17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.J. S. Rosevear) took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether ornot120 members of the Civil Aliens Corps who were engaged on wood-cutting in South Australia have been withdrawn from that occupation? If so, will the honorable gentleman give the assurance that the necessary labour will be supplied, with a view to meeting the difficulty of maintaining supplies?
-I am not sure as to whether or not120 members of the Civil Aliens Corps have been withdrawn from wood-cutting in South Australia.If they have been, labour will have to be obtained elsewhere to replace them.
– It was announced recently that the committee which is reviewing the Landlord and Tenant Regulations had recommended that the Government should pass a regulation enabling owners of homes not at present in possession of them, who desire to re-occupy them, to regain possession upon giving three months’ notice to the tenants thereof. Will the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral state whether or not the Government has accepted this recommendation? If it has, when does it intend to issue the proposed regulation?
– I have read the recommendation mentioned in a report of the committee, and last night discussed the matter with the Solicitor-General, who considers that his department should have further consultations with the Department of Trade and Customs, which administers the Landlord and Tenant Regulations. A colleague advises me that these consultationsare now taking place. I shall do my best to expeditea decision.
– I have received from Guyra a telegram which reads -
Hold up in deliveries of potatoes means great financial loss to growers. Willhave disastrous effects on future production.
I understand that the potato-growers at Guyra have been ordered to cease the digging of their crops, and have been restricted to a loading of 500 tons a week. The effect willbe the destruction of the bulk of the crop by the potato moth. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture discuss with the Potato Controller the removal of the restriction on digging, and arrange for the potatoes to be taken to Sydney for cold storage until they can be absorbed by the market?
– I shall take the matter up with the Potato Controller, and have an investigation made immediately. I shall do everything possible to ensure that no loss shall be Buffered by the growers.
Motor Vehicles and Typres
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the House whether consideration has been given to making available for civilian use motor vehicles and rubber tyres now mouldering in military car parks in Australia? Presumably the majority of those vehicles and. tyres will not be required for military purposes, and the tyres are rapidly deteriorating as the result of exposure to the weather. If the matter has not been considered, will the Minister consult with the Acting Minister for the Army with a view to making some of the tyres available for civilian use, particularly to primary producers?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is one that has formed the basis of criticism even by honorable members who support the Government. Motor lorries are seen in Army parks and camps, but the answer given by the Army authorities to requests for their release is that they belong to units which require them for their operations in the course of the war.
– Not at base ordinance depots.
– The honorable member for Flinders referred to Army car parks, and I had in mind, for instance, the military park at Ryde. This matter has ‘been taken up on. several occasions with the Army authorities, and I have at times held a similar view to that of the honorable member for Flinders. I agree that steps should be taken to have motor lorries not required for Army purposes released for civilian use. I shall take the matter up with the Acting Minister for the Army.
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General read a statement in the Sydney Morning
Herald, of, the 9th March, by Alderman Neville Harding, Lord Mayor of Sydney, and chairman of the Provisional Executive of the Liberal party? The statement was headed “.Slow torture by the Government”, and went on to say that it might have been better for us to have been killed by the Japanese than to suffer the slow, miserable torture of the present Administration. Alderman Harding is reported to have further stated that Federal Ministers had lost the confidence of the people, and had to resort to lies to carry on from day to day. Will the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral seek the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor in order to learn whether Alderman Harding has been correctly reported and, if so, whether any action can be taken against him for making such shocking and untruthful allegations ?
– I have read the statement alleged to have been made by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and I have also read a statement of the Prime Minister in which he said that if the Lord Mayor had been responsible for making such statements he could regard him as no other than a fool. For myself, 1 should regard him as a fool and a public menace.
– The Minister cannot believe now that he is not slipping !
– I know this gentleman. I have been asked to have inquiries made by the Solicitor-General into this alleged utterance. I think that we ought to hand the task over to the DirectorGeneral of Security, who, in order that all interests might be safeguarded, should bp empowered to take appropriate action.
– Oan the Minister for Commerce say whether the proposal to import grain for seed and for stock feed is any further advanced?
– The importation of grains to relieve the feed shortage has been agitating the mind of the Government for a considerable time. We have made inquiries in every part of the world from which there seemed to be any likelihood of obtaining seed, particularly :’rom countries in North and South
America. At one time, it seemed likely that we would be able to obtain supplies from North America, but the project has been held up through lack of shipping. However, we hope that at an early date shipping may become available. Supplies are available in South America, but the Health Department insists upon rigid adherence to the quarantine regulations and, under these regulations, the grain cannot be brought in. I have sought outside opinon from experts who have supported the attitude of the quarantine authorities. Thus, it would appear that the impoprtation of feed grains from South America is practically prohibited. We recognize how serious is the position, and we are doing everything possible to remedy it.
.- As chairman, I present the report, with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Baerami Shale Oil Proposal. and move -
That the paper be printed.
As the committee regards this subject as of national importance it has made special efforts to gather detailed evidence which will be a guide to the Government and those who will be responsible for future action in connexion with the development of Australia’s shale deposits.
As the preparation of this report was the final official work of the retiring secretary to the committee, Mr. Gerald Whiteford, I desire to express, on behalf of the committee, its appreciation of his thorough and enthusiastic work in connexion with this inquiry and during the whole of his official career of 30 years with the committee. The committee has always had the greatest confidence in Mr. Whiteford, and the valuable and successful work of the Public Works Committee in the past has been largely due to his outstanding ability and careful guidance. The details now presented as a result of this inquiry into the Baerami Shale Oil Proposal are of wide interest to the public as well as to members of this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– Is it a fact that on the 6th March the first bi-weekly issue of the official organ of the Communist party, The ‘Tribune, was published? Further, is it a fact that in its leading article the newspaper told its readers that with their aid, Sydney would soon have the honour of bringing out the first Communist daily newspaper in the southern hemisphere? If so, will the Treasurer say whether The Tribune has received, sufficient newsprint to enable it to produce a bi-weekly issue, and whether it has received an assurance from the Government that sufficient newsprint will be forthcoming to produce a daily newspaper ?
– I have not seen the article referred to, as I do not read the newspaper to which reference has been made. I shall, however, endeavour to obtain the information asked for by the right honorable gentleman, so far as it is in the power of the Government to supply it.
– Has the Treasurer seen an advertisement in yesterday’s edition of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, inserted by the Sane Democracy League, Sydney, reading as follows: -
Only public opinion strongly expressed can. protect the Commonwealth Savings Bank from the politicians.
In, view of the misleading, malicious, and lying propaganda contained in that advertisement-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question without comment.
– In view of the, propaganda contained in the advertisement, which is both incorrect and misleading, will the Treasurer take appropriate action to refer the matter to the Security officers of the Commonwealth with a view to preventing a repetition of such misleading statements? Will the Treasurer also ascertain how many members of the Liberal party of Australia are members of the executive of the Sane Democracy League?
– I have not seen the advertisement referred to by the honorable member. Statements of the nature referred to by him leave me completely unmoved, because I am aware that all political parties are, at times, guilty of slight exaggeration. I shall examine the advertisement to which the honorable member referred. Regarding his request for the intervention of the Security Service, I understand that the activities of that organization are directed towards preserving, not political security, but national security. That being so, I think that it would be wrong to employ Security officers as the honorable member has suggested
Opportunities for Australian Manufacturers -Shipping
– According to a report in to-day’s press, Mr. N. N. Wadia, an Indian industrialist, who is now visiting Australia, declared that British and American manufacturers were taking orders in India, but that, to date, no orders had been placed in Australia, and this country would need to hurry if it desired to participate in India’s £10,000,000,000 post-war expansion programme. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Government refused to allow an Australian firm to accept orders from India for the manufacture of £2,500,000 worth of locomotives? If so, is that refusal indicative of the Government’s policy regarding the acceptance of orders for machine tools and other manufactures ? Have manufacturers been refused permission to travel to India for the purpose of securing orders for work in Australia during the post-war period? Has Australia’s trade representative in India submitted to the Government any reports dealing with the prospects for the export of manufactured goods to India? If so, will the Minister make those reports available to the House ; alternatively, will he make a statement regarding the position?
– The Australian trade representative in India, Mr. Gollan, recently returned to this country for the purpose of discussing with manufacturers and other persons subjects mentioned by the honorable member. Regarding the order for locomotives, I believe that there is some substance in the honorable member’s assertion, but I am not aware of the details. The matter was dealt with by the Munitions Department, and I am not able to say whether the Clyde Engineering Company was in a position to accept the order. If the company had been able to fulfil the order, but did not accept it, the position would appeal’ to be very bad.
– Man-power may have been a difficulty.
– Yes; the acceptance of such orders is governed by the availability of man-power. I believe that Australia should avail itself of every possible opportunity to secure orders in India. The honorable member has raised a most important point, and I hope that manufacturers will be encouraged to expound their views on this subject. If any manufacturers desire to visit India for business purposes, the Government will give them every assistance to do so.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping read in yesterday’s Sydney newspapers the suggestion by the leader of the Indian industrial delegation which arrived in Sydney on Tuesday, that direct shipping lines should be established between Australia and India? In view of the possibilities of a post-war export trade between India and Australia, will the honorable gentleman see that the suggestion shall receive the fullest consideration of the authorities concerned?
– The House will agree that the matters raised by the Indian industrial delegation are most interesting and deserve serious consideration. The matter of trade is involved in that of transport. I understand the idea to be that we should establish a basis upon which transport between the two countries may be arranged so as to meet mutual needs. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to request the Director of Shipping to make a thorough review of the position, in order to determine whether or not the wishes expressed by the delegation may be met.
– Japan has committed another breach of international law by its unprovoked aggression against French Indo-China. The two countries were not at war. The strategiceffect of this move may be to lengthen the duration of the war in the Pacific and further jeopardize the interests of Australia. Will the Acting Leader of the House request the Australian delegation to the International Conference on World Security in San Francisco to raise this matter with a view to having appropriate action taken to compel Japan to withdraw from French Indo-China, and conform to the requirements of international law? Will an opportunity be given to those nations, which have just joined the “ band-wagon “, to prove their sincere interest in ensuring world security by sharing in the responsibility of defeating the Japanese?
– This important matter will receive consideration in much higher councils than we have in Australia, but the point which the honorable member has raised will be conveyed to the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs. Any attempt to facilitate the removal of the Japanese from French Indo-China will have our wholehearted support.
– In November last
I drew attention to the fact that telephonists were prohibited from giving the name of the calling station when trunkline calls were originated; and the PostmasterGeneral in his reply at that time said that this restriction was imposed for security reasons, and would be reviewed in due course. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he does not now think that the time is opportune to remove this restriction and to revert to normal conditions?
– I remember the occasion when the honorable member asked the question to which he has referred. I then said that it was for security reasons that telephonists were prohibited from announcing the station originating trunk-line calls. That explanation was greeted with a certain degree of derision on the part of honorable members opposite; but in October and November last there were big movements of Australian troops to Bougainville, Aitape, and other islands to the north. To-day, the position has eased. I shall ask my colleague, first, whether any restrictions remain; and, if so, whether they can be lifted.
– The restrictions still remain.
Mr.CALWELL. - My experience, apparently, differs from that of the honorable gentleman, because two nights ago when I received a trunk-line call in Sydney the telephonist announced that Hobart was calling.
– That was an interstate call; but telephonistsare not allowed to announce the originating station when the call is intra-state.
– It may be that the restriction remains in some parts of New South Wales and Queensland, and if that, be so, it is obviously retained for security reasons. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether arrangements have yet been made to provide reasonable accommodation at the Federal Members’ Rooms, Melbourne, for honorable members who use the rooms regularly, and members from other States ? If not, when can we expect suitable accommodation to be provided?
– I shall take the matter up with the Minister for the Interior.
– Pre viously, I brought to the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the serious plight of poultry-breeders in Queensland due to shortage of feed. I am now advised that conditions have not been improved. That is evidenced by the following telegram received by a poultryfarmer from his market agent : “ Received your three crates of poultry to-day. Market overcrowded. Unable to handle. Shall we rail them back? “ As poultrybreeders in Queensland are being treated unfairly with respect to supplies of stockfeed quotas, will the Minister arrange immediately to increase the quotas to that State by 50 per cent., thereby bringing it into line with the quota for other States? As the Minister is responsible for the present position, inasmuch as he asked poultry-breeders to increase production, stating that the sky was the limit, but at the same time reduced the production of wheat - -
– Order ! The honorable member is making a speech. What is his question ?
– As these conditions have caused serious loss to poultry-farmers will the Minister arrange immediately to increase the Queensland quota of stock-feed, including wheat, in order to enable poultry-farmers in that State to retrieve their position?
– At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held in Melbourne recently, at which all State Departments of Agriculture were represented, the subject of wheat for poultry feed was examined by a departmental committee of officers from every State. I had nothing whatever todowith the proceedings ofthe committee. The report that it made to the conference suggested a certainbasis of distribution of all theavailable wheat; that was regarded as being the most equitable plan, and it was adopted. As the whole of the available wheat was allocated, I regret that I cannot accede to the request of the honorable member. He may rest assured that the most careful consideration was given to this subject and the distribution agreed upon was regarded as equitable in every respect.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether, in view of the agitation by members of the Opposition in relation to migration, he will request the Minister for the Interior to ignore any diplomatic approaches that may be made to the Government in the near future with the object of having coloured labour introduced into this country to break down working-class conditions here?
– I shall do as the honorablemember has asked,but I assure him that the Government has no intention of departing from its well defined policy in this regard.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior make representations to his colleague with a view to effecting a settlement of the claim made by Mr. L. S. Hawkins, of Tocumwal, in respect of property that was compulsorily acquired from him in February, 1942, for the purpose of constructing an aerodrome? I received a letter from Mr. Hawkins to-day which stated that when this property was compulsorily acquired from him on the22nd February, 1942, he was given three days to remove his home and shift his stud sheep, cattle and horses. Mr. Hawkins also stated that his stud had taken two generations to develop, and, since February, 1942, he has had to move hisstock from place to place. Recently, he had to truck his cattle 700 miles in an endeavour to find feed, and now he has been obliged to bring the stock back to the starting point. This gentleman has not been paid one penny piece inrespect of the property that was taken from him more than three years ago. I ask that the matter be brought to finality without delay.
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s request to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that a considerable number of tenant wheat- famers whose leases have expired are being rigidly excluded from participation in drought relief payments? Does not the Minister consider that it would be only just to admit these claims for consideration on the merits of each case and will he take steps to have this course adopted?
– I was not aware of such an occurrence, and sincerely regret it. The amount of drought relief is first determined by a committee that is representative of the State Departments of Agriculture and my department, but the administration is controlled by the States. I shall take the matter up with them with a view to having any anomaly rectified.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping read in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald the report that a wharf labourer had been sentenced to imprisonment for six months for having stolen three bottles of beer, the property of the British Forces Canteen Service, from a consignment that was being shipped to a forward area? Did the honorable gentleman also read in the Melbourne Herald of the 27th February the report that a man named James Riley, who had appealed against a sentence of imprisonment for three months for having stolen on a wharf, admitted to the judge that he had been declared an habitual criminal? Will the honorable gentleman take up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping the matter of preventing men with criminal records, or those convicted of theft from wharfs, from working on wharfs during the continuance of the present war?
– I have read the report published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The honorable member’s suggestion will be covered by the general scheme with which the Government is associated, for dealing with pillaging on wharfs. Yesterday, I said that £200,000 was to be set aside by the Commonwealth for this purpose. I wish to make a correction of that statement; £200,000 was applied for by the parties responsible for the organization, but they discovered that, because of the shortage of manpower, particularly of the kind that they need, it would not be possible to expend more than £60,000 immediately. However, the larger amount has been set aside and will be expended as it is needed.
– by leave - During his speech in the Address-in-Reply debate, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that man-power could be obtained by reducing the number of men employed on the production of out-moded aeroplanes. He said that the Mustang aircraft being produced in Australia had already been superseded in Britain by the Tempest, and implied that Australia’s aircraft industry would always lag far behind that of overseas countries in the types of aircraft manufactured.
It is unfortunate that the honorable member should venture to make criticisms of aircraft policy without first taking the trouble to verify the alleged facts upon which he based his comments. Had he made inquiries, he would have found that the aircraft authorized by War Cabinet for production in Australia - the Beaufighter, the Mosquito, the Mustang and the Lancaster - are still unsurpassed in their fields in any theatre of war. The Lancaster to be produced in Australia is the most up-to-date version of this aircraft, and its production will be concurrent in England and Australia. There is absolutely no suggestion of the Tempest superseding the Mustang in Britain or elsewhere. The Tempest has been developed as a low medium altitude fighter, and as such has been very successful both in the shooting down of flying bombs and in operations in the European theatre of war. The Mustang is a high altitude fighter with a ceiling of over 40,000 feet and, as such, is not inferior in performance to aircraft of any other type at present in production; in fact, experience has proved that the Mustang can be used with satisfaction at low levels, and that it is superior to the Tempest throughout the whole range of performance.
The Australian aircraft production mission, which was sent abroad early in 1943 to determine the most suitable types of aircraft required hy the Royal Australian Air Force that could be produced in Australia, gave full consideration to Tempest aircraft for production in Australia not in place of, but in conjunction with, the Mustang. It was found, however, that it would not be practicable to undertake the concurrent manufacture in Australia of both high altitude and low medium altitude fighters. The production of Mustang aircraft, the world’s best high altitude fighter, was1 authorized because the Royal Australian Air Force required high altitude fighters, and also because a large number of low medium altitude fighters already was available in the South-West Pacific Area. Further, the Mustang is powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and production of that type of engine in Australia ha3 been authorized, whereas the type of engine used with the Tempest has never been, and is not likely to be, made in Australia. Another, and a vitally important, factor is that the type of Mustang to be produced first in Australia, with its splendid performance record, is built to a design which makes fairly easy the change to improved types giving even better performance. Other Mustang types are being developed, in the endeavour to improve still further the performance of the aircraft, as was done with the Spitfire by the British authorities. Consequently, the selection of an aircraft type that was at the commencement of its life was a wise one.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider the advisability of instructing all national service officers to exhibit publicly a list of all available jobs which the National Service Officer is authorized to allot, in order that those persons who are registered for employment may exercise whatever choice may still be left to them?
– A bulletin, containing a list of existing vacancies, which is kept as up to date as possible, is issued to all national service officers. So far as I know, it has not been publicly exhibited. I believe that one of the official objections to that course is that it would involve much more work. I cannot see any objection to the suggestion, either in principle or on the ground that more man-power would be needed to cope with the extra work in country districts. I shall discuss with the DirectorGeneral of Man Power the possibility of having the system universally applied.
Army Inventions DIRECTORATE : Craftsman L. V. Malee - Leave.
– On Wednesday of last week, I made certain charges against the Army Inventions Directorate, and the Army administration, of mistreatment of Craftsman L. V. Malee in regard to an invention of his. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army advise me as to whether or not that right honorable gentleman has since considered the matter? If he has, is the House to be informed of the result of his investigations, and the action to be taken?
– I shall confer with the Acting Minister for the Army, and obtain a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– As I have ascertained that considerable numbers of troops in the New Guinea area have not had home leave for from eighteen months to two years, will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army request that immediate consideration be given to making the necessary arrangements for the granting of leave to those men?
– The Minister for the Army stated some time ago that he wa3 doing his utmost to ensure that men serving overseas should receive their leave as quickly and as regularly as possible, but difficulties arise through shipping not being available. However, I shall ask the Acting Minister for the Army to investigate the matter and furnish a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read the statement published in the press recently that a five-roomed house had been stolen on the border of the divisions of New England and Hunter? Has he also read the report that military camp buildings located on the border of the electorates of Robertson and Hunter had been removed? In view of the fact that there is an acute shortage of houses in the Hunter electorate, and in order to avoid the spread to that electorate of the evil habit of house stealing which apparently prevails in the divisions of New England and Robertson, will the Minister remove the present restrictions on the building of homes?
-I shall give consideration to the matter.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read reports in the press concerning a statement in the Australian Medical Journal to the effect that suicides among returned soldiers of the war of 1914-18 are more numerous than among men of the same age group in other sections of the community? In view of the serious implication of that statement in relation to the men engaged in the present war, to whom the report refers, is the Minister prepared to make a statement to the House at an early date regarding plans for research into nervous disorders among service personnel, and treatment of such cases on their return to Australia ?
– The Repatriation Department has already taken steps to have that matter investigated. Medical men are engaged in this work overseas, and the principal medical officers of the department and other specialists are investigating the problem in Australia. We are making as rapid progress as could be expected.
Restoration of Civil Administration
– Can the Minister for External Territories say when Papua will be placed under the control of a civil administration ?
– Preparations are proceeding as rapidly as possible for the contemplated change from military to civil control. It is impossible at present to announce the date when the change will be made, but I hope to be able to do so very soon.
– Last year I intro duced a deputation to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerning the spread of the buffalo-fly from Northern Queensland down the coast towards New South Wales. The Minister promised at that time that he would make a personal visit to the areas in Queensland where the buffalo-fly is prevalent, in order to observe for himself the ravages of the fly upon stock. Will the Minister endeavour to make such a journey during the next parliamentary recess, so that he will visit the infected territory at a time when the fly is most active, rather than in the winter, when it is dormant?
– I did give the promise to which the honorable member has referred, but I cannot say when I shall be able to make the visit. I shall keep in touch with the honorable member and other honorable members in whose electorates the fly is active, and confer with them upon the matter.
Labour for Fruit Canneries
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service read a public statement by Mr. Puller, a fruitgrower of Ardmona andCobram - confirmed in a letter to me - that in the next week or two he will have 35,000 cases of peaches, which, in view of the present shortage of labour in the canneries, they will be unable to accept? In view of the serious reduction of the canned fruit pack this year, will every effort be made to provide the labour required in the canneries for the few remaining weeks of the season?
– I have heard of the fears of the people in the district referred to, but it so happens that the difficulty contemplated in obtaining sufficient labour to process the fruit may be easily overcome. The shortage of labour this year has occurred in city canneries. It is true that difficulty has been experienced in obtaining sufficient female labour to meet the needs of city canneries. I hope that the requirements will be met and that no fruit will be wasted.
Debate resumed from the 14th March (vide page 605), on motion by Mr. Eraser. -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, to extend to Your Royal Highness a welcome to Australia, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I support the motion, and join with other honorable members in welcoming to Australia Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The right honorablemember for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that the presence here of the Duke of Gloucester as GovernorGeneral would promote unity in the Empire, and particularly between the United Kingdom and Australia. For my part, I believe that there is no need for Australia to make any demonstration of unity with the Empire beyond its action in placing 900,000 men and women inthe fighting services to do battle for the cause of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We are united to Britain by ties of kinship that nothing can break. Although I am very glad to welcome the Duke and Duchess ofGloucester to Australia, I still adhere to my belief that we should appoint to the office of Governor-General Australians who have distinguished themselves by their service to Australia. I recognize that only good can come of the appointment of the Duke of Gloucester, and that when he returns to England be will be a powerful ambassador in our behalf, but my opinion regarding the desirability of appointing Australians to the office of Governor-General remains unshaken.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) discussed the part at present being played by Australian . forces in the war, and suggested that they were not doing a good war job, being engaged, as he said, upon mopping-up operations.
I remind honorablemembers that the Australians have been in this war since 1939, when the first divisions left Australia. If our forces are now enjoying a respite from their battle activities they richly deserve it. As I have said, our men have been in the war since 1939, and they will continue to be in it probably for years after some of the other belligerent nations are at peace. Australians will continue to bear the brunt of battle until the final defeat of Japan. The strain on Australia has been tremendous since the outbreak of war, and it may be still greater before we are able to defeat an enemy whom, I believe, we have not really hurt yet. We have taken some of the islands in the north, and a good job is being done in the Philippines. We now possess equipment which we lacked when the Japanese took the Philippines, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies, but we have no real idea of the military resources of Japan.
No fewer than ten nations have entered the war since D-day. They were invited to enter, and they did so in the belief that the war in Europe was drawing to a close. It may be that the war there will end in three or four weeks. Those nations, which have only just entered the war, should not be encouraged to believe that they can leave it when peace is made in Europe. If they wish to have an equal voice with Australia at the peace table they should take part in the war against Japan, so as to bring it to a. successful conclusion as quickly as possible. The countries which have entered the war against the Axis since D-day are Lebanon, Ecuador, Egypt, Paraguay, Peru, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela. It has been suggested that the voice of Australia at the peace conference will be a puny one, and it maybe that some of these new arrivals in the war will enjoy the same diplomatic authority at the conference as will Australia, which has been fighting since 1939. The following is an extract from the Hansard report of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition during this debate -
– War all too often has to be fought according to the hard facts rather than according to the desires and views of people.
– I realize that, and I should bo the last to deny it. The point I wish to emphasize is this: We have a profound political interest in the restoration of British authority in Burma, Malaya, and Singapore, and a profound future interest in the relief and restoration of the Netherlands East Indies. I should like to think - and 1 do not ‘believe that I am alone in Australia in this matter - that we were able at this time to ha-ve il division, or perhaps two divisions, of the Australian’ Imperial Force fighting with other British troops for the relief of Malaya, and the rescue of those men who were captured at Singapore.
I prefer to accept the view of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who said -
So I say that this war will go on. How long it will go on I do not know; but, however long it may be, we must play our part in it. It has been said that the responsibility for recapturing Malaya is ours, and that we are also responsible for the islands to the north - Jaya and the other islands of the Netherlands East Indies. I acce.pt all that, but let us put first things first. I take no exception whatever to the use of Australian forces in fighting on Australian territory. They are now engaged in operations essential to victory.
That is what the Australian forces are doing to-day, and honorable members opposite call it mopping up ! If the Japanese are allowed to remain in possession of the islands to the north for another two years, so that they may mingle with the native races, there will be a J apanese population in those islands that will never be shifted. It will remain a potential danger to the security of Australia. I claim that this “ mopping up” is a most important job, and that the High Command which ordered it showed sound judgment.
Some time ago I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Curtin) whether he was prepared to consider giving extended rest leave to men with five years’ active service. These men who have borne the brunt of the conflict and are the saviours of our civilization, are deserving of our most sincere thanks, because only through their gallantry and devotion are we still able to enjoy our freedom. Many men suffering from war neurosis are still operating in battle zones. Most of these battle-scarred warriors have been in hospital at various times - some on eight or nine occasions. They have fought a fanatical foe under the worst campaigning conditions imaginable. After I had asked the question to which I have referred, I received numbers of letters on the subject. A typical letter that I received reads -
Congratulations and thanks for bringing before the Prime Minister the most important matter of extended rest leave for men of the Australian Imperial Force who have more than five years’ active service. It seems odd and indeed disappointing that the Government has to be reminded in Parliament of the long and unselfish service given by volunteers who have been with fighting units since 1939 or early 1040.
I know several wives and mothers who are grateful to you for seeking a well deserved rest for these volunteers who are the cream of the nation. After all, willing as they are, they are not machines.
Trusting that the matter will not end with jour question and the brief reference in the press but that the Government will take immediate action to have the nien relieved forthwith.
Such names as Tobruk, Benghazi, Bardia and Dernia, which not many months ago were household words, are now almost forgotten because of what has happened since Japan entered the war; but those names will never be forgotten by the men of the Australian Imperial Force. They are seared into the minds of those who fought in the North African campaigns. Little has been done for these men. They left Australia in secret almost without pre-embarkation leave. No flags were waved ; no bands played ; no one cheered them when they departed. They have known the grim reality of war. Almost since their enlistment they have been in the thick of the fight. They have had little leave of any kind since 1939. In that respect their treatment compares unfavorably with the treatment of the fighting men of other nations. It must be remembered that some of the nations engaged in this war have been fighting only since 1941, or later, whereas Australians have been in the thick of battle since 1939. During the war of 1914-18 what was known as Anzac leave was granted to servicemen after four years’ service. Men who participated in the desert fighting of Africa and other battle-grounds deserve three or four months’ extended rest leave, and should be given it as soon as possible. I recognize the difficulties associated with granting simultaneous leave to large numbers of men. I know, too, the shipping difficulties, and the necessity to provide a roster in order to ensure that every man who is entitled to leave shall get it. But the least that should be done is to let these men know that leave will be granted to them as soon as possible. They have kept us from the tyranny of the invader, and. we cannot be too grateful to them for what they have done.
In paragraph 37 of his Speech His
Royal Highness said -
Several important phases of the Commonwealth’s reconstruction policy can be carried out only in collaboration with the Governments of the States. It is. my Government’s intention to invite the Premiers to more frequent consultation on matters of common concern, after the ground has been thoroughly prepared by prior discussions between the officers concerned.
Every person who has any knowledge of Australia as an economic unit has his own pet theory as to what works should be undertaken after the cessation of hostilities. One of the most urgent postwar projects, because of its great strategic importance to Australia, should be the removal of breaks of gauge from our railway system. In addition to causing considerable hardship these breaks of gauge have seriously affected Australia’s war effort. I, therefore, urge that the railway gauges of the Commonwealth be standardized at the earliest possible moment. Australia has 27,000 miles of railway lines which have done much for the development of the continent. I do not suggest that every railway line in Australia should be of 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, but I do urge that the main trunk lines, extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, and from the north of Queensland to southern Victoria, should, as soon as possible, be of 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge - and honorable members know that when ships could not proceed in Australian coastal waters because of the risk of enemy action, much valuable time was lost in the carriage of men and material over railways of different gauges. In this connexion, I draw attention to a speech delivered in this House by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in 1937. I remember it well, because it was one of the first speeches to which I listened after my election to this Parliament. In seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on that occasion the honorable member for Bendigo said -
It is essential that ample supplies of war material should be accumulated to enable us in the event of emergency to put our young men in the field with every assistance that science can give them to enable them to resist the mechanized and highly scientific forces that would be brought against them. It is also necessary to protect our civilian population. I shudder to think of what would happen in our capital cities in the event of a gas attack to-day. As the first step, I urge that our railway gauges should be standardized. I have had a personal experience of the great disaster that can be caused by breaks of gauge. The British forces in Palestine under General Allenby defeated the Turkish force of 130.000, but it was the break of gauge at Damascus that destroyed them. If it had not been for that break of gauge, some 70,000 would have escaped into Turkey, but, as it was, only about 4,000 got through the passes of the Taurus Mountains to safety. The Australian railway systems, from the defence viewpoint, are the worst and most antiquated in the world.
This urgent problem might be shelved for another twenty years, at the expiration of which Australia might again be confronted with the danger of invasion. If the Hawkesbury railway bridge between Sydney and Newcastle were destroyed, valuable coal and raw materials would have to be diverted through “Werris Creek, Dubbo and Bathurst, involving an extra haul of 500 miles. Some interests will oppose the standardization of railway gauges, because they favour the development of a network of concrete roads throughout the country. They will claim that railways will soon be obsolete. My contention is that railways will never become obsolete for the transport of heavy goods. After the gauges have been standardized, one authority may be made responsible for ordering rolling-stock of a standard design, and that will make for economy, because, under present conditions, several authorities are ordering three or four types of rolling stock. As I stated a moment ago, Australia may be tempted to shelve the problem of the standardization of railway gauges for another twenty years. If war then threatens us - and I fervently hope that it will not - service and transport authorities will clamour for standardization. But such an enormous project cannot be completed in six or twelve months. The job will take many years, and will provide employment for many thousands of men. As New .South Wales already possesses the standard gauge, those men will be employed in other States, and the project will probably entail the shifting of labour from New South Wales to them. I hope that in the post-war period the Government will give favorable consideration to this urgent problem.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has been in existence for a number of years, has performed a good deal of valuable work, but most of its researches have been into matters concerning primary industries. In my opinion, this organization should extend its activities, and engage qualified staffs for the purposes of conducting researches of benefit to secondary industries. After the war, Australia must provide employment for all its people. On the outbreak of war in 1939, 200,000 persons were unemployed in Australia. Nearly twelve months later, 100,000 persons were still without employment, although most of them were able and willing to work. Many industries could be established in Australia in the post-war period, if sufficient encouragement were given to manufacturers. I contend that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be of great service to manufacturers, particularly in supplying advice on the components of paints, rubber and plastics, and on processes for the extraction of oil from coal and shale. Although Australia has not yet extracted oil from coal, it has commenced to produce oil from shale, but at an excessive cost. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could, with advantage, investigate the reason for that high cost, because various processes employed in other countries are not nearly so expensive. The oil content of Australian shale is supposed to be greater than that of shale found elsewhere, but, for some inexplicable reason, the cost of extraction is too high. Why it should cost 6s. or 7s. to produce a gallon of oil from shale is beyond my comprehension ! The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should be instructed to engage a staff of experts to conduct researches into the manufacture of rubber, motor engines, plastics and new metals, with the object of giving the benefit of their discoveries to Australian manufacturers. If that were done, Australian industry would be encouraged to expand, thereby providing employment for our ex-servicemen.
I was gratified to learn that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) had’ given instructions for the drawing of plans designed to make Mascot aerodrome the aerial gateway of Australia. ‘Certain interests desire to have this important airport placed in other parts of the metropolitan area of Sydney, but Mascot is particularly suited for this purpose, because it can provide landing facilities, not only for land planes, but also for seaplanes. No other landing ground near Sydney possesses those facilities. In addition, Mascot is situated only 2 miles by direct road from the heart of the city, so that passengers on disembarking from aircraft may motor to Martin-place in a. few minutes. It is futile to travel 200 or 300 miles by air for the purpose of saving time, if the aerodrome is located 20 miles from the city, and the journey by motor car from the landing ground to the city occupies an hour or 90 minutes. I urge the Minister to make an early decision on this matter for at least one important reason. Under the plans that have been formulated, the landing ground will be extended, and that will necessitate the removal of some homes in the neighbourhood. Because of the acute housing shortage, great hardship will be imposed on these families when they arc obliged to move. Therefore, the Minister, when giving consideration to the remodelling of Mascot, should inform those residents as early as possible how long they may expect to remain in their present dwellings. They should not be given only four or six weeks’ notice. The plan will require a good deal of reclamation work, the diversion of Cook’s River, and certain other preparatory work, but the landing ground, when completed, will be capable of taking the heaviest aircraft in the world.
With regard to the part that Australia has played in the war, one feels proud lo be an Australian, particularly when he recalls the sacrifices which the men and women of this country have borne in this conflict. However, I believe that some of the existing controls can now be relaxed without impairing the efficiency of our war effort. Yesterday, in reply to
M question by me, the Minister for Transport said that he was hopeful that the War Railway Committee would lift the restrictions on interstate rail travel in the near future. Two or three additional carriages could be added to many passenger trains in operation to-day without exceeding the tractive power of the engines employed. Indeed, many trains leaving Sydney are not of sufficient length to absorb more than half the tractive power of the engines. Trains consisting of seven or eight cars could be increased to eleven or twelve cars without requiring the provision of additional engine power. Even on interstate trains many seats are left vacant. Yet, many people who desire to travel interstate for family and other reasons are prohibited from making such journeys. In these circumstances, the existing restrictions on interstate travel are very irksome indeed. The lifting of such restrictions would not impair our war effort in any way whatever, but would confer a great advantage upon the community as a whole.
The rationing of tobacco and cigarettes should be greatly relaxed. To the worker tobacco is a medicine as well as an indulgence. Thousands of workers, howover, still find it very difficult to obtain any. tobacco at all. Canteens have been established at most factories, but this has not effected any reduction of consumption because employees at such factories are also able to make their usual purchases at the store from which they deal. For many thousands in the community, however, the existing rationing of tobacco is a serious hardship, and many menfolk feel this restriction more severely than they otherwise would because so many women now are smokers. It would be wiser for the ‘Government to cease the rationing of tobacco and cigarettes and, at the same time, increase the sales tax on those articles. Under existing conditions black marketing in tobacco and cigarettes is rife. The .people who gain most advantage from the present restrictions are the “ blacketeers “. I understand that sufficient supplies of tobacco are available to meet the needs of the community as a whole.
The time is also opportune to lift the restrictions upon the installation of telephones in business premises and private homes. I fail to understand the reason for this restriction. Similarly, many of the present building restrictions could be lifted without impairing our war effort.
With regard to post-war reconstruction, I urge the Government to pass a right-‘to-work bill in order to provide against the recurrence of unemployment as wc knew it in Australia prior to the outbreak of war. Under such a scheme every person who wished to work would be required to register, and upon registering would be guaranteed employment, whilst persons who preferred to work for themselves without entering the labour market need not be required to register. Should we again experience adverse economic conditions, preference of employment would be given to all persons registered.
– Without indulging in undue repetition, I should like to commend the very generous words of welcome to our Royal Governor-General which have been expressed by honorable members on all sides of the House. Some of the remarks made by honorable members opposite on this point have indeed been a revelation. The speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in this debate was in the very best Imperial tradition. I hope that that speech was not only genuine - and I believe that it was - but also that the sentiments he expressed will be lasting, and are sincerely endorsed by his supporters. However, only a few minutes ago we were provided with evidence that such sentiments are not completely endorsed by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan ) gave us reason to doubt whether the Prime Minister was in fact voicing the sentiments of all his supporters when he applauded the appointment of a member of the Royal Family as GovernorGeneral of Australia.
Much has been said regarding the use being made of Australia’s fighting forces. At this late stage of the debate it is difficult to say anything novel or original on that point. I have had personal contact with many soldiers who have become weary of sitting down in camps in Australia when they know that their brothers, friends and comrades are rotting in Japanese hands. Despite the resentment which might be expressed in some quarters, the sincerity of which I doubt, regarding the expression “ mopping up “, I know that many servicemen really feel that instead of being restricted to operations of the kind upon which Australia’s fighting men are now engaged, they should be employed in more aggressive tasks on more important fronts.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the expansion of our overseas representation. I freely commend the Government for the manner in which it has endeavoured to increase the knowledge of Australia in other lands and the knowledge of other lands in Australia, for this is what results from the exchange of diplomatic representatives. I firmly believe that Australia should be effectively represented abroad because I believe in the value of personal contacts. When I was Minister for Commerce in 1934, I had the great privilege of extending Australian commercial representation overseas. Later, when I held the portfolio of External Affairs, it was my privilege also to extend, to some degree, the diplomatic representation of this country abroad. I congratulate the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the excellent manner in which he has been able to put Australia on the world map. Without doubt, the outstanding lesson of this war is that no nation can live unto itself. Revolutionary changes in transport and communications have caused countries which formerly were remote from us to become, in many senses, contiguous. A clear indication of present trends is to be seen in the statement of the President of the United States of
America, at his recent inauguration ceremony, fiat the isolationist policy in America must go.
The spirit of international cooperation has found effective expression in many countries during the war. The lend-lease procedure under which America, even before it entered the war,, was able to render great material assistance to the United Nations, is an expression of this spirit. That system provides, of course, for the pooling of all material resources, and for full co-operation by the participating nations. Any such system, to be effective, must be allembracing. It cannot stop short of the readiness to pool and share resources.
Articles 4 and 5 of the Atlantic Charter are also an expression of willingness to apply the policy of international co-operation. These paragraphs provide that the signatories -
Fourth - will endeavour, with respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victorious or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which ave needed for their economic prosperity.
Fifth - desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security.
Those words give evidence of advanced thought in the field of international cooperation.
This spirit is evidenced and expressed also in the establishment of Unrra, the eastern section of which met in conference recently in Australia. The whole spirit and objective of Unrra is that the more fortunate nations, which may have a. surplus or even an adequacy of the necessaries of life in their larder, should share them with other nations which are not so fortunate. All this is evidence of the growing spirit of international cooperation. Because of this, it is essential that Australia should be appropriately represented in all international councils. We have often, and rightly, been accused of a degree of niggardliness in our representation. When I had the privilege of representing Australia at the 1935 International Labour Conference I had three other representatives with me.
At that conference Japan had 39 representatives, America 28, and Great Britain between 50 and 60. I am glad that the Minister for External Affairs, and his colleagues, are providing a more adequate representation of Australia at future international gatherings.
But although Australia will share in the benefits of world co-operation of the nature to which I have referred, it has tasks to which it must apply itself in the domestic sphere, in respect of which it will have no right to depend on external influences. Our voice in international councils will be the more effective, and will be the more readily listened to, if we demonstrate our ability as a nation to deal appropriately with our own affairs.
The Speech of the Governor-General quite rightly referred to the greatness of our war effort. Mention is made of the fact that as we are a relatively small community of about 7,000,000 people, our war effort has been rather remarkable. I agree with that statement, but I am not prepared to say that our war effort could not have been much better or that we could not have used our limited supplies of men, money and material to greater advantage.
The time is overdue for a re-survey of our man-power resources. I consider that we have in the services to-day a surplus of personnel in certain categories which could be made available to assist in the discharge of the ordinary civilian work of the day. I have in mind, in particular, medical practitioners. We all are well aware that doctors serving civilian needs in these days are finding it extremely difficult to meet the demands that are being made upon them, yet many medical men in the forces are doing routine work which could be done by men without professional qualifications. “We all are well aware, also, that our hospitals, particularly mental institutions, have been practically denuded of female nursing staff because the shortage of nurses in other branches of the profession has been such as to attract very many girls who formerly worked in mental hospitals to other classes of nursing work. They have, in short, been able to choose more desirable jobs. I have little doubt that, like myself, other honorable members have been informed, on good authority, that many nursing sisters in the services are not fully occupied in these days.
The same story can be told in relation to rural work and the building trades. Many men who were co-opted to the forces are being kept there, although it cannot honestly be claimed that their services are being used to the best advantage. I do not intend to recapitulate the sorry story of unjustifiable strikes that have occurred in many fields of industry. I do not consider that I am doing the Government an injustice when I contend that a not inconsiderable proportion of the industrial trouble of this country has been due to the manner in which the Government has been prepared te appease and even offer bribes to those responsible for the industrial chaos and anarchy. The classic instance that gives point to my statement is the offer of a Commonwealth-wide pension scheme made by the Prime Minister to the miners’ federation. I have endeavoured, by questions, to ascertain from the Prime Minister, and also from the Minister for the Army while he was Acting Prime Minister, the nature of the undertaking given to the miners’ officers in respect of a pensions scheme. My effort was in vain; all that. I received was an ambiguous reply. Therefore, we are bound to assume that the Prime Minister promised to transfer to the Commonwealth the system of miners’ pensions that has been operating in. New South Wales for the last couple of years. It is also fair to assume that nothing less generous than that scheme will be acceptable to the miners and their representatives. We know that that scheme has broken down completely. The Government Actuary of New South Wales has reported that the fund was insolvent by an amount of no less than £10,000,000. As we are the custodians of the money of Commonwealth taxpayers, it might be as well for us to study the implications of that scheme. It was introduced as late as 1940 - a war-time measure, another act of appeasement by the Labour Government of New South Wales. The act stipulated that coal-miners must retire from engagement in their industry at the age of 60 years, and that they would then be entitled to pensions at the rate of £2 a week for themselves, £1 a week for their wives, and Ss. 6d. a week for each child. Whilst not intrinsically generous, those payments are extremely liberal if judged by Australian standards of pensions which apply to every other section of the community. For these benefits, the miners were required to make a weekly contribution of 2s. 6d. A levy of 5d. a ton on all coal produced was imposed on the proprietors, and the New South Wales Treasury was placed under the obligation of providing up to £80,000 a year. But generous as were the pensions set out in the original act, a little more political pressure was exerted in 1942 and the legislature of New South Wales passed an amending bill, a copy of which I hold in my hand. When I make known some of the amendments which it made to the already generous pensions statute, no one will be surprised at the recent report of the Government Actuary. One of the amendments provided that the widow of a miner who had been widowed since 1921 should be entitled to draw 30s. a week for the remainder of her life. Even though her husband might have died in 1922, she still would be entitled to the full pension. The amending measure further provided that certain miners who had been incapacitated since 1920, twenty years before the scheme came into being, could claim the full pension. The act of 1940 stipulated that a miner must have had service in a mine or mines for a certain number of years before he would become entitled to the pension. In 1942, that was liberalized to provide that any man who, during the twelve months prior to the introduction of the measure, had worked for 60 days in and about a coal mine, would be entitled to the full benefits of the scheme. As those miners who continue at their employment work on only five days a week, they would become entitled to a pension of £2 a week for the remainder of their lives after twelve weeks’ work, involving an aggregate contribution of £1 10s.; and their wives would be entitled to £1 5s. a week instead of the original £1 a week, because in 1942 the act was liberalized to provide that the wives of miners who had retired because of having reached the age of 60 years should receive £1 5s. a week.
The discrimination against the wives of some miners which that involved was too much for the (political administrators in New South Wales to withstand, with the result that to-day the wife of every retired miner is being paid £1 5s. a week, many of them quite illegally. These are the circumstances that have been responsible for a catastrophic financial deficiency in the miners’ pension scheme in New South Wales. We have the right to learn from the Prime Minister whether or not that is the scheme of pensions which he promised to the miners, and withdrew only because they had failed to fulfil the promise which they had made to him. If that is not the scheme, what was promised? The New South Wales scheme is contributory. The policy of the Commonwealth Government, oft-times expressed by the Prime Minister and other Ministers, is opposed to contributory schemes of insurance and pensions. Is it intended that the benefits which now operate in respect of the coal- . miners of New South Wales shall be given to coal-miners throughout Australia, without imposing on them the obligation to make any contribution? If so, one may ask whether railwaymen, Commonwealth and State public servants, and the school teachers of the various States, are to share in an equally generous “ hand-out “ by the Commonwealth Treasury. If they are not, is this to be a special concession to the small mining section?
– It is to be a reward for striking, and impeding the war effort.
– Obviously. This brings us to a considera-‘ tion of the Government’s general social services policy, to which lengthy reference has been made in the Governor-General’s Speech. I propose to link my remarks not only with that Speech, but also with a more recent speech by the Treasurer. Only a few days ago. we were regaled with what that honorable gentleman would probably describe as “ a sad and sorry story “ - paraphrasing a remark which he made recently in regard to the conditions in the coal-mining industry. It is a sorry story, which gives very little comfort to those taxpayers ‘ who have fondly imagined that, with the removal of the stress of war and the return of peace, there will be an appreciable diminution of their income tax. The Treasurer stated that by 1945 the whole of the existing tax collections would bc insufficient to meet the obligations on the Treasury in that year, very largely because of the growing burden of social services, which had to rely upon the Treasury for financial aid. What a terrible picture that is, when contrasted with the circumstances of British social services policy ! I hold in my hand the White Paper which sets out the. intention of the British Government in respect of the social services that are to be enjoyed by the people of Great Britain as soon as the war clouds have passed. They are to be on a contributory basis. Whereas the Commonwealth Treasurer has issued ii direful forecast of the state of the Australian exchequer in a year or two, because of the outgoings on social services and the like, it is extremely interesting to note that, at the end of December, 1.943, the health insurance scheme in. Great Britain had to its credit no less than £152,000,000.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim that the benefits under that scheme are comparable with the social services legislation of this Government ?
– I am glad that the honorable member for Brisbane has invited me to make that comparison. At the same date, the unemployment insurance -fund had a credit balance of £300,000,000, which is being augmented at the rate of £75,000,000 a year. Therefore, those two funds must now have a credit balance of approximately £600,000,000. That money is helping to prosecute the war. The Treasurer warned the Labour caucus that, far from helping the war effort, the policy of social services in Australia was making serious inroads on the ability of the Government to finance its war-time obligations. The honorable member for Brisbane has suggested that the insurance schemes in Great Britain are not comparable with what is here proposed. I am able to give both the contributions and the benefits proposed in the British White Paper. I have already stated that the coal-miners of New South Wales are required to make a weekly contribution of 2s. 6d. That is to be increased immediately to 3s. 6d. a week, to help to overcome some of the deficiency in the fund; and the contribution by the proprietors is to be increased from 5d. to 7d. a ton.
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that that is a State scheme.
– The Prime Minister has promised a Commonwealthwide scheme. We have endeavoured to ascertain whether or not the existing scheme is to be made Commonwealthwide, but have been unable to obtain any information on that point. Knowing as I do the Prime Minister and the coal-miners, I do not believe that anything less generous than the present scheme will be acceptable to the federation; consequently, I regard it as the minimum that is likely to be provided. In Great Britain, the contribution by the beneficiary from this form of social service is to be 3s. lOd. a week.’ The scheme is not to be confined to miners, but is to be open to every member of the British community, without restriction. It is time we began to introduce something of the kind in connexion with our social services, which are disgraced by the application of the means test. Only this week, I had before me a letter from a widow who lives at Northmead, near Parramatta. She owns a broken-down weatherboard corner shop, from the letting of which she receives a rent of 17s. 6d. a week. She pays £7 or £8 a year in rates, and periodically has to effect repairs to the property; consequently the net amount which she receives is no more than 12s. or 13s. a week. But because the property is valued at £425, her application for a widow’s pension has been rejected. It had to be; legislation enacted by this Parliament lays that compulsion on the Commissioner of Pensions. If she did not own this property, acquired as the result of herself and her husband having practised thrift, she would be entitled to a pension of £1 7s. a week.
I revert to the proposals of the British Government. The contribution by a male adult is to be 3s. lOd. a week. This is to be supplemented by a contribution of 3s. Id. a week by the employer. A female beneficiary will have to contribute 3s. a week. The male adult rate is not very much more than the coalminers of New South Wales will be required to pay as soon as the Minister for Mines in that State can have the necessary legislation passed.
What are the comparable benefits? People who pay 3s. lOd. a week in Great Britain will get an old-age pension, though certainly not on the same scale as in Australia. The pension for a single man is £1 4s. a week, and for a mau and his wife £1 15s. a week. The male beneficiary pays 4d. a week more than the miner in New South Wales, and he gets a retiring pension of £2 a week as compared with the £3 10s. a week paid to the miners, but whereas the retiring pension is the only benefit which is derived by the miner in New South Wales, the 3s. lOd. contributed in Great Britain will carry sickness benefit amounting to £1 4s. a week in the case of a single man, and £2 a week in the case of a married man, in addition to the invalid pension of £1 a week which is payable to both single and married men. There is also a maternity grant of £4 a week, and a pre-natal allowance to married women of 36s. a week for thirteen weeks. The payment of 3s. lOd. a week by a male beneficiary will also entitle his widow to a pension of £1 16s. a week, and 5s. a week for the first child for the first thirteen weeks. Further, there is a funeral grant of £20 for adults, and grants varying from £6 to £15 for children. The children are entitled to have meals and milk provided for them in the schools. The scheme provides for family allowances at the rate of 5s. a week for all children after the first, and 12s. a week is allowed for orphans. All of those benefits will be given not merely if the Treasury has sufficient funds, but because’ the money will have been contributed and will be available when it is required. There will be no experience similar to that in Australia in 1931, when the government of the day most unwillingly had to reduce the invalid and old-age pensions.
– Does not the British Treasury also have to provide £356,000,000 a year from Consolidated Revenue ?
– The simple fact is that, instead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer suffering a headache because of having to provide the necessary funds, the contributions by the beneficiaries help him appreciably in the onerous task of supplying the money required to carry on the functions of war-time government. That is not the only direction in which the financial policy of the Commonwealth might be adjusted in order to provide more adequately than at present for the whole of the money resources of the country to be made available for the conduct of the war.
To-day, with heavy Commonwealth deficits, we have the spectacle of the State Treasuries bursting with resources. I cannot speak in detail regarding the conditions in States, other than New South Wales, but the last budget presented by the Premier of New South Wales, who is also the Treasurer of that State, indicated a surplus of about £1,000,000. He did not say that the surplus likely to be realized would be nearer £10,000,000, although it has been pointed out authoritatively that the Railways Department of New South Wales has set aside £3,000,000 as a reserve for future replacements. Those railways have shown a surplus of £1,000,000, and £630,000 has been expended on capital works which would normally be paid for out of loan funds instead of out of consolidated revenue. Other public works have been provided for by the State Treasurer to the cost of about £3,000,000, and the money has been obtained from the State’s booming revenues. This is due to the fact that the Treasuries of the States, as the result of the Commonwealth income tax reimbursement legislation are receiving, for the currency of the war and one year afterwards, the full income tax which they had been collecting in the pre-war years when they had obligations which they no longer possess. [ Extension of time granted.]
The Government of New South Wales is to-day receiving, in substitution for its own collections of income tax, the full income tax which it collected in 1938-39, when it had social obligations which it no longer has. Payments in respect of child endowment, widows’ pensions and unemployment relief, totalling about £6,000,000, were being met by the State Treasurer in the base year which was adopted in arriving at the reimbursement rights of the States under that measure. It is not surprising that today the State revenues are booming. That legislation provided that, in the event of prejudicial influences upon the State Treasuries, they would have the right to ask the Commonwealth for an increase of their financial allotment, but there is no provision permitting the Commonwealth Treasurer to re-open the matter. I am sorry the Commonwealth Treasurer did not take the advice tendered by the Opposition, which urged that the legislation should provide for a reciprocal right. Then it would have been competent for him to have required State Treasurers to hand surplus moneys back to the Commonwealth Treasury, which is carrying the full burden of the war.
A considerable amount of wasteful expenditure occurs in war-time. I am not so simple as to believe that £500,000,000 or £600,000,000 could be expended annually without leakages. I realize that there must be losses, because in these days of bursting war-chests the same degree of care which would be exercised in peace-time is not taken, particularly by those who have newly come into control of Commonwealth moneys. However, this does not justify some oases of wanton waste. I have a letterbefore me which illustrates my point. It is from the town clerk of the municipality of Holroyd, near Parramatta. It states -
I am directed to bring under your notice the matter of the dismantling of the military camp as Prospect (erected for the use of United States of America troops) and the removing of materials to a camp at Schofields, and to request that you be so good as to have the matter investigated, as the council considers that the work being carried out is a scandalous waste of money and that the camp could have been made use of for the British forces.
The electrical installation alone for the camp, which was carried outbv the council for the Allied Works Council,cost£ 3,281 9s. 4d., and in addition there were some miles of roads constructed and a large number of kitchens erected. From observations of the condition of the material after dismantling, it is considered that a large portion of it will not be fit to be used in any other project, and the council feels that the matter should be probed with a view to ascertaining whether or not public moneys have been wantonly expended in the matter.
That camp was never used at all, yet a new camp is being built and some of the materials are being taken from the Prospect camp, so that they may be used at a camp elsewhere.
– On whose recommendation ?
– I do not know, but I strongly suspect that this is being done at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. I draw the attention of the House to this authenticated case. The council concerned did the contract work in connexion with the roads and installations.
I was pleased to hear the reference by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) to the Glen Davis project. He advised that the Government should enlist the aid of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in order to convert the Glen Davis venture from a losing to a paying proposition. I remember that, not many years ago, when members of the party now in power were the Opposition, they declared that the failure at Glen Davis was due to the political control exercised by the government of the day. I agree that all advice and assistance available to the Government should ‘be utilized, so that that project, which is vital to the civil life of the community, should be placed on a satisfactory basis. Other matters of serious moment have been referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, but, as legislative proposals in respect of them are forecast, we shall have an opportunity later to discuss them.
.- The Speech of His Royal Highness was a wellconsidered review of Australian affairs, and also gave a forecast of the Government’s plans for the immediate future and for the post-war years. No well-based exception could be taken to any item in the ‘Speech. I join with His Royal Highness in paying a tribute to our valorous fighting men on land, on the sea, and in the air. These young men, like those of other nations, were drawn into a conflict which was none of their making. They have acquitted themselves nobly, and, by their great sacrifices, we in this country have been able to carry on our ordinary way of life; such changes as have been imposed on us are slight, in comparison with what has been endured by people of other countries engaged in the conflict.
I join with other honorable members in welcoming to Australia Their Royal Highnesses - the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. His Majesty the King has honoured us by appointing the Duke of Gloucester as Governor-General of this country, and I am confident that the appointment will prove to be one of gi-eat historical importance. I hope that the Duke and Duchess and their family will have a, very happy time here, and I am confident that, when they return to Great Britain, they will, like many of their predecessors, become ambassadors of goodwill for Australia.
I pay a well-deserved tribute to our Allies in this war, and to our Mother Country, Great Britain. The leadership of Great Britain has been inspiring. When I was there nearly two years ago, I saw for myself the scars which war had left on that historic land. I saw something of what the people had endured, and even while I was there I saw what they had to put up with in the way of air raids. We in this country can be proud of the stock from which we have sprung.
Doubts have been expressed during this debate as to whether the peace settlement at the conclusion of the war will be a just one. I have no fears in that respect. I am sure that our great ally, Russia, is not seeking to grasp anything to which it is not entitled. The sacrifices which Russia has made in this war have not been exceeded by any other country fighting on our side. The history of the last twenty yea rs shows that there is solid ground for believing that whatever undertakings are given by Russia will be honoured in full. As for the United States of America, that great democracy of the new world, we need not fear that it will be rapacious when the peace settlement is being framed. All the gestures of the United States of America in the course of this war have been co-operative. Indeed, it has set a new standard of co-operation by instituting the system of lend-lease, by which a helping hand was extended to all
Mr. Wilson the Allies engaged in this struggle for civilization. There is much to be said for a continuation, at least in principle, of the system of lend-lease after the war in order to assist in the work of reconstruction, and to bring about a better system of trade and exchange between the nations of the world. There are great possibilities inherent in this principle, which was inaugurated by the United States of America, and expressed in the various lend-lease agreements.
The co-operation between the Allies has set a standard which governments and Parliaments throughout the whole world might with ‘ advantage seek to attain. When I witness the wrangling which occurs in our own Parliament between the various political parties I feel that it is to be deplored, particularly in time of war. For my part, I have always given credit where credit was due; that has been my attitude to all governments and this might well be done at this time by honorable members on both sides of the House. I deplore the tirades which are delivered purely for political gain, and to discredit an opposing political party. I look back ‘to the early stages of the war, when the party which is now in power was in Opposition, and I have this to say: The co-operation then given by the Opposition party compares more than favorably with that received by the present Government from the present Opposition.
When the war is over we shall have a splendid opportunity to develop Australia and to make of it a better country in which to live than it has been in the past. We shall have an opportunity to be realists, to sweep aside all considerations which impede development. I hope that we shall never again hear the cry, “Where is the money to come from?” I hope that we shall never again hear that the country cannot afford to bring migrants here, or to give social security to the people. When we remember the immense sums of money that have been found for the carrying on of the war which, economically, has involved nothing but destruction, surely it is within our ability to devise ways and means financially to do those things which are necessary for the development of the country and the economic security of our citizens.
To-day, our entire economy is out of balance because we have had to throw all our resources into the winning of the war. We have had to supply our troops and those of our Allies with goods of all sorts, and as’ a result civilians have had to put up with many inconveniences. We have had to go without a good many things, but if we count our blessings we can still say that we are better off than many of our Allies. We have been scarcely touched by the war itself. We have not had bombs bursting on our capital cities, nor have we experienced the devastation that has been wrought in many European countries. We have not thousands of our women and children crippled and maimed for life by enemy action. It is true that we have had to send forth to fight our battles a very large proportion of our able-bodied men. Considering the smallness of its population, Australia has made a great contribution to the war effort of the Allies. During my travels in other parts of the world two years ago, I found nothing but admiration for what Australia had achieved, and for the men of our fighting forces. Wherever our men went they were admired for their exemplary conduct.
As I have said, our economy is unbalanced, and I regret that, instead of getting the help and co-operation that we might expect from certain sections, they are exploiting existing conditions for political ends. They are pressing on the irritated nerves of those who are suffering inconveniences, and saying that all their troubles are due to government interference. There is much talk of bureaucracy and of bureacrats, as if the existence of the bureaucrats were responsible for the inconveniences which we have to suffer. That is a cheap gibe. The fact is that we have had to organize the country for war, and in thousands of cases powers have had to be delegated. Directional controls of all sorts have had to be assumed. This condition of affairs will pass with the coming of peace, as was explained in the Speech of the Governor-General. But I recommend that, insofar as controls are necessary for the winning of the war, and to prevent the exploitation of the people, we should go carefully; they should be relaxed gradually as economic conditions permit.
As the representative of a country electorate, I have been gravely, exercised in my mind because in country areas there is no prospect of useful employment for young people, no opportunity for providing them with careers. Due to economic conditions, the great capital cities have become industrial centres and the country has been utterly neglected industrially. If existing economic conditions be allowed to continue, this state of affairs will be perpetuated and even accentuated. If we are to have decentralization of industry and redistribution of population - and we must have these reforms - some form of control will be necessary, and we must be prepared to pay the price for what we want. We must make it possible for industries to be established in the country on an equal economic footing with those situated in the large centres of population. Surely we cannot allow a system to continue which denudes the countryside of population and concentrates it in a few large cities around the coast. I hope that ‘ the Government realizes that that policy will not spell safety for Australia. If we are to keep our young people in the country, we must establish industries there.. I believe that this fact is recognized by the Government - at least, I hope so - but it is not sufficient to understand these problems; the Government must show courage, and take what action it considers necessary to correct the position.
Nearly every honorable member who has spoken in this debate has referred to the need for additional population. Various remedies have been suggested. I am not one who believes that by following certain lines of action that have been suggested by some honorable members larger families will result, but the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that marriage loans should be provided does appeal to me. I regard it as a sound and practical proposal. From our own experience in the early years of our married lives and from our contacts with the present generation of young married folk we know that the only obstacle to young couples marrying and rearing children is economic insecurity - their inability to afford to do so. There is no doubt in my mind that if substantial marriage loans and decent housing were provided, the objective which we all believe to be most desirable would be realized.
– The lessons of history contradict everything that the honorable member has said on that subject.
– I disagree with the honorable member. Totalitarian countries have proved that the granting of marriage loans and other incentives has improved the birth-rate and increased their population. I am no admirer of totalitarian governments, but we can learn some lessons from them. That is one lesson that we can learn.
– When I look at the Government -benches, I am inclined to think that we have learned too much from totalitarian countries.
– Many reforms which have been suggested have general acceptance, but we have to ask ourselves whether this Parliament has power to give effect to them. The powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are limited by the Constitution. The State parliaments derive their power from the Crown ; they have unwritten constitutions which have practically no limitations.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– The oracle has spoken again. The powers of this Parliament are limited to those which were transferred to it when the federation was formed. Time after time, when we have wanted to do something for the development of Australia, we have found that our powers are too limited to do so. That fact has ‘been admitted by honorable members on ‘both sides of the chamber. The regrettable fact is that when the party in office asks for additional powers, the party in opposition does its utmost to prevent those powers from being obtained. That is done regardless of the nature of the powers sought. The game of party politics has been played so successfully that every effort towards progress by constitutional alterations has been neutralized.
– Independent members always occupy uneasy seats on the fence.
– The House can afford to disregard the interjections of the honorable member for Barker, who has a reputation for being a mischievous interjector whom no one takes very seriously. I hope that some administration - preferably the Government now in office - will again seek additional powers. I have always believed in a more unified form of government than now exists; in my opinion, the present division of powers as between Commonwealth and .States is undesirable. I know that it is to the advantage of certain monopolistic interests in this country to play one government off against another. Adopting a policy of “ divide and rule “, they make progress impossible. These people remain on the box seat and prevent movements which would: benefit Australia.
I welcome the proposals for banking reform outlined by His Royal Highness. As honorable members know, I have frequently advocated proposals similar to those which are now before the House. Despite the hue and cry that has been raised by private interests, the fact remains that they are concerned only about their ability to make profits and their control of the monetary system. They know that whoever controls the monetary system of any country practically controls that country’s destiny. I congratulate the Government most heartily on having brought forward its banking proposals, and I believe that what happened on a former occasion, when the Commonwealth Bank was created, will happen again; the hue and cry will di© down, and the people will realize that the legislation has not produced dire results, but, on the contrary, has been instrumental in furthering the progress and welfare of Australia. I see in this proposal a prospect of the effective repatriation and rehabilitation of the men and women of the services.
I am aware that negotiations have been proceeding between the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to land settlement, particularly of men now with the fighting services, and that a tentative agreement had practically been arrived at. I am glad to note that the Government hopes to avoid some of the errors which were made after the last war in connexion with land settlement schemes. I am pleased that it is proposed not only to settle servicemen in suitable areas, but also to prepare the land until it has been brought to the stage of production. When that stage has been reached there is to be a revaluation of the holding; the Commonwealth and State Governments will write off any excess valuation, and will share the losses. That is a good start, and should do much to ensure success for the men who will settle on the land. I hope that the scheme which has been outlined will be proceeded with. Indeed, I am concerned that greater progress has not already been made, because numbers of men have been discharged from the services and desire to settle on the land. It would appear that little, if anything, has been done, to acquire land and prepare it for settlement by servicemen. 1 hope that this work will be accelerated, and that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) will co-operate in this matter, and will approach the States with a view to the preparations being expedited.
There is a general outcry throughout the country because of the great shortage of houses. The situation is most pronounced in the metropolitan districts. I sympathize with those who cannot get homes and are forced to live in cramped quarters, particularly young couples who cannot start their married life in a home of their own but are compelled by circumstances to live with parents or friends. I do not feel called upon to take the Government to task for not making men and materials available for building bouses, because I know only too well how difficult is the situation confronting the Government. In my opinion, it would be helpful if all honorable members were to tell the people the truth, namely, that the demands of the war are so great that labour and materials cannot be spared for home-building. When we consider the demands being made on our resources by the presence in Australia of units of the British Navy and other armed forces of Great Britain; when we remember that our commitments in this connexion amount to £21,000,000 for the current year; when we reflect that thousands of men. have been again called up for service with the Civil Constructional Corps, surely we will not say that these commitments to the British authorities should not have been entered into, and should be repudiated? Unfortunately, instead of telling the people the truth, there are some people who try to make political capital out of the Government’s difficulties when it is trying to do the right thing.
I have been wondering what the Government proposes to do with many of the factories which it has acquired during the war. I hope that it will not hand them over to private enterprise at bargain sale prices. In the services are many thousands of men who have come from all trades and professions. I suggest that some of these factories should bi: handed over to groups of returned servicemen, to be conducted by them on a co-operative basis. That would be one way to repatriate and establish them in the post-war world. Some of the men will settle on the land, and others will find employment in industry as workers, because they will choose to do so. Again, others will be ambitious, and we should do everything in our power to help them. Rather than hand over these factories at bargain prices to private enterprise, we should endeavour to enlist the support of the State governments so as to operate the factories on a co-operative basis of Commonwealth and State ownership. Many avenues can be explored, and I hope that the Government will examine all of them for the purpose of deciding the best course to adopt in the circumstances. Figures which were released recently indicate that only a very small proportion of servicemen have availed themselves of vocational training. Indeed, the number is -so remarkably small that I am led to wonder whether some limit has been imposed, or whether the Government is unable to accept more trainees. If that be the case, steps should be taken immediately to increase the opportunities for giving training to much larger numbers of servicemen. As I had hoped that, by this time, 10,000 men would be trained in trades and professions, I was most disappointed to learn that the number was only a little more than 1,000. This figure should be “ stepped up “ without delay, and every effort should be made to teach servicemen trades and professions. By that means, we shall be able to repay a debt which we owe to our servicemen. I have in mind particularly the young men who had not been trained in civil occupations prior to their enlistment. They should be taught a trade or profession before we lose hold of them. They should be equipped to perform some useful and skilful occupation, instead of being condemned to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Since the outbreak of war, Australian workmen have constructed a number of vessels. Having seen some of them in various States, I know that they are a credit to the men who built them. The 9,000-ton vessels, which are adapted for the overseas trade, are fine ships. Smaller vessels of various types have also been built. Later, I may ask a question for the purpose of ascertaining how many ships have been constructed in this country since the outbreak of war. The important fact is that the shipbuilding industry has been re-established here. Pounded during the last war, the industry continued for a short period after 1918, but was sabotaged, and the ships were sold or given away. In that manner the shipbuilding industry in Australia was destroyed. I sincerely hope that during the next few years the Commonwealth Government will avoid a repetition of that disastrous policy. I propose lo read to the House extracts from a pamphlet relating the history of the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and its demise after the last war. From this short review, honorable members will learn some facts which will bring home to them a valuable lesson. The shipping nf any nation is an indication of its strength in peace or war. [Extension of time granted.] The wonderful advancement of British shipping was the foundation for the greatness of the
British Empire. If we desire to safeguard our future, we must recognize the soundness and wisdom of the policy of developing shipbuilding, and carrying to all parts of the world not only our own produce but also the goods of other countries. If we are ever again threatened with invasion, and I regret that we cannot dismiss that possibility, our position will be greatly strengthened by our possessing a large fleet of ships. To-day, one of the great difficulties of the Allies arises from the shortage of shipping. Transport by sea will never be replaced by any other form of transport. It will always be the cheapest method of carrying bulk goods. What happened to the Australian shipping line after the last war is related in the pamphlet to which I referred -
If the exploitation of shippers had been intense before the war it was now unbearable. Soon after war broke out, the shipping companies humped up freight rates from £2 la. 6d. a ton to £5 5s. a ton, notwithstanding the fact that the Imperial Government had shouldered the burden of war risk. In May, 191.6, one member of Parliament told honorable members that : “ Owing to the enormous increase in freights the returns from’ one short voyage had been sufficient to cover the cost of a vessel previous to the war, and a vessel valued at £7,000 ‘before the war now sold for £47,000.” One typical example of piracy on the high seas was quoted : “ While the value of the cargo (maize) was .£18.220, the freight was £50,443, or 200 per cent, ‘higher than the value of the cargo.” (Barnard, Vol. 88, page 1.1,008.) The freight on wheat rose from £1 5s. a ton to £1 10s. per ton to £15 per ton.
That occurred during the last war. In this war, the rise in rates has not been quite so sharp, but it has been bad enough. Freight on the transport of wheat has risen. In 1940, the freight was approximately £1 15s. a ton. During the next couple of years, the figure rose to £6 15s. a ton. As the British Government is carrying the war risk, there is no justification for such a big increase. The figure has been fixed by the British Ministry of War Transport, an executive body which consists largely of shipping magnates. In Australia, the position has been relieved somewhat through the representations of the present Commonwealth Government, and a reduction of about 15s. a ton has been made, bringing the rate to £6 a ton.
The article continues -
In Britain, Lord Inchcape had formed the “ Shipping Conference “ to keep all British ship-owners in line. In America, Morgan had formed a similar body to unite all steamship companies operating from the United States of America. At a banquet held to celebrate the birth of this trust Morgan is alleged to have said : “ We are the advanced socialists ; we have discovered that combination, not competition, means success in the trade, and we are going to take the profits of combination until the people are sufficiently intelligent to take the profits from us.”
Those words were attributed to a very wise American shipping magnate and millionaire. The article proceeds -
A year and eight months elapsed before the policy foreshadowed in the Governor’s Speech could be put into effect. In June, 1916, W. M. Hughes, who had meanwhile replaced Fisher at the head of the Government, found that there was a fleet of fifteen cargo ships for sale in England. He arranged for an overdraft of £2,000,000 with the Commonwealth Bank and bought the vessels. Those fifteen boats, built between 1906 and 1915, and averaging 3,500 to 4,500 tons apiece, became known as the Austral Line. Bythe end of August, 1917, they had all arrived in Australia and were supplemented by 21 vessels, ranging between 1,000 and6,000 tons, which had been seized or captured from enemy powers.
With this fleet of 36 ships the line operated up to the end of the war, and, in spite of the lower freight rates charged, returned a handsome profit. In October, 1919, Mr. Poynton, in a Budget Speech in Parliament, said that the fleet had carried to and from Australia over 1,000,000 tons of cargo, and in the case of the Austral Line the receipts had exceeded expenditure by £2,121,000, while the net earnings of the ex-enemy vessels from 1914 to 1919 totalled £3,576,901. There was no doubt that the management did take advantage of the high freight rates prevailing to make money, but their average freight for wheat was £6 per ton, whereas private shipping companies were charging £10 to £12 per ton, and sometimes as high as £15 per ton. There were times when profits were sacrificed to national service, as, for instance, when 1 23,000 tons of phosphate were carried to Australia when it was urgently needed. Then again, when the Commonwealth ships could have been carrying cargo in other parts of the world for £15 per ton they were employed carrying cornsacks to Australia at £5 per ton.
The sad experience of theCommonwealth Government with the fourteen wooden ships which it ordered in America and Australia seems to indicate that if there is one thing above all others in which private enterprise is most efficient that is in making a “packet”. Every variety of graft in the calendar of illicit spoils was associated with the construction of these ships. Those delivered from America were little more than floating coffins and had to begiven away or scrapped. The Australian contract was eventually cancelled.
The whole transaction involved the Government in heavy losses.
Quite different was the experience with Government ship-building, which offers a most favorable contrast. These activities were undertaken at Williamstown, Victoria; Walsh Island and Cockatoo Island, New South Wales; Maryborough, Queensland; and at Port Adelaide, South Australia. From 1919 onwards the “ D “ and “ E “ class vessels were coming off the slips. These were ships of 3,300 to 3,350 tons, and altogether about twenty were built. The shipping experts agreed that no better ships were built anywhere in the world. And as for the Government stroke, it must have been a strong one and a shrewd one, for the construction costs were £30 per ton, compared with £36 prevailing in private yards during the war. (Hansard, Vol. 100, p. 1969.)
That gives the lie to statements that Government controlled undertakings are not able to produce goods so cheaply as private enterprise can. The article continues -
Ship-building developed into a thriving industry in Australia, subsequent to the founding of the Commonwealth Line. In 1921, there were 3,000 men directly engaged in repairs and construction. At one stage during the war the number reached 5,000. In 1923, it is estimated that the total numberof seamen, mechanics, ship-builders and their families dependant on the Commonwealth Line was 15,000.
During the war the monopoly had been preoccupied in other lucrative fields, and had not been able to do much about its young Australian competitor. But after the war, when the Commonwealth Line continued as a thorn in its side, the “ Shipping Conference “ got down to the serious business of bringing about its elimination.
Three main methods of warfare were decided upon : -
The deferred rebate system. Under this scheme shippers had to sign a declaration periodically to the effect that they had not shipped any cargo on vessels not controlled by the “ Conference “. If they had, then they would forfeit their rebates. When the Victorian Government on one occasion booked space on a Commonwealth ship, the “ Shipping Conference” refused to pay them rebates on all goods shipped in its own vessels for the previous six months. The Commonwealth Line had to reimburse the Victorian Government for its losses.
A campaign against the Fleet in the columns of the daily press. Skilfully written articles were to be inserted appealing to the prejudices of different sections of the community and building up hostility towards the Line. These took the following form: -
Articles making out that the Fleet was making huge profits at the expense of primary producers.
Articles “proving” that the Line was running at a ruinous loss.
Articles “exposing” the fact that the Commonwealth Line was in secret agreement with the overseas monopolists to keep up freights. (d) Articles condemning the Line for entering into unfair competition with private shipping and thus preventing “ sane trading “. It mattered little that these arguments were self -contradictory, the “ Conference “, no doubt, anticipated Hitler in believing that the greater the lie the greater the prospects of getting it accepted.
The third method of warfare against the Fleet was to get members of Parliament who were “ sympathetic “ towards the “ Conference “ to press for its employment in places whereit would not only be removed from competitionwith the Monopoly, but in addition would operate at a heavy loss.
At the latter end of 1921 Lord Inchcape cabled an offer to the Government to either purchase the Commonwealth ships on behalf of the “ Conference “ or to sell the combine’s own ships engaged in the Australian trade to the Commonwealth Line. This offer was debated in Parliament and turned down. Up to that time the propaganda of the monopolists had apparently had little effect. The President of the Sydney Chamber of Commerceeulogized the Fleet and referred to the debt of gratitude owing to it by all business men. A Farmers’ Conference, then in session, instructed country representatives in Parliament to object to any sale.
Fifteen months later, in February, 1923, the Bruce-Page Ministry came intooffice. The interests represented in this Government were closely interwoven with English banking, shipping, and insurance companies. Things looked brighter for Lord Inchcape and Co. Bruce had barely dusted the Treasury Bench with the seat of his Savile Row trousers before he announced, “he did not think that what had been done by the Commonwealth Line justified its continuation as a Government venture “. Soon afterwards he produced a financial statement purporting to outline the situation of the Fleet. Long association with the importing and warehousing concern of Paterson, Laing and Bruce had taught him how to manipulate price tickets, and the urbane Mr. Bruce had no trouble in converting an actual gain of £2 million into a bookkeeping loss of £3 million, to impress the bovine back-benchers and the loobies in the lobby. He followed this up with a Bill “ to remove the Fleet from Parliamentary control “. Under this measure both the Fleet and the Dockyards were handed over to a Commonwealth Shipping Board, which had power to dispose of any of its assets, subject only to the approval of the Treasurer, S. M. (“Spats”) Bruce.
In return for the property received, the CommonwealthShipping Board was obliged to issue debentures to Bruce for £4¾ million, bearing interest at 5%. This meant that Bruce, as Treasurer, virtuallyacquired a mortgage over the Line, which could be foreclosed at any time in the event of the Board defaulting on its interest payments.
Lord Inchcape rubbed his hands and chuckled with senile glee. To pay the interest bill on its debentures the Board would have to raise freight rates, which would bring it into line with the Monopoly. If it failed to do this and defaulted on its obligations, Bruce would seize the Line and sell it up. To make doubly sure that the Line could not carry on, it was saddled with a highly paid and superfluous executive and subjected to crushing taxation. The ships began to be sold. Bruce carried on like a mad floorwalker at a remnant sale. The eleven remaining Austral ships, whose market value was £550,000, were sold up for £248,000. Bruce valued the ex-enemy vessels at £197,000. The British Government valued them at £337,000. He finished up paying the British Government something like £310,000 to gain a clear title to these ships, which were then sold for what they would fetch, mostly scrap iron prices. The “D” boats, which cost £271,000 to build, were sold for £84,000, and the “E” boats, which cost £2,600,000, were given away for £380,500. By the beginning of 1927 all that was left of the once proud Commonwealth Fleet were the five “ Bay “ liners andthe two “Dale” boats. These seven ships were the” pick of the Fleet and even Bruce dare not sell them out of hand.
The tactic of setting up a Public Accounts Committee, to advise on their retention or disposal, was resorted to. In May, 1927, this Committee reported - “Not only has the Commonwealth Line been responsible for actual reductions in freight, but the presence of the Line has
Exercised a material restraining influence against proposed increases. The Committee, therefore, recommends that in the interests of Australia the Line be continued”.
This of course, was just the opposite to what Bruce wanted. He then fell back on the method of tendering evidence in camera, a device often used by employers in the Arbitration Court, when some particular judge finds their arguments in favour of wage reductions a little abstruse. The Chairman and four other Bruce-Page appointees to the Board were called on to interview the Public Accounts Committee behind closed doors. Nobody knows what transpired at this stage, only the people concerned. But the upshot was that in November, 1927, the Committee reversed its previous finding and urged that the Line be disposed of. Bruce announced that he would sell what was left to the “Shipping Conference”. [ Further extension of time granted.] I am particularly anxious to have this placed on record because I believe that a warning should be issued to the people of Australia against a repetition of the grave mistake of disposing of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. We should not dispose of the ships we have now constructed in Australia, nor should we cease building ships in this country.
It would be an absolute tragedy for Australia if the sort of thing to which I am referring were allowed to recur.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– From a pamphlet entitled Government Enterprise in Australia, a copy of which I believe has been made available to every honorable member. The pamphlet continues -
The cost of construction of the seven ships had been £7,527,504. Allowing a very generous 33 per cent. for depreciation, their value in 1927 would not be less than £5,018,336. In real fire salvage bargain style Bruce disposed of them for £1,900,000, to be paid off in instalments. It was not even a lay-by transaction. The ships went overseas, to augment the tonnage of the “ Conference but all that Australia received was the first instalment of £580,000. Lord Kylsant, who handled the business for the “ Conference “, very conveniently went bankrupt, and Australia now has neither ships nor money.
I urge the Government to continue ship-building, and to constitute the ships that we have already built in the name of, and for, the Commonwealth into another Commonwealth Line of Steamers. It should augment that fleet by constructing improved ships in its own yards. A government-owned and controlled line of vessels is required to enable Australia to enter the carrying trade. By such a policy we shall strengthen ourselves as a nation, and do much in the interest of our own defence in the future.
I trust that the Government will continue its policy of stabilized prices for primary products. As a representative of the primary producers, I realize that that policy presents the only safe line of action for the future. I hope that we in this country shall never be obliged again to rely upon the fluctuations and vagaries ofoverseas prices which are manipulated by certain interests. The Government should continue its policy of guaranteed prices for all primary products, particularly dairy products, wheat and wool. With regard to wool, I hope that the Government will never revert to the auctioning system which lent itself to all sorts of abuses. To-day, we have in operation a system which is developing towards protection, so far as classification and selling are concerned. The Government should continue that scheme.
Reference has been made to what has been described by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) as the “ wheat steal “. Naturally, I do not agree with the views expressed by the honorable member and those who support him in his contention. In fact, I was the first honorable member in this House to ask for an assurance from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that whatever the difference might be between the concessional price for stock feed and the average price of wheat for home consumption and export, it would be made good to the farmer. I received that assurance, and I have rested on it ever since. It has been repeated to other honorable members, and I know that the Government will honour it. Therefore, I refuse to join in any party political propaganda on this matter designed to mislead the farmers and to turn them against the policy of the Government. But I am not entirely satisfied with the present price which, we are told, is to be paid for next season’s wheat, namely, a first advance of 4s. 3d. a bushel. All the indications point to the probability that the ultimate realizations should exceed 5s. a bushel. Why does not the Government come straight out and give the farmer 5s. a bushel for his wheat at harvest time? The wheat will probably realize that amount, if not more, on the markets of the world. No other section of industry has to wait for payment by instalments in this way in respect of its labour and products. In all other cases, moneys are raised, and cash is paid for work done, or for goods produced. I emphasize that if the Government wants to remove the cause of dissatisfaction which now exists among the wheat-growers, it should courageously announce that it will pay 5s. a bushel cash for wheat at the sidings next year, because it believes that the wheat will realize that price, and, therefore, the pool will not lose on the transaction. But even should the ultimate realization be less than 5s. a bushel, that payment is little enough to the farmer when one considers the increases of his costs of production in recent years, and the fact that he has to pay from one year’s return the cost of carrving on through two years of drought. This places a tremendous strain on his resources. I urge the Government to look carefully into that matter.
I regret that the Government has given no indication whatever that it has any settled policy with regard to migration to this country. Indeed, it does not appear to have even an interim policy. Any attempt to obtain landing permits to-day for persons wanting to come to Australia is met with the statement that the Government’s policy has not been formulated, or that it is not the practice to issue permits. I know of several cases of people who want to come to Australia from the Old Country. They have already obtained exit permits from the United Kingdom and can arrange passageon a cargo ship. These persons are eminently suitable as migrants. They are young, and nearly all of them have fiancees in Australia. However, their applications for permits are bluntly refused. If the Government is unable to determine upon a final policy in this matter it should formulate and announce an interim policy to meet cases of the kind I have mentioned.
In conclusion, I again express my pleasure at the appointment of the King’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, as Governor-General. I congratulate the Government on its banking proposals, which will have my full support. As to other business to be submitted to the House, honorable members know that it is my practice to deal with all submissions on their merits, and I shall continue to do that.
.- I have listened to many of the speeches delivered in this debate. Some of the statements made have been particularly interesting, and some have been upsetting, to me. I wish at the outset to add my words of welcome to those already expressed to Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The honorable member for Parramatta (SirFrederick Stewart) expressed a doubt as to whether the words of welcome to Their Royal Highnesses expressed by the Prime Minister were concurred in by all government supporters. I am not one who is afraid to express his convictions. I have always considered thatwe should have an Australian-born GovernorGeneral. But that does not mean that after an appointment has been made I will not genuinely welcome the person appointed to the office. I trust that Their Royal Highnesses will have a happy and prosperous experience in Australia. I believe that they will leave this country, ultimately, better citizens of the Empire, because they will have learned something of and from the Australian people.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in his speech, referred to what he called the “ mopping-up “ operations in which the Australian troops are engaged in the Pacific. It is to be deplored that any one in the community can talk in that fashion about the work that our men are doing in New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and elsewhere. I have not been to those parts of the Pacific, but I know the tropical conditions of North Queensland very well. I know, also, what that country was like years ago, before so much of its heavy timber and scrub had been removed. Travelling conditions can be extremely difficult in such country, particularly in the wet season. The honorable member for Parramatta said that some of our soldiers to whom he had spoken were not satisfied with the role that had been allotted to them. I also have talked with numbers of our men who have returned to Australia on leave after participating in the present operations. I found them to be most resentful of hearing their essential service described as “ mopping up “. In my opinion, our men are fighting the very cream of the Japanese army, for they were the men who were sent to the front line of battle by Japan and were intended for the invasion of Australia. Those are the men against whom our troops have to fight. A noted Japanese writer, Ishu Maru, stated in his book, Why Japan must Fight Britain, that Japan would have to meet and conquer singly, or, if need be, the combined British and American navies, otherwise it could not expect to succeed in a Pacific war. That writer was a highranking Japanese naval officer. We all know now that disaster for the Japanese commenced in the battles for Guadalcanal, when they began to lose so many of their ships. Nobody seems to know where the
Japanese navy is to-day, but I remember hearing William Winter or another American commentator speaking from San Francisco, suggest the construction of glass-bottomed submarines to take the Japanese leaders into the Pacific Ocean so that they could see where the Japanese navy is.
Our men are to-day doing one of the stiffest jobs that any section of the allied forces has been called upon to undertake. They are engaged in a terrific struggle, and those who speak lightly of their work deserve the utmost condemnation. In the country where they are fighting so valiantly there arc millions of mosquitoes, and all kinds of creeping and crawling creatures. The work our men are doing has to be done, and those who are criticizing them should be ashamed of themselves. Wo all know that the American troops who went to Luzon said that they were very glad to get out of New Guinea and the Solomons because of the difficulties of the terrain and the shocking weather that is so commonly experienced there. General MacArthur and our own commanders know what a good job is being done by our boys. Those who talk lightly of this campaign cannot possibly appreciate the clangers of it. Moreover, it would be a disastrous thing for this country if the Japanese were allowed to remain in the nearby islands for any extended period. We do not desire a community of half-bred Japanese near cur shores. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) told us something of the deplorable standards of the half-bred Japanese in Western Australia. I consider the Japanese are among the worst people in the world. I do not know of one redeeming feature in them. I have held this opinion for many years; it is not a product of the war. The Japanese are a people of extremely low morals. I know very well that in the northern parts of this country many socalled Japanese laundries are merely brothels. The Australian Labour party was not responsible for the coming of these people to Australia. The blame for that rests with the anti-Labour governments in power in Queensland years ago, for they were associated with the blackbirding that the Burns Philp crowd engaged in. It ill becomes gentlemen like the Leader of the Opposition to talk in a derogatory way about the ‘“‘mopping up “ that our men are doing. The Japanese have to be exterminated from the Pacific Islands. No one realizes the necessity for that more than I do. Few, if any, honorable members of this House know what our boys are going through in their present campaign, or how many of them are making the supreme sacrifice. These so-called “ mopping-up “ operations are proving costly in every way. 1 pay tribute to the men. for the wonderful job they are doing in exterminating the Japanese. I shall be happy when the job is done.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made a statement to the effect that if there had been no Russia there would have been no D-day. I say that if there had been no Britain there would have been no Russia. Too much is being said about what Russia has done, aud too little about what Britain has done. I have no desire to detract in any way from the .magnificent work of the Russian armies, but Stalin has admitted that if it had not been for the early assistance given to Russia by Britain and America in supplying aircraft and other essential war equipment Russia would have had a much more difficult struggle. The Germans made every effort to conquer Russia, but they did not succeed, and the essential help that Britain and America gave to Russia was a factor in the failure of Germany. But for the help that Britain and America gave to Russia the Russian people would have had a much more difficult straggle. The right honorable member for North Sydney is one of the last who should talk about the unsatisfactory equipment of this nation when the war started. I take no responsibility for that state of affairs. We all know that anti-Labour governments were in office for many years before the war began, and they must take the responsibility for the failure to prepare the nation to defend itself. If those anti-Labour governments had considered it proper to prepare the nation for defence, they should have done it. They cannot now throw the responsibility on to other shoulders. They had a parliamentary majority which would have enabled them to take action. Practically the only countries in the world that were prepared for war in 1939 were Germany and Japan, and they expected to secure a quick victory.
I hope that our forces will “finish off “ the enemy. There is one thing I am sorry about, and that is that so many Japanese prisoners are being taken. I do not think that we should take Japanese prisoners; they should be destroyed. That is all they are fit for. It is a pity our men have to go out in small numbers to hunt the Japanese from foxholes and the like, and so have to risk being shot from machine-gun nests. The whole of the circumstances of the fight that is going on in the South- West Pacific make it extremely unfortunate that there should be talk of “ mopping-up “ operations. I hope that our men will go ahead, and do their utmost to destroy the Japanese.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said, in effect, that our men were engaged in what could be described as “ charwoman’s “ work. I was surprised to hear the honorable gentleman make such a remark. As a soldier he has won distinction on the battle-field, and it was unworthy of him to describe as charwoman’s work the job that is being done to-day in theSouthWest Pacific. I say, God help even those who have to do ordinary charwoman’s work in that area. Soldiers on furlough to whom I have recently spoken very greatly resent such descriptions of the campaign in which they have been engaged. Some of these men I have known since they were boys, and they have made such remarks to me as: “Mr. Martens, it is an awful thing that we have to do this job; but we know that it has to be done. We would not like to ask any one else to do it “. I say : “ God bless every one of the boys fighting in this area, and may they come safely through”. I hope that we shall hear no more about “ mopping up “.
When the then honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) made a remark some years ago to the effect that it might be a good thing if a few bombs fell on the complacent crowds in our big cities,
I was greatly incensed; but I begin to wonder now whether there is not something in the idea. If some of those city people could spend a while in my electorate, and in that of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), they would know what it feels like when the enemy drops a few “ eggs “. They would also know what it feels like to live in uncertainty as to whether a few more “ eggs “ might not fall upon them with very little notice.
Something has been said about supplies failing to reach northern centres. I have no complaint to make against the Government on this account. I appreciate the difficulties of the situation. I know that the Government realizes the need to provide transport for equipment and supplies of one kind and another for the SouthWest Pacific forces, and it has been doing the best it could do. Only recently Sir Thomas Gordon referred to the difficulties of transporting supplies. At times the authorities have been given to understand that an extra ship would be provided to run from a north Queensland port and provision has been made to use it to the best advantage, but the sailing has often been cancelled at the last minute because of unforeseen circumstances. All this should be borne in mind before complaints are made. We, in Australia, have no grounds for grouch about the difficulties we encounter for our people are not suffering hunger. But some of us remember that in the bad old days of anti-Labour governments many thousands of the Australian people were living on the dole.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Despite all the hardships which the people have to endure, I am satisfied that if they were bluntly told the truth they would be more contented. In the districts represented by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and myself, the people are suffering more than those who live in any other part of the Commonwealth because of the shortage of many of the commodities that they need, yet they are not squealing. To me, their forbearance is remarkable. They realize what their conditions would have been had Japan invaded Australia. Because of shipping difficulties, many things -which ought to go to north Queensland are not being sent there. The people understand that the available transport is being used to carry munitions, food, .and equipment to our troops, and they do not protest unduly. I hear more complaints about shortages in Sydney and its environs than I do in my electorate. The people of Sydney hardly realize that a war is being waged. The transport authorities appeal to them not to use the trams and trains at peak hours, when they are required by others who are doing war work, yet from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on any day of the week there is a continuous flow of traffic into and out of the heart of the city. Goodness knows what business the people have to transact ! If they cannot make purchases, they simply waste time. We are doing without many things, and the cause is not insufficient production; more is being produced to-day than at any previous stage in the history of Australia, and with less labour. I have no doubt that in the near future our friends opposite will strive in every way to gain a political advantage by arguing that the ‘Government has been trying to socialize industry. If that were done, the object would be to avoid a scarcity of the necessaries of life. We do not want people to be deprived of their actual needs. In my electorate, an airstrip was completed by the Allied Works Council on an area of land which three weeks prior to the commencement of operations was covered by a f orest of big timber. If the machinery which made that possible were put to other uses, it would displace a lot of labour. In the gathering of a potato crop there is a machine which can do as much work .as many men, and if its use were widespread the difficulty under normal conditions would be to find employment for the human labour thus displaced. There is no reason whatever for us to fear the effects of telling the people the truth. Difficulties exist only because some people try to make party political capital. Falsehoods, or what are close to them, are told to the people in regard to many matters. They are informed, “ You could get these things, but the Government will not allow them to be transported “. They hear about boatloads of beer going to the north. I can recall such an occasion, but not within recent times. I know that there is a genuine difficulty in regard to the transport of commodities which the people need, to which they were accustomed, and which they ought to have. I challenge any one to prove that any government could provide better transport than exists at the moment. No one is suffering much by having to go without certain things. I do not know of any hungry people. The majority are to-day living as well as or better than they were before the war.
I have heard a good deal in this House about the hardship occasioned by the impressment of homes. In my electorate there are properties which were taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force years ago. The people who own them receive less from the Government by way of rent than - they are paying for the cottage they are renting from some one else, yet they are not squealing very much. Naturally, they would like to return to their own homes; but the view that they take is that, as the choice lay between occupying their homes and re-
Belling an invader they have .to put up with the inconvenience to which they have been subjected.
In regard to housing generally, perhaps something could be done in the direction of home construction on a substantial scale; but the department which handles the matter is at its wits’ end to find the labour that is necessary to provide what is needed by the British forces in Australia. Does any honorable member believe that the Government should not do what it is doing for the British personnel? Yet that is the only suggestion that could be made in opposition to what is being done at the present time. If the available material is to be used for the construction of houses, others will be denied things that they need.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) referred this afternoon to the shifting of a camp site. I asked him by way of interjection to give some information in regard to the matter, but he said that he could not do so. I wanted to know who had suggested the shifting of this camp. If it were of the size that he suggested - which I do not dispute - it seems passing strange to me that with the modern roads that we have an additional 8 or 10 miles would make any difference to the personnel
Df the British or any other forces, and they could well have used the camp already established.
– That was my point.
– I do not know who suggested its removal, or why it was done. But that is not the only seemingly peculiar thing that has been done since the commencement of the war, in which large amounts ha.ve been involved. I am not concerned as to whether the camp suited the Americans and does not suit the British, but I should like to know why the change was made.
– It was built for the Americans, but was never used.
– That does not cut much ice with me. There has been an expenditure of millions of pounds in the Commonwealth on the construction of works deemed to be necessary, and they would have been vitally necessary in a certain contingency. Had they not been carried out, the Government would have been roundly condemned for not discharging its responsibilities. It did so, and in many parts expended large sums on what at first glance would seem to be wasted effort. In order to pass judgment, we have to consider the circumstances at the time when the work was done. Only if we realize what Australia then faced, can we assess its value. Had the Japanese landed in this country, I wonder whether works such as those at Tocumwal would now be condemned ! In the circumstances that existed at the time, I believe that they were necessary and that the money was well spent, even though it seems to have been wasted. After all, we on this side of the House should not worry much about such criticism, considering the record of those who are opposed to the Government in this Parliament and in every other Parliament in Australia.
During the debate, there have been references to international co-operation. I recall that while the present Prime Minister sat in opposition the cooperation which he extended to the Government was greater than he is receiving from the Opposition at the present time.
He then advocated the need for and the value of international co-operation. It is pleasing to note that one of Australia’s representatives at the San Francisco Conference will be the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who is an eminent jurist. He will be able to state, with force and clarity, the case for the Commonwealth, and I have no doubt that, as a good Australian, he will stand up to the collar in that regard. We have to either reason or fight. If one cannot reason, one must fight. In the majority of instances, a fight occurs because the people concerned have not been prepared to negotiate beforehand. Most of the strikes in the industrial world are due to the employers not being prepared to negotiate with the employees until trouble occurs. The principal defect in our arbitration machinery is that it cannot operate until trouble has started, and even then it has to be interstate in character. If we cannot reason things out, we cannot overcome the tremendous difficulties -with which we are now confronted.
Every year, the Burdekin River, in my electorate, is flooded. This year, perhaps, the floods are a little worse than they have been in other years. It is a very big river, about half a mile or more from bank to bank, and when in heavy flood is extremely difficult to negotiate. As soon as there is a flood in it, the low-level bridge across it is quickly submerged. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction should consider the value of a highlevel bridge, and either construct one or assist the State of Queensland to do so, insisting that it shall be built in the best spot, which would not be where the lowlevel bridge is now. The benefits of a standardized gauge on the whole of the railway systems of the Commonwealth would be reduced if we had low-level railway bridges which were liable to be out of commission for five or six weeks in any year. When the Burdekin bridge cannot carry traffic, it has to go west of Rockhampton to Longreach for 40 miles, then 150 miles to Winton, and an equal distance to Townsville’ on the mainline. Directly, the distance would be 400 or 500 miles, but by this indirect route it would be 1,400 miles. That is an enormous difference. The Government should ask the Co-ordinator-General of Works, Sir Harry Brown, to give deep and earnest consideration to the value of such a bridge to Australia at any time, but particularly in a time of war. As I have said, a new high-level bridge should not be built where the present low-level bridge now crosses the river. Political gerrymandering by vested interests in Townsville was responsible for its having been placed where it now is. That was not uncommon in those days. The political history of every State contains instances of similar happenings, in the attempt to secure votes and win seats. The Burdekin bridge is built over a wide stretch of river, and is very low. Twelve miles or so up the river, Nature has provided a crossing known, as The Rocks, where there is a solid foundation on which a bridge that would be open in all weathers could be constructed, because it would not be affected by floods. The matter should be seriously considered.
Another cause for concern is the enormous volume of water that is flowing to waste down the Burdekin River, and all the other rivers of northern Queensland, at the moment. I am not qualified to express an opinion on the scheme of irrigation propounded by Dr. Bradfield, but I know what its value would be if it could be given effect. An enormous volume of water is carried by the Herbert, Johnstone, and Tully rivers. These waters would be of inestimable benefit if they could be harnessed for the use of man, in a part of Australia which is regarded as almost desert. In the Mildura area, and on the opposite side of the river Murray at Barmera and Berri, there is magnificent agricultural country which was a dreary waste before the adoption of irrigation. If the major portion of the water which goes over those gorges in northern Queensland could be diverted into central Australia, a wonderful result would be achieved. I have heard the objection raised that the cost would be £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. That is the cost which has to be met every minute to fight the war, and the result of it is only destruction and desolation. We should consider not the £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 necessary to create the asset, but the value of the asset to the Commonwealth after its creation.
He would be a shrewd and wellinformed man who could determine that value, but I know that irrigation engineers contend that the scheme is practicable. Dr. Bradfield’s proposals for dealing with the dust bowl of Australia are well worth immediate consideration. Money expended in that direction would be used for a constructive, and not a destructive, purpose. I recall that when a proposal was advanced for an irrigation and water conservation scheme in the Dawson Valley, certain roads and other initial work were constructed, and then the whole project was abandoned. There are vast areas of excellent land within easy access of the coast awaiting development in Queensland, but it must be provided with irrigation facilities. The Burdekin Delta, in the Ayr and Home Hill districts, is intensely cultivated, but the excellent results obtained in that, district are due to the ample water supply. On one occasion I mentioned that the average rainfall in a part of my electorate was 5 or 6 yards a year. Some honorable members laughed at the remark, but the statement was literally true. During the present year, more than 4 yards of rain has already fallen in parts of my electorate. It is regrettable to see huge volumes of water run into the sea to waste, when its application to fertile land, where the rainfall is limited, would produce astonishing results.
If we are to increase the population of Australia, whether by natural increase or by immigration, we shall have to provide suitable employment for the people. Young people should be given every encouragement to marry and raise families, but every effort should be made to ensure to them economic security. The basic wage was originally fixed on the basis of what would be required to enable a man and his wife, with one or two children, to enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort, but no margin was allowed to enable a married couple to save any portion of their income. The important factor is not the amount of the wage, but its purchasing power, and it should be fixed at a level which would enable the workers to provide ample food and clothing and the ordinary amenities of life for their wives and families.
I was delighted to know that a conference of Unrra had been held at Lapstone, near Sydney, for the purpose of discussing matters of international concern and in an endeavour to provide food for the people in devastated countries. J welcome conferences of that nature.
This nation has been too parsimonious in its dealings with its public men. I consider that a salary of £1,000 a year is too meagre for a member of this Parliament. Since I became a member of this House in the latter part of 1928, the opportunities provided for honorable members to visit various parts of the Commonwealth have been too limited, although it is necessary for us to make personal contact with the people throughout the continent, in order to appreciate their problems. Two or three weeks are occupied in a visit to Western Australia, and from four to six weeks are absorbed in a visit to the Northern Territory. It is regrettable that the most rapid form of transport is not made available to enable us to obtain first-hand information regarding the needs of the people.
In certain parts of “ the electorates represented by the honorable member for Kennedy and myself the country is more beautiful than people living in the southern areas of Australia imagine. I suggest that people in the southern States who need a holiday should take a winter trip to Ravenshoe and the Tully Falls. I certainly advise them not to leave their top coats at home, because those resorts have an elevation above sea level of 3,300 feet. The Atherton Tablelands, and also the Palmerston lands, offer great scope for further development. The settlement there at present is of only a limited nature, but with the assistance of the genius of man, which could be rendered through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the settlers could be advised as to the best methods of cultivation to adopt. For the last five or six years I have endeavoured to have the telephonic communication provided in the Palmerston area improved. About 100 children attend the local school, but the nearest telephone is ii miles distant and can be reached only by means of a bridle track. The settlers have hewn their homes out of the forest. They have built shacks with split logs, and they live under hard conditions. The Government should at least endeavour to improve their living conditions by providing them with a telephone service and good roads.
I claim that the conditions under which the outback settlers live is a matter of concern to the Commonwealth as well as to the State authorities. If I had my own way, I should abolish the State Parliaments to-morrow, because I consider that they should not be given the right to dictate to this Parliament. As long as the States retain their sovereign powers this Parliament will remain a hobbled giant. I recall no referendum of the people on the subject of conferring increased powers upon the Commonwealth Parliament at which there has not been a bitter fight between the Opposition and the government of the day on the questions at issue. Bogies have always been raised, whilst the importance of the interests of Australia as a whole has been overlooked. Always State rights have prevailed. I believe that the ‘Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with plenary powers. It should have control of all transport and of all other matters which are of nation-wide importance. We have been told that Commonwealth public servants cannot conduct public utilities, but there is no better conducted instrumentality than the Postal Department.
.- I join with other speakers in the welcome extended to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and we trust that their stay amongst us will be a happy one. In the Speech of the Governor-General, reference was made to many important legislative proposals that will be brought to the notice of the House in the near future. I feel impelled to take part in this debate because of the comments offered by the Opposition regarding the disposition and use of Australia’s fighting forces. Some honorable members opposite who set themselves up as military strategists recently told us where the Australian troops, which are known throughout the world as one of the greatest fighting forces in the Allied services to-day, should be employed. It ill-becomes those who are not competent to judge to say where those forces could be used to the best advantage. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) seemed to have no difficulty in telling us what he would do with them. “With a wave of the hand, he said that they should have taken part in the campaign in the Philippines. Then, he would employ them in the capture of Malaya, and send them into Burma; but there must be some limit to their capacity. I wonder whether it has ever dawned on these military strategists that the war against Japan is only just beginning, and that it might not be wise to throw all our forces into the struggle now without making provision for their reinforcement and supplies for perhaps another two years, I sometimes wonder from which military academy these selfappointed critics graduated. I imagine that it must he situated in close proximity to the Constitutional Club, and that when they become mellow over a glass of whisky and a good cigar, they tell one another what they would do if they were in General MacArthur’s place. Some of them had an opportunity at the beginning of the war to show what they could do, and they did not make a conspicuous success of it. As an Australian I resent the suggestion that our forces are engaged upon mopping-up operations only. I should like to see some of the critics fighting alongside them for even six days, let alone six months. They would quickly alter their opinion of the nature of the operations upon which our men are engaged. Our forces are fighting desperate men - cornered men, and we know the characteristics of the Japanese soldiers in such circumstances. There are, perhaps, 100,000 Japanese in the islands to the north. They are obviously in good, condition, and well supplied with weapons, ammunition and food. We do not know what might happen if they are allowed to remain in occupation. It is even possible that Rabaul might still be used as a base for Japanese warships. It is better that Rabaul and other such places in the north should be in our hands. After the Japanese are cleaned out of territories which are the responsibility of Australia, our forces will, no doubt, go on to more spectacular victories, but the campaigns might prove to be easier than that upon which they are now engaged. The enemy in the north is well dug in. The nature of the country prevents our forces from using heavy artillery barrages. Conditions also forbid the use of such modern instruments of warfare as heavy tanks and flamethrowers. For warfare of this kind, specially trained men are needed. As a matter of fact, there are not so many troops in the world, apart from the Australians, with the ability, training and initiative for such a job. Our men are trained jungle fighters.
Another thing which disturbs me is the attack which has recently been made upon the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and it is hard to say whether the attack is inspired by hostility to him or merely out of a desire to “belt” the Government. I am not a personal friend of General Sir Thomas Blarney. I was a digger in the last war when he was an officer holding high rank. What is the reason for this criticism of the Commander-in-Chief? Senator Foll attacked him recently in the Senate. He has been attacked in the newspapers, and last night the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), while he did not make an overt attack upon the CommanderinChief, he suggested that it would be better for Australia and for all concerned if he resigned. As I say, I do not know the motive behind these attacks, but I know that in the last war General Sir Thomas Blarney was one of the most capable staff officers we had. It used to he the custom on the Western Front, when our forces were attacking, to put down an artillery barrage, and then for our infantrymen to advance in its wake until they met the enemy’s counter barrage. This practice was followed in the battle of Ypres, and resulted in a terrible loss of men. I was only a digger, but even I criticized General Haig for persisting in such tactics. Of course, it is the prerogative of the soldier to criticize and grumble. General Sir Thomas Blarney, who was a staff officer at that time, had a great deal to do with devising the tactics which were eventually applied successfully on the 8th August. The situation was very .black for the Allies at that time. Indeed, it was thought that we might have to evacuate France. At first, the new proposals were opposed by the British military authorities, but eventually the British Commander-in-Chief approved of them. The tactic employed then was something entirely new, and proved to be very successful. It was employed by General Sir Thomas Blarney with complete success in the present war, resulting in the saving of many lives. In the last war the Australian commanders matched the German generals, and defeated them. “When General Sir Thomas Blarney returned to Australia from the Middle East, a military board, was in charge here, but he was placed in supreme command of the Australian forces. He went to New Guinea at a time when our forces were falling back. He took over during the campaign of the Kokoda Trail, and from then on, it was the Japs who fell back. I have yet to learn that General Sir Thomas Blarney has suffered defeat in battle when leading his troops. If, under his command, our forces had suffered grave reverses and heavy losses, there might he some justification for the criticism directed against our present Commander-in-Chief, but his direction of the campaigns in the north, in conjunction with General MacArthur, has been marked by complete success and a minimum loss of men. For this he is deserving of credit, not criticism. His reputation as a staff officer stands very high. It is said that he can size up a military situation even by flying over the country. The charge has been made against him that he is too old. As a matter of fact, he is about the same age as General MacArthur. It has been said that he does not spend enough time with his troops. I remember seeing photographs taken during the battles of Salamaua and Buna, which showed General Sir Thomas Blarney amongst the frontline troops, and at the time I thought it was not right that a man, whose life was so valuable to his country, should take such risks.- It must be remembered that he is responsible for maintaining lines of communications right back to the base in Sydney or Melbourne, and it is necessary that he should spend a certain amount of time at head-quarters. If I know anything of. General Sir Thomas Blarney, he would be with his men all the time if it were possible. His interest is at all times with the front-line troops. What right has Senator Foll to criticize the Commander-in-Chief? Senator Foll went to Malaya at the beginning of the war. It was before Japan came in - otherwise he would probably not have been there. At the time he was Minister for Information in the Menzies Government.
– He was sent there by the Government.
– That is so. His contribution to winning the war was to suggest that there should be a better news service. He did not suggest that aeroplanes should be sent to provide air cover for troops which might have to go there, although it was found subsequently that was what they needed more than anything else. One would think that so capable a military strategist as Senator Foll would have recognized that need. Even his department was in a chaotic state until it was taken over by the present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), under whose direction it has become very useful to the services. It is certain that the unjustifiable criticism of General Sir Thomas Blarney can do nothing but harm. Let the critics, if they have anything against him, come out into the open and state their charges plainly. In the meantime, let us judge the CommanderinChief on his record.
I desire to emphasize the importance to Australia of the wool industry. I am sorry to have to say it, but I believe that people in other countries are more alive to the value of Australian wool than are Australians. I happen to grow a little wool myself, and as a Scotsman I ‘know that I do not get the full value for it. The marketing of Australian wool is nothing but a racket. This is the first government which has interested itself in the matter, and the Opposition, no doubt, will say that we should concentrate on the war effort, putting domestic affairs aside. Of course, they want us to procrastinate for as long as possible. Most of the social and economic ills from which we are suffering may be traced to the procrastination of previous governments which took their directions from big, vested interests. It is the duty of the ‘Government to protect the interests of the primary producers, and to see that they get value for what they produce. Prior to the war, buyers from all over the world came to Australia to buy our wool. It is the only commodity we produce that we have no trouble in selling, and no bounty on wool has ever had to he paid. We sell our wool in the grease on what is described as a free, open market, governed by the law of supply and demand. As a matter of fact, the law of supply and demand ceases to operate the moment the wool is outside the farmer’s gate. He has no more say in its disposal and does not know whether or not the .buyers are genuine. In 1939, wool was sold at 2d. per lb. below the cost of production, yet the Government at that time took no steps to remedy the position. Wool is a most valuable commodity to Australia, and action to protect those who produce it is necessary. Something in that direction was done after 1939, but, even then, the Parliament failed in its duty. Ultimately, the present Labour Government took the matter up with the Government of the United Kingdom, with the result that an increased, price for wool was obtained, notwithstanding the protests of the Opposition in this Parliament. The Government would welcome the help of members1 of all parties in its attempts to assist the wool industry. This is a matter of national importance. The production and processing of wool offers the best opportunity to provide employment after the war that this country possesses.’ If only 1 per cent, of the total wool clip were processed in Australia, £3,500,000 per annum would be added to the amount Australia now receives for raw wool and employment would be provided for 2,000 people in the manufacturing industry. With that figure as a basis, it is easy to calculate the benefit to Australia of a policy which provided for the processing in Australia of 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, of the clip. I do not say that every pound of wool grown in Australia should be processed in this country - I realize that Australia must trade with other countries - ‘but we could with advantage manufacture 30 per cent, of the clip in Australia. The best minds in the community should be engaged on means to protect the wool industry. Naturally, the wool-brokers and overseas buyers wish to see the open market for wool restored. I do not blame them, because that system has put millions of pounds into their pockets, and has enabled the wives of wool-buyers to wear diamonds, whereas the wives of the woolgrowers are lucky if they can purchase a string of ‘beads costing. 5s. We must never revert to the open market for wool. By exporting greasy wool, freight has to be paid on worthless dirt. In that way thousands of pounds are lost each year. If we did no more than process the wool to the scouring stage, or spin it into tops, that would be an improvement; but we can do more than that. Australia could lead the world in the production of high-quality woollen cloth if our efforts were concentrated in that direction. Climatic conditions in this country, together with the natural herbage in our pastoral areas, makes Australia most suitable for the production of merino and comeback sheep. No other country can compare with Australia in’ the production of merino sheep. It is true that in the United States of America there are large numbers of merino sheep, but the wool obtained from them has a much shorter staple than that obtained from Australian sheep. If we were to concentrate on the production of high-quality woollen cloth in Australia, we would have no. difficulty in selling it. We should strenuously avoid the manufacture, particularly for export, of poor-quality woollen cloth. Why should other countries reap the advantages associated with the manufacture of materials made from Australian wool ? I read recently that 1,000 tons of wool had been sent to Roubaix and Lille, in France, for manufacture there. A good deal has been said of the competition of synthetic fibres. I believe that there is room for these fibres as well as for wool, because the .probabilities are that, at least in the post-war years, there will not be sufficient wool available to meet the demand. We must strain every nerve to expand our woollen industry, and the Government is doing a great service to Australia by planning in that direction. Just as during the war it has been found necessary to have capable men in charge of our munitions programme, so good, capable Australians, with a thorough knowledge of their job, must be given direction of the woollen industry.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to shipbuilding - a subject which was mentioned by His Royal Highness in the Speech which he delivered to the Parliament. Previously, the transport of goods by sea was left almost entirely to private enterprise, but the present Government, realizing the importance of sea transport to the nation, has set out to build ships. It realizes that freights and other costs may be so prohibitive as to make it almost impossible for Australian goods to compete in the world markets. I understand that freights from Australia to the United Kingdom are higher than from other places no closer to the market. Freight on wheat shipped to Great Britain costs over 4s. a bushel, and in addition there are other charges, including insurance. When we realize that lis. a bushel would have to be paid for wheat sent to Egypt or India, it is evident that some one is making excessive profits - profits greater than the amount which the farmer receives for his wheat. Some years ago, a previous government decided to establish its own line of steamers, because those in charge of private shipping lines were holding this country to ransom by charging excessive freights. I fear that after the war the position will again become acute, should shipping remain in the hands of a combine, which is concerned only with making profits. I do not blame a combine for seeking to make profits, but I do blame the people who submit to its demands. We must continue to build ships in this country, even if they are not produced at a profit, so that we may be able to ship our produce to any market we choose; otherwise, I fear that we shall have difficulty in finding markets for our produce, especially our wheat. Honorable members will recall the circumstances in which the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was disposed of. I have here the interim report of the Public Accounts Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Granville Ryrie, on the Commonwealth Government shipping activities, and shall read an extract from it. The report of a later committee which advocated the selling of the ships was signed ‘by Senator Kingsmill. The interim report to which I have referred states -
In view, however, of emphatic evidence placed before the Committee that, owing to the uncertainty which exists concerning the continuance of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, its business has been adversely affected, the Committee has deemed it desirable to submit to Parliament, prior to the approaching recess, this Interim Report.
To arrive at a decision, a,part from the question of Government policy, as to whether the Commonwealth Government Line should be 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 be considered, to indicate in figures the actual gain to Australia by such action, it appear* to the Committee, from the evidence already heard, that 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 interests of Australia, the Line be continued. In making this interim recommendation, the Committee desires to emphasize the fact that it has not yet completed its investigations; so far as these have gone, however, they indicate the necessity for a review of the present system of financing the Line, and a drastic curtailment of the overhead expenses, including the London Office; hut until Mr. Larkin has had an opportunity of expressing Iris views in evidence, the Committee does not consider it desirable to indicate the lines along which such re-organization should be effected.
Honorable members will remember that Sir Granville Ryrie was appointed subsequently to the position of High Commissioner for Australia in London. He was a good Australian, who put his country before the shipping combine. The report signed by him shows that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers saved the primary producers of Australia thousands of pounds in freights. Some of the reasons why the line failed are given in the report. The report contained complaints about unfair press criticism. To-day, the press is directing a barrage of criticism against the Government’s banking proposals, which will create better conditions in the post-war period for ex-servicemen and civilians alike. The people should be warned against this insidious press campaign. Apparently, it was no novelty twenty years ago. The report proceeded -
Press Criticism. - Unfair press criticism and a tendency to give undue publicity to any matters adversely affecting the Commonwealth Line and its operations, exercised, 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 poorduring the voyage. The editor was asked if he could indicate the source of the information, and whether the names of the passengers were available, but a reply was received regretting that, although he had inquiry made, no such particulars could be furnished. In 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.
Similar tactics are being pursued to-day in order to foment opposition to the legislation foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I have no hesitation in saying that the reform of the banking system is long overdue.
Housing presents an acute problem in Australia, but a visitor, listening to the criticism voiced by honorable members opposite, might be excused for believing that the problem had been caused by the bungling and neglect of this Government. Honorable members opposite should read some of the pamphlets issued by the Department of Information, in which are published extracts from the Housing Commission’s reports on slums in Sydney and Melbourne. Undoubtedly, the housing shortage is most serious. I know what it means to young married couples.
They do not mind greatly where they live, provided they have a roof over their heads. Consequently, people are herded together on verandahs and in depressing slum surroundings. The Government must take urgent action to solve this problem. The Housing Commission in Victoria is constructing an excellent type of house; but 250,000 homes are required throughout Australia, and the commission can provide only a negligible percentage of that number. Even in the post-war period, when man-power and materials will be available, the shortage of houses will be acute for a considerable time. Meanwhile, we must seek a temporary remedy. I propose to offer a constructive suggestion. During my lifetime, I have often been compelled to make-shift, particularly when I became a soldier settler, but I did not mind the inconveniences so long as I had a home. At present, the Government is erecting houses costing £900 or £1,000, but because of the lack of materials and man-power, the number of these dwellings is almost infinitesimal. Many local government bodies would make land available near rail or tram services and on those blocks could be erected houses of three or four rooms, with the necessary modern conveniences. If an exserviceman and his wife were allotted one of those dwellings they would be able to say, “ Well, at least this place is ours “. Those structures would be only temporary. They could be pre-fabricated and supplied in large numbers. The Government must adopt that expedient. [Extension of time granted.] Honorable members will be interested to hear some extracts from the report of the Housing and Slum Abolition Board of Victoria, presented to the Parliament of Victoria in October, 1937. It gave the results of a house survey and social census of 7,330 houses in which 25,000 persons were living. Those houses were within 5 miles of the Melbourne General Post Office. The board found that in every 100 houses -
Suddenly, honorable members opposite have discovered that the housing shortage is serious. When the Scullin Government was in office it made a gallant attempt, despite tremendous odds, to secure the consent of the Parliament to a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000, of which £10,000,000 was to be devoted to housing. For the next ten years anti-Labour governments were in office, and thousands of men were unemployed, but no attempt was made to provide them with work by launching a nation-wide building programme. During the depression, men were evicted from slum dwellings because they could not pay the rent of l1s. 2d. a week. Those dwellings had probably been erected 60 years before, when they were let for 7s. 6d. a week. As their condition deteriorated, the landlord increased the rent. They were still a good investment. Private enterprise cannot solve the housing problem, because there is no profit in it. During the depression, some people who had been evicted from their homes were compelled to live under bridges. I have seen them living under appalling conditions at Mildura and Shepparton. They became an embarrassment to the local government authorities, because of the lack of sanitation. What did the anti-Labour Government do for them?
– If the anti-Labour Government had launched a vigorous home-building programme, the nation would have benefited from it to-day. It is futile for honorable members opposite to blame the present Government for the shortage. Instead of voicing baseless criticism, let them offer constructive suggestions for solving the problems. Doubtless, some honorable members opposite, being wealthy men, have homes with ten or twelve rooms, and a cottage at the seaside as well. On one side of the River Yarra, in Melbourne, are situated some dreadful slums, but on the opposite bank there are some magnificent mansions; and more children are to be found in the slums than in the better-class area. That contrast makes people think.
I regret that last year the people, in rejecting the Government’s referendum proposals, refused to grant the Commonwealth authority to control land settlement. As a soldier settler after the last war, I quickly discovered that the system under which I took up a block was impossible and doomed to failure. I soon became an advocate of the only method which, in my opinion, can be successful. When the Crown resumes land, let it remain a Crown asset for all time, and let it be granted to a settler on the basis of a lease in perpetuity. Under any other system, the original settler will never be able to discharge the mortgage, and even his children will be over-burdened with debt. The system of perpetual leases will solve the problem,but the financial institutions and the money lenders will not like it. Indeed, I do not blame them, because, after all, it is their business to take the greatest slice in interest from the produce from the land. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and I endured great hardships as soldier settlers after the last war. Fortunately, the position will be different after this war. As the result of a decision by the Commonwealth Government, in consultation with the States, ex-servicemen will be able to settle on the land under very generous conditions. My only regret is that similar conditions did not operate when I became a settler. Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia will adopt the perpetual lease system, which is already in existence in New South Wales and, to a large degree, in Queensland. Victoria has elected to retain the old system of conditional purchase. That is unfortunate. If the capital value of an area is £3,000, the settler will be in debt for many years. He will also require a good deal of luck to enable him to meet all his commitments, because he will pay such a vast tribute in interest out of his produce from the land. That thought leads me to remark that the Government must ensure continuity of stable prices, and the settler must produce commodities for which there will always be a ready demand. Butter is one of those commodities. Even in normal times, some Australians were not getting enough butter. That position must be remedied in future.
When men have security in employment, the effect on the birth-rate becomes apparent. Forty years ago in the Riverina and the Goulburn Valley, the average farmer had ten children. Even now, although the families might not be so large on the settlements, the number of children is proportionately higher than the number in urban areas. One reason is that the farmer is usually certain of being able to supply his dependants with food. Even in the bad old days, a farmer could defy the authorities when they sent him an account for £1,000, or n notice to quit. As a general rule, the farmer was able to keep his family supplied with butter, milk and eggs; hut the worker as in a different position.
As a member of the War Expenditure Committee, I discussed the system of lend-lease with the .men responsible for its operation in this country. They said that the idea was something new, and. that when it was first suggested they did not think that it would work. But it has worked wonderfully well. I suggest the possibility of continuing lend-lease in the days of peace. Already we have had considerable experience of the system, and, perhaps, in some modified form it can be turned to good account in peace. It might be possible by such an arrangement, for instance, to avoid the destruction and restriction of production of foodstuffs which occurred before the war in all countries of the world, when we were destroying products urgently needed by the peoples of other countries, and they were destroying products of which we stood in need. Perhaps some arrangement along the lines of lend-lease could he devised to prevent a recurrence of evils of that kind. Therefore, I earnestly suggest that the Government study the proposition I now make. Anything that we do to promote goodwill and co-operation between the nations will help to prevent war. We should do everything in our power to prevent another conflict of the kind in which we are now engaged, the misery and destruction of which is appalling. Man has yet to solve the problem of how to live in peace. Fortunately, the nations are coming together more closely. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that war is not inevitable. I trust that the representatives of this country at conferences overseas will reflect the vigour of this young land-, and that if war cannot be completely outlawed the co-operation of all countries will at least guarantee an era of peace.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Royal Highness the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply,. and honorable members will be informed accordingly.
COMMITTEES OF SUPPLY AND WAYS AND MEANS. Motions (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to .be granted to His Majesty.
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley). - by leave - proposed -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standing Order 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “. On such Thursday General Business shall have precedence of Government Business until 0 p.m.
– One matter on which honorable members on this side have cause for complaint is that when the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “ the Government has such pressing business on the notice-paper that we have not been given an opportunity for a general debate on matters affecting the interests of our constituents. If we are to preserve democratic government, the undertaking on the part of the Government to give to private members an opportunity to debate such matters from time to time must be something more than a mere fiction. Since the last general elections I cannot recall one occasion on which such a debate has taken place.
– Generally, private members look forward to grievance day in order to discuss points of government policy affecting their constituents. We are given a similar opportunity in connexion with ordinary adjournment motions, but on such occasions attendance in the chamber is very sparse, sometimes only one Minister being present at the table, and in the circumstances he has every excuse for hoping to get to bed instead of having to remain to listen to the complaints voiced by honorable members. I hope that we shall be given some assurance that the rights of private members will be respected in this matter. The Government must recognize that for a long time past private members on this side have not availed themselves of the opportunity to place motions on the noticepaper to enable certain matters to be discussed, but have refrained from doing so because we desire to give to the Government every opportunity to bring forward matters of an absolutely essential character. However, when we find that the Government is placing domestic issues above world and war issues we have a right to strive for recognition of our rights as private members. I sincerely hope that under Standing Order 241 Opposition members will be given an opportunity to place their views before the Government.
Mr.Chifley. - I give that assurance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The bill seeks to repeal the Motor Vehicle Engine Bounty Act 1939 and the Motor Vehicles Agreement Act 1940. The Motor Vehicle Engine Bounty Bill was introduced by a previous government, and the act was assented to on the 15th December, 1939. Briefly, the act provides for the payment of bounty at varying rates on engine units for motor vehicles manufactured in Australia subject to certain specified conditions, one of which limits the payment of a bounty to companies incorporated in and conducting business in Australia. The act, in general terms, also provides that not less than two-thirds of the total shares of a company claiming the bounty shall be held by British subjects resident in Australia or in territories under the control of the Commonwealth, and stringent conditions are applied regarding the use of Australian materials.
The Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill was also introduced by a former government in May, 1940, and the act was assented to on the 3rd June, 1940. Briefly, the act authorizes the execution of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, under which certain undertakings were to be made by the company and certain assurances given by the Commonwealth. The proposed undertakings by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited were mainly to form a company with a nominal capital of £1,000,000, and an initial subscribed capital of £250,000, for the purpose of manufacturing motor engines and chassis in Australia. The proposed assurances by the Commonwealth included -
Following an inquiry by the Secondary Industries Commission and consideration of the subject by a Cabinet subcommittee, and later by Full Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in a press announcement on the 12th September, 1944, indicated that the Government had agreed to the following course of action : -
The changing circumstances, and the marked engineering development which has occurred in this country since the outbreak of war, have influenced the Government in reaching its decisions. The Government felt that to ensure that motor vehicle engines and chassis are manufactured in Australia it had to give all interested parties full opportunity to submit proposals for the Government’s consideration. As will be observed the two acts are of a restrictive nature, and the Government has, therefore, decided that they should be repealed.
The Commonwealth Solicitor-General has carefully reviewed all correspondence which has passed between the Commonwealth Government and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, in connexion with this matter, and is of the opinion that no binding agreement for the manufacture of motor vehicle engines and chassis exists between the Commonwealth and AustralianConsolidated Industries Limited. As the Prime Minister has announced, the Government would never be a party to disregarding agreements or contracts, but as I have previously stated there is no evidence that an agreement between the Commonwealth and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited has ever been executed.
It will be noted that a special provision - clause 4 - has been inserted in the present bill, whereby appropriate provision has been made to safeguard any claims for compensation which may be made by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited on the ground that a binding contract between the company and the Commonwealth came into existence either in 1940 or in the latter part of 1939. In other words, if the company’s claim that a contract was made is substantiated its right of action for compensation will not be prejudiced or taken away. The Government is firm in its resolution that motor car engines and chassis will be manufactured in Australia, and that such manufacture will take place on the best possible basis.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Guy) adjourned. respect of which paragraphs a and b of sub-section 1 of section 6 of the Motor Vehicle Engine Bounty Act apply and which give undertakings satisfactory to the Commonwealth as regard matters similar to those covered by the undertakings to be given by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited.
Following an inquiry by the Secondary Industries Commission and consideration of the subject by a Cabinet subcommittee, and later by Full Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in a press announcement on the 12th September, 1944, indicated that the Government had agreed to the following course of action : -
The changing circumstances, and the marked engineering development which has occurred in this country since the outbreak of war, have influenced the Government in reaching its decisions. The Government felt that to ensure that motor vehicle engines and chassis are manufactured in Australia it had to give all interested parties full opportunity to submit proposals for the Government’s consideration. As will be observed the two acts are of a restrictive nature, and the Government has, therefore, decided that they should be repealed.
The Commonwealth Solicitor-General has carefully reviewed all correspondence which has passed between the Commonwealth Government and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, in connexion with this matter, and is of the opinion that no binding agreement for the manufacture of motor vehicle engines and chassis exists between the Commonwealth and AustralianConsolidated Industries Limited. As the Prime Minister has announced, the Government would never be a party to disregarding agreements or contracts, but as I have previously stated there is no evidence that an agreement between the Commonwealth and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited has ever been executed.
It will be noted that a special provision - clause 4 - has been inserted in the present bill, whereby appropriate provision has been made to safeguard any claims for compensation which may be made by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited on the ground that a binding contract between the company and the Commonwealth came into existence either in 1940 or in the latter part of 1939. In other words, if the company’s claim that a contract was made is substantiated its right of action for compensation will not be prejudiced or taken away. The Government is firm in its resolution that motor car engines and chassis will be manufactured in Australia, and that such manufacture will take place on the best possible basis.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Guy) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for improving the production and increasing the use of wool.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As the title to the hill shows, the measure is designed to make provision for improving the production and increasing the use of wool.
In September last the Government decided that, in the interests of the Australian wool industry, a comprehensive plan should be inaugurated for research into various aspects of the wool industry and for publicity to promote the use of wool fibres in Australia and throughout the world. Hitherto, these functions have been performed under the aegis of the Australian Wool Board, constituted under the Wool Publicity and Research Act 1936. The hoard derived its funds from the proceeds of a tax levied under the Wool Tax Act 1936 at the following rates : -
For each hale of wool - 6d.
For each fadge or butt of wool - 3d.
For each bag of wool - Id.
The conception underlying the 1936 act was that, as the board was operating upon funds derived solely from a tax on wool-growers, the board should be more or less independent in the utilization of such funds for publicity and research, although it was under an obligation to furnish an annual report of its activities to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The total amount of funds which it received from the wool tax during the financial year ended the 30th June, 19441, was £82,000, of which £39,000, including exchange transfer to London, was paid towards the maintenance of the International Wool Secretariat in London, in conjunction with the wool-growers of the Dominions of South ^ Africa and New Zealand. The commitments for research in Australia through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research totalled, in respect of such proceeds, £15,650,- whilst £16,500 was allocated for general publicity in Australia.
The bill proposes to repeal the Wool Publicity and Research Act 1936, and to reconstitute the Australian Wool Board and clothe it with new functions to bring it into closer contact with the enlarged scheme for publicity and research envisaged by the Government.
In order to inform the House regarding the proposed new board I do not think that I oan do better than recount the changes which it is proposed to make in the present board. Under the 1936 act the board was composed of one member appointed by the Governor-General, and six members appointed by the GovernorGeneral upon the nomination of the Australian Wool Growers Council. The Government considers that the composition of the board in this maimer is undemocratic, and it is proposed in the bill that the board shall consist of three nominees of the Australian Wool Growers Council and three, nominees of the Australian Wool Producers Federation. The latter organization has no direct representation on the present board, and as its members contributed to the levy through the wool tax, the Government considers it only proper that the federation should be represented on the board, which will be associated .with the dispensing of proceeds of the tax.
Under the 1936 act the board had power to make arrangements for the improvement of the production of wool in Australia and the increase and extension, by publicity and research, of the use of wool throughout the world. In the present bill the powers of the board, as set out in clause 17 (2), are to be limited to the promotion by “ publicity and other means “ of the use of wool in Australia and throughout the world. It is in respect of the funds available for research and publicity that the Government’s plans, as set out in the bill, represent a departure from the present form of the aid in promoting the welfare of our greatest primary industry. In the view of Ministers, the funds available are totally inadequate for the purpose, and the machinery at present utilized is not suited to their proper application.
The reconstituted Australian Wool Board will be an integral part of the new machinery hut the funds available to it and its activities will be complementary to the activities which the Government proposes through its appropriate departments and instrumentalities.
With regard, first, to the funds which shall be available foi” this essential work, the ‘Government proposes that the rate of tax under the Wool Tax Act shall be quadrupled. The Treasurer will introduce the necessary amending bill at the appropriate time to provide that the tax on wool shall be as follows : -
For each bale - 2s.
For each fadge or butt - ls.
For each bag - 4d.
On the basis of the proceeds received from the tax in 1933-34, the total sum thus levied will be about £325,000 per annum. To this sum the Government proposes to add £1 for £1, as provided in the present bill, making available for research and publicity an amount approximating £650,000 per annum. Clause 16 of the bill provides that there shall be a fund administered by the board, to be known as the “ Wool Use Promotion Fund “, into which shall be paid, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which the bill seeks to appropriate accordingly, all the moneys received by the Commissioner of Taxation from the proceeds of the wool tax. It is proposed to establish a second fund, or account, to be known as the “Wool Research Trust Account”, into which the Treasurer shall pay, every financial year, a sum equal to the amount received by the Commissioner of Taxation in that year under the Wool Tax Act, as proposed to be amended.
It is provided that the Australian Wool Board shall not retain the whole of the proceeds of the tax which is appropriated to the Wool Use Promotion Fund for publicity purposes, but only such moneys ;is remain after Ministers have determined what proportion of such moneys shall be paid into the Wool Research Trust Account. Representatives of the growers’ organizations have been consulted, and they have agreed that it would be satisfactory if a proportion not greater than 25 per cent, of the Wool Use Promotion Fund, were directed to be paid into the Wool Research Trust Account annually for five years for the purposes of research.
The bill provides that the following Ministers shall be associated in determining the relative claims of research and publicity in respect of wool, and they will direct the board accordingly: -
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
The Minister administering the Science and Industry Research Act 1926-1945. The purpose underlying this procedure is to ensure that the Commonwealth Government, through the Ministers mentioned, shall be in close contact with the progress of research and its relation to wool, the extension of its use, and the evolving of new uses - a subject upon which I propose to lay emphasis at a later stage in my speech. It is proposed that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture shall be authorized to appoint a “Commonwealth Wool Adviser “, who, added to the grower representatives on the Australian Wool Board, shall be the seventh member of that body. In addition to the Australian Wool Board, which will continue to engage in publicity, there will be two departments principally concerned with research. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be responsible for scientific, biological and technological research, and the cost of research into production, treatment, and manufacturing processes applied to wool fibres. Research into the -national and international economic aspects of the wool industry will be the responsibility of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which will also initiate Commonwealth and State cooperation in extension work to ensure that the results of the research are applied. To co-ordinate the work of these three authorities, it is proposed that Ministers shall have the services of an interdepartmental committee which will he set up by administrative action.
In order to ensure that all phases of the wool industry shall fall within the scope, and receive thebenefits, of the enlarged scheme of research and publicity, the bill provides for the setting up of a Wool Consultative Council to advise the associated Ministers in regard to the aspects of the industry with which they are connected. It is proposed that the council shall consist of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and seven other members appointed by the Minister to represent respectively -
I have covered the main machinery provisions of the bill, and I do not think it necessary to spend much time in justifying the general policy of the measure. It will be evident to honorable members, and indeed to any thoughtful person, that vigorous action is necessary to meet the threat of artificial fibres. There are many persons who seem ready to disregard the threat of synthetic fibre production. They shelter behind the complacent point of view that wool is the perfect fibre and is thus immune from competitive attack by the product of the chemical laboratory. I shall therefore quote some figures to show the growth of the production of synthetic fibres. In 1932, the production was 500,000,000 lb., or 4 per cent. of the world production of textile fibres. By 1939 it had risen to 2,200,000,000 lb., or 13 per cent. of all fibres. It is estimated that current production is about 4,000,000,000 lb., or onefifth of all textile fibres. This is nearly double the world production of scoured wool ! Two pounds of synthetic fibre are produced for every pound of scoured wool. The range of types of synthetic fibres is steadily increasing. The first artificial fibre was rayon, which resembled silk rather than wool, and did not affect, in any measurable degree, the markets for wool. Numerous other artificial fibres are now being produced, many of them from plant and animal proteins, such as milk casein and soyabean protein. These can be woven to resemble woollen fabrics, at least superficially, and it would be idle to pretend that they will not affect the sale of woollen materials if no action be taken.
I do not agree, of course, with the other extremists, who consider that wool will be unable to hold any significant place as a textile fibre. Wool has unique properties which will always ensure its use for many purposes. I accept the midway point of view, which appreciates the certain role of wool in many fields, but recognizes the threat of synthetics and the need for research to combat that threat.
I propose to give some indication of the fields in which research will be undertaken. It should be understood that this is not an attempt to present a detailed account of the technical programme. The research programme can be divided broadly into these three phases -
The principal research agency on production and processing will be the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. However, the State Departments of Agriculture and other bodies have been active for many years on various problems related to wool production, and their work will be encouraged in close association with that of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In the past, the manufacturer has accepted the wools made available to him by the grower. There has been little attempt on the part of the producer to grow wool which is particularly suited to the manufacturer’s purposes. It is most desirable that there should be a much more intimate link between the requirements of the manufacturer and the class of wool produced by the industry. The sheepbreeders of Australia have made an enormous advance in the standard of the Australian merino, and other breeds used in this country. Nevertheless, there is great scope for the application of more closely controlled genetical methods in improving the yield, uniformity and quality of wool fibre. For example, some progeny testing is already being undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, arid extension of this work is contemplated. Australian research workers have similarly contributed to the control of many pests and diseases in sheep. The work on foot-rot, internal parasite, and blow-fly control may be mentioned as instances in which a relatively small expenditure on research has been abundantly repaid in reduced production costs. The study of nutrition is another field in which great expansion of the research programme must be undertaken. Both the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Departments of Agriculture have advanced our knowledge of such subjects as drought and supplementary feeding, whilst the control of coast disease in South Australia has provided a spectacular example of disease prevention, by the provision of a minute supplement of copper and cobalt. Pasture research is yet another field in which many problems, particularly in the northern sheep areas, remain unsolved. Considerable research has been undertaken in connexion with sown pastures in southern Australia; but both in this field and, in particular, on the treatment of native pastures it will be necessary to expand our programme considerably. The Government realizes that the ultimate value of any such research is in its effect on the cost of production as well as on the quality of the product. Consequently, Hue attention will be paid to the economic implications of any research findings, and costing studies will be undertaken. The textile research programme will cover all phases of the processing of wool, from the greasy state to the production of the fabric for sale to the consumer. Carbonizing, fellmongering, and scouring will receive attention, and the manufacturer of tops, yarn, and woollen materials of all kinds will be included. A part of the research which is contemplated consists df fundamental physical and chemical studies of the wool fibre. The results of this will be of great assistance when applied to more direct problems. Whilst wool possesses many unique qualities which are unlikely ever to be imitated in synthetic fibres, it must be recognized that it also has disadvantages that are not possessed by synthetic fibres, such as moth attack, tickle, and shrinkage. Progress has been made in research on these disabilities, but much remains to be done before commercially successful results oan be achieved. In addition to improving the qualities of processed wool, it will be necessary to explore the scope for the production of new fabrics not previously produced. There is little doubt that research will demonstrate that finer fabrics and new weaves which can not at present be achieved with wool, are possible of realization. There is need also for research on the engineering and technological problems of manufacture. There are many more processes in wool production than in the production of synthetic fibres, and this tends to add considerably to the cost of the final product. Studies of such processes as dyeing and finishing must be undertaken. The broad objective will be to improve, to the greatest degree possible, the quality and finish of wool products, and to extend the range of fabrics to the maximum degree. At present, very little use is made of the by-products of wool processing, despite the fact that little more than one-half of the raw material is actual wool fibre. There is, however, considerable promise that research will enable a full use to be made of the grease of the wool.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will undertake the research on wool processing. In order to obtain the benefit of developments in other countries, notable authorities from overseas will be invited to visit this country and advise on the formulation of the research programme. Mr. B. H. Wilsdon, director of the Wool Industries Research Association, Torridon, Leeds, has already accepted an invitation to visit Australia, and I hope that other men of similar status in the textile industry also will assist. The proposed research on both the wool production and the wool processing sides will be of limited- value without the assurance that the research findings shall be made available to the producer and the manufacturer respectively. Not only must he be constantly informed of the results of the investigations in progress, but we, too, must be assured that he will be encouraged to adopt them in his undertakings. No detailed plans have yet been drawn up in this regard, but the Government has made provision in the bill for the application of research findings, and intends that this phase shall be adequately covered.
Concurrently with research into primary and secondary production, a vigorous programme of economic research will be undertaken. The investigations will include inquiries concerning the factors influencing the cost of production, processing, and manufacturing of both wool and its competitors, also the economics of wool marketing and all its related international problems.
Manufacturers of synthetic fibres overseas are spending enormous sums on research and publicity. They realize that the investment in research of a few tens of thousands of dollars may reduce the cost of their product by a cent or two cents and thereby return enormous profits. It is the firm view of the Government that unless similar measures are taken in respect of wool cheaply produced synthetic fibres may threaten our major industry. The bill is introduced because of this conviction. It proposes that an extensive programme of research on all aspects of the industry shall be undertaken, and that adequate publicity shall be given so as to stimulate the use of wool as a textile fibre. The readiness with which wool-growers have agreed to subscribe with the Government on a £1 for £l basis is an encouraging sign of the recognition of the need for such a programme as is now being formulated. I am confident that our combined efforts will be of major assistance to the wool industry and to the nation. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Abbott) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As at present constituted by the Science and Industry Research Act 1926-1939, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research consists of three members nominated by the Commonwealth Government - one of whom is the chairman - the chairmen of the six State committees, and other members co-opted by reason of their scientific knowledge. The three Commonwealth Government appointees form an executive committee, which exercises all the powers and functions of the full council in the intervals between its meetings.
The activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have necessitated a widespread and adaptable organization. Undesirable centralization has been avoided in two main ways. In the first place, the policy has been followed of establishing laboratories in different places in the Commonwealth where the necessary facilities, contacts, and other suitable conditions could best be found. Secondly, a State committee, widely representative of scientific and industrial interests, has been established in each of the six States. These committees advise the council on general matters, and on particular subjects of investigation and research. For about twelve years after its establishment, the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was devoted mainly to the solution of problems affecting the agricultural and pastoral industries. Unlike manufacturing concerns, which often can employ their own scientific staffs, the farmer and the pastoralist are dependent on outside help for the solution of their problems which require research. It was a recognition of the greater need for the primary producer which directed the council’s early policy. However, in 1937 the Commonwealth Government decided to extend the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research so as to provide assistance to secondary industries, and the council proceeded to establish several laboratories for work in that field. It was thus in the fortunate position of being able to render to these industries assistance of vital importance almost immediately after the outbreak of war. In fact, the remarkable technological advances and developments in secondary industrial production during the war would, to a large degree, have been impossible had it not been for the assistance rendered by scientific research, and this may well serve as a forceful illustration of what may he accomplished in times of peace.
For the purpose of carrying out its research work, the council has established a number of divisions and sections. The divisions, of which there are now twelve, comprise the major establishments for w hich special laboratory buildings have been erected and equipped; the sections generally include establishments which have not reached a stage of development, so far as the scope and magnitude of their operations are concerned, that would justify their designations as divisions. As the council’s investigations are on a Commonwealth-wide basis, and as many of the investigations being conducted - particularly those concerned with problems affecting the agricultural and pastoral industries - necessitate experimental work in the field, a number of field stations has been established in various parts of Australia. The divisions established are -
The following are the sections: -
Since 1926, Sir George Julius has presided as chairman of the council, and during the nineteen years that have elapsed the council has developed into a great organization, with ramifications in almost every sphere of scientific research. That is a comparatively brief period as the lives of scientific institutions go, but a vital one in the scientific and industrial development of Australia. The council has achieved a distinguished place among the scientific institutions of the world. This is an achievement of practical importance in the lives of all Australians, without which the Commonwealth as a nation could not have played thepart that it has played, and that it will play in war and peace - a part which future historians will record among the significant factors in the history of the Commonwealth.
Advice has been received from Sir George Julius that he considers that the time has arrived when he should relinquish the position of chairman of the council. The retirement of Sir George Julius will probably take place at some time during the present year. Appreciation of his devotion to duty and of the supremely important results which the council has achieved during his term of office has been conveyed to him. The retirement of the first chairman of the council coincides with the time when we must prepare for the important task of applying to the problems of peace and post-war reconstruction the scientific organization and experience gained by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and applied so successfully to the problem’s of war. The need for the application of scientific knowledge in both primary and secondary industries will be greater than at any time in Australia’s history. Australia will be facing a new world - a world full of industrial surprises, and of scientific and technical developments not thought of a few years ago. During the war, government authorities and industrial undertakings have learned to rely more than ever before on the help of the scientist. In the post-war period, the Government, as well as industry, will be even quicker to recognize the role which science in general, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in particular, must play in solving the problems on which Australia’s future development depends. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research must be more than a great scientific institution; it must be an integral unit of industrial society, and must play an important part in public education. It must foresee the problems which cry out for solution, and must maintain close contact with the departmental or industrial authorities that have problems that need to be solved.
Having regard to all the circumstances of the case - the impending retirement of the council’s first and only chairman, the wide ramifications of the council’s work, and the part which it is being called upon to play in post-war reconstruction and development - it is desirable that the organization of the council should be modified so as to enable it to maintain a close contact between the day-to-day direction of its work and the developments which a.re taking place in industry, in the universities, and elsewhere. This can be achieved in two ways : first, by increasing the number of members of the council, and secondly, by appointing additional members to the executive committee. As regards the council, the Science and Industry Research Act already provides that the council may, with the consent of the Minister, co-opt additional members by reason of their scientific knowledge. After consulting the council, consent has recently been given to the co-option of four additional members.
– How many members of the council are there at present?
– Fifteen. The number of members of the executive committee cannot, however, he increased without an amendment of the act. The appointment of two additional members, increasing the number from three to five, as provided in the measure before the House, would not only facilitate closer contact with activities in world affairs, but would have the additional advantage that it would permit of a distribution of the burden which has grown increasingly heavy in recent years. Moreover, it would, in the long-term view, provide a larger reservoir of experience to meet the changes which must inevitably arise when other members of the present executive retire, thus maintaining continuity in the direction of the council’s work. The council has been consulted on this matter, and concurs in the view that an increase of the number of members of the executive committee is desirable. The amendment contained in the bill is in itself small, but it symbolizes the successes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to date, and is an indication of wider efforts and achievements to come. I commend the bill to the House.
– -Has any decision been reached as to the appointment of an acting chairman, pending the retirement of Sir George Julius?
– Not yet.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I impress on the Government the need for an increased measure of encouragement and assistance to those important ‘bodies known as local Repatriation Committees. These committees were established twenty years ago under the auspices of the Repatriation ‘Commission, and their duties were laid down in a handbook entitled Instructions for the Guidance of a Repatriation Local Committee. The instructions include the following: -
Country local committees can do much towards retaining a man within the confines of their influence.” Where a suitable returned soldier is helped to re-establish himself in a rural area, he is not only benefited himself, but the community as a whole reaps an advantage, as such re-establishment prevents another nian drifting to the capital or to a provincial city.
A local repatriation committee is an honorary body appointed by the commission to afford assistance within a prescribed area, ft is responsible for all its transaction to the Deputy Commissioner.
The role of a local committee is to supplement the general scheme of repatriation with particular regard to the special requirements of the. area in which the soldier and his dependants reside.
The duties of the committees are set out on page 13 of the handbook- of instructions, which states -
A committee is expected to assist and cooperate with the Deputy Commissioner in furnishing him with reports, if required, on ex-soldiers and their dependants who are resident in a committer’s area, and especially to help, him in the task of placing returned soldiers in suitable employment. As the placement of soldiers and their dependants in satisfactory employment is often the solution to most of the problems which confront them, a committee is requested to give this aspect of its work close consideration.
I regard the work of these committees as of great importance, because, at least, they provide for a measure of decentralization in the solution of repatriation problems. In my electorate several .of these ‘local committees have been formed in the last two years. Their members are men of standing in the district and men of great public spirit. They include local shire councillors, primary producers and business and professional men. The majority, if not all of them, are returned soldiers, and they are obviously the best qualified to speak on the subject of the re-establishment of ex-service personnel in the areas in which they reside. They carry out their duties with great enthusiasm, and devote a great deal of time to their work. They have already produced excellent results, and, no doubt, when servicemen return in increased numbers the committees will do a great deal more work than heretofore, which will be of inestimable value in placing exservicemen in profitable positions. At present, unfortunately, much dissatisfaction prevails amongst the members of these committees. In October last, I brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) the case of the Repatriation
Committee at Korumburra, whose members felt aggrieved and impeded in their work by the fact that discharged men in that area, had been assisted to jabs and supplied with information over the heads of the committee. There was no liaison or co-operation between the Repatriation Commission and the local committee. The Minister looked into the matter, and I understand that the differences have been straightened out; but, unfortunately, the matter does not rest there. Other committees are, to say the least, upset over the fact that their work is not, in their opinion, properly recognized, and they are not getting necessary assistance from the department. The members of these committees often work after business hours, and in the course of their inquiries they use their own motor cars and provide their own petrol. The suggestion has been put to me that assistance should be given to them in the form of either petrol or tyres, or that some financial help should be provided for the extra work they are doing. The volume of work is bound to increase, and if it is to be done properly these men should receive some material assistance from the Repatriation Department. We must see not only that discharged men are put into jobs, but that they are put into jobs which will assure them of security in the future. No one is better qualified to supervise such matters than people actually living in the locality from which the men left, and to which they will return when the war is over. Apart from the financial aspect, I believe that the closest contact should be maintained between the department and thecommittees. This work is well worth doing, and I am sure that any expense incurred would be repaid a thousandfold in the results obtained. I hope that the Government will give the matter its earnest consideration.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) to the serious plight of many ex-servicemen, and men not yet discharged from the forces, because of the acute housing shortage which exists, particularly in metropolitan areas. Of course, the community generally is suffering under this disability, hut it presses more heavily upon servicemen because, in many instances, when the husband enlisted, the home was broken up, and his wife went to live with relatives. Now, when the husband is discharged, the greatest difficulty is experienced in the finding of a house. I recognize that the War Service Homes Commission is under the disadvantage that only a token amount was appropriated for this department in the last budget. However, I know of cases in which soldiers, after being informed by the commission that no money was available, said that they could provide the money themselves with which tobuild. Can the Minister give an assurance that if a soldier provides the money himself the commission will, immediately it is in possession of funds, take over his obligations? I should also like the Minister to give favorable consideration to the proposal that a soldier on active service, or his representative here, should qualify for the benefits under the act, instead of having to wait until he is demobilized.
.- I desire to refer to the administrative procedure of the Department of War Organization of Industry in dealing with applications lodged by ex-servicemen who wish to build homes for themselves at their own cost, requiring from the Government only a permit to build. As far back as July 1943, I was communicated with by a woman who is serving in the Australian
Women’s Medical Army Service. Her husband had been boarded out of the Army after serving for two years in the Middle East, and she has been unable to find a home. They had a block of land in Camberwell, a well-known residential suburb of Melbourne, and she applied to the Department of War Organization of Industry for a permit to build. The department said to her : “ We cannot give any one a permit to build a home without first being assured that the applicant can obtain the necessary equipment, such as a bath, stove, taps, &c.” She then set out on a tour of the hardware shops, and after a good deal of trouble found that she was able to buy a stove here, abath there, and other fittings somewhere else. She informed the department of this, and the department then, apparently, went into a huddle, after which it said : “ That being so, we will give you a permit to build’ a home, but the cost must not exceed £400 “.
– The Sydney Turf Club got permission to expend £250,000.
– Yes, and I seem to remember that the Communists were given a permit to spend a considerable amount, also. Nevertheless, this woman was given a permit tobuild a home which was to cost not more than £400, despite the fact that it was impossible to build a home for that amount. Moreover, the department ought to have known of the existence of a building regulation in the municipality of Camberwell which precludedthe building of a home at a cost of anything like as low as £400. This was pointed out to the department, which then said that it would give further consideration to the matter, but the applicant would have to submit plans and specifications, and an estimate of the minimum cost of the building. That made it necessary for her to find a builder - not an easy thing to do. Eventually one was found, and he took out an estimate of costs. This was submitted to the department and, after a long delay, it was found impossible to get a quotation from any builder for a figure which the department would accept. She then made a further application setting out her minimum requirements, but not specifying any cost. This led to innumerable interviews, the filling in of many forms, and to much correspondence, which occupied the period from July, 1943, to November, 1944. About a month ago, the woman wrote to me, and her state of mind is indicated by her letter, which is as follows: -
Since last speaking to you per phone we have the blue prints and specifications from the architect, Mr. Marcus Barlow, as you will recall my having told you that when last calling at the War Organization of Industry officeI was told by Mr. Bradley that it would be necessary for us to have an architect to get any consideration at all. Although when first applying for permission to build some type of a home or part thereof I had in mind and had arranged with a builder to do the work, but after his wasting so many months and his precious time with War Organization of Industry, he refused to have anything further to dowith the job. When finally, some five or six months ago, we were given consideration, we immediately contacted Mr. Barlow and ever since have been waiting on some final plan, which was complete early in December, but so far neither he nor we can find a builder to give us the necessary quote so that same can again go to War Organization of Industry. We tried the country while away at Christmas, but July is the earliest, so far, any approached builder can start the work. I can assure you it is most distressing to us and my family that still we remain homeless. I have never missed in answering an advertisementin the papers for a home, nor an auction sale for the past seventeen months, with the exception of three weeks while ill. Had we been allowed to build when I first applied, and had material and builders, which is fourteen months ago, we would be all happy and enjoying doing whatever we could to bring peace to all, where as we luck the most important thing in these days of strife, which is “peace of mind” and some place to rest.
Having been told that no consideration could be given to her application unless she submitted plans prepared by an architect, she obtained plans and submitted them to the Department of War Organization of Industry,only to be told that nothing could be done. This man and his wife have been humbugged for months. I could have understood the department saying to them, “Forget about building a house, because we have no intention to grant you a permit “, but instead of doing that, the department put them to the trouble of going through all the processes that I have mentioned before saying that nothing could be done. I put it strongly that such a state of affairs is intolerable and should not be allowed to continue. If the Government is not able to permit ex-service personnel to build homes for themselves, it should say so plainly, and not humbug them.
.- Considerable confusion exists among members generally as the result of their endeavours to ascertain the policy of the Government in regard to migration. For some time I have had on the notice-paper a question directed to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) asking what representation, if any, Australia had in European countries which had been liberated or were likely to be completely liberated in the near future. I also desired information as to what provision, if any, existed for stimulating interest in migration to Australia in those countries and to deal with inquiries. I have learned from the Minister for External Affairs that Australia has not at present any representative in Italy or Belgium, but has a Minister accredited to the Queen of the Netherlands. This Minister resides in London, pending the return of the Netherlands Government to Holland. I understand that an Australian Minister will shortly proceed to Paris. The Minister then added that he would ask his colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to furnish an answer to the other portion of my question. I am now informed that in the countries mentioned Australia has no representative who can deal with inquiries concerning migration to this country. I also asked whether it was a fact that inquiries had been received by the High Commissioner in India from servicemen who had either been discharged or had retired from service, and desired to settle in Australia and, if so, what facilities existed for dealing with them. I also inquired whether it was a fact that the Government of South Africa was maintaining an organization in India to promote the migration to South Africa of such servicemen? I w as informed that the High Commissioner’s office in Delhi issues information made available from time to time by the Administration in Canberra, and that inquiries are also dealt with by the Department of the Interior at Canberra. The Minister also indicated that no information is available as to what is done by the Government of South Africa to promote migration of servicemen to that dominion. I believe that I express the view of honorable members generally when I say that we are completely baffled in our attempts to ascertain the migration policy of the Government, or to learn what is being done to stimulate interest in migration to this country, or to deal effectively with inquiries which are being made in various countries. Probably some honorable members have received inquiries from relatives or friends abroad regarding the prospects of migration to this country. The indifference or casualness of the Government appears to indicate that there is no real desire” on its part for any substantial measure of migration to Australia, yet to hear some honorable members opposite, and particularly some prominent Ministers, one would be justified in believing that they are convinced of the necessity to bring to Australia large numbers of desirable migrants. In many countries from which we could expect large numbers of migrants, vast areas have become devastated as the result of the war. Industries and homes have been destroyed and families have been dispersed. Breadwinners have been killed, and children have been orphaned as ths result of bombing or other war causes. Many desire to make a fresh start in n new country, where they will be remote from the bitterness, tragedy and harshness of their experiences during, the last few years. Australia urgently needs large numbers of suitable migrants in order to strengthen us against external aggression. We should be the last people to be dilatory in a matter of this kind. Our very remoteness makes it all the more imperative that we should secure the mass migration to our shores of people from other countries. Europe has been devastated, and intense bitterness has developed - bitterness which is directed not only against an aggressive enemy who occupied countries that are now being liberated, but also against even neighbours in the same “community, who took different sides as the struggle developed. If we are not prepared to accept those who want to come here, we shall miss the kind of opportunity which does not occur many times in the life of a young nation.
I have a feeling, and I believe that it is shared by many others, that the Government’s lethargy in this regard is influenced largely by the attitude of insular and sectional groups in this country, who hold the unfounded belief that any movement of people from other countries to Australia may jeopardize the prospects of Australians obtaining employment here.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– The Minister “ for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) denies that that is a factor. Whilst I hope that is the case, I am influenced by the public statements of men who represent important groups of workers in this country. I -am influenced also by a statement made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) a few nights ago, when he referred to the necessity to employ Australians before we induce migrants to come here. Knowing something of the record of Ministers, I cannot help feeling on this particular item of policy that that is an important factor which is retarding real progress in this matter at the present time. I am glad that the Minister for Repatriation does not think so, because if that is his view, he shares my opinion that increased numbers of people in Australia mean more jobs here, and a greater consumption and a greater demand for goods. By proper and statesmanlike administration, we should be able effectively to place migrants in employment without difficulty. That the need exists, there can be no dispute. It is accepted by every honorable member. That there is need for action corresponding to the need is a matter which is also beyond dispute. We cannot see any evidence of it. We despair of obtaining from the Government any statement about what is being done to accelerate a movement to this country of people who can be an asset to it. When I find, as I have in reply to my questions, that Australia is not adequately represented in certain countries and that inquiries will be speedily forthcoming as people are liberated and despair of making a fresh start in countries wasted by war, I consider that die Government is losing sight of a most valuable opportunity to satisfy Australia’s need for an increase of population.
I understand that even at present, there is a considerable volume of inquiries from men who have seen service either in the Indian Army or with British units now serving in south-east .Asia. For medical reasons or because of age, they are to be discharged from the Army, and they are making inquiries in the hope of being able to settle in Australia. But they cannot get any satisfactory information as to what their prospects will be, whether they will be welcomed and whether transport will be available for them. The Government should not delay making a clear pronouncement of its intentions. So far as I am aware no such pronouncement has been made-by this Government. Honorable members have been assured that a Cabinet committee is at work, but we know how futile Cabinet committees can be.
– The honorable member must be speaking from his own ministerial experience.
– Perhaps I am. I know that when Ministers are fully occupied with the details of administration in their own departments, it becomes most difficult to assemble committees and from them to obtain a clear and definite indication of policy. Therefore, I ask the Government, if it has a policy, to disclose it. If it has a programme which can be communicated to its representatives abroad, let us see that it is conveyed to them. Let us also have adequate representation in countries where we may reasonably expect that efficient organization and an imaginative and enterprising programme will attract prospective migrants to come here. At the moment, that programme does not exist; and the Government has given no indication that it is doing anything to ensure that it will exist. Until honorable members on this side of the chamber get a proper pronouncement from the Government of what it has in mind, they must remain restless and dissatisfied.
.- The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) sought information about local committees which have been appointed to assist in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. About 90 of those committees are in existence in Victoria, and 96 in New South Wales. I greatly appreciate their work. The honorable member declared that the committees need more encouragement, and are dissatisfied. I have heard no complaints from them. They are anxious to do everything in their power to assist ex-servicemen. Nearly every family in Australia has a relative in the armed forces, and consequently desires that ex-servicemen shall he properly rehabilitated. Without the assistance of those committees, we cannot make a complete success of repatriating discharged personnel. The honorable member advocated the granting of financial assistance to committees. Such a request has not previously been made to me.
– I am making it now.
– Our servicemen have been fighting to ensure the safety of Australia, and when they are discharged, it is the duty of our people to assist them. The local committees are honorary bodies, and their members come from many walks of life. For instance, the members of one committee include the manager of a woollen mill, two bank managers, two clergymen, and four farmers. The members of those committees say that they prefer to work in an honorary capacity.
– They are short of tyres and petrol.
– I was able to give some assistance to some of them in that, respect; but every one, including the honorable member, knows of the serious shortage of tyres and petrol. Undoubtedly, these committees are obliged to work under disabilities. We recognize that fact, and, therefore, give them all the assistance we can. These committees, working in an honorary capacity, will achieve far better results than paid officials. It is the duty of people who are unable to go to the war to do all they possibly can to facilitate the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel in their districts by giving the latter all i the advice and help within their power. After the last war, many ex-soldiers settled on land or engaged in small businesses in which they had no chance of success. I have every faith in these local committees, and I believe that they will give every assistance possible to exservice personnel. Host of these lads will marry and will want to settle down. They will be good citizens; and after going through the hardships encountered during their military service they will be anxious to rehabilitate themselves. I assure the honorable member that I very much appreciate the work being done by the local committees in assisting ex-service personnel in this direction, and wherever possible I shall do my best to see that their needs are met.
The matter raised, by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who suggested that service personnel should be allowed to apply for war service homes before discharge, has been brought up on many occasions. The commission takes the view that such a course would not be desirable. Take, for instance, a lad who is serving in the forces in New Guinea. Suppose that either he or his wife applies for a home before his discharge. It may be that the home is quite suitable at the time the application is made, but subsequently !b-2 man may be seriously wounded, or the circumstances of the couple may change to such a degree that they do not want the home when the man is discharged. In another case, a servicer’s wife may choose a war service home, ‘but the man himself on. his discharge may object to taking the home. The commission has gone thoroughly into the suggestion made by the honorable member. We are hopeful that we shall be able to supply homes as the men are discharged. The honorable member remarked that very little money was provided in the last estimates in respect of this item. Nevertheless, we are not likely to utilize all the money voted for that .purpose, because of the high cost of building homes at present. Tenders have been called for the erection of homes for men discharged from the forces, but on the advice of the commission the tenders have not been accepted’ because the high cost would be” too heavy a burden upon the shoulders of the ex-servicemen. I assure honorable members that I have made every effort to provide homes at a reasonable cost for ex-servicemen, but without success. We obtained permission to build over 100 homes, but owing to the shortage of materials we have not built anything like that number7
– That seems to be a small number.
– It represented only a start. Actually we have built only a few homes, because, as I have already said, the prices submitted by tenderers have been too high. My department had nothing to do with the case raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
National Security Act - National Security ( General ) Regulations -r- Order - Service munitions (Safety precautions) (No. 1).
House adjourned at 10.46.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, *upon notice-**
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
It is assumed that the honorable member refers to the acquisitions of land at Essendon. The Government has decided to submit test cases to the court for decision. Officers of the Department of the Interior are at present in consultation with representatives of the owners to decide the test cases to he submitted to the court. The costs of the action will be met by the Government.
y. - On the 9th March the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction whether he would undertake to give further consideration to the regulations limiting the output of double-weft cloth, in order to ascertain whether the saving of man-power effected in the manufacture of cloth is not more than offset by the increase of labour necessary in the clothing industry to meet the frequent renewals resulting from the use of less durable materials.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction replied that the question was one for the Minister for Supply and Shipping and undertook to refer the honorable member’s representations to that Minister. This matter has been examined by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has made the following information available : -
The making of double-weft materials is mainly a problem of yarn. It is necessary to control manufacture of cloth in such a way as to ensure that the best possible use is made of the available yarn. The bulk of Australian suitings have always been made from singleweft material, and with the latest relaxations the mills will be in a position to produce almost the same percentage of better-class cloths as was produced before any restrictions were placed on manufacture.
Soldier Settlemen t.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - Following the agreement on main principles reached at the Premiers Conference, the Commonwealth and States, in consultation, are developing the necessary arrangements, financially and otherwise, for settling exmembers of the forces on the land. Proposals for settlement projects are being prepared in the States for submission to the Commonwealth. Actual allotment of land to ex-members will follow approval of these projects, and when the appropriate stage has been reached Commonwealth financial contributions will be available to the States.
n asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Mr. Curtin (through Mr. Chifley). - In his report for the year ended the 30th June, 1944, the Administrator of the Northern Territory suggested that a form of local government be granted to the territory. This suggestion will be considered by the Government in due course. If it be decided that a form of local government is to be established in the territory, an amendment of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act would be involved, and the bill to amend the act would have to be submitted to Parliament.
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he investigate the report that eight ministerial cars were atRandwick race-course on Saturday last, and inform the House what they were doing there?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The report has been investigated. There were no Commonwealth ministerial cars at Randwick race-course on Saturday last.
t asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Sydney Graving Dock.
t asked the Minister for
Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Investigations by an independent cost accountant revealed that the factors responsible for increasing the cost to £9,000,000 were - (a) the consulting engineers’ original estimate of £2,997,000 was too low even on 1939 figures; (b) additional works were required in the development of the scheme due to experience gained during this war; (c) there were substantial increases in the cost of Australian materials and equipment from overseas; (d) th ere were increases in labour costs due to shift work, increases in average earnings and reduced efficiency due to labour shortage.
y. - On the 28th February, 1945, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) asked whether, in view of the shortage of fencing wire in South Australia, the Prime Minister would approach the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited with a view to having this commodity manufactured at Whyalla.
I desire on behalf of the Prime Minister, to inform the honorable member that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited does not manufacture fencing wire. Fencing wire is made in Australia, from wire rods processed at the Newcastle works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, by the following three firms : - Rylands Brothers (Australia) Proprietary Limited, New South Wales; Lysaght Brothers and Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited., New South Wales; W.A. Wire and Netting Company Limited, Western Australia. Although the necessary wire rods are available, the production of fencing wire is limited by the man-power available for drawing the wire. Available supplies of fencing wire are distributed to each State on an equitable allocation based upon pre-war usage, and distribution within the States is arranged in accordance with priorities determined by District War Agricultural Committees. The difference between demand and production is entirely due to shortage of labour and is not a matter of providing additional wire drawing plant.
Royal Navy: Loss of Leave.
y. - On the 22nd February, 1945, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question concerning the alleged loss of leave byRoyal Navy personnel as a result of their employment on wharves owing to industrial trouble.
I desire on behalf of the Prime Minister to inform the honorable member that the Royal Navy personnel in question were called upon to load naval store ships and tankers, any delay in the departure of which could not have been accepted. TheRoyal Navy authorities have intimated that in no instance was long or week-end leave lost as a result of this employment, and that only occasional short leave from one to six hours was lost by some of the personnel who comprised ammunition parties.
Mr.holt asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has the Government received the report of the committeeset up to investigate the Dean case?
Has it consideredthe report; if so, what act ion, if any, is to follow?
Will the contents of the reportbe made public?
If so, when will this be done; if not, why not?
ey). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Taxation: Australians Attached to AmericanForces.
Mr.Chifley. - On Wednesday, the 7th February, the Leader of the Australian Country party askedme the following question : -
Is it a fact that Australiansattached to AmericanForces in the South-West Pacific Area including returned soldiers of thelast war who are too old to serve with the Australian Imperial Force in this war, arc 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 Treasurerhave the matter reviewed, and make a statement to Parliament on the subject?
Under the Income Tax Assessment Act the pay and allowances earned outside
Australia by members of the forces are exempt from income tax. This exemption, however, does not extend to the earnings of civilians who are employed by the American Army outside Australia. Income earned by a resident of Australia from sources outside Australia is subject to income tax if it is not taxed in the country outside Australia in which it is earned. As the earnings in question are not subjected to American income tax, they are subject to Commonwealth income tax.
I would, however, point out that civilians employed on ships of the American Army arc entitled to the special deduction which is allowed to members of the defence forces in Australia, to accredited persons attached to the forcesoutside Australia, and to merchant seamen. The allowance of this deduction hasthe effect of exempting the earnings on these ships up to £250 and of allowing a special diminishing deduction where the earnings exceed £250 hut do not exceed £586. This concession is not enjoyed by Australian civilians other than the two groups of civilians last mentioned.
I have, as requested by the right honorable member, reviewed the matter of the taxation of these earnings. The case for any exemption restson the dangerous conditions under which the income is earned. Acceptance of this principle would, however, entail a complete departure from an accepted income tax principle, namely, that of taxation according to ability to pay. The fact that certain income is derived under conditions which expose the employee to danger or hardship does not lessenthe ability of that employee to pay income tax thereonat the same rates as are imposed on an equivalent income derivedelsewhere.
Any departure from this accepted principle would give rise to anomalies and many practical problems. Dangerous conditions are not confined to civilians who earn their income in or adjacent to battle areas, and the Government would find it difficult to refuse similar exemptions to numerous other classes of taxpayers in occupations where the work is hazardous also. Whilst I feel that a great job is being done by the civilians to whom the right honorable member refers,
I regret, in the circumstances, that I cannot favorably consider granting a total exemption of these earnings.
War Damage Insurance.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 1st March, 1945, the honorable member for Parramatta asked me the following question: -
Will the Treasurer ascertain and advise the House of the amount of premiums collected by the War Damage Insurance Commission, the value of claims settled, and the aggregate a mount of claims still pending?
The following reply is furnished to the honorable member’s question setting out the desired information as at the 31st December, 1944: -
Claims assessed and recorded and interest thereon (in accordance with the National Security (War Damage lb Property) Regulationg)- £999,843.
Claims not yet assessed had been notified in respect of property of an estimated value of- £12,500,000.
Mr. E. Thornton.
e asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Following upon the receipt of an invitation by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions from theBritish Trade Union Congress to send two representatives to attend the World Trade Union Conference in London, the Cabinet approved of a recommendation made by the Minister for Labour and National Service for the payment of the cost of transport of two such delegates to London. All other expenses were, however, to be paid by the delegatesor the trade unions themselves. Mr. E. Thornton, general secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, and Mr. C. Crofts, general secretary of the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union, were selected by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions as the delegates, and they left Austral in on the 1st May, 1944, en route to London by way of the United States of America. The World Trade Union Conference was, however, postponed because of the ban imposed on travel toand from the United Kingdom during the period preceding the landing in Normandy, and Messrs. Crofts and Thornton didnot proceed beyond the United States of America. They returned to Australia in October. Arrangements were then made by the British Trade Union Congress for the postponed conference to take place in February, 1946. Mr. Crofts became ill shortly beforeleaving Australia, and Mr. Monk was nominated by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to act in his place. Mr. Monk, however, himself became ill. and Mr. Thornton proceeded to London alone. The cost of Mr. Thornton’s passage, but no other expenses, will he met by the Commonwealth Government. The precise amount is not yet known.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450315_reps_17_181/>.