17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair nt 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 25, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr. Abbott, Mr. Barnard, Mr. Clark, Mr. Guy, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. Martens, Mr Mulcahy, Mr. Rankin, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Watkins to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin - by leave - agreed to -
Hint, during the unavoidable absence at Mr. Deputy Speaker, Air. Speaker bc authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to relieve him temporarily in the chair.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin - hy leave- - agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this Mouse shall meet for the despatch of business on each Tuesday nt 3 .p.m., on each Wednesday nml Thursday at 2.30 p.m., and oon each Friday lit 10.30 u.iii.
– Is the Prim* Minister able to state what progress has been made in the matter of granting operational stars to certain members of the fighting forces?
– 1 am glad to be able to say that considerable progress ‘ has been made in discussions with the Imperial Government. I. believe that very shortly an announcement will bc made simultaneously in Australia and in London. The matter hhas proved most complicated and difficult, but I believe that the views of the Commonwealth Government have now been harmonized with those of other governments.
– What is the latest excuse the Minister for the Army has to offer-
– Order ! The honorable member must couch his question correctly.
– What is the latest reason the Minister for the Army has to offer for the continued exclusion of men who participated in the Malayan and New Guinea campaigns from the 1939-43 Star? Has the Minister any intention of removing the obstacles to the recognition of the gallantry of those men?
Mr.FORDE.- This matter, which affects all branches of the fighting services, is essentially one for the Minister for Defence. This afternoon, the right honorable gentleman made a statement on the subject which, I thought, would be satisfactory to all concerned. The Prime Minister hopes to make a definite statement in relation to the matter within the next few days.
– Can the Minister for
Munitions advise members representing country electorates whether increased supplies of bore casing will be made available?
-I can promise that adequate provision will be made for farmers’ needs of bore casing. Before the war, we produced about 300 tons a quarter. Recently, production was increased to 600 tons, and it has now attained a total of 900 tons a quarter. The available plant is capable of producing a further 300 tons, making 1,200 tons a quarter which, I believe, will meet the existing demand. Difficulty was experienced in putting on the screw thread at the ends of the casing, but extra lathes have been installed, and this difficulty has now been surmounted.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the press report that Judge Kelly, in the Federal Arbitration Court on Monday last, held that although members of the Building Workers Industrial Union had no right to refuse to work with members of the Ship Joiners Union, three ships were still held up in Sydney because of the dispute between the unions? In view of the fact that Judge Kelly said that the refusal of members of the former union to work with members of the Ship Joiners Union might be a breach of the National Security (Man Power) Regulations, has any action been taken against those responsible for this illegal strike? If not, why not?
– I cannot answer the last part of the question off hand, but, so far as I know, no action has been taken. I shall obtain the information.
– Can the Minister for Transport say whether coal stocks have increased sufficiently to enable sleeping accommodation to be provided once more on the railways?
– The position in regard to coal stocks does not yet justify the Government in taking action to restore sleeping cars on the trains. The Commonwealth Department of Transport is anxious to restore sleeping ‘accommodation as soon as possible, and to remove travel restrictions generally. We are especially concerned at the moment with the need for providing sleeping accommodation as soon as possible for elderly people, and for sick persons who have to visit the principal cities in order to consult specialists, but I can hold out no hope of a general restoration of sleeping accommodation at an early date. The subject is down for consideration at the next meeting of the War RailwaysCommittee, and after that meeting a further statement will be made.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that there is an acute shortage of rabbit-proof wire netting and galvanized barbed wire? What steps are being taken to make those articles available to primary producers?
– I am aware of the acute shortage of wire netting and barbed wire. The whole output of wire netting, about 1,200 tons a quarter, is being allocated to food production needs. Steel rods are available, but man-power is needed to draw the wire therefrom.I am seeking a higher priority for that work in order that we may catch up the arrears of production of wire netting for civilian purposes. Because of service needs, production of wire netting for civilian needs is now about nine months behind. I shall investigate the barbed wire position and reply at the earliest possible moment.
-»[n response to requests for barbed wire, the Department of Munitions usually replies that no galvanized barbed wire will be made available until the existing supplies of black wire have been sold. This black wire is useless to primary producers, because it breaks while it is being used in the erection of fences. Will tie Minister for Munitions see whether it ia possible to use the black wire - I understand that several thousand tons of it remain - for making pig-iron, and use that iron for the manufacture of galvanized barbed wire?
– I shall bring the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion to the notice of my technicians; but our problem nt the present time is man-power for wire drawing. Great difficulty is experienced in obtaining the right class of labour for this work.
– Is there sufficient zinc?
– We have sufficient components to meet production needs, but man-power is the problem. However, we are endeavouring to meet production demands by the most effective utilization of the available man-power.
Minister at Large IN South America.
– I should be glad if the Minister for External Affairs would indicate to the House the reasons which actuated the appointment of the Austalian Minister at Large in South America. What precisely are the functions of a Minister at Large? To what particular country or countries will he be accredited ? What will be his salary and representation allowance? What will be his staff ? What value does the Minister imagine will result from the appointment of a Minister at Large to such a large area of the world’s surface?
– I ask that some of the details of the honorable gentleman’s question, such as the salary to be paid, be placed on the notice-paper; but the advantage to this country of having a representative in South America, particularly in countries such as Brazil and Chile, is very obvious as I think most honorable members will agree. Many honorable members have asked for the establishment of such representation. With regard to the exact area to be covered, in the first instance the Minister will be accredited to several Latin American countries. When those arrangements have been completed, I shall announce them to the House.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the unsightly building that is being erected at Rose Bay by Qantas Empire Airways is to be only a temporary structure? Is it the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation to enlarge the Mascot Aerodrome to meet immediate and post-war needs for air travel?
– Recently, a deputation waited on me to discuss this matter. I explained that the building was being erected for the servicing of flying-boats, which are used for transport purposes in connexion with the war effort, and that the structure will not be permanent. I also informed the deputation that an investigation will be made of the Mascot area with a view to seeing whether it is suitable for the establishment of a flying-boat base and land aerodrome as an international port. These investigations are now taking place, and although I am not in a position to give ‘further information to the House on the subject at the present time, I shall probably make a statement at a later date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior the following questions : - (1) Were a number of men recently sent to Darwin from the Ingham district; (2) what number of men were so sent; (3) what route were they sent by; (4) what rates of pay did they receive; (5) what delays took place in different centres; (6) what was the total cost involved in this operation?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I present the sixth report of the Broadcasting Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he will make a statement about the shortage of rubber supplies, particularly motor tyres, and whether he can indicate any possibility of a re-arrangement of priorities to meet the circumstances of new enterprises coming into the field of production which should be given consideration?
– The rubber position has not improved ; it is actually a little worse now than it was last year. Our only safeguard, at present, is synthetic rubber. It will be remembered that the Government sent experts of the tyre-manufacturing companies to the United States’ of America last year to make investigations. The experts have now returned to Australia and preparations are being made to produce synthetic rubber tyres. A special allocation of labour had to be made in order that this project could be advanced. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to furnish a statement of the latest position in .regard to synthetic rubber and tyre production so that the House and the country may be fully aware of the position.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping able to give any idea as to when the programme in relation to synthetic rubber production will be sufficiently advanced to increase the availability of tyre equipment?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping should bo in a position to advise the honorable member, and I shall ask him to do so.
– In view of . the acute shortage of housing throughout country electorates which, in many instances, is causing very great hardship, I ask the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction to indicate when home builders may expect some relief from the present building restrictions?
– I assure the honorable member, and the House, that the Government fully realizes the very grave condition that exists in regard to housing throughout the community, but the plain feet is that the same men cannot do two jobs at once. Men cannot be engaged in defence projects or in the fighting services and, at the same time, be doing work for the civilian community. The strain on our man-power resources is such that I must say to the honorable gentleman that I can see no prospect of any relaxation of building regulations until the middle of this year at the earliest.
ALL-BRITISH Service between London and Sydney - Aircraft Crash at Spring Plains.
– I ask the Minister for Air to state whether plans are approaching completion in respect of an allBritish civil airline service between London and Sydney? Is it hoped to make this a daily service? Will mails be carried ? Is it intended that the service shall operate before the end of the present war?
– Plans have been partly completed, and it is hoped that a direct air service between Sydney and London will be commenced within the next few months, and will be increased gradually until, it is hoped, before the end of the year, it will provide for a daily passenger and air mail service.
– Has the Minister for Air yet received a report on the accident to the aircraft that was operating between Melbourne and Broken Hill? If so, is he prepared to make a statement to the House and to make the report available to the Parliament?
– I have received the report of the departmental panel that was appointed to investigate the causes of the accident, and have been giving consideration to it, I shall make a statement on the matter to-morrow.
– Does the Minister for Air intend merely to accept the report of the departmental panel, or to have in addition a full public inquiry, as has been done in connexion with other major air crashes, at which has been elicited evidence that was not obtainable by a departmental inquiry?
– The honorable member has correctly stated that a full public inquiry has been held in connexion with other major air crashes; but that has not been the practice since the commencement of the war. The position is one that needs consideration. I want to be able to place before the Parliament the full reasons for the accident. I believe that, when I have done so, the honorable member for Balaclava and other honorable members will be satisfied with what they have heard.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether or not goods amounting to thousands, of tons, the property of the American authorities are either uncovered or in warehouses without adequate guard? Did the American authorities arrange for the man-power directorate to provide a sufficient number of guards to provide protection? Has the directorate so far failed to do so, with the result that goods to the value of many thousands of pounds are being pilfered? Because of the obligation which Australia considers it owes to the United States of America by reason of the help which American forces have rendered in the defence qf this country from invasion, will the Minister take steps to secure the employment as guards of many miners who have been cavilled out from different collieries, until they may again be absorbed in the coal-mining industry?
– No complaint of the kind referred to has ever been made to me.
– I have led deputations to the Coal Commissioner.
– I repeat that no complaint has ever been made to me, and I. am not aware of any complaint having been made to any of my officers.
Air Crews Returned to Australia
– Numerous complaints have been made to honorable members, and through the press, to the effect that members of air crews returned from abroad are virtually unemployed in camps in Australia. Many have been sent to such tasks as fruit-picking, although it has not been possible to secure their release for employment in essential industries such as food production. Will the Minister for Air state what is the policy of his department in respect of such releases, and of further recruitment for the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I have a full, and, I believe, satisfactory explanation of all the points raised by the honorable member, but it would involve the making of a very lengthy statement. Those men who are engaged on fruit-picking are doing essential work in relation to food production. If they were not made available, food that is essential for both the services and civilians would rot on the ground, in which event I am quite sure the honorable member would complain. Some members of air crews have been employed temporarily on ground duties only because of the necessity to decrease recruitment consequent upon the receipt of information from England that the position was more favorable than had been anticipated. I assure the honorable member that all of those who are being trained for air crew, other than navigators, will be absorbed by approximately the 21st May next, and navigators by July next. If necessary, I shall deal with the matter fully on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– During the Minister’s absence abroad, the Acting Minister for Air made a statement in respect of air training policy, in which he announced’ a considerable curtailment of training. I understand that that policy has since been varied. Will the honorable gentleman take an early opportunity to make a full statement of the position in relation to air training within Australia, giving the number of men employed on wharf labouring duties, and saying whether or not they are volunteers and receive the rate of pay applicable to air crew instead of the higher rate payable to wharf labourers?
– -I propose to deal fully with the matter on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, which I regard as the appropriate occasion. In respect of changes that have been made since the Acting Minister for Air stated the position to the House, I may say that from time to time contradictory advices have been received, which have made it very difficult to deal with the matter satisfactorily. I assure the honorable member that the department and I are doing our utmost to make the best use possible of the men who have enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, consistent with the requirements in relation to man-power generally.
M.r. WILLIAMS- Has the Treasurer received representations from many Shire Councils in New South Wales regarding the sales tax of 12£ per cent, that is charged on articles required for extensions to rural electric light and power installations? In view of the urgent need for the extension of irrigation projects in connexion with food production, will the honorable gentleman examine the position, and say whether favorable consideration will be given to the exemption from sales tax of copper cable, transformers, insulators, and the like?
– I shall examine the matter. It will be remembered that the sales tax on building material was removed some time ago, and a great concession was thus given to local governing bodies, because a good deal of the material required by them for constructional work was subject to the sales tax of 12^ per cent. The other matter mentioned by the honorable member will be examined and a reply given later. ‘
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the new department of which he is in charge is merely the old Department of War Organization of Industry under a new name? Can he say whether, in the new department, there will be a permanent full-time head in Brisbane, instead of a man on part time as at present ?
– The Department of War Organization of Industry has been merged with the Department of Postwar Reconstruction. Whether or not there will be any change in the set-up in Queensland will be determined by the amount of work which has to be done. Up to the present, the Department of Post- war Reconstruction has not had separate offices in the various States.
Sydney Head-quarters Building.
– Waa authority given by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for expensive additions and alterations to the headquarters of the Communist organization in Sydney? Was the expenditure justified by the representative of the department in New South Wales on the ground that the increasing needs of the party warranted greater accommodation? Is it a . fact, that at the very moment that these alterations were being made, the special federal court inflicted a fine of £20. on a Sydney resident, a returned soldier of the last war, and the father of three sons serving in this war, one of whom gave his life, for making additions to his house to meet the enlarged requirements of his family? Does not the Minister believe that the principle of granting building permits in order to meet enlarged needs should apply to the homes of citizens as well as to the head-quarters of the Communist organization?
– It is easy for honorable members to draw comparisons of this kind when they think an injustice has been done in the one instance, and that the department has been overgenerous in another. In the case of the- citizen referred to it is evident, since the court recorded a conviction, that there must have been a sound reason for it. The Communist party applied for permission to expend an amount of £720 on alterations to the building which it occupies. The Communist party is a political organization carrying on its activities in a perfectly legal way within the Commonwealth of Australia. If the Liberal party had applied to my department for permission to make alterations to a building at a cost of £750, and I had refused, there would undoubtedly have been an outcry from honorable members opposite. My department examined the application of the Communist party, and we were satisfied that the amount specified was the absolute minimum required for the structural alteration that had to be made, and on that basis the application was granted.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction prepared to lay on the table the papers regarding the application of the Communist party for permission to spend £720 on building alterations ? If he is not prepared to do so, will he give honorable members a reason for his refusal?
– I do not propose to lay the papers on the table. My department deals with about 2,000 applications for building permits each week. Each application is dealt with in the same way and in accordancewith the same principles.
– Then why not table the papers?
Loading of Meat
– Is it a fact, as reported in the Sydney Telegraph of the 29th January last, that 40 Royal Navy shore-based personnel worked for six hours on the previous day loading 150 tons of beef into trucks at Homebush abattoirs because 100 loaders were on strike and meat was urgently needed for the Royal Navy? Was this strike caused through the loaders claiming that there was an objectionable odour from wooden cases in the cold storage chamber, and did they demand an extra1s. an hour? If so, were the instructions to the Royal Navy personnel issued with the authority of the Commonwealth Government? Was action taken against the strikers, and does not the Prime Minister regard this calling upon ratings to do strikers’ work as an insult to naval men sent here by the Mother Country?
Mr.CURTIN. - A question categorically drawn as this one is should obviously be placed on the notice-paper. I cannot possibly answer, offhand, all the points which it raises. My recollection is that there was a hold-up in the supply of victuals, particularly meat, to the Australian Naval Services, and I assume that it may also have extended to the Royal Navy. I issued directions that the Services should be authorized to procure their requirements with their own labour.Whether that involved the consequences which the honorable member has suggested, I cannot say. Whenever there is a strike which delayswar activity, and concerning which it is practicable to use other personnel in order to get the workdone, then that action will be taken.
– Does that apply to coal?
– Yes; and it applies also to members of Parliament.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether, owing to industrial trouble on the wharfs in Sydney recently, Royal Navy personnel had their shore leave cancelled, and were forced to work on the wharfs. If that be so, will he take steps to ensure that these men, who have fought the battle of the world on the seven seas, are not compelled to lose the few days leave granted to them during the little time they have in port before they have to go into action again?
– I do not know that the personnel of the Royal Navy had their furlough cancelled for the reason stated by the honorable member, or for any other reason implicit in his question. I shall find out whether it did in fact happen. In any case, the honorable member will realize and I am sure the House will understand, that in no circumstances would I be in a position to give directions regarding the personnel of the Royal Navy.
– But the Prime Minister could give direction to the wharf labourers.
-I do not in any way accept responsibility for the directions which the command of the Royal Navy gives to personnel. The Government has done its utmost to provide all the assistance and services which the British Pacific Fleet requires when it uses Australia as a base. We have had most intimate consultations in order that that shall be done as well here as anywhere else in the world, and acknowledgment has been made of what we have done. Instructions have been given to Australian naval personnel in the circumstances narrated by the honorable gentleman. I regret the necessity for that. But it has been done, and it will be done when and where necessary. If honorable gentlemen would seek to know precisely what is done in these cases, the right thing would be to put questions on the notice-paper. That would not elicit argument when the answer was given. Questions put in a controversial form produce controversial answers and, in consequence, the facts are often distorted.
– I lay on the table the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Subsidy for the raw sugar producing industry.
– In view of the increasing conviction in this country that man-power, despite the scarcity, is neither efficiently nor fully used, will the Prime Minister undertake to make, during the debate on the Address-in-Reply, a statement on the War Commitments Committee as well as the man-power authority, consistent withthe requirements of security, to enable a full debate in this House ?
– Wh en the honorable member says “ consistent with security “ he makes it impossible for such a debate to be conducted adequately.
– Then our hands are tied !
– Our hands are tied. Every one knows that the forces have the primary call on the man-power of this country. Unless we state what that demand is, it is impossible for the whole picture to be presented to Parliament.
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow a secret debate upon the matter? It is about time he did so, because otherwise no one can determine whether his answers are correct or not.
– Order ! That is not consistent with the honorable gentleman’s question.
– No. This becomes a kind of inquisition while I am on my feet.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman has no need to reply to the end of the question.
– All right. Well, I will not.
– Will the Prime Minister enable honorable members to scrutinize the Executive’s use of manpower by permitting a debate on the subject at a secret meeting of the Parliament?
– During the last few years, honorable members have attended a number of secret meetings of the Parliament. I remind the honorable member for Warringah that a joint sitting of the two Houses must comply with the provisions of the Constitution, namely, that the meeting shall be held at the beginning of a session for a specific purpose.
– That is not necessary. We have held secret meetings at periods other than at the commencement of a session.
– Time and time again, members of the Opposition have informed me that secret meetingsof the Parliament have little value. Last year, when a secret meeting was proposed, I consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, and. came to the conclusion, as I stated to him then and subsequently to the House, that the consideration of the man-power problem had not been advanced sufficiently to enable a satisfactory debate on the subject. Consequently, no secret meeting was held for that purpose last year. However, at the end of the year, I made a statement to the Parliament in which I announced that there could be no variation of the then commitments in respect of man-power while that plan operated.
– I know what those commitments are, but other honorable members do not know.
– The time has arrived when war conditions may justify an early revision of certain aspects of the total use of man-power in this country. That work is now proceeding, but it depends upon a number of considerations. One of them is the fulfilment of our commitments not only to ourselves but also to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as our obligations to our other Allies. Until the war reaches a stage at which those commitments can be revised, by agreement, it would not be right for this country to say, “ “We do not propose to go on with what we have undertaken to do “.
– No one suggests that.
– As it is not suggested that we should do so, I have simply to say to the House and to the country that our commitments involve the substantial use of the available man-power of Australia. For civilian purposes, no additional manpower can be released until the war situation warrants a reduction of the fighting services. And I do not propose to reduce the fighting services at this stage.
– That is not the issue at all.
– That is the truth of the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister review his Government’s attitude towards the repatriation of men discharged from the Army as physically unfit without a pension? Men enlisting have to undergo a series of medical examinations to determine their fitness. Yet many soldiers, after two or three years of service, are being discharged as medically unfit and it, is claimed that their unfitness is not due to war service.
– Now the question.
– Will the Prime Minister ensure that men accepted as A Maes who are. discharged at? medically unfit, their unfitness claimed to be not due to war service, shall be granted medical treatment for all time?
– This Parliament has quite recently passed a repatriation act.
– It is not being properly administered.
– Well, the principles of that act, I understood, had the overwhelming support of this Parliament. Whether a man is physically fit or not on discharge from the services is a medical matter. If he is unfit he should not be discharged without at once being given all the consideration for which the Repatriation Act provides, and the Minister for Repatriation assures me that that is being done. If the honorable member will give me specific cases in which this injustice is being practised - and it is an injustice if what he says is correct - I will undertake myself to have them examined. I venture to saythat the Repatriation Department would welcome specific instances of that, nature.
– I will do so with pleasure and supply them to the right honorable gentleman personally.
– The honorable member should do so.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that some military camps which are not being used are being carted away? Will he either make those camps available to homeless people or, as expeditiously as possible, place them in the hands of the War Disposals Commission for sale, not to speculators, but to people who need them for homes?
– I am not aware that certain huts or camps are being “ carted away “. It is true that all huts or camps not required for military use have been handed over to the War Disposals Commission for disposal in accordance with the usual practice
– lt is claimed that the clock tower of the Sydney General Post Office, which was dismantled early in the war, is not to be replaced. In view of that, I should like the Postmaster-General to consider installing the clock in the tower of the Maryborough Post Office, from which the clock was removed a few yea.rs ago by the Postal Department? Will the Minister for Information assure the PostmasterGeneral that a home and a welcome from the people of -Maryborough await the clock there?
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General. If, as the honorable member has suggested, the clock be placed in the post office tower at Maryborough, I hope that it will wake up the electors of Maryborough so that they will make a change in their representation.
– I have just received a telegram stating that a cyclone at Wyong yesterday has made 200 people homeless.- Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping take steps to ensure that tents shall be made available by the Commonwealth to those unfortunate people while their homes are being reconstructed ?
– Thinking over the matter since the honorable gentleman prompted me, I have reached the conclusion that this matter should be handled by the Chief Secretary’s Department in New South Wales, which has the organization necessary to deal with it. Still, it may not have the tents available. T .shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to discuss with the Chief Secretary what steps he can take to cooperate with the State department in helping the victims.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction make a statement setting out the policy considerations that arc regarded as justifying the issue of permits for home-building and at the same time state the policy considerations that are regarded as justifying the issue of a permit for the building of political premises?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
A uht Trucks - Motor Cycles - Machinery and Plant.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state what procedure is necessary in order to secure particulars of prices, priority, &c, in respect of army trucks that are now being made available for sale by the Common wealth Disposals Commission ?
– Army motor trucks are being made available to State Governments and semi-governmental instrumentalities as a first priority; those remaining will be made available to the public. The price is fixed by the Prices Commission, and sales are made through the usual trade channels. In order to assist the honorable member, I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to prepare a statement and make it available.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping take steps to ensure that persons whose motor cycles were impressed by the Commonwealth Government shall be allowed to purchase motor cycles from the War Disposals Commission? Many of the persons concerned were buying their motor cycles on the hire-purchase system from certain companies. When the machines were impressed, the full amount owing to the companies was paid, and in 99 cases out of 100 the owners of the motor cycles were the losers. Therefore, it would be only right for the Government to allow those people to have an opportunity to purchase motor cycles from the commission.
– No plan such as that suggested by the honorable member for Griffith has been formulated by the War Disposals Commission. As thousands of motor cycles are now available for purchase, I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to forward the. honorable member’s proposal to the commission and suggest that it be given effect.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Snipping consider the advisability of appointing an officer of the War Dis’posals Commission to interview people who may be able to utilize machinery and plant which the commission will have available for sale in the near future, and which, in ordinary circumstances, would be sent to Sydney for sale? The people whom I have in mind may desire to purchase plant from munitions establishments in the western districts of New South Wales before it is transferred to Sydney. By the means I suggest they would get the machinery at a more reasonable price, because the figure would not be inflated by freight charges from the country districts to Sydney, and then from Sydney back to the country districts.
– The first stepin connexion with the sale of machinery and plant is for the department concerned to advise the War Disposals Commission that stocks are available for disposal. In this case, it appears that the initiative would rest with the Department of Munitions. Following an announcement that surplus stocks were available, the sale would take place. The honorable member for Calare has suggested that in the event of such disposals taking place, people in the district where the plant is located may desire to contact an officer of the commission for the purpose of discussing the proposition. The Sydney office of the commission is in Dymocks Buildings, George-street, Sydney, where officers are available to deal with these matters. I shall ask the Minister to examine the honorable member’s question more fully, and perhaps a plan may be formulated to give effect to it.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a supply of paper has yet been made available to the British Medical Association in order that it may publish its comments on the Government’s free medicine scheme?
– I am unable to say definitely whether the paper has been made available, but I discussed this matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs, who informed me that there would be no delay in issuing the paper.
– No further delay.
– Whether anydelay has occurred since then, I am not able to say.
– Recently, two highly paid executive officers, Messrs. Roper and Bland, were appointed to the Department of Labour and National Service. I ask the Minister to inform me why the application of returned soldiers’ organizations that these posts should be made available to properly equipped and qualified returned soldiers has been so arbitrarily dealt with and refused ?
– I cannot understand why the honorable member stated so definitely that the applications of returned soldiers’ organizationshad been arbitrarily refused.
– They have been refused.
– The honorable member assumed that two persons were appointed to executive positions in the department, and that in the process the claims of returned soldiers were disregarded. The facts are that no men - not the two whom the honorable member mentioned or any one else - have been appointed to such positions in any department associated with my portfolio during myterm of office. In every State, every officer in charge who is carrying out rehabilitation plans is a returned soldier.
– Some time last year the Prime Minister undertook to confer with the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Air with a view to improving the air services to Canberra. Transport conditions between the Federal Capital and Victoria are quite unsuitable, and this afternoon the Minister for Transport declared that it is not yet possible to restore sleeping berths on the outofdate railway serving Canberra. As only Ministers travel by motor car, will the right honorable gentleman regard the matter as urgent and inquire whether something can be done, now that aircraft are available, to improve the position?
– I cannot understand this constant reference to the fact that “ only Ministers travel by motor car “. Throughout the time I have been a member of this chamber, Ministers have travelled by motor car. This constant implication that members of this Government are in some way enjoying transport privileges which were not enjoyed by their predecessors-
– Well, it is true.
– If any honorable member is enduring a hardship which I can possibly remedy, he knows me well enough to be sure that I shall endeavour to do’ so. But I resent the implication that only Ministers of this Government use motor cars.
– It is useless for the Prime Minister to show resentment. What I have said is true.
– I resent the implication that members of this Government get exceptional transport privileges.
-When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I did not use a motor car.
– My information is that the air services to Canberra have been greatly improved since the honorable member addressed his question on the subject to me last year.
– How have they been improved ?
– There are more air services to Canberra now than there were three months ago, with a greater frequency of service.
– A few more services and we shall be travelling!
– If the honorable member interjects much more he will certainly be travelling.
Mr.CURTIN.- The Government is doing its best with the restricted transport facilities available. The honorable member may shake his head, but what I have said is true.I am not prepared to spend vast sums of money to provide air services for the accommodation of honorable members in order to meet a temporary restriction of land services.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in connexion with the conference which is to be held at San
Francisco in April, the Australian Government delegation to which is to be led, we understand, by the Deputy Prime Minister, invitations have yet been issued to other authorities and organizations, including the Opposition, to nominate delegates? On what basis will representatives be selected? Will the delegation be able to speak with a united voice in presenting the Australian view? Will delegates have any opportunity for consultations before the conference, or will they be allowed to express their individual views?
– No outside bodies will be asked to nominate representatives. Non-governmental groups and interests will not be represented as such. The delegation that will be selected to represent Australia will be worthy of this country.
Mr.Fraser, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral’s Speech (vide page 19), presented the proposed address, which was read by the Clerk.
– I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
May it please Your Royal Highness:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, to extend to Your Royal Highness a welcome to Australia, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The address expresses our loyalty to the Throne and our welcome to the Duke of Gloucester, and it is no merely formal expression. We sincerely welcome the Duke to this country and wish for him success and health in the carrying out of the duties of his high office. We also wish health and happiness for his family while they are among us. The Australian people yield to no other British people in their loyalty to the Throne as the symbol of the close relationship which binds together the British peoples - a relationship which our admiration for the achievements and endurance of the people of the United Kingdom during the war makes us even more eager to cement.
The Governor-General’s Speech records the tremendous events which are bringing this war to its climax, and we salute the achievements of all the Allied forces, particularly those of our own Australian services. From the beginning of the war our fighting forces have fulfilled their part with imperishable courage. Our possession of this country to-day is due to those who have placed their bodies between us and the enemy. We should hold that fact in daily remembrance anr! shape our course accordingly. They were Australian forces which first drove the Japanese back when they were within 30- miles of Port Moresby. The story of the achievements of our men in this war has not yet been sufficiently told, and is not sufficiently widely appreciated even by our own Australian people. At this moment, .in the islands to the north of Australia our men are battling against formidable enemy forces. Even while we debate this motion, Australian fighting men of all arms are risking their lives and enduring all the hardships of battle in order that we may remain free. That also should be held in daily remembrance.
The war comes first until it is won. All other things must be subordinated to the support of our fighting men because without their efforts everything else would be meaningless. Without their efforts we could not even retain possession of this country. Civilians on the home front know something of inconveniences and restrictions, but, substantial as some of these are, they are not to bo spoken of in the same breath as the hardships and sacrifices of the men of the fighting forces. This also needs to be increasingly realized in this country. The standard of our effort at home, good as it is, falls short of the efforts of the men on the fighting front, and there is reason for seeking an improvement in our efforts at home. There can be no finer example to his fellow civilians in this matter than that set by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). By his austerity and his un- remitting devotion to duty, he has personally exemplified the attitude that, should be adopted by the civilian population. He has spent himself to the point, of undermining his own health. The whole nation welcomes his return to the active leadership of the nation.
Civilians are called on, in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to recognize that such hardships as are being imposed upon them constitute the most effective means of shortening the struggle. To the extent that our efforts fall short of what they ought to be - and they do fall short - it is due partly to thoughtlessness, but largely to a deep-seated doubt in the minds of a large section of the Australian people as to whether powerful vested interests in this country will any more readily allow the easily promised new order to be realized after this war, than they allowed similar promises to be realized after the last war. For a maximum war effort by the people of this country we require not only a strong conviction of the justice of our cause, but, also a strong confidence in the minds of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth that the post-war Australia will be worthy of the sacrifices that are being made. That is why so much importance attaches to this session - in which, as the Speech says, we are to deal with so many of the problems of the post-war period. This largely is to be a session devoted to planning for the peace; planning which can be deferred no longer if the promises of post-war security and justice that have been made to the people are on this occasion to be fulfilled. The Government has submitted a series of proposals designed to achieve the re-establishment of servicemen and servicewomen, higher living standards, adequate housing, full employment, and extensions of social services, which, taken as a whole are aimed at the promotion of a maximum degree of economic security and prosperity. Each of these proposals involves direct government intervention and positive government action. Each involves government intervention so as to influence the working of the economic system, and collective action so as to abolish the evils of mass poverty and unemployment. The objectives are objectives with which, 1 have no doubt, every honorable member will .agree. However, they are objectives which never yet have been realized in the history of this country, and, so far as I know, there is no way of achieving them except by positive government action. Yet, as the attitude of the Opposition already has clearly shown, every one of these proposals involves a political clash. The basis of that clash is deep-seated. It is a clash between opposed concepts of the proper role and task of government. There is, first, the concept which I have just stated. It is a. concept that has been largely developed and strengthened by the experience of war, and is accepted to-day by the government of every democratic nation engaged in the war. Then there is still the concept which prevailed very largely in most democratic countries before the war, namely, that the Government should leave the economic system to run itself; that it should stand aside from the economic struggle, and that it should confine its activity to maintaining the law and providing sustenance for those unfortunate enough to fall by the wayside in the economic struggle. That is a concept under which all the miseries of malnutrition, unemployment and insecurity have prevailed. To return to it would be to give no heed to the belief that we can ever escape from those conditions. It is clear, however, that the Opposition in this country - laughingly referred to to-day as the Liberal party - remains committed to that concept. It is not prepared to examine on its merits any of the proposals put forward for government intervention, but on the contrary attacks each proposal on the very ground that government intervention is involved. Having no other defence to offer of private profit-making control, the Opposition raises the cry of individual freedom. The falseness of that cry I hope to reveal before I resume my seat. There is the line of conflict, and the political issue which has to be fought out in this Parliament and decided by the people at the next elections. It is a struggle on the outcome of which, I believe, rests largely the future of the Commonwealth, because post-war reconstruction must be built on the recognition of three urgent considerations. First, our very pos session of this soil being dependent upon those who fight for it, we have a paramount obligation to re-establish them securely in civilian life. Secondly, unless we can increase our population substantially, our doom as a people has already been, written, and we cannot obtain that increase, either naturally or by means of migration, unless we can offer the opportunity of happiness and security. Thirdly, in order to make Australia a great nation, we must reverse the drift of population from the country to the cities, and must be able to guarantee stable prices for all primary products, as well as the extension of the amenities of electricity, water supply and transport, to all country dwellers. I do not know of any means of achieving these objectives other than government action. The Opposition has shown itself in each instance to be opposed to such action. Therefore, the Government has to proceed with its programme and the issue has to be decided. Of the long-run outcome of that issue, I have not the slightest doubt. Of the immediate course of the conflict, I do not choose to predict, because I fully recognize what catchcries are available to the Opposition and what powerful machinery of publicity it has at its service. Nevertheless, I believe that the people as a whole are increasingly realizing what is at stake in this matter. In any event, if we are to lay any claim to the people’s faith in the working of the parliamentary system we ought not to be afraid to say that there are considerations more important than the holding of our seats, and that we have the right to strive for that course of political action in which we firmly believe. What we have achieved during the war by positive government intervention in the economic system is tremendous, and is demonstrable to everyone. A very great increase of national production has been achieved. True, it has been and still is necessary to devote one-half of that production to the wasteful tasks of war. That increase has been achieved largely by direct government intervention in the economic system; although it has to be admitted that other factors which will not operate after the war have contributed somewhat to it. During the war, we have raised our national income from £700,000,000 a year to almost double that sum. Making every allowance for the non-replacement of capital assets during the war, for the considerable amount of overtime that is being worked, and for the production of many thousands of women who normally, after the war, will return to domestic tasks, it is yet abundantly clear that, if we can maintain after the war this high employment, this high income economy, and devote the major part of the increased production to the provision of goods and services for the Australian people, we shall be able within measurable time to accomplish improvements in the living standards of the Australian people of a kind undreamt of in 1939. Certainly, Australia is largely a primary producing country, and must so remain after the war. Moreover. we cannot control the prices which our primary products will bring on the markets of the world. Since the total price received abroad for our primary exports must, in the long run, determine the volume of goods and services which we can bring in from overseas for the use of the Australian people, export prices must continue to have a substantial bearing on our prosperity. But there is no reason why we cannot guarantee payable and stable prices for all our primary production, and spread smoothly over the whole of the community the effects of any variation of overseas prices. Never again need it be necessary that a slump in overseas prices should cause a steadily spreading slump throughout Australia, with a large proportion of our population without work and the necessities of life. Never need there be a time when we cannot provide in abundant measure all the necessities of life for all the Australian people; for we have them all to hand within this vast continent itself - all the resources from which to meet their needs in respect of food, clothing, shelter, education and medical attention, and all the labour required to provide such things from those resources. So that, if we care to apply the lessons of war, and if we are no longer required to devote onehalf of our productive resources to the tasks of war, we can be in a position, within measurable time after the war. substantially to increase the living standards of our people. We can be in a position to guarantee work to every man who is willing to work, or, in periods during which the community temporarily is unable to provide work, at least a decent living standard. We can be in a position to guarantee a payable price to the primary producers of this country; to provide child endowment to parents, equal to the full cost of rearing each child ; and to provide for the aged and infirm, not a pension if they are impoverished, but a living allowance obtainable as a right and without any means test. Against the proposals that are designed to achieve those objectives, the Opposition raises the cry of “individual freedom”. It is a false and deceptive cry; because there can be no individual freedom where there is no individual security. The truly servile state is one in . which a man has no assurance of work to maintain his family, in which he has to beg for work, and, having obtained it, is dependent for its continuance upon the whim of some other human being. That, very largely, was the position in pre-war Australia. T claim that, to .establish public financial controls, to convert powerful monopolies to public ownership, is not to limit individual freedom or to destroy private enterprise, but to increase the opportunities for both. To have a high-income full-employment economy, to provide social services as a right and not as a dole, is not to lessen incentive or to undermine thrift, but, on the contrary, to give encouragement to incentive and thrift. To remove the power of monopolies to throttle the small business man and the farmer, as they have done in the past, is not to crush the private enterprise of the small business man and the farmer, but to give to him new opportunity and new hope. To give to every man who is willing to work the right to work, is not to restrict the freedom of that man, but to give to him, for the first time, a freedom which he has never enjoyed before. And to establish a basis of society in which every man and woman of goodwill in the community is assured of an income at least sufficient to provide food and comforts, is not to restrict the means of rewarding special service, but, on the contrary, to provide at least such incentive and reward as justly can be paid to those who render special service, without injustice to those who are lower down on the economic ladder. For all these reasons the cry that the steps which the Government proposes to take will be an interference with personal freedom is without justification. They will promote personal freedom. It was Mr. Walter Lippmann who said some time ago that there is no essential similarity between the rights of individuals and the rights of joint stock companies. It is the Opposition which is endeavouring once again to confuse the issue in the public mind, and so prevent the achievement of full employment in a free society.
Wherever Australians are serving in this war they are dreaming of a happier and better state of society to be attained after this dreadful struggle is over. That is the dream of the man who is in the jungle to-day confronting the enemy. He looks forward to the day when he can return and live his life in prosperity, in security, in freedom and in happiness with his own family, and in his own home. That is also the dream of the mother of the soldier, and of the wife of the soldier waiting for his return. There, is so much that this Parliament can do, and that the Government can do, by direct and positive intervention in the social system in order to achieve that result. I believe that the obligation is upon us to discharge this responsibility to the nation to the best of our ability.
– I second the motion, and join with my colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), in welcoming to Australia our new Governor-General, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Her Royal Highness the Duchess, and the members of their family. We hope that, during their stay here, they will have an opportunity to learn something of the problems of the Australian people, and that they will come to understand the tremendous potentialities of this great nation. When they return, upon the expiration of their term of office, they will I trust, as have former Vice-Regal families, “be ambassadors for Australia at the heart of the Empire.
The Speech of the Governor-General dealt largely, as was natural, with the progress of the present war. He directed attention to the state of the war in the Pacific, and to the progress of the war in Europe. The signs to-day are hopeful. There are indications that the end of the conflict is now within measurable distance. As he pointed out, there will be much hardship to endure before the struggle is brought to a successful conclusion, hut there is now no longer any doubt that such a conclusion will be reached as a result of the efforts of our fighting men and of our industrial workers. There was a time when, if we did not lose hope of victory, hope seemed dim. Now, however, it is certain that the war will end in victory for our armed forces, and in defeat and confusion for those nations which plunged the world into war. They hoped, by their aggression, to take what they wanted from other nations which desired only to live in peace and security, and which were always willing to accord to every other nation the rights and freedom which they themselves enjoyed.
It is evident that the end of the war in Europe cannot now be long delayed, but the struggle is still fierce, and the losses will yet be grievous. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said, no one can say with any degree of accuracy just when the war will end. We know that members of the fighting forces engaged in the titanic struggle in Europe, as well as those engaged in the Pacific war, must endure great hardships, and suffer heavy losses. Many of the men who went from Australia will not return. Many of those who do return will bear the scars of battle on their bodies, and in their minds, as long as they live. It is our firm and definite responsibility, now that the end- is in sight, to dedicate ourselves and the nation to the taking of such action within our own country, and in concert with other countries, as will ensure that war between nations shall not again be resorted to as a means of settling differences. I have been staggered te hear honorable members state from time to time in this House that wars between nations have always been, and must always be. That is a defeatist attitude unworthy of any public man. Any one who holds such a belief should dismiss it from his mind, and bend his thoughts and his energies towards ensuring that justice shall be done by nations great and small, and that the horror, misery and suffering of war shall no longer afflict the earth.
The Governor-General drew attention to the .steps which Australia was taking in concert with other nations to establish a better post-war order. He referred to the twin obligations which rested upon every government, namely, to promote, economic security at home and freedom from foreign aggression. In my first speech in this House I expressed my profound conviction that peoples do not desire without reason to descend upon the lands of their neighbours, or to take aggressive action against other countries. For that statement I was taken to task by that liberal publication, the Sydney Bulletin, which suggested that I had been so long on the soap-box that it had got into my head. Well, that may or may not be so, but I remain convinced that peoples do not readily migrate to other countries. When they do, they are forced to it by conditions prevailing in their own country, generally by a lack of security, by a feeling that there exists no possibility of proper human and economic development, and that they have no prospect of living out their lives in security and happiness. It is when large numbers in any country are moved by such considerations that the nation is forced into war. I believe that the primary consideration of the Government should be the economic security of our own people, but we cannot escape our obligation to promote also the security and progress of other nations and other peoples, no matter what the colour of their skins or where they happen to live. The post-war organization which we propose to establish must concern itself, not only with the prevention of war, but also with promoting justice and equity between nations.
The Speech of the Governor-General outlined a lengthy legislative programme for the present session of Parliament. The first item on the programme is the Government’s proposal to set up an authority to control interstate airlines. I welcome this proposal because I regard 1/ ;’. Burke. it as an important forward step. There are certain activities which, from their nature, must necessarily be conducted as monopolies. There is very little to be said in favour of competing lines of transport over certain routes. Such a system would result only in greater overhead expenses, higher costs and reduced efficiency. The alternative, in the absence of government control, is the establishment of a monopoly by one line, or the merging of existing lines into one organization, so that competition will be eliminated. That is a possibility which we cannot contemplate with approval. I was pleased, therefore, when the Government announced during last session that it proposed to take over the operation of interstate airlines. If the Government provides suitable services, as I know it will, it can do much to promote the development of Australia. It can provide better services between States and between the eastern and western parts of Australia, and it can also encourage intra-state services. Probably there is no other country in the world which lends itself so well to the development of aerial transport as does Australia.
Mention was also made in the Speech of the Governor-General of the Government’s proposals for the post-war settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, acting in co-operation with the State governments. Soldier settlement after the last war left, very little room for satisfaction. I heard one honorable member in this House say in his maiden speech that the Government, when it embarked upon a system of land settlement for soldiers, should not tie around the necks of the men a burden of debt and high interest that would destroy all chance of their ever ma-king a success of the enterprise. In many instances soldiers who were settled on the land were condemned to wear themselves out in their efforts to make a living, and eventually they were forced to leave the land upon which they had spent the best years of their lives. I trust that that experience will not be repeated.
I come now to the Government’s banking proposals. It is no secret that I favour the complete nationalization of banking services. I cannot imagine, if some one were setting out to draw up a plan for an ideal banking service, that he would choose our existing system, under which we have one central bank to control the volume of credit and to issue notes, while at the same time there are private banking institutions which use the national bank as a clearing-house for their operations. So the Government’s proposals did not give’ the full satisfaction I desired; but I do think that they will enable the Government to carry out its definite policy to use the nation’s resources of men and materials for the properly balanced development of Australia. No one who has looked on the Australian scene can be satisfied by our situation or by our development with six swollen capital cities and an empty outback. No one who has travelled across Western Australia and, presumably, the other States, could be impressed by the efforts of the governments and the community to develop the outer areas. Of course, from time to time, the country has been affected by adverse seasons, but largely the lack of development has been due, in good season and bad season alike, to the huge burden of capital indebtedness on the farmers. Owing to their interest burden they have a never-ending struggle to make both ends meet. They never have a hope of getting out of debt, never a chance to provide a small measure of comfort or to obtain security of tenure. Therefore, I hope that the proposals of the Government, when they are developed, will ensure that the farmers, the home builders and the home purchasers of this country shall be provided with the money they require at a reasonable rate of interest. It does not matter very much to me whether -banks make profits at all if, by their operations, our national assets are developed and if by that development the farmers ‘ are made prosperous and their holdings developed instead of being allowed to blow away in the st’orm3 that cross the country. For the soil erosion, which’ has reached the proportions of a real menace, the methods of the farmers are largely blamed, but I am certain, from experience, that the farmers of Australia have not had a chance of scientific farming because they have had to use all available land to produce crops in order to meet their interest charges and to provide themselves and their families with a living.
Many other things are contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, which was a very hopeful one. The Government intends to expand the operations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It promises relaxation of controls. A full employment policy is announced. All are welcome. Social services, as His Royal Highness pointed out, have been developed by this Government, and vastly expanded services are hoped for. These social services are usually opposed by honorable members opposite, not because of the services provided, but because’ we have ensured that they shall not be “contributory”, that is, that they shall not provide for the same payment to be made by men on the low rungs of income as by men in the higher groups. We believe that our social services are the soundest economically that could be put forward. I hope that we shall go on to provide greater services, not only because humanity demands them, but also because it is idle and hypocritical to cry out for an increased birthrate unless medical benefits and health services, including attention to babies and mothers, are provided.
I endorse the .mover’s words of welcome and goodwill to His Royal Highness. I join with His Royal Highness’s expressed hope that his term of office will see the end of this ghastly struggle. I hope that before he returns to his homeland we shall have seen set up an organization of the nations which will ensure that as far as is humanly possible the economic security of the men and women of the world shall be guaranteed and that nations shall resolve their quarrels and differences by the conciliation and arbitration that we advocate in industrial life instead of by the arbitrament of war.
Sitting suspended from 4.20 to 8 p.m.
– The. GovernorGeneral’s Speech this year has a very special interest for all honorable members, because it has been delivered to us by His Royal Highness, the King’s brother; and I want at once to associate the members of the Liberal party with the pleasure that has been expressed at the arrival of His Royal Highness in th is country to act as Governor-General. He can be well assured, and indeed he needs no assurance, that he will have not. only a loyal and enthusiastic reception by all Australian citizens, but also the co-operation of all parties and all members of this Parliament.
The Speech which His Royal Highness read to both Houses yesterday was unusually long. I do not say that it was too long, but it was unusually long, and it may be divided into two parts. In the first part, it set out retrospectively an account of the progress of the war, and in the second part it laid before honorable members some picture of the legislation that will be presented to the Parliament during this session. I desire to say something about the two divisions of that Speech. I point out to honorable members, and not for the first time, that the oddity about this Parliament, particularly in the last twelve months, is that whilst fine words are spoken about our wholehearted devotion to the war effort, a considerable portion of the time of this House is devoted to very contentious domestic legislation. That is something which honorable members, on this side of the chamber at any rate, can only deplore. I shall say a little more about that matter in a moment. All I am doing at present is to emphasize that, after all, this practice adopted by the Government does divide and distract the public mind at a time when great international problems and war problems demand the greatest contribution from Australia.
– When did the Leader of the Opposition first realize that?
– It is all very well for my friend, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, to suggest that we on this side of the chamber are responsible for it. I shall remind him, if necessary, that the political party of which he is a member is entirely responsible for the continuance of party politics in Australia during this war.
– Is this the “Fighting Opposition “ ?
– If I were the honorable member for Bourke, I should not worry very much about the “Fighting Opposition”. The honorable member probably will not be a member of the next Parliament and therefore will not need to worry about the matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition might not be a member of the next Parliament.
– After all, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) ought to be the last one to intervene in this discussion.
– Order! If the Leader of the Opposition invites interjections, the Chair cannot protect him.
– I am delighted when honorable members opposite accept the invitation. Never could I imagine anything more agreeable than for the honorable member for Hume to interject in a discussion about persons who will not be members of the next Parliament. Later, I shall return to this agreeable subject, on which I foresee a few pleasant moments; but in the meantime, I want to say something about that part of the Governor-General’s Speech which reviewed the progress of the war. In dealing with it, I desire to raise for the consideration of the House and the people of Australia a matter which, I confess, is gravely concerning my own mind and, I arn quite sure, the minds of hundreds of thousands of other people. From the Governor-General’s Speech and from all the facts as we see them, it is clear that the main amphibious drive towards Japan is to be undertaken by the American forces through the Philippines and along a route about which we can speculate. The role allotted to the Australian forces ever since that drive began is the secondary role of “ mopping up “ by-passed areas which, as I understand it, cannot be regarded any longer as of primary military moment.
– It is the toughest job of the lot!
– Do not misunderstand me ! I do not deny the immense difficulty and danger of this task. All I am doing is to query whether, in all the circumstances of this war, that task i.= of such moment as to be preferred to all other tasks which may be allotted to the forces of this country.
– That is a matter for decision by the High Command.
– If honorable members will be patient, they will hear what I am about to say. I desire to point out what I believe to be the line of demarcation between the functions of the High Command and the functions of the Government of a democratic country like Australia. Of course, it is not for me and, with great respect, it is not for any other member of this House, to determine technical military questions. But it has always been for the Government of this country - and this Government would assert it just as strongly as earlier governments would have done - to decide in what theatres and under what command Australian forces shall be engaged. That principle has been adhered to from the beginning of this war. It is a principle subscribed to by honorable members on both sides of the House.
– When did the Leader of the Opposition subscribe to it?
– I subscribed to it in very practical terms for the first two years of this war, I remind the House that it was a political decision on the highest plane which sent the Australian Imperial Force to the Middle East in this war. It was again a political decision on the highest plane which brought the Australian Imperial Force back from the Middle East. It was a political decision which sent many of the members of the Royal Australian Air Force to Great Britain. All these matters which involve the disposition of the forces of Australia to this theatre or that theatre, under this command or that command, must of necessity be made by the government of the country. And no government will abdicate that responsibility. It would be ari absurdity to say to the Prime Minister of this country, “ You are bound to send the forces of Australia wherever some military authority may tell you to send them “. Once the Prime Minister decides, with his colleagues, that within a certain theatre forces shall be engaged, then of course he would never dream of intervening in their military use. There we have the line of demarcation. The politician must accept responsibility for the broad strategic disposition of the forces of his country. He must never, at his peril, intervene in their use by competent military leaders within that sphere of operation.
That means that the question of where, in broad terms, Australian forces should be sent is not a merely technical military question, but is, in the best sense of the term, a political question; and because it is one for which the Governmentmust accept responsibility, Ministers will at once agree that it is one which, within the limits of circumstances, the Parliament itself should be able to discuss. Within the limits of circumstances, because there may be considerations bearing on the use of forces which are not for public discussion, I propose to deal with this subject.’ If certain facts should be laid before us which would influence our judgment, the Prime Minister has the means of providing us with them without dangerous publicity.
In the meantime, there are one or two things which ought to be said, though not dogmatically, because I do not know all the facts and nine-tenths of us in this chamber do not and cannot know all the facts. At all events, there are certain things which leap to the eye. As the Governor-General’s Speech tells us, we have had the spectacle of a brilliant and successful campaign against the Philippines. No member of this House will have one word to say in criticism of the marvellous successes that have attended the forces in the SouthWest Pacific. We admire and applaud them, and are grateful for them. So far, all of those campaigns have been designed to take step by sten a path leading to Tokyo, and one great step has been to retake the Philippines. Now, the Philippines are being retaken primarily by American ‘military strength. That is right, because America is deeply pledged in its honour, self-respect, and pride to relieve the Philippines, because it was American directing strength which was evicted from the Philippines during the early stages of the war with Japan. Therefore, the United States of America has every right to be leading the campaign for the relief of the Philippines.
In exactly the same way, by an exact parity of reasoning, we of the British race have a profound interest in the relief of Burma, Malaya, and Singapore, and we in Australia have a particular interest in the relief of the Netherlands East Indies. Just as we say to our gallant friends of the United States, !! We understand your mind on this matter”, so we should begin to understand our own mind on the question of whether we should endeavour to use. our own forces for the restoration in the Far East of a position of power and responsibility from -which, in short terms, we were ejected by the Japanese. Thus, the real question which presents itself to the mind, and I arn quite sure that it. has presented itself to the minds of those who are responsible for the government of this country, is this: Are we vo use our major forces primarily for doing what I call “ mopping-np operations “ in by-passed areas, or should they be used as an integral portion of a British army to deliver those countries in the Far East which have been overrun by Japan? As to that, I confess that I have very strong views.
– But has the Leader of the Opposition all the information?
– I began my remarks by saying that I had none. That is why I say that if there are facts which bear upon this matter and which would determine or influence our judgment, it is manifestly desirable that these facts should be presented to us in some suitable fashion.
– War all too often has to be fought according to the hard facts rather than according to the desires and views of people.
– I realize that, and I should be the last’ to deny it. The point I wish to emphasize is this: We have a profound political interest in the restoration of British authority in Burma, Malaya and Singapore, and a profound future interest in the relief and restoration of the Netherlands East Indies. I should like to think - and I do not believe that I am alone in Australia in this matter - that we were able at this time to have a division, or perhaps two divisions, of the Australian Imperial Force fighting with other British troops for the relief of Malaya, and the rescue of those men who were captured at Singapore.
– How would we get our troops there ?
– Now the Prime Minister is inviting me to consider a mass of details; frankly, I do not know the details. I should be very happy indeed to have my own mind put at rest on this matter, and there are hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who would be very happy to feel a complete sense of satisfaction that our Australian forces were, at this moment, doing their best work in this war. After all, that is all that concerns us - I am quite certain that it is all that concerns the Prime Minister. He has all the facts and I have not; but in the absence of some controlling facts I am permitted to say that the people of Australia would be interested to know whether there were any real compelling reasons why our armies, or at least a section of our armies, should not be engaged in what, in the long run, may be one of the major tasks in the far eastern war.
The Speech of His Royal Highness the Governor-General contained several references to international conferences. Of course, the holding of such conferences is not a matter for criticism, because conferences on civil aviation and all kinds of economic problems cannot be too frequent. It will be necessary for us to have more and more of them before the war ends and in the first two or three years at least after it- ends. However, I detect some danger in one or two aspects of these conferences. The independence of each British dominion as a self-governing community is now so well established that it is notchallenged, and nobody regards it as being in any doubt; but emphasis placed upon it may create a tendency to believe that when the British nations meet in conference with other nations, they ought to meet always as independent units and not as members of a team. I do not believe it is desirable that we, the nations of the British Empire, should develop the practice of attending great international conferences without adequate prc-consultation, because, quite plainly, if we can agree, and caa present a common front, on broad questions at any rate, our voice in the post-war settlements will bc infinitely more powerful than it would be if we attended these meetings as a series of units. I say that because I have in mind the very important conference attended by my friend the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford). That gathering was called to discuss the future of civil aviation. Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the fact that it was not possible to secure agreement on a considerable number of matters which were on the agenda, but, in the long run, some technical matters had to be agreed upon, and certain tentative arrangements were made in regard to others. Therefore, I take leave to ask this question: Before attending that conference did the Minister have adequate pre-consultation with all the other British countries which were to be represented at it? On the surface, there is nothing to suggest that this pre-consultation was carried out, though I am perfectly certain that the Minister would have welcomed it. It is known, for instance, that the British Minister arrived a day or two before the conference commenced, having been newly appointed to his office only a few days previously. I speak with some knowledge of international conferences, within the British Empire at any rate, amd the point I wish to emphasize is this : If a conference at which the views- of the British nations are to be presented to other countries is to achieve its best results, it is of first importance that the British countries should have’ official discussions, should endeavour to understand thoroughly each other’s points of view and, so far as possible, should reconcile their views before the conference begins. If that be not done, we in Australia, for instance, shall lose the significance that would attach to us as an active member of an Empire team and shall have only such strength as attaches to us as an independent unit of 7,000,000 people. There is real strength in unity when Empire discussions are to take place. I do not suppose many honorable members would doubt that on a great number of problems which confront the world to-day a concerted Empire voice would be vital. Indeed, it is well known that, in the course of the war, successive governments of this country have attached considerable importance to the problem of more and more Empire consultation, and more and more concerted Empire action, ranging on the one hand from a request, made early in the war, for an Empire War Cabinet, to the more recent request by the Prime Minister for a permanent Empire Secretariat. Whatever form these requests may take, we are aiming at the same thing, namely, close consultation, close harmony, and concerted action unless unconcerted action proves to be utterly unavoidable. I notice in the Governor-General’s Speech that this principle, which is no new principle, is recognized explicity in a much smaller sphere. Paragraph 37 of the Speech states -
It is my Government/’!! intention to invite the Premiers to more frequent consultation on matters of common concern, after the ground has been thoroughly prepared by prior discussions between the officers concerned.
There we have in the CommonwealthS ta te sphere recognition of a principle which I believe to be entirely sound, and upon which I believe we could insist, so far as possible, whoever may be in office. We should not go straggling to great conferences ; we should go in a concerted manner.
I turn now to the broad question of our relation in this Parliament to the Department of External Affairs. We do not have many discussions on international affairs. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has made many valuable statements to the House on international topics, and occasionally some of us have had an opportunity to offer some views, but for the most part we, as members of Parliament, are not given an opportunity to be vocal on international matters. Some time ago some of us - I know of at least two honorable members besides myself - urged that there should be set up in this Parliament either a joint committee of both Houses, or a separate committee of each House, on foreign affairs. I should prefer a joint committee of both Houses, consisting of eight or ten private members of Parliament who would have an opportunity to have consultations with the Minister, to see documents, to obtain access to such information as could reasonably be made available, and to learn the underlying bases of policy. At present, we do not have any such opportunities, and the result is that we pay as little attention - I say that with regret - to external or foreign affairs as any parliament in the world. An example which I think illustrates perfectly what I have in mind is to be found in the recent discussions which have taken place in Europe on the position of Poland. I have not previously referred in this chamber to the position of Poland. Though I have been tempted more than once to do so, I have not done it because whilst matters are at a certain stage, nothing but embarrassment may result from intervention by any one who is not thoroughly well informed. However, the time has come when members of this Parliament should indicate that to them the Polish question is at least a problem. I assure the Minister for External Affairs, whose knowledge of this matter is infinitely greater than mine, that I do not intend to make a series of dogmatic statements about Poland. I have not sufficient knowledge of the history or the territory of Poland to enable me to offer dogmatic views; but if there is any international problem that has occasioned me the profoundest anxiety in recent months, it is the problem of Poland. And what is the position? I shall state the facts which are beyond dispute. In 1939, Polish territory was guaranteed - a guarantee on which Great Britain went to war, and on which we went to war - and whatever may have been the ultimate foundations of this war or whatever may have been its remote causes, what the lawyers would call the causa causans of the war was the invasion of Poland by Germany, and the bringing into operation of the territorial guarantee. The result was that we found ourselves at war, primarily for Poland. Of course, in the wider sense we were at war for all sorts of palpable and concrete things, but first and foremost in point of time, we were at war for Poland. The war has gone on, and Australia as a country has been tolerably remote from it. If there is one country that has gone through all the hell and horror of this war, it is Poland; if there is one set of people in the world which has gone through the miseries of war and knows something about it, it is the Polish people. We are now informed that the frontiers of Poland are to be adjusted ; that the Curzon Line, with trifling modifications, is to be adopted. The leaders of the great nations have said, “ We think that is right “. The Polish Government in London, now so much criticized but led, until his death, by a most distinguished Pole, has said, “ We reject the proposals “ ; but the Polish Government at Lublin has said, “ We approve of it “. On the 14th August, 1941, a joint declaration, which we know as the Atlantic Charter, was made by President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. It was referred to and, I understand, adopted in terms, at the Yalta conference a few days ago. The first three clauses - I read them so that honorable members may have them in mind - are these : First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other; second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned; and third, they respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live, and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to . those who have been forcibly deprived of them.. I repeat the second - they desire to- see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people, concerned. I ask, because I want information: Have the people of Poland freely expressed their wishes on this matter of territorial adjustment? It may be - I do not know ; I hope that we shall be informed - that the Government at Lublin is, in the truest sense, representative of the people of Poland ; and it may be that that Government has itself consented to those adjustments. If both of those things be right, then the Atlantic Charter is satisfied, and I have no more to say and have no more anxiety in my mind.
– The former cannot be right, because the Lublin Government is an ad hoc government.
– I have understood that to be so. I am a searcher after truth in this matter. It may be that the Lublin Government is not truly representative of the Polish people and that the sentiment of those people is more adequately expressed by the Polish Government in London. There are the two possibilities: Either the Lublin Government represents the people of Poland, in which case those people have consented to this change to what, otherwise, would appear to be a dismemberment; or it does not represent the Polish people, and the sentiment of those people is represented by the Government in London - in which case we- have departed, solemnly and notoriously, from the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
– There is the third possibility, that the people of Poland have not spoken through either of those governments.
– That is perfectly true. I am indebted to my honorable friend for having referred to the third possibility that the people of Poland have not spoken through either government; that the Government of the people of Poland has yet to come, and that the views of those people have yet to be made known. Some honorable member has said, “ Make up your mind about it “. 1 cannot make up my mind about it. How could I? AH that I know - and I say this as the one whose responsibility it was, as the Leader of the Government of this country in September, 1939, to declare that this country was at, war - is that 1 have a profound feeling of anxiety within me about the Polish position; and if one possibility to which I have, referred - that the Lublin Government does not speak for the Polish people - should happen to be right, then I have in me a profound feeling of shame; because I do not believe for one moment’ that, in a country like this, we can afford to start off by dedicating ourselves to what we believe to be a great crusade for really sacred principles, and then, under pressure, or because of circumstances, cynically depart from them. [Extension of time granted.] I hope that the Minister for External Affairs will take whatever opportunity may present itself - of which he will be the judge - either through a committee or in some other way, to inform our minds on these matters ; because they are matters upon which we ultimately must be able to face our own consciences. Australia may be a very small part of the world, but from the very beginning it has been one of the belligerents in this war; and speaking for myself, and I believe for many thousands of Australians, I say that this is a matter which touches the national conscience, and which ought to touch the national pride. We must have facts. We must know what the truth is about the matter. We may not be able to do very much about it even when we know the truth; but I,’ for one, will never be happy, will never be at rest within myself, unless I know that the foundations of my trouble are false.
Some honorable gentlemen in the opposite corner having found the sufferings and the future of Poland so entirely hilarious, such a subject for mirth, I shall turn to the business of the session. Two of the. many matters referred to in the Speech are banking control and civil aviation control. Two months ago, the expession used was “ nationalization “. To-day I notice in the Speech, it is “ control “. From what I know .of some honorable members opposite, the second word was not chosen because it was the shorter of the two. I do not intend to discuss in advance the contents df bills that will come before us. But I point out to the House that the banks are to-day controlled completely under the National Security Act and regulations. It has not been suggested, and is not suggested in the Speech, that there is any limitation upon the power of the Government to maintain those war-time controls. Therefore, when the Speech foreshadows legislation about the banks, quite obviously it foreshadows legislation which is to operate after the war. Of course, it is clear to a great number of people in Australia that, at this very time, with three-fourths of a Governor-General’s Speech devoted to fine words about the war and our complete absorption in it, we are to have a legislative session that will have nothing to do with the war, but has been designed entirely to make provision for the post-war control of banking. Indeed, there is a slight note of optimism - or, perhaps, pessimism ; I do not know which - in the Government’s approach to this matter ; because I notice that, in the Speech of His Royal
Highness the Governor-General, his Ministers refer to the estimate - of which, apparently, they approve - that it will take eighteen months to defeat the Japanese after the defeat of Germany; a period of time, I remind honorable gentlemen opposite, which will take us past the next elections. So, what the Government really is proposing is to take advantage of its entirely accidental - or whatever else one may care to call it - position in this House, in order to bring down legislation which will not, on anybody’s view, operate or be needed until well after the next elections, and well after the war. The same thing, of course, is true of the proposal in relation to civil aviation control. Is there any defect at present in the power of the Government to control civil airlines, civil aircraft, or anything to do with flying in this country? Of course not. But they say : “ This is the time to take them over; not that we want” to. exercise such control for any purpose relating to the war, but because it will fit in with our social policy after the war, and we might as well go to it while the going is good “. Such bones of contention as these should never have been thrown into this House under the circumstances in which the country finds itself. If we are really serious about this business of devoting ourselves to the war, if we really believe that eighteen months of first class national effort will be needed to defeat the Japanese after Germany falls, then I say that the contents of the bill of fare presented to this Parliament in the Governor-General’s Speech ought to bean affront to the national mind.
– Before referring to the main subject of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) - international affairs, with particular reference to the several matters which he specified - I should like to refer very briefly to what the right honorable gentleman said in his opening remarks, when he suggested, without asserting, that the role allotted to the Australian forces in the present Pacific campaigns could be described as secondary; that that was not satisfactory; and that the deter mination of whether or not Australian forces should be employed in, for example, the Philippines, was a matter for political decision by the Government of this country. I remind the House of one or two facts in connexion with this important matter. Five countries - the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and- New Zealand - have agreed upon the governing directive as to the disposition of forces in the very theatre which includes the Philippines and most of the islands to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. At all times, this Government has acted in accordance with that directive. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has stated repeatedly that our forces always have been and always are at the disposition of the Supreme Commander in that theatre, General Mac Arthur. That is the position today. It is impossible for me to give facts as to projected operations that are known to members of the Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. It would be most improper were I to disclose them. But I say with regard to every operation in this theatre that there is no important portion of it which is not determined by General MacArthur, and to which the Australian Government has not loyally conformed. Further, there is no role in this theatre that is secondary; and what has been allotted to the Australian forces who at present are operating in the Solomons, in New Guinea, and elsewhere, is in no sense secondary. Take the magnificent performances of the Royal Australian Navy in the Philippines engagement. A tribute has been paid to its magnificent achievements by the Commander of the American Navy in the Pacific. Take the excellent work of the Royal Australian Air Force in the Pacific and also what has been done by the Australian Army. It is wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to cast a doubt on the matter and suggest that something more than is being done should be done. In October last, General MacArthur himself said this about Australia’s contribution to the war effort- -
No nation in the world is making a more supreme war effort than Australia. It is rapidly gearing to full capacity. It is utilizing its resources to the utmost. Its effort, is “universal and embraces equally all classes and all parties. It is unanimous and has completely supported me in my military command, and the harmony and co-operation between Australians unci Americans in this area ure inspirational.
At the recent conference of Unrra at Lapstone, General MacArthur’s special representative said -
Australia’s war effort had been one of the miracles of the war. For a country of 7.000,000 people, with tremendous transport problems and 800.000 people in uniform, to act as a supply base and springboard for General MacArthur’s successful campaign was what he regarded as miraculous. This was largely accomplished through a spirit of co-operation, mutual understanding and respect between thi’ heads of the Australian Government and General MacArthur and his staff, by devotion in a cause and willingness to sacrifice for that cause.
Recently, we also read of that remarkable exchange of messages between the Prime Minister and General MacArthur in which, tribute having been paid to that very great soldier to whom Australia owes so much, he in reply made glowing reference to what the Prime Minister has done in putting our forces at his disposal. There is no muse for complaint. Every member of the Advisory War Council and of the Cabinet knows that our forces are always at. the disposal of General MacArthur in the Pacific, just as our Air Force overseas is at the disposal of the High Command in Great Britain. f shall refer now to the second portion of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in which he dealt with international affairs. He mentioned one part of the Governor-General’s Speech, and said it would be a good plan, before international conferences were held, for the dominions to consult with the United Kingdom, in order to ascertain whether it was possible to put forward a common view. That practice has invariably been followed. At the Civil Aviation Conference at Chicago, as the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) will explain at the proper time, every possible effort was made to do that, and, on many matters of great importance, Britain and the Dominions did put forward a common view. But there are some matters of policy on which complete agreement is impossible. One of these was the future of air transport through out the world, which subject was dealt with at the international air conference. The Commonwealth Government took the view that the matter was so related to the security and peace of the world that private interests should not be permitted to operate the great international trunk air-lines, and with the support of New Zealand that opinion was advanced. The fact that we did not succeed at that conference is beside the point. The very strength of the British Commonwealth of Nations is that, agreeing on so many points, the members of that body are entitled to, and do, differ on other matters of external policy. If that position were ever altered, the unity of the British Commonwealth would be seriously jeopardized.
I shall quote a few remarks of the Leader of the Opposition himself “ about the part that Australia should play with regard to important aspects of international affairs. In a speech as Prime Minister, delivered on the 13th May, 1939, he said-
Australia must accept her responsibilities as a Pacific power, instead of sitting quietly in a corner hoping that nobody would notice her. That was why he proposed to expand diplomatic contact with other Pacific powers. The Australian people had occasionally been accused of being boastful, but he would prefer to accuse them of being far too humble about their position in the world, and about Australia’s future in the world. He believed that Australia had an immense opportunity to-day. in relation to the United States, Japan, China, the Netherlands East Indies and her sister Dominion of New Zealand to consolidate friendship and establish mutual understanding which would bring about a condition of lasting peace. Hie Commonwealth Government had a great task in doing everything possible within its power to keep Australia out of war. The people’s task was not to “ sit mum “ in their corner of the world, but to have an intelligent view and express it. and make their own contribution to the world’s peace.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing. That is exactly what has been done.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the position with regard to Poland, in order to illustrate some of the difficulties that will arise because of the present method of consultation. From the subject of the relationship of Australia with the other parts of the British Commonwealth, he passed to a more general discussion on international affairs and complained that such matters are insufficiently debated in this Parliament. But that is not the fault of either myself or the Government. During the last three years, fifteen or sixteen ministerial statements on international affairs have been made in this chamber, and everything that could possibly be said publicly about our external affairs policy has been said. On many occasions the statements have been adopted. I admit that they have not always been approved, but on some occasions there was no inclination to discuss them. I am glad to note this sudden interest in certain quarters with regard to these vital matters. I have always desired the fullest debate on them, and I hope that the discussion on the Address-in-Reply will lead to consideration of the subjects mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition.
The position with relation to Poland illustrates the difficulty of carrying out an international policy, so far as Great Britain and the Dominions are concerned. The Leader of the Opposition is quite right in pointing out that it was the unjustified aggression on Poland which led to the outbreak of war in September, 1939, but the real cause went much deeper than that. It was the determination of Germany and its allies to force their way to a position of domination, first of Europe, and then of the whole world. The invasion of Poland was preceded by aggression in relation to Czechoslovakia and Austria, and aggression on the part of Germany’s allies in other parts of the world, particularly in Africa on the part of Italy and in Eastern Asia on the part of Japan. The sufferings of the people of Poland have always made a powerful appeal to the sympathy of the people of this country. In 1943, when the Prime Minister sent me on a mission abroad, I was asked by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain whether Australia would act in a peculiarly difficult position to safeguard the interests of the Polish people, in order that possibly some rapprochement could be made between the Polish Government then stationed in London and Russia. “We agreed to do that for one purpose only - because of our desire to serve the interests of the Polish people and because of the vital importance of the friendship of Poland with the people of the Soviet Union. We did that until the stage was reached when the Russian Government came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the Polish Government in London did not represent the people of Poland. In this matter, as will be established when necessary, our task has been a difficult one. I recognize the strength of many of the considerations to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, but in this matter, so closely connected with the successful prosecution of the war in Europe, the lead was given to the Dominions by the Prime Minister of Great Britain himself.
At the recent conference between Mr. Churchill, Mr. Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin in the Crimea, an agreement was come to with regard to Poland, but it was based on the very clause of the Atlantic Charter which the Leader of the Opposition has quoted, namely, that territorial changes must be subject to the freely expressed will of the people concerned. Part of the understanding reached in the Crimea was that the will of the Polish people shall be ascertained. I see nothing in that to indicate any repudiation by Mr. Churchill, or by any other member of the “ Big Three “, of the Atlantic Charter. The task has been difficult indeed. Our one interest has been, not the fate of the Government of Poland, whether in London or elsewhere, but the welfare of the people of Poland, who have suffered so much and have made their contribution to victory. In a case of this kind views are expressed by governments, but the final responsibility regarding European matters intimately connected with the prosecution of the war has been accepted in the main by the Government of Great Britain. Our views and those of the British Government in the matter are clear, and the recent agreement contributes to the welfare of the Polish people. There has been no cynical departure from principles, and I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition does not make that charge against Mr. Churchill.
– I agree that he is the last man one could accuse of being cynical.
– In this matter we have accepted his advice and leadership, and I think that the action taken accords with the spirit of the Atlantic Charter. The Polish people will be given an opportunity to declare their will, and their decision will prevail.
The external policy of Australia over the last few years has been both consistent and progressive. When the Government first took office three years ago, the overriding issue was that of national survival, and the progressive development of external relations was necessarily subordinated to that task. The steady change for the better in the war position has altered the balance, and now many of the most important matters with which Australia has to deal arise out of its relations with other countries. In this matter of Australian external policy in relation to the United Nations, we have always kept, after the first six months of dire peril, a long-term objective before us. What is at stake in the long run is our security and welfare. Both were in danger of extinction, and it is accepted as axiomatic that no effort can be too great to prevent a recurrence of that danger. Just think for a moment of the danger which existed after the attack on Pearl Harbour, when there was no firm agreement as to what was to be done in the event of an extension of the Japanese southward drive. We must prevent the possibility of such confusion occurring again. By keeping these national objectives steadily in mind, by a continuing analysis of Australia’s interests in the immediate region in which we live, and in the international order as a whole, and by taking certain positive steps forward at the proper time, the Government can already, at this stage of the war, point to an external policy which is consistent, practical and constructive. This policy is designed to enable Australia to work to the fullest extent possible with the other United Nations in plans for the post-war world order. Its object is also to ensure, so far as we can, that the place and status of Australia among the United Nations, and in the major post-war international arrangements, shall be commen surate with what Australia has contributed to the common cause during the war, not only in the field of operations, but also in supply and production at home. I propose to summarize the outstanding features of Australian interests and objectives in external policy as they stand at the present time.
I refer first to the Pacific, because there our immediate interests lie, although it is recognized, of course, that we have tremendous interests in Europe also. As I have stated on a previous occasion, we cannot contract ourselves out of Europe.ItwasaEuropeanwar into which Australia was drawn in 1914 and again in 1939. Everything that happens in Europe concerns us. However, in the immediate area of the Pacific, Australia, with New Zealand, is in a position to make a specially valuable contribution to international collaboration, because it can play an important part in linking East and West. Dependent as it is upon the success of co-operation in this area, Australia must be one thing or the other; it must be either a meeting point or a battle zone. It must never become a battle zone. No Australian Government can again ignore the primary facts involved in our geographical position.
The definition of our long-term interests in the Pacific, together with the practically identical New Zealand interests, was concisely made in the Anzac Agreement of 1944. An important feature of the agreement was the recorded opinion of both governments that Australia and New Zealand should share in the arrangement planned for this region at the end of hostilities. A second outstanding feature of the agreement was that both countries recognized their obligations and responsibilities in framing and maintaining a security system and a welfare system which would cover all the territories of the Pacific. That agreement was welcomed by the Secretary for State in Great Britain, and received the approval of the British press, whilst its critics have been few. The agreement has been justified by the close day-to-day co-operation which has been effected between the two governments. We have established a secretariat in Wellington, and there is complete co-operation with the Government of New Zealand on all important matters. There has been a continuous exchange between the two governments on current major international questions, such as the plans for world organization, native welfare and colonial policy. In addition, there have been discussions on the official level with New Zealand on economic and welfare matters, including commercial policy and trade relations, employment policy, shipping, health, housing and national works. There has been consultation between the two governments regarding the attitude to be taken in respect to the forthcoming conference at San Francisco. Other matters discussed include native welfare and colonial policy, which will affect the government of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. Action has also been taken to carry forward the proposal in the original. Anzac Agreement for the establishment of a South Seas Regional Commission, representing governments with territories in the South Pacific and South-West Pacific, to advise on the economic, social and political developments of the Pacific Islands.
I now come to the forthcoming conference in April next, and the proposals for what has been called a world organization. At the second meeting between Ministers in November last, much atten tion was given to the formulation of a common Australian-New Zealand view towards the proposal for a world organization. The principles then agreed to by the two governments will form a valuable basis for the policy to be applied at the international conference in San Francisco. Views have been placed before the Government of the United Kingdom and other governments, including other dominion governments, and already, in some important respects, they have had an effect on the plans which are to be put before the United Nations through the sponsorship of the United States of America. The position is fairly summed up in the Speech of the Governor-General. We fully recognize that co-operation among the three great Dowers who will head the world organization is necessary for the maintenance of peace after the war, and that the success of collaboration in other fields also depends to a very large extent on the leadership of the greater powers. At the same time, it is essential that all members, great or small, should actively take part in the work of world organization. The forthcoming conference at San_Francisco offers an outstanding opportunity to the peace-loving nations to build a world order in which there will be security against aggression, and in which political, economic and social conditions favorable to the maintenance of a just and stable peace can be established. Australia stands solidly for those objectives.
As regards planning for international welfare after the war, Australia has taken its full part in various discussions which have so far been held on particular aspects. In the last session of Parliament, legislation was passed providing for Australian membership in the Food and Agriculture Organization and of Unrra. So far as Australia can help, the Government is resolved that Unrra in the Far Eastern region shall be a reality, and prove an active means for the restoration of social and welfare standards which were shattered by the Japanese war.
There are some reasons, “however, for thinking that the discussion of particular and separate parts of post-war welfare policy may, for the time being, have reached its useful limit. In the hope of providing a new approach to this complex of questions as a whole, and thereby enabling particular parts to fall into their proper relationship, Australia and New Zealand have suggested consideration of an international agreement on full deployment policy. In this connexion, it will be remembered that Mr. Beasley played an important part at the Conference of the International Labour Office some time ago. We have recently obtained the active support of the United Kingdom. Such an employment policy is of direct international concern. It is our view that little progress can ‘be expected at this stage in matters such as tariffs or monetary policy until the smaller countries have some positive knowledge and assurance as to the policy of employment which the larger countries will be following after the war.
The Government has been active in the work of the United Nations War Crimes Commission since its inauguration in
October, 1942. After Lord Atkins’s death in June last year, Lord Wright was appointed to the commission, and as the Australian representative he has contributed materially to the work of the commission. Lord Wright has recently been elected chairman of the commission. This is a tribute both to his personal distinction and to the activity which the Australian Government has shown in matters relating to the investigation and punishment of war crimes. We have always adopted the view that in every case where satisfactory proof is forthcoming, it. is imperative that persons guilty of conduct constituting a war crime shall be brought to punishment before properly constituted tribunals. In June, 1943, the Government appointed the Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir William Webb, as a commissioner to inquire into atrocities or breaches of the rules of warfare committed by the Japanese armed forces in New Guinea and Papua. Sir William Webb went to New Guinea to investigate charges, and while there he collected facts, and found documentary and physical evidence. He completed his findings, and presented a voluminous report, which was placed before the War Crimes Commission in the United Kingdom. I believe that nothing could be more calculated’ to ensure the good conduct of nations than the sure and orderly punishment of persons, no matter what their rank nor how high they stand, who have been proved guilty of atrocities. To this work Sir William Webb has made a contribution which reflects great credit upon himself, and upon those associated with him.
I have mentioned some of the matters which form the content of Australia’s external policy, and have indicated the lines on which the Government is handling them. Day after day, cables arrive from the United Kingdom, and matters are brought before the Government by the diplomatic representatives of other countries in Canberra, and from our diplomatic representatives abroad. However, foreign policy by no means consists entirely of matters which can be discussed publicly. What Australia has done can be discussed fully only when all the documents may be published. As crises develop we have to make decisions upon the facts known to us. When the history of the war is written, Australia’s contribution to the developing policy of the United Nations will be found to have been both positive and helpful. Already, we have had references from the heads of many governments sustaining that contention. Our relations with the United Nations are frank and friendly. Whether we wish it or not, Australia cannot now live in isolation. It is equally true that we cannot work in isolation. That is the reason for Australian diplomatic representation abroad being extended to France, South America and elsewhere. That is the reason for our taking every opportunity to understand better those countries which are our neighbours, and for getting them to understand us better. I think it can be said that the Unrra meeting at Lapstone recently provided that sort of opportunity in a high degree, particularly as it enabled the representatives of eight nations to meet under the presidency of the distinguished representative of China. That meeting was an example of regional collaboration which might well be extended to other spheres. Our relations with the French and Dutch in the Pacific are most friendly. That is the position also in respect of the United Spates of America, a country to which we owe a perpetual debt for all that it did for the United Nations in the crisis of 1942. The efforts of Great Britain in the war also are beyond praise. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Australia and New Zealand are trustees in the South-West Pacific of not only western civilization but also British civilization. It is not too much to hope that “in the future ‘ Australia will occupy an important place in a great world community based on the principles of peace and welfare. The Government believes that peace is not merely the absence of war, but is something positive. That has been laid down in the charter of the International Labour Office. The attempt that is to be made at San Francisco will be similar to that made in the past by President Woodrow Wilson and others when a world organization was set up. The security that is sought is security not for one or two nations, but for nil nations; and that security is not to bp achieved by the efforts of two or three of the great powers, but by collective action. The League of Nations did not fail as an organization. The present war broke out for a number of reasons, including the fact that at a crucial stage in the history of that organization the will of the democracies faltered before Hitlerite Germany, fascist Italy and imperialistic Japan. [Extension of time granted.] I welcome a debate on the international policy of the Government. In statement after statement, and speech after speech, I have said as much as can be said as to what that policy is. Behind that policy are the day-to-day decisions that must be made, and I would welcome an examination of those decisions when it can safely be made. The principles of the organization which we hope will be established are the principles of security and welfare. They aTe not distinguishable from the principles of the Atlantic Charter, because that charter also is based upon the principles of security and economic welfare, or justice. I shall not go into the detailed questions involved, because I dealt with that subject in this chamber some months ago ; but I shall welcome any suggestions which honorable members on either side of the House may submit in relation to the conference that is to be held in San Francisco. The task before us will be difficult. The world needs the leadership of the great powers, but it needs also the assistance of the smaller powers; they, too, must play their part in the organization. I assure the House that the department which I administer has been working with that object in view for many months, and it is hoped that, with the assistance of all concerned, the forthcoming conference will render great service to Australia and to all the United Nations.
.- I shall not deal with the domestic issues which arise from the S’peech of His Royal Highness, but shall refer to matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and replied to by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). The first matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition had relation to the use of Australian troops. I say at once that, in my opinion, nothing more could have been done by the Royal Australian Navy than has been done since the war began. The part that the Royal Australian Navy has played in the Pacific campaign is not sufficiently well known, but its achievements are such as to give every Australian good reason to be proud. Nor do I see much ground for criticism of the part played by the Royal Australian Air Force. Its achievements have been conditioned by the aircraft available, but, subject to that condition, I believe that the Royal Australian Air Force is doing a fine job in the war and all that could reasonably be expected of it. I think, however, that some comment is necessary regarding the use to which the Australian Army is being put. I am aware that Australian soldiers are engaged in operations in areas north of Australia, extending from New Guinea to Bougainville, and that the men there have a hazardous and difficult task in ridding those territories of Japanese who were supposed to have been left there to wither and famish, but are, in fact, firmly entrenched, well disciplined and adequately equipped and supplied. The question is whether that is the appropriate task for the Australian Army at this time, or whether Australian soldiers should not be doing something for the liberation of the Philippines. Some time ago the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) said publicly that all branches of Australia’s fighting services would ultimately be seen in action in the Philippines. I am waiting patiently to hear that, the Australian Army is actually engaged there. I cannot accept the explanation which has been given by the Government, because it is in the nature of an alibi; should some one criticize the Government, the reply is that, for reasons of security, information on the subject cannot be made public. Then, when a request for a secret meeting of senators and members is asked for, we are told that such a meeting would be useless.
I doubt whether the Army manpower of this country is being used in the most effective way. I am not at liberty to mention the number of men in the Australian Army, but the approximate figures have been given on more than one occasion by either the Prime
Minister (Mr. Curtin) or the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). It is generally understood that only a small proportion of the total men in the Australian Army are engaged in combat, lt is time that there was a discussion as to whether the man-power of this country is, in fact, being employed in the most effective way. 1 do not criticize a policy which causes necessary inconvenience to civilians, but I am of the opinion that many of those inconveniences could be avoided if there were a 10 to 15 per cent, improvement of the control of man-power in this country, percentage improvements which might not unreasonably be expected in the use to which our man-power is put. It is said that we have l.) laced our fighting forces under the command of General MacArthur. That is so, and I agree that when we surrendered in part the sovereignty of this country to General MacArthur it was the proper think to do. 1 Jr. Evatt. - The honorable member agreed to what was done.
– Of course I did; but side by side with the handing over of authority to General MacArthur there is an obligation on the part of the Government to assert its views on the highest plane, and to insist on Australian forces being used to the best advantage from a national point of view. I am not satisfied that that is the position in respect of the Australian Army to-day.
– The honorable member knows that the present use of the Australian Army is in accordance with an agreement made in June, 1944, between myself, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the President of the United States of America for a commitment that has not yet been completed.
– I do not agree that that is a complete statement of the position, and I ask the right honorable gentleman not, to provoke me to give my reasons for that statement. Three weeks ago, I read in the American press that the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Forde) had said that the Australian Army would be used in the Philippines. The campaign in the Philippines is reaching the stage where it is necessary, in the interests of the prestige of Australia, that
Australian troops should be seen in action there. I know that it will be said that we have placed our .troops under the direction of General MacArthur. Apparently, that is to be regarded as a complete answer to any criticism directed against the use of Australian troops. I repeat that at the time that decision was made it was proper to surrender in part our sovereignty to him, and I freely acknowledge the debt that Australia owes to Genera] MacArthur; but our position at the peace table will not be determined by the supplies that we make available to the United Nations, or by what any politician may say, or by what is said at any conference; it will be determined solely by the fighting contribution made by Australia.
– No nation has made a better contribution.
– There can be no doubt of the fighting qualities of the Australian soldier, but my point is whether our men should not be fighting in the Philippines in the near future. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said about the importance of Australians fighting there. I am not satisfied that all the Australians who are under arms are being used to the best advantage. I know of many instances of men in both the Army and the Air Force who are doing nothing, not because of their inability or unwillingness to serve, but because they have not been properly directed. The representatives of the people in this Parliament are left in an impossible position because, according to an answer to a question to-day, the Prime Minister said that man-power problems cannot be discussed openly because the subject involves the use of military forces. I agree with him on that point, but when I suggested by question that the circumstances justified a secret meeting of senators and members, the reply was that such a meeting would be useless. The position, therefore, is that, in respect of a matter vital to this country, the representatives of the people are denied the right of criticism.
– Have not all responsible sections of the Parliament representation on the Advisory War Council?
– The honorable member who has interjected apparently refuses to stand up to his responsibilities. Every member of the Parliament has a responsibility in this matter, and should exercise his right to criticize the Executive if he thinks that criticism is justified.
I shall now refer to foreign affairs touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition. It is said by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) that we have always been accorded the right to express our views. But have we? First, consider the Australian-New Zealand agreement. Honorable gentlemen opposite, who are so silent in respect of these matters, are seemingly so prepared to surrender always to the Executive the right to determine such a matter that they will not raise their voice even in a whisper in criticism just because they sit on the right of the Chair. The “Anzac Pact” became a fait accompli without, one word of prior discussion in the House. Then we had the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. When we asked questions about that conference we were told that it was merely a discussion on the expert level. The Prime Minister said that it in no way bound the Government. This was strictly and legally correct. But. a resolution was passed to which the nations represented have committed themselves in substance if not in legal actuality. Again, what preliminary right was given to the representatives of the Australian people to discuss what the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) should or should not say at the aviation conference which he recently attended in America on behalf of Australia? Shortly, we shall have the San Francisco Conference. I understand that members from both sides of this chamber will go there. I should like to know before this debate concludes what is to be their function. Are Ministers to go there and express the Government’s view without our being given any right beforehand to discuss Australia’s attitude or to advance our views, regardless of whether they coincide with the Government’s views? I want this resolved. More and more foreign affairs are entering our lives. Domestic affairs cannot be determined apart from foreign affairs, and more and more it is becoming the responsibility of private members to criticize, and challenge where necessary, the proposed acts of the Executive, for it is of no use to challenge them afterwards. More and more, in the years to come, will the lives of the people of this country be wrapped up with what arrangements we make for “collective security and the international arrangements we make with other nations. Foreign affairs will impinge on nearly every aspect of our domestic life. ‘ Yet this Government determines these matters without consultation with the representatives of the people whom they concern. It does not act in the open. Arrangements are made without our being given any opportunity to debate them. Statements of far-reaching importance are made with great publicity, not unusually towards the end of sessions, and then Parliament adjourns. That not infrequently is the course of discussion on foreign affairs. Many statements on foreign affairs have been made by Ministers both inside and outside Parliament - as many outside as inside - and when statements are made in Parliament early in the session, or at least early enough to permit a full debate, I regret to say that we have become accustomed to a growing practice under which in most cases the order of the day for the debate is placed at the bottom of the notice-paper and is not called on again until the last day or so of the sitting. That has been the practice over the last three years.
It is vital, particularly when days are coming when we must express a view on important international matters affecting the lives and security of the men, women and children of this nation for years ahead, that this country should have before it, not merely the view of the Government, but also the views of all the representatives of the people. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition raised the Polish question, because it gives point to my argument. Recently the Yalta Conference determined, at least, tentatively, for the world that the eastern boundary of Poland should be substantially what has become known as the Curzon Line. I do -not find myself impressed by either the Lublin ‘Government’s acceptance or the London Polish Government’s rejection of it. I do not regard either- these refugee governments, or ad hoc governments, the so-called councils of liberation, as truly representing people who in different parts- of Europe have gone through more than five years of terrible warfare. My interjection, made when the Leader of the Opposition -was- speaking was, “I do not think that either represents the Polish people “. When did the Polish people speak? Has the Minister for External Affairs advanced the view of this Government on the Polish question?
– He lias not to this House.- What are they? He has simply said, as I understand the Minister for External Affairs, that we must accept in these matters the view of the Government of Great Britain.. No one could advance more strongly than I the proposition that there must be the fullest consultation between Australia and Great Britain on vital matters, but nevertheless, I assert our right to express a view or to criticize foreign policy. That seems to be meet, and I share the Leader of the Opposition’s misgivings about some aspects of our foreign policy. I sincerely hope that the great principles nf the Atlantic Charter, to which the Minister for External Affairs has more than once subscribed in the strongest possible terms, and said that every word Ls of vital significance, will have full breathing spirit. In respect of these matters there are vital questions arising touching the boundaries of other countries: Czechoslovakia, Roumania, Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia. All are of profound importance. It is true that we are only small in number, but, nevertheless, we, and I speak particularly of the private members of this House, have the right to have a view upon them and the right to be heard. One of the strongest criticisms that can he directed against this Parliament is that it pays so little attention to foreign affairs. There is practically no discussion at all. I have yet to hear from the Government side- one honorable member, other than a Minister, rise in a foreign affairs debate ti advance a view. We have reached the stage at which the Minister for External Affairs advances to- the table and makes a statement. I doubt whether his colleagues know on all occasions what he. is going to say. He reads statements in respect of major matters which to one or two colleagues and no more are probably privy, and nothing further is said from the ministerial side and little opportunity is given, to- us to say anything either. I have asserted more than once the right of honorable members to be heard on foreign affairs not after but before the event. I should like to know from the Prime Minister before the San Francisco conference is held what general proposals this Government proposes to advance and, secondly, whether those who go there and who are not government representatives will have any right of audience or to express their views, whether or not those views coincide with the Governments view. Those are important matters on which this Parliament should be informed.
– Well, representatives of the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member attended many important conferences between Australia and other countries. Does the honorable member want to depart from the procedure that his Government laid down?
– A most unconvincing argument is recourse to the past.
– I merely asked the question.
– And I will give the answer. I am more concerned with the future than with what has taken place in the past, but if I must deal with the past, I say that no other government has so disregarded the rights of the representatives of the people in this Parliament in respect of foreign affairs. An important issue is asserting itself in some quarters in the United ‘States of America between Congress and the Executive on the ground that the Executive power is being wielded in such a way that the congressional representatives of the people have no real control. That is also true of this country. It is a vital question whether in respect of foreign affairs the Executive shall be free from criticism, and shall not be required to consult Parliament before it acts or whether in point of fact it should first consult Parliament. For a long time it waa the proud boast of the Labour party that no treaty should be made except in public. Since Labour has been in power in this country not one agreement has been made with another country in the making of ‘which Parliament has been consulted first. It has been done behind the back of Parliament. Time and time again, the Labour party has said, almost as an article of faith, that there must be open discussion of treaties, because secretly made treaties breed the atmosphere of war. Yet conference after conference has taken place between this country and other countries and the Australian Parliament has never bad placed before it even in the most general terms what this Government proposed to advance. I resist that, with all the force at my command. It is vital that the Executive, whether it be formed from the Labour party or the parties on this side, should consult Parliament before acting in these matters, because if the people cannot speak through their representatives they are inarticulate. So I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has raised these issues, and I ask the Prime Minister, before this debate concludes, to make it clear to the country the general proposals to be advanced at the important San Francisco conference. At present we have the British Commonwealth Relations Conference taking place in London. We have been told nothing about it. Professor Bailey, Mr. Boyer and two soldiers are representing Australia. I do not know whether they are official or unofficial representatives.
M r. SPENDER.- Who appointed them 1
– I think that they were appointed by the Royal Society of International Affairs of which the honorable member has doubtless heard.
– I have certainly heard of it.
– It is not a government conference.
– I know the conferences are mostly other than governmental, but they have a strange way of later becoming governmental, or directly affecting government policy. Am I to understand that the Government had no discussions with Professor Bailey before he went overseas?
– As to what he should say ?
– None at all.
– What about the Institute of Pacific Relations?
– Same answer.
– Why was the Australian Minister taking part in the discussions ?
– He was merely there as an observer.
– He just happened to get there.
– Yes, he just happened to be there. He was interviewed by the press, to which he gave an important statement. Yet he was there, so we are told, unofficially. I do not understand.
This Parliament must assert itself now. It will be too late to assert itself after the terms and conditions of peace have been settled. The Parliament, and by Parliament I do not mean the Executive or the caucus of the Labour party sitting behind closed doors, has the right to be heard before peace terms are being discussed. We should have the opportunity to discuss the principles in the Government’s mind and we should have the chance to advance our views so that, at least in that respect, the views of the people shall be expressed in this Parliament.
, - I shall ask the consideration of the House to enable me to make some observations this evening and then seek leave to continue my remarks tomorrow. There are one or two things which I consider I should say to-night so that there shall be a better presentation of certain matters to the Australian public than would be the case if the presentation rested on what I shall call a one-sided statement. First, I accept entirely the principle that the disposition of the Australian fighting forces is the political responsibility of the Government of the day. There can be no argument as to the duty of the Australian Government to determine where Australians shall fight in any war. That is no new principle.
It was adopted many years ago, and has been maintained ever since; and I have to say that if Australians are not fighting in various theatres at present it is because this Government has decided that they shall fight in other theatres. Tha.t is the fact. The Australian Government has made the decision that all Australian ground troops shall be assigned to the command of General MacArthur in what is known as the South-West Pacific Area. It made that assignment subsequent to its concurrence with other governments in a directive given to the Commander-in-Chief whose appointment also was made in the same way in agreement with the other governments. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that he is quite satisfied with the vigorous and effective role which the Royal Australian Navy has played in the war ; and I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) will concur in that view.
– And I think that thu same observation applies also to the members of the Air Force who are engaged at present not only in the South-West Pacific Area, but also in other theatres which I do not propose to mention. But if I were to particularize the strength of the Australian air forces that are assigned outside the .South-West Pacific Area it would at once be realized that Australia, while fighting under the most terrible strains in order to maintain its own integrity, has all the time been a most powerful contributor to the general success of the Allied cause in all theatres of war. The argument appears to be that the Australian Army is either idle or not fighting sufficiently, or has such resources available that it is practicable at the moment to despatch certain divisions outside the South-West Pacific Area. Before such forces could be despatched outside the South-West Pacific Area they would have to be amputated by decision of this Government from General MacArthur’s command. The fact is that the maximum strength which Australia is now capable of organizing as Army forces for fighting, and for the maintenance of an army, are at present assigned to General MacArthur. That maximum which represents so considerable a strain upon the man-power of this country, having regard to all its other obligations, has been fixed by agreement, subsequent to the directive and the assignment agreement, with the President of the United States of America and his chiefs of staff, and with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and his chiefs of staff. 1 shall not state the figure in this place. But those leaders know what it is, and they have agreed, having regard to all the other obligations which Australia has entered into, that the maximum strength fixed is not only commensurate with all the ambitions and the duty of this country but is also clear evidence of the undoubted genuineness of Australia, and the fighting forces of this country in particular, to fight where the fighting is hardest. The honorable member for Warringah has said that at present insufficient fighting use is being made of the Australian Army. I have heard derogatory observations of what are called moppingup operations in New Guinea and the Solomons, and similar operations which must be carried out in other islands to the north of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition said that Australia has a major political and national interest in the British Empire, Malaya, Singapore and the Far East. I accept that; but we have a major political issue nearer home, and that is to clear out the enemy who is still in occupation of territories for which this Government is politically responsible. The numbers of the enemy in such territories constitute a positive menace to the resumption of civil governments in those territories for which, I repeat, Australia is responsible. Those enemy forces must be extirpated. Their numbers have been indicated by General Sir Thomas Blainey in a national broadcast. They are extensive. The honorable member for Warringah referred to a statement made by the Minister foi- the Army (Mr. Forde) that Australian land forces would be fighting in the Philippines. The honorable gentleman may as well learn now that the enemy mortgaged so much of his strength in the fighting on Leyte that the attack on Luzon was conducted with less strength than the commanders originally contemplated would be necessary to achieve what has already been achieved in Luzon. That is my first point. It must be clear to the honorable gentleman that the campaign in Luzon was accelerated because of the heavy losses which the enemy experienced in the Leyte campaign, and particularly the even more severe losses .he suffered in his futile efforts to reinforce his forces on Leyte. General MacArthur, not only as the result of the brilliance of his own leadership, but also the valour of the forces serving under him, has been able to succeed in his plans with less strength than he originally believed would be necessary to carry them through. Another consideration has emerged. It is generalized in the Speech made by His Royal Highness. That is the question of shipping. I ask the House to ponder that statement, and to bear in mind that Australian troops cannot be moved outside the Australian mainland, or outside the places where they are now deployed, unless shipping and protection for that shipping are available.
– That was so when the Minister for the Army made his statement.
– No. That is where the honorable gentleman does not quite keep himself up to the mark, and he is better qualified to do that than certain other honorable members in this House. But the Leader of the Opposition has no excuse for not knowing more than he knows, because he walked out of the Advisory War Council. He refused to sit on that body, and I do not hesitate to say that it was a political and not a national decision that moved him to retire from it. The Advisory War Council was quite a good and satisfactory second best to his own policy - a national government - when he was the head of the Government. He did, at the Advisory War Council, something which I never expected would be done, when he took to that body, in order to save his Government and in order to effect a compromise, a matter that had nothing whatever to do with the business of the Advisory War Council. That was the consideration of the budget. The right honorable gentleman did that quite parly in the life of the Advisory War Council. I have never taken the budget to that body. It suited the right honorable gentleman when he was Prime Minister, even though he thought it was only a second best; but an inferior cook is better than no cook at all.
– I do not agree with that view entirely; some cooks are so bad that they should not be employed.
– That may be so. I regard it, indeed, as a strange, and it may be even a sinister, comment upon political principles that all the time he was Prime Minister, having set ‘ up the Advisory War Council, he made no suggestion for its dissolution, but when he ceased to be Prime Minister he retired from it in order to be free to make interrogatory speeches of the kind he made to-night, to ask, for instance, why no answer is given to these nasty questions, the question of Poland, for example, about which he could have as much knowledge as I myself possess.
– The Prime Minister knows that I continued to be a member of the Advisory War Council long after I ceased to be Prime Minister; and I left that body only when the Government was obviously using it to suppress criticism in this House.
– With respect to the political authority of this Government over Australia’s armed forces there can be no argument. I accept full responsibility for the fact that all Australia’s land forces at present are engaged in and are to be confined to the South-west Pacific command. I do not propose to make any alteration in that assignment without the consent of the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1044. No. 173.
National Security Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (357).
House adjourned at fl.’M! p.m.
e asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be made avail able as soon as possible.
Mr.White asked the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
Whatsum hasbeen allocated Cor the manufacture of RollsRoyce aeroplane engines in Australia?
Have any been produced?
In view of the possibilities of jetpropulsion foraircraftand the likelihood of many Rolls Royceand other internal combust ion enginesbeing available shortly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, does the Government intend to go on with Rolls Royceengine manufacture without further inquiry?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n. - The answerto the hon orable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 5. Yes. Correspondence is now proceedingregardingthedetailsassociatedwith proposed discussions concerning the wool agreement and the post-war ma nagement of wool Hocks. A statement willbe made by the Government at the curliest possible opportunity.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Hashe seen the article in a Melbourne newspaper of the9th December,1944, by J. S. Goode, M.E., on the underground gasification of coal as operating in Russia?
Mr.Curtin. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 February 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450222_reps_17_181/>.