17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker(Hon. J. S.Rosevear) tookthechairat3 p.m., andread prayers.
Mr. CURTIN(Fremantle- Prime Minister and Minister for Defence). - Regretfully, I inform honorable members that, as the result of an aircraft accident, Australia and the Australian Army have lost the services of two of their most distinguished servants, in Major-General G. A. Vasey and Major-GeneralR. M. Downes, as well as other personnel, whose services to this country cannot be measured in any description that I could give of them, but whose loss, equally with that of their distinguished superiors, leavesus the poorer.
I pay tribute in this place to the most competent, gallant and distinguished services which GeneralVasey rendered in this war and the last war, as well as to the services rendered by General Downes. Our casualty lists include personnel of all ranks, hut it is not, I believe, unreasonable to mention that a soldier who becomes a general in the Army of Australia is one who has had a long and, indeed, a distinguished experience. One does not make an invidious distinction when one refers to the loss of General Vasey as one which this country can ill afford. Our gallant dead, I hope, will ever live in the memories of this generation, and have an imperishable place in the history of our country. It may give some comfort to the families of these men to know that to-day this House, heard with deep regret the announcement I have made.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of the Opposition). - I am sure that all honorable members who sit on this side of the House desire to be associated with what the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said, and to extend their profound sympathy to all those who have been bereaved by this most unhappy accident.
I should like to say a word, if I may, about two of those who have been lost. I have known General Vasey for many years ; I was at school with him. He was in himself the most nearly perfect embodiment of fire, courage, and force of character that could be imagined, and his loss to this country will be very great. MajorGeneral Downes was, perhaps, not so well known to the public in this war; but for a considerable time while I had the honour of being the Prime Minister of Australia he was Director-General of Medical Services. Apart from his great personal gifts - his charm, his character and his point of view - he was very honorably associated with the policy of establishing a great chain of military hospitals throughout Australia. They are magnificent hospitals, which will end-ure for the benefit of this country for many years. For this work he deserves lasting credit. I cannot speak with first-hand knowledge of the others of all ranks who have gone, but their relatives may be assured that every member of this House feels that those men died in battle. They have made a great sacrifice for their country, and every citizen feels that he or she must try to be worthy of them.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party). - The members of the Australian Country party associate themselves sincerely with the expressions of regret at the loss of these gallant men, and I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in placing upon record our appreciation of the supreme sacrifice which they have made for their country.
Mr. Curtin - Will you be so kind, Mr. Speaker, as to direct that a record of the remarks that have been made in the House on this occasion be forwarded to the relatives?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) - That will be done.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation say why the opening oi the tuberculosis sanatorium at Kenmore, in Queensland, has been so long delayed, seeing that it is supposed to have been ready for occupation for some time?
– The delays were unavoidable, but the latest advice from the Works Department is that everything, including the engineering services, will be ready by the 30th April. I have instructed the Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation in Brisbane to make arrangements to have the building occupied as soon as possible.
– Is it not a fact that the Minister for Repatriation started that the Kenmore sanatorium would be ready for occupation in J une of last year, and that, later, he said that the delay was due to the low priority thathad been given the work? Is it a fact that the nurses’ quarters have not yet been completed? Is the Minister aware that, during the last six months, 33 tubercular holdiers have died at the Rosemount Hospital, which, despite the care of doctors and nurses, is not a suitable place for the treatment of tuberculous patients? What priority does the Minister propose to obtain for the nurses’ quarters at Kenmore so that the work may be completed and the patients admitted without further unnecessary delay?
– I did say that we hoped to have the Kenmore sanatorium opened in June, 1943, but honorable members are aware of the conditions which have prevailed in Queensland, and of the low priority which we were able to obtain for this work. An effort was made to provide temporary quarters for nurses with the use of pre-fabricated material,but the building was far too hot, and it was necessary to provide a better structure. This made for further delay. In spite of our efforts, we could not obtain a higher priority for the work. I remind the honorable member that the 33 soldiers who died in the Rosemount Hospital would not, in any case, have been sent to the Kenmore institution. The building at Kenmore is now completed, and will be occupied as soon as possible.
– I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) is making satisfactory progress following the injuries which he received in a motor accident on Sunday last. I have arranged that, during the absence of the Minister, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) shall act as Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production. In the House of Representatives the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) will represent the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Munitions and the Minister for Aircraft Production.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
War Gratuity - Report by the committee of Senatorsand Members of the House of Representatives appointed to inquire into and report on methods of recognition of the services of the fighting forces.
It is indicated by the committee’s report that this matter should be dealt with apart from any question of repatriation or re-establishment, and therefore it is proposed that a separate bill be brought down to make provision along the lines of the report, which, I understand, is unanimous.
House Tenancy of Soldier’sWife.
– by leave - Last Friday, as the result of certain observations that were made in this chamber regarding the treatment of a soldier’s wife who is the tenant of a government cottage in Canberra, I intimated that I contemplated asking certain honorable gentlemen to serve on a committee to investigate the case. I have consulted the leaders of the other parties and the members of the committee will be the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), who will act for me as chairman ; the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) ; the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) ; the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) ; and Senator Finlay. I have not been able to consult the leaders of the other parties about the terms of reference, but I have them here in draft, and I do not think we shall have any difficulty about them.
– Has the Prime Min ister recently made an announcement regarding benefits to members of the Australian fighting services and the Merchant Navy, holding awards from the Victoria Cross downwards? If so, can he explain why the announcement, did not appear in copies of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph which were sold in Canberra? Will he consider approaching the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the broadcasting of a session - other than the ordinary news session - during which announcements of public interest may be made daily to the public?
– It is true that a decision has been taken and that as the result variations have been made in respect of those service awards. I think it was a matter of great public interest.
I am not editor of either paper, and it is for the editors to decide what shall be published. My judgment and theirs appear to differ on a great variety of matters. I shall have the concluding part of the honorable gentleman’s question examined.
– As so many of our citizens depend on electric lighting at night for their entertainment, and in view of the opinion of one of the regional electricity controllers, will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Munitions have a complete survey made of the position, and remove the lighting restrictions at the earliest opportunity?
– Originally these restrictions related to the imposition of the black-out for security reasons; but they were continued for the purpose of conserving coal. I shall “be pleased to ask the Acting Minister for Munitions to communicate with Mr. Moss, the Electricity Supply Controller, in order to ascertain whether the matter can be reviewed and restrictions eased to some -extent.
– In view of the special qualifications of women to deal with all matters affecting the welfare of children, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior consider giving women social workers representation on all conferences and committees dealing, with child migration?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, and ask him to give it consideration.
– Will the Minister for the Army confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping for the purpose of seeing whether satisfactory arrangements can be made whereby persons whose motor trucks, motor cars and motor cycles have been impressed by the Army shall be given preferential treatment in the purchase of similar vehicles through the War Disposals Commission? Furthermore, will the Minister for the Army recommend to the Minister for Supply and Shipping that the purchase price of such vehicles shall not be greater than that paid by the Army for impressed vehicles, provided the model and mechanical condition are approximately equal?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and take into consideration the suggestions made by the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of giving to the delegation to San Francisco a wellbalanced representation by adding a Tasmanian representative, thus including all the States in the delegation?
Mi-. CURTIN.- Last week I intimated that the persons who would attend the San Francisco conference bad been selected because of their experience and competence to assist Ministers. The fact that they had been associated with any particular body did not mean that that body was being represented in the delegation. It was as competent persons that they were chosen to go to San Francisco. No State, political party, or any body of employers or employees bas been given representation in the delegation. I, as the head of the Government, having appointed Ministers to represent the nation at an international conference, used my discretion in giving to them such assistance as I deemed proper.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether or not the official delegation of the United States of America to the San Francisco Conference is to consist of eight members, divided equally between the Democratic and Republican parties. In sending the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General as the only full delegates, is Australia adopting an attitude different from that of Britain and America, in that its official representation will be confined to Government members ?
– I do not model everything that we do on what is done by the United States of America. I have been advised as to who, at this stage, it is intended shall be nominated as the delegates from the United Kingdom, and I have certain information as to the probable delegates from other countries. I do not know that the delegation of the United States of America is to consist of eight members, to he drawn equally from the Democratic and Republican parties; all that I know is that a prominent representative of the Republican party has been included in the list of those who will attend the conference. The honorable gentleman, I believe, will discover that the Secretary of State will be the representative of the United States of America.
– In the personnel chosen to accompany the Australian delegation to San Francisco all the major interests of this country are represented, except the primary producers. The secondary industries will be well represented by Mr. Oberg, but apparently there is no one specially qualified to advise the Australian delegation on matters of primary production.
– What about the honorable member for Indi? What is wrong with him ?
– Has the Prime Minister given thought to the inclusion of a representative of primary producers? If so, what decided him not to choose some one to advise the delegation on matters of primary importance to Australia?
Mr.CURTIN.- This reflection on certain chosen gentlemen does not appear to me to be warranted. The selection was made to ensure that the two Ministers should have the daily aid of persons competent to give them advice and assistance generally in the important discussions in which they will be engaging, having regard to the basic nature of the problems that have to be dealt with. I consider that the various schools of thought and interest in Australia are reflected in the personnel chosen to accompany the Ministers. Two honorable members of this House who are to accompany the delegation can be regarded as being very competent to speak for the rural interests of Australia.
-Will the Min ister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House how many men and women discharged from the services have been admitted to take up a full course of training under the Government’s vocational training scheme? Has the enrolment of applicants been restricted by a shortage of teachers or a lack of training facilities? If so, what immediate action is to be taken to improve the situation?
– I shall furnish information to the honorable member as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture inform me how the first advance of 4s. 3d. abushel for wheat from the next season’s harvest compares with the present price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. terminals, for wheat used for home consumption?
– I consider the prices to be approximately the same. When freight and handling costs can be taken into account, it may be found that the price for the new season’s wheat may be a penny or even two-pence abushel better.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the reported statements of the honorable member for Indi, in an address to a meeting of Riverina wheat-growers? Has he noticed that the honorable member has again made the extravagant statement that wheat-growers have lost up to £10,000,000 as the result of the concessional wheat price for stockfeeders? Did not the Minister confer with representatives of wheat-growers’ organizations in order to determine a just basis of compensation in respect of wheat sold for stock-feeding? Did not the Wheat-growers Federation agree to the proposals advanced by the Minister on behalf of the Government? Has the president of the Wheat-growers Federation, speaking on behalf of wheat-growers’ organizations, made this perfectly clear, and, in so doing, repudiated the extravagant statements of the honorable member for Indi?
– When I have perused the rather lengthy question asked by the honorable member, I shall answer it.
– Some time ago, I asked the Attorney-General whether Australia had authority under international wheat agreements to which it was a party to control the export of wheat from this country in time of peace. The AttorneyGeneral referred the matter to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who, in turn, referred it, hack to the AttorneyGeneral. Can the Attorney-General now inform me what is the position?
– I cannot, at the moment give the information asked for, but, I shall look into the matter personally, and try to prepare a reply within a day or two.
– Has the Minister for Information seen the cartoon in the issue of theBulletin of the 28th February, which depicts Mr. Churchill as Salome dancing before Premier Stalin to the accompaniment of music by President Roosevelt? Does he not consider this cartoon to be a gratuitous insult to the Empire’s war-time leader? As this kind of propaganda can aid only Dr. Goebbels, will the Minister bake action to prevent a continuation of it?
– This is not the first time that the Bulletin has published cartoons derogatory of, and even insulting to, allied war leaders. I do not know that the censorship authorities can do anything about the matter, for under the new censorship code only matter which is considered to affect the security of the nation is liable to censorship treatment. Since the beginning of the war the Bulletin has published many articles and cartoons-
– Of great value.
– They have certainly not assisted the war effort and, in some instances, have constituted a danger to it. The Bulletin is undoubtedly the most anti- Australian of all newspapers published in Australia.
– In a statement in this chamber last week, the Prime Minister said that he had intervened in the Australian Broadcasting Commission by directing the release from the Army of Lieutenant-Colonel Moses, the general manager of the commission.
– I issued no direction.
– Well, the Prime Minister interested himself in the release of Lieutenant-Colonel Moses from the Army. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether he was requested, either verbally or in writing, by the commission ta take that action?
Mr.CURTIN.- The answer is “ No “. After having heard many complaints, read certain evidence, and made my own observations, I came to the conclusion that it would be advantageous if the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were carrying out the functions of his office.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that several senior officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as well as its chairman, have resigned in recent weeks. The right honorable gentleman has already indicated his concern on this subject and I assure him that the public also is interested in it. The Parliament and the Government, too, are interested in consequence of the work of the Broadcasting Committee. I ask the Prime Minister whether any official information has yet been received which indicates the reasons for these resignations? Will he arrange for a statement to be made on the subject as soon as practicable?
Mr.CURTIN.- As the honorable member for Fawkner has indicated, I have been concerned about the circumstances which have led to the present staff situation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am not in a position to add anything to what has already been said about the resignation of the chairman. All I know is that the chairman has resigned. I have asked the Postmaster-General for any particulars on the subject in addition to those which have been stated, but be has assured me that he has none. I also am aware that officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have resigned from their posts. I knew that there was considerable internal disquiet and had the impression that there was a certain degree of criticism of it, which, in the circumstances was legitimate. For that reason, without interfering with the administration of the commission, I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was missing the services of its general manager in its administrative work.
– Was not that interference ?
– No. The commission appointed its general manager.
– For how long has he been back in Australia?
– For some time. I did not appoint Mr. Moses as the general manager of the commission.
– I referred to recent acts.
– I have not taken action recently in connexion with the commission.
– I refer to recent resignations. Mr. Moses was brought back a couple of years ago.
– It was not two years ago. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to endeavour to obtain from the commission an explanation of why resignations arc occurring. According to my knowledge of the matter, the commercial broadcasting stations, with an aggregate income exceeding £2,000,000 a year, are able to offer salaries in excess of those which the commission can offer. It has been represented to me that the chief explanation of resignations from the commission is that the men concerned are able to earn higher salaries in the service of B class stations.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether or not a propaganda organization, with head-quarters in Sydney, has been established by various financial institutions that are opposed to projected legislation of the Government, and that one of its objects is to lure away highly placed officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and other government instrumentalities?
– I have no particular knowledge on that point, but I know that an organization of the kind has existed in Australia for the last 35 years. Periodically, new men enter it and some of the older men retire from it, but it continues to flourish like the green bay tree.
Statutory Am Authority
– Will the Minister for Air either verify or deny the press report that he has been authorized by Cabinet to select or appoint a managing director of the proposed statutory body that is to control interstate airlines? If the report be true, under what statutory authority was the honorable gentleman given permission to take that action ?
– I have been given authority by the Cabinet to select or engage a managing director of the authority that will be established as the result of the passage of legislation in this Parliament. I have not heard of the honorable member having applied for appointment to the position.
– I am not an applicant.
– Were he to apply, his qualifications would entitle him to consideration. My authority for the statement was the decision of Cabinet.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whether or not his department has discontinued the printing of the annual report of its activities? If so, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability pf reverting to the former practice?
– The department circulates to honorable members, and to thousands of persons throughout Australia, a monthly report of all its activities. I believe that these monthly reports have supplanted the annual (report. I shall look further into the matter.
– Self-employed persons in Australia occupy an invidious position. I shall give two instances of adverse effects on them. A selfemployed farmer who joined the Army cannot make application for his own discharge in order that he might return to his farm, because the application form stipulates that the initiative must be taken by an employer. Men who are engaged in bush work can have application made on their behalf by the executive of any trade union to which they may belong, or by their employers, for an extra issue of clothing coupons, because of the heavy nature of the work in which they are engaged. “Will the Prime Minister look into the position of these two classes of men-
– In respect of what?
– In regard to all of their activities. Every official document debars them from making application for the rectification of anomalies, because they are not “ employed “ persons.
– I shall ask the right honorable gentleman to enlighten me further as to what he has in mind. I take it that he considers that a man who has trade-union backing, or anybody else to sponsor an application, can seek release from the Army or an additional clothing ration allowance, in which respects the persons to whom he has referred suffer a disability. I appreciate that. To the degree that the disability may be overcome, action to that end will be taken.
Underground Gasification of Coal
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or any other scientific authority in Australia, has inquired into the possibility of effecting underground gasification of coal in Australia ? Is it likely that the royal commission, which has been appointed to inquire into the coalmining industry will consider this important subject? If no action has been taken, will the Minister immediately endeavour to obtain up-to-date information regarding the latest developments in this matter in other countries?
– I do not know whether inquiries have been made in Australia into the underground gasification of coal, but I shall find out, and let the honorable member know later. The
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is engaged upon pure research, and also upon research into matters affecting primary and secondary industries. Such work is undertaken at the request of official organizations. There is in each State a council which deals with such matters. Reverting to the subject of coal, if the authorities in New South “Wales, which is the State chiefly affected, had been of, the opinion that research should be undertaken, no doubt the State council would have approached the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the matter. I do not know whether this subject will be investigated by the royal commission which is inquiring into the coal-mining industry. I do not know what are its terms of reference, but I shall find out whether the commission has authority to go into the matter. Any further information which I can obtain on the subject I shall pass on to the honorable member.
Australians Attached to American Forces
– Is it a fact that Australians attached to American forces in the South-West Pacific Area, including returned soldiers of the last war who are too old to serve with the Australian Imperial Force in this war, are required to pay the same taxation as Australian civilians on money they received from the United States of America for their services? If so, in view of the fact that these men are serving the cause of the Allied Nations in battle areas, will the Treasurer have the matter reviewed, and make a statement to Parliament on the subject?
– I shall examine the matter, and reply further to the honorable member later. There are several aspects to be considered, including the position of men serving upon small craft.
– Is it a fact that, some weeks ago, the Minister declared that “ snooping “ by district finance officers into the personal affairs of relatives of prisoners of war would be stopped ? If so, will the Minister ascertain immediately whether, as stated in
Smith’s Weekly of the 3rd March, one of these questionnaires, dated the 10th February, was sent to a soldier’s mother living in a Sydney suburb? Will he inquire whether similar questionnaires have been sent by the Sydney District Finance Office to relatives of other prisoners of war? Will the Minister take action to ensure that his directions shall be obeyed?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and the honorable member will be supplied with an answer later.
– Will the Minister for Information, who is usually assiduous in regard to matters of censorship where the security of the nation is involved, explain how it is that the following alarming report came to be published : -
Anti-Menzies “ Whispering “.
A whispering campaign against the leader ship of Mr. Menzies, M.H.R., would have to be quickly quashed, said Mr. G. Jenkin last night at a meeting of Kew branch of the Liberal party.
The talkagainst Mr. Menzies was chiefly from those on his own side of politics and was probably the result of jealousy, Mr. Jenkin said. “ I have yet to meet the person who can say who else our leader should be “, he said.
In view of the dire consequences which might result from a leaderless Opposition, and having regard to the strenuous efforts which have been made to found a new party, will the Minister investigate the authenticity of the report, and endeavour to scotch this insiduous plot?
– I do not know that censorship can do anything to stop this whispering campaign. I understand that it is not the first time that such a campaign has been launched on the Opposition side of the House. Some campaigns of the kind have been in favour of the right honorable gentleman referred to, and others have been directed against him.
– Some of the whispers have been very loud.
– Censorship, or any other government agency, can come into the matter only insofar as it is necessary to preserve the office of the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament.
– The Minister for Information had better do his best to preserve it, because he will be competing for it after the next election.
– It will be a sad day for Australia if it should ever happen that there is only one member of the anti-Labour parties who is fit to be a Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the present occupant of the position will remain there, because I regard him as a political asset to us. So long as he is Leader of the Opposition, the Labour party will never be out, of power.
– In view of the reply of the Minister to certain questions which I asked last week regarding the visit of Mr. Frank Goldberg to the United States, I ask him whether he will lay on the table of the House copies of any letter or letters of recommendation which he gave to Mr. Goldberg prior to his departure? Did he give letters of introduction to the Rev. Canon Edwards and the Rev. Dr. Benson prior to their departure overseas, and will he lay copies of these on the table of the House? Did the Minister make a record or records for broadcasting in the United States wherein he commended Mr. Goldberg to the citizens of the republic? Were these records handed to Mr. Goldberg prior to his departure ? Will the Minister lay the script of such records on the table of the House? Does the Minister still maintain that Mr. Goldberg was only given the usual assistance and sponsorship by him which all Australians travelling overseas receive?
– The answer to the last of the series of questions is “ Yes “. As for the others. I shall consider them.
Sleeping Accommodation on TransAustralian Train.
– Last week the Minister for Transport stated in answer to a question by me that arrangements had been made for two special trains to run on the trans-Australian railway during the next week or so. Can the Minister say whether sleeping accommodation will be provided on such trains?
– I took up the matter with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, and I find that it isnow possible to provide sleeping accommodation for 160 passengers in each direction.
– In view of the fact that fruit damaged by hail is unsuitable for acquisition under the government scheme, and because of its operation, cannot, as formerly, be marketed locally as second or third grade fruit, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the possibility of compensating growers in the Mersey Valley who recently suffered partial, and in some cases almost total, loss of their crops from hail damage.
– I shall take the matter up immediately with the Apple and Pear Board, obtain full particulars and give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was good enough to give me a special copy of the report of the Universities Commission, but, as I understand that a number of other persons are interested, I should like him to make available in the Library the reports as they come forward.
– I shall give favorable consideration to the right honorable gentleman’s request. The report of the Universities Commission for 1943 was tabled in this House a considerable time ago. When the report for 1944 is ready it also will be tabled, and I will ensure that sufficient copies shall be made available to supply the needs of the honorable members.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether the Premier of South Australia has made a request to the Commonwealth Government for relief for the farmers who have, unfortunately,been so badly affected by the drought in that State?
– Yes. The Premiers of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria submitted to the last conference of Commonwealth and State
Ministers’ proposals for the alleviation of suffering which the drought had caused in their respective States. The Commonwealth Government agreed to allocate £1,500,000 on a £1 for £1 basis. That represented a total of £3,000,000 which was allocated between the three States. Victoria’s allocation was £1,100,000 including £550,000 from the Commonwealth. South Australia’s allocation was £900,000, of which the Commonwealth contributed £450,000. Since then, Victoria has sought an enlargement of the provision that the Commonwealth made for that State, and yesterday Cabinet agreed to increase the grant to Victoria by £230,000, on condition that the State Government contributed a like amount. I do not recall any request from South Australia to add to the amount provided for that State. There has been an application from Western Australia, but no particulars have been furnished.
– Some time ago, you, Mr. Speaker, referred in the House to the number of copies of Hansard available for distribution to members’ constituents, and you indicated the possibility of the number being increased. Has any progress been made to that end? There is still a considerable demand by the public for Hansard.
-There has been a considerably increased demand for Hansard inrecent years. I am sorry to say that, up to date, little progress has been made towards an additional distribution, but I will take up the matter with the Treasurer. If I know the Treasurer as well as most people do, I think that no further progress will be made.
– Civilians in the
Ordnance Branch, the Army Research Section and other organizations have been given Australian Imperial Force status and several have been appointed to commissioned rank, some to high commissioned rank. Will the Minister forthe Army carefully consider matters of this kind and ensure that such appointments shall he given to men who have had service, particularly overseas, instead of to civilians?
Mr.FORDE. - Yes.
Report byWar Expenditure Committee.
– Is the Attorney-General able to give to the House any statement regarding action taken by his department on the report furnished to the Prime Minister last August by the War Expenditure Committee on certain construction contracts in New South Wales?
– The report of the committee made certain allegations which were referred to the Acting Solicitor-
General and the Crown Solicitor, and certain proceedings are now pending in the courts in relation to the persons mentioned in the report.
Debate resumed from the 2nd March (vide page 304), on motion by Mr. Fraser -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to : -
May itplease Your Royal Highness:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament ofthe 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 appointment of a member of the Royal Family as the King’s representative in the Commonwealth marks a new step in political evolution in Australia. It is in keeping with Australia’s new dignity, which flows from the implementation of the Statute of Westminster, that such a gesture should be made by the Crown. It is also in keeping with Australia’s higher status, as establishedby its soldiers and workers in the crisis through which we have passed. Therefore, it devolves upon the elected representatives of the people, who assemble in this Parliament, to ensure that this new dignity of the Australian people shall find expression in their speeches. The efforts of our soldiers and workers, in common with the efforts made by likeminded people all over the world, have enthroned the principles of democracy, and it behoves the members of Parliaments that function as a part of the democratic system of government to expound their thoughts without fear or restraint. It alsobehoves thepeople of Australia to see that their representatives, who give expression to their views in the Parliament, shallbe protected and supported inside and outside of the legislature, and that the rights of the Parliament shall be fully preserved.
Now that we are approaching the end of this prolonged international conflict, we should review the causes of the war, and examine various matters to which public attention should be directed when the peace treaty is being drafted. In order to get a proper appreciation of the causes of this awful cataclysm, we must examine the statements that have been made by the spokesmen of the belligerents from the beginning of the war until the present day. I do not profess to be an authority on international affairs. I make my own deductions from whatever facts are available to honorable members. I propose to repeat certain accepted facts which were associated with the start of the war, and which have been apparent throughout it. Then, having done so, I claim to be capable of drawing conclusions and submitting them to honorable members for their approval or disapproval, or to assist them in any deductions that they may make regarding action that should be taken by the makers of the peace treaty.
The war began in Europe because Germany invaded Poland. Australia, with other members of the British Empire - that close and cohesive family of nations - was drawn into the struggle. If changes have occurred in the objectives of the Allied Nations, the representatives of the people of Australia should examine their causes; and if the direction of the struggle has altered, we should ask why such alterations have occurred. As I said, fighting began when Germany invaded Poland. On that occasion we were told., and we believed that we had a solemn contractual obligation to the Government of Poland to see that no international aggressor should go unpunished for such a blatant and unwarranted, attack on a friendly neighbour. After a few weeks, Poland was liquidated, and the Nazi armies rolled towards the Russian marshes. Thereupon, the Russian military machine occupied a part of Poland. At that time, statements were made that the Soviet considered that its action was necessary to defend its borders against some future aggression by Germany. “We accepted the declaration of the Soviet Government that it had no intention of occupying Polish territory permanently, and no cause appeared to exist for a declaration of war against Russia for having committed the same offence as the Nazis had committed. We left it at that.
The war continued. France was overrun, and the British Empire stood alone - a bulwark against Nazi aggression. The situation looked very black. At that particular time, the American people were asking themselves where they stood in this international mix-up, and what would happen to them if the British Empire fell before the onslaught of the Nazi war machine. President Roosevelt and the majority of Americans cam© to the conclusion that some declaration was required from the American people. Otherwise, if the aggressor nation eventually directed its fury against the United States of America historians in the future might attribute the fault to Americans, because they had not taken steps to anticipate that development. From that feeling emerged the Atlantic Charter, which declared a code of ethics for international conduct. The United States of America agreed to subscribe to the united effort of all nations that were prepared to accept the principles of the Atlantic Charter. America became involved in the war in defence of those principles. The Allied Armies, supported by the tremendous might that the United States could marshal, has been able to overcome German military might. International conferences attended by representatives of the “Big Three” have been held from time to time, and certain declarations that we expected to follow on the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter, have been made. But at the last conference al Yalta decisions were made which seem to conflict with the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Consequently it becomes, in my opinion, the duty of members of this Parliament to express their views on the merits or Otherwise of the Yalta decisions. We became involved in this war in defence of the territories of Poland. The British Empire pledged its all, and risked everything, to preserve Polish territories. Those who have given their lives in this conflict should surely be vindicated in this connexion, at any rate when the peace treaty is made after the victory. Unless we consider the Yalta decisions we shall not be in a proper position to instruct our representatives how they shall vote at future conferences; and, of course, unless the delegates vote in the right way we shall find ourselves, twenty years hence, in exactly the position we were in when the war broke out in 1939. I have no illusions on this subject. I believe another war will follow an unjust peace treaty. We must therefore take every possible step to ensure that the sufferings of this war shall not be in vain. The people who have suffered the horrors of this war will not allow themselves to be dragged into another war. Nevertheless the dragon’s teeth may be sown and people of the next generation, not having experienced personally the sacrifices of this war, may find themselves involved in another conflict, and in that event ali that has been suffered in the last two wars will have been suffered in vain, and the principles of the Atlantic Charter will have been lost. It is our duty, therefore, as the representatives of the Australian people, to make sure that the conditions which caused this war do not recur.
I direct the attention of honorable members to two quotations from a book entitled Across the Frontiers’ by the noted historian, -Sir Philip Gibbs. These are apposite because of their relation to the events which precipitated the war. The first quotation reads -
There are still people who cherish that illusion with a self-deception which is pathetic. The British Labour party seems to me particularly guilty in this respect, and many of the Left-minded intellectuals in this country. I can understand their dilemma and their reluctance to admit the downfall of their faith in the principles of the league. I shared their hope and their faith, but it seems to me intellectually dishonest, or if that is too harsh dangerously fanatical to insist that the league as it now stands, or totters, has any power to enforce its decisions, or its principles, upon nations who have torn up their contracts.
The writer refers, of course, to the inability, or the lack of will power, of the nations which were parties to the League of Nations covenant to enforce sanctions. He prophesied what finally happened because the nations, which were the guarantors of world security under the League of Nations covenant, declined to honour their obligations to Czechoslovakia. He stated that the refusal to enforce sanctions was merely a postponement of the evil day. He also wrote -
The principles of collective security remain as the ultimate hope of law, but to pretend now that they have the requisite force behind them is to create most deadly dangers leading directly to war on many fronts. That may be forced upon us by destiny, but do not let us indulge in the make-believe that by forming one group of powers against another we are upholding the spirit of the league.
For the league was not meant for partial, hut for universal application.
If the principles of the Atlantic Charter are not to have universal application, that is, to the three great powers as well as to all minor powers, any peace treaty that may be drafted will contain within itself the foetus of another war and our gallant men will have died in vain.
From the mistakes that followed the settlement of the last war have flowed not only the horrors of this war but also the incalculable sufferings of the great depression. The victorious nations in the last war betrayed their trust in that they did not give effect to the principles that were laid down in the Council Hall at Versailles. The representatives of the leading nations at that time knew that, in, say, the first five years after the signing of the peace, if America, France or Britain desired to provoke an international dispute, it would have to be fought by the few hundred members of their respective legislatures. The senators and members of the House of Representatives of the American Congress, the members of the French Chamber of Deputies, and the members of the British Parliament would have had to gird on their swords and armour to fight, for no huge armies were available for the purpose. That being the case, the representatives of the great powers substituted the golden, for the explosive, bullet. It is of interest, therefore, to trace the history of the money war that followed the Peace of Versailles.
After the end of the first world war the United States of America, and, chiefly, New York City, became the financial centre of gravity. London had formerly occupied that position, but because of the vast sums which Britain had to pay to America for war goods and to meet other commitments, New York superseded London as the financial centre of gravity. President Woodrow Wilson was not able to induce the American people to support the Treaty of Versailles or to meet the contractual obligations that he had entered into in the name of his country. France and Britain, therefore, as the other two members of the triumverate, had to clean up the mess that had been left in Europe. They had first to try to distribute evenly the supply of credit in the world. If reparations were to be paid, trade had to be made to flow freely. International trade could not function without proper international banking arrangements. As America had practically “cornered” the gold of the world, which was rent asunder by mistrust, no international system could function without a substantial backing for the different currencies of the world, and the only substantial backing was gold - most of which, as I have said, was held by America. After the making of the Treaty of Versailles. France and England immediately set about the redirection of the gold stream to the other capitals of the world. These two nations showed that their losses in the winning of the military victory had been stupendous and that it was almost a physical impossibility for them to meet their commitments in respect of interest and principal on the loans which the United States of America had made to them. They asked that America should forgo these war debts, as its contribution to the total effort of the United Nations. The American people refused to listen to the proposition, and other means had to bo evolved to secure the return of some nf the wealth in the form of money that was gravitating towards New York. Britain put forward the plan that it was the duty of America, as the greatest creditor nation, to try to rehabilitate the world. The American people realized that the existing state of affairs could not continue, and the United States was induced to provide big international loans for the purpose of restoring world trade. It appeared to American bankers that it would be a good policy to lend to France and Britain some of the wealth which America had gained. American economists, too, realized the wisdom of draining off some of the superfluous spending power which the people of America had gained in consequence of the war, and thus avert a spiral of inflation. These advisers so influenced the President of the United States of America that he consented to loans being made to Britain and France; but the terms of the loans were of 15 to 20 years. They were made to British and French bankers, for reticulation among the rest of the world Powers. Those bankers accepted responsibility for the credits and for the eventual collection of the debt; but instead of carrying out the principles upon which agreement had been reached, they loaned the money in different parts of Europe at call, thus placing themselves in the position of being able to direct political policy in many European countries. When America declined to enter the League of Nations,- there was no security, backed by military power, for any European nation. France, however, considered that by exercising its economic power it might be able to attract friendly nations and isolate Germany, because all those nations would respond to the force of the wealth that was concentrated in Paris. France knew that, in time, the German military machine would reassert its ‘might, in which event France could not alone hold the Ruhr and the Rhineland. It believed that, by gaining the support of Poland and Czechoslovakia, and by having investments in Holland and Denmark, the added strength thus gained would deter the Nazi war machine, which superseded the earlier machine that represented German military might, from taking forceful military action. Unfortunately, that scheme did not work out as France had anticipated ; consequently, when the Nazi war machine decided to test its strength against the economic set-up of Europe, it was a case of might being marshalled against culture of a sort, the inspiration for which lay in a capitalist economic system. France withdrew its gold from the United States of America on the eve of the German advance into the Rhineland in 1929, and followed this by withdrawing credits from Germany ; and, when Germany came to an understanding with Austria, from that country also. That vicious action disorganized world trade. England was forced off the gold standard. Thus, from the machinations of the chancellories of Europe emerged an economic war which was as devastating to the morale of the people of the world as had been the military struggle of 1914-18. All the happenings of the last twenty years had their genesis in activities similar to those that have been carried on from the time of the Crimea, conference to the present day. Our representatives at the San Francisco conference and at the peace table must, even though they be unsupported and their voices be as “ the voice of one crying in the wilderness “, speak on behalf of the thousands of little people, the plain men and women who accepted the protestations of the various spokesmen for the nations of the world and voluntarily gave their all. Many of them sacrificed their lives, and left their children homeless’ and fatherless, whilst others have been permanently maimed. It will be the duty of our representatives to protest against the continuance in the next twenty years of the policy that has operated in the world during the last twenty years.
The subject of banking is mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government has certain proposals which it expects to submit to the House within the next month or so. As a member of the Government party, I have had the opportunity of hearing the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) explain the views of the Cabinet, and I am satisfied that, if the House implements the proposals, the people of Australia will play their part in. the elimination from our domestic economy of such causes of war as unemployment, misery, starvation and frustration.
The Speech of the Governor-General also dealt with the subject of housing. I have heard the Minister for. Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) expound the various problems that are associated with home construction, and I agree with much of what he has said in regard to the impossibility of undertaking at present, a large national programme. [Extension of time granted.] WhilstI agree that, having regard to the information that has been placed before this House in connexion with man-power and materials, and our commitments to the armed forces, the time has not yet arrived to undertake an extensive national system of home-building. I claim that the regulations could be either eased or so sympathetically administered as to allow private initiative to contribute towards the solution of the problem of providing homes for the people, particularly in those parts of Australia in which a very big munitions programme had been conducted. The House should be able to realize that the tapering off of the munitions programme should result in the release of a volume of labour which cannot easily be channelled into other constructional programmes on behalf of the war effort. In those places and elsewhere, there is a housing problem because of the lack of building during the last five years. If it were left to the initiative of individuals, who cannot be transferred to other work, to organize the building industry, and to the natural bent of Australians for improvization, much could be achieved in the way of providing homes, and much might be learned that would be of use to housing authorities when the housing programme was put in hand after the war. We have been told that various materials are in short supply, but in a country as large as Australia it generally happens that in any particular place there is building material near the site where it would be needed. Practically every inland town of any size has its own brick kiln, and most of them have timber resources nearby. They can, if need be, provide kilns for the making of house tiles. There are in all country towns hardware merchants and timber yards which can provide; essential material, and where they fail something can be improvised. Many of the houses which stand on. our farms to-day were built by the pioneers from timber growing on the property or from material quarried out of the ground, and the same sort of thing can be done again if need be. If such enterprise were encouraged it would relieve the drain on pools of building material, except, perhaps, in regard to hardware.
I have recently received many resolutions passed by farmers’ organizations on the subject of the wheat industry. Some of them appear to me to make exorbitant demands on the economy of the country, but others are eminently practical. Bearing in mind the violent price fluctuations for export wheat which have marked the history of this industry, the farmers are concerned to evolve a scheme which will give some stability. One branch of the Wheatgrowers’ Union has sent me a resolution urging that the Government should call a conference of wheatfarmers in an endeavour to hammer out a scheme that would provide scope for the willing co-operation of farmers, and make no more than a fair demand upon the economy of the nation. I suggest that this matter should receive the urgent attention of the Prime Minister. The war is drawing to a close. During the war, the wheat-growing industry has been controlled under the National Security Regulations, but all Commonwealth control over it will lapse six months after the termination ofthe war. Any scheme for the control of the wheat industry should have a life of at least two years if the farmer is to know where he stands. When the farmer strips his crop this year, he begins immediately to prepare for next year’s crop, and the land from which he is taking the wheat this year will not be sown to wheat again until two years hence, even allowing for only one year’s fallow, which is little enough. It would be tragic if the Government, having committed Australia to an international wheat agreement, were to lose all control over the industry in Australia six months after the end of the war. I have been trying to find out from the
Attorney-General and from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what authority the Commonwealth Government will have after the war to enforce the provisions of any international wheat agreement into which it has entered. I understand that the two Ministers have been consulting on the matter, and the sooner a decision is reached the better. The problem of the wheat industry is not a war-time problem only. It has’ been the concern of this Parliament ever since federation. From time to time, international wheat conferences have been called to discuss surplus wheat production. That is evidence of the importance attached to the subject of export wheat by the Governments of the United States of America, Canada, Argentina, and Australia. Even if the wishes of the farmers were granted, and they were guaranteed a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, it would not stabilize the industry if, six months after the war, Commonwealth control should cease.
I urge the Minister for External Affairs, who will, perhaps, be the principal adviser to Australia’s delegates at the peace conference, to do everything humanly .possible to ensure that the treaty which will put an end to the war will really be a .peace treaty, and not an instrument that will lead to future wars.
I urge the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to give immediate consideration to the subject of housing. Particularly, do I urge the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to make an arrangement with the wheat-growers so that this industry will be removed from the Cinderella class, and placed on a sound, economic basis.
.- I join with other honorable members in welcoming to Australia Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and’ Duchess of Gloucester. The fact that the King’s brother has taken upon himself the duties of Governor-General of Australia is a source of pride and satisfaction to all Australians. I hope that the term of office of His Royal Highness will be rendered all the more memorable by the fact that, before long, we shall be celebrating the restoration of peace in Europe. rn:i
The progress of the war is very encouraging, and reflects the utmost credit on the courage, endurance, and devotion to duty of all members of the Allied Forces, and particularly upon the leadership of the higher command. I pay a special tribute to the part which our own forces have played. They have served in many areas of the war, and have everywhere created a favorable impression. Quite recently, Field Marshal Montgomery said that it would give him great pleasure to have units of the Australian Imperial Force assisting him in the task of defeating Germany. The fact that our forces would he genuinely welcome to the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe I regard as one of the highest tributes ever .paid to the Second Australian Imperial Force.
Although the .progress of the war, as reviewed by the Governor-General in his Speech, gives one pleasure, I confess to being keenly disappointed that the Speech contains no reference to how the Government proposes to use our forces to hasten the successful conclusion of the war. The Speech contained only a minor reference to our forces.
– What does tha t mean ?
– The only reference in the Governor-General’s Speech is a statement that our forces are “poised”.
– The honorable member could not expect the Speech to give details.
– I expected a statement in general terms regarding what is proposed, and some reference to the organization which is being set up. Naturally, I do not expect that details should be divulged, but there is not even a general reference, beyond the statement that our forces are “ poised “. Here is the passage to which I refer -
From 1942 to 1944, the Australian Army has played an outstanding part in the defeat of Japan’s plans for conquest in the SouthWest Pacific Area and its striking farce is now poised for further operations against the enemy.
The fact is that our forces have been “ poised “ for the last twelve months. I believe, having regard to present circumstances, that some more definite announcement should have been made.
– The honorable member will not have to wait long.
– I pay a tribute to the work of the Royal Australian Navy, which has served in every sea, and also to the outstanding achievements of the Royal Australian Air Force in every theatre of war. Their record, like that of the Australian Imperial Force, is beyond praise. I join with the GovernorGeneral in paying high tribute to the forces engaged in the relief of the Philippines and to our own forces operating in the South-West Pacific. The American forces were pledged to retake the Philippines by General MacArthur, who said, when he was called from the Philippines before they fell to take supreme command of the forces of the United Nations in the South-West Pacific Area, “I will return “. He has returned and spectacularly recaptured those islands. My reply to the Minister’s interjection is that we, as well as Great Britain and our sister dominions, are pledged to recapture Singapore, Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies, where the men of the Sth Division and supporting units have been languishing in Japanese prison camps ever since the capture of those areas by the Japanese. There is hardly a family in Australia which does not look yearningly towards those territories, hoping for the early release of sons, brothers and husbands. Instead of saying “ its striking force is now poised for further operations against the enemy “ the Government should be pressing for the opportunity to hasten the release of captured Australian troops. I am confident that it cannot be disputed that those of our forces that are in action are engaged in mopping-up operations in the islands of the South-West Pacific. On every front in this war the armies of the Allies - Great Britain, the United States of America, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, France, Italy and many others - are on the move, but our troops are “ poised “. The reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to our troops being “ poised “ appears almost to have been put in as an afterthought. Our troops have been “ poised “ for more than twelve months. You will hardly meet a man of the Australian Imperial Force who is not thoroughly “ fed up “.
We shall never win this war by inaction. Wars are only won by attack. The time has long passed when we should have been making a strong appeal to the other members of the United Nations to form a united front for the release of our prisoners from the Japanese. In the course of this debate, Ministers have said that the cause of the inactivity of our forces is the lack of shipping to transfer them to appropriate theatres of war. Yet Ave have ships in which to shift them elsewhere. Apart from that, quite recently, a Minister of the Crown in Great Britain said that if our troops could be madeavailable to Great Britain - he did not. specify where - shipping would be provided for their transport. That does away with the allegation that our men are still “ poised “ because we have no ships.
– Did Great Britain ever ask for them ?
– Field-Marshal Montgomery expressed the hope that he might have them. I do not say, though, that Europe is the theatre of war wherein our forces should be fighting. Great Britain and America have there all the forces needed to complete the job that they are doing so well. The time has long gone by, however, when we should have been making a special effort to release our men imprisoned in South-East Asia. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the men and the ships are available if only the Government would organize them.
– The honorable member does not know the shipping position when he says that.
– The honorable gentleman was Minister for Supply and Shipping until recently, but a member of the British Ministry has said that Great Britain will provide the ships, and 1 accept his word, because his information is probably more up to date than that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The disposition of the forces is the prerogative of the Government, which must take the full responsibility for our troops being wherever they are; if they are not where they should be, the fault lies with the Ministry. So it is high time that it endeavoured to arrange a united front for the destruction of the enemy, the liberation of the Netherlands East Indies, and the release of Australian prisoners of war on the mainland of Asia. Surely I need not remind the Minister that we have complete command of the seas. The navies of Great Britain, the United States of America, the Netherlands and Australia now roam the seas practically unchallenged. The naval forces of those powers must be the strongest ever assembled in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Now that we have naval supremacy the position in New Guinea and the other islands in the South-West Pacific Area has changed. The Japanese troops that have been by-passed by the Australian and American forces are bottled up. They are immobile. They cannot do another thing of any consequence in this war while we have command of the sea.
– That is contrary to military advice.
– It is obvious.
– It is not.
– Utterly obvious! I do not value advice of that character. The Minister says that my proposition, that the Japanese forces in those islands cannot play a further active part in this war, is contrary to military advice, but let me give him a comparison. On the Atlantic coast of France there are 100,000 or more trained efficient German troops. They are hemmed in by French troops in the ports of Bordeaux, St. Nazaire, and Lorient. All those ports are still being used by U-boats. Yet General Eisenhower and Field-Marshal Montgomery have left them there. In the Channel Islands, which are close to Great Britain and are right in the way of all sea transport, tens of. thousands of German soldiers are in complete possession. There our kith and kin are starving. Yet, so far, no effort has been made to dislodge the enemy. I should like the honorable gentleman to contrast the situation on the Atlantic coast and in the Channel Islands with that to-day in the islands of the South-West Pacific, which are quite remote from Australia, and in which the Japanese are bottled up in their foxholes, isolated and unable to move because of our naval supremacy. Deprived of medical supplies to combat disease, they will die off rapidly, and I do not think they will present any difficulty when, finally, the time comes to dispose of them. The peace treaty, which will be unconditional surrender, will require these Japanese to be returned to Japan. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said that it was one of the first rules of warfare to concentrate the maximum force at the decisive point, and that men should not be used in unnecessary operations. Yet, that is exactly what we are now doing in the islands of the South-West Pacific.
– The honorable member says that we should not fight for New Guinea and the Solomons?
– Not at all. What I say is that we should concentrate on major problems before dealing with minor ones. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) said that Australian troops were being used in mopping-up operations in the islands for civilian rather than military reasons. He said -
The sooner we can restore the civil administration in the rich territories of Papua, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and the Solomons, the better it will be for Australia and the British Empire.
It was imperative, he said, that we should restore civil control in those islands. I regard mopping-up as the most hazardous military undertaking possible, but if mopping-up must be done it should be done by the combined American and Australian forces, just as the areas were captured by joint operations. I object also to the way in which the moppingup campaign is being carried out. The Australian troops are not equipped with the necessary American plant and equipment to do thework. In support of that contention I quote from three letters received recently from men engaged in the work. One, dated the 13th January, states -
I have seen a bit of the United States forces, and really our equipment compared with theirs is farcical. We have come to calling ourselves the “ Pauper Army “, and closely resemble the “ wallahs “ of Egypt in that we go about picking over Yankee rubbish dumps to see what we can get. American rejections are better and more suitable than our own. The method of track-making here has changed back to the pick and shovel style.. Our forces will never be able to keep peace with our Allies in speed of advance, but a lot of guts and courage will be expended in trying to do so. Supply will always be dragging behind.
Another letter, dated the 25th January, states -
The Yanks we have met here are a good crowd, and have been very generous. They arc, however, dumping and destroying a lot of used equipment which we could well do with, and they consider it not worth their while transporting to other theatres. Rumour is that our crowd won’t take it at lease-lend prices, so it is destroyed. The United States objective was, of course, the Philippines, and all the operations to date they regard as nothing more than stepping-stones on the way. They’re right, too, because the mopping-up will not affect the end of the war one whit. Actually, our forces could not possibly hope to keep pace with the Yanks in any operation, because their engineer resources, equipment and services of supply just outstrips us. Tasks previously done in this area with modern machinery are now back to the pick and shovel method. Either our Army is run by men with eighteenth century minds, or the Government refuses to sanction the cost of equipment which make a modern army. More and better machines is the need and in the long run it is the most economical method.
Another extract from a letter, dated the 4th February, reads -
We have had heavy rains here lately which have washed away many bridges and generally played hell with communications. The “ducks”, or amphibious trucks, which the Yanks have are the things for overcoming such difficulties, but we don’t own such things.
That is a complaint from the front line, where mopping-up operations are proceeding. My only comment is that if mopping-up is to be done, our troops must be supplied with the proper equipment. The letters which I have read are definite complaints from our troops. In my opinion, the American forces, who have an abundance of material for moppingup operations, should be sharing this task with Australian troops. Moppingup is one of the most difficult and dangerous military operations, and nowhere is it more hazardous than in tropical, feverridden jungles and mountain ranges. Recently, I read a book issued by the Director of Public Relations entitled The Jap was Thrashed. It gives some vivid accounts of mopping-up operations, which our soldiers are now asked to undertake without adequate or proper equipment.
Apart from heavy casualties, our men are suffering severely from sickness. I quote from an observation by General Blamey -
Our Army has never encountered anything more grim than the campaigns which have been fought in the jungles of New Guinea. Australian troops have never previously been called upon to perform a harder task than that which faced us in New Guinea in the latter half of 1942.
The following is a description of the sickness and invalidity which develop in these jungles : -
Their battle casualties in relation to sickness showed which had been the more gruel ling struggle. In five weeks, while killing hundreds of Japanese, the four battalions had lost in killed only five officers and 63 other ranks; in wounded, 11 and 124; but in sickness. 28 and 743. Battalion strength now averaged 400.
Finally, I shall read a brief summary of the real meaning of mopping-up -
In contrast with the heartbreaking ridges and precipitous trails over which they had fought through the ranges, the Australian troops now had to fight the enemy in flat country. But it was country covered with patches of thick jungle or large areas of kunai, studded with extensive, disease-ridden sago and mangrove swamps, with few passable tracks - and all of those tracks dominated by skilfully sited enemy weapons of every useful calibre. Great clusters of coco-nut plantations gave additional cover to the enemy and supplied him with material for his defences, concealment for his snipers and obstacles to the effective use of our heavier weapons.
With the sea at his back, the enemy had dug deeply into this country. He had to be ousted from a maze of earthworks and pillboxes, in the construction of which he had made liberal use of coco-nut palms. Trunks up to a foot in diameter, cut into logs and interlaced with earth filling formed the top cover of innumerable strongposts, impervious to infantry weapons and able to withstand even direct hits from 25-pounder artillery.
In these strongposts, every one cunningly placed to give strategic lines of fire, the Japanese sat for weeks, around him his ammunition and rations. He crouchedin his post 24 hours a day - eating, drinking, sleeping in a dank, filthy pit only a few feet square, obeying like an automaton his orders to stay there, to kill or be killed. And - ultimately - he was killed.
Those are situations which will be repeated in mopping-up operations. If a mopping-up campaign must be conducted, the task should be performed as a joint operation, in which United States and Australian forces are employed. As I stated earlier, the Americans have an abundance of mechanical equipment for mopping-up purposes, ‘which our men claim they lack. Battle casualties and sickness must be unnecessarily severe if mopping-up operations are to continue. The future role of Australian forces should he reviewed by the Government. Their employment should he dictated, not by civil requirements, as was indicated by the Minister for the Army, but by military necessity. If that were done, our troops would no longer be engaged in the difficult and hazardous task of moppingup. I appeal to the Government to review the part that our fighting forces are called upon to play in this war and to see that the use of our troops is dictated by military rather than civil reasons.
Many of the Government’s legislative proposals, which were foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech, cannot possibly be given effect until after the war. For example, the political control of banking and the socialization of interstate airlines are not essential to the successful prosecution of the war. The Governor-General pointed out that, according to estimates, eighteen months will elapse after the defeat of Germany before the Japanese can be conquered. By that time, the Seventeenth Parliament will have expired. The proper time to deal with banking reform will be after the election of the new Parliament. When that time arrives, the Labour Government will have ceased to exist.
– That is wishful thinking
– Eather than waste time on contentious party political questions, this House should be examining proposals for the winning of the war. The Government must be aware that between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of the people are apposed to the political control of hanking. The very founders of the Commonwealth Bank made it a basic principle that in no circumstances should banking be subject to political control. I am satisfied that these proposals, if forced through this Parliament, will sound the death-knell of this Labour Government.
Regarding the nationalization of interstate airlines, the Government does not appear to have made up its mind. During the recent parliamentary recess, the Government referred repeatedly to its proposals, using the term “ nationalization “, but the Governor-General’s Speech refers to the “ control “ of interstate airlines. After every caucus meeting, the Government appears to be very “jittery”. I appeal to the Prime Minister at this late hour to shelve these proposals and to concentrate on the winning of the war.
The crisis in home-building has existed for a long time, and honorable members on this side of the chamber have great difficulty in galvanizing the Government into action. Many young newly married people, and people with young families, are in a desperate plight, and the task of providing them with homes has become one of the most acute problems of this country. The gravity and urgency of the task cannot be overestimated. In a broadcast address recently, the Deputy Director of Housing in Victoria mentioned that 1,250,000 people in Australia are inadequately housed. Yet, the imposition of restrictions on the use of building materials and on the erection of homes continues! The GovernorGeneral said -
At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August, 1944, resolutions were adopted as a basis for a CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. A draft of this agreement has now been prepared. As soon as it has been considered by the State Governments, it will be presented for approval by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States. It will be appreciated that conclusion of this agreement is an essentia] preliminary to the housing programme which will be expanded as soon as additional resources can be made available for civilian purposes.
Is any honorable member satisfied with the Government’s record regarding housing? Can any one be satisfied with such slow progress? Delays and vacillation will not help people who are struggling to find homes. I urge an immediate review of man-power by an independent and competent organization, and not by the bureaucrats who compile dismal reports such as that which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) read to the House a few days ago. The Allied Works Council, the Civil Constructional Corps, and all government departments must be closely examined with a view to finding labour to construct new homes and provide manpower for the rural industries. Earlier, I asked the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) -
What was the greatest number of persons employed by the Allied Works Council and in the Civil Constructional Corps and the dates of the peak employment?
What was the number employed in the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps on the 1st February, 1945?
The answers were as follows: -
If munitions establishments were thoroughly combed, they would yield substantially more than 27,000 men. I should like to know what has become of the 27,000 men who have been discharged by the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps. K one-half of the rumours we hear of inactivity and go-slow methods in munitions establishments are correct, I am satisfied that a competent group of businessmen, accustomed to manufacturing methods, could com’b out many tens of thousands of factory workers, who could be transferred to homebuilding and rural work. If action be not taken immediately, food production in Australia will be in a sorry plight. I remind the House of the Government’s proposals regarding food. A colossal task will be set primary producers. In Australia’s allotted stra tegy, we are called upon to make a major effort in feeding the armies of liberation. Australia has had to care for civilians, maintain food supplies to Great Britain, feed Australian, American, and other servicemen in the Pacific area, provide for powerful British naval units, assist to feed forces in Burma, Italy, and the Middle East, and meet the urgent requirements of Ceylon, India, and the Pacific Islands. [Extension of time granted.) A colossal task has been set for our primary producers. The volume of production expected from them is greater than they have ever been able to achieve, even in the best years in the peace period; yet they are asked to reach new target figures at a time when they are being starved for man-power.
I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), upon notice, to-day to inform me of the total production of butter in the Commonwealth for each year from 1940 to 1945, and he furnished the following infor mation : -
It will be observed that we have experienced a steady decline of production, from 203,686 tons in 1939-40, to 90,825 tons for the seven months of this year. That continuous decline cannot he attributed to drought conditions. It is due, to a considerable degree, to lack of man-power. In the early days of the war many men and women who had reached the retiring age remained in the industry in order to do their best to maintain production. They had the help of children and young people who were too young to join the forces. That situation has continued for nearly six years, and during that time many of the elderly people have found it utterly impossible to continue the work. As other labour has not .been available to replace them, production has continuously declined.
I also asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to-day to inform me of the quantity of butter we had promised to export to Great Britain in each year from 1939-40 up to date, and the quantity we have actually exported. The Minister’s reply gave the following information : -
Notwithstanding that we have been unable to fulfil our undertakings, the Government has promised even greater supplies of butter in the coming year. The programme can be fulfilled only if additional man-power ihe made available.
Unless this .be done we shall have to withdraw supplies from Great Britain in order to meet the undertakings indicated in the paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s ‘Speech, to which I referred a few moments ago. Can any honorable gentleman think, without shame, of our doing anything that would have the effect of jeopardizing the 2 oz. of butter a week which each person in Great Britain at present receives? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would need to be a conjurer in order to give effect to the new food programme outlined in the Speech, of His Boya] Highness.
The task that has been set for our primary producers is quite hopeless of achievement unless a substantially greater reservoir of labour can be tapped. The setting of such a target requires a complete review of the man-power position by a competent authority. Unless this be conceded the position will grow worse than it is. At the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which was attended by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, the Commonwealth Minister was informed that unless considerably more manpower were made available at once it would be quite impossible for primary producers to meet the demands that were being made upon them. To-day we are importing fodder for live-stock. The Government has. not only been warned, it has also been appealed to on this subject. Years ago honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber warned Ministers that the present situation would arise unless steps were taken to make adequate man-power available for the food-producing industries of the country. We made it crystal clear to the Government that the existing labour resources were entirely inadequate to the needs of the case. The work of cultivating the soil, harvesting the crops, attending to dairy herds and so on, is far too arduous for the many elderly people to whom it has been so largely left. We advised the Government that reserve stocks of fodder were essential for drought and winter conditions, but the overworked, aged and young people in our agricultural and dairying indus tries have found the task of providing reserve stocks beyond their powers. We all realize that our barns and silos should be filled with reserves of stock fodder, but the Government has done nothing about it. It has . disregarded both the advice and the appeals of honorable members on this side of the chamber.
Adequate and experienced man-power must be made available at once if the food programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech is to be even partly met. Elderly men and women and boys and girls cannot do the work that is necessary to achieve these targets. Men with both strength and experience are absolutely essential for the purpose. Unfortunately, although we have been told that men would be released from the services under .certain conditions, the period1 of time occupied in examining applications for releases has been out of all reason. If the Government expects the primary producers to provide foodstuffs for the people of Great Britain, the United States of America and the Philippines, and also for service personnel in the Pacific theatre of war and elsewhere, it must ensure that releases are promptly granted. The Government can sidestep this issue no longer. Under existing conditions, it takes sometimes from five to six months to complete investigations into applications for release, and even then the applications are frequently refused.
We all realize the need for maintaining the fighting forces, but we must realize, too, the need to provide foodstuffs. An independent investigation of man-power resources is urgently needed. The Government must be galvanized into action. Inter-departmental inquiries are not satisfactory.’ The advice of independent groups of business men and primary producers is necessary. I believe that if such independent advice were sought, means would be discovered of providing additional man-*power.
– To what strength does the honorable member suggest that the services should be reduced ?
– I consider that many more men could be released from the munitions industries, and from the 20,000 or more men still employed by the Allied Works Council.
– That is merely a guess.
-I believe, also, that the armed forces could be reorganized and additional personnel released for civil work without impairing service strength or efficiency . A complete overhaul of the services is essential if all the needs of the country are to he supplied, though I have in mind, especially, rural and housing requirements.
I wish now to say a few words about the necessity for a reduction of taxation. The Government should be examining theposition in the most careful and thorough way. As war expenditure is now substantially below that of the peak period of two years ago, and also below the budget forecast for the current year, the people had every right to expect that reference would be made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the form that reductions of taxation would take. The Government should be looking for methods of reducing taxation rather than for new ways and means of spending the taxpayers’ money. War expenditure reached its peak in 1942-43 when it totalled £562,000,000. In 3943-44 it fell a little to £544,000,000. If the rate of expenditure from June to December of this financial year were to continue in the second half of the year the total expenditure would be £466,000,000, which is nearly £100,000,000 below that of the peak year. We cannot assume that expenditure will continue at the same rate in this half of the financial year, but it is obvious to all of us that the budget estimate of £505,000,000 for this financial year will not be reached. What I have said indicates that a reduction of. taxation is now practicable. Nothing hampers trade and industry, or reduces the standard of living, so much as does excessive taxation. If the Government wishes to avoid the problems invariably associated with excessive taxation it should at once review the whole system of imposts. Apparently, however, it is befogged in this as in other respects. It should, therefore, seek the advice of independent business men not only in man-power problems, but also on the financial issues with which it will have to wrestle in the near future. Unless it makes available a larger volume of man-power, and enters upon a programme of tax reduction, it will impair rather than improve the war effort.
.- The most important and paramount issues that confront this country and also our Allies are, first, the successful prosecution of the war, and secondly, the formulation of the peace terms that will follow the victory. These two great issues overshadow everything else. Neither the members of this Parliament nor those of any other parliament can afford to play politics in order to gain a political victory when to do so would endanger the security of the nation. I charge the Opposition with trying to stampede the Australian people into hostility against this Government. Honorable members opposite are indulging in lying and false propaganda in a desperate attempt to satisfy their greed, and once more regain the treasury bench, so that they may be able to serve the vested interests of this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) announced in this House a few days ago a change in the name of his party. It is henceforth to be known as the Liberal party, a name which it used twenty years ago. When its policy in those days became unacceptable it changed its name to the Nationalist party. During the depression years, when its policy was once more unpopular and ineffective, it was again rechristened, becoming the “ United Australia party “. Events prior to the last elections showed how inappropriate that title was, and a host of parties of mushroom growth emerged in an endeavour to attract the wavering elector. The wheel has now turned a full circle, and the name once again is “ Liberal party “. The point that I want to drive home is, that it still is the same old reactionary party, and that it consists of the same representatives of big business and vested interests.
The Leader of the Opposition has embarked ona campaign in a desperate attempt to scare the people of the country against legislation that is to come before this House. He will trot out all the old “ socialistic tigers “ that were used when the Labour party was first constituted.
He will urge the electors of Australia, including the thousands who formed dole queues and the farmers and business men who were brought to the brink of bankruptcy, to forget his sorry record, which had disastrous results to this country. This great champion of vested interests visited my electorate quite recently, and the press devoted scare headlines to his attempt to restore to life a political corpse. I assure him that Hume will be a safe seat for the Labour party and democracy for many years to come.
I believe that this session will go on record as the most momentous in the. history of Australia. We all know that the principal legislation will be that which the Government has designed to enlarge the functions of the Commonwealth Bank and to nationalize interstate airlines. That legislation will have a most important influence on the democratic future of this great country. To both measures I fully subscribe. I am firmly convinced that they definitely are in the best interests of the people of Australia. Together with the proposal to grant preference in employment to ex-servicemen for a stipulated period, and other problems relating to post-war rehabilitation and security, they have been given wide publicity in a campaign launched in the capitalist press by the exploiting interests against the Government and its policy. These political opponents of Labour, especially those who are in control of monopolies and those who, like the associated banks and other vested interests, maintain a stranglehold upon the financial resources of the nation, greatly fear that, in the post-war period, their monopoly interests may be adversely affected by the peace-time policy of the Government, which they are doing their utmost to destroy. So matter what the economic conditions in other countries may be after the waa*, the monopolists of our own democratic country are so frantically and foolishly anxious to maintain their profit-making interests that they are expending thousands of pounds in misrepresenting the intentions of the Government in respect of proposals designed to protect and preserve the economic rights of the community.
The Government proposes to enlarge the functions of the Commonwealth Bank in order that the financial resources of the nation may be available, as they were when the Fisher Government established that institution, to provide for all economic needs and to meet an emergency. The associated banks are opposed to the proposal, because they desire to regain the pre-w,ar conditions bestowed upon them by the Bruce-Page Government, which gave to them undisputed control of the financial resources of the nation.
The Government is charged with enormous responsibilities. In the post-war period, it will be confronted’ with tremendous problems. We are most anxious that those great resources and assets that have been built up for the defence of the nation shall not be sacrificed on the auction block to gratify the greed of Mammon. So we contemplate assuming control of interstate airlines, upon which already more than £300,000,000 of public money has been expended. Private interests which have greedy fingers in this huge enterprise are anxious to secure a peace-time monopoly of its ownership. In order to attain that end, they are urging the people in every electorate to protest by means of chain letters and telegrams’ to their parliamentary representatives. Sending such communications to me is like pouring water on a duck’s back.
The new era which the democratic leaders of the United Nations promised would be established throughout the world, and which I am pleased to find was stressed with candour and sincerity at the recent Crimea Conference, must be based upon the guarantee that the peoples of all nations’ shall have economic security and .be free from the fear of aggression. It must be recognized by all that no aggregation of financial interests or group of wealthy monopolists should be charged with the responsibility of carrying into effect the elaborate plans and specifications that have been prepared for the implementation of these guarantees. That will be the task of the different governments that have been battling in the various spheres of war for the preservation of the basic principles of democracy. Work of tremendous magnitude confronts all governments.
Although the details are complicated almost beyond imagination, the basis, after all, is a simple one, and the object should not be difficult to achieve, because basically the needs of the individual do not far exceed a little food and shelter and, for all who work, a little leisure and relaxation. If these are to be secured, democratic governments must command and wisely direct the resources of the nation. That cannot be done if those resources arc monopolized by the privileged few. Any government that is charged with the provision of work and, consequently, economic security and happiness for all, must be in a position to do what needs to be done. That does not mean that the rights or liberties of the individual should be curtailed, or that private enterprise as we know it to-day should be destroyed. On. the contrary, it may mean - it will, if properly appreciated - the encouragement of private enterprise to undertake those things for which it is signularly . fitted, with subsidies and other assistance when it is in difficulty. Only a fool or a scatter-brained economist would demand that State instrumentalities alone should make provision for all the economic needs of the community. The question with which we are faced is a simple one. As the old order gives way to the new, will the people permit themselves to be deluded by selfish enemies of democracy in regard to the aims of Labour, or will they march resolutely forward towards the goal with this Government, which never yet has failed them? This country has wonderful opportunities. I want the Government, in its post-war planning, to provide for the finding of new markets for our primary products and for increasing our hold on markets that we formerly held, competition in many of which is certain to be very keen. That is particularly true of Europe, and even more true of Great Britain, in which opportunities may exist during the reconstruction period, but in which the competition will subsequently become stronger. It is unlikely that many of the products which we shall seek to export after the war will find markets among our traditional customers. Food products are an important example. “We shall have to look for new markets, and they can best be found in
India, China, Malaya and the East Indies, all of which are rich in resources and are heavily populated. In the past they have not been large customers of ours because their living standards have been so low as to have prevented the development of a large market for our exportable products. The solution is obvious. We should join with other nations in raising the living standards of our neighbours, thus increasing their capacity to buy from us. Such a policy is neither- visionary nor impracticable. It fits in with the policy, generally accepted, of increasing world trade after the war, and it meets the aspirations of the peoples of the east. Thus it would be a potent factor for peace. The leaders of India and China, particularly, desire that their countries shall be industrialized, .and they have drawn up plans for that purpose. If we co-operate with them, as they wish, we shall secure for ourselves a fund of goodwill, and a valuable market, the possibilities of which will be revealed as the individual purchasing power of the Indians and Chinese is gradually increased. I believe that never previously in the history of this great country has a government had to face such tremendous problems as those that confront the present Government, which, during its tenure of office, has had to contend with war, fire, and the worst drought the nation has ever experienced. I am confident that we shall win through. J. believe that the full implementation of the Government’s policy will ensure the proper clothing, housing and, feeding of every one in this country, and that the proper organization of our productive capacity will lead to an enormous increase of real wealth. This will make possible a higher standard of. living, while providing greater leisure for the people to develop intellectually, and to enjoy the fruits of their labour. The Labour party plans to replace slum areas with decent dwellings, to provide for water conservation and reafforestation, and to take action to arrest soil erosion. It also proposes to provide the best medical and health services for the people that it is possible for science to offer. Surely no Australian can be opposed to that. Therefore, no citizen should be misled by propaganda by members of the Opposition, in this Parliament.
Last week, I listened to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and with much that he said I wholeheartedly agree, but I point out that his party was in power for 25 years. At one time during that period there were in Australia 700,000 unemployed persons. That was the time to implement schemes for reafforestation, water conservation and hydro-electric development. Anti-Labour governments did none of those things, but the right honorable member for Cowper presumes to criticize the present Government in its hour of trial for not doing the things which his own Government failed to do when it had the opportunity. The present Government will see Australia through - I am confident of that.
I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without referring to the wheat industry, and particularly to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who is trying to incite the wheat-growers of my electorate to protest against the decision of the Government to pay a first advance of 4s. 3d. a bushel on bagged basis at growers’ sidings for. the next harvest. This price is equivalent to a homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. f.o.r. terminals, and is the highest advance ever paid by the Commonwealth. It is a tremendous improvement on the 2s. 6d. a bushel advanced by the Government with which the honorable member for Indi was associated. It also represents an increase on the guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. f.o.r. provided by the Menzies Government. After consultation with the States, and particularly with the Premier of Victoria, the Menzies Government guaranteed a price of 3s. lOd. a bushel for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. If the crop exceeded that quantity, the excess had to be cut for hay, or would be paid for at a price below 3s. lOd. The net return to the growers under the guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. was 2s. 10d. at growers’ sidings. I emphasize that the advance of 3s. 10d. provided by the Menzies Government, in conjunction with the State Governments, was not a first advance. It was, in fact, in the nature of a final payment, whereas the present advance of 4s. 3d. is not a final payment - it is a first advance. The growers will receive the full amount realized by the pool whereas, under the 1940 agreement, the growers were not to receive the full amount realized. As a matter of fact, the Menzies Government introduced a wheat tax to prevent the growers from receiving the full value of their wheat. The tax was to work in this way : when the price rose above 3s. 10d., the growers were to receive half of the increase, and the other half was to go into a fund to be returned to the growers in subsequent periods of low prices. In other words, the industry, and not the Government, was to provide the insurance against low prices. Honorable members would do well to study the record of the honorable member for Indi in this regard. For some time past the honorable member, together with the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, has been trying to induce the growers to call mass meetings to protest against the Government’s wheat policy. On every occasion, the wheat-growers of Victoria have repudiated the honorable member for Indi and the Premier of Victoria as spokesmen for the industry. It was because he was unable to induce the growers to support him that the honorable member for Indi came sneaking into my electorate by the back door last week. The Premier of Victoria is acting for the wheat merchants, who want to discredit the present grower-controlled Wheat Board so that the existing wheat marketing plan may break down. Mr. T. S. Teasdale, a member of the Wheat Board, has not been actively engaged in farming for many years. Before the war he was interested in wheat marketing, and he also wishes to see the end of the hoard’s activities. It is ironical that this man should have been elected to the Wheat Board by the growers of Western Australia in the belief that they were electing a champion of grower-control. He has recently been criticized by other members of the Wheat Board, and by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for his activities. Nevertheless, he is the man who is providing the honorable member for Indi with doubtful information to enable him to carry out his self-appointed task of trying to sabotage this year’s wheat sowings. Because of the drought, and the consequent drain on Australia’s wheat resources, Australia will he short of wheat by next December when the new harvest is coming in. If all the wheatgrowers accept the honorable member for Indi at his own valuation, instead of at the valuation placed upon him by the growers of Victoria, his campaign may succeed in adversely affecting sowings in New South Wales. If that should happen his action may be likened to the worst sort of fifth column activity, resulting in a reduction of supplies of wheat to the people and to the fighting forces. The honorable member’s own record is a discreditable one, and so also is that of the Australian Country party. The guaranteed price of 3s. 10d., with its attendant tax, was introduced in 1940 by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was then Minister for Commerce, and, of course, a member of the Australian Country party. That party concurred in the proposal, and also in the provision that the guaranteed price of 3s. l0d. was to apply to a limited crop of 140,000,000 bushels. The Premier of Victoria also accepted the scheme. Since then he has, in his efforts to delude the wheat-growers and to further the interest of the wheat merchants, been attacking the scheme to which he then agreed. The honorable member for Indi and the Premier of Victoria would do well if, in thefixture, they stuck to the facts instead of going into the electorates of Hume and Riverina trying to stir up trouble among the wheat-growers. They attended stacked meetings at which they tried to sabotage the Government in its hour of trial. I warn them that they have the barrow in front of them if they try to twist the farmers of Riverina and Hume. I know that the growers in both those electorates are “ 101 per cent. “ behind the Government.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
.- The Address-in-Reply debate provides more than an opportunity to reaffirm our loyalty to the Throne. Recent incidents within this Parliament bring sharply into focus questions of ancient ceremony, practice and precedent in British parliamentary tradition. We are a free people and the custodians of freedom are the members of the Parliament, whose business it is to discover and secure reprobation of injuries done to the people’s rights. Our system is impregnated with traditions and customs the product of centuries of constitutional development. Our Constitution contains the necessary laws to make the parliamentary institution work freely, but we also have a mass of conventions and practices which are even more a part of the national life than are the laws themselves. For that reason, I consider it necessary to refer, without any disrespect to the Chair, to certain aspects of your own position, Mr. Speaker, and to discuss certain matters recently raised relative to the precedence of the Speaker and the President of the. Senate. Recently most unfortunate incidents have occurred in respect of State functions. I have very great respect for the manner in which you have filled your high office, and therefore my criticism will have no personal spleen behind it. But I do think it is necessary, now that the matter has been brought into the public arena, to express an opinion on the manner in which, and the means whereby, the Speaker of this House ought to conduct the duties of his office. I say again that I believe that you have ably discharged your duties. At times I have disagreed with you, but, nevertheless, as Speaker, you command the respect of this House. My point is that, although clothes do not make the man, the garment very often does proclaim the man. I refer to your discarding the robes and the wig traditionally associated with the position of Speaker in British communities. I believe that the Australian Parliament is the only one in the British Empire that has suffered the loss of those traditional garments. It is most incongruous that we should have bewigged clerks and a properly uniformed and equipped Serjeant-at-Arms with the chief officer of the House showing his apparent contempt for all such ceremonial by divesting himself of the robes of his office. . It is like a wedding at which every one but the bride is dressed for the part. I have been delving into the history of the speakership to discover the origin of the custom and I have formed the opinion, which I think is shared by most people, that the decision to dispense with traditional ceremonial should not be left to the whim of an individual for the time being in the chair. If a change is to be made, and the mace is to be taken from its honoured position on the table, and other ritual is to be dispensed with as being out of date, the decision should be deliberately made by the House, not by any person who temporarily may be in a position to make such a decision. These things are too important in the life of Parliament and the nation for individuals to determine. The Speaker and the President of the Senate have in the last few days claimed the privileges, status and dignity of their counterparts in the British Parliament. I am inclined to support them. For this claim to be valid, however, they should adopt the ceremonial associated with their high office. The Speaker in the House of Commons and the Speaker in the House of Representatives of Australia are selected in quite different ways. We, of course, have to adapt ourselves to local conditions and it is not possible, desirable, or necessary for us slavishly to copy everything that comes from the Mother of Parliaments. This is what I have read -
It is traditional for the proposer and seconder to make speeches in the grand manner. The highest note of eulogy is struck in the statliest diction. The candidate for the Chair is ahero, indeed, to his sponsors. They not only endow him with every qualification for the office, but they present him to the House as a “’ super man “, quite the most perfect specimen of the human kind. Sometimes this splendid being is purely a thing imagined, the offspring of an amiable ignoring of precaution and a good natured extravagance of phrase …
It was formerly the custom for the Speaker elect to make a pretence of desiring to refuse the crown of bays. It was not that he was oppressed by the sense of the petty emptiness of things, of the illusions of authority and distinction. On the contrary, he was dazzled by the brilliant lustre of the glory which it was proposed to confer upon one so utterly humble and unworthy. He made repeated protestations of his unfitness for the post. Ho vowed that he possessed none of the gifts, mental and physical, necessary for the proper discharge of its duties. Therefore, with all due acknowledgment of the kind and flattering intention of the House, he bogged to be excused. But the House, of old, cried, “To the Chair, to the Chair”. Then, as he was being led to the Chair, the
Speaker elect indulged in a showof physical resistance. He disputed the ground and his sponsors, inch by inch and yard by yard.
Lest he should fear that if we followed the British system entirely that would be done here, I assure the Speaker that the system has changed. But that was the old tradition. It is interesting to recall some of the traditions of the speakership of the House of Commons, especially when the Speaker of this House claims that his status should be the same. The Speaker of the House of Commons divorces himself entirely from party politics. He never again attends a political club or function after elevation to the Chair. His office is never challenged during his lifetime. He is re-elected Speaker in Parliament after Parliament, regardless of what party is in power, until he resigns or dies in office. I direct attention to the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have from time to time descended from your high office to the Government benches to make strong party attacks against the Opposition. I do not think you can have it both ways. I do not think the dignity of your office can be maintained in the way. in which it should be unless the traditions associated with the speakership in the House of Commons are maintained. If there is to be any change in the ceremonial attaching to the ritual of this House it ought to be by the will of this House, not be the will of any particular individual.
Most of the many things covered by the Governor-General’s Speech having been dealt with by preceding speakers, I therefore do not intend to go over ground that has been already adequately covered. But I do propose to touch upon one or two matters of great moment to the public at the present time which I believe call for searching inquiry and the criticism of the Opposition. Under the democratic system of government, the function of the Opposition is to direct criticism either at what it conceives to be injustices or at matters which require rectification or clarification. Particularly must it direct its attention to any action by the executive which seeks to encroach upon the rights of the community in general, and which tends to fasten upon a free community conditions which are intolerable and more akin to those of a totalitarian State. 1 propose to discuss the resignation of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary. No doubt there are reasons for his resignation, but no strenuous efforts appear to have been made by the Government to ascertain them. From the answers which the Prime Minister has given during the last week in this chamber, it seems that the right honorable gentleman would be very glad if Mr. Cleary kept his mouth firmly closed. I am not in a position to say what is in the chairman’s mind, but the record of evidence taken by the Broadcasting Committee would convince any reader that any self-respecting man of integrity and strength could not for long tolerate the kind of treatment which Mr. Cleary received. The reasons behind his resignation are obvious.
-. - What are they?
– I shall cite a few instances to show that this Government, which has proclaimed that it stands for the maintenance of democratic rights and which has “ lambasted “ the totalitarian State and principles, made an effort to capture the propaganda machinery of this country, and endeavoured to subvert the Australian Broadcasting Commission to its own purposes of political progaganda.
– Rubbish !
– I welcome that interjection, because I shall read some of the evidence to show that my statement is supported by facts. Mr. Cleary was summoned before the Broadcasting Committee last year for the purpose of giving evidence regarding certain allegations of interference by the Government and by Cabinet Ministers with the commission in an endeavour to compel it to do certain things for the Government which the commission of its own volition would have rejected. Senator Amour, who is the chairman of the committee, risked Mr. Cleary certain questions designed to secure an admission from him that he approved the attitude taken by the Government in compelling the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast certain matters. According to the evidence Mr. Cleary said -
First, Dr. Evatt and Mr. Beasley met Mr. Bearup and myself. Later in the day, officials of the Department of Information were in attendance. Senator Ashley was present, but he did not speak.
At that time Senator Ashley was PostmasterGeneral, but power over the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been removed from him and placed in the hands of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and the then Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). After the Washington Declaration in January, 1942, a number of Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) made comments for the press and for broadcasting. Mr. Beasley’s comment was broadcast in the midday news session. By evening, the number of comments had grown to such an extent that the news editors of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because the news session was limited to fifteen minutes, had to “ cut “ some of them. They eliminated Mr. Beasley’s comment, as it had been broadcast earlier, but allowed the comments of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister for External Affairs to remain. According to the evidence given by Mr. Cleary, Mr. Beasley was most annoyed about this omission. This is what happened : When Mr. Beasley discovered that his comment, which, after all, only said that the Washington Agreement was a good thing for Australia, had been excluded from the evening news broadcast, he acted promptly. At 8 p.m. a play which was relayed to interstate stations began in Sydney. Mr. Cleary said in evidence -
Whilst the play was in progress, Mr. Beasley rang up the Sydney studios and asked why his remarks had not been broadcast, and demanded that the play should be interrupted in order to enable them to be broadcast.
As the studio supervisor could not take such instructions, he referred the matter to the State manager. This official considered that he could not interrupt the play - it was Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird - to announce to the world what Mr.
Beasley thought of theWashington conference. He paid that he could not take this responsibility,but would provide an opportunity for the remarks to be broadcast during the 9 p.m. news session. That did not satisfy Mr. Beasley. According to the evidence Mr. Cleary and Mr. Bearup were instructed to come to Canberra on the following day, and here they were confronted with Mr. Beasley, Dr. Evatt and Senator Ashley. Dr. Evatt invited Mr. Beasley to state his complaint, and Mr. Beasley attacked Mr. Bearup. I mention for the information of the House, lest honorable members do not know, that Mr. Bearup was the acting general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It may be not without significance that he was the acting general manager, in view of the remarks which were made by the Prime Minister to-day. They could only be construed as casting a slur upon Mr. Bearup’s ability to do his job. Anyway, Mr. Beasley attacked Mr. Bearup for having refused to interrupt the play, and Mr. Cleary said in evidence -
We spenta very uncomfortable hour.
A good deal was discussed at that conference between Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley and Senator Ashley and the two broadcasting officials. Finally, the representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission requested that some Minister should be made responsible for ministerial statements to be broadcast. At that time, the legislation constituting the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its present form had not been enacted, and the Government had complete power to compel the commission to broadcast any statement which it chose to submit. Mr. Cleary pointed out that if the Government wanted a succession of eight Ministers to broadcast every night matters both major and trivial, it would kill the news session, because no one would bother to listen to it. Recognizing that they were killing the session, Ministers agreed to compromise. But the evidence is here, for honorable members to read, of the intimidation to which those two officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were subjected on that occasion.
I am a little handicapped when speaking of this matter, because I am obliged to confine my remarks entirely to events recorded, in the printed evidence. I could cite many other instances from personal knowledge or information, but I am unable to substantiate them. Therefore, I am restricting my criticism of governmental interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to statements which are contained in the printed evidence. The Minister for Transport and External Territories (Mr. Ward) was also involved in a dispute with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He made a statement when the appointment of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester as GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth was announced. I do not know what Mr. Ward’s statement was, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission blacked it out. Mr. Ward wanted to know why his comment had been excluded, and in a letter to Senator Ashley on the 23rd November, 1943, he made a personal attack, not upon the commission for having so treated him, but upon an officer of the commission, Mr. Deamer, the chief news editor. Mr. Ward wrote to Senator Ashley as follows: -
Mr. Ward proceeded to specify the reasons why, in his opinion, the news paragraph should not have been eliminated. He said that it had been approved by the news service of the commission, and that same officer must have discriminated against him in excluding the statement from the broadcast. Mr. Ward made a vicious personal attack upon that officer of the commission, and ultimately there was a “ showdown “. Mr. Deamer was asked to give evidence on the matter before the Broadcasting Committee. He is a high executive official, ranking, perhaps, next to the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was asked whether he believed that there was any intimidation of the commission. He replied -
The position still remains that our staff is there as a semi-governmental staff with Ministers thinking in terms of their own departmental, not necessarily their own personal publicity.
Mr. Cleary said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission replied to Mr. Ward’s letter by pointing out the intimidatory effect of a man being named -
It had the effect of saying, “ This might teach this bloke not to interfere with my stuff in future”.
The policy appears to have been “ let us get at the individual. Do not let us make a complaint to the commission. Get someone who carries tales to tell us who does these things, and then we shall make a personal attack on that individual. If we keep it up long enough, these ‘ blokes ‘ will not be game to knock out any of our stuff”. Undoubtedly, there has been political interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission for a long time. If honoralble members require any further evidence on the reasons why Mr. Cleary resigned, I refer them to statements made by the Prime Minister in this House. Last week, in. answer to a question which I asked the right honorable gentleman on this subject, he said that the only interest he had taken in the affairs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was in connexion with the release of the general manager, Lieutenant-Colonel C. J. A. Moses, from the Army.
– What was wrong with that?
– There would have been nothing wrong with it had a request been made by the commission for the release of Lieutenant-Colonel Moses, in order that he might resume his managerial duties; but to-day when I asked the Prime Minister whether he had received any written or verbal request for the release of Lieutenan:Colonel Moses he stated that he had not. I consider that that reply by the Prime Minister indicates that the interference with the commission has come not necessarily from the Amour Committee or from any other members but rather from the Prime Minister himself, for the right honorable gentleman stated that he had acted without having been asked in any way by the commission to do so. He said that he had acted because he had formed a personalimpression, due to complaints he had read and heard, that the services of the general manager would be advantageous to the commission, or words to that effect.
– He did not say anything about the news service.
– The Prime Minister admitted to-day that he had gone right over the head of the commission and had communicated with LieutenantColonel Moses himself, or had listened to a request from, and had dealt directly with, that officer. In any case, he had that gentleman brought back and, in so doing, he cast a serious slur on the acting general manager, Mr. Bearup. I consider that that justifies me in saying that this action was taken because Mr. Cleary and Mr. Bearup had stood up against the efforts of Ministers to subordinate the commission to their own personal desires.
– The honorable gentleman has a vivid imagination.
– It requires not a vivid imagination but merely a reference to the evidence to justify that opinion. I consider that the evidence shows that both Mr. Cleary and Mr. Bearup had stood up against continued pressure by members of the Ministry. In the interests of the community as a whole, they intended to discharge their duties in a proper way. The position became so acute that Mr. Cleary found, it impossible any longer to retain both his position and his self-respect. In view of the interference of Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, he felt that to preserve his self-respect he had to resign his office.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that this is also the cause of other resignations from the commission?
– I am basing my statements on evidence which is available to other honorable members. Everything that I have said is on record, even to the words which the Prime Minister uttered this afternoon in this House.
Irrespective of what government may occupy the treasury bench, it is of the utmost importance to the people of this country that its news services, and particularly the news services broadcast from the national stations, should be free from any taint or even hint of party political pressure. The people are entitled to a news service which is entirely free from the suspicion of party prejudice, party interests, or party propaganda. The democracies of the Old World fell because, in the first place, the news services were tainted by propaganda. Every known totalitarian device was employed, as opportunity offered, to prevent people from obtaining a balanced political and general news service. lit is of the utmost importance to the future of democratic institutions that a protest should be offered by the Opposition in this House against the treatment meted out to Mr. Cleary and Mr. Bearup. No greater insult could have been levelled at any man than has been levelled at the present assistant general manager of the commission, Mr. Bearup. [Extension of lime granted.] If there be no substance in the statements that I arn making, and if the observations of the Prime Minister cannot be construed as an interference with the work of the commission, I invite the Government to cause an inquiry to be made into the reasons that have brought about the resignation of so many officers of the commission. Let the whole matter be brought into the public light.
I intend now to make some quotations from the twelfth report of the commission, in order to indicate the attitude which the Government has adopted towards it, and to show that the commis sion has been subjected to interference of an indirect nature by the exercise of power in a way that Parliament never intended. The actions of the Government in this respect also have made Mr. Cleary’s position entirely untenable. I shall refer first to the functions of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. The report states that this committee was appointed - with power to investigate and report to Parliament on matters referred to it by resolution of either House of the Parliament, or by. the Minister - on his own initiative, or at the request of the commission, or of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. It scorns timely to draw attention to some effects of this provision.
Because it is timely, I intend to do so. I do not believe that this report has yet been considered or discussed in any way by Parliament, but it is necessary that it should be discussed. The report refersto the desirability of such discussion in Parliament and proceeds -
Unfortunately these anticipations have not been realized. The Standing Committees have been assiduous in their inquiries into a wide range of subjects, some of which have involved critical questions of policy; but no subject in any of their five reports has been discussed by either House.
The Broadcasting Committee has toured the country at considerable expense and dragged managers of broadcasting stations from here, there, and everywhere in order to give evidence, but, as the commission points out, not one of the five reports of the committees has been discussed, by either House of the Parliament. The report proceeds -
Failing a lead by Parliament, the Commission considers itself bound to preserve the constitutional .position : that is to say, however much it may respect the views on policy expressed by the Minister or the Committee, it should not accept such views as mandatory or accommodate itself to them against its independent judgment, in matters the responsibility for which has been laid upon it by Parliament.
I hear an honorable member interject that the commission wants to be a law unto itself. It is entitled to be a law unto itself within the act under which it functions. “Unless it were so, it would he abdicating its statutory obligations. I intend to show that the Government has endeavoured- to stultify the commission in the exercise of its proper powers. The commission, in fact, has found it almost impossible to carry on its operations properly.
In this connexion I refer, first, to the operations of the Australasian Performing Right Association, known commonly as A.P.R.A. The Minister for Information knows something of the affairs of that organization, because he was a mem!ber of the Gibson Committee which recommended that certain action should be taken to prevent the Australasian Performing Right Association from continuing its fleecing - and I use that word deliberately - of the Australian public .by imposing excessive charges.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission is of the opinion that the Australasian Performing Eight Association has levied excessive fees for the use of the copyright works which it controls. In this connexion the commission’s report states -
This question was considered by the Standing Committee, which, after being assured by the Honorable the Attorney-General, Dr. H. V. Evatt, that there was no constitutional bar to the proposed amendment, recommended, in February,1943, that “ legislation be introduced as soon as possible to give effect to the recommendation in the Gibson Report “.
Thecommission further said on this subject -
Despite repeated representations by the Commission since then, no action has vet been taken. Meanwhile, the Commission continues, perforce, to pay to the Australasian Performing Right Association an annual tribute, which, according to the evidence in its possession, is at least double the sum that could be justified. This means an excess payment at the present time of at least £17,000 per annum. The seriousness of the position is aggravated by the fact that the overpayment has been going on for many years.
The operations of the Australasian Performing Right Association were investigated by both the committee of inquiry of whichSenator Gibson was chairman and the standing committee of which Mr. Calwell was chairman, and they recommended to the Government that if the Australasian Performing Right Association refused arbitration on lines suggested by the commission, legislation should be introduced to enable the commission to put its case to arbitration in a proper manner. Undoubtedly this leech on the comimunity should be dealt with by legislative action.
Why has the Government taken no action in the matter? Why do members of the Ministry maintain a death-like silence on it? I have interested myself in this subject for several years. In 1938 I asked certain questions regarding the distribution of moneysby the Australasian Performing Right Association. I do not think that the position has altered very much since then. In 1938 the association obtained £42,000 from the Australian Broadcasting Commission alone. That sum does not include receipts from commercial broadcasting stations, picture theatre companies, the sale of gramophone records, and certain other sources. From the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it is receiving £42,000 a year, which the commission considers is £17,000 in excess of a fair payment. The gross amount available for distribution in 1938 was £24,034 13s. 3d.; it has not been possible to secure later information. The expenses for the year totalled £4,499 10s. 6d., and £19,4964s.7d. was made available for distribution to the members of the association, mostly music publishers, such as Allen and Company Proprietary Limited, J. Albert and Son Proprietary Limited, Chappell and Company Limited, L. F. Collin Proprietary Limited, and D. Davis and Company Proprietary Limited. The amount distributed among 162 Australian composers was only £164 2s. 6d.
– What action did the honorable gentleman take when he obtained the information in 1938?
– It was then considered that there had been an infringement of the Copyright Act - which, according to legal advice, made it rather difficult to secure the passage of the necessary legislation; but since that time, according to the report from which I have read, the Attorney-General has given the opinion that no longer is there any bar. and that the passage of legislation would now be possible.
– The Attorney-General did not use the words “ no longer “.
– I shall read again the relevant passage from the commission’s report, so that there may be no mistake. It is this -
This question was considered by the Standing Committee, which, after being assured by the Honorable the Attorney-General, Dr. H. V. Evatt, that there was no constitutional bar to the proposed amendment, recommended in February, 1043, that “ legislation be introduced as soon as possible to give effect to the recommendation in the Gibson Report.”
It is now March, 1945. In the intervening period, the Australasian Performing Right Association has been receiving £70,000 a year in excess of what the commission regards as a fair payment. Is it to be wondered at that the commission cannot, compete with commercial broadcasting stations in the payment of salaries to its officers?
– The trouble is that most of the Australian composers sell their copyrights to the publishers.
– I intend to show that the Government is continuously endeavouring to use “ stand-over “ tactics with the commission. In 1940, the commission’s share of the licence-fee was reduced by 2s. a head. Following the report of the Gibson Committee,1s. of this was restored under the act of 1942. In February, 1944, the Broadcasting Committee recommended the restoration of the remaining1s. That report was not discussed in Parliament, and no legislative action followed ; but the Government, by a special appropriation, made available to the commission a sum equivalent to1s. in respect of every licence-fee. However, it limited the operation of the payment to one year, instead of introducing legislation, as the committee had recommended, for the restoration of £72,000 a year to the commission. In effect, it said to the commission, “ If you play ball ‘ with us, you will get £72,000 a year; but if, at the end of twelvemonths, we are not satisfied with you, you may or may not get it”. (Further extension of time granted.] This matter is of the utmost importance to the community. I again read from the report of the commission -
While appreciative of this relief, the commission feels obliged to point out that the time limit to the grant attaches to it an element of insecurity which hampers its effective use. Any extension of activities to which it is applied must be of a temporary character-. Improvements in broadcasting can on the whole only be achieved by long-term planning which provides for the continued association of artists and of ancillary staff such as script writers and music arrangers, the training of staff, and adequate facilities for raising overall standards.
So that, instead of being placed in a position to hire the best talent in the country, and, if necessary, to raise the salaries of its officers in order to hold thorn against the competition which, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) pointed out to-day, is taking thebest of its men, the commission has to adopt a cheeseparing policy from year to year because the Government will not do the decent thing by making the restoration complete and permanent.
It was the intention of the committee which investigated broadcasting that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the broadcasting service generally should be kept free from political control. The Gibson committee consisted of Senator Gibson, Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Grenfell Price, Mr. Calwell, Senator Amour and Mr. Riordan, three Labour and three nonLabour members, and, if I may say so, all good men. When the bill introduced by Senator McLeay in 1941 proposed that the Governor-General should have the power of veto over the commission, the Gibson committee made this unanimous recommenda tion -
Such a provision is, in our opinion, likely to lead to political control of broadcasting. Its purpose was designed to give the Minister power to over-ride the commission in the exercise of any of the powers conferred on it by the act.We disapprove of such proposed amendment.
What has since happened? The commission proposed to establish a news service on which a certain sum was to be expended. Its activities have grown in the last ten years, during which its revenue has increased from about £232,000 a year to more than £800,000 a year. The act provides that the Minister must consent to any proposed expenditure exceeding £5,000. This indirect power of veto is being used by the Minister to enforce his will on the commission. The time has come for a review of the treatment of this national institution. When the Government, by indirect means, can over-ride the will of Parliament and the unanimous recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee, and insidiously secure control of the broadcasting machinery, it will be a sorry day for this country. The resignation forced upon Mr. Cleary is a danger sign to the community. If an officer who stands steadfastly to his duty, and displays strength of character, is compelled to resign because his position has been made intolerable, the next incumbent in the office will probably reason that the safest policy is not to oppose the Government but to act as it wishes, and eventually we shall have occupying governmental positions men who will be mere sycophants of the government in power for the time being, doing whatever a Minister wishes, rather than standing steadfastly to their duties.
It is rather distressing to soldiers in the front line to hear constantly reiterated the statement that our Army has the best equipment. I have in my hand a tin containing atebrin, which is issued to the troops in New Guinea. Americans also use atebrin, which has been very effective in the control of malaria. I am informed that malaria is now a secondary problem compared with other diseases - for example, dermatitis. The Americans issue atebrin in a water-tight bakelite container, with a screw top. The container used by the Australian Army has the appearance of a tobacco tin. The first army found that it could obtain 20,000 tins of the American design, but when it applied to Army Head-quarters, Melbourne, it was informed that such an expenditure could not be approved. Even though the tin now used allows the entry of water in jungle country, and there is considerable wastage, the commander on the spot is not allowed to use his own discretion but has to defer to the “ basewallahs “ at Army Head-quarters, Melbourne.
There are -many other matters with which I could deal, but I shall defer doing so to another occasion.
.- We have just listened to a speech which was not remarkable for the knowledge that it imparted to honorable members. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) read for a quarter of an hour from a book of lessons on the Speaker’s ritual. I am sure that all of us were thankful for that, and that you, Mr. Speaker, were most appreciative, because you now know what is expected of you. From 8.15 p.m. to 9 p.m. the honorable member read from other books, one of which was a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. He spent three-quarters of an hour telling us why, in his opinion, Mr. Cleary resigned his position of chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For mv part, I do not propose to offer any opinion on the matter. The Standing Committee on Broadcasting, which the honorable member criticized so severely, consists of nine members, four of whom are members of the Opposition. Since I have been a member of the committee, it has reported unanimously on all occasions but one. That disposes of his charge of partisanship as applied to members of the committee.
The honorable member also mentioned the Australian Army and its equipment. Indeed, it is remarkable how many members of the Opposition, in the course of the Address-in-Reply debate, have criticized the Government and its disposition of our forces. In this connexion it is interesting to cast our minds back to the early part of 1942, when the present Government had been in office only a few months. Prior to that, the parties which are now in Opposition had been in power for nearly ten years. I remember a convoy which left Australia for Port Moresby in December, 1941, just after the Japanese came into the war. At that time, there was not one “ ack-ack “ gun in position in Port Moresby. I saw the 5- mile aerodrome with only two Hudson bombers on it. That was the extent of our air defences in Port Moresby when E saw them in February, 1942. I was present a little later when the position was so desperate that two Flying Fortresses arrived from Australia and took off every nursing sister from Papua. That was the sort of defence which had been provided by the parties now in Opposition when they constituted the Government; yet they presume to criticize what this Government has accomplished. The honorable member for Richmond complained of the way in which atebrin is being issued to Australian troops. In 1942, our troops in New Guinea had no atebrin at all.
– There was not any atebrin at that time.
– Yes, there was, but there was none for our Australian soldiers. However, there should have been plenty of quinine available, and each soldier was supposed to take 5 grains every 24 hours. Unfortunately, we ran out of quinine in the early stages. Yet honorable members opposite complain of what is being clone by the Government to-day. The shortages of equipment to which I have referred were due to the neglect of the Anti-Labour Governments which had been in office for many years.
In his Speech, the Governor-General referredto the war in Europe to-day. There can be no doubt that Germany is on the verge of defeat. It may he only a few days or weeks until the Germans capitulate. General MacArthur has done a splendid job in the Pacific. I regret that several honorable members opposite saw fit to belittle the work assigned to our Australian forces in the Pacific. They gave some small measure of praise to our soldiers for what they are doing, but said they ought to be doing something else. Let me assure those honorable members who do not know anything about New Guinea that the Australian forces could not he given a more difficult task than the so-called “ mopping up “ operations upon which they are engaged. Who is better qualified to say where our forces should be employed - honorable members sitting comfortably in this House, or General MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blarney, who are in command of the Pacific forces?
The Governor-General’s Speech also contained a reference to the efforts of those working on the home front. There has been a good deal of criticism of those who have remained at home to carry on necessary work, but let us not forget that they have made a valuable contribution to the country’s war effort. I went to the N orthern Territory in 1940 with the Australian forces. There was practically no equipment there then, and there were no roads and no aerodromes. I went to the Territory again in October of last year, and found to my amazement that 985 miles ofbitumen road had been laid down, and a considerable part of this work had been done, not by members of the forces, but by the Civil Constructional Corps. I saw aerodromes dotted throughout the length and breadth of the territory, many of which had been constructed by the civil authorities. I pay a tribute to the men and women who, by their selfsacrifice, have done so much to put Australia in the favorable military position which it occupies to-day.
It is recorded in the Speech of the Governor-General that the expenditure in Australia on food for the services exceeds £100,000,000 a year- more than the total Commonwealth revenue in the years before the war. Surely that is an indication of what Australia has accomplished during the war years. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government, notwithstanding the fine words which it used, was still content to direct at least four-fifths of the time and attention of the National Parliament to domestic, political and economic matters which, in time of war, ought not to be allowed to divide and distract the people’s minds. It is certainly true that the Government is preparing for the post-war period, and it would be disastrous if any government should neglect to do so. The Government is resolved, during the life of this Parliament, to have enacted such legislation as will effectively assist all those who have served in the forces or on the home front.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) mentioned Australia’s declining birth-rate. This is. something which we cannot help viewing with alarm. He said that one of the main reasons for the decline was the shortage of housing, and I believe that he was right. Another reason is that a great many women in Australia have lived through two wars. Many of them gave up their husbands in the last war; in this war, they have been required to give up their sons. There is an even more alarming factor involved, however - that is, race suicide, or what is more commonly called birth control. To-day, we are permitting men to deliver public lectures, and even providing radio facilities for them, in the course of which they tell the people of Australia how they can avoid their responsibilities in married life. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to prevent the manufacture of any article that might be used in the practice of race suicide. I have here a copy of a medical journal containing an article by Sir Raphael Cilento in which he says that a minimum of 26,000, ora possible maximum of 45,000 children are each year prevented from seeing the light of day. That is a startling condemnation of the Australian people. Assuming that the maximum figure is correct, it means that in ten years Australia has lost nearly 500,000 people, and they would have been a great deal more valuable to this country than a similar number of migrants. [ hope that this Government which I support will use every endeavour to stamp out the manufacture of all articles that contribute to race suicide. I hate to have to refer to this matter, hut I regard it as most important. The decline of the birth-rate is a national calamity.
Repeatedly I have asked questions and complained about the unsatisfactory state of our interstate railways. The other day I asked what possibility there was of the provision of sleeping accommodation on interstate trains. Then I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping just what the coal position is. I learned that, when coal rationing was introduced on the 2nd September last, South Australia had 37,330 tons of coal on hand.When South Australian railway services were curtailed on the 14th October, the stocks amounted to 59.000 tons. On the 17th February, the quantity was 71,176 tons. Victoria, which is vitally concerned with South Australia, when rationing commenced had 45,000 tons, and, on the 17th February, 125,000 tons. I believe, therefore, that the coal position is so satisfactory that our railway services could be improved. Conditions are such that to-day people are being compelled to travel interstate by air, and, lest they should thereby become thoroughly air-minded to the detriment of our railway revenues, we should provide the services they require. I hope that honorable members opposite will realize that they are destined tobe in opposition for many years and that they will therefore decide to support this Government in its entirity and assist it to pass legislation which will stand as a memorial to this Parliament and Australia generally.
.- I detect among honorable members on both sides a growing tendency to persecute themselves. One or two observations will enable them to understand what I am driving at. It seems that once a man becomes a member of Parliament, he considers it necessary to poke out certain portions of his anatomy that his constituents may either kick or punch. I am not inclined that way. Under criticism of any kind, honorable members torture themselves. That is particularly exemplified in two or three things to which I shall direct attention. I read with interest in some newspaper that at Canberra the erection of a building costing £900,000 is contemplated. I regret to say that I receive most of my political information from newspapers, and, having read that in a newspaper, I must accept it as the truth until the contrary is proved. When I look round this gunyah in which we gather, I say that if £900,000 is to be expended, it could most profitably be expended on a new Parliament House, in Canberra or somewbere else.
– It is thebest gunyahI have ever been in.
– The honorable member’s habits must he slightly different from mine. If you want a drink of water, you have one water carafe and six glasses, so that if an honorable member with a cold has a drink, he transmits it to all those who drink from the same vessel. It would be less risky to go to a spring. The sanitation in other parts of the building is equal to the lowest to be found in any community. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) emphasized, in excelsis, another aspect of our needless willingness to anticipate criticism by our constituents. Because some one has toldus that we must not have sleeping cars on the train from Albury, we have to sit up all night and after such an ordeal arrive here in a condition that ill-befits us to conduct the affairs of this nation. If we complain, we are told that, if once a week a sleeping car were put on to carry honorable members between Yass and Albury, the coal position would be completely devastated ! It is time that we had a good look at ourselves. If my constituents are going to “squeal “ because I am looking for a little comfort in the travelling here, the sooner they get rid of me and elect some one more subservient the better. I hope that whoever is responsible for the construction of new buildings in this bureaucratic stud farm of Canberra, if it is to survive, will pay attention to the considerations that I have mentioned. We ought to have a new Parliament building here or somewhere else equipped with modern conveniences, not the old gunyah that we have.
I come now to the second matter that is causing concern to me, and, indeed, to the people generally. More than fifty years ago our fathers struggled against great odds to create the Commonwealth. I commend to those who have not read it, Alfred Deakin’s Federal Story. They will learn therein what a battle the fathers of federation had, not only in Australia but also in the Imperial Parliament, to achieve the compromise federal Constitution wherein the Commonwealth Parliament is enabled to exercise powers under 39 heads. For nearly 45 years we have had legislation enacted under those 39 heads, and we have reached the stage at which almost every piece of legislation contemplated for the defence and development of this country is likely to be tested in the High Court, or at least stretches the Constitution to the utmost. We should give serious consideration to questions relating to to the future good government of this country. I do not want any “ smart Alick “ opposite to say that I am favouring a national government when I make my next suggestion, because I am not. The Labour party was sent here with a big majority to govern Australia, and we intend to do so. But there are certain matters of particular interest which should commend themselves to the consideration of members of Parliament on a basis entirely removed from party politics. The Prime Minister is about to send to San Francisco a mixed bag delegation to represent a. multiplicity of political interests in this country. I use the term “mixed bag” for a particular purpose. I do not quibble with the right honorable gentleman’s decision, but, if it is good enough to send a mixed bag to San Francisco to discuss external affairs with thepeoples of the world, it should also be possible within this Parliament, in times like this, to have a mixed bag to discuss internal matters. There are matters, not in any way related to party politics, which call for immediate action. I shall mention them in due course. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see my right honorable friend select for the purpose of another referendum at the earliest possible date after due deliberation certain noncontroversial subjects. Seventy-four honor able members sitting in this chamber touch upon almost every subject that could possibly be considered by the human mind. I intend to amplify some of them. We all indulge in a certain amount of political ranting from time to time, but, every now and then, some members make a political statement of national significance. The speech delivered by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was one such. I do not want the public or Parliament to think that there is any bond of brotherhood between us, but he made some profound statements which, I regret, have not been properly appreciated. For instance, he said that the proper line of approach to the Australian people is to feed, house and hospitalize them properly. No one on this side could quibble against that; it is the most advanced social talk in which any one could indulge at present. But the right honorable gentleman and I differ as to how to go about it. Our experience has taught us on this side that under the present economic and social system it is utterly impossible to raise the basic wage. I challenge any one to deny that the basic wage has not been raised by1s. in the last 30 years. Honorable members on this side should stand the right honorable gentleman up to that profound statement and see whether he is prepared to stand alongside them in their struggle to feed, house, clothe and hospitalize people properly. He has made other profound statements in which I entirely concur. I refer to his remarks about the development of hydro-electric power in Australia, which I shall deal with later. Other matters calling for the immediate interest of the Australian people, because they are vital to their ultimate welfare and have no party political colour, are water conservation, rehabilitation and reestablishment, on which we propose to legislate. Here we have the anomaly. The Australian people have charged the Commonwealth Government with the responsibility for total war. Total war involves almost every aspect of the social structure and national life. Yet, the moment the war is over, we must revert to powers insufficient to enable us to carry out the obligations that naturally arise out oftotal war. If wedohave the necessary power to effect rehabilitation and re-establishment, we are crippled by one important fact,namely, that theCommonwealth has no power to employ. Therefore, the actualengagement of those persons in occupations after the war becomes a matter for the States, although the responsibility for employing them in war-time to shoot the enemy, die or get wounded, is that of the Commonwealth Government. Surely that mad state of affairs cannot be allowed to last in a civilized community ! If we have the power to wage war, we should have the power to ensure the success of the peace. It does not necessarily mean that because we have the power we shall exercise it to the full, or that we shall not have a balanced policy. Soil erosion, water conservation and housing are matters that should come within the province of the Commonwealth. Housing more than anything else emphasizes my contention. If the Commonwealth desires to introduce a housing scheme, it must first become a private employer. It has no power to make regulations, define an area upon which a house may he built, or determine the design of dwellings. It must work under State laws. Can. one imagine a more mad state of affairs, in view of the fact that one of our obligations to our fighting men is to house them properly on their return? Yet it has been declared that the Commonwealth has not the necessary power. Surely there cannot be any difference between us regarding the absolute necessity for having a Commonwealth law on housing to implement a housing scheme, not as a private employer, but because of the very right that we have to guard the destinies of this country!
I have mentioned repatriation. The greatest doubt exists as to whether the Commonwealth has constitutional power to pass laws relating to rehabilitation and repatriation, and, in point of fact, only last August, the Australian people declined to vest these powers in the Commonwealth . The fact that the Government’s referendum proposals were defeated last year does not oblige us to refrain from endeavouring to persuade the people to reconsider their attitude, in order to ‘enable the Commonwealth to carryout an adequate policy of repatriation.
Perhaps the most dreadful happening in our country to-day is the enormous obstruction offered to the development of intellectual minds in this country by frustrating the endeavours to provide opportunities for higher education. They must submit to a regimen. Why, the country ought to be encouraging these people by placing every facility at their disposal to enable them to secure the highest possible education! I do not blame the former Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). I recognize that he has limited facilities at his disposal, but that should not deter us. Regardless of what the universities say - naturally, they must ‘defend their actions - encouragementcan be given to people who desire a higher education. I contend that the facilities for higher education in this country have been restricted too greatly, and we should encourage our people to pursue every intellectual channel that is open to them. That brings me to the point that I desire particularly to debate, namely, whether the Commonwealth Government should enter the field of education. At present, each State has a matriculation or entrance examination for the various universities, and different standards for the intermediate and leaving certificates. Surely this country has reached a stage where we are sufficiently “ Australianized “ to accept uniform standards of education ! The time has arrived when the Commonwealth must play a greater part in education, if we desire to establish an Australian culture and a great Australian nation. This subject should be submitted to a body of men, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member, for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for consideration.
Another subject which can be profitably examined is whether we shall retain Canberra as the Federal Capital. I can understand that, 45 years ago, some justification may have existed for establishing the national capital in a place like Canberra. But space has since been annihilated, and countries have been brought much closer together by high-speed transport. Surely, then, we shall not perpetuate Canberra as the ideal centre for getting lid of our political gas. We can do better than that. When we isolate our public servants here, we should not be surprised if they become bureaucrats. They are not bureaucratic by intent;, they cannot help it. We should ask the Australian people whether they will consent to the expenditure of millions of pounds in further extending Canberra, or whether they prefer to establish the national capital in one of the great centres, where members and public servants alike will be able to feel the pulse of public opinion at all times.
Transport is a matter that also requires consideration. Everybody is well informed about the stupidity of the multiplicity of railway gauges and other problems of transport which must inevitably arise with the improvement of fuel and machinery, and increased speeds. Was there ever a time more opportune than the present for considering transport problems? Transport is closely allied to the future defence requirements of this country. We must be able to move our forces swiftly to any point at which an enemy may strike.
No arguments can be advanced against the advisability of formulating a great national health policy. It must come, whether we like it or not. Why, then, do we not incorporate a general health power in the federal Constitution? The right honorable member for Cowper referred to the necessity for hydroelectric development. Any honorable member who is interested in this subject will be well repaid by studying the achievements of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America in co-ordinating power and productive resources. Hydro-electric power is closely allied to water conservation, which, in turn, is related to soil erosion. These matters could be made the subject of an intellectual discussion between representative men. entirely divorced from party politics. Having decided that these questions must be submitted to the Australian people, the politicians should bc kept out of the campaign. We should select a couple of distinguished men in each State, and say to them, “These are matters on which we think you will be able- to achieve uniformity”. Advised by competent and independent opinion, the Australian people would, I believe, give wide powers to this Parliament so as to enable it to provide in th© post-war period those facilities for the 500,000 or 600,000 men whom, we have pledged ourselves to protect, because they contributed to- the protection of this country. We have placed ourselves under an obligation to do so, but we have no power to honour that obligation. We should consider this matter minutely and immediately.
If the Australian people were approached rationally and the elements of party politics were eliminated from consideration, we could advance our case for an extension of Commonwealth power much more rapidly than we have to date by the hopeless methods to which we have resorted in the last 40 years. Nearly every referendum has been defeated. The reason why I am anxious for this to be_ done immediately is this : If we continue to govern this country by a use of constitutional powers which was never intended, when those powers were granted - in other words, by stretching the powers to their utmost and at tunes going beyond their limit - then some time, in some place, people will arise who will stretch the power’s very much farther than we have yet done. It would be a far better proposition for us to make the action constitutional at the present time than to force people to resort to unconstitutional methods. We have reached the stage in our evolution when we must approach the people and ask them for an extension of the Commonwealth powers, because they are so closely related to the requirements of the post-war period.
The future of Poland has been given some prominence in this debate. I am not so fortunate as some honorable members of the Opposition are. I have been in Poland a couple of times, and I suppose that that is more than most honorable members opposite can boast; but even so, I do not venture to express an opinion at this juncture on the Polish question. However, I do know this: We have enough problems in our own country about which we know too little, and we know far less about Poland. At the proper time, we shall stand behind the appropriate authority which, I am sure, will mete out to Poland whatever the time determines is that country’s due.
I have not such, a profound knowledge of military strategy as have some honorable members opposite, but I did read with great interest, recently a book entitled The War Office.. Past and Present: L came across some extremely interesting information, which may be of value not only to members of Parliament and the public, but also to some of our military leaders. I noted with interest that sin.ee 1820, a struggle has .taken place in England to determine who would control strategy and who would carry out operations. From 1820 till Lloyd George disposed of the issue in 1916, tie struggle continued. It has now been determined that strategy is not the responsibility of the military command. Strategy belongs to the nation - to the Parliament - and the execution of the strategy belongs entirely to the military command. I leave the matter .there, because that is as much as any honorable member opposite knows about the subject, and I shall not venture more deeply into it.
– Why has the Government abandoned that responsibility?
– The explanation possibly is that it is one of those bad diseases that governments inherit from their predecessors, and we cannot cure it.
Reference to the falling birth-rate in Australia never seems to come very well from me, but I was interested in the observations of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Everything that he told the House was perfectly true. I say that after a long and. deliberate investigation. But, like the right honorable gentleman, I do not know the solution of the .problem. During the last twenty years, the seeds of social disaster have been sown in this country, and nothing that I know of >at present can improve the situation. If the position be not improved, the Australian flag may be hauled down in the next halfcentury. Everybody seems to have the idea that we have merely to pay more money to people, and they will thereupon become fertile. Give them money in abundance and they will produceabundantly! If that were so, how do we account for the fact that the decline of the birth-rate among the wealthier sections has been much steeper than among other sections? I do not know the solution of theproblem, which I mentioned mainly in order that it might be kept in the forefront of our thinking. The Australian people may be told that if the solution be not found internally it can be found externally, but the dangers of applying an external policy to overcome the difficulties of an internal problem are not to be put lightly on one side. We must face this whole subject intelligently. If we cannot do something effective to increase our population, other people may do it for us.
A good deal of frustration has occurred in connexion with land settlement in Australia. Some of my “ cocky “ friends of the Australian Country party may be amazed that a person of my calling takes an interest in land settlement. I point out, however, that some aspects of this subject are extremely important. The difficulties that face people who are land hungry may be indicated best, perhaps, by illustration. Let us think of a farmer with 600 or 700 acres and six children. The farm can keep him and his wife and family while the children are young, but when the first land-minded boy reaches the age of, say, ‘ eighteen years, his father, very frequently, has to say, “ I am sorry, my son, but this holding is not large enough to subdivide, and I haven’t the money to set you up on other land”. The ‘boy thereupon drifts to the city. The fact is that thousands of land-minded young men and women find it impossible to get a living in the country; they cannot afford to purchase properties; there is not the opening for them on the home farm ; and they have to go away. We ought to be doing our utmost to apply a policy which will have the effect of keeping these young people in the country, where they really desire to live.
– The honorable gentleman is quite right.
– Economic factors have had a great deal to do with our failure to formulate an effective land settlement policy. The fault may lie in the freehold title. Perhaps we could solve our problems by giving more attention to leasehold tenure ; I do not know. But the fact is plain that very few people can afford to spend £3,000 or £4,000 to settle their land-minded sons on farms.
– And pay 7 per cent, for the money they borrow.
– Quite right. We must discover some means to enable landminded young people to remain in the country.
I wish now to say a few words about shipping. In the press of this country in recent days, large advertisements have appeared in relation to the operations of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. These suggest that because of the incompetence of governments the operation of the steamers particularly in the days that followed the last war, was a hopeless failure. They also suggest that governments are totally unfitted to conduct any business enterprises. There is a complete reply to these statements. I direct attention, first, to the interim report of the Public Accounts Committee on Commonwealth Government Shipping Activities, dated the 10th August, 1926, and signed “ Granville Ryrie, Chairman “. That gentleman, who was not by any means a Labour man, said in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers -
To arrive at a decision, apart from the question of government policy, as to whether the Commonwealth Government Line should he continued, there must be considered what benefits have accrued to the country by the establishment of the line, and whether such benefits have outweighed any financial loss incurred as a result of its trading operations. The evidence so far placed before the Committee indicates that not only has the Commonwealth Line been directly responsible for actual reductions in freights, but that the presence of the line has exerted a material restraining influence against proposed increases. Whilst it is difficult, in fact, almost impossible, owing to the many factors to he considered, to indicate in figures the’ actual gain to Australia by such action, it appears to the Committee, from the evidence already heard, that the shippers and primary producers of Australia have derived much benefit from the establishment of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The Committee, therefore, recommends that, in the interest of Australia, the line be continued.
SirGranville Ryrie was a good “ Nat.”. It may be said that that was merely an interim report, and that the ultimate decision was quite different. I therefore bring to the notice of honorable members the following extracts from the subsequent report of the committee dated the 6th May, 1927. The advertisements to which I have referred state that a sum of £4,600,000 was lost through the operations of the line. The quotations that I shall now make completely refute that statement. The report stated -
For some years, due largely to the then prevailing conditions, the result of the operations of the Commonwealth Government Line showed substantial profits, and the line was instrumental in enabling shippers in Australia to get their goods to the overseas markets at reasonable rates because, it was stated, the presence of the line not only exerted a considerable influence in restraining increases in freights, but in many instances actual reductions in rates made by the line were almost simultaneously adopted by the other shipping companies. For example, it was claimed that the reduction of 10s. per ton in freight rates forced by Mr. Larkin early in 1923had resulted ina saving of over £2,000,000 a year in Australia’s freight charges.
It is eighteen years since the line was sold. If we had been able to maintain it in operation during that period, under the same conditions, the advantage to the country would have been £36,000,000. The report, I remind honorable members, was made by a committee which consisted largely of Nationalist members, with a Labour man interspersed here and there ! Even in those days there was a good deal of press criticism of government enterprise and the shipping line did not escape it. In this connexion the report stated -
Unfair press criticism and a tendency to give undue publicity to any matters adversely affecting the Commonwealth Line and its operations, exorcised, it was stated, an influence on its business. Instances were quoted in evidence of the prominence given in the press to happenings of a detrimental nature on Commonwealth steamers, whilst similar episodes on other vessels were not mentioned.
The committee itself had specific examples during its investigation. In one case a paragraph appeared in a Melbourne paper that passengers on a. “Bay” steamer had complained that the food was poor during the voyage. The editor was asked if he could indicate the source of the information, ana whether the names of the passengers were available, but a reply was received regretting that, although he had an inquiry made, no such particulars could be furnished. Jn another instance a Sydney newspaper published during the course of the committee’s investigation, a paragraph headed “ Federal Ships - Do Not Pay- May All Be Sold”, and then proceeded to quote, in heavy type, an opinion expressed by the Prime Minister when a private member of Parliament some three years previously.
– This is the other side of the picture.
– Quite so. The report also contained the following observations : -
Whilst fully recognizing and appreciating the invaluable service rendered to Australia by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers during the war years and the immediate post-war period and the influence which it has throughout exercised in reducing and restraining freight rates, the committee considers that the benefits now accruing to the country by its existence as a governmental concern are more than outweighed by the heavy losses already sustained, and which, it must be reluctantly admitted, are likely to continue. [Extension of time granted.] The report said further -
In submitting this recommendation, however, the committee recognizes that this line of steamers is an asset belonging to Australia, and the committee has carefully considered how the line should be disposed of in a manner which would preserve to Australia the good effects it has exercised in the preservation of reasonable f eights and fares between Australia and the United Kingdom.
An amount of £500,000 is still due to tha Government in respect of the sale of the ships, although the purchase price was ridiculously low. I believe that if the line had been maintained as a government enterprise, both importers and exporters would have been saved many millions of pounds in freight charges and passengers would have reaped a very great benefit in lower fares.
As the Prime Minister can see his way to send a “ mixed bag “ of politicians and private citizens abroad to consider subjects of external consequence, does he not think that an equally “mixed bag” of politicians and private citizens could be appointed to investigate and report upon some of the matters of internal consequence that I have mentioned?
.-I wish to refer to statements made earlier this evening by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) concerning the resignation of Mr. W. J. Cleary, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting
Commission, and broadcasting generally. The honorable gentleman saw fit to speculate on the reasons why Mr. Cleary had resigned. I suggest that the only person qualified to state the reasons is Mr. Cleary himself. The honorable member read extracts from various reports, including reports of the Broadcasting Committee, and asked us to believe that those extracts revealed the reasons for Mr. Cleary’s resignation. He did not read many other extracts from the reports which would have indicated quite a different situation. The consequence is that, his story was not told fairly or correctly. In fact I go so far as to say that the honorable gentleman deliberately misrepresented the position to the House. He did not tell us, for example, that Mr. Cleary had discussions and difficulties with members of antiLabour governments who have held the portfolio of Postmaster-General. The honorable member . for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was PostmasterGeneral for a time, and he had difficulties with Mr. Cleary, which indicates that what the honorable member for Richmond has called “ political interference” occurred at that time. Subsequently the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was Postmaster-General, and he also had differences with Mr. Cleary. In fact he gave an instruction that a certain member of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be dismissed or, if not dismissed, at least prevented from speaking over the air. The honorable member for Richmond saw fit to abstract from the reports only passages which referred to Labour Ministers. He did not refer to a single passage that involved an anti-Labour Minister, and, on that unsatisfactory basis, he would have us believe that there has been political interference only by Labour Ministers. If he had told the whole story an entirely different state of affairs would have been revealed. The honorable gentleman also refrained from telling us that the present Australian Broadcasting Act was not in force at the time with which he wa3 dealing, and that that measure, which came into operation in April, 1943, contains provisions designed to prevent undue political interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The honorable member conveniently forgot this aspect of the subject, but he must have deliberately ignored certain comments in the reports of the various committees, for he told us that he had read them. I make those comments because I believe that when an honorable member makes a statement in this House it ought to be fair and true, and he should not adduce some evidence and suppress other relevant evidence.
I listened with very great interest, and no small degree of pleasure to the Speech with which His Royal Highness the Governor-General opened this session of the Parliament. It is a Speech which could be listened to and read more than once, because it tells a very good story. It recites, first, the story of our progress and the progress of the Allied Nations during the present world war. In comparison with other stories that have been told to this Parliament since 1939, it holds out the greatest hope for a reasonably early return to peace by this warshattered world. The story of the war effort of the Australian people relates not only to the fighting front, but also to the home front. The efforts that have been made by a nation of 7,000,000 people, to which the Speech refers, are unsurpassed by those of any other nation.
I was astonished by the comments of certain honorable members opposite in regard to the use to which the Australian Army has been put. Several of them complained that Australian forces are not being used to the best advantage. They did those forces the honour of describing them as -first-class storm troop5, ai.d, in effect, demanded that at all times and in all places they should be used as a “ chopping block “. I know that the Australian soldier is a good storm- trooper who compares more than favorably with any other soldier ; but, unlike my honorable friends opposite, I demand that, when he has taken his share of the risks on numerous occasions, he shall be given periods of resit and relaxation while his unit is being refitted so that it again may take its place in the front line. The Australian Army has played and is playing its part. Despite any sneers that may be levelled at the Government or its military advisers, it will continue to maintain its traditions and, because of its efforts in this war, Australia will be able to take its rightful place at the peace or any other conference; conference representatives will be able to hold up their heads before the representatives of all the other Allied Nations and speak on behalf of a nation which has done a full share of the fighting and has made whatever sacrifices were necessary in order that the war might be brought to a successful conclusion.
The Governor-General’s Speech includes pronouncements in respect of intended legislation which must have been received with very great satisfaction by the majority of the people of Australia. I believe that this, session of the Parliament will make history more than did any of its predecessors. The Government intends to legislate in the interests of Australia. A measure is to be introduced to control the private banking institutions, arid to place the Commonwealth Bank where it rightly belongs by restoring to it powers which previous anti-Labour governments withdrew from it. Such legislation, will make it indeed a people’s bank and ensure that the people shall have control, of the financial structure of the country. Whoever controls the finances of a country, controls also the government. Those who are directly elected every three years by the whole of the adult population of Australia are the most competent to control the financial structure of the Commonwealth. That is a proper method of control, and I believe that it will be instituted during the present session.
The reference in the ‘ GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the granting of preference to, and the rehabilitation of, ex-servicemen makes rather interesting reading, but any person who is unversed in the Australian system of government will find difficulty in understanding it, because these responsibilities are generally regarded as attaching to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Speech states that it is intended that a certain proportion of ex-servicemen shall be settled on the land. In what way is that to be done ? This Parliament will be permitted to provide the money, but we shall have to rely on the good grace of the various State governments for the implementation of a programme of land settlement. That is only one aspect; there are others, to which I shall refer later. I am not a farmer, or the representative of a farming constituency; but I have seen some of the land on which returned soldiers of the last war were settled and were expected to make a living. Unfortunately, the majority of them failed to do so. Some returned soldiers were allegedly rehabilitated by being placed on marginal land, particularly in the Mallee district of Victoria, where there was not an assured rainfall or a reasonable water supply. Similar circumstances exist in every State. If any ex-servicemen of this war are to be placed on the land, certain essential rules must be observed. Certain guarantees must be given, and the first is that the land approved as suitable for soldier settlement shall have an assured rainfall or be irrigated-. Unless those conditions are observed, we may expect failure similar to that experienced in the settlement of ex-service personnel after the 1914- 1918 war. I have seen the benefits of irrigation along the River Murray Valley, in both New South Wales and Victoria, particularly during the present drought. On one farm in the Deniliquin district, I saw unirrigated land as bare as a road, but where water was provided the farmer was growing lucerne and was cutting it six times a year, averaging 6 tons of lucerne to the acre annually, and the price received by him was £7 a ton. On adjoining farms, where irrigation was not provided, cattle and sheep were on the verge of starvation.
A portion of the Governor-General’s Speech dealt with the housing problem. Whilst the Commonwealth is to provide money for the building of houses it must still be dependent on the good grace of the States in getting the jab done. That indicates that the powers of this Parliament are inadequate. The people are determined, that homes shall be built for the workers, but the Speech of His Royal Highness indicates that, although the Commonwealth may provide the money required for the work, the people will not get the homes that they need unless the States are willing to carry out the housing schemes. Various estimates have been prepared as to the extent of the shortage of homes, and we have been told that from 200,000 to 300,000 more houses are needed. Many people are living under crowded conditions, and many are compelled to live in huts and tents. This problem must be dealt with quickly, and the sooner it is disposed of the better it will be for the morale of the community. We are informed that the Army and the other fighting services must be maintained at the present strength. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has declared that there is a man-power shortage of 45,000 units. Unless the people be given reasonably good housing conditions, their morale will certainly be affected, and in the notfar.distant future the war effort on the part of the civilian population will decline. Unless man-power be diverted from essential industries to the work of homebuilding the war effort must lag. Special consideration should therefore be given to the housing problem
I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) that the basic wage has not been effectively increased for the last 30 years. I go further and say that there has been a gradual reduction of the standard of the basic wage during that period. In 1907, when the harvester judgment was given, 7s. a day was fixed as a reasonable wage to enable a worker to live and rear a family in comfort. But the necessaries of life were not so numerous in 1907 as they are now. Things not heard of in those days are now regarded as necessaries to-day, and the time is long overdue when an effort should be made to increase the actual .purchasing power of the basic wage. In 1942, with the concurrence of the organized workers of this country a Labour government introduced the wagepegging regulations, but .the workers expected them to go further than they have gone. When wages and. commodity prices were pegged, it was thought that profits also should be controlled. Whilst the industrial movement agreed to the pegging of wages, which has operated since February, 1942, and although the prices of essential commodities have also been pegged, it has been found impossible to peg profits at 4 per cent., or to control the profits of the capitalists.
– They have been caught by the increased income tax.
– They certainly have, but, even after they have paid income tax at the rate of 18s. 6d. in the £1, they are much better off than the workers whose wages have been pegged. I know that the man who pays income tax of 18s. 6d. in the £1 has more money left after he pays his tax than the basic wage worker has before he pays. B.e has considerably more to spend, and can live in greater comfort. As usual, the wage-pegging regulations have operated to prevent the worker from getting an increase of income, but no regulations have been able to prevent the employer and the investor from receiving additional income. Day after day tho newspapers publish the annual reports and balance-sheets of the big financial institutions and industrial undertakings which show that their profits are either equal to, or considerably in excess of, those of 193S-89. Thus it would appear that the capitalist cannot be controlled. He is allowed to make higher profits, but T believe that the time has arrived when the worker should be allowed to share in the profits of industry. Under the present arrangement, the worker’s wages are pegged, and he pays higher taxation. The standard of living of many workers todayis lower than that of the worker on the basic wage before the war. I appeal to the Government to see that the worker shall be given a fair deal. In time of economic depression the worker enjoys the right to starve; in time of war he enjoys the right to work us hard as his employer can make him work - or he may fight, and risk his life for his country. But when there are profits to be divided the worker is forgotten. He is only a beast of burden, and the attitude of the average employer is that the worker should receive just enough money to enable him to buy just enough food to go on- working. I think that the pegging of wages should be lifted, so that organized workers may have an opportunity to obtain a fair share of the good things of life. The other fellow has been getting his own way for too long. It is time that we evened conditions up a bit.
Two weeks ago, an announcement was made in this House about the formation of a new party in opposition, and we were told that its name was to be the Liberal party. It is interesting to follow the history of the conservative element in Australian federal politics. When I was a small boy there was a Liberal party which earned a certain amount of fame, particularly when it was led by Alfred Deakin. Then, in the early 1900’s, the Australian Labour party began to grow strong, and there was a consequential loss of support to the Liberal party. The Liberals coalesced with what was then culled the Conservative party in Victoria, and the new organization became known as the Fusion party. Even this did not restore it to vigour. It was found that a blood transfusion was necessary, so it. obtained the services of a renegade Labourite to lead it, and this renegade Labourite, in the person of Mr., now Sir Joseph, Cook, became Prime Minister. It was not long before the popularity of the new party began to wane, so much so that Labour again took office. It continued to govern until there were certain other defections, and a new party was formed known as the Nationalist party. Having become strengthened by another blood transfusion from the Labour party, the new group was able to obtain office, led by an cx-Labour man, William Morris Hughes, who became Prime Minister. Things went swimmingly for a while but, unfortunately for the conservative element, the people who had been misled by the defections from the Labour party, returned to their loyalty. The Labour party was restored to power, and remained iii office until the conservatives had another blood transfusion and, led by another ex-Labour man, Mr. J. A. Lyons, assumed office. This time, the transfusion was effective for quite a while.
– The Labour party could not have had much blood left by then.
– The Australian Labour party is a virile organization which represents all the best elements in the community. Notwithstanding defections from its ranks, it always recovers. In spite of the fact that the old conservative party had the benefit of a blood transfusion in 1932, and obtained a leader from the Labour party, its popularity waned again and the Labour party, although in a minority in both Houses of Parliament, had to take office because the poor, unfortunate, conservative party, by this time known as the United Australia party, was dying of inanition.
Now it is reported that a new name has once more been found for the conservative party. Unfortunately for that party it has not, on this occasion, been able to obtain the customary blood transfusion from the virile, energetic Labour party. To-day, all parliamentary members of the Australian Labour party are loyal to their party. The Liberal party, its it is now called, will no doubt stagger along just as the United Australia party did, and the Labour party has nothing to fear from it, no matter by what name it is called. While the members of the Australian Labour party remain loyal, there will be a weak and ineffective Opposition which will be no credit to the conservative element, or, indeed, to the Commonwealth Parliament. That will be all to the good of Australia, because the time has arrived when the mass of the people should be afforded an opportunity to make their voices heard. Now that there is in office a government truly representative of the people, legislation will be passed in the interests of the people as a whole, and not in the interests of one very small section which, up to the present, has had control of the financial institutions of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Army Inventions Directorate: Inven tion of Craftsman L. V. Malee - Australian Army: Case Private W. S. Bennett - Prices Control - Fat Lambs.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am sorry that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is not present, because I desire to place before him a matter of considerable importance, in that it shows that the liaison between the Army Inventions Directorate and the Minister for the Army is not effective. Honorable members will recall the difficulties encountered by the inventor of the Owen gun. In that instance, a young man gave to Australia a weapon of great value, but only because of great pressure was his invention adopted. I bring before the House another similar case. It concerns a voung craftsman - VX146267 Craftsman L. V. Malee. In August, 1942, this young man came to the notice of his commanding officer at the Engineering Training School at Wagga because of his idea for the setting off of explosives by remote control. Naturally, the Army was interested in his idea, although the principle underlying his invention was not entirely new. Regimental funds were made available to enable him to proceed with his research, and within three months, during which period the young man said he worked sixteen hours a day, a working model was produced. In December, 1942, General Steele visited Wagga, and was so impressed by the working model, that he approved a grant of £300 to enable the young mau to develop and perfect his idea. However, owing to some mistake, the amount was not appropriated. Craftsman Malee then approached the Army Inventions Directorate, but it rejected his idea. However, the Army authorities, who had seen the working model and realized the possibilities of the invention, insisted that something be done, with the result that the Army Inventions Directorate examined the idea again, and admitted that it had technical possibilities. Accordingly the invention was referred to the new Munitions Committee in March, 1943. For three weeks Malee had been attached to the Army Inventions Directorate, but he was then returned to Wagga. In March, 1943, he received a letter signed by Mr. E. C. Allan, secretary of the Army Inventions Directorate, in which the following paragraph appeared: -
We would like to congratulate you on having devised your invention, which appears to be based on sound technical principles.
Honorable members will observe that the letter was not couched in indefinite language, but that the Army Inventions
Directorate went so far as to congratulate this young man on an invention which, it said, appeared to be based on sound technical principles. In effect, the board said, “ My boy, you have something here. We propose to help you to develop it”. Craftsman Malee immediately applied for a transfer to the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Unit so that he could carry on his experiments, but while his transfer was under consideration he was sent to work in the cookhouse as a cook’s offsider. That is an indication of the Army’s evaluation of this young man’s qualities! Naturally, Malee resented such treatment; and because he did so he was fined and placed in detention - extraordinary treatment of a young man who had something of value to give to his country, and had been congratulated by the Army Inventions Directorate. He then approached the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and. the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), and, following representations (by them, he was sent to a technical college in Brisbane to undertake a six months’ course. I emphasize that that action was taken only because political pressure had been exercised on his behalf. Honorable members will not be surprised to learn that Malee qualified with merit at the Brisbane Technical College. Then he was sent to the Radar School at Ingleburn, where he passed as a radar mechanic. Although he qualified in 1943, he has not yet been used in technical work. Concerned as to how his invention was going, he applied in April, 1944, for leave to go to Melbourne to see the Army Inventions Directorate, but leave was refused. On the 13th April, he received a letter again signed by Mr. Allan, secretary of the Army Inventions Directorate - ‘
Your ideas of remote control demolition work have been referred to technical specialists, who have advised that trials are still being carried out.
So, although he had originated this work in 1942, they were still carrying out tests in 1944. He heard nothing further about it until September, 1944, when the Minister for Information took the matter up with the Army Inventions Directorate. Following representations Malee was called into the Design Division, Melbourne, and given three months’ work at Mongetta, Victoria. In order to perfect his invention, he required special material and was told that if he put in a requisition it would be ordered. Weeks went ‘by and nothing happened; so he went to a private firm in Melbourne, told them what he wanted and was told that it could be got for him. He then went back to camp. Six weeks later the order went through. The firm had forgotten the details. Refused leave to get the material, he absented himself without leave, got the material and returned to camp where he was “ crimed “, losing three days’ leave. Again political pressure was applied and Malee was asked by an Army officer to make a statement to the effect that the apparatus on which he was working was different from his original submission. Obviously, some one was trying to cover up the delay. I ,ask the House to realize the significance of that request.
– Is the honorable member accusing Army officers of improper conduct?
– I am repeating statements made to me by this young fellow that can be substantiated.
– Answer the question.
– I am making a statement. I leave it to the House to determine where the blame lies. When a request to say that the apparatus differed from the original submission leaves no alternative but to think that something needed covering up. Some Army officer must have been responsible for the delay. [Extension of time granted.] Malee refused to make that admission. He said: “ No ; this is the same work as I was originally engaged on. There is no difference whatever, and I do not propose to make that admission.” No reason has been given why the tests could not have been completed in the two years that elapsed after he submitted his invention. He is still being run round between the Army and the Army Inventions Directorate. Even after representations had been made by honorable gentlemen opposite, including the Minister for the Army himself and the Minister for Information, no action was taken to have the tests completed. Malee was then asked to hand over the plans and specifications, and he said he would do so only to the officer responsible for the request and then only if he received copies. He said that all he was concerned about was that his invention should be exploited for the benefit of Australia. He was told by his Army unit that his work was to be terminated, because the Army Inventions Directorate had not replied to communications sent to it. Later, the Army inventions Directorate denied having received any communication about the matter from the unit. He was sent to the 3th Advanced Workshop, Moorebank, in December, 1944, hut was still not employed on technical work. He has not received copies of the plans .and specificatins, as is his right and as was promised him before he handed them over, and his invention is still being considered. The technical officers say that technically his idea is sound, but they are not sure of the tactical use of his invention. Tactical officers say that his idea is tactically sound, but that they are not certain of his technical efficiency.
– Has the honorable member that in print?
– I have it as a statement from Malee himself, who has promised to bring witnesses to substantiate it. The main documents are in the file before me. Three honorable gentlemen opposite are still seeking replies from the Army, and Malee would also like to know what is to be the fate of his invention. He is not at all confident because the Minister for Information said to him -
If yon take this matter to the Opposition, son, I will see to it that nothing further is done to your invention.
– That is an outrageous assertion. The honorable member for Wa’nnon, who knows this lad very well, and I did everything possible to obtain favorable consideration of his invention. That statement is certainly an invention.
– Such a statement warrants ventilation in this House, because I believe that an injustice is being done to this lad. owing to muddling on the part of the Army authorities and the Army Inventions Directorate. We had a similar experience with respect to the development of the Owen gun. I should like the Minister for the Army to answer three questions : Has any decision been reached regarding the practical use of the invention submitted by this man, dealing with remote control for setting off explosives? As this matter was brought to the notice of the Army two and a half years ago, and has not been advanced except by Malee during a period of a few weeks at Mongetta, what reason can he give for delay in reaching a decision? Why was Malee not given employment in a technical capacity in view of the fact that the Army spent time and money in training him, and he had qualified with merit in two schools? The House must take a serious view of matters of this kind, because we had similar examples during the early stages of the war. We must prevent discouragement of youthful inventive talent in this country.
– lt was as the result of representations made by the honorable member for Wannon and me that Malee was admitted to both those schools.
– I have admitted that. I am concerned that no action has been taken as the result of those representations. I deem it to be my duty to make matters of this kind public in justice not only to Malee but also to all young men of inventive mind with a view to forcing salutary action on the part of the Government. I am wondering how many practical inventions of this kind have been thwarted because of muddling and floundering on the part of the Army authorities and the Army Inventions Directorate. The answer in this case may be that Malee’s invention will not work; I do not know. However, it seems to me incredible that this invention, which was originally sponsored by the Army authorities who forced it through the Army Inventions Directorate after the latter had turned it down, has not been further developed.
– Who said that the Army said the invention was sound? Is that statement in print?
– Yes; and General Steele made a sum of £300 available for its development.
– That does not prove anything.
– Originally, the Army Inventions Directorate rejected the invention on the ground that it was impracticable, but when the Army authorities said it was practicable, the directorate congratulated Malee in having devised an invention which appeared to be based on sound technical principles. To-day, after a lapse of two and a half years, failure to take further action in the matter must remain an indelible blot upon Army administration because, after spending time and money in training this man as a technician, he is still employed on unskilled jobs, no doubt including jobs in the cookhouse. Such treatment is calculated to stultify the inventiveness of promising young men. Therefore, I ask the Minister to investigate the matter thoroughly, and to inform the House of the result of his inquiries as soon as possible.
.-I bring to the attention of the Minister for thy Army (Mr. Forde) certain disturbing aspects in connexion with the arrest of NX154401 Private W. S. Bennett.It has been reported to me by this soldier’s step-father that on the 28th February, 1945, between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. four members of the military police arrested Private Bennett, who was absent without leave, in Blackwall Point Road, Chiswick. My advice is that he was struck over the head with a pair of handcuffs and severely assaulted. His head was gashed open, and while being held in a truck he collapsed from the effects of the beating he had received. His stepfather also advised me that when he saw Private Bennett at a military detention camp in Sydney a few days after the arrest the wounds on his head were still unattended. I have also been advised that when the soldier asked to he allowed to say a few words to his mother after being arrested the sergeant in charge of the police made most insulting remarks about his mother. This soldier is about 27 years of age and has been in the armed forces for approximately four years. He has served in the Middle East and New Guinea. Although he had been absent without leave for some time I understand that his previous military record and civilian record were quite good. His reason for going absent without leave was because of domestic trouble. In view of the circumstances of this case as presented to me, I ask the Minister to make full and complete investigation into all the circumstances of the case with a view to taking proper disciplinary action against the persons concerned. I also ask the Minister to arrange for proper medical attention to be given to Private Bennett without delay.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the present unsatisfactory and unfair position resulting from harsh administration in certain respects on the part of the Acting Prices Commissioner. With all honorable members, I realize that a certain degree of price control is necessary. But I am afraid that the Prices Commission is adopting a harsh ruleofthumb method in the fixation of prices which is not conducive to the harmonious working of industry, and definitely causes disorganization and a reduction of the production of essential commodities. I shall read some extracts from a letter from an Australian firm, dated the 8th February last -
We regret that we cannot fill this order.
The position is, we have had all our iron castings supplied to us by one firm for the past 25 years. Late last year they applied to the Prices Commissioner for an increase in prices. The Prices Commissioner refused some, and granted a small increase in others. Our man said then, in effect, “ All right, J shall stop casting these lines altogether . . . nobody can make me work at a loss, and there is plenty of jobbing work offering and I can do better out of it “.
That is the position -he refuses to cast for us any further. We have naturally hunted around to get another source of supply, but wherever we go we find them “ full up “ and generally “fed up”. The Moulders Union is driving them all distracted, and the easier the work the better they like it. We have found it so far impossible to get any one interested.
We are, of course, keeping at it, even to the extent of offering to install our own electric furnace, and do the work ourselves, but the War Organization of Industry will not allow us to do so.
These are some of the results which accrue from applying theory only to resolve a practical problem, and are the things which are holding up our production of lines involving cast iron.
Essential goods are not available owing, in the first place, to the allegedly nonpaying prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner. Even then, the firm undertook to commence to manufacture the requirements, but the Department of War Organization of Industry refused it permission to do so. This interference with business, this catch-as-catch-can method of price-fixing, and pin-pricking, disorganizes the community generally and reduces production. I hope that the Minister will inquire into the matter with a view to rectifying this hopeless and helpless position.
I cite another instance of hardship caused by the intervention of the Prices Commissioner. A small- business man in Tasmania experienced financial setbacks, and was driven almost to bankruptcy. He borrowed money or secured an overdraft of approximately £500 in order to stave off disaster. Naturally, he was anxious to liquidate this debt. He purchased a large quantity of fish, but, before doing so, as an ordinary business precaution, he made all manner of inquiries as to the likelihood of the Prices Commissioner interfering with the then existing price. He was unable to obtain any information that would lead him to believe that the Prices Commissioner would interfere. Accordingly, he purchased the fish. One can well imagine his despair when almost overnight the retail price was reduced from ls. 2d. per lb. to lOd. per lb. As the result of that action, he was obliged to sell his commodity for 4d. per lb. Less than he would have received if the Prices Commissioner had not interfered. He claims to have lost £390. This misfortune, together with his loan or overdraft of £500, places him in a hopeless position unless the Government will come to his aid by paying compensation. The irony of the whole matter is that, only a couple of weeks later, when he had disposed of the fish, the Prices Commissioner reviewed the position and restored the price to the original figure of ls. 2d. per lb. I approached the Prices Commissioner, but found him adamant. He did not think that he could do anything to assist this unfortunate individual. Unless something is done for him, he will become bankrupt and go out of business. Is it the desire of the Government and of the Prices Commissioner to send reputable business men to the Bankruptcy Court?
– Apparently, it was due to bungling.
– That may be so, on the part of the Prices Commissioner; but I believe that the former Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) will agree that an injustice has been done to this man. I want to be fair. When I received no encouragement from the Prices Commissioner, I approached the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). He ordered an inquiry to be held, but he informed me that he could not hold out much hope because there was no fund from which compensation could be paid to this individual. Another complaint which I make is that the Acting Prices Commissioner, although he was ordered by the Minister for Trade and Customs to hold an inquiry, has prejudged the case, because he told me verbally and in writing that he does not believe that he can give any special consideration to the matter. This business man has equity on his side. This is a genuine case of hardship, caused by the Government’s interference with price fixing. What chance has the small business man under such conditions? Where there is a will to do a thing there should be- a way. This man will be ruined unless the Government compensates him for his loss. The case demands simple British justice and fair play.
The Minister requires expert advice in the fixation of meat prices. The price to the ‘ producer is too low, so also is the selling price which has been fixed for the retail butcher. The Government’s policy appears to be that in no circumstances shall city voters pay a reasonable price for their meat. They must be provided with cheap meat, regardless of how it may affect the producer or the retail butcher. We all subscribe to the principle that every one is entitled to a fair return for his labour, but, unfortunately, the Government, does not appear to apply that principle to primary producers and to the vendor of meat. The stage has now been reached where the butcher must either break the law or go out of business, because he is unable to carry on at the prices determined by the Prices Commissioner. I cannot do better than read a short article entitled “Fat Market is Threatened published in the Launceston Examiner at the end of last year. It reads -
The truism that a prosperous primary industry is essential for economic stability has not been learned by the price-fixing authorities. The price of practically every farm commodity except fruit is fixed much lower than it would be if there were no controls and the governing policy seems to be to provide cheap food for the city voter regardless of how it hits the man on the land. Where the price to the farmer is not fixed, the retailers’ selling price is adjusted to force a low price to the grower. Meat is a case in point.
Having commandeered allTasmanian lamb, and without paying the premium value to which it is entitled, the authorities now insist that hogget mutton be sold as cheap as wether mutton, thus hitting the Tasmanian grower hard. Up till now the butchers have managed to skate around this restriction by various means, hut the time has arrived when young mutton will have to sell in direct competition with second-grade full-mouth mutton and the farmer be content with what it will make.
Although sheep on the hoof are making 7s. or 8s. a head less in Victoria than here, prices of cuts in the shops are considerably higher, as the following comparisons show: -
Obviously the Melbourne butcher is in a much more favorable position than his Launceston confrere. If the Tasmanian is to stay in business he must buy his mutton cheaper. Retail prices, including beef, are from1/2d. to 1d. per lb. lower than this time last year, which looks like a deliberate effort by the authorities to force down the value of meat, which can only be done at the expense of the farmers. Some explanation should be forthcoming of whythe Tasmanian grower should be singled out for this attack.
If the fattener is to get less for his output he will have to buy his stores cheaper. But that is impossible, because the woolgrower is quick to take advantage of any easing of the market. AtEvandale on the 7th December a fine line of two and four-tooth wethers, admirably suited for fattening, all went to pastoral- ists for wool production. Apparently the price-fixing people have overlooked the fact that sheep have two values, and that interference with the delicate balance between these two values can only have a disastrous effect, just as an unwise interference with the balance between the values of oats and hay created chaos in that industry.
I agree substantially with that article. The Government has commandeered all lambs in Tasmania with the result that no lambs are being sold for local consumption. In addition, breeding ewes are being sold. Obviously, if breeding ewes are being killed, lambs will not be reared. The price of lambs in Tasmania is not high enough to induce farmers to raise them. Unless this matter is handled more scientifically a famine stage will be reached. I said that eighteen months ago, but of course some honorable members opposite would not believe it. So far this season the processing of lambs has fallen by about 40 per cent. Next season there will be a bigger slump.
– Apparently, the honorable member has not heard that drought conditions prevail.
– Not in Tasmania. The Government cannot blame the drought for everything. It cannot blame the drought for the huge reduction of wheat production, because that was due partly to the edict of the Government ordering a restriction of acreage. [Extension of time granted.] I regard Tasmanian lambs as equal to New Zealand lambs in quality, yet Tasmanian lamb-raisers are paid from1d. to1/4d. per lb. less for their product. Tasmania is the only State in which the Government has acquired lambs, and some consideration should be given to the fact that if Tasmanian lambs were sold on the open market they would bring nearly twice as much as the Government is paying for them for export purposes. I ask the Government to make available to honorable members the agreements between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom and New Zealand, so that we may see exactly the position. I am sure that the United Kingdom Government does not wish to see lambs produced in Tasmania at a loss, and is quite prepared to pay a reasonable price. As an indication of the shortage of lambs which exists in
Tasmania at present I point out that one district which sent 1,000 lambs to be processed last season, up to a couple of weeks ago had not sent in any lambs for processing this season. I know of one farmer who sent in his tops in lambs early last season and averaged 17s. 6d. a head, whereas when he sold the remainder in the open market he averaged£ 1 15s. a head. The following are extracts from a letter which I received recently from the warden of the municipality of Beaconsfield in regard to this matter: -
Present indications are that the production of fat lambs for export from Tasmania will be down 40 per cent, this season. This was only to be expected owing to the “ scurvy “ treatment of fat-lamb raisers in the past season.
You will no doubt remember that the 1943-44 season for slaughter of fat lambs in Tasmania was prohibited by the federal authorities and without any notice, and as a consequence the price dropped 7s. per head. No compensation was given to farmers for this loss.
The prices paid for fat lambs for export are quite unprofitable at the present time, and at every recent sale throughout Tasmania even store lambs are realizing prices considerably in excess of the prices paid for fat lambs for export. Similar conditions prevailed throughout last season.
It is no exaggeration to say that those engaged in the production of fat lambs and dairying are at the present time being exploited by the Federal Government.
While we give the Federal Government credit for their desire to supply the people of Great Britain with food, it seems hardly right that one section of the community, namely, primary producers mentioned, should bear the burden.
The primary producer definitely is having a raw deal, and I am afraid that some handling problems of primary production havelittle or no practical knowledge of the subject.I believe in the old proverb that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory. I trust that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will give consideration to the points that I have mentioned in order that justice may be done to primary producing interests.
– Some of the statements made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) appear to be rather extravagant. However, I shall have the matters raised by those honorable members and by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) referred to the appropriate Ministers for consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Broadcasting Act - Twelfth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1943-44.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 23.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - TwentiethReport on the Commonwealth Public Service by Board of Commissioners, dated 3rd February, 1945.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 22.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Perth, Western Australia.
Sydney, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of overseas postal communications (Prisoners of war).
Taking possession of land, &c. (68).
Use of land (6).
Order by State Premier - South Australia (No. 2 of 1945).
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Queensland (dated6th February, 1945).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,Nos. 24, 25.
Taxation - Twenty-fifth Report of Commissioner, dated 1 st November, 1944, together with Statistical Appendices.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t . asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice-
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will he have immediate inquiries made into the conditions under which patients are attended in the malaria ward at the Sydney Showground, and report as to whether more suitable accommodation can be provided?
– Malaria patients are not now admitted to the camp hospital at Sydney Showground. In the Sydney area they are treated principally at the military hospital at Herne Bay.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many members of the Army with six months’ service or more have been discharged to date?
– Separate figures are not available for the number of members of the military forces discharged after completing six months’ service or more. The total number of members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces discharged to the 31st January, 1945, are as follows: - Australian Imperial Force, 107,763; Citizen Military Forces, 135,388; total, 243,151.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When reviewing taxation will he give favorable consideration to making provision to allow divorcees with children dependent upon them, and who are obliged to engage housekeepers, the same concession as is granted widowers in similar circumstances?
– The question of extending the concessional allowance as suggested by the honorable member has been considered on previous occasions, and it has been realized that when any concession is granted there will always be other cases just outside the ambit of the existing concessions to which there may be some justification for an extension of the concession. I am unable to consider favorably the allowance of this concession in priority to other claims of equal or greater merit.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Allied Works Council.
s asked the Minister for
Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
54,855 at. 30th June, 1943.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Fuller particulars in regard to the second section of the answer are contained in a reply to a question under the heading “ Supply of Foodstuffs to United Kingdom”, vide Hansard, the 21st February, 1945.
s asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In 1941-42 the British Government’s principal demand was for cheese, consequently butter manufacturers were asked to install cheese plants. Before this had been completed the demand changed back to butter. Further particulars in regard to this part of the question are contained in answer to a question under the heading “Supply of Foodstuffs to United Kingdom “, vide Hansard, the 21st February, 1945.
t. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y. - On the 28th February the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked me a question, without notice, concerning vegetable seeds. I am now in a position to inform the right honorable gentleman that, while there was a serious shortage in the earlier years of the Pacific war that position has since been completely retrieved by action of the Vegetable Seeds Committee, with the exception of certain varieties of peas and beans. This position is being overtaken rapidly, particularly with beans. As the States let the contracts for vegetable seeds they are provided with the overall requirements by the Vegetable Seeds Committee.
The committee has no knowledge of a lucerne-grower in the Lower Manning being adversely affected. It must be apparent to the right honorable member that with the scaling down of vegetable demands for Army services there must obviously be a contraction in the production of vegetable seeds and that it is useless to produce an article that may. not be required. However, if the right honorable gentleman will supply the name of the grower in question further inquiries will be made in the matter. It is the policy of the Vegetable Seeds Committee to spread contracts as equitably as is economically possible, and this policy is applied.
On the 28th February the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question, without notice, concerning an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 21st February concerning vegetable seeds.
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the article in question has been carefully perused, and that the position is as follows: - Had it not been for the action of the Vegetable Seeds Committee there would have been grave shortages of seed in Australia, and our planting programme would have been seriously handicapped. At the outbreak of the Pacific war supplies of essential seeds of practically all kinds in Australia ere totally inadequate to meet essential demands. Consequently heavy importations of lease-lend seed became essential. There were also some importations from New Zealand. Further, far from disorganizing production, the activities of the Vegetable Seeds Committee made increased production possible. An audit of the accounts of the Vegetable Seeds Committee is just being completed, and it is now clear that the complete operations of the Vegetable Seeds Committee will show a small profit. It will be seen, therefore, that Mr. Hope Martin’s suggestion that the Commonwealth is involved in heavy financial losses up to the present is entirely without foundation. As previously stated, the operations of the Vegetable Seeds Committee have stimulated production of vegetables. The committee reports that it has not examined accounts of seed merchants and is unable to say if any material losses have been sustained by merchants, but in_ view of the fact that there has been a bigger turnover of seed during the war years, and the usual Prices Commission margin has been allowed, it is difficult to believe that merchants have been involved in any big losses. It was essential, owing to safety margin stocks having to be built up in the earlier days of the war, to freeze certain lines of seed in order to avoid losses. This was done.
Motion Picture Industry: Price Control.
e. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) raised certain questions relating to Prices Commissioner’s ruling regarding the film Hong of Bernadette, and a complaint of Queensland Motion Picture Exhibitors Association relating thereto.
I have now received advice from the Minister for Trade and Customs on the subject. The honorable members are informed that ordinarily the hire rate for films is determined by negotiation between the distributor and exhibitor, the determination being based generally on box office receipts. Since it is not possible to forecast the popularity of a film it i9 not possible to fix specific hire rates in advance. In the case of Song of Bernadette approval was given to a basis for negotiation and both distributors and exhibitors were advised of this arrangement, and that under the scheme no exhibitor was deprived of his right to apply to the Prices Commissioner for adjudication. These arrangements were in line with suggestions made by the Australian Exhibitors Advisory Committee which embraces the Queensland Motion Picture Exhibitors Association. It is still open to any exhibitor who does not agree to terms suggested by the distributors to submit full details to the Prices Commissioner in order to have the hire of the film specifically fixed.
e. - On the 2Sth February, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to state whether or not considerable discontent exists among American fighting personnel in Sydney because the Department of Trade and Customs has sold large consignments of American cigarettes seized in the efforts to stamp out black marketing operations, instead of heeding the request for their return to the American authorities for distribution among American troops fighting in the Pacific? Will the honorable gentleman state what has become of the proceeds of such sales, and undertake to be guided in future by the wishes of the American authorities?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now advised me that he has no information concerning the alleged discontent in the matter on the part of American service personnel in Sydney. The cigarettes under seizure, which for the most part have ‘arrived in Australia from operational areas in the South Pacific and South- West Pacific, wherethey were apparently obtained from Americanservicemen, either by purchase or barter, were seized upon arrival because, in their importation, offences against the Customs Act either occurred or were attempted. Up to the end of last year, cigarettes seized in these circumstances were sold at customs sales in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act. Recently, however, an assurance was given to the United States provost officers that no more seized American cigarettes will be sold by the Department of Trade and Customs pending further consultation with those officers.
The President and Mr. Speaker: p recedence.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. I have no knowledge of what was done, hut will direct that such public records as may contain the information be perused and the information given to the honorable member. 3.I am unaware of the reasons which actuated the placing of persons on the Commonwealth Table of Precedence in 1905.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The rates of travelling allowance were fixed by Arbitration Determinations Nos. ti and 14 of 1933. The Arbitrator’s reasons for his decisions are set out fully in the determinations, copies of which are being furnished to the honorable member. The rates were varied from the 1st May, 1943. The new rates and the circumstances in connexion with the review are set out in Determination No. 11 of 1943, copy of which is being furnished to the honorable member. (6) and (c). Yes. Those matters were discussed in detail with the representatives of the organizations before the “ consent “ determination was made. 2 and 3. The Public Service Board has representatives in each capital city who, in reviewing travelling allowance in the case of officers on temporary transfer, exorcise an almost continuous check on accommodation and charges. 4 and 5. The Public Service Board has not made a review particularly in regard to typists. The review made in 1943 by the Public Service organizations in conjunction with the hoard covered officers on all salary ranges up to £1,012 per annum. As an outcome of that review, agreement was reached on appropriate rates.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australian Air Force: Discharges; Training Programme; Employment on Civil Work.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
How many members of the Royal Australian Air Force with six months’ service or more have been discharged to date?
– The numbers of officers whose appointments have been terminated and of airwomen and airmen who have been discharged after six months’ service or more are 1,498 and 19,310 respectively, a total of 20,808.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice–
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
In connexion with the employment of enlisted airmen on civilian duties will he supply the following information: -
The total man-hours employed (a) as wharf labourers, (b) on fruit picking, and (c) on other duties?
Is it correct that the Department of Air collects full award rates in respect of this work whilst paying the lesser service rates to the men performing the duties?
What is the total amount so collectedby the department and the total amount paid to the men during the three months ended the 31st January last?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Wharf labouring 33,874 man-hours, (b) fruit-picking 40,921 man-hours, (c) other duties 8,411 man-hours.
War Disposals Commission.
Y. - On the 28th Feb ruary, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to sales of wire netting in Queensland by the Allied Works. Council. He asked that the Minister for Supply and Shipping give consideration to the co-ordinating of applications for wire netting held by various departments so that supplies being sold by the Allied Works Council may be made available to existing appli cants. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has considered the honorable member’s representations and has mad? the following information available: -
All stores declared surplus by Common.wealth departments arc: disposed’ of by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. In certain eases thu Allied Works Council lias acted as agents tor the Disposals Commission. ‘Iiic only wire netting sold by auction in QueensIn uri was sonic, burned second-hand material from winch camouflage garnishing hurt been removed. All other wire disposed of in Queensland hus been sold through Queensland Pastoral Supplies and hil? till been used to meet the needs of primary producers. A quantity of 520 rolls wim marketed by the Charleville Authority fr.r Wire, Ministry of Munitions. The honorable member can be assured Hint the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is doing everything possible to have nil surplus stores made available to those people most in need of them with the least possible delay.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450307_reps_17_181/>.