mentioned in support of the establishment of this industry, whether the Defence Department has been consulted on the strategical aspect ?
I have said sufficient on this particular phase of the bill to establish a case for an investigation of the Government’s proposal by a royal commission. There is so much unsavoury business connected with this that if the Government values its prestige and honour, it will agree to the amendment.
. - I ask the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) to lay the report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the table of the House, or allow me to peruse it. During the second-reading debate and again in committee, some members of the Australian Country party suggested that the Collins House grouphas some interest in this proposal with the object apparently of benefiting itself in some way. Onlythey have made the insinuation, and, in fact, what the two honorable members alleged has been disclaimed by other honorable members. Although I am only acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) at the present time, I am absolutely certain that thoseassertions are pure invention. Mr. Anthony. - The evidence is there. Dr. EVATT. - There is no evidence at all. The honorable member declared that “it smells to high Heaven”. What smells to high Heaven? What does require attention by this chamber is the lobbying that has been experienced against this bill during the last few days. This lobbying has taken two forms.First, there lias been’ intervention by a company which is interested in the encouragement of its own process, and the development of bauxite deposits in Victoria. That is perfectly proper.
– What company is that’? Dr. EVATT.- Mr. Martin’scompany. That concern states that it has a process which Will be of value in this industry, and does not want it to be excluded from consideration. On behalf of the Government, and in order to encourage every possible avenue for Australian industry, I have given an undertaking to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that those processes’ will be taken into consideration by the commission. But apart from that, there is overseas lobbying. Some members of the Australian Country party last night read documents supplied to them.
– Is anything wrong with that?
– Not necessarily.
– We have not been able to obtain any information from the AttorneyGeneral.
-Will the honorable member tell me where he obtained the documents which he read?
– Weshould be able to get the information from the Government, but the Attorney-General has not been open about this matter.
– The Attorney-General has done his best to suppress the information.
– That is a sheer invention. In whose interests would it be to oppose the establishment of an industry owned and controlled by the people through the Governments of the Commonwealth and Tasmania? It would be detrimental to the interests of the combine or cartel, to which the honorable member for Richmond referred.
– Not if that combine could sell junk to the Commonwealth for
Dr.EVATT.- So that is the suggestion ! It will be a matter for the officers of the proposed commission. Every honorable member has said that, except for. some technical qualifications, the Government could not get more suitable persons to represent the Commonwealth and Tasmania on the commission. The processes to which the honorable member for Richmond referred, have yet to be determined. No contract has been let for the purchase of any of this material. The commission will deal with that matter. I suppose that the honorable member obtained his report through somebody breaking his oath as a public servant; otherwise the honorable member could not have got it. Until he referred me to it, I had riot heard of the report. Mr. A. V. Smith, the chairman of the proposed commission and the secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping’, told me that the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is confined to the processes that might be used. The honorable member said that it was the alternative plan to the report of Messrs.Keast and Hey. It was nothing of the kind. Another invention ! Messrs. Keast and Hey were asked by the Common wealth Government to investigate the cost of establishing this industry, and they didso. The honorable member complained because the employers of those gentlemen, and not the Commonwealth Government, bore their expense’s. All reportshave been made available to this committee.
– Why not get the aluminium combine of the world to report to the Government?
– The aluminium industry is highly technical. It was controlled in a very rigid way before the war. It was often controlled, I think, to the disadvantage of Australia and other members of the United Nations. But the Government can obtain technical data and opinions only from those technically qualified to give them. The Government is not bound by anything appearing in the report. What is so disturbing about this matter is the continual insinuation by one or two honorable members against Mr. W. S.Robinson. I referred to that gentleman last night. He has rendered a great service to this country in the establishment of various industries. At the request of the Prime Minister he accompanied me on my missions overseas. Those missions had nothing to do with aluminium. We were concerned with getting supplies and aircraft for this country.
– Could not Mr. Casey have assisted the mission?
– Yes; but what has that to do with this matter?
– It was the responsibility of Mr. Casey, and not of a private individual.
- Mr. W. S. Robinson, whom the honorable member describes as “ a private individual,” was made an official member of the two missions at the specific direction and request of the Prime Minister for the purpose of assisting them to accomplish their objectives. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) did not make any insinuation against Mr. Robinson’s character, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that hp is a gentleman of the highest integrity. He is associated with certain industries. Because a company made certain of its officers available, some honorable members opposite claim that that is a reason for delaying the bill. That is why I cannot accept the amendment. A definite move is on foot - and it finds expression in this chamber - to postpone the establishment of this industry. The object is to prevent an important State enterprise, integral to the defence of this country, from being launched. The honorable member for Richmond covers that up with a great amount of camouflage. He said that this was being done in the interests of the combine. My retort is that it is done in the very teeth of the interests of the combine, and cannot be of any advantage to the combine. I placed at the disposal of the committee a document which, in my opinion, the committee was not really entitled to see. By that statement, I do not mean that the document contains anything that should not be seen by honorable members.
– Does the Attorney-General contend that this committee is not entitled to be told the facts ?
– I say that it is a purely departmental document, and it is not the practice to make such a document available to honorable members. I have no doubt that it has been made available to one honorable member, not to members of the committee, from sources outside the committee.
– Is it not a public document?
– No, it is a departmental or confidential document.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– As honorable members debated this bill at length at the secondreading stage, I hope that they will now give it a speedy passage. I am quite satisfied that powerful North American business interests are doing their best to impede the whole proposal.
– How ?
– By providing material which suggests that, in some unspecified manner, the aluminium cartel is supporting the measure. Such a statement is quite untrue. I regret that the name of a certain gentleman has been bandied about with a reckless disregard of his reputation. This enterprise, which admittedly is important from a defence point of view, will have to surmount many difficulties in its early stages. I fear that unless it can be established promptly it will never be established. The purpose of the two honorable members is to prevent its establishment. I cannot understand honorable gentlemen opposite resisting our endeavours to produce aluminium in this country, for the metal is of immense importance for defence purposes, and the industry would be of incalculable benefit to the nation. The Government will not agree to the postponement of the project. The report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made reference, dealt only with certain processes.
– But it runs counter to the Robinson report.
– Here is another imputation against the gentleman to whom I have referred. A false statement does not become true merely by repetition. The commission will investigate processes and will determine which process shall be adopted, in this country. No contracts or undertakings have been made by the Government to use any particular process. We desire that the most modern and effective process for Australia’s conditions shall be adopted.
– I suppose that the Attorney-General will agree that the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is an authentic document?
– What does the right honorable gentleman mean by authentic?
– I mean that, in fact, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research did make a report.
– That is true. It was a confidential document, and I should like to know by what means it came into the possession of the honorable member for Richmond.
– It, should- have been made available to all honorable members.
– The report merely deals with various processes. As a matter of fact, I have put before honorable members a departmental report of a nature which is seldom made available to them. The Government has nothing to hide.
– Then let us have a royal commission.
– Yes ; let us have a royal commission, or a select committee, or a Tariff Board inquiry - anything, so long as it will delay the establishment of the industry! The Government will not agree to delay action further. It believes that the establishment of this industry will be very important for defence purposes and of distinct advantage in the general industrial development of Tasmania. In view of the full discussion of the subject which has already occurred, I ask honorable gentlemen to agree to this clause without undue delay.
.- In the course of our debate on this measure many epithets have been used, and it has been suggested that a sinister influence is behind the proposal. I do not associate myself with such remarks. I believe that, the Government has introduced the bill in good faith. There are, nevertheless, some curious aspects to the subject. I make no charges against any individual or firm, but I make the grave charge against the Government that it has embarked upon this project in profound ignorance. It is quite clear to me from remarks that have been made from the front bench that Ministers have little or no knowledge of subjects which are of vital importance in connexion, with this industry. We have asked for additional information and, at the eleventh hour, three reports have been put before us which I have studied closely. I asked the Attorney-General before lunch whether these were the main reports upon which the Government had acted, and the right honorable gentleman said that they were. I shall therefore comment briefly upon them. The first report was made by Sir Ronald Charles on “The production of aluminium ingot in Australia “. I understood that this report contained recommendations upon which the Government had acted, but I find nothing of the kind, in the document, the opening words of which are -
It is understood Unit the Government wish to inaugurate an aluminium industry within the Commonwealth.
The remainder of the document justifies me in. describing it as “ The child’s guide to knowledge of the aluminium ingot industry “. It is not a. document on which any person could make a. sound judgment; it does not indicate to us either the need for or the value of this industry. The next report is headed “ Summary and conclusions of Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee “. The document is valuable in that it indicates to us that large deposits of bauxite are available in different parts of the Commonwealth which could be used for the production of, say, 10,000 or 5,000 tons of aluminium per annum over specified periods. The third document, which is described as the KeastHey report, contains technical information but gives us no reliable details aboutprobable costs. We are entitled to an estimate of the production costs of this industry. Are we to understand that the Government has no information of this nature to submit to us? We do not desire the country to be saddled with an industry, the production costs of which will be out of all proportion to the value of the manufactured article.
– Aluminium is a very necessary metal.
– That may be quite true. Production costs abroad vary from £80 to £100 per ton. I am given to understand that the estimated post-war cost of producing aluminium in Canada will be such that the metal will be landed in Great Britain at £60 a ton. It could probably be landed in Australia for £75 a ton. We have not been told, however, whether it will cost £50 or anything up to £400 a ton to .manufacture aluminium in Australia.
– How many persons will bp employed in the industry?
– About 300 at the aluminium works and more than 400 at the smelting works in Tasmania.
– What is the economic outlook?
– Very poor.
– The honorable gentleman has an inferiority complex in regard to A ustralian industries.
– I have not, nor have I an inferiority complex in regard to Australian soldiers, Australian manufacturers or Australia in general. We have in this country some of the most efficient industries in the world. I consider that the Government should give us more information about the probable cost of manufacturing aluminium in Australia. No private company would be permitted to invite the public to subscribe for the establishment of a new industry in this country without first publishing adequate information about probable production costs, markets and competition ; yet the Government has the temerity to ask us to agree to the expenditure of £3,000,000 or more in establishing this industry, and it has not given us any information of a reliable nature. We protest against such treatment.
I do not propose to repeat matters which I debated in my second-reading speech, but I remind honorable members that in the post-war period magnesium and beryllium, which is much lighter and stronger even than magnesium, will be strong competitors against aluminium. Beryllium is one of the coming metals. In addition, competition may be expected from laminated woods and plastics. The world is full of aluminium, arid it is a glut on the market with nobody wanting it, yet the Government proposes that it shall be manufactured in Australia, against all the dictates of common sense. The reason given is, that aluminium is needed for defence purposes. That reason covers “ a multitude of sins “ ; any proposal for the establishment of an industry might be advanced on the grounds that the product is needed for defence purposes. It is a relief to me, and to many other honorable members on this side, to find that honorable members opposite have become defence conscious. They have taken a long time to reach that state. The matter of defence requires a good deal of thought. It is useless to say that we need this, that or the other, for defence purposes, without realizing all the implications. Does the Government seriously suggest that, if we should be short of one material which may be necessary for the production of different forms of defence equipment, we should undertake the raa mi fa etu re of it? Would it propose to establish the manganese industry, or to make artificial diamonds because we have no such diamonds and they are essential to many defence operations? In the whole range, there aremany defence requirements which are not and never could be produced in Australia. That applies also to other countries, which have built up reserves of those materials of which they have been short and which could not be provided within their own borders. Great Britain built, up large stocks of foodstuffs. What is to prevent our acting similarly in respect of various commodities? It we cannot produce economically what we may need, the best course would be to store reasonable quantities which would enable us to meet our requirements until we could obtain replacements. I am not opposed to the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country; that would be a sound policy.
– Provided it was established by private enterprise.
– I should prefer private enterprise, which -would do a far better job than can he expected from the Government; but I am not dealing with that aspect at the moment. I am considering whether or not it would be sound policy, on purely economic grounds’, to establish the industry. Before the Government takes the final step, and perhaps raises false hopes, it should have the whole matter reviewed by a suitable body, which might well be a parliamentary committee; because we should not embark on hare-brained schemes without a complete recognition of all the facts, and a knowledge of whether or not the industry would be likely to be economically sound.
– I am convinced that an attempt is being made to sabotage the proposal for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia. In the first place, delay was sought to be achieved by the proposal that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report; but that did not succeed. The hope of the sponsors of that proposal was, that the Tariff Board, would recommend that the project be not proceeded with. The latest suggestion is, that the matter should be inquired into by a royal commission. Lobbyists have been “ tickling the ears “ of some honorable members opposite. There has been an attempt to connect the Government party with persons whose business address’ is Collins House, Melbourne. That is regarded as a clever political move. I assure the committee that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is in charge of the bill, intends to go ahead with it in order that Australia may become self-supporting in regard to aluminium. In 1935, I was a member of a parliamentary delegation which visited Great Britain. The leader of it was the right honorable member for
Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). At a conference that we had with Mr. Anthony Eden, he expressed the hope that the Dominionswould become self-supporting in regard to all that they might need and said that,, should war break out, twelve months or longer might elapse before assistancecould reach them from Great Britain. AVe did not follow his advice. Those who are opposing the establishment of the aluminium industry have opposed every similar project. When steps were being token to start the carbide industry in Tasmania, it was found that thepresence of certain foreign matter in Australian coal prevented its use in themanufacture of that commodity, but the difficulty was overcome .by importing anthracite coal from Wales. Had thepaper mills at Burnie and Boyer not been established, we should not have been ableto meet one-half of our requirements of newsprint in the last few years, yet there was strong opposition to that project. Opposition was also encountered to the establishment of the zinc industry at. Risden, the argument being that weshould continue to send our complex metals to Germany for treatment.
– When were the Burnie paper mills established - in our time or in that of the present Government?
– There was strong opposition to the proposal, and the Government of Tasmania had to provide £1,500,000 in order to ensure the establishment of the Boyer mills. I visited the Burnie mills recently. Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who at one time was a member of this House, has done a wonderful job there, and should be given credit for it. If honorable members opposite would cease their opposition to the present proposal, we would be prepared to permit them to have all the credit for the establishment of the industry. We are determined to build up secondary industries for the protection of Australia, and will not await another war before taking action in that direction. Honorable members opposite argue that the result will be to interfere with industries in Britain, which, in consequence, will lessen its imports from this country. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. .Hutchinson), who was a member of the parliamentary delegation to .Britain, can vouch for the correctness of my statement that Mr. Anthony Eden said that he would like the whole of the Dominions’ to be self-supporting’. I trust that the bill will have a Speedy passage.
.- With other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I am a firm believer, in the development of the secondary industries of Australia. The sound basis of those already established is due to their having been undertaken only after a complete investigation- by the Tariff Board. Those that were shown to have prospects of development were provided in the initial stage with either tariff protection or a bounty. A- proper preliminary investigation preceded the establishment of every industry that has proved successful. All those who had ari interest either for or against the proposal had an opportunity to appear before the Tariff Board to give evidence, and the report presented to Parliamentwas based’ on the weight of the evidence’ tendered. No new industry in the lifetime of this Parliament has had either tariff protection or a bounty which was not first investigated and reported upon by that body. Had we endeavoured to found secondary industries by the haphazard-, happy-go-lucky method that lias been adopted in connexion with this proposal, we should not have been able to establish on a firm basis those that have assisted this country so greatly within recent years. The present proposal is for ah agreement” between the Commonweal th ana. the State of Tasmania for the development of the aluminium industry. This proposal has been brought before the House iri a very haphazard way. The Government’ does riot even’ know the kind df plant which is to be acquired. The Attorney-General ha’S’ admitted that he does not know whether its capacity will be 5;000 or 1.0,000 tons a year’, nor does’ he know what technical process will be employed. The’ honorable member’ for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has pointed’ out that aluminum is: being produced abroad at from £80 to- £100 a ton and that the postwar cost may be’ down to 60 a ton. The Government, apparently, has no idea of what the cost will be in Australia. Nevertheless, if is asking” Parliament to approve the expenditure of £1,500,000 directly by the Commonwealth, whilst the Government of Tasmania is to raise the same amount by loan. This represents a drain 6f £3,000,000 from the country’s war effort, and we know drat the Government had; to Struggle furiously to raise the last war loa*n, even after the time had be,en extended. It is futile f6r the Government to ask Parliament to approve this proposal. Although the Government has put up’ several Ministers, sonic more than once; their attempts to explain the Government’s proposal have been just about up to kindergarten standard.
– The industry is necessary for the future defence of Australia.
– It cannot be of any assistance to Australia’ during’ the next two Or” three years. As for. plant,- the Government is evidently prepared to accept any old junk that is thrown at it. Honorable members were promised that all relevant information would be placed before them when the bill was in committee.
– So it will’.
– Although the promise wds made in September last, the reports were made available only yesterday, and then not until repeated- demands had been made for them. Now that we have the reports, they do not give sufficient information to enable honorable members to learn the approximate cost of production. I appeal to the Government to refer the bill to the Tariff Board for examination and report. The project is bound to fail because, for one reason, it is being placed under the direction of a commission consisting, of extraordinarily busy men. I should like to know” what time the secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping will have to devote to this business. Very few men in Australia are working such long hours’ as he’ is, or have so big a job to perform. Controlling the flow of supplies’ for war arid civil nee’ds is no small undertaking. The secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping’ Has alre’ady a fulltime’ job. He is also chairman of the Wal-‘ Disposals Commission’, which will be charged with the1 responsibility df disposing of perhaps £5’0d,00’ti,p’0:0 worth of surplus or obsolete1 stores. On top of all that, he is now to be asked to investigate and develop a scheme for the manufacture of aluminium. It just cannotbe done. Let this man go on with his own work, and let the Tariff Board investigate the proposal to manufacture aluminium in Australia. The Tariff Board is a highly competent body which, for the last ten years, has investigated all proposals for the establishment of new secondary industries. The Government is going the right way about ensuring that the project will fail. It isalmost certain that £3,000,000 will not prove to be enough to establish the industry. Perhaps twice as much will ultimately be necessary.
– There will be no failure. Everythingwe touch we succeed in.
– The Minister for Information has failed in everything he has ever tried to do. His is one long record of bungling.
– I will bet £25,000 that I am right.
– The Minister will never get that £25,000. I realize, of course, that the Government has the numbers, and that it can force this measure through, but it would be the acme of folly to do so. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are offering the Government advice with the best intention, and if that advice is accepted it will be for the public good. If it is rejected, the failure of this industry will be the responsibility of the Government.
– The mental contortions of honorable members opposite are indeed remarkable. They claim that the Government’s proposal has not been adequately examined, but, as their own leader must remember well enough, it was examined by Sir Ronald Charles, upon whose report the Menzies Government decided to establish the aluminium industry in Australia. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) declared that this is not the time to think of establishing an industry of this kind; that it could be of no use to Australia during this war. That is exactly what was said when it was proposed to establish the steel industry in Australia in 1915. during the last war. Who will now deny the foresight of those responsible for the establishment of the steel industry, or say that it has not been of incalculable value to us in the defence of Australia during this war? There is no force in the argument that the industry would not be of service to the country during this war. The fact remains that it is essential to the defence of Australia. Let me tell honorable members what might easily have happened during the early part of the war against Japan. The bauxite, from which aluminium was made in Canada and the United States of America was obtained from deposits in Guiana, and in. South America. Enemy submarines were operating freely along the coast, and constituted a serious threat to shipping engaged in the transport of bauxite. Australia was dependent upon America for aluminium, and the position here would have been very serious had enemy submarines been able to prevent, or even seriously interfere with, the carriage of raw material from South America to the United States of America andCanada. We cannot afford to run that risk again. Honorable members opposite who are seeking to defeat this proposal are doing a disservice to Australia. They have been clamouring for expert, advice, but when it is said that the Government was advised by such an expert authority as Mr. W. S. Robinson, they raise a cry against him. The advice which, I understand, was given by experts recommended by Mr. Robinson, should satisfy any reasonable man. They seek to discredit him, and to destroy his prestige, but I do not think that Mr. Robinson’s reputation will be impaired by their slighting references. The fact remains that the Government has obtained advice from the best and most authoritative sources, men widely respected for their knowledge of metallurgy. The efforts of honorable members opposite to advance the interests of the aluminium combine, and of powerful international cartels, will not, in this instance, succeed.
– The last two speechesmade by Ministers have been so calculated to confuse the issue that I feel called upon to say something as Leader of the Opposition about the attitude of honorable members on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) moved an amendment, and I support it, but my reasons for doing so are not, perhaps, identical with those which he himself has advanced. Therefore, it is desirable that I should state my reasons on my own account. The purpose of the amendment is to secure, if possible, an objective investigation of the relevant business considerations in this proposal, including costs, the projected markets, and the general financial and economic set-up of the scheme. That is an objective to which this Parliament has subscribed over a long term of years. Many years ago, Parliament set up a Tariff Board for exactly that purpose, namely, to investigate proposals for the establishment of new industries. The real issue is whether we are to give the go-by to an established feature of our economic development. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) became eloquent, and even torrid, on the subject of lobbying, and he intimated that honorable members on this side of the House were swayed by lobbyists. I confess that I do not know who they are. I hope I do not have to tell honorable members that I have not been lobbied on this matter. If Ministers know these lobbyists, I must say that I do not. My own speech, in resuming the debate on the second reading, was directed entirely to an endeavour to get facts. I generally start off with the view that it is a good tilling if industries that can be economically established in Australia are established. That is a common starting point, I hope, for us all. But that does not mean that, because it is a good thing that some industries should be established, we should establish any industry without inquiry and without information. I am told that there are powerful interests operating here both ways. I am unaware of them. I have not worked out the side on which the balance would be, but, as a member of this House, I am entitled to know and, as far as I can, to demand some information which would enable me to give an intelligent vote on the establishment of this industry. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), carried away by warm enthusiasm, which
I admire in a man, said, in a rather sweeping fashion, that we on this side had opposed every industry sought to be established in Tasmania. In his enthusiasm, he might have declared that, in spite of the opposition of members on this side, the paper industry of Burnie and the paper industry of New Norfolk had been established. So, it needs to be said, that each of those industries was established when we occupied the treasury bench.
– When there was a Labour government in Tasmania.
– Yes, when there was a Labour government in Tasmania and, no doubt, a Labour mayor at Burnie, and, for all I know, a Labour president of the Shire of New Norfolk. Our withers are unwrung in connexion with Tasmanian industry, because Tasmanian industries, in those two instances, as well as in others, have been established, under the aegis of a government drawn from this side.
– What , part did the light honorable gentleman’s Government, play in their establishment?
– We were the Government at the time.
– But what actual part did that, Government play?
– If the honorable member for Bass must enter the argument, I notice that whatever happens when a Labour government is in office is due to the Labour Government. There are some people who believe or pretend to believe that they delivered Australia from the Japanese.
– Do not wake up “ the Brisbane line “.
– “ Brisbane lie”, did the honorable member say?
Mr.Calwell. - “ Brisbane line “. The light honorable gentleman’s auricular functions are not in order.
– So the reference by the Minister for Repatriation to the paper industry will not help very much in this matter. Therefore, I come back to the aluminium industry. What has been said repeatedly on this side is simply this, “ Can you tell us “ - and here is the crucial question - “ approximately what will be the cost of producing aluminium in Tasmania?”. Is that an unfair question?
– Yes. Everything depends on the situation of raw materials.
– All right. I just repeat the question. It is .proposed that £3,000,000 of public money shall be expended to establish this industry. The question is, “But what will it cost to produce?”. Is that an unfair question? I r is a question that would be put by any ordinary citizen if he were asked to invest ±’300 of his own money. Are we less responsible for public money than for our own money? Is there some impropriety in honorable members of this House asking about costs? When that question is put and pursued, what happens? At long last, when the committee stage is on, a report by Sir Ronald Charles is produced which does not deal with the problem; a report from the Commonwealth copper and bauxite committee is produced which does not deal with the problem, and, I understand, another report, referred to as the Keast-Hey report, has been produced. I have the honour to be Leader of the Opposition in this House. I have not seen that report, and we are towards the end of the committee stage of this bill. But what has been said about it on both sides of the House makes it abundantly clear that the report does not set out estimates of cost at all. When it reaches that point it stops. There is a blank. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has produced a report, the authenticity of which was rather tentatively denied at the start, but is now admitted.
– We have never seen it.
– The honorable gentleman is in the same position as I am in regard to the Keast-Hey report.
– He promised to table it and has not done so.
– He will table it. I. understand that it deals with the technical process- to be pursued, either the sulphide or Bayer process, and it comes to some conclusion. That, no doubt, has no bearing on cost. But, when all these things are put ‘before the Attorney-General, what does he say with the adventitious assistance of the Minister for Information? - “We havenot determined what the process is to beThat can be determined in due course. We have not decided any of the details of the construction of the plant or what machinery we “shall use and, therefore, we are in no position to tell you what the cost will be”.
– What is wrong with that?
– What does it mean first of all? Let me put a question to my honorable friend, the Minister for Repatriation. First of all, does the cost matter? If the cost does not matter then the whole of this discussion falls to the ground.
– The right honorable gentleman is going to extremes.
– That means that’ the Minister for Repatriation agrees that cost does matter. Either it does matter or it does not. If cost does not matter, the whole discussion is ‘beside the point, and we are going to produce aluminium, even if it costs £300 a ton. If cost does matter, the answer to the question, “ What is the cost ? “ must have a bearing on the question whether we shall invest public money, and that is why this Parliament should be told what the cost will be. Ministers say, “ We are not in a position to tell you that. The matter must be. gone into”. My answer is that that should be investigated before public money is committed. If we are to be told that when this bill has gone through, the commission will investigate all matters and report to the Minister, my reply is that that commission is in no sense an expert body to investigate such questions. Should the commission report to the Government that the cost will be so and so, does the Government propose to come back, if the cost is too high, and ask us to repeal the bill? Not at all, because we shall be committed to it. There is only one time to investigate costs if costs matter, as honorable members will agree, and that is before the public has been committed to the investment; and before the bill comes into operation, some fact-finding inquiring body should take this question up and report to the Parliament.
– The establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia is not a new matter. It has been canvassed for a number of years. The Menzies Government itself gave some attention to the matter, and an announcement was made to the press of Australia by the then Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) that that Government had decided to establish the industry in Australia. This is the announcement that was made to the press on the 22nd June, 1941-
In view of the necessity to obtain independence from outside sources of supply, it lias been decided as a matter of policy to proceed with the manufacture of ingot aluminium in Australia, preferably from Australian bauxite. Immediate inquiries will be instituted with a view to obtaining electric generators and other plant required for this purpose.
There Ls nothing in that announcement to say that the Menzies Government intended to establish the aluminium industry in Australia after the Tariff Board had made an inquiry into the matter. There is nothing in it to indicate that the Menzies Government had intended the Tariff Board to have any interest in the question whatever. Honorable members can appraise at its proper value the proposal now made that the Curtin Government’s decision to establish the aluminium industry in Australia should be first referred to the Tariff Board for report. This is a delaying device. Honorable gentlemen opposite have no desire to see the industry established in Australia at all, but they dare not openly say that. They attack the proposal in the oblique way. They say, “ Let us refer it to the Tariff Board “. I make so bold as to say that, if the Tariff Board report were favorable, they would want the matter investigated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or some other body, because they were not honest about their desire to establish the aluminium industry in Australia. They had a number of years of office, during this war, in which to investigate the establishment of the aluminium industry, and they made their decision only in the last few months of their existence. The Menzies-Fadden regime ended on the 28th August, 1941. I remember the date well, because it was my birthday. It was the best birthday news I ever heard. Therefore I can associate the time very clearly with their actions or inactions upon this very important and vital matter. When the Curtin Government was formed, it found itself with a war against. Germany on its hands and a prospective war .against Japan also demanding its attention, and the Government was not able, from the time it took office until some time last year, to give this matter the consideration that it really merited. There were other and more important matters to be determined; but, at all times, the Government was conscious of its obligations to Australia in that regard. So much so, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had discussions with a high ranking Allied officer on the subject. Later, that officer wrote to the Prime Minister as follows: -
I am in complete accord with Australian authorities as to the necessity for the establishment of this industry as an essential link in the Australian economy.
He knew that, from the stand-point of the future defence of Australia, it was essential for this country to establish the aluminium industry here. But honorable members opposite ask, “How much will it cost? What are all the expenses involved in the establishment of this industry?”
– if the industry is of such importance, why did not the Curtin Government make preparations for its establishment three years ago?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), whose conversation I have interrupted and who did not hear what I said a few moments ago, asked why .the Curtin Government waited three years before attempting to establish the aluminium industry. When the Fadden Government passed into history, the Curtin Government found itself obliged to defend Australia against an imminent attack by Japan and, within a few months, was obliged to marshal the full human and material resources of the Commonwealth to meet the impending attack. The Government had to move north of “ the Brisbane line “, too, in order to do that. In those circumstances, it was not possible to give to the aluminium industry the attention which it deserved at that time.
But an agreement was made last year between the Commonwealth Government and the. Government of Tasmania for the establishment of the aluminium industry. The Curtin Government has always been conscious of its obligations to Australia in this regard. I now quote from Hansard of the 22nd August, 1941, page 166 -
Production in Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: -
Interested parties have already had opportunity to submit proposals. In fact, certain proposals have been received by the Government.
The right honorable gentleman, in his superior, patronizing way, indicated that he might take the matter to the Parliament, or his Government might make an agreement without reference to the Parliament. He did not give a specific promise that any agreement would be submitted to this Parliament for consideration or ratification. But the Curtin Government has submitted an agreement to the Parliament, and has told honorable members everything that it knows about the subject.
– And the Government does not know very much about it.
– We cannot give the right honorable gentleman answers to his hypothetical questions that have been asked in the interests of “ big business “, which wants to prevent the establishment of this industry. This morning, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for
New England (Mr. Abbott) tried to fool the committee, after having fooled themselves, into believing that they are the paladins of public ownership and the protectors of the common interests, and that honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber are doing something to benefit Collins House. That is the gravamen of the charge against us. The truth is that, because they do not want to establish an industry of this kind in Australia, they themselves are serving the best interests of Collins House. They dare not show their position openly. They pretend to support the proposal when, in actual fact, they desire to see it defeated. For two days, they have stone-walled the passage of this bill and, by various devices and subterfuges, they have tried to cloud the issue and mislead the House.
The honorable member for Richmond produced a document, which, he said, was a report by officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the aluminium industry. He falsely accused the Attorney-General, a man of probity and honour, of deliberately suppressing a document so that honorable members would not be fully advised on all phases of the proposal. He even demanded the appointment ofa royal commission to inquire into the matter because he claimed that the Government was deliberately ignoring the advice of its own paid officials and was accepting the advice of persons employed by Collins House, in Melbourne. That is gratuitously insulting, grossly wrong, and defamatory to the n th degree. Even though the honorable member for Richmond promised to produce the report upon which he based his allegations, he has not yet laid it onthe table of the House. None of us can see if. All we know is that he held in his hand a number of pieces of paper stapled together, and that is supposed to he the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which condemns the Government’s proposal. The Australian Country party has always opposed the establishment of secondary industries in Australia.
– What rot !
– On this issue, the Australian Country party has the same view. A few exceptions among them last night voted for the second reading of the bill, but the Australian Country party is basically a free-trade party and does not want the establishment of secondary industries in Australia. It belongs to an antediluvian political past, and has opposed every secondary industry that this country established. If the Australian Country party had, unfortunately for Australia, been represented in this Parliament in 1915, opposition would have been voiced to the establishment of the Steel industry here. Before the last war, Australia imported steel from Great Britain; but, before this war, Australia was selling to Great Britain steel of a better quality and £5 a ton cheaper than the price for which Great Britain could manufacture it.
– We established that industry.
– ‘Nothing of the sort! It was established by a Labour government.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is a little astray in his history. The Prime Minister of Australia in 1915 was Andrew Fisher, and the Premier of New South Wales was W. A. Holman.
– We provided the necessary bounties.
– Many honorable gentlemen opposite have supported the development of secondary industries, but the Australian Country party section of the Opposition has never been very enthusiastic regarding the establishment of those industries. Members of that party can answer for themselves.
– The Minister is utterly wrong.
– My facts are right.
– Let us have fewer sallies and greater accuracy.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- Like most honorable members, I am not. completely informed on many phases of the manufacture of aluminium in this country. But any honorable member may be pardoned, particularly after listening to replies by Ministers, for asking whether this is a deliberative assembly, consisting of men of common sense, or whether this chamber has degenerated into a hatters’ castle, with the Minister in charge of the bill as the mad hatter of the piece. The Government intends to establish a factory for the manufacture of aluminium in the State of Tasmania. It has issued to the country and to this Parliament a prospectus which simply says: “We want £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to establish this industry. This £3,000,000 will not come from taxation, but will be a mortgage on the people in the future, lt may have to come out of moneys which the people find for victory loans. With this money, wo shall erect a factory and purchase plant. We cio not know what process we shall use, or what will be the cost per ton of the aluminium. We do not, know how many tons per annum we shall produce, or whether we can sell the product. In fact, we know nothing about the business aide of the proposal.”
– Is not the industry necessary from the standpoint of defence?
– Defence is not a consideration, because the plant will not come into operation until after the war. The Government’s prospectus contains no information whatever. Apparently, Ministers consider it foolish even to intrude the matter of cost into this debate. A few days ago, we had a somewhat, similar experience when the Government, through its mouthpiece, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), announced its intention to acquire interstate civil airlines. When a member of the Opposition interjected : “ What will the acquisition of the airlines cost?”, the Acting Prime Minister revealed that the Government had never considered that aspect. How long can the government of the country he continued in that manner? The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in a very informative speech, disclosed that, some years ago, the Menzies Government examined the problem of producing aluminium in this country, and made a recommendation that production should proceed. The Minister then gave a very interesting date from the standpoint, of the Menzies Government. I think that he mentioned the 22nd June, 1.941. Unless my memory fails me, that is a famous date, for it is the date on which Germany invaded
Russia. The information must have been given to the press on the previous day however, and at that time Great Britain was facing Hitler’s hordes, and alone was fighting the battle for western civilization. Under those conditions any consideration of costs in relation to aluminium was of little consequence. The Menzies Government decided that aluminium should be produced here especially for the purposes of aircraft production. We could not buy aircraft at that time from Great Britain, America or anywhere else. Within the last day or two a statement has been published in the press which revealed how few aircraft Great Britain had, and how limited was the production of aircraft in Great Britain at that time. It was obvious that aluminium had to bc provided for aircraft production. The outlook of Australia at the time the Menzies Government made that decision was ominous, but the situation to-day is entirely different. Yet even at the time the Menzies Government made its decision it would not have dared to put a proposition to Parliament for the manufacture of aluminium in this country without, at the same time, making available to honorable members some information about probable costs. It would not have dared, as this Government has done, to say, “ We want £3,000,000 to establish the aluminium industry. We do not know how much it will cost to produce aluminium here, nor where we shall be able ultimately to sell our production but we must have aluminium “. If that could be regarded as a sensible proposition, I am no judge of what is sensible.
– Did the Menzies Government appoint a committee to inquire into the prospects of the industry before it reached its decision’?
– The Menzies Government caused men of the highest qualifications to inquire into the matter. Let me point out to honorable gentlemen also that it is only because of the good memory of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that any reports on this subject have been made available to us by the Government. The honorable gentleman recollected that when, some time ago, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) was asked whether he would make information available to Parliament on this subject before the bill was passed he undertook to do so. The honorable member for Richmond has acted wisely in moving his amendment, the principal purpose of which is to ensure that adequate investigation shall be made before Government money is expended on this project. Except for the alertness of the honorable member we should not. have known thai the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had made a report on thi? subject.
– We are not yet satisfied that that is a genuine document.
– Do members of the Government regard the public as a pack of fools? Do they expect the public to say to every proposition that emanates from the Government benches, “ O.K. boys, go ahead ; it is all right with us”? Not long ago the Prime Minister told us that up to the end of last June the war had cost Australia £1,651,000,000. Most of that expenditure is in the nature of a mortgage which will have to be paid off in the future. The war will probably last for another two years, and we may be called upon to expend another £1,000,000,000 on it. Yet the Government is inviting us to go blithely ahead with this proposition without any idea of the costs that would be entailed, or of the probable destination of the finished manufactures. If honorable members agreed to that course they would show that they were qualifying for admission to a mad-house. Not long ago, when I spoke at some length on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Bill, I pointed out that the post-war world would be very different from the pre-war world. According to a report in last Tuesday’s press, Mr. Churchill has just called attention to a white paper tabled in the House of Commons which indicated, that after the war Britain would be a debtor, and not a creditor nation. Will not that fact have important repercussions in this country? We must be well aware that in the future we shall encounter great difficulties in dealing with our exportable surpluses, and we shall be obliged to pay close attention to the provisions of the lend-lease agreement in. order that Ave shall not disregard our obligations. Internationa] trade will by increasingly important to us, because normally we have big exportable surpluses of primary products. We must therefore pay close attention to the economics of our situation. Unless the Government does so it will indicate that it is fit only for a nursery.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The avowed purpose of the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is to secure the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the proposal for the manufacture of aluminium in Australia, but in actual fact the honorable gentleman is endeavouring to defeat the bill- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to a nursery. He and his colleagues must really believe that we are suitable to be inmates of a nursery if they think that we do not realize that, notwithstanding all that has been said about production costs, the purpose of the amendment, and of the opposition to this bill is to prevent the establishment of this industry in Tasmania because, fundamentally, it will be a government and not a private enterprise. That is the real basis of the opposition to the measure. The honorable member for Richmond has shown particular hostility to the proposal, and I am sure that, at a later date, the people of Tasmania will he interested to learn of the extent to which he and his fellow members of the Australian Country party have been prepared to go to defeat this thoroughly justifiable’ proposal to establish a new industry in the island State. The attitude of the Opposition all through has been one of obstruction. The plain fact is that inquiries into this subject were initiated by the Menzies Government. I direct the attention of honorable members to the pertinent interjection made on this point a few moments ago .by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), and of the careful manner in which the honorable member for Deakin sidetracked it. The Leader of the Opposition took care to remind us, when he was replying to the speech of the Minister for
Repatriation (Mr. Frost), that the newsprint industry had been established in Tasmania during the regime of an antiLabour government. I asked him what part his Government had played in the establishment of those industries. He did not answer; naturally, because he could not. His Government played no part whatever. Those industries were established in Tasmania against the very strong opposition of members of the party to which he belongs. The basis of the opposition was that government money was invested in the undertaking. Who will say that those industries have not been completely successful and of very great value, not only to Tasmania but also to Australia as a whole, in the crisis through which we are passing? At one stage, one of the mills supplied 75 per cent, of its output to the American armed forces. All the discussion in regard to whether or not a sufficient investigation has been made of the proposition, whether or not honorable members have sufficient facts upon which to base a decision, and whether or not we can state in black and white the cost of production, the sale price, and the possibility of tie industry being able to compete with overseas production, is beside the point. Our friends opposite are not particularly concerned about those aspects. Fundamentally, they are opposed to the agreement. They have made a great point of their submission that sufficient information has not been provided. I remind them that the bill was introduced in this Parliament months ago. It was to have been passed during the last sessional period, but its passage was delayed. If they were so concerned about gaining knowledge, they could have persisted with their efforts to obtain the reports in relation to it.
– The information was sought last September by honorable members on this side.
– I know that. What I have said is that, if honorable members were concerned to obtain the information, they would have persisted with their inquiries; but they did not. At all events, some information was available, because it was obtained by a government that they supported.
– They have been instructed only within the last 24 hours.
– Their instructions are of recent origin. How did the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) obtain the report that he now has? He has not told us, and I do not know. It was by some subterfuge and some back-door method.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Bass has made the allegation that I obtained a certain document by some subterfuge and some backdoor method. I ask that he be made to withdraw that statement.
– I ask the honorable member for Bass to withdraw the statement.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I shall withdraw anything that is unparliamentary. The plain fact is that a report was produced in this Parliament to-day by the honorable member for Richmond. The document has been made available to him by other than front-door methods.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member for Bass has merely reiterated his previous allegation, which contains the implication that I have been guilty of obtaining a certain document by corrupt means. I ask for a withdrawal.
– I ask the honorable member for Bass to withdraw, and to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am quite happy to withdraw anything that is unparliamentary. The honorable member for Richmond stated that he had obtained the report-
– Order ! The honorable member has dealt fully with that matter.
– I shall not continue to deal with it. The proposal of the honorable member for Richmond carries very little weight with me. This measure should be passed. The project has been examined, so far as that has been possible. The production of aluminium will be a completely new industry in Australia. I said in my second-reading speech that it would have its teething troubles. I believe that. It will be confronted with difficulties, and with opposition from vested interests, as well as, I believe, from some of the members of the Collins House group which the honorable member for Richmond attempted to associate with the Government. They do not want the industry to be established unless they have complete control of it. During my visit to Canada and the United States of America, I heard quite a lot about the over-production of aluminium in the former country. I was told of the number of factories that had closed down, and of the surplus production. All the present arguments have been used against every secondary industry that has been established in this country throughout the years. There has always been opposition from certain quarters, as well as from those who have an inferiority complex and do not believe that Australia can compete with other countries in secondary production. An outstanding example of success has been provided by the manufacture of steel in Australia. In a quarter of a century, that industry has reached the- stage when its products can be sold competitively anywhere in the world. True, that has been done by private enterprise. But I refuse to believe that an industry controlled by private enterprise is better managed than one that is under government control. Perhaps instances could be cited of government control not having been entirely successful. To the contrary, I point to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, which, during the last war, started from scratch. It lias made wonderful strides, and has been of remarkable benefit to mankind. It is conducted on a competitive basis by persons employed by the Government, and its prices are comparable. with those of similar undertakings in other parts of the world. I hope that the bill will be passed.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) have cast aspersions on me as ‘ to the manner in which I obtained a certain document. I do not consider that an honorable member is required to indicate the source from which he obtains any document; but as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) hasreflected upon the Public Service, by stating that some public servant must have been derelict in his duty in having handed this confidential document to me, I shall state where I obtained it. A copy of the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to which I have referred during the debate, marked “ confidential “, was handed to the various companies whose businesses were examined. It was a condition of the agreement that was made with them, that if they submitted all their data they would be provided with a copy of that report. Certain of those companies, in response to a request that was made to the Prime Minister, were permitted to make use of the information supplied by the report if and as they desired. In that manner, the document has been passed on to me.
– By whom?
– By one of the interests concerned. I do not consider that I. should have to disclose the name. I have explained that I have obtained the document by a perfectly proper process, and in accordance with the approval given by the Prime Minister to those who handed it to me. The further statement has been made, that I am not game to table the document. 1 do so.
– Order! The honorable member cannot table the document.
– I rise to a personal explanation. I am glad that the honorable gentleman has disclosed the source from which he obtained this document; because, in the absence of such a disclosure, the production of a confidential public service document would convey the impression that it had come from some member of the Public Service by unauthorized means. I accept the explanation of the honorable gentleman that that is not the case, and am glad that he has made it.
– This debate has taken an extraordinary turn. On the motion for the second reading of the bill, I referred to the proposal as a great gamble in which the Government was risking £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money in an industry that had practically no economic value. I pointed out that it would probably be necessary to increase the capacity of the rolling mills so that they might roll the aluminium ingots into sheets suitable for commercial use. I mentioned that there was a tremendous surplus of. aluminium in the world to-day, and that, although production was now being reduced, strenuous efforts were being made to use up the surplus in a variety of ways. All along, honorable members have been asking the Government for information so that they might cast an intelligent vote. The Government’s supporters, although they defended the proposal with strings of platitudes, did not offer one new piece of information. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had received from an officer of his department a document containing some supposed facts relating to the use of electric power, &c, but we were not satisfied, because webelieved that the facts were not relevant. The Minister for External Affairs came into the debate like a dragon, but he proved to be a very reluctant dragon when we suggested that he might produce the experts’ reports. He first said that they were not available, but almost immediately afterwards agreed to make available to each member of the House a copy of two of the reports. In the light of tactics of this kind, it was surely no exaggeration for me to refer to the project as a great gamble. I was impressed by some of the facts adduced by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). In view of what they said, honorable members must have been in some doubt as to how they were going to vote. I have heard it said that there is something sinister about the proposal to establish this industry. I do not accept that suggestion. I cannot conceive of any government, no matter how debased, laying itself open to such a charge. I believe that the decision of the Government to establish the aluminium industry is due to ignorance and political ineptitude. Ministers have admitted that they have no information to place before the committee. We asked how many tons of ingot it was expected to produce, and no one could tell us. The AttorneyGeneral said that it was proposed to obtain some second-hand plant from the United Kingdom, but he did not know if it would be of 5,000 tons or 10,000 tons capacity. We then asked what process was to be used, and Ministers could not tell us that, either. The analyses of bauxite deposits vary considerably. For instance, Australian bauxite contains a large quantity of iron, and it is possible that a different process will be required here from what is used in England. We then asked what would be the cost of producing aluminium, so that the taxpayer, who has to find the money, might know to what he is being committed. Again, the Government admits that it has no information to offer. The commission, which is to be set up to control the industry, is to consist of men who are very good in their own lines, but know nothing about the production of aluminium. That is another reason why honorable members on this side of the House have pressed for a full inquiry. We say that it is necessary, before public money is expended in such a profligate manner, that the public should know the full extent of the commitment. We are the custodians of the public funds, and we should not allow public money to be tipped down the drain, especially at a time when taxation is so high, and we are always appealing to the public to subscribe to war loans. The Government, however, is concerned only with honouring the promise which it gave to the people of Tasmania during the election campaign that it would establish an aluminium industry in Tasmania at a cost of £3,000,000. ‘As I see it, the issue is not whether the industry should be established. That point cannot be decided intelligently until we have the facts before us. The real issue is whether the Government is in possession of sufficient information to justify its determination to press on with the establishment of the industry. So far, no government supporter has advanced any argument to convince the committee that the industry can be founded on economic lines.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) and other government speakers said that the Menzies Government had authorized the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia, and they offered that as an argument why we should now agree to its immediate establishment. I point out, however, that clr cumstances are very different to-day from what they were then. At that time, the United Kingdom was the only nation resisting the attack of the Germans upon civilization. Japan had not attacked Pearl- Harbour, and the United States of America had not entered the war. It seemed possible that Australia might be completely blockaded at sea, and aluminium was necessary for defence purposes. Since then, the United States of America has come into the war, the danger of blockade has passed, and the aluminium industry in Canada and the United Statesof America has been enormously expanded. At the present time, production exceeds by 40,000,000 lb. a month the quantity which the industry can sell or use, notwithstanding the fact that fifteenproduction lines have ceased. This is the time which the Commonwealth Government chooses to establish here an industry for the production of aluminium ingot. The Government says, in effect, “ We arenot concerned about the surplus of aluminium. We are not concerned with thefact that, after the war, aluminium may not be needed for defence purposes. We are concerned only with our promise tothe Tasmanian electors during the last election campaign”. No one can say that any particular metal will be essential’ for defence purposes after the war. Already, great progress has been made in the development of light metals other than aluminium, and it may be that aluminium will be outmoded. Before we commit ourselves to this expenditure, weshould at least make a full inquiry, but the Government has not even tried tofind out whether conditions have altered since the reports of the experts were prepared. After all, the reports were written three and a half years ago, and even a person of subnormal mentality will realize that conditions havechanged greatly since then. If it is proved that the industry can be conducted economically, that the proposed situation is themost suitable, having regard to defenceconsiderations, that the industry will beessential for the defence of the country for the next 20, 30 or 40 years, and that there is no likelihood that aluminium willbe outmoded in the near future, honorable members on this side of the Housewill not resist the Government’s proposal ~r but until those facts are established we Lave every right to demand a full inquiry. The committee is entitled to know how much aluminium it is proposed to manufacture, what plant is to be used, what process is to be employed, what will be the cost of production, and what will be the actual cost of establishment. Until that informtaion is forthcoming we must resist: the Government’s proposal, which is designed, not to benefit the country, but to get the Government out of a political tangle caused by its efforts to bribe the electors of Tasmania.
.- The -decision to establish the aluminium industry in Australia was made in response to a public demand that steps should be taken to provide for the defence of the country. There is no need to appoint a royal commission or to institute any sidetracking inquiry. The public are satisfied that this industry can be established in Australia on an economic basis. As a matter of fact, it was the pressure of public opinion which forced the Menzies Government to decide to establish the aluminium industry. Had that Government been left to itself nothing would have been done. The pressure of public opinion and the press campaign, which, as honorable members will remember, raged for months about the need to develop our bauxite resources forced the previous Government into action. To whom did it turn for information? Not to the expert technicians of this country, but to the representative of the overseas -combine, Sir Ronald Charles, who reported that the industry should, be established by private enterprise on the condition that, at the end of the war, the industry would be scrapped, and would not remain as an asset in the post-war development of Australia. When he was in opposition, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was asked by ;a constituent of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), from whom no assistance could be expected, although the honorable member was a member of the Menzies Government, to place before the authorities a process which he, as an engineer, had worked out for the manufacture of aluminium from local bauxite, but, in spite of all the efforts of the honorable member for East Sydney, nothing came of that proposal. The then Director of Materials, Sir Colin Fraser, wrote in reply that the Government was not interested., but perhaps Electrolytic Zinc and Metal Manufactures Limited would be interested. On the one hand, as Director of Materials, on behalf of the Menzies Government he said that the Government had no interest in the matter and, on the other hand, as chairman of directors of the Electrolytic Zinc and Metal Manufactures Limited, he said that those companies might be interested. The same lack of interest on the part of the Menzies Government greeted the efforts of a group at Berrima to interest the then Prime Minister in a process, details of which were possessed by some Jugoslav engineers, who were members of that group. The right honorable gentleman referred them, when they got in touch with him, to the Director-General of Munitions, Mr. Essington-Lewis, but nothing further was heard of the matter. One of our most notable engineers, Dr. Bradfield, died, heart-broken at the lack of interest shown in his efforts to assist in the prosecution of the war when his offer was rejected to act in a voluntary capacity to develop the aluminium ingot industry from bauxite resources in Queensland which he, in conjunction with I he Queensland Department of Mines, ‘ had., largely at his own expense, exhaustively tested and proved to have a high content of pure alumina. The Menzies Government did very little in regard, to the aluminium industry. The very factory that was set up at Granville under the control of the overseas combine was the subject of an agreement with that .Government that the plant would be utilized only for the period of the war, and that, after the war, the annex, erected alongside the premises of that company, at the cost of £500,000 to the Commonwealth, and the equipment would be sacrificed for a song. That will be the fate of many other annexes which were erected for the Menzies Government. The arrangement minuted in the Munitions Department is that those annexes and the equipment shall be depreciated at the rate of 20 per cent, per annum, which means that, in five years, their value will be written down in the books of the Munitions Department to nil. Fortunately, that has been rectified. We discovered that arrangement through the War Expenditure Committee of which I was a member. That committee reported to the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) against the continuance of that arrangement, and to his credit, he took steps to ensure that those assets of the people shall not be sacrificed, but shall be preserved for their benefit. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) gibed about “ the business brain “ of the Government. I remind the honorable gentleman that he supported the Government that instituted the pernicious “cost-plus” system, under which millions of pounds of Commonwealth moneys have been squandered during this war. That system put Government contractors in a position in which they cannot lose. Whatever it cost to manufacture an article mattered only to the extent that the greater the cost the better for the manufacturer because his payment was to be « percentage of the overall cost.
– When did this Government abolish the cost-plus system?
-The War Expenditure Committee brought in & report.
– But what has the Government done?
– The right honorable gentleman will find that the system has been abolished in many instances. Wherever the cost-plus system could be abolished it was abolished. Unfortunately many of the contracts were for long terms.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition side-tracked me on to a discussion of “ cost-plus “, but the committee will not be side-tracked by the suggestion of honorable gentlemen opposite that a royal commission should inquire into some nebulous point in regard to this proposal. It is the technique of the Opposition to try to shelve issues like this. It is an old trick of advocacy to divert an opponent’s mind from the real issue. That was the technique adopted by the Opposition when “ the Brisbane line “ was raised. The important issue as to the existence of “the Brisbaneline” strategy was sidetracked by the holding of a royal commission into the so-called “missing document”, and the real issue was never touched. The present move by the Opposition is to lay a smoke screen in order to obscure the real issue. The people are satisfied that the aluminium industry should be established at an early date and that there is no need for an inquiry by the Tariff Board. Such an inquiry would get us nowhere. The commission proposed to be set up under this bill will be charged with the responsibility of conducting this industry on a proper basis, and, therefore, that commission is the body that should ascertain the facts and inquire into the most modern methods of conducting the industry. Is it proposed that the Tariff Board shall be a “ Jack-of -all-Trades ? If it did report on the industry it would still be incumbent on the management to go over the ground again in order to obtain the information it will need to carry on the industry effectively. The proper course is to allow the commission to get on with the job of establishing the industry as early as possible, after having satisfied itself as to the methods of manufacture to be adopted.
.- In my second-reading speech I expressed my belief that aluminium should be manufactured in Australia. My speech precipitated an interesting and lively debate, and honorable members are better informed now than they could possibly have been but for my disclosures. The source of. my information has been questioned. I make it my business when 3 have to deal with a subject about which I am not sufficiently informed to obtain all the information that can be made available to me. If my information is accurate, the source of it is immaterial; and the accuracy of my information is borne out by the Keast-Hey- report. When I displayed an ingot of aluminium as a specimen of Australian industry, some doubt was cast on it. Some members said that it was too heavy or that something else was wrong with it. I say, with the backing of the most authoritative evidence, that that. ingot is of the exact specific gravity for ingot aluminium. That will be borne out by whatever test is made. In my second-reading speech, I asked that a parliamentary committee be appointed to investigate the proposal, my only reason being my desire to ensure an industry in which I am interested and believe shall be established on a basis above suspicion. By “ above suspicion”, I mean that it must not be in any sense associated with any overseas combination of financial interests. An amendment moved for the purpose of obtaining that investigation was defeated, t still believe that the facts I disclosed warranted some investigation. However the Attorney:General (Dr. Evatt), in closing the second-reading debate, recognized that I had uncovered some facts of which honorable members had not been aware, and gave a specific undertaking that he would investigate the whole matter. That undertaking satisfies me, because I am certain that he will honour it. I am certain that no disclosure since made would justify a royal commission. A royal commission is a. last resort in an intricate matter of great importance such as a charge of corruption, or the constitutional power of the Parliament, but it is not warranted in a case like this merely because documents were not made available to honorable members early enough. What result a royal commission could achieve, t do not know. Consequently, I give public notice that I cannot support the move for the setting up of a royal commission.
Reference has been made to lobbying. [ frankly admit that the information that I presented to honorable members was obtained from a gentleman who might be described as a lobbyist. Not one piece of the information that he gave me could be challenged. For knowledge of this subject he has no peer in Australia. To no one better informed than he could one go for information. This man has not uttered one syllable which would tend to prevent the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country. The Attorney-General conceded that point when he referred to lobbying, and exonerated that gentleman.
The problem at the moment is to discover the approximate cost of the ingot. That is disturbing the minds of honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Government proposes to expend £3,000,000 in the establishment of this industry, but honorable members have no knowledge of what the actual cost of “production is likely to be. If that matter were clarified, there would be less opposition to this clause. It is only natural that before I build a house, I want to know what will be put into the building on its completion, and how much it will cost. The matter deserves attention, and there are scientists in Australia who could supply the estimate.
I regret that my second-reading speech was made, in some circles, the medium of violent party political discussion, because I think that I shall be exonerated from having any such intention. I did not utter one syllable of a party political nature, and I am not pleased that my remarks were used in an attempt to discredit everyone on this side of the chamber, whilst giving the greatest possible credit to honorable members opposite. It was never so intended. The enthusiasm of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is understandable. He revealed, the degree of impartiality that one usually discovers in a football barracker. Tasmania fills his vision, and the rest of the world may go by. No honorable member on this side of the chamber said anything against the establishment of the industry in Tasmania. In my . speech, I declared that the logic of the arguments used in favour of it had been generally recognized. Why, then, is this attempt made to ascribe to us motives which are foreign to our nature?’ But that has been done ! From the beginning my idea was to ensure that the industry would be purely Australian and independent, and I adhere to that attitude. I have the assurance of the Ministry that it will investigate my submissions for the purpose of seeing that the industry shall not be in any way associated with interests in other countries.
– Does the honorable member believe in government control of the aluminium industry?
– I have no objection to the industry being controlled by private enterprise. I have yet to discover that private enterprise has failed in conducting any of the major industries. If the aluminium industry were conducted by private enterprise, the Government would not have any responsibility in the matter, and the Parliament would not be perturbed about the expenditure of public money upon it. I do not admit that private enterprise would fail if it were given permission to establish this industry.
– I have not a great deal to say in reply to this discussion, because it is evident that the Government will not accept the amendment. Again, I emphasize that the Government is embarking upon this industry without the investigation that is requisite to the establishment of even a minor industry. I called for the production of documents relating to this proposal, and very reluctantly the Government produced those papers. I refer to the Keast-Hey report. An insufficient number of copies was made available, and when the documents were finally distributed they were remarkable, not for the information that they contained, but for the lack of it. If the Government is acting upon the Keast-Hey report, I can only look upon it as one of the most remarkable exhibitions of all times. My reason for making that statement is that nothing is contained in the Keast-Hey report, other than the capital cost of the undertaking, which would warrant the Government continuing with the enterprise. Again, it is a matter of regret that when the Minister in charge of the bill promised to make available to the House all the documents relating to this project, not a word was said about the existence of a report which had been made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at the request of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). I have a copy of that report, and the introduction to it reads : “ At the request of the Honorable John Beasley, Minister for Supply and Development, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has undertaken the examination of various processes “.
-From what document is the honorable member quoting?
– From the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on an examination of processes submitted for the production of alumina, July, 1942.
– I rise to order. Under the Standing Orders, I call for the document quoted from by the honorable member for Richmond.
– I am prepared to lay the document upon the table.
– The Chairman ruled that it was not competent for the honorable member to do so.
– ‘Order! I inform the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that under Standing Order 317 only a document from which a Minister has quoted may be called for and made a public document.
– That is not provided in the Standing Orders.
– I referred to this document earlier to-day. In some respects, it is contrary to the Keast-Hey report.
– Will the honorable member read the summary of the conclusions contained in the document’)
– Some of the recommendations are as follows: -
The report contains all kinds of data relating to the aluminium industry. Obviously, this report was either shelved or hidden, because when I mentioned the document, it came as a complete surprise to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I do not suggest that the right honorable gentleman knew that the document was in existence. I do not think, that he did. But that, in itself, is evidence of the fact that this project is being rushed on too hastily. Therefore, the Government should reconsider its decision, not for the purpose of stifling this industry, but in order to ensure that the industry shall be founded upon a sound economic basis. I do not think it correct to say that members of the Australian Country party are opposed to the establishment of secondary industries in. Australia, and particularly to the establishment of the aluminium industry. If the evidence is in favour of the launching of this industry, all parties in the House will give it their blessing. On the scanty evidence that has been adduced to date, lt would be difficult to persuade any reasonable body of men to invest their own money in this_ enterprise. I venture to say that no honorable member opposite, if he were invited to contribute to a prospectus based on the documents which the Government has produced, would invest 5s. in it. Yet with all the nonchalance in the world, the Government, proposes to expend £3,000,000 of public money in this venture.
I have asked for the appointment, of a royal commission to investigate a number of aspects of this proposal. I do not know whether there is anything improper about it; I have no direct evidence. But the whole atmosphere must be cleared. Many people believe that certain influences have been brought to bear on the Government to push ahead with this proposal as rapidly as possible, before more light can be shed upon it. The longer it is delayed, the greater will be the danger to them, because more and more people will come to know about it. That is why the Government is endeavouring to rush the bill through this chamber this afternoon. Let the measure wait for two or three months, at the expiration of which many people will possibly know a lot more about the proposal than they do to-day. If they do, the Attorney-General, instead of spending a.n afternoon and evening at the table explaining the bill, will require a couple of weeks to do so, and even then he will not succeed iri dissipating the doubt which surrounds it.
In the course of this debate, I mentioned Mr. W. S. Robinson and certain “other gentlemen. I do not know how far Mr. Robinson’s influence may have prevailed in this matter, but it is quite evident that his influence is a very potent one, because the report upon which the
Government is acting was made, not by officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but by two of his employees. Mr. Robinson sent them to London, and paid their salaries. Mr. Robinson is associated with Collins House and the Baillieu group, in Melbourne. Od the hustings, the Labour party condemns that group, but is tied up with, it secretly. There is no doubt about it. In ant election- campaign, honorable membersopposite tell their constituents about the machinations of the Baillieu; group, but yesterday the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) defended it. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) were most indignant that any word should be said against Mr. Robinson. Time after time, those honorable gentlemen have publicly abused and defamed the men who, it is now revealed, are most influential behind the scenes in the establishment of the aluminium industry. The Government, in effect, has torn up the report of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and adopted that of Mr. Keast and Mr. Hey, who are paid, not from public funds, but from those of the aluminium cartel. Those gentlemen were sent to England, not by the Commonwealth, but by Electrolytic Zinc Limited, of which Mr. Robinson is the head. This measure was drafted on their advice. All the circumstances of the case should deter us from rushing it through the House. The report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research recommended the establishment of an Australian industry equipped. with Australian machinery, but the Government has discarded that proposal in favour of the recommendation of the Robinson group. Honorable gentlemen opposite may laugh this off now, but they will not be able to laugh it off during the next election campaign, nor will they then be able to tell the people, with their tongues in their cheeks, that they are opposed to the Collins House group. Chickens come home to roost !
– The Opposition chickens did not come home to roost after the last election campaign.
– The negative majority of 9,000 votes in the referendum in the Hume electorate make it quite definite that the honorable member for Hume (Mr, Fuller) will not come back to roost here after the next election. There is no need to rush this measure through the House, for aluminium is now in surplus supply. It would be unwise also to establish this industry at this stage because it would make further unwarranted demands upon our manpower resources. If men can be released from the fighting services in order to build the plant that will be needed for this industry, it will be revealed once again that the method of making releases from the Army is completely unsatisfactory. The services of hundreds of technicians, experts, scientists, tradesmen and labourers would be needed to establish this plant. “We all know that it has been impossible to obtain the release from the army of workers required for essential industries in both city and country districts. We need more men than are available in order to meet the needs of our food production industries. If the Government desires to dissipate the atmosphere of suspicion which surrounds this whole project, it should agree to refer the matter to a royal commission or select committee for inquiry. The consequent delay of a few weeks, or even a few months, would not matter in any way.
– Except for the making of one or two interjections, I have listened in silence to the debate on this clause. I am not concerned as to whether the proposal originated with a branch of the Labour party in Collins House, or Toorak. I am concerned about the effect that such an enterprise may have on the taxpayers of Australia. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) seemed to consider that because this was to be a government enterprise, inquiries that would normally be made are unnecessary. Private enterprise can take its own risks. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or some Collins House group, desires to sink £3,000,000 or more in a certain industry that is its business. If the project turns out to be, a fiasco, the investors suffer the consequent loss. If this proposed Government enterprise fails, as certain Government enterprises have failed even during the war, the loss will fall upon the tax payers. I know what happens when government enterprises fail. We all are well aware that estimates of proposed Government undertakings rarely, if ever, prove to be accurate. Costs almost invariably prove to be higher than the estimates. Sometimes the estimated figures are even trebled. That is what is actually happening in connexion with the graving dock at Sydney. I shall be interested to hear the actual cost of that undertaking since the intervention of that delectable body, the Allied Works Council, which was defended so ably, but so unwarrantedly, by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) this morning. I understand that the cost of the graving dock is likely to be three times greater than was estimated, and than it probably would have been had the work been carried out by private enterprise. I remind honorable members of the history of the establishment of another metal industry that was the subject of Government action earlier in the war. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and certain Ministers of the previous government will remember that it was proposed to establish the tinned plate industry at Whyalla but, upon investigation, it was learned that a new process had been invented which reduced the production cost of tinned plate very greatly. The Government therefore delayed action in connexion with this industry in order that proper investigation could be made.
The report of the Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research referred to by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) shows that the same thing has probably occurred in connexion with the aluminium industry, but the Government is not prepared to make any investigations of the subject. It says, in effect, “ There is no need for any investigation now; that can be arranged after Parliament has passed the bill “. I submit that the inquiry should be made and the result of the investigation submitted to the Parliament before the bill is agreed to. In the course of another debate yesterday the Attorney-General brought to our minds a statement by Lord Justice Ewart that nor only must justice be done, but it must be manifest that it is done. I would say that not only must we be satisfied that the right thing is being done in connexion with this industry, but it must be manifest to the taxpayers that it is being done. The Government appears not to be interested in this aspect of the subject. If this industry fails the general taxpayers will suffer. It is a great pity that the Australian Constitution does not make provision for the impeachment of Ministers who pilot projects through Parliament which subsequently involve the taxpayers in heavy and permanent losses. Such honorable gentlemen should not be allowed to retire into private life and leave the taxpayers to suffer the results of faulty administration and legislation. If Ministers could be impeached for acts which amount to irresponsibility, the Parliament would not be called upon to consider so many uneconomic proposals, nor would Ministers be so ready to induce electors to support candidates on the strength of promises that enterprises of advantage to certain electorates would be put in hand. I believe that such promises were made during the last general elections. Probably one of the gains to this Government as the result of such a procedure at the last election was the Denison seat, but if the advantage of ‘having my absent friend, the present honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), in the House ultimately costs the Australian taxpayers £3,000,000 it will be the dearest purchase ever made. The Government should adopt the course suggested by the honorable member for Richmond and refer this whole matter to an appropriate body for proper investigation. If the Government does not see fit to release to the press the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to which the honorable member for Richmond has directed attention, the honorable gentleman should do so himself.
Postponed clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 1899) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill has been introduced as the result of a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments on the Australian Loan Council. The speech of the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) in introducing the measure was notable for its omissions rather than for its contents. The measure, if passed, will have farreaching effects, but it is so highly technical that I am afraid that few honorable members will appreciate its implications. I warn honorable gentlemen, however, that the bill deals with a most serious subject. If they are to discharge their responsibilities to the Australian public as trustees they should take all possible steps to inform themselves fully of what it involves. The underlying purpose of the bill is to validate illegal acts which have followed certain interpretations of the Financial Agreement. Those principles, I submit, constitute sanctity of contract, adherence to the rule of law, the reliability of public accounts, and strict accuracy of financial statements. They are principles of public administration which every public servant should be most jealous to maintain and preserve. The proposals of the bill to validate the operations of the National Debt Commission with reference to sinking fund payments by the States under the financial agreement are, I submit, a direct contravention of those principles and, consequently, are deserving of the strictest censure.
I shall deal with the matter under these three general heads - 1, the inaccuracies and misleading nature of the position as disclosed by the reports and tables of the National Debt Commission ; 2, the degree of censure attachable to those members of the commission who were or should have been cognizant of the breaches that have occurred; and 3, the grave effect of this measure on national integrity and financial stability and responsibility. The matter, I repeat, is most technical; consequently, I am reluctantly compelled to adhere very closely to the notes that I have compiled as the result of extensive research. I recognize my responsibility in connexion with the measure, and impress upon honorable members that they, too, are required to discharge theirs. The financial agreement is embodied as a schedule to Commonwealth Act No. 4 of 1929, and consequently is a statutory agreement, legally binding on the parties thereto, namely, the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the States on the other hand. The authority of the Commonwealth to make such an agreement is derived from section 105a of the Constitution, which was inserted as the result “of a referendum held in 192S. Clause 3 (;) of Part III. of the original financial agreement reads -
In respect of any loan raised after the 30th June, 1 027, by a State or by the Commonwealth for and on behalf of a State to meet a revenue deficit accruing after that date no sinking fund contributions shall be payable by the Commonwealth, but that State shall, for a period sufficient to provide for the redemption of that loan, 3>ay from revenue in each year during such period a sinking fund contribution at a rate of not less than 4 per centum per annum of the amount of that loan. For the purposes of this :Sub-clause the sinking fund contributions of -the State shall be deemed to accumulate at the rate of 4i per centum per annum compounded.
Clause 3 (b) states -
Subject to sub-clauses (fc) and (/) of this clause, in each year during the period of fiftythree years from the date of the raising after the 30th June, 1927, of any new loan by a State or by the Commonwealth for and on behalf of a State, the Commonwealth and that State shall each pay from revenue a sinking fund contribution of a sum equal to 5s. for each £100 of the amount of the new loan.
Restated, that means that a loan raised to meet a revenue deficit accruing after the 30th June, 1927, had to be redeemed by the State concerned, by a sinking fund payment of £4 for each £100 of revenue deficit. To this, the Commonwealth had to contribute nothing. On all other new loans, however, the State had to contribute only 5s. in respect of each £100, and the Commonwealth a like amount. Those have been the legal requirements under the Financial Agreement. During the depression years, the State governments experienced heavy revenue deficits, which vere financed in the first place by advances received from the Commonwealth Government. The Premiers’ plan of April and May, 1931, whilst aiming at a gradual reduction of the deficits of the States, until the balancing of budgets had been attained, decided that in the meantime revenue deficits were to be financed by means of treasury-bills instead of by raising the necessary money on the loan market. Consequently, the revenue deficits of the States, incurred up to and including the financial year 1934-35, and amounting - according to the figures available’ to me- to over £52,000,000, were financed by means of borrowings from the Commonwealth Bank, on the security of Commonwealth treasury-bills. In 1934, the Commonwealth Bank Board stated to the Loan Council that subsequent revenue deficits should be financed by means of loans on the market instead of by treasurybills. Further, it agreed to finance the revenue deficits for 1934-35 only on the condition that treasury-bills for an amount equal to the deficits of all the States were permanently funded out of loans raised on the market during that financial year. The Loan Council, however, by resolution, arranged that the bills funded were those discounted for works purposes only. Such bills were not actually revenue bills, and consequently bore no relation to the actual deficits of the respective States. The sinking fund contribution of £4 in respect of each £100, prescribed by the Financial Agreement, was thus avoided. I agree with the Auditor-General of Tasmania, who, in his report for 1942, commented in these terms -
It would appear that there was a tacit agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to avoid the payment of the £4 per cent, sinking fund on revenue deficits under the financial agreement, and that the Loan Council had also connived in attempting to circumvent its provisions in that respect..
The report contains a table, from which it is ascertainable that over £52,000,000 of these deficits was divided among the States in this way -
Under the terms of the Financial Agreement, the States should have contributed to the National Debt Sinking Fund the sum of £2,087,600 .per annum from 1935 up to the present time. Consequently,. they are liable under the Financial Agreement for sinking fund payments for nine years, amounting to approximately £18,788,400. That is without the compounding of any interest, and it can be accepted as an absolute minimum. But what have they done? They have contributed only £131,300 per annum, or a total of £1,181,700, on the basis of 5s. per cent., on the £52,000,000 for nine years, whereas under the Financial Agreement they should have paid £18,788,400. excluding any interest or adjustments. Consequently, the total short payments by the States up to the 30th June last amount to no less than £17,606,700. The Commonwealth has contributed a total of £1,181,700, on the basis of 5s. per cent., which it was not obliged to pay; because under the Financial Agreement, I repeat, the States should have paid £4 per cent, on the £52,000,000, and the Commonwealth Government should not have paid anything whatever. So far as I have been able to ascertain - the information has not been given to this House, and I have had to engage in research, and to make calculations in order to obtain it ; it may be inaccurate, but it is an absolute minimum - the States owe far more than £20,000,000, which, according to the legal interpretation of the Financial Agreement, they have underpaid. In addition, the Commonwealth has contributed to the National Debt Sinking Fund the sum ox £1,181,700 without adjustments - doubtless it is £1,500,000 to-day- which it need not and should not have paid. According to opinions obtained by the National Debt Commission from four leading counsel, these amounts were illegally withheld by the States, and were unnecessarily paid by the Commonwealth. The case for opinion placed before counsel, and their opinions in regard to this breach of the Financial Agreement, are of vital interest to every honorable member. On the 12th October of last year, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), upon notice, to table them. On the 9th February - almost four months later - the honorable gentleman replied that they were confidential, and would not be tabled. Such important documents should bt available to honorable members and be discussed openly in this House, so that all who so desire may be able to pass judgment on their contents during the debate on this very important and farreaching legislation. It is worthy of note that, since 1934-35, the National Debt Commission has allocated a portion of its current loan flotations for financing the anticipated revenue deficits of the States, and has demanded and received the contribution of £4 per cent, by the States thereon. Consequently, deficits incurred from 1935-36 onward have been dealt with according to the terms of the Financial Agreement ; in other words, according to the legal interpretation and accurate implementation of those terms. Concurrently, the deficits incurred up to 1934-35 have been dealt with in an entirely different manner, in breach of the. Financial Agreement. What justification could there have been for refusing todemand the contribution of £4 per cent, on a revenue deficit of £100 in 1934-35, but enforcing the contribution of £4 per cent, on a deficit of the same amount incurred in, say, 1935-36? The same agreement applies to both cases, yet different contributions are made by the States, the amount of the difference being £3 15s. per £100. Clearly, although they both cannot be right, both bases have been adopted in the compilation of the tables attached to the National Debt Commission’s reports presented to this Parliament for the past nine years. Consequently, I challenge the accuracy of these reports, especially the reports for 1942-43 and 1943-44, which were compiled on the illegal basis, after the opinions of counsel had been in the hands of the National Debt Commission. The report for 1942-43 states in paragraph 12 -
During the depression years, from 1929-30 onwards, abnormal deficits were experienced by all State Governments and the Loan Council arranged to finance these deficits up to and inclusive of the year 1934-35 by means of borrowings from the Commonwealth Bank under the security of treasury-bills.
I challenge the accuracy of this statement, and my authority is the Federal Treasurer himself, who has admitted in Hansard, of the 9 th February, 1944, in answer to a question asked by me upon notice, that deficits of the State of Queensland, from 1929-30 to 1931-32, were financed by that State from cash resources available to the State Government, and were not financed by treasurybills. These deficits amounted in all to £3,640,409 4s. 5d., and Queensland, consequently, was disadvantaged to the extent that this large sum of money did not come within the 5s. per £100 arrangement, although the advantage was conferred on all the other States.
The tables attached to the National Debt Commission’s report for 1943-44 fail to disclose that a legal liability of the States, in respect of contributions short-paid, amounting to approximately £17,606,700, has not been discharged. It fails, also, to disclose that over-payments by the Commonwealth to the amount of at least £1,181,700 have been made under a mistake of law, and probably cannotbe recovered. Is it any wonder that the Commonwealth Auditor-General gave a qualified certificate to that report ? In my opinion, the certificate should have stated that the transactions of the National Debt Commission, as disclosed in the tables, were incorrect, and that the commission had no authority to anticipate the will of this Parliament, by compiling tables on the basis that illegal under-payments had already been validated.
Apart from the inaccuracies which I have mentioned, there appear to be substantial grounds for the statement made by me in this House on the 15th September this year, that there are certain irregularities in State finances, namely, the cloaking of revenue deficits, which have not been revealed to the Commonwealth. The Auditor-General for Tasmania, giving evidence before a select committee appointed to inquire into statements contained in his report for 1942-43, has stated that a portion of the loan balances or trust accounts in that State has been utilized for some years to finance temporarily the revenue deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. He further says that this practice is neither regular nor desirable, but that the possible explanation is that the £4 per cent, contribution would have to be provided under the Financial Agreement. This can only mean that the actual revenue deficit for Tasmania has been greater for some years than has been disclosed to the Commonwealth. The balance has been made up by loan funds on which the State contributes only 5s. per £100. It is apparent that there have been further short-payments by Tasmania to the sinking fund on revenue deficits since 1935, by the use of this device, which the Tasmanian Auditor-General has condemned as illegal.
There are substantial reasons for believing that Queensland has acted in a similar manner. It was stated in the Queensland Parliament on the 24th October this year that various expenditures of the Railways Department have been made for some years out of loan fund, instead of Consolidated Revenue. The total of such payments, which was stated in the House to be over half a million pounds, would consequently affect the State revenue accounts over a period of some years by disclosing smaller revenue deficits than had actually occurred. By this device the Queensland Government would escape further sinking fund contributions at £4 per cent, per annum on the amount of the undisclosed revenue deficits.
On examination, it most probably will be found that the other States have adopted, and are continuing to adopt, the same procedure. In view of the detrimental effect on the sinking fund, I submit that these matters also should be examined by a royal commission, and recommendations made to adjust any anomalies which may be found to exist. Otherwise, in a few years time, it will be found necessary to bring down further amending and validating legislation, with a consequent disruption of the basis on which sinking fund payments are calculated.
It has been stated in.some quarters that the legal position with regard to sinking fund payments by the States has been questioned only within the last year or so. However, since the matter came under my notice, and especially after perusing the qualified certificate of the AuditorGeneral attached to the 1943 report, I have made detailed investigations of this matter. Public documents perused by me reveal that as early as 1930 an opinion was sought by the then Federal Treasurer from the Solicitor-General on a matter which appears to be very material to the present issue. Paragraph 25 of the 1930 report of the National Debt Commission states -
A difference of opinion has arisen between the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth in connexion with the sinking fund contributions payable on loans of £350,000 and £225,000 raised during 1928-29 and 1929-30 respectively. The Commonwealth Treasurer takes the view that these loans were raised to meet revenue deficits accruing after the 30th June, 1927. The State Treasurer considers that these loans were not raised to meet revenue deficits. Legal advice as to the Liability of the State and the Commonwealth in this matter is being sought.
The 1931 report, dealing with the same matter, states -
The Commonwealth Treasurer, acting on the opinion given by the Solicitor-General, takes the view that these loans were raised to meet revenue deficits accruing after the 30th June, 1927, and accordingly has not paid any sinking fund contributions to the commission in respect of the debt. The State Treasurer, on the other hand, considers that these loans were not raised to meet revenue deficits, and has consequently paid to the commission a contribution at the rate of 5s. per cent, instead of the contribution which would be applicable to loans raised for deficit purposes, viz., £4 per centum.
The 1942 report merely indicates that “the matter has now been settled”. Again, in 1935-36 and succeeding years the commission treated sinking fund payments for revenue deficits in two different ways. It exacted the £4 per cent, on those incurred in 1935-36 and subsequently, and required only 5s. per cent, on those incurred in 1934-35 and prior years, although the same agreement was in existence, and the same clause should have applied to both. The present secretary to the commission was also secretary at that period.
In his report for the year 1936-37, the Auditor-General for Tasmania criticized the use of loan moneys, raised for capital works, to finance revenue deficits for indefinite periods, and considered such practice illegal. The Treasurer of Tasmania, in his financial statement for 1938-39, said this on the subject of observance of the terms of the financial agreement with respect to the £4 per cent, contributions by the States -
As explained in thelast financial statement, the whole question was to be put down for discussion at a loan council meeting, after an exchange of the views of all the members of the council. This State’s opinion was definitely in favour of a complete adherence to the terms of the financial agreement, or otherwise of a formal . alteration of the terms of the agreement. However, at the meetings of the Loan Council, in April last, when this matter was brought forward it appeared that no other State had formulated its views on the question, or was even prepared to discuss it. In consequence, no satisfactory debate was possible, or even desired by the other members of the Loan Council, and consideration of the question was adjourned to a later meeting.
The Treasurer of Tasmania was quite right in his view that the terms of the agreement should be either carried out or modified. It is not incumbent on the Federal Treasurer to place himself in the position of auditor - especially as he has highly placed Treasury officials as co-members of the National Debt Commission, and the Auditor-General has given clean certificates as to the transactions of the commission, except as to the last two reports. The Treasurer is also not to be expected to give a legal interpretation of the causes of the financial agreement. That responsibility devolves on the legal members of the commission. Immediately the question as to the legality of sinking fund transactions was brought under my notice, I raised the matter, and the present Treasurer quite properly obtained expert legal opinion. Consequently, I consider that my responsibility and his have been quite properly discharged, and I concede that no criticism can be levelled as to the manner in which successive Treasurers in recent years have discharged their duties in this matter. However. I point out that over £52,000,000 of deficits, the State of New South Wales is responsible for £31,000,000, and all other States combined total only £21,000,000. State finances are at present in a particularly healthy position, largely as the result of increased Commonwealth expenditure on the war. The 1944 report of the Commonwealth Bank Board says of State finances -
The financial statements of most of the State Governments show that revenue is still in excess of expenditure, although some substantial amounts have been allocated to postwar reserves. This is due to heavy war payments by the Commonwealth. Aggregate cash resources of the States are. therefore, continuing to accumulate and have now reached a total of £41,000,000. Discussions are still proceeding regarding the question of devoting a portion of these cash resources towards the permanent redemption of part of the treasurybills taken up by the Commonwealth Bank to finance State deficits in theyears prior to 1934-35. Over £50.000,000 of “these hills are still outstanding. Finance for this purpose is of a short-term character, and it was definitely understood by the bank at the time that the hills wouldbe repaid or funded when circumstances permitted. Substantial cash resources now exist, and the board is of the opinion, as expressed in its report for the year ended the 30th June, 1943j that arrangements should bc made immediately for permanent redemption of a substantial proportion. No permanent redemptions have been made since 1934-35.
The Commonwealth Bank Board’s report for 1943 also made reference to the same matter, as follows: -
Financial statements of the various State Governments indicate that State revenues were substantially in excess of actual expenditure for the year 1942-43. Largely as a result of the war the cash resources of the States have increased to the very substantial figure of approximately £34,000,000 at the 30th June, 1943, and this provides a suitable opportunity for redeeming part of the treasury-bills which were taken up by the Commonwealth Bank to finance State deficits in the years prior to 1934. Over £50,000,000 of these bills are still outstanding, and the board lias made representations that arrangements should now be made for permanent redemption of a substantial proportion of them.
Between the two periods, the cash resources of the States increased by a disclosed amount of £8,000,000. If the Commonwealth Bank Board was concerned when the States had £34,000,000 worth of reserves, how much greater must he its concern to-day when those reserves are more than £41,000,000. Consequently there should be no hardship to the States if they liquidated to the full extent their legal obligations to the sinking fund out of these accumulated funds.
The explanatory notes to this bill indicate that the States have agreed to provide from their cash resources the sum of £7,000,000 only. There is no indication of the proportion to be borne by each State, and there is no clause in the proposed agreement which compels any State to contribute its proportion of this £7.000,000. Moreover, the Commonwealth is making what is tantamount to a free gift to the States of about £1,500,000, and the States with the largest revenue deficits receive the greatest benefit. The Treasurer has not disclosed the respective amounts which each State should legally have contributed under the original financial agreement. Again, no official information has been given to this House of the actual monetary benefit conferred on each State by this amending legislation. The figures that I have used have been obtained by deduction, but are believed to be approximately correct. However, in a matter of such importance,, precise details should be made available to enable adequate informed discussion by members qf this House. The Treasurer has pointed out that the deficits of the States were incurred in abnormal times and that the 4 per cent, contribution would have operated too harshly. The Treasurer could very reasonably ask me what I should have done.
– A very pertinent question.
– Yes. If the States thought that the arrangement into which they entered was too onerous they should have taken steps to have the agreement altered and should not have allowed the arrears to accumulate from 1934-35 until now. Consequently, the anomalous position arises of substantial relief being given to the States, the debtors to the sinking fund, at the most buoyant financial period in their history. They have so much surplus cash available that they have made large contributions to recent Commonwealth loans, on which the Commonwealth is paying 3£ per cent, interest, whilst at the same time the national debt sinking fund is being deprived of contributions which the States are now well able to make. If the States were in such a parlous financial condition in 1934-35 that they could contribute only 5s. per cent, to the sinking fund, why did the National Debt Commission insist on their contributing £4 per cent, for the deficits of ‘the very next year, 1935-36, and succeeding years?
– Did the States pay it ?
– I do not think so.
– They paid it on the deficits incurred from 1935-36 onwards, but not on the arrears.
– Did they discharge their indebtedness.
– They discharged current indebtedness, but not the arrears.
– Not the arrears.
– No, nothing so generous or national as that.
– Who was Federal Treasurer then?
– I have forgotten. He may have been Mr. Theodore for all 1 know.
I do not assert that the present contribution of £18,000,000 to the sinking fund would make that amount immediately available to the Commonwealth. However, a practically equivalent sum would be indirectly available for war purposes. The Government is straining every financial resource to the utmost - taxation has reached saturation level, loans are being floated with increasing difficulty, and bank credit is being drawn upon to an almost unheard of and dangerous extent. Consequently any repayment of loans by means of the sinking fund must operate to make more money indirectly available to the Commonwealth, and any liberality whereby the sinking fund is starved is misplaced and inopportune at a time when the debtors are well able to contribute. If the whole of the £18,000,000 were contributed, the States would still have- at lea3t £23,000,000 of accumulated cash resources remaining to them.
I direct attention to an important matter raised by the Auditor-General of Tasmania in 1942. He said : -
The Commonwealth and all the States entered into an honorable undertaking with Sir Otto Niemeyer in 1030 to publish monthly statements of accounts for the guidance of British bondholders. These statements of accounts have been published monthly ever since, but it can be quite properly maintained that they are collectively inaccurate and misleading since they omit obligations which should be discharged, amounting to nearly £2,000,000 a year, not including the Commonwealth. How far this position is morally defensible apart from any question of legality, it is for honorable members to judge.
That report should be taken to heart by this House. This matter is not one of ordinary routine, but is of great importance, and goes to the very root of the sanctity of contracts, the observance of rules of law, and the presentation of accurate public documents. The position, of the States financially was never so buoyant as it is to-day. The States owe about £20,000,000 to” the national debt sinking fund by virtue of an agreement into which they entered with the Commonwealth Government. They have not discharged their responsibilities. I should not be averse to a modification of the terms of the agreement, if the rate of 4 per cent, was too onerous in view of the difficulties which the States encountered, but the compromise made by the Treasurer, and the agreement which we are asked to validate, is too liberal altogether. The Treasurer should be associated with the Liberal party; he is the most liberal nian that I have met for many a day. The States must accept their responsibility for the effects of this legislation. Any adverse effects upon confidence in the Commonwealth’s financial operations must be laid at their door. Whilst the agreement into which they entered may have proved onerous, they should have approached the matter in the proper way. The amplication of the remedy should not have been delayed until ‘a liability of £20,000,000 had accumulated. The proposal of the Treasurer -to give these concessions to the States, in. view of the financial responsibilities of the Commonwealth, is ridiculous in the extreme.
Under the, terms of the Financial Agreement, the States should have contributed yearly to the National Debt Sin-kins: Fund, from 1935 to the present day, the sum of £2,087,600. At the rate of £4 per cent, for nine years, that is a total of £18,-788,400. _ Hut the States actually paid, on a basis of 5s. per cent., an amount of £131,000 yearly, with the result that to the 30th June last, the amount of underpayment was £17,606,700. Even that is an understatement of the real sum, but I have not the facilities to enable me accurately to calculate the figure. At present, I am dealing with principles, and the exact amounts can be ascertained subsequently. I am positive that with interest compounded, -this amount will aggregate more than £20,000,000. Apart from what the States have underpaid, the Commonwealth has overpaid a total of £1,181,700. When certain adjustments are made, that amount may be nearly £1,500,000.
What will the States do under the new agreement? They will pay yearly 15s. per cent, on £43,000,000, amounting to £322,635. At £4 per cent, the yearly sum would be £1,720,000 and the difference t.o the advantage of the States is £.1,398.000. In order to effect the compromise, the States have been asked and have agreed to contribute £7,000,000 from their cash reserves.
For the payment of £7,000,000, the States are released from their present obligation to pay arrears amounting to nearly £20,000,000 and the Commonwealth makes a gift to them of £1,181,000. Over the next 39 years, the States will contribute only £332,635 a year, and will receive a benefit of £1,398,000 a year. Of course, that advantage will not accrue over the whole 39 years, because the other obligation will have expired. What is the position of the Commonwealth? The total liability in respect of revenue deficit loans is to be taken at £43,018,000 ; that is, after the States pay £7,000,000 and the Sinking Fund contributes £3,000,000. Incidentally, the Sinking Fund contribution of £3,000,000 will be made unnecessarily, because the Commonwealth is not obliged to contribute. It is prepared to do so for the purpose of effecting this compromise, and the States will be relieved of their liability to pay £20,000,000. I emphasize that the Commonwealth is under no legal obligation to make that concession until this Parliament passes the bill.
Under the new agreement the States will contribute 15s. per cent., or a total of £322,000 per annum, in future. The Commonwealth will contribute 5s. per cent, or one quarter of the debt. In 39 years, the Commonwealth Government, in order to relieve the States of the debt of £20,000,000, will contribute at least £10,000,000. What a ridiculous agreement! If this House has a proper appreciation of its responsibility, it will not pass this bill.
The original Financial Agreement aimed at the liquidation of revenue deficit loans in seventeen years by the contribution of £4 per cent. But the only contributions made were 5s. per cent, by the Commonwealth and 5s. per cent, by the States. Under that arrangement, the liquidation of the debts would take 53 years. The present proposal for a contribution of £1 per cent., of which the Commonwealth Government will find 5s. per cent., will take 39 years to liquidate the debt. Whilst that term is fourteen years less than the term under the other arrangement, it must be remembered that it is 22 years more than was originally contemplated. The
National Debt Commission made the following comment upon this contemplated adjustment of the agreement: -
The financial agreement provides that loans for revenue deficits should amortize in a much shorter period, namely, seventeen years, than that which is provided for in the case of ordinary loans, which is 63 years. Such a distinction is sound in principle.
Of course, it is sound in principle! These funded debts should have a far shorter .currency than an ordinary loan on the market. A period of seventeen years under the original arrangement is being converted into a period of 39 years, and the rate has been altered from £4 per cent, to £1 per cent., of which the Commonwealth, in order to effect this ridiculous arrangement, will contribute 5s. per cent. Even if the under payments were validated up to the present, future payments should not be so small as to depart from the sound principle enunciated in the original Financial Agreement that revenue deficit loans should be liquidated in a comparatively short period.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the rate should be 4 per cent.?
– Yes. I would be prepared to “ wipe off “ a part of the accumulated responsibility, but the whole matter should be the subject of a searching investigation.
– Does not this arrangement give a disproportionate benefit to New South Wales?
– Of course it does! The- debts of the States total £52,190,000, and of that amount New South Wales owes £31,925,000. The shorter the the period for redeeming the debt, the greater will be public confidence in the Commonwealth’s financial operations in future.
– Does not the National Debt Commission accept this proposal?
– I do not know. If the commission does accept the proposal, it has no right to do so. If the Commonwealth desires to retain the confidence of investors, the remedy lies in its own hands by making future sinking fund contributions by the States in respect of revenue deficit loans adequate to comply with the principle embodied in the original Financial Agreement. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, in entering into a compromise with the States, to ensure that public confidence shall be retained. In conjunction with the States, the Commonwealth has decided that the period for liquidating the debt shall be 39 years. Results alone can show whether the Government has committed an error of judgment by not insisting on a shorter period and a better compromise generally with the States. [Extension of time granted.~
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Having regard to all the circumstances of the case and to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for our national solvency, I consider that the arrangement that is now being proposed is ridiculous and should not be approved. I do not consider that the States have played their part in helping to finance the national war effort. By reason of accumulated deficits alone over the last nine years, they owe to the Commonwealth £52,000,000. The Commonweatlh, in fact, has guaranteed the States to this vast amount, of which no less than 31,925,000 is due from New South Wales. The States have not observed their contractual obligations in regard to the liquidation of public debts, for they are liable for the payment of an amount in excess of £20,000,000. It is now proposed that, by the payment of £7,000,000 from the States, and £3,000,000 from the sinking fund, the States shall be relieved of this responsibility. And the short-term treasurybills which have been issued to cover this position and which should be repaid in seventeen years will be substituted by debentures with a currency of 39 years.
These proposals, from the point of view of the Commonwealth, are not only over generous, but quixotic. Why is this compromise being made? I believe it is because the Government considers it necessary in order to maintain confidence in the financial integrity of the Commonwealth. I do not say that there is any suggestion of repudiation in this bill, but the arrangement must be viewed in the light of its probable effect on future loan raisings by the Commonwealth. We all know that, in respect of past loan raisings, definite fund obligations have been entered into. The States have not properly observed these conditions, and one of the purposes of this measure is to validate past remissness in this connexion and to put future contributions on a new footing. The suggestion that short-term loans should be for a term of 39 years instead of seventeen years, as hitherto, is not likely to do the nation’s credit any good.
Not only has the Commonwealth agreed to the conditions that- 1 have already outlined, but it is also proposing that in the future the national authority shall accept a responsibility for 5s. of the contribution which, in the past, the State governments have been under obligation to make to the National Debt Sinking Fund. This subject should bt considered calmly, having in mind the best interests of future financial operations in the Commonwealth. Not long ago, the Treasurer submitted to us a budget which included provisions for an expenditure of £343,000,000 to be financed by treasury-bills. Some treasurybills have been issued to meet discount obligations to the Commonwealth Bank; but still others have been issued which bring the total to £457,000,000.
The people of Australia are being taxed to the maximum degree. In fact, taxation is beginning to defeat the end it is designed to serve. The Government has relied to a considerable degree in the past on obtaining money through voluntary loans. It has expected the people to contribute to loans by reason of their patriotism, but I am sure that the Treasurer has been sorely disappointed by the public response to the appeals that have been made. It must be remembered, too, that tax payments up to the 31st June last were £33,000,000 in arrears. The leeway caused by the lack of adequate response to loan appeals has to be made up by the convenient but dangerous method of bank credit or inflation, but notwithstanding the huge amount of bank credit which this Government has used in the last two or three years, it is now offering to the States, most of which have buoyant revenues, a compromise of an astounding character. The States are being invited to throw off a financial responsibility of £20,000,000 in respect of contributions to sinking funds by means of a payment which is totally inadequate. The States already owe the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission £20,000,000 under the Financial Agreement. It may be argued that the terms of that agreement were onerous and, in fact, impossible; but that point should have been determined long ago. The fact remains that, at the moment, the States owe the Commonwealth Bank £52,000,000, and according to the board they have owed it for too long.
A strange circumstance arises here, however, for the States have had money with which they could have paid at least part of this large indebtedness, and they have loaned such money to the Commonwealth at ‘6 per cent. The benevolent Commonwealth Government, which is straining its financial resources to the utmost degree, calmly accepts this situation and, at the same time, agrees to contribute a quarter of the amount which the States are under obligation to pay to sinking funds. In spite of this the Treasurer has the audacity - and I use the word advisedly - to ask us to endorse this compromise. How can we believe that everything is safe and well in Australia in the circumstances which I have outlined? This compromise, is ridiculous and to be deplored. It is particularly deplorable that the Government of New South Wales is to be excused from, paying a proportion of the £31,000,000 which it is under obligation to pay, and that the amount is to be funded and the repayments spread over 39 years.
Without being under any legal obligation whatsoever to do so, the Commonwealth is making large financial contributions to the , States. In the circumstances, every member of the House should realize his responsibilities of trusteeship to the people. Australia is still at war. Undoubtedly we shall be obliged to expend additional’ huge sums in connexion with the war effort. Where, I ask, is the vigilance committee which should be watching the financial interests of the nation ? The compromise which is being proposed in connexion with the amount of £52,000,000, which the States owe to the
Commonwealth by reason of temporary financial accommodation, should be liquidated in a proper way. The temporary accommodation has already lasted for nine years, and, under this ridiculous agreement, it is being proposed that it shall continue for another 39 years. The Commonwealth has neither a legal nor a moral obligation to pay any part of that huge sum. The trustees of the people in this House are entitled to know what are the definite and frank views, first, of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission, and, secondly, of the Commonwealth Bank Board. (Further extension of time granted.’] I hate to have to say that no vigilance is exercised in this country in regard to financial responsibility. The government is being financed mathematically. There are three elements in finance. The first is direct taxation. If the war could be financed day by day by means of taxation, that would be the sensible and safe method to adopt; bat our capacity in that direction has been strained to the utmost, and there is now no margin with which to meet the requirements of the nation. Consequently, appeal must be made to the patriotic section of the people to provide funds by means of loans, and the deficiency that then remains has to be met by means of bank credit. Taxation defeats its own purposes after it has reached a certain level. At the 30th June last, the amount outstanding in uncollected taxes was £33,000,000. What has been the history of loan raisings, particularly in connexion with the last three or four loans? J do not want to disclose the information that I have on the subject. The same people are contributing to loans over and over again. There have been increases of savings hank and trading bank deposits, as well as of the note issue. This is definite evidence that the people are not responding as they should. The savings, bank deposits have increased by £270,000,000, and the deposits in the trading banks by more than £200,000,000. The trading banks have contributed to the Government £1S’7,000,000 of J per cent, wartime and special deposits by virtue of regulations and controls. The note issue has increased by more than 600 per cent, since the beginning of the war. This benevolent Government, while practising dangerous doctrines in relation to finance, is allowing the States, withbuoyant revenues and accumulated cash resources aggregating £41,000,000 as debtors, to lend money to their creditor at 3£ per cent. The Commonwealth Treasurer, as the custodian of the financial destiny of Australia, has agreed to this compromise in return for the payment by the States of £7,000,000 off their liability of £53,000,000. The Administration has no sense offinancial responsibility. This nation is devoid of that financial vigilance which a nation at war should have.
.- I oppose this amendment of the Financial Agreement, for reasons that are rather different from those that have been advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), although I agree fully with them. I look more to the future than to the past, and am much more worriedin that respect. To my mind, this amendment will place in the Constitution a permanent blot on our national credit. I say in all seriousness that if that be done, it will damage for all time the confidence that should repose in the financial administration of Australia. It has been suggested that the bill should be allowed to pass quietly, so that our creditors may not hear of the fraud that we are perpetrating on them. But whatwe are doing cannot be hidden. It may be concealed in the Parliament, but ultimately it will be shouted from the housetops, and will form the basis of permanent attacks on Australian credit by those who are hostile to us. In the 1920’s and1930’s, there were instances of combined attacks on our credit by powerful interests which had nothing substantial to grasp. “We now propose to place a weapon in the hands of those who may be similarly minded in the future, because, every year, this alteration will be published in the Commonwealth YearBook and will advertise our shame and disgrace. Because of the Financial Agreement, our Constitution is studied by every political and financial thinker who is interested in Australian development. Surely we should not embody this in the Constitution, and thus proclaim openly to the world that the ‘Commonwealth Parliament has connived with the State parliaments in retrospectively validating a fraud on the National Debt Sinking Fund ! I shall not be a party to such an action, but shall vote against the bill at every stage. I cannot understand its having been proposed by the Government, because the amount annually at stake isrelatively so small as to be insignificant, compared with what is being expended in other directions. The sum that would be needed to correct the position is less than one-half of the amount which the Government proposes to devote to the provision of free medicine in this country. This is being done at a time when State revenues, which should be making the necessary provision, are more buoyant than they have been previously in the history of Australia. The results expected by the Government will not be obtained. In ten years, the consequence of this will be so to have damaged the credit of Australia that increased rates of interest will have to be paid on money that we shall need for new development or the conversion of existing loans, and in that way we shall lose every year many times the amount that the Government is a ttempting to save by this subterfuge. The budgets of the States are being relieved of a commitment at the expense of the National Debt Sinking Fund. If ever the sinking fund should be increased to the maximum amount, it will be when we have to face the conversion of the huge debt that we have incurred during the war. A loan of £100,000,000 that will fall due next year will have to be renewed in London. Already that has been soiled by the retrospective action taken in 1930, when a departure was made from the terms of the prospectus under which it had been issued. Later, I shall quote a speech delivered in this House in that connexion by the present Chief Justice of Australia. Sir John Latham, in which he expressed his opinion of the action then taken. Because of our future financial commitments, and the dependence of Australia’s development upon our ability to raise many millions of pounds of new money, we cannot afford to stamp ourselves as a. nation which would make a contract and years later retrospectively validate a breach of it. Australia is faced with the conversion of a huge debt, and the raising of new money for a developmental programme as soon as the war ends. It is important that we shall have a most abundant sinking fund, in order that we may keep the market right and make certain that the terms on which the money is raised shall not be onerous. At the 30th June, 1944, our present war debt was £1,360,000,000, the Commonwealth works debt was £116,000,000, and the States debts aggregated £891,000,000, a total of £2,367,000,000. At the end of the last war, the debts were approximately: War £327,000,000, Commonwealth, works £20,000,000, and States £547,000,000, a total of £894,000,000. Since the 30th June last, another loan of £160,000,000 has been raised. Consequently, the debt to-day is approximately £1,500,000,000 greater than.it was at the end of the last war. All of those debts will have to be either paid off or converted during the next few years, because of the terms under which they were borrowed. All members will thus see how important it is that we should raise rather than lower the standard of Australian credit. Cheap money for the farmer, for power projects, for transport, and for other developmental undertakings, is absolutely essential to the future life of Australia. Therefore, it is imperative that we should keep our credit as high as possible, so as to ensure that we shall be able to raise what we shall need at reasonable rates.
The history of the passage of the Financial Agreement is worth recalling. That, agreement was approved sixteen years ago by the people of Australia by a majority of four to one. It represents the only reform of the Commonwealth Constitution that has taken place in our history, and it was made in the face of intense opposition from certain of the States and from the Labour party in the federal sphere. Yet to-day every financial thinker agrees that the unification of the national control effected by the agreement enabled Australia to deal with the serious problems caused by the depression, and has been of incalculable value during the war in coordinating the work of the various governments. It is worth remembering that after that referendum was carried by a four to one majority in every State the Federal Labour party in this Parliament tried in March, 1939, to defeat th, people’s will by seeking to prevent the validation of the agreement which had been ratified by all the State parliaments. In that, the Labour party acted in tinsame way as it did after the recent referendum when, by subterfuge, ii sought to thwart the people’s will. The war debt after the last war amounted to £327,000,000, and all the money was borrowed for terms varying from five to sixteen years. Thus, the loans fell due for conversion between 1920 and 1929. The money had been raised during a period of patriotic fervour, and interest on the loans was tax free. The highest rate of interest paid was 4^ per cent. During the ten years that followed the conclusion of the war, this huge sum of money had to be converted when patriotic fervour had died down, and people had other uses for their money. Nevertheless, it was converted, and on the understanding that the interest would be taxable. It was a Labour government that had introduced the system of tax-free loans, so that the rich man who had put his money into government stock paid practically no tax at all, whilst the poor man paid heavily in indirect taxation. During the depression, another Labour government again introduced the system of tax-free loans. That was the second time that the Labour party had so offended. It must never be given a third opportunity. During the same period that these loans were being converted after the last war, it was necessary to raise money for the States for developmental purposes. I called the Stat* Treasurers together, and pointed out that the only way in which it could be done was to form a Treasurer’s union, in which there would be no “ scabs “. For several years I was able to get all th, Treasurers, whether Labour or nonLabour, to abide by a common policy of loan raising. In the end, the only “ scab “ was the Labour Premier of New South Wales. We were able to coordinate borrowing, first in Australia, then in foreign countries, and finally in London. :So successful were the operations of this voluntary Loan Council, that when the people were asked in 1928 to give it constitutional authority, they agreed by a four to one majority, despite Labour opposition. We established our credit by including in every loan prospectus the terms of our sinking fund provisions. The first thing the Labour Government did when it came into office in 1930 was to raid the sinking fund, the explanation offered being that I had paid into the sinking fund for the redemption of debts £14,000,000 of surplus revenue over and above what was required by law.
– What year was that ?
– That was in 1930.
– Was that the year when the right honorable member’s government gave away the Commonwealth Line of Steamers ?
– We did not give away the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. In what we did we acted on the advice of Mr. E. Anstey, who was deputy leader of the Labour party. The terms of the Sinking Fund Agreement are included in every loan prospectus and in every report of the Sinking Fund Commission, so that all prospective investors in our loans may know the conditions attaching to their investments. What was the position before this was done? When Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland, went to the United States of America to borrow money, the investors demanded that he create a sinking fund of 1 per cent., and that the money be invested according to the terms laid down by them. When the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, went to London to raise money, the investors there insisted upon the same condition. However, because we had created a Commonwealth Sinking Fund, we were never asked by the investors to do anything more than was provided in our own legislation. This was sufficient guarantee for investors in America and England. As a result, our credit has always stood high. The terms of the Financial Agreement are published in. the Commonwealth Year-Book as a monument to the honesty and good faith of the Australian people, and their determination to pay their debts in full. Now the Government is conniving at an attempt to break the contract entered into with investors in Government loans. The Treasurer may do what he chooses in regard to future loans, but we cannot afford to break a contract into which we have already entered. Let us not forget that Australia was one of the few countries which stood up to its obligations during the depression. When Mr. Lang defaulted in respect of the payments due on the debts of New South Wales, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility and paid in full. Now. for the sake of £1,290,000 - less than half of what the Government proposes to expend on providing free medicine for the people - it is proposed to sell our national credit down the river. It is a scandalous proposal, and Parliament should not accept it. The people look to the Commonwealth Government to safeguard their investments in Government securities. During this war, they have drawn their savings out of the bank and invested them in war savings certificates and £10 war bonds, in the belief that the existing standard of financial rectitude would be maintained. We have practically made of war bonds negotiable instruments, and investors can obtain their full value from any stockbroker. Why has it been possible to maintain the value in this way? Because of the sinking fund contributions, amounting to £20,000,000 a year, enable the Commonwealth to be always in the market as a buyer of Commonwealth bonds. We have always told the public that if a lender wants his money quickly he will have no trouble in getting it. Now it if proposed to break our contract with the investors. As the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pointed out, Queensland, which has been able to invest nearly £8,000,000 in war loans, is proposing to destroy our national credit for the sake of saving £63.000 a year. We must straighten this matter out, so that we shall not be compelled to admit our dishonour, our shame, our fraud and our default.
– Who is suggesting that we shall be guilty of those things?
– This bill does more than suggest it. One of the proposed’ amendments provides that, instead of paying £4 per cent, into the sinking fund in respect of revenue deficits, as was provided in the original agreement, the States shall pay only 15s. per cent., and the Commonwealth Government 5s. per cent. This is a direct invitation to every State government to think that the Financial Agreement really does not stand at all and that they can do what they like and get into any mess because the Commonwealth Government will clean it up for them. I should not mind that arrangement so much if the States could not afford to pay this money, but they cab. This places the bar sinister on the fair escutcheon of Australian credit. Does any one say that Tasmania cannot afford to pay £33,000 a year to keep itself clear of financial taint? Every one knows that if Tasmania, “Western Australia or South Australia made its full contribution and thereby got into financial difficulty, it could place its case before the Commonwealth Grants Commission and, on the ground of undue hardship, obtain Commonwealth funds to compensate it.Why, therefore, should this taint be placed on the fair name of Australia? In order to make sure that every one shall know about it, the Government has spread this shameful amendment over three or four pages. In one paragraph there is provision for the application by the National Debt Commission of £3,000,000 to the repurchaseor redemption of securities issued in respect of special deficit loans of the States. In another paragraph there is mention of another £7,000,000. Not even the right honorable member for Darling Downs, who is an accountant, is clear as to where that will come from. That reduces the amount by a total of £10,000,000. leaving a balance of about £43,000,000. The suggested arrangement is that this £43,000,000 should be funded and a special sinking fund of 1 per cent, contributed by the States. The States will make an annual contribution of £430,000 for 39 years. If the States paid the full 4 per cent, on £43,000,000, their annual contribution would be £1,720,000 for the next thirteen years. The immediate difference between the two amounts is £1,290,000, a paltry amount for thesake of which we are about to besmirch our reputation for ever. I know that the Treasurer tried to meet the States with goodwill, but they should have been met not with goodwill, but with the law as it stands and a demand that it be observed. The Government, however, gave in to the States, which have broken the law, in the same way as it has given in to the coal miners, slaughtermen and wharf labourers. It is afraid to insist upon the maintenance of the law and the observance of the contract. This bill, which will be a permanent stain on Australia’s financial credit, is also a confession by the Government of its cowardice and incompetence. It ought to have said to the States, “ The Financial Agreement cannot be altered by any subterfuge “. The Commonwealth Parliament is the watchdog for the people who subscribe to war loans. At each loan we have 500,000 or 600,000 subscribers from every section of the community. If the interest rates on Commonwealth bonds rise, up will go rents, power development costs,prices of goods, in fact, the cost of everything. It will be a scandal if we end this war and start the peace with the repudiation which is contained in this bill. I trust that the House will reject the measure and that the Treasurer will go back to the States and say that the Commonwealth Parliament for once is unanimous that the credit of Australia, must not be impaired.
– The House has had the advantage of two speeches, one by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and one by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), which deserve the close and earnest consideration of this Parliament. The bill before the House does a variety of things in connexion with the Financial! Agreement, but the major matter dealt with is the one that has been debated by the right honorable gentlemen in their important and informed speeches. Later in the bill, there is a provision, a relatively minor one compared with the one that has been debated. I refer to paragraph 5 of the amending agreement -
Nothing has been said about that to-day, but, as honorable gentlemen will see, the question that had arisen as to what is the true interpretation of the original Financial Agreement was whether it provided that the payment to the sinking fund in the case of overseas borrowing was to vary with the current rate of exchange or was fixed by the mint par of exchange of 1927. On that matter one can very much appreciate that a difference of opinion may have existed. It is, therefore, proposed that the agreement shall be so amended as to make it clear that the payment is on the basis of the mint par of exchange at 1927. I merely refer to that in passing.
I now turn to the question of whether the agreement should be amended. I shall deal with it briefly, because I do not desire to repeat what has been said extremely well by previous speakers. We have seen, as we have followed the consideration of this Financial Agreement, that the selection of the rate of exchange payment to this sinking fund was made with some judgment in the first instance. The sinking fund of 4 per cent, to be provided by the State concerned for revenue deficits was wisely chosen because, had the position been that revenue deficits could be accommodated on the same basis as ordinary loan raising, there would have been a very marked inducement to the State to run into deficits, because the State would have been able to say : “ If there is a revenue deficit, half of the sinking fund on it will ibc found by the Commonwealth.” But the agreement said : “ No ; you must have a sinking fund and it must be a sinking fund which will deal with these deficits within seventeen years.” ‘So, for revenue deficits, a 4 per cent, sinking fund was established and, for other-borrowings, 10s. per cent., with 5s. per cent, provided by the Commonwealth. That, of course, was all right up to a point. Then the depression occurred, and there can be :uo doubt that in the depression the governments found themselves with deficits. The States, in particular, found themselves with very large and growing deficits, and it was pointed out at that time, I assume - I do not speak with :first-hand knowledge - that, in those circumstances, the payment of 4 per cent. on revenue deficits was a very heavy burden for the States. I assume that it was pointed out. It may not have been. It is a little difficult at this time to suppose that the terms of the Financial Agreement, so fresh in the minds of the Treasurers and Treasuries, could have been overlooked. In 1935-36, a period of which I have some recollection, because I was the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, the agreement once more came up for enforcement, and a contribution of 4 per cent, was obtained, but, in the meantime, as we have learned from the facts in this case, the States had had deficits provided for by treasury-bill accommodation to the amount of a little over £50,000,000, and, on that amount, they had for a period of nine years made a contribution Qf 5s. per cent. instead of £4 per cent., thus enjoying all the while, as the Leader of the Australian Country party said in his very able speech on this matter, a benefit of 33 per cent, in their sinking fund. Then, at a later stage, the Commonwealth and the States . apparently met, and it seems to me, looking at that very brief summary of the facts, that the practical problem that they had before them was this: The Commonwealth could say, “ All right, as for that, you are now in a position to pay your full 4 per cent, and you must do so, and, in that event, the contract will have been completely performed “, or, if the Commonwealth were in the position, it could say, “ We do not propose to ask you to make your full contribution; we prefer to vary the Financial Agreement.” On that, I can see quite a few considerations. It is quite true that the States have enjoyed very buoyant revenues in the last, few years. It is equally true, of course, that some of their expenditure has yet to come home to roost, particularly, for example, on the railways. But, nevertheless, putting that possibility to one side, as the right honorable gentleman has pointed out from the report of the Commonwealth Bank Board, the States have accumulated cash reserves, very largely assembled during these war years, totalling £41,000,000. So that they have all the advantages of the period of the amendment amounting to £40,000,000 to set off against the period of difficulty in the depression years, which involved them in a total deficiency of £50,000,000. That was the problem, and what we have to consider is the weight of the argument on each side.
The Treasurer stated that the real course to pursue is to forgive the States a certain proportion of the contribution that they did not make, and in relation to the future, to alter the Financial Agreement so that there shall be a sinking fund of 1 per cent, instead of 4 per cent, on this total deficiency. As a matter of ordinary bargaining between the Commonwealth and the States if there were no Financial Agreement made under such notoriety, I should be disposed to regard that as being a pretty reasonable and practical arrangement, because I do not believe that this surplus possessed by the States is in any sense a net surplus. In the next few years, the States will encounter expenditure of a semi-capital kind. So, if it were not for the Financial Agreement, I should be rather disposed to say, “ This is a bargain, and it may be argued one way or the other, but on the whole there is substance in it”.
The real difficulty was pointed out by the right honorable member for Cowper. Since the Financial Agreement was made we have issued loans both abroad and in Australia. I do not know, and [ should welcome some information from the Treasurer when he replies, as to how far it has been a consistent practice in the prospectuses of those loans to refer to the terms of the Financial Agreement and, in particular, to the sinking fund provisions of the Financial Agreement. No doubt the Treasurer will be able to inform the House on that matter. But” I do know that, whatever may be said anywhere else, the right honorable member for Cowper was completely right when he said that the Financial Agreement represents a major element in the public credit of Australia, because it conveyed to all those who had dealings with Australia a feeling that there was joint responsibility as well as several responsibility for borrowing. Therefore, the real choice is between the making of an arrangement which would be a good practical arrangement but for the Financial Agreement, and the preservation of an agreement which is the very substratum of our national credit. . Having listened with very great interest to the speeches made during the course of this debate, I subscribe entirely to th’e views stated by the right honorable member for Cowper. He said something that, to me, is very striking. The States are* being forgiven a certain amount of money. In other words, they are to pay on account of these arrears, only a certain proportion; but the difference between a complete performance of the Financial Agreement in its letter as well as in. its spirit, and the compromise proposal which is now put forward, is only £1,250,000. It appears to me to be far from sensible, indeed, entirely foolish, at a time when the national budget runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, to be impairing a great national instrument for the sake of an annual sum of £1,250,000. The gain just is not worth the candle. If there is one thing which has been abundantly demonstrated in thi* debate, it is that fact; and for that reason, I agree entirely with the right honorable member for Cowper.
– 3 direct attention to one aspect which has not been touched on, certainly not in any detail, by other speakers and which the House should examine, in order to get an idea of how this problem affects the relative positions of the various States. For some time, Victoria has complained that the Commonwealth’s financial policy is operating very lopsidedly and inequitably as between the two financially strongest States, Victoria and New South Wales. The present proposal shows up in even sharper relief the relative disadvantage which Victoria now experiences by contrast with the position of New South Wales.
Earlier this week, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) for figures showing collections made in the various States under the uniform tax legislation. My principal purpose now is to show how sharply the present scheme is discriminating; in. favour of New South Wales and against the interests of Victoria. I exclude for the purposes of this illustration central office figures which, I am told, cannot be apportioned between the States, but which for the purposes of this discussion do not bear any great relevancy. I shall quote the collections from the offices in New South Wales and Victoria. In the financial year 1942-43, New South Wales contributed 46,000,000 and received £11,000,000, whilst Victoria contributed £34,000,000 and received £5,000,000. The proportions there will be abundantly clear to honorable members. In 1943-44, New South Wales contributed £59,000,000 and received £15,000,000, whilst Victoria contributed £44,000,000 and received £6,000,000. So it will be seen that in proportion, Victoria received by way of compensation under the uniform tax scheme substantially less than New South Wales did. This perpetuates one of the original injustices created by the uniform tax legislation, because Victoria has relied to a greater degree than has New South Wales on indirect taxation, and, prior to the introduction, of the uniform tax legislation, maintained a comparatively lighter scale of income tax than did New South Wales. The result is that the introduction of the uniform tax has been to the disadvantage of Victoria.
The bill now before the House, rather than remedying in any way this lopsided position, tends to give a considerable added advantage to New South Wales. The total deficits of the States covered by this arrangement is £52,000,000, and of that amount, New South Wales owed £32,000,000 and Victoria owed £5,500,000. It is clear that, if the States, instead of making an annual payment of 4 per cent, for the purpose of reducing the deficits, have the figure reduced to 15s. per cent., the State which has the greatest deficit will benefit accordingly. On its debt of £32,000,000, New South Wales would have been required to pay annually £1,280,000. Victoria, on its debt of £5,500,000, would have been required to pay £220,000. By this proposal, the States will be called upon to pay 15s. per cent., and New South Wales will pay only £80,000- a net saving of £1,200,000. Victoria will pay £13,750 - a net saving of £206,250.
– Then what is the honorable member complaining about?
– By this rather happy approach, New South Wales will be £1,200,000 better off in the year, but Vic toria will be only £206,000 better off. Instead of New South Wales being required to make a greater contribution towards reducing the deficits which have been incurred, its burden has been lightened to a substantial degree. If should not go without comment that a considerable percentage of caucus, including the Treasurer - I do not impute anything unsavoury to him - consists of members representing constituencies in New South Wales. One can imagine that it would not have been an uncongenial task for the Treasurer and his parliamentary supporters to agree to a scheme which gives to New South Wales this very considerable benefit. That is looking at it from the standpoint of New South Wales, but the criticism that has been directed by those honorable gentlemen on this side of the House who analysed the bill has been that this measure takes away something from the credit and financial standing of the Commonwealth. It is a sorry circumstance that in doing so, the proposal confers substantial financial benefits on the State whose own financial record has done more than that of all other States to weaken the financial standing of the Commonwealth. The reckless financial regime of Mr. J. T. Lang, in the twenties and thirties of this century, created the first doubts of the stability of our credit structure. During the depression years New South Wales incurred deficits totalling £32,000,000, indicating the extent of the drift in the finances of that State. As the result of this, the prudent States are to pay a penalty, and are called upon to help to finance indefinitely the extravagant expenditure of the prodigal State. This is a matter which should not pass without comment in this chamber. As to whether it was a factor influencing th«Government in introducing this legislation, I leave the House to form its own judgment. But I contend that it is an additional circumstance pointing to the unfair operation of the policy of the Commonwealth at the present time. That policy should be overhauled at the earliest possible moment, in order to ensure a proper measure of equity and preserve .the true relationship which should exist between the States.
.– in reply - I do not propose to deal with this highly technical subject at great length, but there are a few facts associated with the present proposals which honorable members should know. Listening to the almost heroic statements about our national prestige, one would think that this proposal had been evolved by the present Government in conjunction, or perhaps in collusion, with the States. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) traced the history of the Financial Agreement and pointed out that in February, 1929, the present act covering the National Debt Sinking Fund came into operation. There was a time when no treasury-bills were in existence, for that form of finance had never been used. Although certain individuals had had some idea of issuing treasury-bills of twelve months’ currency, I do not think that any one had ever thought of the issuing of bills for a three monthly period. When the depression hit Australia, in the period 1930-32, some new form of finance had to lie found to cope with certain State deficits, and an arrangement was made with the Commonwealth Bank for treasurybills to be issued. Bills were subsequently issued, about that period, totalling £53,000,000. At that time, when these bills were renewable after three months, I do not believe that any one had any idea that sinking fund contributions would be involved. By 1934 the Government of Victoria, about whose high sense of public honour in finance something has been said this evening, took the stand that sinking fund contributions were not required. A considerable time elapsed before certain other States which had a sense of financial responsibility induced the Victorian Government to agree to a sinking fund payment of 5s. per cent. It is not of much use for any one to tell me that any governments, for a considerable time after 1934, held the view that short-term treasury-bills should carry a sinking fund payment of 4 per Gent.
A.S a matter of fact this subject was avoided for a considerable period. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) presided over two meetings of the Loan Council while he was Commonwealth
Treasurer, .at each of which the subject was raised by the Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr. Dwyer-Gray, who apparently had been advised . by the State AuditorGeneral, or some other authority of theState, that treasury-bills should carry b higher rate of sinking fund payment by the States than the 5s. per cent, which was then being paid. But apart from Mr, Dwyer-Gray I have not been able to discover that any person showed much anxiety on the subject. I understand that Mr. Ogilvie, a former Premier of Tasmania, did not want the matter to be proceeded with. The plain fact is that the subject was studiously avoided. No one desired to do anything about the obviously doubtful legal position that existed. When Mr. Casey was Treasurer it was quite clear that doubts had been raised concerning the legality of the position. J say quite frankly that when I became chairman of the Loan Council and the National Debt Commission, I was not at all anxious to raise a hornets’ nest about my ears by interfering. I do not pretend that I have a higher sense of morality in regard to national finance than have other people. The fact had to be faced, however, that the Financial Agreement was endorsed by a referendum of the people, and at some stage the situation in regard to treasury-bills would have to be dealt with, for some States had relied largely on this method of finance. New South Wales, for instance, in a time of economic difficulty, became involved to an amount of £31,000,000. I do not desire to suggest that this was possible in consequence of certain political sympathies, but there can be no doubt that New South Wales suffered very severely during the depression years.
It cannot be denied that the whole subject was conveniently pushed aside for a considerable period, but about the time this Government assumed office certain letters were written and allegations were being made concerning the interpretationof the Financial Agreement. The National1 Debt Commission was concerned aboutthe whole position, and I believe that it was generally considered that even depression treasury-bills should carry a higher rate of sinking fund contribution than» was being applied. As chairman of the- commission, and with the concurrence of my colleagues, who are, I feel entitled to say, reputable men, steps were taken to deal with the difficulty. Let me remind honorable members that the National Debt Commission consists of the Chief Justice of Australia, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, Mr. T. D. Kelly, representing the States, and myself as chairman.
– A nice lot of Labour party supporters!
– Well, that may be; but there is no direct evidence of it! These men have, I suggest, as high a regard as any honorable member of this House for the financial prestige of this country. It is not much use any honorable member telling mc that officials of the Treasury were to blame for the situation which had developed. I absolve them entirely from any blame in the matter. I do not blame any one else either, though I judge from what has been said in the course of this debate that there is a degree of antagonism to this proposal on the part of certain (people who hold quite false ideas of its financial morality. The National Debt Commission decided to seek legal advice on the problem, and, in due course, opinions were obtained from four leading counsel. The general view expressed by those gentlemen was that a 4 per cent, sinking fund contribution should have been paid in respect of these treasurybills, whereas, in fact, only 10s. per cent, had been paid of which 5s. per cent, was paid by the Commonwealth.
– Which should not have paid anything.
– That is so. On theSegal interpretation about £21,000,000, should have been paid into the sinking fund. But was it to be expected that the State governments could or would pay that amount? It must be perfectly clear that the States could not have redeemed :all the treasury-bills, because three States were already obtaining financial grants from the Commonwealth. They are what we term the claimant States.
– Some of the States have credit balances aggregating £27,000,000.
– I shall deal with that point presently. Will it be suggested that New South Wales could or should have paid off £31,000,000 of its indebtedness in regard to treasury-bills? It is true that certain States are passing through a period of financial prosperity which has continued for four or five years, but I do not believe that any honorable member is of the opinion that even such States would be willing to enter into an agreement to pay 4 per cent, into the sinking fund for 41 years in respect of depression treasury-bills.
In the circumstances, I consider that the agreement which has been reached is not in any sense financially immoral. The Government, after considering the whole subject very carefully, suggested to the States that if their contribution to the sinking, fund in respect of these bills were lifted by 10s. per cent., the Commonwealth, would continue to pay its 5s. per cent. It was also suggested that an effort, should be made to arrange for the permanent redemption of at least £10,000,000 of the outstanding bills. Personally I was anxious that this whole matter should be placed on a sound footing, and whilst the present proposal is not so good as- I desired to secure, it will at least make things better than they have been. I do not regard depression treasury-bills as being in the same category as other moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth or the States. They were issued for a special purpose. The money was borrowed, not from the public of Australia, but from the Commonwealth Bank. In this proposal, that debt is segregated from all the other debts of the Commonwealth and the States. I shall put a simple question to the Leader of the Australian Country party. If nobody had raised this issue, would he have considered that, something terrible was happening? The people would have accepted it, and the practice would have been continued. Suppose that four learned counsel had agreed that the 10s. per cent, was a completely legal payment, would the right honorable gentleman have considered that there was anything immoral in the position? Not at all. This a special debt, owing to the Commonwealth Bank. In this proposal, it has been placed in a completely separate compartment. The States undertook permanently to redeem £7,000,000 of the debt. The National Debt Commission has agreed to redeem £3,000,000.
– The Commonwealth is responsible for £1,500,000 of that; it has paid £1,500,000 that it should not have paid.
– The Commonwealth has contributed that amount over the years.
– It need not have contributed it.
– The right honorable gentleman was Treasurer for some time. There are three ex-Treasurers in this House who were in office while this was going on. I do not blame them especially, because I have done exactly the same.
– The honorable gentleman cannot put the blame on us.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) occupied the position of Treasurer after the date on which some doubt was cast on the validity and legality of the payment.
– They were never informed about it.
– They heard the echoes, and went to a place where they would not hear them again.
– That is not fair. The Honorable gentleman has forced me to say something that I did not want to say.
– I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not attributing the slightest blame to my predecessors in office. I refuse to have my blood pressure raised by becoming excited about the matter. It was universally believed that the correct practice was being followed, until some one discovered that it was wrong. .The present arrangement is an improvement on that which has operated up to the present time.
– Definitely, it is not.
– I make it plain again that this has nothing to do with the general moneys in the sinking fund, but is a separate arrangement. The amount of £10,000,000 is to be permanently redeemed, and the balance of £43,000,000 is to be funded at 1 per cent, for 39 years. The other provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund, in regard to our overseas and internal debt, are not affected.
The Leader of the Australian Country party asked certain questions. He mentioned an amount of £20,000,000 in respect of treasury-bills, which he said should have been paid into the sinking fund, but he did not allocate the amount among the States.
– What is the correct amount?
– Approximately £21,750,000. The table that I now give shows arrears of contributions to the 30th June, 1944, due by the States in respect of treasury-bills issued to cover revenue deficits, based on a recent legal interpretation of the relevant clauses of the Financial Agreement. The calculations have been made on the total amount of treasury-bills outstanding at the end of the year, and it should be noted that the figures are approximate only - [ do not want honorable members to think that the conferences with the States may be likened to a pleasant Sunday after noon gathering, because they were not. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) wrote to all the States, and conveyed to them the opinion of the Commonwealth Bank as to what they ought to do in regard to the treasury-bills. At least three of the States had handsome surpluses, and it was considered that they should permanently redeem approximately £14,000,000. Queensland and Victoria already had redeemed temporarily the treasury-bills issued to them, and New South Wales also had made a substantial temporary reduction. The Commonwealth Bank said, “ When you were hard up, we leaned you money. Now, you are flush. The times are good, and you ought to set about the repayment of the amount “. That appeared to be a request to which honest States ought to give very careful consideration. The claimant States were not in a good position to make any contribution. Queensland, I believe - speaking from memory - was inclined to give consideration to the proposal if the other States also would do something about the matter. The Premier of New South Wales indicated that he was prepared permanently to redeem some of the bills; but our friend from Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, the leader of a section of the party which the right honorable member for Darling Downs leads in this House, did not want to do anything. After a lot of persuasion and inducement, and many weary hours of debate which almost completely exhausted the patience of the Prime Minister and somewhat frayed my own, the States agreed to redeem £7,000,000. I engaged in a little auctioneering in an attempt to raise the amount. The Commonwealth did all that it could to obtain the best arrangement.
– In what proportions is the £7,000,000 being contributed?
– These are the figures -
that was the result of three conferences with the Premiers of the States. The only defect that I can see in the proposal is that more bills are not being permanently redeemed. Apart from that objection, I have no apology to make for the agreement, and I commend it to honorable members. I consider that it will not have any unfavorable repercussions on the finances of this country.
I have gathered that the Leader of the Australian Country party considers that the Commonwealth is paying too much, and that it ought, not to pay anything, and that the right honorable member for Cowper considers that, for the sake of our honour and prestige, it would be better were the Commonwealth itself to increase its contribution and not alter the fund.
– That is right.
– Between my two very able predecessors there is a wide division of opinion. Here are two completely divergent views; I take the middle course and accept a little of each.
– What legal obligation is there on the States to pay this £7,000,000? There is nothing in the agreement to bind them.
– The right honorable member has heard about a gentleman’s agreement. It is true that in respect of some such agreements you cannot find enough gentlemen in the arrangements to make them work, but in this instance I believe that the promise will be honoured. 1 commend the bill to the House. It may be imperfect, but it is the very best that we could do in the circumstances, having regard to the difficulty of getting six State Premiers to agree with one another, much less with Commonwealth Ministers. As I said before, this problem was left on the doorstep of the Government. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned uniform taxation. I do not propose to discuss that subject except to point out that, imperfect as the uniform taxation legislation may be, no one else attempted to do the job until this Government came along and had a go at it. The same applies to the bill which we are now considering. It represents the best that we can do, and it is at least a better financial arrangement than the one which existed before.
Question put -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and. committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of
Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to approve an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia of the First Part, and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania of the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Parts respectively, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Agreement made on the fifteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four, a copy of which is set forth in the Schedule to this Act, is approved.
– I move -
That the following words be added: - “ subject to a favorable report being received from a royal commission appointed to inquire into and report upon the Financial Agreement upon terms to be agreed upon by the Acting Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party in consultation “.
It is obvious from the speeches which have been made on this bill, and particularly from the explanation given by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), that honorable members are not seized of the importance of the measure and do not, as trustees of the public, realize what it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall give to the States.
– It is a pity that the right honorable member’s party did not think of it.
Mr.FADDEN.- The statement by the Treasurer and the interjection by the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) compel me to make a reference that I did not intend to make. The Treasurer said that the Treasurers who had preceded him had been guilty of negligence.
– I did not say that.
– Not in so many words, but the inference to he taken was that, in not having had this matter adjusted before, they had been negligent. In other words, he said that this was a baby left on his doorstep.
– That is right.
– My withers are unwrung because, immediately I heard of this assumed illegality, I brought the matter before the Treasurer who quite properly took legal opinion and action which culminated in this measure. I did not want to say this, but I am now compelled to say it. The present secretary to the National Debt Commission, the present secretary to the Treasury and the present Solicitor-General, who have all been members of or connected with the National Debt Commission for a great number of years, must have been conversant with the illegality. The Auditor-General of the Commonwealth must have known that Tasmania had raised the question of illegality in con- nexion with its contribution to the National Debt Sinking Fund. Consequently, they who constitute the vigilance committee of Australia, as between the States and the Commonwealth, have been negligent in the performance of their duty. I regret to say it, but each is deserving of the greatest censure because each must have known that the point of illegality was raised frequently by the Auditor-General of Tasmania and at the Loan Council. I desire the appointment of a royal commission to discover not only exactly how much money the Commonwealth Government is giving to the States by means of this measure, but also the accurate deficits of the States. I have mentioned before that the financial statements of the Queensland Government have been attacked in the Queensland Parliament. The Auditor-General of Tasmania has stated in clear language that the deficits of Tasmania have been understated. Consequently, the deficits of the other States have probably also been understated. The whole matter should be the subject of a thorough inquiry in order that the Financial Agreement might be fully honoured.
– I protest against the criticism by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) of public servants. Throughout the relevant period the real responsibility has not been that of the public servants, to whom he referred, as, I think, the right honorable gentleman should know. This matter was brought up from time to time to the level of political responsibility.
– We did not know it, and this House did not know it.
– Why, the right honorable gentleman himself said that it was brought up, but that the blameworthy persons were the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Commonwealth
Solicitor-General. That I deny, because the Treasurers throughout the period must have known of the possible insufficiency of the sinking fund payments.
– I never did.
– I do not say the right honorable gentleman knew.
– The right honorable gentleman said that we must have known.
– From 1932 to 1941, the Federal Treasurers were Sir Walter Massy-Greene, Mr. R. G. Casey, Mr. R. G. Menzies and, more recently, Mr. P. C. Spender and Mr. A. W. Fadden. It is established that in 1937, when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Attorney-General, the Treasurer of Tasmania raised the matter of this 4 per cent. He suggested that the financial agreement should be amended. But the decision of the Australian Loan Council was that no action should be taken, on the understanding that each Government would consider the question as a matter of policy. Nothing further was done that year, but it was reconsidered by the Loan Council in 1938, when Mr. Casey was chairman. Mr. Dwyer-Gray of Tasmania suggested three choices. The first was to amend the agreement to provide for an interest payment of about 2 per cent. Of course, that was an increased payment, and I think the percentage in this bill works out at something like 2 per cent.
– It does not.
– Having regard to the amount redeemed and the increased rate of interest on the outstanding treasurybills, it is approximately that figure. Mr. Dwyer-Gray’s second proposal was to amend the payment to 10s., of which 5s. would be paid by the State and 5s. by’ the Commonwealth. Finally, the Premier of Tasmania intimated that he did not desire to proceed further in the matter, and the Loan Council unanimously agreed to allow the then existing agreement to stand.
– The material thing as far as the public officials are concerned is that no legal opinion was taken until last year.
– It was taken in 1930.
– That is not correct.
– I can prove it from the Victorian records.
– There is no evidence of it in the Commonwealth records. The official opinion was taken within the last twelve months. This problem was inherited by the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) from his predecessors, as he explained in his second-reading speech to the satisfaction of all fair-minded -men. The real point is that the Leader of the Australian Country party spoke as though every one knew from the beginning that 4 per cent, was the charge for this special issue of treasury-bills, aptly called by the Treasurer depression bills “. The agreement does not make that clear at all. It is a matter of legal controversy.
– Why was a different basis accepted in 1936?
– The right honorable gentleman said this afternoon that a different basis was accepted in 1936, but I believe that that is incorrect.
– The facts prove it.
– As far as I know it is not correct. Dispute as to the rate of interest arose, but no authoritative legal opinion was taken until comparatively recently.
– The National Debt Sinking Fund Commission said that an opinion was taken in 1930 and again in 1931.
– I do not think that is correct.
– Of course it is - opinion was taken on the same principle.
– The Leader of the Austalian Country party is quite mistaken about the earlier legal opinion. It referred not to this matter, but to soldier and settlement
– I know.
– And to closer settlement in Victoria. It had no relation to those deficits.
– The same principle was involved.
– The right honorable gentleman says so, but the legal opinion taken then was not, according to the records, on the same matter as to which legal opinion was taken within the last twelve months. The view of the National Debt Commission on the amendment now before honorable members seems to me to make it clear that the present proposal is satisfactory to the National Debt Commission. I hope that the Leader of the Australian Country party admits that. Responsibility for any delay in getting legal opinion through those years was the responsibility of the political leaders concerned. As the Treasurer put it, there was a fear or anxiety about it, but no legal opinion was taken until the present Treasurer took office. He saw that the situation had been allowed to drift too long and that legal opinion was needed. The opinions taken were unanimous thai 4 per cent, was the appropriate payment. Then the negotiations that he described began. I am sure that the Leader of the Australian Country party will not impute to loyal servants of the Crown who are not in positions of political responsibility any lack of care and, still less, any wrongdoing. The appointment of a royal commission, as if there were a shadow of wrong-doing, is out of the question.
– I wrote to the right honorable gentleman and asked him for the 1930 opinion, but he did not send ii to me.
– I did not have it. D has just been handed to me, and I find that it has no relation whatever to the matter of deficits.
– It has in principle.
– How does the right honorable gentleman know that if he has not seen it?
– I saw it in the National Debt Commission’s report. The commission referred to it in 1930. It said that the opinion had been obtained from the Solicitor-General. It was referred to again in 1931, and, in 1932, it said that the matter had been settled. The principles are exactly the same, but I do not desire to pursue the matter.
– Lawyers, like doctors, differ. The right honorable gentleman should be fair.
– I hope to be.
– He should realize thai this matter was allowed to drift.
– Obviously it was.
– It must have been known to the governments concerned and their political leaders that this difficulty had arisen.
– Obviously it was.
– If that is so, it is out of the question to place the slightest blame on the servants of the Commonwealth or of the several States.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 2388), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is merely to extend the period of the operation of the wine export bounty. When .the bounty was introduced in 1934, the wine industry in Australia had undergone many vicissitudes, and a great surplus had accumulated, which could not be disposed of. After extensive inquiries, the government of the day brought down a bill which authorized the establishment of a fund from the excise on the fortifying spirit for wine. A bounty of ls. a gallon was paid on wine for export. The result was that Australia found a position in the world’s wine trade, and our exports to the United Kingdom alone were greater than those of any other country with the exception of Portugal. Since the outbreak of war the position has changed entirely. Through lack of shipping space, we cannot export our wines. A great scarcity exists in Great Britain, and I believe that as soon as shipping space becomes available, our wines will again find their place on the British market.
The Australian wine industry is the third biggest industry in South Australia, and it is important for the Government to keep it stable and prosperous. Although the export of wine has been reduced to very small proportions, the home consumption has greatly increased. The extension of the bounty for another two years will, I hope, cover the period of the war, and allow the industry to regain stability. But the Government must be alive to the fact that Algeria and other countries, which have been freed from the Nazi scourge, will be in the market The home market is now so successful, and consumption has so increased, that the bounty itself might well be investigated. I was Minister for Trade and Customs when the wine bounty was introduced, and an extensive investigation was then made of the industry. The bounty has not involved the Commonwealth in any cost, because the fund was built up from the excise collected on the home consumption of wine for this purpose.
Little more need be said, other than that the bounty was favoured by all parties in this Parliament at that time. The Opposition supports the proposal for the extension of the bounty for another two years. Before that period has elapsed, the whole industry should be re-examined. It is a most important industry in South Australia, to a lesser degree in Victoria, and to some degree in New South Wales and Western Australia. Therefore, this proposal should have the support of all States.
– To the wine industry this bill is most disappointing. It simply extends for a period of two years the operation of the present act, which has been in abeyance since 1940, when our export trade ceased. I remind the Government that the wine industry cannot be conducted on a two-yearly basis, and the bounty should be granted for a longer period. It requires two years to produce a sweet wine for export, and the extension of the bounty for two years covers only the coming vintage. Wine produced from the coming vintage must be distilled, and cannot be exported for at least two years. If the Government has any regard for the welfare of this industry, it will extend the operation of the bounty for at least ten years.
I understand that many negotiations and discussions have taken place behind the scenes between the Government and representatives of the wine industry. When the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) replies, I should like him to tell me whether this is the final word of the Government on the wine bounty. If it is, I warn the right honorable gentleman that it is not acceptable to me. Alternatively, I should like him to inform me whether this bill is what I suspect it is, namely, a stop-gap measure to tide over the period until the Government can collect its somewhat scattered thoughts on this industry and give them legislative effect. If the Minister can satisfy me on that point, no necessity exists for further discussion. Failing that I shall continue the argument in committee.
– in reply - I made it clear in my second-reading speech that this bill does not represent the Government’s last word on the wine industry. During the next two years further investigations willbe made, and the industry will be given opportunities to submit its views to the Department of Trade and Customs. New legislation will then be submitted to the Parliament. I am aware of the great importance of this industry, particularly to South Australia. All honorable members are most interested in it, partly because of the large number of returned soldiers from the last war who are engaged in it, many of whomhave carried on under great difficulty. This industry has suffered many vicissitudes. I recognize the necessity to reconsider the whole matter long before the expiration of the period of two years, and the representations of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will be taken into consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act toamend the Wine Export Bounty Act 1939-40.
Resolution reported ; report - by leave -adopted.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Observatory at Mount Stromlo, in the Australian Capital Territory, is at present known as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory. In recent months, several new functions have been undertaken by the observatory. The principal one is the time service for the Commonwealth, for which State observatories were formerly responsible. Another important function added to the work of the observatory is that of magnetic observations. The new functions have no relation to solar observations.. The title Commonwealth Solar Observatory” is no longer appropriate. Therefore it is proposed to change the name to “ Commonwealth Observatory “. It is also considered that the designation of the Director of the Observatory should be changed to that of “ Commonwealth Astronomer “. To effect these alterations, it is necessary to amend the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930-1932. The title of the act, if amended as proposed, will be the Commonwealth Observatory Fund Act. Clauses 1 to6 inclusive and clauses 8 and 9 effect the necessary changes in titles and designations.
The opportunity is being taken to include in the principal act, provision enabling the Commonwealth Astronomer to invest in Commonwealth securities any moneys standing to the credit of the Commonwealth Astronomer’s account and’ to convert such securities into money as required. A provision to this effect was inserted in the National Security ( Supplementary) Regulations - regulation 87 - as a temporary measure, pending the passing of legislation. Clause7 of the bill adopts thisprovision.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
AUSTRALIAN-NEW Zealand Agreement 1944 - War Grimes’ Commission.
– by leave - This morning, I asked leave to make a statement on international affairs, hut leave was not granted. Later, I submitted the statement in the form of a paper and moved that it be printed (vide page 2469). The paper has thus become a public- document. I have- conferred with the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Menzies) on the subject^ and I now ask leave for the paper to be. incorporated, in Hansard so that honorable’ members- may read it.
Statement by’ Minister for External Affairs.
On tha 17 th November, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) reported the rescue of Australian prisoners of war after the sinking of ai Japanese transport and gave am account of the: conditions to which- many Australians in, Japanese hands had been subjected. I do not intend to add a word, to that stark story of heroism- and suffering; but merely to inform’ the House of the measures which are in- preparation in the- endeavour of the United Nations to punish those responsible for these atrocious cruelties..
The Government has, for a period of nearly two years, been collecting evidence of acts of criminality committed by the Japanese against Australians and others. In June, 1943, Ave appointed Sir William Webb, the Chief Justice of Queensland, as a special commissioner to inquire into and. report on atrocities or breaches of the rules of warfare on the part of members of the Japanese armed forces in New Guinea and Papua. The report was presented in March, 1944. The Chief Justice examined nearly 500 witnesses and numerous documents. There was revealed’ evidence of massacre, torture and maltreatment of Australians, both military personnel and civilians, and of the New Guinea, natives, as well as evidence of numerous lesser breaches of the rules of- warfare. These rules, had been solemnly laid down in the Geneva Conventions of 1906 and 1926 and the Hague Convention of 1907, all of which Japan signed and ratified, and the Prisoners of War Convention 1929, which Japan signed and which it publicly undertook shortly after the war broke out to observe on a basis of reciprocity.
In the light of the disclosures made in this first report, the commission of Sir William Webb- was renewed’ and the scope of his inquiries enlarged, and he was asked to- report further- on whether there had been any war- crimes committed by members of the enemy armed forces against Australians which should be communicated by the’ Australian Government to the United Nations Commission for the- Investigation of War Crimes;
In the course of this further inquiry, the commissioner assembled evidence regarding the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur- off the south Queensland coast in May, 1943, the conditions of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese bands, and several further incidents during the New Guinea campaign. The commissioner- completed his- report’ on the 31st October’ and at the same time presented in the required form certain selected cases which, he recommended should be brought before the United Nations Commission.
Presentation of Cases.
Sir William Webb has now been authorized to proceed to London to present these cases to the War Crimes Commission, and to confer with the appropriate authorities and particularly with the Australian representative on the commission, Lord Wright, regarding various matters arising from his investigations. Prior to his departure, he has, at the Government’s request, undertaken preliminary interrogation of the- rescued Australian prisoners of war who were the subject of the Acting Prime Minister’s statement.
The United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes was set up in October, 1943, primarily to serve the following two purposes: -
This work is regarded as an essential preliminary to ensure the just and orderly trial of war criminals.
In the Moscow declaration on German atrocities, made by President Roosevelt, M. Stalin and Mr. Churchill in October, 1943, the general principle was laid down that at the time of granting any armistice to Germany, the handing over of war criminals should be required in order that they might be sent back to the countries in which their crimes had been committed to be judged and punished according to the laws of those countries. To this end, lists of the alleged offenders were to be compiled beforehand, with all possible details. The principle contained in the Moscow declaration was recognized in much of the early work of the United Nations Commission, and it was assumed that the majority of the cases which had been brought to the notice of the commission would be transmitted for trial to the national courts of the United Nations.
It is apparent, however,, that in certain cases the national courts will be inadequate to deal with war crimes, for the ordinary rules and procedure may not be adaptable to the extraordinary circumstances in which the crimes were committed. The late Lord Atkin, who was the first Australian representative on the United Nations Commission, publicly advocated the setting up of special tribunals with non-technical rules for trials arising from war crimes of great magnitude, such as mass murders and mass deportations, and his’ views have since gained a wide measure of support. Accordingly some attention is now being given to the possibility of establishing special United Nations tribunals or mixed Allied military tribunals for the trial of enemy nationals alleged to have been involved in atrocities.
An atrocity or a breach of the laws of war is not only the concern of the State whose nationals suffer from the breach, but of all the states upholding the law of nations and the standards of civilized conduct. Hence the character of the offence, as well as the need for developing a practical method of bringing gross offenders to justice, would appear to point the way to the creation of special tribunals for the handling of such cases as are unsuitable for transmission to national courts. These are matters which are now under consideration by the Australian Government, and which Sir William Webb will discuss in London.
The collection and examination of evidence of atrocities must still proceed and, indeed, the work of investigation will not be completed until after the defeat of the enemy and the liberation of Australians - now in enemy hands. The Australian Government is determined that nothing that can be done to punish those responsible for brutality and cruelty will be left undone. The suffering and indignities imposed on our soldiers cannot be condoned, and our determination to act in all cases only after the most careful investigation does not in any way lessen our intention to ask that the criminals shall be taxed with full responsibility for their deeds.
I should add that official inquiries to date have revealed occasional instances where Japanese soldiers and officers have behaved according to the standards of honourable conduct. Sir William Webb is careful to point out this fact. We can respect an enemy who acts in this manner, and we do right to take note of cases where chivalry and decent conduct have been exhibited.
I believe that in all possible cases the guilty should be pursued and brought to justice. In the War Crimes Commission Australia has been most fortunate in obtaining as its representatives two very great justices, first, Lord Atkin, whose recent death we all deplore, and now Lord Wright. Sir William Webb’s contribution to this difficult problem of war crimes detection and punishment is also a significant one, and I tender to him also our sincere thanks for his work.
Australian-New Zealand Conference, Wellington.
I now turn to the recent AustralianNew Zealand talks at Wellington. Some of the important matters there discussed and provisionally agreed upon are now the subject of discussion with other governments. It is for this reason that I cannot as yet report on ail matters with the precise detail I would prefer. That is the answer to any suggestions of vagueness in the public statements made by Mr. Fraser and Mr. Forde after the Wellington conference. In this statement I shall attempt to give honorable members adequate information while keeping in mind throughout the requirement of not prejudicing negotiations with other United Nations, especially in relation to Pacific affairs.
I claim now, some ten months after the event, that any fair-minded student of Australia’s external policy will admit that the Australian-New Zealand Agreement helped us to declare objectives which were important to both countries. The agreement stated in a comprehensive way the primary considerations governing the foreign policy of Australia in those matters in which we have a common or identical interest with New Zealand - and they comprise a very important content of our external relations. It is true to say, and even the few remaining critics of the agreement cannot deny, that this statement in the form in which it was made, and in the circumstances existing at the time, crystallized our then outlook and opinions to a remarkable degree. Further than that, all that has happened in the intervening ten months has shown that the agreement has delineated and clarified Australian-New Zealand policy in the minds of other countries as well.
Put another way, the Australian-New Zealand Agreement has given a solid foundation on which to develop a consistent and positive external policy. But audi subsequent development does not come of itself. It’ must be worked for. [t must often be struggled for. Therefore, it is wrong to regard the Canberra Agreement as a final or fixed definition of our interests and objectives. Nonetheless, success has attended the agreement in certain important respects, which will gradually be unfolded in the next twelve months.
Conclusions at Wellington.
The discussions opened at Wellington on the 1st November and ended on the 6th November, with the adoption of a series of agreed conclusions on four main subjects. These were - world security organization, participation in armistice arrangements, the welfare of South Pacific territories and international economic relations. All these matters were discussed to some extent at Canberra earlier this year. In respect of each of them, it was found possible at Wellington to review the Australian-New Zealand objectives in all these matters and also to decide upon the best methods of following up such matters with other nations who will be affected.
Summarizing the results of the Wellington talks, I would say that they have confirmed both Governments in the intention to pursue the general policy entered into in the January agreement. The two Governments felt, in publicly stating their attitude in January, that they were making a positive contribution to clarification and possible solution of great problems in the Pacific region. 1 think it is right to say that in reviewing the position, this month, the Ministers representing the two Governments were of the opinion that the action taken earlier this year had been on sound lines and had already produced valuable results.
A main part of the background of the Wellington talks was formed by the international discussions at Dumbarton Oaks on world security concluded not long before. I have already submitted to the House some general aspects of this problem which the Government regards as of importance. But the Wellington conference had before it the actual draft text of the organization, which issued from the discussions at Dumbarton Oaks. Now, for the information of the House,
I am making available with this statement a complete text of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals (vide page 2539).
In accordance with the future procedure agreed on in this matter, the Dumbarton Oaks text will form a basis of further discussion between the four Governments represented at the original meetings, namely, the United Kingdom, the United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and ‘China. The document thus agreed on will then be submitted as a basis for a general United Nations conference on world organization.
At the Wellington conference attention was given to the general principles implied in the proposals. The conference was able to agree on matters which the two governments felt should form part of the broad planning for a general international organization, of which the two objects will be, first, to maintain peace and security, and second, to promote human welfare. The United Kingdom and United States Governments are being informed of these suggestions.
I would specify as perhaps the cardinal point in our conclusions of this topic, the view of both Governments that the success of a world organization must depend on the leadership of the great powers. At the same time, Australia and New Zealand regard it as essential that all members of such an organization should take an active part in the general control and direction of its affairs. The corollary of this participation would be a clear undertaking by all the members to co-operate in carrying out by all and any means adjudged necessary, including force, the decisions of the organization for the preservation of peace. In short, I see no reason why the leadership of the organization by the greater powers should mean a world dictatorship by these great powers. The organization will, in my view, succeed only if there is leadership of the great powers together with active participation by the lesser powers. Enthusiastic support of the proposal by the British dominions can hardly be expected unless their material contribution to the war effort is evidenced by their being given the opportunity of playing a full part in the world organization.
In my statement to the House on the 8th September last, I attempted to indicate the complexity of the problem of world organization. It is clear that the United Nations are engaged only in the earlier stages of what may prove a long and difficult process. In. the meantime, I commend the text of the Dumbarton Oaks draft to the serious attention of all honorable members. It would be hard to exaggerate the significance of the proposals. Drafted in the light of experience of the League of Nations covenant and reflecting the high degree of wartime collaboration which has been achieved under the present leaders of the four greater United Nations, the proposals are the nucleus at least of a new international order. They involve issues vital to our national existence and are precisely of the same order as the major issues of survival which have united us in war. It is of the first consequence to humanity that the plans already outlined should be subjected to scrutiny and that every necessary modification should be made. Finally, however, the plans should be carried through with vigour to conclusion.
A further matter discussed at the Wellington meeting, which to a large extent was of common United Nations concern as distinct from particular AustralianNew Zealand interest in the Pacific region, was that of armistice and post-armistice arrangements in Europe. The conference passed under review recent communications which both Governments had exchanged on this subject. Since the Australian-New Zealand interest in this matter was first expressed in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement last January, armistices have in fact been concluded with three countries - Roumania, Bulgaria and Finland - and related arrangements connected with the prospective overthrow of Germany have also been the subject of frequent governmental exchanges.
These are matters which touch very closely the principle which the Australian Government has consistently urged, i.e., the claim of the lesser belligerents to a voice and share in the plans for the postwar control of defeated enemy countries and the peace settlements to be made with them. The Australian Government has been kept informed of plans for armistice arrangements in Europe; further, certain representations have succeeded inasmuch as the active interest of all the United Nations at war with the respective enemies has been recognized in the case of the armistices with Bourn ania, Bulgaria and Finland.
Nevertheless the Wellington Conference
Was not unaware that, in all important respects, the armistice and post-armistice treatment of the European enemy states is likely to be in fact almost exclusively the concern of the three principal allies, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the United States. When it is realized that the European settlement may vitally affect the future of Australia and New Zealand and that the character of that settlement may be determined very largely by the conditions imposed in advance of the final peace settlement, especially upon Germany, it will be seen that the claim put forward by Australia and New Zealand for a maximum degree of dominion participation in “the European armistice arrangements is a matter of very real significance.
Indeed, all the dominions and all the other United Nations which have contributed or will contribute actively to the defeat of the European Axis are equally affected. Therefore Australia and New Zealand are speaking not for themselves alone in this matter.
At the present moment, planning of the European post-war settlement is being carried out by the three greater powers. An important instrument of this planning is the European Advisory Commission set up at the Moscow Conference in October, 1943. Its members hitherto have been the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The recommendations of this body, once approved by the Governments represented on it, naturally become accomplished fact.
France has recently been admitted as a fourth member of the Advisory Commission. This is a source of satisfaction particularly as evidencing the attainment of an objective which all in Australia have consistently pursued, viz., the return of France to its former status among the great nations of the world. The inclusion of France also broadens the basis on which European planning is to be carried out. It is, however, not enough merely to increase the circle of great powers. The Australian and New Zealand Governments feel strongly that, in the long run, a European settlement on the broadest basis is the most likely to prove effective. The military preponderance of the Great Powers tends to obscure the essential, if secondary, role of the lesser powers such as Holland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Yugoslavia and Norway, to say nothing of the four British Dominions who have in this war, as in the last, contributed to the overthrowing of the oppressors in Europe. It seems to me that, unless the smaller powers participate to a substantial extent, any post-war settlement will be unstable. It will be observed that the first of the basic principles declared in the draft plan for world organization lays down the sovereign equality of peace- loving states, great or small. Such an assertion of equality may remain a mere abstraction unless there is a real opportunity for common action by all the allied nations where their community of interest requires common action.
Armistices in the Far East.
Whatever may be said in relation to Europe, we have a right to expect that the Australian and New Zealand Governments will have a full share in all the arrangements to be made at all stages of the planning for the armistice and postarmistice period in the war against Japan. There is every reason to believe that this claim will be recognized both by the United Kingdom and United States Government.
The various courses of action which are being taken to this end are obviously not a matter for full public discussion at this stage, but I am confident that Parliament will give support to the Government in its efforts to obtain for Australia a voice in all these arrangements which is fairly commensurate with the country’s war effort. We have been in the war from the first day. As is well known to all the world,, the part played by our soldiers, sailors and airmen has extended to all theatres of war. The sacrifices which the civilian population has made are not so widely realized but they have been considerable and have resulted in a material contribution to the allied war effort. Even our shores were threatened as that of no other European community outside Europe itself. Add to all this the cardinal importance which the post-war political settlement in this region has for us, and all must realize that the claim which we have made to take a full share in all decisions and arrangements affecting the Pacific region is not only reasonable but incontestible
No Exclusive Concern.
It would be wrong to contend that Australia and New Zealand can have an exclusive concern with the future of any part of the Pacific region. In particular, without the continued interest and active participation of the United States (as well as the United Kingdom) in arrangements for welfare and security, there is no hope of stability and harmonious development in this area. The co-operation between Australia and the United States which has developed so rapidly during the war holds great promise for the post-war period, and it is essential that this co-operation be continued.
These considerations have never been absent from our minds and I know that it is regarded in the same light by New Zealand. In agreeing at Wellington that the time had come to take certain further steps arising out of the Canberra Agreement, the representatives of the two Governments were in complete accord that these should be followed in full and friendly association with the United States of America as well as with the United Kingdom.
An Opportunity for Vision.
Among the questions connected with the Pacific settlement which governments must consider in the near future are the armistices with .Japan and Thailand, the international arrangements which will be necessary for the control of enemy territories, and arrangements for the administration and co-ordination of international measures for the rehabilitation of production, transport, public health, native welfare and so on in non-enemy as well as enemy territories. The task will be immense and the agencies, both national and international, will be taxing heavily all the resources of the United Nations. This challenge, however, is also an opportunity. If in the immediate posthostilities period the affairs of the Western Pacific are arranged with intelligence and courage, much can be achieved.
The Australian-New Zealand Agree- “ ment contemplates international arrangements for future security and welfare in the South- West Pacific, arrived at on the basis of discussion and consultation between all powers concerned. Division of responsibilities for defence and the maintenance of security bases, mutual facilities in such bases, the disposal of enemy territories, changes in the system of control in particular territories, the policing of agreed areas, measures to promote native welfare and economic development in Pacific territories - all these matters are treated in the agreement as matters for settlement through consultation between all governments con’cerned. The one thing we have consistently claimed is that, in this region, which is more directly vital to us than to any other nation and where our destiny lies, these things should be determined only after full prior consultation with us. No democratic leader would take or has taken exception to this claim. In my opinion, no Australian or New Zealand leader could be excused if he failed in his duty to insist on this.
South Seas Commission.
In our discussions in Wellington, we kept in the forefront the two main questions of security and welfare. Both governments fully realize that th’ere cannot be freedom from fear unless there also is a systematic attempt to achieve the objective of freedom from want. International order cannot continue indefinitely unless the conditions of social unrest are removed. It is urgently necessary to provide machinery for the promotion of human welfare in all parts of the world. But we feel a special responsibility for non-self-governing territories in the region in which we live and in neighbouring regions. We feel that great constructive work can and should be done by the governments responsible for territories in the South
Seas and in the South-East Asia Region to provide for mutual assistance, exchange of information and collaboration in particular problems, such as health, transport, economic development and native welfare. “We endeavoured to give a lead in this matter of regional collaboration by proposing in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement the establishment of a commission to advise the various governments responsible for territories in the Pacific Islands. In Wellington, we reexamined our proposals relating to the South Seas Regional Commission with a view to the establishment of the commission in 1945. In the agreement, we had suggested the purposes of the commission, and in Wellington we proceeded to consider what should be the general form of the organization and what steps might be taken to bring together the other governments concerned and get the commission established as a going concern.
On the present occasion, we decided, so far as our two Governments were concerned, that the South Seas Commission should consist of representatives of all the governments and administrations in the region, and that there should be a permanent secretariat, as well as research and functional bodies established by governments on the advice of the commission.
We considered that provision should be made for associating with the work of the commission existing research and functional bodies, and that, in order to provide a suitable forum for the discussion of Pacific Islands problems, there should be held regularly a South Seas Conference which might comprise nominees of the governments represented on the commission and of international organizations concerned with welfare problems, e.g., the International Labour Office and the Food and Agriculture Organization. We would think it appropriate that among these nominees there should be representatives of scientific bodies. missionary bodies, and native peoples. We also considered that, wherever practicable, native peoples should be enabled to take part in the work of the commission and its agencies.
We are hopeful that there will be early action to set up the South Seas
Commission. The greater part of the area concerned has never been occupied by the Japanese, and the enemy had been thrown out of much of that part of the area which he occupied in 1942. The war, however, has disturbed the economic and social life of the main Pacific islands and the problems of rehabilitation, and post-war development are already urgent.
Since there are three other governments with territorial interests in the area concerned, Australia and New Zealand are about to consult with the other governments as to the constitution and establishment of the commission.
While Australia and New Zealand feel that they have a special responsibility in this South-West Pacific Area, in which they are the two main representatives of Western civilization. they do not approach South Seas problems in any exclusive spirit whatever. Their objective is the fullest and friendliest co-operation between all powers and all administrations in the region. As Mr. Fraser said at the conclusion of the Wellington conference, in all our deliberations we were fully conscious of the fact that many of the issues discussed were of concern to other members of the United Nations. Accordingly our examination of all questions was conducted with the broad positive objective of making our due contribution to world peace and welfare and to building up friendly relations among all nations. Our discussions of the means of obtaining the early establishment of the South Seas Commission were in strict accordance with this objective.
The Wellington talks also covered economic policy and economic relations. Stress can be laid on the endorsement by the conference of the view on employment policy put forward by Australia and New Zealand on various recent occasions in the course of international discussions. The conference agreed that, while other proposals for international economic collaboration are a matter of great concern, the introduction of an employment agreement should take precedence over other proposals in the field of economic welfare, and that any discussion and final agreement on these other proposals should be in relation to the full employment objective.
Therefore, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to press strongly for an international agreement by which member States will bind themselves to pursue domestic policies aimed at full employment and which will provide for the use of existing organizations) such as the International Labour Office, or, if necessary, the establishment of new agencies for the exchange of information and consultation with each other on employment policy.
I wish to mention here that the advisers of the Government have been studying : -
These studies are nearing completion, and the Government has decided that they shall be published and communicated to the Governments of the United Nations. The Australian Government will not be committed to the technical details of the agreement or of the organization proposed. The Government commits itself unreservedly, however, to the basic conclusion of these studies, which is that the introduction of fin employment agreement should take precedence Over the introduction of other international economic agreements, and that these other agreements should make the maintenance of high levels of employment and an improvement in world living standards their primary objectives.
Agreement was reached at Wellington on ft list of questions related to international economic policy and to AustralianNew Zealand trading relations which it was considered should be the subject of early technical discussions between officials of the two Governments. We have already received an invitation from the Government of New Zealand to send officials to Wellington early in 1945 to discuss these matters.
Australian-New Zealand Trade.
While the economic discussions at Wellington were intended primarily to clarify common objectives in relation to matters of international concern, they also proved helpful from the point of view of AustralianNew Zealand trade relations. As a result of the conference, steps will be taken to review and improve existing and post-war trade relations between the two countries. In this connexion special attention will need to be given to the restoration of Australia’s export market in New Zealand for small manufactured goods, which, principally because of this country’s war commitments, has been adversely affected.
It is a mark of the wide scope of the
Australian-New Zealand relations that the discussions between Ministers at Wellington covered so many of the major aspects of Australia’s external policy, which I. have always stated as fullyand as fairly as possible to this House.
One significant feature of the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement (i.e., the joint statement of views on post-war international civil aviation) had been fully discussed in the Course of the earlier ministerial visit to New Zealand of Mr. Drakeford, Minister for Air. In the earlier stages Of the Chicago Conference on Civil Aviation, both the Australian and New Zealand delegates frankly declared that the best interests of all nations would be served by adoption of the principle of international control and governmental operation of the great trunk air routes linking the countries” of the world. France was the only open supporter of this declaration at the time. Many will believe - I, at any rate, believe - that the course of events will justify the soundness of the Australian-New Zealand view, and that in this instance, as in some others, Australia and New Zealand, speaking not merely for themselves, have held out a vision of hope to the nations of the world.
There should be established an international organization under the title of the United Nations, the Charter of which should contain provisions necessary to give effect to the proposals which follow.
The purposes of the Organization should be:
In pursuit of the purposes mentioned in Chapter I. the Organization and its members should act in accordance with the following principles:
The Organization should ensure that states not members of the Organization act in accordance with these principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
All members of the Organization should be members of the General Assembly and should have a number of representatives to be specified in the Charter.
The Security Council should consist of one representative of each of eleven members of the Organization. Representatives of the
United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Republic of China, and, in due course, France, should have permanent seats. The General Assembly should elect six states to fill the non-permanent seats. These six states should be elected for a term of two years, three retiring each year.They should not be immediately eligible for re-election. In the first election of the non-permanent members three should be chosen by the General Assembly for one-year terms and three for two-year terms.
Section 0. - Voting. (Note. - The question of voting procedure in the Security Council is still under consideration.)
Section A. - Pacific Settlement of disputes.
The Security Council should call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.
Section B. - Determination of Threats to the Peace or Acts of Aggression and Action with respect thereto.
SectionC. - Regional Arrangements.
ARRANGEMENTS FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CO-OPERATION.
Section A. - Purpose and Relationships.
SectionB. - Composition, and Voting.
The Economic and Social Council should consist of representatives of eighteen members of the Organization. The States to be represented for this purpose shouldbe elected by the General Assembly for terms of three years. Each such State should have one representative, who should have one vote. Decisions of the Economic and Social Council should be taken by simple majority vote of those present and voting.
Section C. - functions and Powers of the Economic and Social Council.
SectionD: - Organization and Procedure.
Economic and Social Council and should make an annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the Organization.
Amendments should come into force for all members of the Organization, when they have been adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the’ General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by the members of the Organization having permanent membership on the Security Council and by a majority of the other members of the Organization.
Note. - In addition to the question of voting procedure in the Security Council referred to in Chapter VI.., several other questions are still under consideration.
Repatriation : Rights of ExPrisonersof War - Press Syndication of Parliamentary News - Railway Transport from Alice Springs to Adelaide - Man-power for Dairying Industry - “Wire Netting - Owen Gun.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) once more the subject of the acquisition of property by aliens who sometimes are not even naturalized, for I believe that the National Security Regulations on the subject are being circumvented. I am sure that after I have stated my case the Attorney-General will agree that it deserves investigation. I do not raise the matter with any racial bias; nor am I directing my remarks against the people of any particular nation. The fact is that properties which, in some instances returned soldiers, and in other instances dependants of persons still on active service, desire to purchase have been acquired by aliens who have either outbid or out-manvred Australians who desired to purchase them. I have received a letter from the St. Kilda Council in which several cases of the kind are enumerated. Another case relates to a discharged ex-officer who wished to acquire a property which, however, was sold to an alien who at that time was not naturalized. It was bought by the alien’s wife, who had not surrendered her Australian nationality and so was able to negotiate. In other instances persons who report themselves as stateless - perhaps Germans or Austrians who have rejected their own nationalities - have been able to purchase properties which soldiers or the dependants of soldiers have desired to acquire. The regulations were doubtless issued for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of servicemen and the Australian people generally, and it is regrettable that the desired end is not being achieved. I have described the principal methods by which aliens acquire properties, and T hope that the Attorney-General will cause his officers to investigate the matter promptly. If necessary, the regulations should be amended to close any loopholes. Otherwise returned men and. the dependants of servicemen who may have made plans to acquire city or rural properties with the object of settling down as soon as war conditions make that possible may be sadly disillusioned and embittered.
Although it seems a rather hopeless proceeding, I am obliged to refer once more to the unsatisfactory repatriation conditions which apply to ex-prisoners of war. The situation was quite unsatisfactory after the last war, and I desire to be assured that a similar situation will not arise after this war. I know of a. man who was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Turks during the last war.
He was a Queensland member of the 15th Battalion. and was severely wounded on Gallipoli ; he spent a considerable time ir a Turkish hospital, and on one occasion was battered by his guards. I knew this man well, and he never recoveredhis normal strength after his return to this country. He died while I was abroad on service in this war. His wife applied for a soldier’s widow’s pension, but the death certificate showed that the man had died in a public hospital from paratyphoid. On this ground the widow’* application was rejected. I made personal representations on her behalf, and I am sorry to say that the appeal tribunal refused to reopen the case, nor will it permit me to give evidence on the widow’s behalf. In another instance, which also affected the widow of a man who was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Turks, my representations were successful after 7 had personally appeared before the tribunal. It must be obvious that in such cases it is extremely difficult to obtain the medical history of a man. Complete records of the cases of prisoners of war are never available. In the second instance to which I have referred the Entitlement Tribunal decided that a prima facie case had not been made, and, although I know that this man was seriously ill while he was a prisoner, his widow had not been able to obtain a soldier’s widow’s pension. The man, a Queenslander, was a member of the 15th Battalion, and was wounded on Gallipoli. Practically all the witnesses who could testify to that effect had since died, and his widow wa? left with a family -of four children.
I must admit that I have been disappointed by the lack of sympathy displayed, on occasions, by the Entitlement Tribunal which has considered applications made to them from the legalistic instead of the humanitarian standpoint. Repatriation is surely intended to be based on humanitarian grounds, and I ask that much more sympathetic consideration be given to prisoners of war and their relatives. I made my representations in *he second case through the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but they were not successful in securing the re-opening of the case. I have again written to the league on the subject, but I understand that in reply to its representations to the tribunal it has received a stereotyped reply to the effect that no additional relevant evidence has been furnished. It is most difficult to obtain new evidence after such a lapse of time, but I intend to persevere with the case.
At the moment I wish to emphasize strongly the need to ensure that prisoners of war who return to Australia after hostilities cease, or who may be repatriated before the war ends, shall be treated with the utmost consideration. We all have been informed recently of ihe vile treatment to which some of our men have been subjected by the Japanese, and I do not desire that history shall repeat itself in connexion with them. Repatriation should be based on the broadest humanitarian grounds and aim at doing justice to all. Service personnel do not expect charity on their return from war duties. I exhort the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to do his utmost to liberalize the conditions. Having been Acting Minister for Repatriation for a period, I know that the Minister is. not able to do a great deal in certain respects; but I hope that everything possible will be done to ensure humane and generous consideration for those who will need to be repatriated after their arduous and dangerous war experiences.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the unsatisfactory position that has arisen in Canberra in consequence of the syndication of political news from the national capital. The syndication proposal which the newspaper proprietors have put into operation here has not been rendered necessary by considerations of man-power, for it has always been possible to provide a satisfactory news coverage here. Whilst I do not profess to have the military knowledge of Mr. Packer or Mr. Henderson, and speak more or less in a private capacity, I am able to inform honorable members that the newspaper proprietors are engaged in a kind of pincers movement against the journalists. The first arm of the pincers is directed to syndication, and the second to the sacking of some of the journalists. A serious and planned attack is being made on the status of journalists by means of syndication. The journalists in the press galleries of this Parliament are competent men well able to cover the proceedings of the Parliament; but under the syndication system they are being obliged to work on a 10-minute roster, with the result that the previously issued clear, concise and factual record of our proceedings has disappeared. Recently we heard some comment in this House on a chain system at Homebush abattoirs. The newspaper proprietors are applying a. chain system to the journalists of Canberra, and it is already having some laughable results. Last night the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members, including the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), were drawn into disputation concerning a gentleman named Mr. W. S. Robinson. Subse.quently, the honorable member for Fawkner endeavoured to temper the wind to the not-so shorn lamb. The reports of the journalists were sent to Sydney, but in consequence of subeditorial action a remark by the honorable member for Richmond was credited, or discredited, to the honorable member for Fawkner and these gentlemen- were in disagreement on the matter of Mr. Robinson.
A more serious situation arose, in the Senate. In referring to a certain bill, the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) said -
I give the assurance that an opportunity will be given to debate the motion before the Parliament adjourns this week.
It passed through the syndicate in a garbled form, and appeared in this way -
Senator McLeay and Senator McLachlan tried to draw from a responsible Minister an assurance that the matter would be taken before the House went into recess, but the only answer was am evasive reply.
– In what newspaper did that appear?
– That was published in the Canberra Times this morning. The Sydney Morning Herald, which has escaped many things, including the charge of grievous misreporting, managed to obtain something that was fairly accurate. When the Minister made in the Parliament a statement of what had really happened, not one newspaper published it, showing that the avenues of syndication can be closed with devastating damage to a member of this House. What would happen should a member of this House or of the Senate be anathema to the press? Under syndication, would it be possible for him to be wiped out of existence politically? Would the 70,000 electors represented by him never hear of him, with prejudicial repercussions on his chances of re-election? Honorable members who consider that that cannot happen, should remember that it has happened to me in this House, because I was a victim of press suppression before the introduction of syndication. But apart from the personal angle, I want honorable members to know that this syndication is a feature of a planned campaign. In order to placate honorable members, the reports for the time being, are very extensive. Without criticizing the hard-working journalists who prepare the syndication material, it will be agreed that what is published is not always accurate. There have been unfortunate experiences already, and this is a bad thing so far as journalism generally is concerned. If it were a plan to conserve man-power - I do not believe that it is - one would wonder why 24 men are sent to cover the races at Randwick, and there is no lack *of man-power for the reporting of stock sales and the divorce courts. The matter cannot be related to man-power. The syndicate, as it exists, is a direct menace to the future of journalists and politicians, who must have use of the free avenues of the press. It is also a serious danger to other persons associated with the syndicated news. I shall not weary the House by reading the rather lengthy list of telegrams that I have received from unions- on this matter.. Two of them are from the telegraphists union, which has appealed to me to see that the livelihood of its members shall be safeguarded. All the channels of communication are being narrowed by reason of the fact that the press messages are feeding through one or two lines. The members of the telegraphists union consider that their livelihood is threatened. They have sent similar messages to every honorable member of this. House; appealing for safeguards to be provided. I point OUt to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), as the senior Minister present, that this a syndication is a dangerous thing, which has been forced on us in war-time, with all the dreadful implications of regimentation and fascism.
I have mentioned one arm of the pincers movement of the military strategists in Hunter and Castlereagh streets. The other arm of the pincers is represented by the dismissals of highly competent ranking journalists. The war has made one or two of them world figures on the literary and executive sides of journalism, but they were dismissed like office boys. They have been brushed off like flies during the last week. The only conclusion at which any objective-minded man can arrive, is that they are the victims of a recent lockout in Sydney. We should address ourselves to this matter in wartime. The man-power authority has decided that during the period of the war these men shall work on a newspaper. It is not within the province of Packer, Henderson, or any director, managing director, or czar of a newspaper, to say that they shall be moved about to the disadvantage of the war. Many of these men are personal friends of mine, and most of them are acquaintances of many years. On different occasions early in the war, the fit men among them asked to be relieved of their duties in order that they might go on service, but they were clamped down in a man-power grasp by the newspaper ^proprietors, who in my experience have never been patrioticallyminded towards the desire of journalists to go on service. For years, the Sydney Daily Telegraph has continuously been about 10 per cent, above man-power requirements, not because the journalists desired it but because the directors considered that it would be a good thing to have “ something up their sleeve “. These men now find themselves dismissed summarily, and it is evident, although hard to prove, that this is victimization of the worst kind. As we have on the one hand-, above the Speaker’s Chair, indications’ of some new plan, some devious method, by which the- people will be out-witted by the clever manipulators of the press and, on the other hand, we have in the cities, where these news. papers are produced,, evident cases of victimization, I feel justified in raising the matter in this House. I appeal to Ministers to consider what may be done, with particular reference to the evils of syndication and to the stupidity of the attempt to perpetrate the inconvenience that is being caused to competent men; above all, to consider the victimization aspect of this “ blitz “ which is moving in on men who are our very good friends and are capable recorders of what is done in this House.
– I raise again the matter of railway transport from Alice Springs to Adelaide, as it affects civilians. Not long ago, when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Forde) was in Adelaide as Minister for the Army, he received a deputation from the State Government. Mr. F. G. Jenkins, a Minister, attended, and introduced certain persons who use that line. Arising out of that deputation, I have received from Tennant Creek a letter which reads -
With reference to the statement made by Mr. Forde (Acting Prime Minister) appearing in the Adelaide Advertiser on 15th November, about the sleeping berths on the train for civilians from Alice Springs to Adelaide, I thought you would be interested to hear of the position as stated to us by thestationmaster on Monday, 20th November, this week.
The Reverend Dugald McTaggart went to the stationat Alice Springs to book two first-class sleepers for my husband and myself for the train leaving Alice Springs on Monday, 11th December - three weeks before the train was due to leave. He wasable to book the sleepers but was told that it would not be known till the day the train left whether we could have the sleepers or not, depending on whether the sleepers were wanted at the last moment by military personnel. The stationmaster told Mr. McTaggart thaton the train for last week fifteen extra military personnel were added at the lastminute. The same information has been given to Mrs. H. Williams about the sleeping berth she hooked for herselfand four young children for the train of 4th December - that she cannot be sure of the sleepers till the day the train goes.
There is no passenger transport from Ten- nant Creek to Alice Springs as you know, and people intending to travel from Alice Springs byrail mustmake arrangements with private folk to transport them ormust travel by carriers trucks, often days before the train is due to go, and having to go to the expense of staying at hotels in Alice Springs in the meantime. It is not satisfactory to have to make that 315 mile journey without knowing whether one is going to be able to travel in comfort in the sleeper one has previously booked, or whether one might have to stay extra time in Alice Springs till a sleeper (necessary in this weather for a three-day journey, surely) is made available.
Since Mr. Forde was reported to be replying to yourself and Mr. Jenkins, and stated that there were 40 to 44 sleepers on the train and that only eight were reserved for the military personnel - on the only one train a week that civilians have - I feel sure that the above facts will interest you.
This matter crops up repeatedly. Although the Army authorities have denied that what is alleged takes place, the people affected are prepared to append their names to the facts and circumstances. I have met many persons in the same position in the Northern Territory, who have complained of the same thing on both the forward and return journeys. When they propose to return, they are told at the Adelaide railway station that they cannot be guaranteed a booking, and that the matter will be attended to by the railways officers at Quorn. When people have to travel hundreds of miles at the railhead, it is only fair that women and children travelling south from Alice Springs should have preference over all other persons travelling on the train, whether they be army personnel or anybody else The people who live up there would be quite happy to make allowances for any person who was sick ; but they know that time and again women and children are denied the use of sleepers whilst ablebodied army personnel of both sexes are granted them. This is not fair to those who are living in the territory.
– I associate myself with and fully support the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in regard to the dangers of syndicated reporting of the proceedings of this Parliament.
I direct the attention of the Government to a very serious anomaly in the scheme for the release of servicemen from the Army to return to the dairying industry. That excellent scheme is being in jured by the restrictions which the Army is applying to it. For many months it was impossible to obtain the required releaseof service labour to return to the dairying industry, because the men needed oh the farms were, in the main, A class men serving in operational areas or in reinforcement units. Those restrictions recently were removed, as a result of which a number of releases from the Army has been made, and farms which otherwise would have gone out of production have been able to remain in production. But now, again, farmers who have applied for the release of their sons to return to dairying production are receiving from the Army the same old notice that the releases cannot be granted because the men concerned are in operational areas or in reinforcement units, and so on. When I make inquiry to learn why this should be so, I find that the Army is applying the decision of the Government only to cases in which application previously had been made by the farmer, had been recommended by man-power, and had then been rejected by the Army.
– The authorities are not doing even that.
– Not in every case. No matter how urgent the need of the farmer, no matter how genuine the application, no matter how strongly the endorsement of it by the War Agricultural Committee and the Man Power Directorate, the Army says, “No, we will not release this man because we did not previously reject his application “. That is the only reason given. For many months, it was made plain to the dairy-farmers through the press, that if their sons were A class and were in operational units or certain other categories, it was not proper that they should apply for their release, because at that time there was no possibility of abtaining it. The farmers who heeded what the Government then said, and therefore did not make application because of the certainty of its rejection, now are having their claims refused, because they did not apply and have the application rejected months ago, at a time when the Government specifically stated that it was useless for them to do so. That is an obvious injustice. Some farmers see the sons of other farmers returning when their own sons, who are equally urgently needed, cannot obtain their release. This is a cause of very great irritation and annoyance throughout the whole of the dairying areas. It is also the cause of a serious loss of urgently needed dairy production. Therefore, I ask the Government to take this matter into consideration when the review of man-power requirements is made during the first half of December. The Army takes the view that unless a dairy farmer’s application had actually been rejected by the Army previously, or had been recommended by the man-power authorities before the 6th September - that is, shortly after the date of the ministerial announcement - it cannot now succeed.I ask that this qualification should be swept away, and that every case should be considered on its merits - ‘the need of the farmer for the man as against the need of the Army for the man. If that cannot be done, at least every farmer should be given an opportunity to take advantage of the announcement made in this House about the release of men from the Army. I ask the Government to ensure that every application lodged by farmers up to the 6th September shall be considered on its merits.
.-I desire to bring to the notice of the Government the serious loss of food production resulting from the shortage of wire-netting in Queensland. Many people in that State, in response to the frequent appeals of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to increase the produc tion of eggs, have gone in for poultryfarming. They obtained permission to erect buildings, materials were obtained, and the buildings completed. However, they have been unable to obtain wirenetting for the construction of poultry yards. When an application was made to the department for the release of wirenetting, the applicants were advised that supplies were nine months in arrears. A constituent of mine, who has spent many thousands of pounds developing his poultry property, interviewed the Minister for Agriculture in Brisbane, who undertook to help, but without result. In September of this year he communicated with Mr. Bul cock, the Director-General of Agriculture, but he was able to do no more than confirm the information that supplies of wire-netting were over nine months in arrears. My constituent has nearly 5,000 young birds, and will have thousands more. He has erected buildings, but has not been able to obtain wire-netting for their protection, with the .result that they are being destroyed by foxes, stray dogs and cats. He has £2,000 worth of birds on his property, and unless he can obtain wire-netting he may lose them all. It is futile to ask people to increase the production of food if supplies of essential materials are denied them. I wrote to the Minister for Supply and Shipping to-day on this matter, but I am so anxious about it that I am raising it now in the hope that supplies of netting will be made available immediately.
I take this -opportunity to make a further appeal on behalf of Mr. E. E. Owen, the inventor, and -to suggest that he should be adequately rewarded with a gratuity in recognition of his services to Australia by inventing a. gun which has been of such great value in the defence of this country, particularly against the Japanese. I have frequently raised this matter in the House and, as a result of ray representations, the matter was taken up recently by Smith’s Weekly.
– Does the honorable member take Smith’s Weekly seriously?
– I take the claims of Mr. Owen very seriously. The Minister’s criticism of all newspapers does not impress me.
– Smith’s Weekly does not do Mr. Owen much good by presuming to take up his cause.
– I appreciate the w>ay in which it is supporting the claims of returned soldiers. The reference in Smith’s Weekly is as follows: -
Evidently the gratitude of Australia is of the type which bites the hand that feeds it. Its treatment of young Evelyn Owen, Australian inventor of the Owen gun, is such as to make every decent Australian hide his head in shame. It stands alone as a piece of the basest ingratitude on record. lt has been stated . by Ministers in this House that the Owen gun has been responsible for the saving of about £2,000,000, because it is so much cheaper than other automatic weapons, and can be manufactured so much more quickly. The taxation of the royalties paid to Mr. Owen was a serious matter, and I am glad that, as the result of a question which I asked this week, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has announced that the matter of taxation will be adjusted. Mr. Owen had an uphill fight to get his gun approved, and now the Government ha* delayed too long in rewarding him suitably. On the loth September last, 3 asked that Mr. Owen should be given an adequate reward for his service to the nation, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that the matter of a reward would be considered by Cabinet. A fortnight ago, I raised the matter again, but evidently no decision has yet been reached. It is a scandal that it has nol been attended to before this. I appeal to the Government to have it considered by Cabinet before the House rises. It is probable that this man’s invention has been responsible for saving thousands of Australian lives. The Owen gun has proved to be ideal for jungle warfare, because it remains serviceable even after being immersed in mud and water. A soldier fighting in the jungle would be at the mercy of the enemy if his rifle were put out of action by mud or water. Most automatic rifles would, if they fell into mud, have to be washed, cleaned and oiled before they would be serviceable again. This is not so with the Owen gun. ‘So great is the service which this man has rendered to Australia that he should be adequately rewarded.
– The request of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), regarding the syndicating of newspaper reports of the proceedings of this Parliament will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister, as will the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro about the difficulty of obtaining the release of men from the Army. I inform the honorable member for Morton (Mr. Francis) that wire netting is my responsibility as Minister for Munitions. It has been difficult to maintain supplies of wire netting, galvanized iron and similar materials which are urgently needed for civilian use as well as by the fighting services. It is true that supplies are almost nine months in arrears. There are stocks of steel rods from which wire netting is made, but we cannot get labour to make the netting.
– Where is the labour which has been released from the Allied Works Council?
– It is not sufficient to meet all the claims made upon it. I should like to see sufficient galvanized iron and wire netting manufactured to meet all essential requirements, but we cannot supply the needs of the fighting forces and meet all civilian requirements as well. I am trying to obtain wire netting from the Army, but the netting available from that source is of large mesh, and not suitable for poultry farming. I shall look at the matter again.
No one is more appreciative than I am of the services of Mr. Owen, the inventor of the gun that has contributed greatly to the efficiency of our fighting forces. I am well acquainted with the gun on the production side in my capacity as Minister for Munitions. The representations made on behalf of Mr. Owen will be placed before the appropriate authorities.
Question resolved in affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No. 28 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Nineteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired. - For Commonwealth purposes -
Lake Bolac, Victoria.
Singleton, New South Wales.
Meat Export Control Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What quantity of wheat remains in each of the No. 5, No. 6 and No. ‘7 pools, showing
What is the estimated quantity of wheat which will be disposed of prior to the 1945-46 harvest for use for the various purposes mentioned in paragraph 2 of the question asked by the honorable member for Indi on Friday, the 17th November, and for export, and what is the estimated sale price of such wheat or present value f.o.b.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : - 1, 2 and 3. Giuseppe Muratore, whodied at Mile End, South Australia, on the 23rd December. 1943 left his net estate unconditionally to the Alice Springs Hospital. The estate has not yet been admitted to probate in the Northern Territory, but it is understood that it is of considerable value.
s- asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Are Australian Imperial Force officers who are, or have been, prisoners of war in (a.) German prison camps, and (5) Japanese prison camps, subject to any, and, if so, what, deduction of pay during, or in respect of, the period of imprisonment?
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Meat Industry: Lamb and Mutton
Supplies in Tasmania.
y asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Government has not received an application from John Fairfax and Sons Limited for permission to publish a Sunday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. Such an application would be necessary to comply with the provisions of the National Security (Metal Foil and Paper) Regulations, Statutory Rule 1941 No. 46, if the company intends to publish a Sunday edition. As an application has not been received, the Government is not in a position to make any further statement on the matter.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of recent disclosures from overseas news sources that great areas of farmland in Holland have been rendered unproductive due to the devastation of war, does the immigration policy of this country envisage a generous invitation to the vor)’ desirable settlers from that country to come to Australia, and does the departmental machinery for the immigration of people under this heading facilitate their acceptance and settlement immediately shipping can be made available for their transfer here?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The immigration policy of the Government certainly envisages the introduction of migrants from the Netherlands and other countries in Europe. As already indicated in the statement on migration made recently by the Acting Prime Minister, the time when action can be taken to introduce such migrants into Australia must depend upon the progress made in the rehabilitation of our own people who have been engaged in war and war industries.
Transport of Members of Parliament.
d.- On Friday, the 17 th November, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice : -
Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the railway accommodation made available to members of this Parliament on the occasion of their return to Canberra thu week? While Ministers were able to travel in comparative comfort, private members, particularly members of the Opposition, had to occupy the composite railway carriage concerning which complaints were made during the previous sitting. Some members, including a former Prime Minister, were piled into second-class compartments and suffered considerable discomfort. Will the Minister endeavour to have more comfortable accommodation provided for members?
The answer, to the honorable member’* question is as follows: -
The standard sitting car attached to the express train from Albury to Canberra pro- vides accommodation for seventeen first-elam passengers and 46 second-class passengers. Since the -withdrawal of the sleeping-cars by the New South Wales Railways, arrangement* have been made, where adequate advice i& given, that a large number of federal members are travelling from Melbourne to Canberra,, to replace this composite car by a car which provides accommodation for 42 first-class passengers. The officer in charge of the Federal Members’ Rooms, Melbourne, through whom the bookings of all federal members are arranged, has been requested to advise my department in Melbourne when the number of federal members and their wives necessitates the substitution of the standard composite first and second class car, and appropriate action will then be taken by the railway authorities. On the date in question there is no record of any request for an alteration of the accommodation provided. In such circumstances, as well as when travel is made at short notice, the inadequacy of the accommodation is not in any way the responsibility of my department or the railway system concerned. I am taking special action to ensure that the officer in charge of the Federal members’ Rooms, Melbourne, shall give prompt advice to my staff wherever possible so that the best can be done to meet the requirements of members.
n asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t. - On the 15th November, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) referred to a statement which appeared in Brisbane newspapers, to the effect that an order had been issued in New’ South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, authorizing motor-car owners in those States to have tyres retreaded without seeking permits from the department. The honorable member asked whether I would take action to ensure that the motoring public of Queensland shall be given the same rights and privileges in regard to retreads as are given to motor- car owners in other States. I am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
The Department of Supply and Shipping has taken steps to expand the capacity of tyre repairing establishments throughout the Commonwealth, and this has involved procurement of additional plant and equipment. I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that, as a result of this action, it has been possible to widen the field which permits of retreading being undertaken for a larger number of essential vehicles.
Prior to July, 1944, retreading facilities could only be made available to persons holding liquid fuel priorities 1 to 0, inclusive, without permission from the Department of Supply and Shipping. On the 18th July, the facilities, in Tasmania were expanded sufficiently to allow extension to priorities 7 and 8. On the 5th October similar action was taken in respect of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, whilst on the 9th November Queensland was brought into line.
Variation in the dates on which these facilities were made available in the different States is simply due to the fact that they could be extended only as the capacity of retreaders was progressively increased.
e. - On the 15th November the honorable member for Newcasth (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question, without notice: -
Having regard to theacute shortage of houses in the Newcastle district, and in view of the fact that within a few miles of that city a large military establishment if unoccupied, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the possibility of making it available for the accommodation of persons for whom no housing can now be provided?
I can now advise the honorable member that consideration has been given to his suggestion. Whilst it is true that certain camps in the Newcastle area are at present not wholly occupied, it is not possible, because of other commitments which the Army must bear in mind, to make any of these camps available for the accommodation of civilians at the present time.
– On the 23rd November the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the Acting Prime Minister a question regarding houses built to accommodate employees at St. Mary’s. On investigation, I find that the Commonwealth has built no houses at Westmead, which was mentioned by the honorable member, but the State Government is at present building some. Of 200 built at St. Mary’s none is vacant. In the past the homes built by the Commonwealth have been let to munitions workers and other essential workers, many of whom have been the wives of servicemen. Under the present government-sponsored housing scheme being carried out in co-operation with the States, the allocationof houses is the responsibility of the State authorities. The allocation is made on a basis of need, and a substantial proportion, of the houses are reserved for ex-servicemen and their dependants.
Australian Army: Discharge of lieutenant Packer.
s asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army - upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for
Information, upon notice -
– I shall discuss the constitutional aspects of the honorable member’s question with the Attorney-General at the earliest possible moment, and, if it is found that the Commonwealth can legislate to compel importers of nonfiction motion pictures to lodge one or more copies of all such films with the Commonwealth authorities, I shall submit the matter to the Cabinet for decision.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441130_reps_17_180/>.