17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Was the Prime Minister, or his unofficial representative, correctly reported in the press of last Wednesday, as having stated that henceforth it was the intention of the right honorable gentleman not to answer questions addressed to him by members of this House, other than the leaders of parties?
Mr.CURTTN.-It is not true to say that it is my intention to refuse to answer questions put to me by members of Parliament. Last week I was submitted to a barrage of questions, some of which could not conceivably be expected to be answered without notice; others were obviously lacking in the quality of urgency, and therefore should have been submitted upon notice. I was not, for, reasons which I believe are understood by honorable mem- bers, in a condition which would enable me without distress to rise from and resume my seat at minute intervals, I informed the Leader of the Opposition, ina note that I passed to him across the table, that in my view the stage had been reached when questions without notice, of which I had been made a target, should be directed to me only by leaders of parties or their deputies. Rightly or wrongly, I understood the Leader of the Opposition to say that he had given some such hint to the members of his party. I thereupon, either rightly or wrongly, advised the Leader of the Australian Country party of my intention; and he, rightly or wrongly, informed me that he understood that that more or less had the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition. If I have made a mistake in the matter, I deeply regret it. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that, as 1 explained to him yesterday on the telephone, I shall answer every question that is put to me by any member of Parliament. If it is placed on the notice-paper, I. shall furnish a written reply. If it be urgent, and without notice, I shall endeavour to answer it forthwith. Any question that is not urgent should be placed on the notice-paper.
– by leave- When the Prime Minister arrived in the House this morning just before the sitting commenced, I mentioned to him that I should like leave to make a short statement on this matter, because it is most undesirable that there should be any misunderstanding in regard to it. Communications passed between the right honorable gentleman and myself on the last occasion on which questions were directed to him. The right honorable gentleman informed me yesterday that his impression was as he has stated ir this morning. I had not intended to convey that impression to him, and plainly there was some misunderstanding. I am perfectly happy to accept my responsibility in that regard. I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that, in the circumstances, he should not feel at all embarrassed, or committed by anything that has been said. I am sure that it is the wish of the House that he should feel at complete liberty to consider the position, and to establish such a rule as he may deem fit. I regard it as right that he should do that without any feeling that he had been committed to a particular course by either me or anybody else.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions give consideration to the matter of permitting the use of electric lighting ou bowling greens, when these are used for patriotic purposes, such as the holding of paddy’s markets and carnivals?
– The House is aware of the reasons for the restrictions in connexion with the lighting of public places. The principal reason, at the moment, is the shortage of coal stocks. However, 1 shall bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Minister for Munition’s, in order to see whether or not a relaxation such as the honorable member has suggested may be permitted.
– Last Wednesday I. asked the Treasurer, as the acting leader of the House, for a reply to the question [. had placed on the notice-paper over a fortnight ago, in regard to the appointment of an independent arbitrator to investigate the cost of producing whole milk for the Sydney-Newcastle milk zone, and to determine what would be a fair price to the producers, such determination to be accepted by the Prices Commissioner. The honorable gentleman promised that a reply would be furnished as soon as possible. In view of the great urgency of the matter, and of the necessity to maintain supplies of milk to Sydney «nd Newcastle, can the honorable gentleman now answer the question?
– When the honorable member raised the matter last Wednesday, I told him that a reply would be obtained for him as early as possible. I repeat that assurance.
Appointment of Secretary
– Will the Minister for Information advise the House as to whether or not the Mr. Bruce who recently was appointed secretary in Victoria of the newly formed Liberal party of Australia is identical with the Mr. Bruce who at one time was publicity officer for the Associated Banks of Australia, and whether or not he is a returned soldier?
– I have no definite information, but, according to current gossip, the Mr. Bruce appointed to a position in the Liberal party of Australia is the person of that name who at one time was connected with the Associated Banks of Australia. Of course, it is natural to expect the Associated Banks to be connected with the Liberal party of Australia because that is the party which represents big business.
Restoration of Civil Administration
– The Minister , for External Territories referred last week to a school at Duntroon for the training of officers for the civil administration of New Guinea and Papua. Will he state whether or not the officers being trained at that school are still members of the Army? Are they being trained solely by Army officers? Have members of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air . Force been included in the school? Is the school open also to discharged members of the forces? If so, as the training is for the civil administration of the territories mentioned, is it necessary to have it under Army control?
– The school is the Army School of Administration, and is directly under Army control. It is true that those who successfully complete the course will be eligible for appointment to the civil administration of the territories of Papua and New Guinea, upon its reestablishment. According to my information, the teaching staff does not consist exclusively of Army officers, but also has on it civilian teachers. The position will be reviewed when the civil administration has been restored. It is anticipated that control of the school will then be vested in a civil authority.
– During the absence of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External
Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to attend the San Francisco conference on world organization, the following arrangements have been made with regard to the carrying on of their ministerial duties : -
The Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services: (‘Senator Fraser) will act as Minister for the Army.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) will act as Attorney-General. I shall act as Minis.ter for External Affairs.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will represent the Acting Minister for the Army in this House.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
Jil at the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping has informed me in writing that he does not wish to interfere with the State authorities in connexion with the eviction of F. Viggers Limited from their Newcastle premises. This firm produces approximately 4,000 gallons of motor spirit monthly, and the reason for the proposed eviction is that the factory is a public nuisance. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the health inspector is said to have declared that this industry is not by any means a nuisance ? Does the honorable gentleman,- nevertheless, still regard the production of 4,000 gallons of substitute fuel as of less importance than the risk of offending the State authorities? Will he arrange for the making of a regulation under the National .Security Act to prevent the intended eviction before the end of the present month? In view of the opinion held by the health inspector, will he also ascertain the grounds on which the magistrate made his decision?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping asked me to table the answer to the question which the honorable member has already received. The House is aware that this situation has arisen out of action by the Newcastle City Council. The honorable member states that the health inspector advised the council contrary to its decision.
– I think that testimony to that effect was given in court.
– The best I can do is to bring the honorable member’s request to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, but I think that the Minister will naturally be reluctant to use national security regulations against the municipality.
– If the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping should find that it is not possible for the Government to intervene in the matter of the eviction of Viggers Limited, Newcastle, will he inquire into the possibility of the department co-operating with the company with a view to ensuring, that, possibly by a transfer to some other site, the company’s valuable contribution to the war-time liquid fuel resources of the Commonwealth shall not he lost?
– Yes. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Minister.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that I have received many letters from chambers of commerce and other public bodies throughout my electorate deploring the continuous decline of dairy production. I have also received various newspapers showing that from eight to ten clearing sales are advertised in every issue in each district. My correspondents point out that there are several different contributory causes of the decline of production in the industry, including shortage of man-power, absence of sufficient equipment, tyres &c, and inadequate prices of dairy products. In view of the fact that those causes cannot be dealt with at present by one Minister, and as the removal of one of them would apparently have little beneficial effect, will the Minister bring to the notice of the Government the desirability of placing all of those matters under the control of one Minister, so that adequate results may be obtained before further decline of production occurs?
– This matter has been raised in the House on several occasions. In one instance I pointed out that the number of clearing sales which had taken place during a given period prior to the war, was very little different from the number which had occurred during a similar period of the year during the currency of the war.
People are always wanting to go out of the dairying industry for one reason or another. In every dairying district at any time one may read newspaper notices concerning clearing sales. However, I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and ask him to furnish an answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question.
Transport of Servicemen’sWives.
Mr.CONELAN.- Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping confer with the Acting Minister for the Army or the War Cabinet regarding the possibility of using one of our hospital ships, which have been lying idle for several months, to transport the wives of American servicemen who have been waiting a long time to obtain passages to the United States of America, and bringing to Australia on the return voyage the wives of Australian servicemen and others who are stranded in the United States ?
– That matter has received attention for some time. The honorable member has particularly in mind, I suppose, the hospital ship Manunda, which has been lying in Sydney Harbour for several months. Hospital ships are registered in accordance with the terms of the Geneva Convention, and naturally all particulars have to be made known to the enemy. Once we made changes of the kind suggested, great difficulty would be experienced, according to advice received by the Government, in obtaining reregistration of those vessels. Despite the fact that the Government is most anxious to use the ship referred to for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member, it finds this obstacle too great to over- come. Although we hope that the ship will not be required, the possibility that it will be needed as a hospital vessel is always present.
Prosecution of Service Station Operators
– An undertaking was recently given by the Minister for Supply and Shipping that a regulation would be framed dealing with the prosecution of the operators of certain petrol service stations in Sydney. Will the Minister representing the Attor- ney-General make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether the Liquid Fuel Control Board is defeating the new regulation made at the instance of the exMinister for Supply and Shipping by instituting proceedings under another regulation? If he finds that that is so, will be take appropriate steps to ensure that the wishes of the Minister and of this Parliament shall not be defeated in that way?
– The House will remember that the purpose of the regulation was to provide a method of appeal from decisions by the Liquid Fuel Control Board. I shall ask the SolicitorGeneral to examine the whole matter, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
– I have received many complaints from residents of country districts that their mail services have been cut down for the purposes of economy, and that the services arenot remunerative to the Postmaster-General’s Department owing to the departure of people to the war zone or to the cities, with the result that the remaining residents in country areas have to suffer reduced services. In some instances the reductions are from three days to two days a week, and the complaints from the country are widespread. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take the matter up with him, with a view to ensuring that those residents who are still carrying on their vocations in the country shall not be penalized further by restricted services due to an economy campaign by the department? .
– I shall take up with the Postmaster-General the subject of retaining postal services regardless of a diminution of population in certain country districts due to transfers of people to employment in the capital cities or for other causes. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to furnish an early reply to the question asked by the honorable member, so that he may be fully advised regarding the situation.
I move -
That regulation6B of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, made by Statutory Rules 1944, No. 161, be disallowed.
After having given notice of this motion, I discussed the matter with the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who suggested to me that he was not very keen about arbitrarily revoking a requisition order, but that he would look into the matter. Later, in the presence of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), he repeated that statement,but I have received no intimation from him of any consideration having been given the subject. The regulation which I propose should be disallowed is one which is deficient in justice, and iniquitous in its incidence. I appreciate the fact that the war required that extraordinary action should be taken to meet emergencies, hence it was necessary that authority for such action should be given by regulation, in this instance a regulation to requisition plant and machinery.
Although it may be accepted that extraordinary action is necessary in requisitioning material at the outset, it does not necessarily follow that extraordinary action is essential in the reverse procedure. In other words, although people may be expected to suffer somewhat under war emergencies, why should we penalize the same individuals by arbitrarily revoking a requisition without fair compensation? I think that it is fitting that this problem should be solved by Parliament, as many individuals and councils are affected.
The purport of the regulation is arbitrarily to revoke a requisition order previously made acquiring machinery or plant, as the case may be. Having finished the task for which it was requisitioned, or more correctly, having “ finished “ the machine, the authorities are now given the right to pass it back to its previous owner, or in the event of non-acceptance, to sell or dispose of it, the proceeds of such sale being the only provision made in payment for it. The deficiency of justice that I referred to at the outset is the absence of any provision for compensation or fair payment. Obviously the main reason for non-acceptance would he that the machine had been worn out, and was no longer in a workable condition, and therefore useless to the Allied Works Council or other authority and useless to its original owner; but also, because of its worn-out condition, it would ‘have only a low sale value. In fact, this regulation does not apply the time-honoured practice of returning a machine in the same order as when it was received, fair wear and tear excepted.
One vital matter that must not be forgotten is that the exigencies of the position demanded that the plant and machinery be used to push the work through, regardless of the capabilities of the machine. This resulted in overstrain. Moreover, there is ample evidence . from the plant that has been returned that it was not cared for properly. In many instances, the plant broke down, and was left lying bv the side of the road until it was eventually returned. For periods of one to two years, or even longer, no compensation is being allowed, even if the owner does accept return, although there is definite evidence of overstrain and neglect. These faults, admittedly, may have been unavoidable; nevertheless, the owners should not bear the liability.
Terms for the acquisition of plant and machinery are easily settled in the case of a straight-out sale - that is when the Government pays for its purchase. But in. respect of shire councils, the Government acquires, but pays no compensation, hands back the machine, and then wants to settle on a hire basis, refusing to put the machine in good order unless the owner pays an excessive share of the cost, and refusing to make any hire payments for machines which break down through negligence.
Generally speaking, the terms on which a machine is hired are those laid down in the Main Roads Act. At least, that applies in Queensland, and I assume that it is so in other States. Certain charges are allowed, and only minor repairs are to be paid by the owner, according to what the owner deems to be reasonable. In effect, now that the boot is on the other foot, the Government, as hirer, still wants to take the part of owner so far as declaring what payments are to be made for repairs, and. its decisions .often go beyond the acceptable rulings under the Main Roads Act.
If, in practice, the Allied Works Council were adhering to the conditions of the Main Roads’ Act, there would be less need for this motion, but in some instances councils have ‘been charged more for repairs than the compensation allowed, and, in addition, have now on hand a worn-out machine. The overstrain of the machine cannot be satisfactorily compensated for at ordinary depreciation rates. Here is another instance of the outlook of Allied Works Council officials: The tools attached to a certain machine were missing when the machine was returned. The council concerned asked for their replacement. When they were replaced, the cost of the tools was charged against the council, and it was proposed to deduct the amount from the compensation due. But the Allied Works Council bumped the wrong council, which rejected what had ‘been proposed. That indicates what happens when, after long months and years of waiting for a settlement, the owner is given a statement of accounts - and always the Government is on the right side of the ledger, because it has withheld payments long overdue.
Another iniquity in this regulation is the declaration that, fourteen days’ notice having been given, and the owner not having accepted the return, the Commonwealth or person in charge of the property is not liable in the event of loss by deterioration or damage to the property, howsoever arising. This means, in effect, that if a farmer live3 in north Queensland, or Cunnamulla, or some far-distant place, and does not go to rescue his property, he may lose even the small value that remains in the machine. What applies to shire councils applies equally to individuals. Many farmers whose tractors have been requisitioned have been heavy losers.
The matter may be summarized as follows : The Government, having acquired property, machinery and plant, has not, in many cases, paid either the purchase price or compensation. It seeks to return worn-out machinery and plant to its previous owner without paying adequate compensation. In practice, the Government acts as a hirer, but ignores the obligations of a hirer to restore property to the condition in which it was when received. Property acquired has been over-worked and over-strained. There is no provision for extra depreciation to meet this excessive wear. Major repair costs, the responsibility of the Government as hirer, are being passed on to the owners to a considerable extent. Shire councils, because of the shortage of road-making machinery, are at a disadvantage. They are really compelled to accept returns, and are consequently at a heavy financial loss. Individuals, farmers, for instance whose tractors have been requisitioned, are likewise heavy losers financially. They have to meet approximately a 50 per cent. increase of replacement costs. They are losers through having no tractors to work their properties. If they have been able to secure a replacement, they should not be expected to accept a second and now worn-out machine. They should be given satisfactory compensation.
The Government may reply that, when compensation, is disputed, the recent decision of the High Court that, where anything is acquired by the Government it must be paid for on a fair and reasonable basis, is a sufficient guarantee that, if the matter is brought before a court, justice will be done. I want to answer that in advance. We cannot continue to accept as satisfactory a regulation which makes no provision for adequate compensation, or leaves a matter affecting so many owners to the good graces of the Government. It suggests to me that the Minister or his department is deliberately taking this course, knowing full well that a majority of individuals, however great their loss, cannot and will not run the risk of taking the Government to court, for, however just their claims, and even if the decision be favorable, their costs are likely to mount up beyond their ability to pay. Moreover, their claim may be just, but they may be beaten on some technicality. Again, a court decision is not likely to have general application, except as the basis of payment which is already decided. This means that each owner would need to approach the court separately. But, in any case, why should this serious anomaly persist, making it necessary for a local authority to go to law? It is the desire of the Government that two bodies handling public moneys should fight each other in court? That mightbe allowed to pass where the possibility is unforeseen,but not otherwise.
I submit that the regulation should be disallowed, thus enabling the Government to provide a fair and acceptable basis of compensation, having in mind the factors that I have mentioned. It should also accept responsibility for the property it has acquired until it is returned or disposed of. In addition, or as an alternative, there should be a tribunal in each State to fix the terms of settlement if required.
.-I second the motion submitted by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). This regulation, in itself, and in the way in which it has been administered, is entirely unsuitable, and is a further instance of the Government’s lack of consideration for the primary producers. The way in which the regulation has been administered smacks of bureaucratic control, and has imposed an unjust handicap on primaryproducers and shire councils. Because of war conditions, producers and shire councils have had to carry on under difficult conditions, having had to get along without proper machinery and equipment, such as tractors, harrows, motor lorries, &c. They have endured these hardships patriotically. Farmers have done their best to keep their properties in order, and councils have done their best to keep roads and bridges in a trafficable condition. The war situation now makes it possible for some of the plant which was requisitioned to be returned to the owners, who now find that their troubles, far from being relieved, are being accentuated. On previous occasions, I objected to the way in which the requisitions were made in the first instance. Sometimes, in complete disregard of the needs of the owners, trucks, harrows, ploughs and tractors, as well as road-making machinery of other kinds, were seized in peremptory fashion by persons authorized by the Government. One witness gave evidence before the Rural Industries Committee that his truck was requisitioned while actually in use on his farm. Another witness who was using his truck to convey goods from the local railway siding to his farm was told to take it immediately to a parking area where impressed trucks were being assembled. Many other examples of a similar nature could be given. I shall quote from page 577, of the Minutes of Evidence given before the Rural Industries Committee, the statement of one Queensland witness -
A decade ago the pride of a sugar-farm was a team of good plough horses. Since then, most of the larger cane-farms have become highly mechanized, largely because of the three factors, evolution, economic pressure, and extremes of climatic conditions. For the heavier classes of work, “dobbin” has been largely displaced by the tractor. To-day, most of those farms are equipped with powerful crawler-type tractors. The impressment and hiring of these tractors by the military and main roads authorities caused considerable embarrassment and disorganization to the growers affected. These authorities impressed tractors of the larger types of crawler from R.D.2 and E.31 upwards. Little or no notice was given. Most of the tractors were impressed immediately, irrespective of whether a given block of land was ploughed or was in process of ploughing, or what type of tractor was left in the district. This has been described as the “one fell swoop method”. In one instance a few days use of his tractor would have enabled the farmer to complete the ploughing in of a crop of green manure; but his tractor was impressed forthwith and remained at the railway siding for several days before it was railed to its destination. On the 15th May, one of our growers left for Brisbane, and at a certain station observed a large number of tractors lined up for loading. He returned on the 23rd May, eight days later, and the tractors were still at the station. In one locality about eleven large tractors were either impressed or hired from adjoining farmers without any thought of how these men were to carry on. If the impressment had been as slow as the payment for those taken the farmers would have completed their ploughing programme.
There are many instances in which practically the whole of the ploughs, harrows and trucks in a district were impressed. The way in which the regulations have been administered has caused serious injustice to producers and has also decreased production. Now, when the impressed plant and equipment are no longer required by the impressing authorities the owners are forced to submit to the irritating tactics referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa. This treatment perpetuates the injustice caused when the goods were requisitioned. Should the owner of a vehicle which was impressed not be willing to accept it in its deteriorated condition, the Government, under these regulations, may dispose of it, in which event all that the owner gets is the proceeds of the sale. That is not justice; the compensation is not based on sound principles. The regulations do not apply the principle of returning machinery in good order and condition. These machines were requisitioned in an emergency, and, many of them were in use continuously for many hours at a time. They were subjected to an abnormal strain. I realize that such things were necessary because of war conditions, but even so the owners of such equipment should have been treated fairly. Even the urgent necessities of war do not justify unfair treatment of the owners of requisitioned property. The machines were employed on defence work, and the excessive wear and tear to which they were subjected should be a charge against the defence account.
– So it is.
– The machinery should at least be returned to its owners in good order and condition.
– That has been done.
– It has not been done. I suggest that an Appeals Board should be appointed to deal with claims for compensation, so that shire councils, primary producers, and other individuals may be given just treatment. As the Minister knows, there have been instances in which the charges for repairs to machinery which has been returned to its owners have exceeded the total compensation paid to them. In other instances, tools have been lost, and when the owner has asked for them to be replaced, the cost of replacement has been deducted from the money paid to him as compensation. Instead of attempting to defend such actions the Government should voluntarily make restitution where injustice has -been done. Another wrong embodied in the regulations is that after fourteen days from the giving of notice that requisitioned goods are available for return to their owners, the Government will accept no responsibility for damage, deterioration, or loss. There is an entire lack of recognition of the rights of owners. If requisitioned machinery cannot be repaired and put in good working order adequate compensation should be paid. The injustice is aggravated by the fact that it is almost impossible to purchase new plant and equipment to replace impressed property, and that spare parts are most difficult to obtain, and when obtainable must be bought at greatly increased prices. I ask the House to disallow the regulation.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) indicate that, in his opinion, no plant or equipment should have been impressed by the Government. The honorable member spoke as if we were in the piping days of peace whereas, in fact, the country is at war. Both he and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) should know that these machines were impressed in order to repel the Japanese, and that had Australia been invaded, the owners of the machinery would have been in a much worse plight. I emphasize that no property was impressed which the authorities conducting the war did not consider necessary. Do those honorable members who support the motion say that the Government was not justified in impressing plant and equipment which the authorities responsible for the defence of this country needed? The honorable member for Moreton spoke like an irresponsible school boy when he said that the Government was deliberately refusing to pay adequate compensation because it knew that the owners of plant and equipment which had been requisitioned were unwilling to proceed against the Government in the courts of the land. I dismiss that statement with the contempt that it deserves. Not one instance of injustice, either in respect of the impressment of plant and machinery belonging to municipal or shire councils, or State governments or in respect of the amount of compensation paid for it has been cited. In many instances those bodies, actuated by patriotic motives, voluntarily handed over their plant and machinery, and, in addition, made available the services of their engineers. The honorable gentleman has not done justice to the local governing bodies throughout Australia, because his speech this morning indicates that these instrumentalities are “ moaning “ because of action taken in the defence of this country. As neither the honorable member for Maranoa nor the honorable member for Moreton had much to say regarding the regulation, the disallowance of which they- seek, I shall read in order that its provisions may be known to the House. The regulation deals with the matter of handing back machinery or property which has been requisitioned or impressed by the Allied Works Council and is no longer required for the purpose for ‘ which it was taken. The honorable member for Maranoa put up a lot of Aunt Sallies, and then proceeded to knock them down. He complained, in general terms, that some tools belonging to machinery returned to local governing bodies had been lost, and when replaced had been debited to the owners. If honorable members will bring to my notice specific instances of injustice, or show that worn-out machinery has been returned without the payment of adequate compensation,. I shall investigate them personally. I am confident that no injustices have been done. If I give personal attention to this matter, it will obviate the necessity to appoint expensive tribunals to make investigations. But I challenge the mover to submit to me evidence of one case of hardship.
– I shall do so.
– If the honorable member will do so, I shall investigate all the circumstances, and if necessary, the matter may again be ventilated in this House. However, I am confident that no worn-out machinery has been handed back to the original owners. The Allied Works Council has always paid the market price for impressed machinery and property.
– That is not correct.
– It is true, in most cases.
-Only in most cases!
– My words referred to the property of individual owners. When motor lorries and other machinery were impressed, the owners were invariably paid the ruling market price, and they were not dissatisfied. State governments and local authorities voluntarily made plant available for the Allied Works Council,and, the payments which they received for that machinery were most generous. In many instances, they were paid, for partly worn-out machinery, the capital cost. That fact ought to be well known to the House. Although honorable members opposite may try to make political capital out of this matter, I challenge them to cite specific instances of injustice.
– I shall bring cases to the notice of the Minister immediately.
– I have in my possession written complaints about the administration of the honorable member for Barker, when he was a Minister a few years ago.
I now desire to place on record the regulation which the honorable member for Maranoa seeks to disallow, and then I shall show that it is scarcely related to the complaints that he has voiced. Authority to requisition property, other than land, is vested in two ways in the Director-General of Allied Works, who is now known as the Director-General of Works. The first is by delegation of authority by the Minister, pursuant to section 17 of the National Security Act, providing that the Director-General of Allied Works may exercise, insofar as it is necessary for the purposes of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, the powers and functions conferred on the Minister by regulation 57 of the National Security (General) Regulations to provide by order for the requisitioning of any property, other than land, where it appears necessary or expedient to do so in the interests of public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, or for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
The second way is by virtue of regulation 6 (d) of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations. Subject to any directions of the Minister, the Director-General may -
By order in writing requisition or compulsorily acquire any property (other than land) including exclusive rights or licences and privileges.
When property is requisitioned under regulation 57, the Minister may use it, or authorize its use for the purposes that I have mentioned, and may sell or otherwise dispose of it as if he were the owner thereof. Under regulation 6 (f) of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, the Director-General may sell or otherwise dispose of, or turn to account, or write off, property held in connexion with the carrying out of works.
By Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1944, issued on the 27th January, 1944, regulation 57 of the National Security (General) Regulations was amended so as to provide that the Minister or person authorized to requisition property of the kind referred to in the regulation may, if he considers that the requisitioning is no longer necessary, by order revoke the requisitioning and serve a notice that it is intended to return the property, and require the owner to take possession at a time and place specified. The notice, which is served on the owner, merely asks him to repossess property which has never been used by the Government, and which may not have been taken into actual possession by the Government. The property is in exactly the same condition as it was at the time when it was requisitioned.
– The Minister is describing a position which is not relevant to my case.
– I am dealing with the regulation which the honorable member seeks to disallow. If the owner does not take possession when the requisitioning has been revoked, provision is made for the sale of the property by auction or tender after fourteen days from the time specified in the notice, and for the payment of the proceeds, after deducting expenses, to the person entitled to receive them. The amendment also provides the machinery for serving notices. It is important to note that the Director-General may extend the date on “which the owner shall take possession.
Regulation 6b of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, which is the subject of the honorable member’s motion, was inserted in the regulations by Statutory Rule No. 161 of 1944, issued on the Sth November, 1944, to empower the Director-General to do under the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations exactly the same things which the Minister or person authorized by him has had power to do since the 27th January, 1944, under sub-regulations 4 and 9, inserted by Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1944, of regulation 57 of the National Security (General) Regulations. In short, it enables him to do under the National Security ( Allied Works) Regulations just what any Commonwealth department has been able to. do since January, 1944.
Cases have arisen in which it is expedient to return to the original owner property which has been impressed under the National Security’ (Allied Works) Regulations. Although the property may be sold or otherwise disposed of, there was no power to require the original owner to retake possession under the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations previously existing. I emphasize that, in actual practice, the powers provided under this statutory rule would be used only as a precautionary provision, where it would be more convenient to return the property to the owner soon after it had been requisitioned and before it had been paid for. Once settlement had been effected, the ownership would vest in the Commonwealth, and there would be no question of returning the plant to its original owner.
Normally, few cases are likely to arise, but with a’ sudden change in the war situation, plant being requisitioned may not be required, and the best course would be to return it to its owner. In the early stages of the war, plant was freely requisitioned because of the general scarcity of new machinery. Now, the position has changed materially, as stocks may be procured, and requisitioning has practically ceased. Ample provision is made in the regulations to enable any cases of hardship to be considered by the Director-General of Allied Works.
The fact that no complaints have been made by owners whose plant has been requisitioned during the period of thirteen months, when regulations of the kind to which the honorable member for Maranoa objected have been in force, is surely evidence that no grounds for objection exist. If the power to require an owner to repossess his plant has ever been exercised under unreasonable or impossible conditions - and I cannot imagine that happening - the owner has the right to appeal to the Minister; and I assure honorable members that, in the event of any such appeal being made, no effort would be spared to remedy an injustice.
Earlier, I emphasized that when the property of an individual is impressed, the Government invariably pays the ruling market price for it, and the owner has been satisfied with the transaction. Machinery and plant owned by State governments and local authorities was taken over with their full consent. Because of altered circumstances, it is sometimes found that impressed machinery has not been required, and the owner has been ordered to repossess it. He is paid compensation for any expenses that he incurs in repossessing it. The regulation has operated fairly, and I have heard no complaint of harsh treatment.
– The heated- speech delivered by the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) shows definitely the necessity for altering the method of adjusting the basis of compensation paid for machinery and property impressed by the ‘Commonwealth Government from the mere decision of a partial Minister. The whole country demands that simple justice be done. Surely, the Government should be able to devise means whereby claims of this kind can be considered dispassionately, and without heat, and so make certain that the sacrifices made in the interests of the war effort are not borne unduly by individuals, or local bodies, because they happened to have at their disposal machinery which the Government could use for war purposes.
The owners willingly made that machinery available. It is disgraceful to find now, when the Government no longer requires the machinery, that it simply hands it back with the intimation that it has itself determined the proper cost in respect of the use of the machinery, and its own figure must be final. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) is to be congratulated on having made this motion, because the time is long overdue when we should consider the basis of compensation to be paid in respect of, not only materials requisitioned by the Allied Works Council, but also all materials requisitioned by the Government for war purposes, because nobody in this country desires that the owners of such, machinery should be treated harshly, or unjustly. Whatever the fate of this motion may be, it at least affords me the opportunity to urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to consider setting up a tribunal to determine that basis so as to enable Ministers and departments to determine compensation impartially. The Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), in his reply, trotted out the old alibi that nothing of an unsatisfactory character has been done in this matter, emphasizing that the requisitions were made three years ago when the country was facing a greatemergency. However, the Government ment has now been in office for three and a half years, and, surely, it has had time to lay down a definite basis for the determination of compensation in these cases. When I was Minister for Com.merce I had to deal with the requisitioning of ships on charter. In order to make certain that no injustice would be clone, and that no question would arise of the kind that arises in this matter, I asked a judge of the High Court to examine the position and to recommend a basis on which the Government should act in dealing with claims for compensation. As a consequence, we passed National Security regulation No. 230 of 1941, which laid down a basis for determining valuations and claims impartially, safeguarding the interests of both the shipowners and the Government. Members of the Government cannot be blind to the cases of hardship which have occurred. I shall give three instances which I have already ‘brought to the attention of Ministers; two of them I have ventilated in this House. If the Government lays down a basis whereby the rate of compensation can be determined impartially, it will avoid wrangling when the war is over between it and local governing bodies and farmers and others whose implements have been requisitioned, and who willingly made such property available to it in the best interests of the country.
The first of the three instances to which I have referred was the reqisitioning by the Army of all motor boats on rivers on the eastern coast. Most of those boats were pulled on to the banks and left there; and as the result of being left dry for many months they cracked open. Then, eighteen months, or two years, later the Army offered the boats back to their owners. Compensation has not yet been paid in respect of many of those boats. In one case, the Government requisitioned a boat which had just been constructed at a cost of £6,000, and which it has used ever since. It offered the owner £2,000 for the boat, intimating that if he wanted a higher price he would have to go to law on the matter. In the meantime, the actual owner of the vessel and his son have died, and the matter has not been settled yet, simply because no basis exists on which to determine compensation impartially. The second case I have in mind is the requisitioning of a lathe which was used by the garage on the north coast which deals with the upkeep of the big timber lorries of the whole district. Later, when the Minister decided that the lathe be returned as it was indispensable to the company, it could not be found; and I was informed only the other day that the owners could not either secure a similar lathe, or obtain compensation. The lack of such machinery affects the timber industry very seriously because many of the lorries now in use are badly in need of repair. The Government should deal with the whole problem as one of the most urgent confronting this country at the moment. Materials and equipment to the value of many millions of pounds have been requisitioned. In addition, the fact must be remembered that the present cost to farmers of replacing tractors which were requisitioned some years ago would be from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, more than the original purchase price. The Government should not look at this matter from a party political stand-point, but from the viewpoint of national honour and prestige, and in order to ensure that justice shall be done to all concerned. Therefore, I again suggest that some procedure similar to that which I was able to provide in respect of the requisitioning of big ships should be adopted, whereby it would be possible to determine compensation in all cases impartially and1 dispassionately, particularly in respect of the real loss suffered by owners through being deprived of the use of such machinery. Owing to the war, traffic on roads in the northern districts of New South “Wales, including the carriage of timber, ores and produce, has very greatly increased because of the lack of normal shipping facilities. Thus, the roads have been seriously damaged, at a time when local government bodies have not had available their road-making and repair equipment. This Government should take the initiative in this matter, and ensure that the repair of roads will be undertaken as soon as possible and compensation given. Perhaps, within a year or two, the Government will be handing back all property which it has requisitioned. Therefore, it is imperative that it should as soon as possible lay down a definite basis whereby compensation can be determined impartially.
– I should like to clear up one or two points on which a wrong impression may be created from what has already been said. Some of the matters raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have nothing whatever to do with the regulation which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) contends should he disallowed. The boats mentioned by the right honorable member were not requisitioned for war purposes but for security reasons in order to prevent them from being used by the enemy had he effected a landing in that part of the country. Later, when the matter was raised by several honorable members, a special tribunal was appointed to inquire into the whole subject of compensation. In some cases, the owners did not take repossession of their boats even when they were notified that they could do so. “With regard to the requisitioning of machinery I can speak from first-hand knowledge, because I am a member of a shire council some of whose machinery was requisitioned for war purposes. That council considers that it has been treated very fairly indeed. When requisitioned, such machinery is leased on a rate basis definitely prescribed for that purpose. Those rates are not ungenerous. They approximate the rates paid in most States in respect of machinery rented from local government bodies by roads boards. Forinstance, the Main Roads Board in New South Wales pays a daily rate in respect of every class of machinery it rents from local government bodies. Thus, when the Allied Works Council came into the field it already had those rates as a guide. However, the Allied Works Council fixed its rates somewhat higher than most of the lease rates which operated in peace. If it be suggested that machinery is being handed back to local government bodies without fair compensation being paid, 1 can only say that that is not the case in at least three States. The shire council of which I am a member has had portion of its machinery sent back, and has been treated very fairly indeed by the Allied Works Council in respect of the lease of such machinery. I am not saying that the machinery when returned had not depreciated to some degree ; but the compensation provided by the Allied Works Council has ‘ been more than ample to cover all deterioration. At the same time, there may be some claims for adjustment which can be justified. A great number of car3, trucks and motor cycles were requisitioned for urgent military purposes; and it is true, as the right honorable member for Cowper has said, that roads in all country districts have deteriorated because machinery which is Usually available for their maintenance has been requisitioned for war purposes. No honorable member should complain of that. I have had a great deal of experience in these matters, and I agree that many roads are in such had condition that it is urgently necessary to return road-making machinery to municipal councils as soon as possible. Machinery which has been acquired should be replaced. I know of two local governing bodies in Victoria and three in New South Wales whose roads are in very bad condition because they are unable to obtain suitable machinery. The regulation under discussion deals only with requisitioned machinery which the Allied Works Council no longer needs. The procedure is for the council to request the owners to take back the machinery and to offer compensation for the period during which it has been in use by the council. If the owner refuses to repossess it, the council must sell it. Thousands of motor vehicles have been requisitioned from owners in the electorate which I represent, but I have had only two complaints about the conditions under which they have been acquired or leased. I am closely in touch with local government matters, and therefore I come in contact with many people who have been affected by these requisitions. I appreciate the point raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) relating to the deterioration of roads.
– Have not the roads suffered also as the result of the calling up of men by the armed forces?
– In four States at least the Allied Works Council has requisitioned not only machinery but also the services of drivers and other men to work on that machinery.
The chief point raised in this debate relates to owners who refused to take their property back from the Allied Works Council. In some cases, I suppose the owners hope to obtain extra compensation by failing to repossess their machinery. I know that to be true in one or two cases at least. One owner told me that when the council took his machine it was not in full use and that he did not want it back now. He hoped later to buy a new one, and he wanted the Allied Works Council to keep the machine which it had acquired and pay him for it. If a man refuses to take back a machine and it is sold by the Allied Works Council he is not prevented from obtaining fair compensation. In some cases the Allied Works Council has sustained financial loss as the result of selling equipment at a lower price than was paid to the original owner. Disputes are inevitable in the administration of this regulation, and it may be true that some officers of the Allied Works Council have not been generous to the owners of machinery acquired by the council. I use the word “generous” advisedly, because I know that the Allied Works Council has paid generous prices for machinery to roads boards and other bodies. Although there is need for an examination of the position, there canbe no justification for establishing appeal boards to deal with all such matters. If the Government established boards of inquiry whenever they were called for, we should have more men serving on such bodies than we have in the Army.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) to disallow the regulation. Anybody who has read the regulation must know that it gives to the Allied Works Council power to revoke a requisition order and to allow the owner of the implement requisitioned a period of fourteen days in which to take possession of it again, wherever it may happen to be at the time. In the event of the owner failing to take possession in that period, the implement may be sold at auction.
– The period can be extended.
– At any rate, the Allied Works Council has power to sell the equipment at auction. In dealing with this subject I shall talk only about matters of which I have personal experience, and I shall quote from letters sent to me by the Solicitor-General, and by the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini). One case with which I had dealings was that of a farmer in the Lucernedale district of South Australia. There are files in the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Interior relating to this case. An officer of theSouth Australian Government, who was on loan to the Commonwealth
Government and serving with the Allied Works Council, walked on to this man’s farm, the Department of Agriculture in South Australia having a complete record of all tractors in that State, and requisitioned his tractor. In addition to an expensive imported diesel tractor, this man had special machinery for clearing a large area of flat, swampy country with a fairly high rainfall. Ordinary farm machinery would have been unsuitable for the work, and he had had the machinery made by Shearer Brothers at a cost of more than £2,000. The price of the tractor was about £1,600. When he demurred at handing it over, he was given a lecture on patriotism and was finally threatened that the tractor would be requisitioned at a valuation made by the Allied Works Council. He then agreed to surrender it. He was told that if he was not satisfied with the amount he received for it he was entitled to appeal to the courts. The average man cannot afford to risk an appeal to the High Court in order to fight the Commonwealth Government. This farmer placed his case in the hands of a solicitor at Narracoorte. Correspondence from that solicitor is in the files of the Attorney-General’s Department. I also took the matter up with the Attorney-General, who informed me more than a year ago that a tribunal would be appointed to deal with this and similarcases. I have no recollection of having been informed that such a tribunal had been appointed, although I asked specifically that I be supplied with the names of its members and details of its meeting places.
Mr.Scullin. - Did this man obtain a price equal to the purchase price of the machine?
– He was paid a price which the Allied Works Council set, not the valuation which he placed upon it; there was a big discrepancy between the two. There is another important factor to be taken into consideration in this case. As soon as the tractor was taken from the farm, all of the developmental work that the owner had been carrying out ceased. He could not continue without the tractor. The condition of that property has deteriorated considerably, and the owner will have to start afresh on his developmental work.
The second case to which I shall refer relates to a man living on Kangaroo Island. Any Minister who is interested in his case can obtain his name from me. The Minister forWorks has dealt with this matter and should know the name, and I shall quote from letters written by him. A representative of the Allied Works Council visited Kangaroo Island and requisitioned this man’s tractor at a valuation of £800. The owner has assured mo that it was a new tractor which had done practically no work, and that it was worth at least £1,100 at that time. Later, when the farmer heard that certain equipment was to be released by the Allied Works Council, he applied for the return of the tractor. The council informed him by letter that he could have it back at a price of £1,200. I brought the case to the attention of the Minister for Works, who on the 26th February wrote a letter to me in the following terms : -
It is desired to advise that the points raised in Mr. Hawke’s letter have been fully investigated, including the implication that the machine acquired from him some years ago has now been re-offered to him at a price some 50 per cent. higher than the amount he originally received. This is not the case. The records disclose that Mr. Hawke’s machine was passed to one of the services and is no longer the property of the council. Costs of new machines acquired by the Allied Works Council from the United States of America since commencement of war have risen considerably on pre-war prices.
The two men I have mentioned will not be satisfied unless the Government ensures that they are established in as good a position as they would have been in had their equipment not been acquired. This is only reasonable. It is not fair to tell a man that the cost of tractors has increased by 50 per cent., and to ask him to bear the burden of that increase.
Mr.Curtin. - Does the honorable gentleman mean that the Government should give back a tractor as good as the one which was requisitioned, or does he mean that it should also make good any loss that the property has suffered as the result of being deprived of the tractor?
– I shall deal with that point now. The two cases with which I have dealt differ in this respect. The value of the farm at Lucernedale has depreciated by probably £2 an acre as the result of the acquisition of the tractor by the Allied Works Council. I believe that the farm at Kangaroo Island has not suffered in the same way. Elementary justice demands that the fanner at Lucernedale should not lose financially as the result of the acquisition of his tractor. Every case must be considered on its own merits. The Government cannot lay down by regulation a hard-and-fast rule for the settling of these cases. For that reason, I have suggested to the Attorney-General that the only practical method of dealing with this problem is by means of some competent tribunal to consider claims on their merits. Surely the Prime Minister will not argue that the man at Lucernedale is not entitled to compensation for his losses due to the fact that, through the acquisition of his tractor, he has been unable to use his special machinery. The man at Kangaroo Island should be supplied by the Allied Works Council with a tractor equal in value to the one which was requisitioned, and at the same price. When the council offered him a tractor at a price of £1,200, it also stipulated that he must bear the cost of transporting it to Kangaroo Island from the Northern Territory. That is not a fair proposition. It is true that the Allied Works Council bore the cost of taking the tractor from Kangaroo Island to the place where it was used, but that expense was incurred as the result of its intrusion into the farmer’s affairs, and its requisitioning of this important machine. I repeat: Elementary justice demands not only that the tractor should be of equal value and be sold for the price at which the requisition was effected, but, in addition, delivery of it should be taken at Kangaroo Island. This regulation does not make provision for anything of that sort.
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that the Allied Works Council is paying a higher daily rate of hire for road-making machines than is allowed by the Main Roads Board of New South Wales. That is perfectly true. But the honorable gentleman overlooked the fact that the Main Roads Board uses the machines for ‘only eight hours a day and six days a week, whereas machines taken to the Northern Territory by the Allied Works Council are worked, on occasions, round the clock, and for days at a stretch. Therefore, the daily rate of compensation, even though increased, may bear no relation to the wear and tear on the machine and the work it has been required to perform in the Northern Territory, or wherever it has been operating. It is useless to try to Jay down a hard and fast rule, by regulation, in these matters. As the right honorable member for Cowper (.Sir Earle Page) said, this should not be made a party matter. It affects the honour of the Government of Australia, and, so far as I am concerned, it does not matter what party is in office. Each person affected should have the right to state his case for adjudication by a competent tribunal.
I have received from the SolicitorGeneral, Sir George Knowles, a letter dated the 5th March in relation to the Kangaroo Island case. It reads -
Your letter dated 11th January, 1945, addressed to the Attorney-General forwarding copy of a letter from Mr. A. E. Hawke, Kingscote, in relation to tractors, has been referred to the Department of Works with the request that you be advised direct as to the tribunal to which applications for compensation in respect of acquisition of tractors may be submitted.
I have not received that advice. Yet I was informed in writing by the AttorneyGeneral about a year ago that a tribunal was to be established. All that I know is that the case is in the hands of Mr. Hawke’s solicitors, for submission to a tribunal. I am sure that it has not been settled, and I am awaiting advice in order that I may inform the parties concerned of the nature and location of the tribunal that may be approached. Only eleven days have elapsed since the Solicitor-General wrote to me. I expect the Minister for Works to be able to supply the information within the next month. I put it to him that he should at least remember the contents of correspondence which, within the last few days, he has addressed to different members of this House, before alleging that we cannot cite individual cases of hardship.
.- The very strong case presented by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) needs little elaboration to convince the Government of the need for action. We are entitled to expect a more reasonable approach to the matter than that of the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), who, whilst quite certain that no injustices exist, says that he is prepared to investigate the “ injustices “ mentioned. To charge the honorable member for Maranoa with having set up Aunt Sallies for the purpose of knocking them down, is to adopt what Ibelieve tobe a familiar political expedient which in the present instance is quite unworthy. The honorable member for Maranoa presented his case with absolute sincerity, and in the belief that he has evidence in support of his statements. There is no need for any display of frenzy. I agree with the statements of other honorable members that the matter is not a party political one. Nor is the good faith of the Government necessarily impugned. The regulation is either good or bad. If it is good, it will stand ; but if it is bad, and evidence of that can be adduced, the Government should consider the need for altering it in the interests of all concerned. I believe that it is not intended to do an injustice to the few in order that the many may benefit. If the Government uses its powers in order to acquire machinery, tools and other paraphernalia, for the purpose of conducting a war in the interests of the nation, it is quite reasonable to expect that the nation, in turn, through the Government, shall agree to compensation that is reasonable and fair. Justice demands that the owners of machinery should not be expected to contribute to the war effort a greater share than is contributed by their neighbours, who may be equally well off but whose assets may not be required by the Government. That applies also to municipalities, which are merely an aggregation of individuals, each of whom contributes his share to the war effort and should not he expected to contribute a second share by reason of association with a shire. The speech of the honorable member for Maranoa, if I understood it correctly, furnished evidence of the power of the Government to acquire a machine from any individual, and subject it to a severe strain which probably would make it practically useless within a few months ; and the revocation order would make it obligatory upon the owner to resume possession of a machine, which may be practically junk, without adequate compensation, or accept its then sale value. An exaggerated illustration would be the acquirement by the Government of a private aeroplane, and the return of its parts, with thanks, after it had crashed. Sufficient evidence has been submitted to warrant an investigation and, possibly, an amendment of the regulation.
– Every citizen is entitled to fair compensation in respect of any of his goods which may be impressed by the Commonwealth, and a measure of justice may be obtained, in the final analysis, by an appeal to the High Court. But no citizen or body of citizens shouldbe put to the expense, trouble, worry and risk of taking a case to the High Court, so long as justice may be done by much simpler means; for example, by the appointment of a tribunal independent of the authority responsible for the requisitioning. In existing circumstances, the party to be proceeded against is frequently the judge of all the issues. The instances cited by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) can be duplicated in practically every shire in the Commonwealth. What is needed is a simple means whereby persons dissatisfied with the compensation paid to them may have access to a tribunal which could reasonably be regarded as impartial, rather than one which is an interested party, as is the case at present, and thus avoid the necessity for an appeal to the High Court. Therefore, the Government might well consider the whole position. If it is not prepared to repeal the regulation in question, at least it should take cognizance of the arguments advanced to-day, and enable those who are dissatisfied with the present method of compensation to have a more ready means of appeal.
– I support the motion. Having listened to what has been said on the subject, the
House can take only one course in connexion with this regulation, which is unjust. I have not heard anything from the ministerial bench which would convince me that the arguments adduced by honorable members on this side of the House have no foundation in fact. Surely the basis of a just regulation should be the provision that a fair market value shall be placed on any machinery impressed for war purposes ! Occasionally, however, much more than that is involved. There is also the likely effect on the property from which the machine has been removed. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) mentioned shire councils and similar bodies. No argument in that regard has been submitted by any honorable member on this side of the House; on the contrary, every speaker has stressed the injustice of the effect of the regulation on private owners of machinery, particularly farmers. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that in certain districts the development of farm lands had deteriorated markedly by reason of the impressment of machinery employed on them. In such an event, there is a case for the payment of some compensation. If a property should be destroyed by a bomb, the owner would be compensated. The impressment of machinery for war purposes must affect the productivity of the land on which it has been used, and the owner of it ought to be compensated on that account. There is a conflict of opinion in regard to impressment. The Government, through the Prices Commissioner, has fixed the market value of second-hand motor cars, and a higher price cannot be paid. It also places a value on motor vehicles which it impresses. If a man wishes to purchase a vehicle to replace one which has been impressed, he may have to pay 50 per cent. more than he has received from the Government. That would appear tobe anomalous. I was impressed by the two cases mentioned by the honorable member for Barker. I have listened with great attention to the Minister for Works, who was most amusing in his elucidation of the facts. If ever a good case has been presented for the establishment of a tribunal, the Minister himself has done that, and I ask the
Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to take notice of his statement. He said that the Allied Works Council had paid much more than its full value for partly wornout machinery, and that, in fact, the full capital cost had been paid.
– I did not say that.
– I admit that the Minister subsequently stated that a fair market value had been paid. All that members of the Opposition seek is that simple justice shall be done to the owners of impressed machinery. We know that money has been lavishly expended, but statements such as that made by the Minister are calculated to undermine public confidence.
– As the Minister has declared that he did not use the words indicated by the honorable member, I think the correct parliamentary practice would be to accept his statement.
– I have heard Ministers deny many statements, and claim that they have been misreported, but I prefer to rely on the Hansard proof.
– I doubt whether it is parliamentary for the honorable member to do other than accept the Minister’s assurance.
– I heard the statement; the Prime Minister could not have been present. I do not know why he desires to “ buy “ into an argument.
– Only because the Minister is accused of having made an extraordinary statement. The honorable member should accept his assurance that he did not make it.
– The Minister worked himself into a fine frenzy, and probably does not recall what he said. In an attempt to offset a suggestion that a fair price had not been paid for certain machinery, he declared that the price paid equalled the full capital cost. I do not believe that statement to be correct, because no government would be so irresponsible as to make a payment equivalent to the full cost of a machine after it hadbeen partly worn out. The anomalies that have been definitely established should be corrected; meanwhile the regulation should be disallowed and another drafted.
– I agree that the impressment practice raises points of great difficulty, and in many instances may have caused injustice. I have been perturbed about the matter for a considerable period. The regulations are applied to the acquisition of, not only machinery, but also land. The Constitution provides that no tribunal which a government may set up for the purpose of dealing with these cases can finally dispose of them, because every person whose property is acquired by the Commonwealth has the right of appeal to a court against a decision reached by the Minister or by any other method which a government may employ in order to arrive at the sum which should be paid without having to rely wholly on the assessment of the department. The amendment which the regulation makes has nothing to do with whether the impressment has been fair or not.
The regulation which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) seeks to disallow relates only to cases in which an impressment order has been served and the authorities then discover that the order should not have been given. There is no use for the machinery or property, and the person from whom it was impressed is given fourteen days in which to resume possession of it. He may not do that, if it does not please him to do so, but, if he does not, the property is sold at auction.Under the Constitution and under the law, the person whose property has been taken has the right to appeal to a court if he thinks that the provision made is not just, and claim damages against the Commonwealth for failure to deal with him on just terms. It is true that the large number of properties dealt with since the war have made the problem one of greater magnitude than previously. It is also true that the principle on which the matter is dealt with is that which has governed all acquisitions of property since the establishment of federation. When I look at the preparations for the resumption ofproperty for war purposes which were made long before the present Government came into office, the foundation for which were laid even before the last Government assumed power, I realize that no particular Ministry is responsible for the present position. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that he had consulted a judge as to how the matter should be dealt with, but he knows that if a shipping company were not satisfied with the basis fixed for payment in connexion with the chartering of one of its vessels, it could still appeal to the High Court for a higher amount than that proposed to be paid. But a shipping company is a large organization, capable of making arrangements. The arrangement to which the right honorable gentleman refers has been most satisfactory from the point of view of the companies.
– And from the point of view of the Government.
– The arrangement has provided the Government with ships without legal costs, because the provision made was apparently such that those to whom the money was payable had no temptation to take legal action in the belief that they would improve their position. Throughout the British Empire, the provision made for shipping companies in respect of charters and other compensation has, in my judgment, been not only fair, but most generous.
The practice adopted in New South Wales in the acquisition of property by the Allied WorksCouncil has apparently operated reasonably fairly. There may be instances to the contrary. But the matter mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper is not a complaint against the Allied Works Council so much as against the Army authorities. The honorable member for Maranoa objects to the impressment practice generally in Queensland, rather than the particular aspect of impressment which he has attacked. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has also attacked impressment generally rather than the fact that, in some cases where property has been acquired, the owner has been told to resume possession of it within fourteen days. With regard to the right of appeal, we may easily cause trouble far greater than any present injustice, in that there would be no confidence or sense of finality on the part of the Government in making payments and long delays would occur; but instances have arisen where some kind of authority other than the department itself could reasonably be invoked by the Government. I hold that view as a private citizen, if I cannot hold it as the leader of the Government, with regard to all property acquired by the Commonwealth, because the big companies have resources with which to take their claims to court, but the small man cannot escape the net. It is all very well to say that the law treats everybody equally, but those without financial resources must probably put up with the treatment given to them. Therefore, I have been concerned about this matter for a long while, although my exploration of it has not brought me any nearer to a solution of the problem. It is suggested that some kind of tribunal for the hearing of appeals against the finding of the Minister should be established, but I am advised that that would not annul the right of a citizen to go to a court.
– Unless he accepted the decision of the tribunal. There have been cases in the last few weeks in which that has been done.
– There we get something in the way of an agreement which need not he expressed in a regulation. The Minister says, “Mr. X, I think you should receive £600 as compensation in respect of your tractor “. The owner replies, “ No, I think the amount should be £800 “. The Minister then says, “ Can we not agree to some independent person acting as arbitrator? If you accept that I shall agree to it.” I understand that in many instances that hasbeen done.
– Provision is made for appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Taxation.
– In taxation there are resources for dealing with these matters which are notavailable in connexion with acquisition.
– There is a provision enabling an applicant to go beyond an appeal board, if he is dissatisfied.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15p.m.
– The Government is eager to find a way to ensure that justice will be done to persons whose property has been acquired by the Commonwealth for any purpose. All such transactions are, of course, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, which leave it open for a claimant ultimately to appeal to the law for a determination of his rights. The whole matter might well become the subject for action when we have time to consider the setting up of some kind of appellate jurisdiction which would be f ree from the heavy costs associated with ordinary legal processes. Such machinery already exists under the taxation legislation for the hearing of appeals against tax assessments.
I find that the Allied Works Council was itself concerned over this matter, and recognized the fairness of setting up some appellate jurisdiction to decide the issue when a dispute arose over what constituted a fair price or just compensation. Under the National Security Regulations, a compensation board was set up to hear appeals against the decision of the Allied Works Council in respect of property which it had acquired. The board consists of a police magistrate, who is chairman, a public accountant, and a person connected with a machinery firm whose competence is recognized. This tribunal is independent of departmental influence. After considering a case, it reports to the Minister.
– Where does it sit?
– Wherever the board itself decides, having regard to the convenience of the claimants and of the Allied Works Council. It is true that the board only reports to the Minister, but the Minister undertakes to accept its findings. Of course, if the decision of the board is not acceptable to the claimant, he has the right of appeal in the ordinary way to the courts. Neither the National Security Act nor any other act can take away from a citizen the right to go before the courts in order to obtain justice. It may be that some claimants do not know that there is a compensation board to which they may appeal, but they all know that they have access to the ordinary courts. As 1 have said, the Government is anxious that the fair and just thing should be done to all persons whose property has been acquired by the Commonwealth. Speaking for myself, I think that we ought to avoid as much as possible taking cases to the courts, or carrying appeals from courts of lower jurisdiction to courts of higher jurisdiction, so long as we can resolve our difficulties in any other way. The Allied Works Council is administered, for the most part, by officers of State Public Works Departments, and by officers of the works section of the Department of the Interior. All these men have had considerable experience in the handling of property belonging to municipalities, roads boards, State instrumentalities and quasi public bodies. They know that, in the nature of things, plant would suffer depreciation, and that some compensation would have to be paid as a matter of justice. Therefore, the regulations setting up the Allied Works Council provided also for the setting up of the compensation board.
It may he true that the board should have had remitted to it many claims that were not remitted. It may be true that, if all the claims were put in at once, it would be necessary to appoint more than one hoard. If that should become necessary I undertake to see that it is done.
The honorable member for Maranoa did right to raise this issue, but no good purpose would be served by carrying his motion for the disallowance of the regulation. As a matter of fact, his criticism was not really directed against the regulation which he seeks to have disallowed. The gravamen of his complaint was that, in the impressment of plant and equipment, due regard was not paid to the losses which owners suffered as a result of the impressment, and because of the conditionin which the articles were returned. That issue does not touch the regulation as such, but in the course of the discussion the question has been raised as to what is a fair thing to do for people whose property has been taken over for any reason, including war reasons. In order to determine questions of that kind the compensation board was set up. It is true that there is only one board, and hitherto it has probably had the facts communicated to it by affidavit and memorandum.
– Is it an assessment board or an appeal board?
Mr.CURTIN .- It is an appeal board. It hears appeals in those cases where a dispute exists between the Allied Works Council and a person or authority whose property has been acquired by the council. It has nothing to do with any Commonwealth department. It was felt that the compensation board, having regard to the persons appointed to it, would have special qualifications for assessing depreciation. I suggest to the honorable member for Maranoa that he has served a useful, public purpose by ventilating this matter to-day. I was very pleased to afford him. the opportunity to do so. I suggest now that he should withdraw his motion, and I undertake to furnish a report of the number of cases dealt with by the compensation hoard, so that the House may know how it has functioned. If it needs to be reformed or buttressed, I undertake to have that aspect of the matter examined.
– I agree with the concluding statement of the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) that the honorablemember for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has done a public service in bringing this matter before the House. This debate has been going on for over two hours, but only now have we learned of the existence of a compensation board to hear disputes between the Allied Works Council and persons whose property has been impressed. The general public may well be excused for not knowing that such a board existed. Indeed, the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) himself did not mention the board when replying to the honorable member for Maranoa, despite the fact that honorable members have been pressing for the appointment of just such a body. I agree that the compensation board should serve a useful purpose, but its functions should be enlarged. Evidently, it was set up by the Allied Works Council to deal only with matters affecting that body. The Works Department has also impressed a great deal of property, and the compensation board should be empowered to consider claims in respect of such impressments.
– There is also an appeal board which deals with hirings.
– Yes, but not with the impressment or acquisition of property. Some people have suffered great injustice in Queensland in connexion with the acquisition of land. Only recently, my attention was called to a case in which the Government had acquired some suburban building lots in Brisbane for war purposes. The department concerned fixed a price of £110 fer the allotments, and the owner objected. After a great deal of agitation, he succeeded in having the price raised to £170. It is ridiculous that such a state of affairs should be allowed to exist. Either the Hr-if offer was altogether too low, or it was light. If it was right, the owner should not have been allowed a greatly increased price merely as a reward for his tenacity.
I know of many instances in which tractors, scoops, and farming implements have been impressed in Queensland for making roads and aerodromes. No one objects to that in time of emergency, but I do object to the utter disregard for justice to the owners which lias been evinced. The policy of departments seems to be to beat down the price as much as possible in the hope that the owner will not persevere in his objection, but will ultimately accept the figure proposed. It is all very well to say that the owner has the right to go to court. We know that, under section 5.1 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth must, if it acquires property, do so on fair and just terms. We also know, from the James case, the Tonking case, and the Stenhouse and Peterson Blue Peas cases, that when a person whose property has been acquired has had the money and perseverance to take the Government to court over a matter of compensation, the Government has almost always lost. The lesson for us is that some tribunal should ‘be established to settle disputes on a fair basis. The board to which the Prime Minister has referred meets the situation only in one direction. Its functions should be extended to deal with appeals in respect of all classes of acquisitions by the Commonwealth Government.
– I was pleased to hear the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that a board to deal with compensation claims had been set up. The House did not have that information earlier in the day. The point here is that if it is impossible for a member of Parliament to find out what persons constitute that board, ordinary citizens must have considerable difficulty in knowing to whom to submit their appeals. The Prime Minister suggested that the regulations dealt only with vehicles and other property which had been impressed but had not been removed, but, in my opinion, they cover also plant and equipment which has been taken away and used. That opens up a big question. The country is calling out for more production, yet many primary producers have had their means of production taken from them. Some of them have purchased similar equipment at higher prices, and, consequently, the question of compensation arises. What has happened during the last three years in connexion with land values is little short of a. scandal. I have in mind the case of a semi-public body - a sewerage trust - which purchased a property at £72 10s. an acre in 1926. After negotiations extending over two years, the best offer that it has received for the land is £45 an acre, notwithstanding that another property not more than 200 yards away changed hands at £100 an acre, and the sale was approved by the Treasury authorities. Instances of that kind reveal the necessity for an independent board which will ensure that justice shall be done. For those people who seek to take advantage of the fact that the Government is acquiring property by demanding more than a reasonable price I have no sympathy, but I am concerned that justice shall be done to owners of property which is acquired by the Government. In the case to which I have referred, the owners of the property did not wish to sell it, but desired to hold it for future use. That, and other instances which have come to my notice, show that people from whom land has been acquired have not always had a fair deal. I endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Australian’ Country party (Mr. Fadden) that the scope of the board should be enlarged so that land which has been acquired shall be paid for promptly. It is a relief to learn from the Prime Minister that there is in existence a body to deal with compensation claims, hut it is unfortunate that we only heard of its existence this afternoon, and that the Minister forWorks (Mr. Lazzarini) did not know anything about it, and, indeed, that he argued that there was no necessity for such abody, because he was capable of dealing with such matters, and would personally investigate every case brought to his notice. The Prime Minister’s statement is a source of relief to us, but honorable members would welcome information as to the personnel of the board.
– The board has been in existence for three years.
– The Minister did not know of its existence until this afternoon. Although belated, the information given by the Prime Minister is most welcome.
.- The debate has followed a most extraordinary course. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) brought before the House a number of instances of unjust treatment of property-owners which I am sure must have convinced those who listenedtohimwithanopenmind.He didnotsibmitacaseingeneralterms butpresentedfactswhichrevealedthat injustices had occurred. His statements were supported by other instances cited by the honorable member for More ton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). So strong a case was presented that every honorable member, except the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), must have been impressed by it. The Minister, however, treated the House to a dissertation in which his autocratic attitude - an attitude which seems to have characterized the administration of the Department of the Interior of late - was clearly displayed. In its administration, and particularly in connexion with the Allied Works Council and the acquisition of property, the Department of the Interior impinges on the rights of individuals more than does any other public department. Yet the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior said that no evidence had been brought forward in support of the claims of honorable members. He replied, in general terms, to the charges made and denied that there was any necessity for a special tribunal to determine fair values. He went on to say that he himself was prepared to examine every case brought to his notice. He exhibited a completely closed mind in relation to the principles involved. I have never heard a case dismissed more lightly, or with less regard for the interests of individual citizens, than that which has been brought forward to-day. I can scarcely credit that the Minister who adopted such an autocratic attitude to-day is the Minister who recently advocated an alteration of the Constitution in the interests of the democratic rights of the Australian people. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) attempted to answer the charges by referring to his own experiences as a shire councillor. Honorable members are sufficiently realistic to know that a. shire council of which the Commonwealth Treasurer is a member is fortunate and can at least expect fair treatment; but the experience of the Treasurer may not be the experience of every shire councillor. The Treasurer went on to say that if such requests by shire councils were to be treated seriously, we should soon have more members serving on tribunals than there are men in the armed services. I must confess that the Treasurer also appeared to treat the matter lightly. But as the debate progressed the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) came to the rescue of his colleagues. The right honorable gentleman displayed a human attitude towards this wrong; he acknowledged that some evidence of injustices had. been submitted. I think that all honorable members agree that in wartime mistakes and injustices are almost inevitable, but the real test of the genuineness of a government is its willingness to listen with an open mind to those who present facts in support of their arguments. The Prime Minister has given to us an assurance which we must regard as satisfactory; but his statement that there was already in existence a tribunal to deal with compensation claims did not reveal the Minister for Works in a good light. Clearly, some owners of property which has been acquired by the Government have been treated unjustly, and just as clearly there is evidence of an unwillingness on the part of some government departments to treat fairly those whose property has been impressed in the national interest. Yesterday, I had occasion to refer again to the case of a man whose farm, on which were depastured stud horses, cattle and sheep, which had taken two generations of a wellknown family to produce, was acquired more than three years ago, but had not yet been paid for. Surely the Government is not unwilling that Australian citizens shall be treated decently. This condition of affairs must not be permitted to continue indefinitely. Citizens have been dispossessed of their property in an arbitrary manner, and the departments concerned have given no evidence of a genuine intention to ascertain the amount of compensation to which the owners are entitled, and, more important, to pay that compensation to them.
Regarding the property which I mentioned, I do not know that any harsher conditions could have been imposed if an authority had actually sought to employ all the power at its disposal to penalize the citizen. He was ordered to leave his property in three days. That kind of treatment is harsh. Admittedly, a state of emergency existed at that time, and. in such circumstances, officials clothed with wide powers are liable to act arbitrarily and exercise ill judgment. But as time passes, it becomes the responsibility of senior officials in the department, and ultimately the inescapable responsibility of a Minister, to ensure that justice shall be done. In this case, I made representations to Ministers, ‘ and the aggrieved citizen approached the department personally, and through his legal advisers, but all those efforts have availed him nought. The department appears to have been almost at pains to exercise its authority in the manner most calculated to impose the greatest loss upon him, and to make it most difficult for him to secure compensation. Under war-time authority a citizen may be dispossessed of his land merely by being served with a notice that the Government proposes to repossess it. He will he paid a hiring fee until the property is returned to him. The Commonwealth may also notify him that it has acquired the ownership of his land, and that he will be paid its capital value. In this instance, the land was taken for an aerodrome. What had been flourishing pastures, clover fields and groves of timber, with expensive sheds, fences and irrigation, is now a desert of gravel and tarmac. It was obvious from the outset that this property could not have been returned to the owner as a farm. Yet the authorities chose to exercise their hiring power in respect of this property, and to retain possession of it for almost two years rather than acquire it. Legally, the owner was not entitled to claim the capital value of the property. In a .most arbitrary manner, some officials were able to decide that the value of the farm was £10 an aerie, and that the hire of it should be at the rate of 10s. an acre per annum. The owner had no right of appeal. It may take a debate similar to this to discover whether a tribunal has been appointed to which such aggrieved citizens may appeal. After two years’ agitation, the Department of the Interior exercised its power of compulsory acquisition. In doing so, it was subject to the provisions of the act, which provides, inter aiia, that compensation for land acquired shall be on the basis of the value determined as at the 1st January preceding the date of acquisition. After the department had been in possession of the property for nearly two years, it acquired the land on the 23rd December. This decision compelled the owner and the department itself to calculate the compensation, not on the basis of the value at the date of acquisition, but a year earlier.
Most of us are not “bush lawyers”, and thousands of citizens, who are being subjected to the exercise by departments of these war-time powers, do not know all the statutory provisions. They certainly get little help from departments or Ministers to enable them to ascertain their rights. I happened to know the circumstances of the case which I have cited, because I had some experience in administering the department concerned ; but this instance shows that little sympathy is displayed in the administration of various departments, and little human appreciation of difficulties of citizens.
Fortunately, as the result of this debate, we have secured from the Prime Minister certain assurances regarding not only the particular matters raised by the honorable member for Maranoa, but also the general principles which are affected by other regulations. I express the hope that Ministers, who are in charge of departments responsible for impressments, will take a line from the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister to-day.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has certainly earned the appreciation of many persons, who suffered severe financial loss when their machinery or properties were impressed by Commonwealth departments. The position has been most unsatisfactory. Fortunately, this debate reminded the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) of the existence of a tribunal about which even the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) was ignorant, and that provision had been made for aggrieved persons to seek justice. Asthe Prime Minister had to search for this regulation, he apparently “ stone-walled “ the debate until the sitting was suspended. Then, like a conjurer, he produced the regulation, and the Minister for Works was no less astounded by its existence than other honorable members.
– The honorable member would be surprised.
– I was most surprised. Instead of concentrating on this debate, the Minister must have allowed his mind to dwell upon his pamphlet on the monetary and banking systems. This tribunal has been in existence for three years.
– For longer than that.
– As the public were unaware of its existence, will the Minister allow those persons who believe that they have been treated unfairly in the impressment of their machinery and property, to appeal to the tribunal to determine just compensation?
– The Minister stated that he would handle such cases personally.
– I shall still be called upon to give my approval.
– That might not be so satisfactory. I am glad that the Minister has given that assurance, because the condition of a good deal of the machinery, which, before impressment, belonged to local governing authorities and to farmers, deteriorated considerably during the period that it was used by the Allied Works Council or the Army.
– What has the honorable member done about it? Did he ever raise this matter in the past? I have been Minister for Works for only a brief period and no case of hardship has yet been brought to my notice.
– The Minister complains that no case of hardship has been brought to his notice. What good purpose would have beer served if we had brought cases of hardship to his notice, because he was nor aware of the existence of the tribunal?
– Nonsense !
– At any rate, the Minister has agreed that case of hardship shall be investigated by the tribunal. In Queensland, thousands of lorries engaged in the transport of war equipment and troops for several years have damaged the roads very badly, and the Commonwealth Government should compensate the local authorities for it or make them a reasonable allowance to meet the cost of effecting repairs. To date, the Army has denied its liability for that damage, although the roads have been ruined by military lorries. The local authorities should be compensated for that destruction.
– And the compensation should be paid without delay.
– Yes. As previous speakers have shown, the general matter of compensation should be investigated by a tribunal, to which aggrieved parties may apply for justice. At Maryborough, in my electorate many craft were impressed, but no compensation was paid for them. This matter has been the subject of correspondence with the responsible department for a long time, and threats of legal action against the Commonwealth have been made, but no payment tas yet been forthcoming. The Army lias taken possession of excellent farm lands, or has entered private property, and without informing the farmer, poured kerosene into his wells for the purpose of destroying mosquitoes. The effect was to cause sickness among the stock. Arising from this debate, the Government should set itself the task of appointing a tribunal to examine these cases of hardship. I am gratified that the Prime Minister was able to produce evidence of the existence of a tribunal, but I find it odd that the responsible Minister knew nothing about it. At all events, the Minister has promised to allow claims for compensation to be retrospective, so that persons who feel that they have been harshly dealt with in the past, may seek justice.
– I can speak more feelingly than most honorable members on this subject, because I had personal experience some years ago of the unconscionable attitude adopted by bureaucrats. The Minister for Transport and External Territories (Mr. Ward) should be in the chamber now, because I could give him some information that might surprise him. I was compelled to accept less than £14,000 for assets which cost me £160,000. As I have been sitting here since lunch-time, I am just wondering whether I was not also a “mug” not to know that an appellate jurisdiction existed to which I could appeal. At that time, we pleaded for an opportunity to place our case before some tribunal, but that opportunity was denied to us. However, the fact is that such a tribunal does exist to determine matters between the Allied Works ‘Council and vehicle owners, although the Minister with whom we were dealing did not know of its existence. Dealing with more recent events, I know of a person living in my electorate who, shortly after the Allied Works Council was constituted, had a couple of road rollers impressed. He was told that they were going to be taken, but not by the Allied Works Council, although all action in respect of their impressment was taken through the office of Mint body, and at the direction of the deputy director of the council in New
South Wales. The person concerned wanted to know where his plant was going. It was being hired, and he wanted to know what would be the hiring rate, and to whom he should apply for payment of the hiring fee. He has not yet received an answer to that question. I speak with authority on this matter, because, finally, I had to tell the deputy director in New South Wales that if this were a case in which the owner of the rollers was to look to the Federal Government for payment, he would not do that because he might lose his seat in Parramatta. I happened to be the owner of the rollers, and I could not ascertain whether they were being taken by the Commonwealth Government, with whom, as a member of this Parliament, I was not competent to make a contract, or some other instrumentality. Therefore, I have great sympathy with the case presented by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). This sort of thing is also occurring in connexion with the acquisition of machine tools by the Department of Munitions. One of my constituents had a lathe impressed many moons ago, and just two days ago I received a letter, which is too long for me to read. He is so hurt about the matter that he has taken to writing long letters on the subject.
The remedy indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) seems to offer a modicum of fair play; but it will be impossible for only one tribunal to hear all the applications that will flow in when all of this property is being returned to its owners. Will the Prime Minister also see that a similar measure of justice is offered not only to the people who have been dealing with the Allied Works Council, but also to those who have had their machinery impressed by the Department of Munitions, as well as those people whose land was impressed for the establishment of the air training school at Bradfield? Will they be given the same opportunity to have their claims investigated and adjudicated upon by a tribunal whose interests do not lie in the direction of beating down the just claims of applicants to the lowest possible figure ?
.- I do not propose to devote much time to this matter because it has been ably dealt with already. An overwhelming moral case has been made out against the regulation in the form in which it stands. It may be useful to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that owners whose property has been acquired, and which has depreciated as the result of its use by the Commonwealth, may also have a strong legal claim under the provisions of the Constitution.
– They always did, and that is the remedy, which, until the war broke out, everybody sought; they took it to court. These people do not wish to go to court, yet they wish to vary the conditions.
– Did not the honorable member for Parramatta receive payment for his rollers?
– No, because I still have them. I have received a letter from Mr. Theodore thanking me for offering them to the Allied Works Council free of any charge at all.
– The Prime Minister has indicated by his interjection that my point is correct; but I point out to honorable members generally that the relevant clause in the regulation provides for compulsory sale after a period of notice has been given, and the proceeds of the sale, subject to the deduction of certain expenses, are to be forwarded to the person from whom the property was requisitioned. In making such a sale, the Commonwealth would not be able to convey a better title than it possessed itself, and, presumably, it would not make a public sale unless it were able to pass on a clear title to the purchaser. Therefore, we may take it that the Commonwealth would have acquired statutory ownership of the property. The moment it does so, it comes under the provision of placitum 31 of section 51 of the Constitution, where the Commonwealth takes power to acquire property on just terms. Conse- quently, in the case of the person, or association of persons, whose property has been requisitioned and subsequently sold by the Government there would, in my view, be a clear right on the part of that person, or association of persons, to press a legal claim against the Commonwealth for the value in just terms of the property sold by the Commonwealth. But, comparing that case with that of the person who does not desire that the Commonwealth should sell his property but should return it to him - and, no doubt, the Commonwealth would agree, because it would prefer not to have to go to the trouble of selling the property and remitting the proceeds - it is clearly unfair that the latter should be placed at a greater disadvantage than the man who advises the Government to take his property and sell it. Consequently, the case put up by the honorable member for Maranoa is unanswerable not only on moral grounds but also on the legal grounds which I have adduced. I support those honorable members who feel uneasiness over the procedure by which it is proposed to determine compensation in the future. The establishment of oneboard to deal with hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of cases throughout the Commonwealth is a very dilatory manner of giving justice in this matter. Surely, it should be possible with a spirit of fair dealing on the part of local government bodies and the Government to reach even by rougher and readier methods a better basis of justice than that indicated by the Prime Minister.
. - in reply - Any one who listened carefully to my earlier remarks will realize that , I raised this matter because of the urgency of dealing with the subject, and that I was not actuated by any party political motive. I was interested in the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who stated that he was a member of a shire council which was completely satisfied with the treatment it had received from the Allied Works Council. I stated earlier that I was prepared to abide by the scale of lease rates and conditions observed by the Main Roads Board in Queensland. I assumed that similar conditions applied in other States. Those rates are fair, but under them local governmentbodies or private owners of property would not consider they were overpaid. At the same time, we shouldbe satisfied that we received fair treatment. I also stated that had those conditions been observed by the Allied WorksCouncil in its dealings with local governmentbodies I should not have brought this matter forward. However, out of all the complaints brought to my notice, I know of only one case in Queensland in which payment has actually been made to a local government authority under those conditions. I have been asked by the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) to give him details of the cases in which I claim there is cause for complaint. Before I do so I shall give him definite evidence in respect of the case of the requisition of tools which I mentioned. On the 18th December last the Kingaroy Shire Council received the following letter : -
We are forwarding to you per passenger train a quantity of tools as per attached list.
These tools are all that are available at the present moment, that would be suitable for your unit, and the cost of these tools will be offset against the hiring charge.
Yours faithfully, (For: G. W. Thompson),
That letter bears out my earlier statement that the tools which were taken off the machine during the period it was in the hands of the Allied Works Council and which the Kingaroy Council requested should be replaced, were in part replaced, and that the cost of replacing them wouldbe charged against the Kingaroy Council. That is typical of the attitude of the Allied Works Council in this matter. I am now chairman of th at shire council. I refused to put up with that treatment, and instructed the clerk to reply accordingly. The matter has since been adjusted. In another case, a local government authority claimed compensation amounting to £715 in respect of road maintenance machinery impressed by the Allied Works Council. Included in that figure was a sum of £200, which the shire council estimated would be the cost of repairing the machinery. That council has now been advised that the Allied Works Council expended £609 on repairs to the machinery, and will now make a payment of only £86 to the shire council. I pointed out earlier that this machinery in the hands of the Allied Works Council was subject to excessive wear and tear. I submit that a shire council is entitled to insist thatmachinery impressed should be returned in as good order as when it was requisitioned, after making, allowance for reasonable wear and tear. The council shouldbe compensated in respect of excessive depreciation. I expect the Allied Works Council to recognize that principle,but judgingby its actions, it is not prepared to do so. In addition, machinery impressed by the Allied Works Council is often left lying on the side of the road for periods up to twelve months. During that time, of course, the owner is denied the use of it, but no compensation is paid for loss suffered by councils in that respect. Under the MainRoads Board’s hiring conditions, the body requisitioning machinery undertakes to bear the cost of major repairs, but the Allied Works Council, although it is the hirer, wants to dictate all the terms as though it were the owner. Through the intervention of the Prime Minister, we now know that a tribunal is in existence. The Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) had no right to become heated and to endeavour to make a political issue of this matter. He cannot suggest that I tried to do so. It is evident that he did not know of the existence of the tribunal. However, we have unearthed that information at last. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister state that, should this tribunal be unable to cope with all of the appeals, he would ensure that other tribunals were appointed. I am doubtful whether the members of the tribunal will have sufficient practical knowledge to enable them to handle appeals expeditiously. However, the assurance that other tribunals may be appointed satisfies me on that point. I am still dissatisfied with the delay in making payments to farmers and shire councils for their equipment.
– Many men have been unable to secure prompt payment, even when there has been no dispute as to prices. In the case mentioned, the council applied for payment on the 16th July, 1944. It was assured that its claim would receive consideration within fourteen days, but nothing has yet been done. Municipal councils can survive these delays, but individual farmers who have had to pay up to 50 per cent. more than the pre-war prices of their tractors are severely handicapped financially.
The statement by the Minister for Works that graders are released as the works are finished was not strictly accurate. It would have been more to the point had he said that the graders are released when they are “ finished “. Some graders returned to local governing authorities in northern Queensland have not been able to move away from the railway trucks under their own power.Some of them have been completely unserviceable. The fact that repairs to one machine alone cost £609 indicates its state of disrepair. About fifteen shire councils within the electorate of Maranoa have appealed to me for help in obtaining road-making machinery.
– One of the important officers of the Allied Works Council was a senior officer in the employ of the Queensland Government. I refer to Mr. Kemp. I understand that no more competent man could be found for the job. I have directed the Minister for Works to proceed to Queensland during the parliamentary recess which will commence after 23rd March, and I shall expect these matters to be cleared up. I shall expect that, if applicants have not been paid, the only reason for delay will be disagreement as to price.
– I appreciate the right honorable gentleman’s assurance. I am aware of only one case of those brought to me that has been satisfactorily settled, and in that case I personally interviewed Mr. Kemp. I have much confidence in him and I recommend the establishment of a tribunal consisting of a representative of the Allied Works Council and a representative of the local governing authorities, with Mr. Kemp as chairman. He has earned a reputation for honesty. The appointment of such a tribunal would involve little expense to the Commonwealth. In view of the assurances which the Prime Minister has given to me, I ask leave of the House to withdraw the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Presentation to the Govern or-General
– I inform the House that the AddressinReply will be presented to His Royal Highness the Governor-General at Government House at 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday next. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to present it.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I raise a grievance of long standing in the Northern Territory. The facts are disclosed by correspondence which has been exchanged between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and Farquharson Brothers, of Inverway Station, Northern Territory. In 1942, the Government decided to form a bullock pool in the Northern Territory. Farquharson Brothers contributed 1,213 bullocks to that pool. On 14th July, 1944, the Minister forCommerce and Agriculture wrote a letter to Farquharson Brothers stating that he was making immediate inquiries as to the whereabouts of800 of those bullocks. I have been informed by Farquharson Brothers that the total number of bullocks in the pool was 9,238. However, only 5,57 of these were delivered to agistment; in other words, 40 per cent. of the total was lost between the date of delivery to the drovers and the date of delivery to the pool. A letter from Farquharson Brothers to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated -
Notwithstanding eulogistic paragraphs in sections of the press, some of which styled the droving as “ Epic “, the losses work out at forty per cent. (40%) in round figures - a most disastrous state of affairs.
Why, Sir! cattle have been going to Queensland from these parts in their thousands for many years now, and their losses would not exceed two per cent. (2%), and why should they when there are bores every few miles along the route? - a condition of droving altogether different from that existing in 1918-1919, when one thousand (1,000) bullocks were overlanded from this vicinity to Headingly Station and the road losses were under one per cent. (1%), notwithstanding the Fact of a dry stage of one hundred and twenty-five (125) miles.
Regarding the enormous loss of 3,081 bullocks by your agent’s drovers, we would appreciate advice as to what steps you have taken to recover these.
We understand that some losses actually occurred on, and others adjacent to the runs on which deliveries were given to the drovers. These cattle did not disappear off the face of the earth, and most of them should have been recovered long ago, when the stations were mustering, which also applies to other stations further along the route where losses occurred, and as the cattle were cross-branded before leaving the various runs, should be easily distinguishable from other cattle perhaps purchased from these runs by Vesteys on their own account, at different times.
In my youth I heard the story, no doubt apocryphal, of the Irish sailor who rushed on to the bridge and said to the captain, “Faith captain, is a thing lost if you know where it is ? “ “ Of course not “, replied the captain. “ Well, then, your silver teapot is overboard “, said the Irishman. Apparently, in official circles these missing bullocks are not considered to be lost, because the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated quite frankly that he knows where they are. In a letter dated the 8th December, 1944, be stated -
A large number of bullocks are depasturing in eastern Queensland on well improved fatten ing country and it is expected that most of these will come into production during the autumn of next year, which is the normal period for the marketing of stock from the area where the bullocks are agisting.
On the 27th February he wrote to me in these terms -
I have to advise that I am making further inquiries into this matter and will, as, soon as possible, communicate with you again.
It is interesting that the Minister apparently knows that these 800 bullocks are in eastern Queensland, although from the 14th July, 1944, to the 16th March, 1945, he has been unable to put his finger on them. I hope the Minister will take immediate action to clarify the position. Recently, I read in the press that Senator Nicholls of South Australia hopes to conduct his next election campaign by means of a helicopter. Perhaps he could gain his first air experience by flying north to search for these bullocks. The Government has paid the stock breeders £2 10s. a head for them, and it is nearly three years since delivery was taken on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Minister apparently entertains the pious hope that they will be found in good condition by next autumn. That is not good enough. There should be no further delay in locating them.
– I am concerned at the difficulties which are being experienced by exservicemen in obtaining permits to build homes on their return to civilian life. I have in mind the case of a man who served for five years and four months in the Army, spending seven and a half months of that time at Tobruk. His number is 4,142, which shows that he was among the first men to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. On his discharge from the Army, he purchased a home which was occupied by a tenant. He was unable to take possession of the house, so he applied for a permit to convert the building into flats so that the tenant and he could share it, but the permit was refused. In view of the large sums of money that have been expended on buildings which have never been used for the purposes for which they were built, it is discouraging to returned servicemen to be refused permission to use their own money in providing homes for themselves. We have been crying out for a higher birth-rate. These men are the prospective fathers of . the race. They should be encouraged to build homes. Even if the issuing of building permits has been suspended, an exception should be made in the case of returned soldiers. I hope that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will ensure that, in future, these men are given a better deal than has been given to them in the past.
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s remarks to the notice of the Minister.
– As a representative of an agricultural district in Tasmania, I have sympathetic feelings for the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley). I express my gratitude to the honorable gentleman for action which he took recently upon representations which I had made to him. A representative of the Shipping Control Board is stationed at Launceston. Occasionally, difficulties have arisen at both Burnie and Devonport, the two principal ports in Tasmania, apart from Hobart and Launceston, in connexion with the early despatch of ships. Following a meeting of primary producers and others at Devonport, I suggested to the Minister for Supply and Shipping that a local representative of the Shipping Control Board should be located at each of those ports, and that has since been arranged. I am hopeful that a great deal of good will accrue from those appointments.
I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping in this chamber to a situation which, I believe, occasionally causes delay in the shipment of produce that is of particular concern not only to Tasmania but also to all the mainland States. Production to-day in Tasmania, particularly of potatoes, is very much greater than the people on the mainland realize. Most of it takes place on the north-west coast, and is shipped mainly from Devonport and Burnie. The increase of production since the outbreak of the war has been enormous; even between last year and this year it has been considerable. On the 26th February, the statement was made that up to that date in this year 494,461 sacks of potatoes had been exported from the north-west coast of Tasmania. A list of increases, greater or less, includes dehydrated potatoes, swedes, green and canned peas, fodder, dehydrated cabbages, chaff, tares, vetches, carrots, hay, butter, cheese, flax seed, turnip seed, beet, straw, flax, flax tow, tomato pulp and barley. In every instance there was a distinct. increase between this year and last year.With so much produce being consigned, it is natural that there should frequently be a good deal of congestion on the wharfs at Devonport and Burnie. A point that must be borne in mind is that the area of production is a fairly large one, and that a great deal of carriage must take place before the produce is loaded on the ships. Every week or two weeks, a notice appears in the local press stating that the wharf at one or other of those two ports has been closed to further deliveries. Between Devonport and Burnie there is the port of Ulverstone, which has not been used for a considerable time, but still could take the small ships which at present trade to Burnie, Devonport and Stanley. I urge upon the Minister the consideration of its use, which would minimize considerably the congestion and delay that now occur. The result would bethat on some occasions the three ports would be clearing produce simultaneously instead of some vessels having to wait until sufficient man-power was available to handle the produce on the wharfs. I am assured by primary producers, shipping agents and wharf labourers, that this would greatly accelerate the clearance of the crops that are now being produced. In view of the shortage of potatoes on the mainland, the matter is of utmost urgency.
.- The Warburton chalet, at Warburton, Victoria, was originally leased by the Army authorities, but is now occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force, to which it was leased some years ago by the Hirings Administration at a rent fixed on a capital value of between £30,000 and £40,000. The shire valuer of the Shire of Upper Yarra, on whose behalf I raise the matter, last year valued the property at £16,723. Since then, there has been a revaluation by a new shire valuer, who assessed the value at £18,000. A letter which I have received from the shire states -
As this figure is in close agreement with the amended valuation of £16,723 at which the property was assessed by our former valuer in September, 1943, and very much less than the figure of £30,000 or thereabouts which is being used by the Department of the Army for the purpose of calculation of the rental being paid to Mr. Mayer for the property, the council considers that some review of the matter should now be made.
The point is as to whether or not the rent that is being paid for this building is based on a valuation that is far in excess of the true valuation. If the valuation of the shire be correct, the Army is definitely paying far too much rent on a capital value of between £30,000 and £40,000, and public money is being wasted. I trust that the Minister for “Works (Mr. Lazzarini), who at present is in charge of the House, will have the matter examined by the Army authorities and will ensure that a report shall be furnished as early as possible.
.- A few weeks ago I made in this House certain allegations upon information that had reached me, as well as other honorable members,’ to the effect that there was overloading in the administrative sections of the Royal Australian Air Force, but the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has not yet taken the opportunity to reply. At the time, I mentioned a hypothetical figure, because I did not wish to disclose precisely the information which I had as to the number of squadrons that are actively operating under the commands of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. That information indicated to me that the nominal strength of each active squadron in operation was very much greater in Australia than in the sister Dominion of New Zealand. I gave the figure of 3,200 as applying to each squadron in active operation under the Australian command, compared with 2,000 in New Zealand. I know, as does the Minister for Air, that that is not a precise presentation of the comparative situation in the two countries. No doubt, the overall figure relating to the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force includes many thousands of men who are serving away from Australia under the command of the Royal Air Force; and there may be other factors which lessen the apparent discrepancy between the two strengths. But at least there is so wide a margin that an explanation should be forthcoming which will give an. assurance to the Australian people that there is no unnecessary or wasteful use of manpower in this service, and, if the Minister cannot give that assurance, he should at least state what action is in train for pruning out those elements which may be redundant under present conditions. My opinion is supported, not only by such personal contacts as honorable members themselves may have from time to time, but also by press comments and correspondence which reaches us. The following is an extract from a leading article which the Sydney Daily Telegraph published’ a few weeks ago : -
While evidence suggests that the K.A.A.F. has an over -bloated administrative organization and more aircrews than planes, the Government continues recruiting aircrews and W.A.A.A.F.s.
On the orchards of Shepparton, central Victoria, last week a Telegraph reporter found 380 R.A.A.F. men employed picking pears.
Some were fliers with from two to tour years’ service.
Many were trainees who, their elementary flying completed, -were awaiting transfers to advanced and operational schools.
Some of these men had 120 hours’ flying in Tiger Moths to their credit - about twice the number of h,o>urs required for this stage of training.
Other men had been in the R.A.A.F. only a few weeks.
The mem told the reporter that they were given the option of remustering as ground staff, serving temporarily as clerks or guards, or picking pears.
It is no secret that the R.A.A.F. is heavily overloaded at the top - with a vast army of administrative officers, served by a vast organization of administrative personnel.
This outsize organism requires another army to handle its supply, provisioning, and transport.
The facts stated in two of many letters which have reached me call for some inquiry. One of my correspondents states -
Married men with young families have been audi are being posted to operational areas, many of whom have been in the service less than one year and certainly not over two years. This is a ridiculous set-up when it is realized that men with long years of service and no dependants other than a wife, are permitted to languish, discontentedly, at units to which they were posted from their “rookie” courses. These men of all ranks are not in a minority.
Further, in the last two yeaTS, owing to general inefficiency and lack of organization by the powers that be, young fit class 1 men, both married and single, are and have been posted indiscriminately from their States of enlistment to various Departments of Air to assist in solving the hopeless muddle now so apparent to us servicemen. The civilian staffs have been permitted to develop this muddle -which, is entirely due to lack of instruction by their departmental chiefs and section leaders who are not at all capable of taking the necessary responsibility. The result is chaos, and a personal inspection of these departments by a successful business executive would appal him.
A general comb-out of these departments, particularly Area Finance Offices of the R.A.A.F., is urgently needed. We unfortunates, who are forced to stagnate in these departments and bases, and have not been given the opportunity to do a real job in operational areas for which we volunteered, cannot understand why men who have had operational service are not posted to these duties upon their return, instead of being re-posted to operational duties again, after a few months have elapsed.
I might add that these are the sentiments of a vast majority of us, a-nd, further, why mix service personnel with civilians, who are on a much higher rate of pay for the duties carried out? Wc feel that we are neither members of the Air Force hot civilians, as we are obviously, and quite rightly so, resented or looked upon as intruders by civilians working with us.
The duties we are carrying out at the present time could quite easily be executed by discharged medically unfit service personnel who, according to the local press and service associations, are finding it hard to obtain suitable employment. Most cif ‘ these men, it is stated, are trained clerks.
Another letter reached me only a few days ago and. dealt with the fact that, whilst men were being called up and put through courses of training, 500 men, according to the press, have been posted to some place in South Australia in order to pick fruit there. i am not critical of the Minister’s policy of using men for such tasks. We know how imperative it is to fulfil our obligations on the food front, and if no immediate use can be made of certain members of the Royal Australian Air Force there is good sense in seeing that loss of service in one direction is not repeated in another. i am not engaged in a vendetta against the Minister or his officers. i regard him as an able and conscientious administrator of his own department, and i have a similar regard for Major Langslow, who, from my own brief experience in the Air administration, is a remarkably able and conscientious- officer. i know how difficult it is for the Minister, or the departmental head, to track down this loss of man-power, particularly when one knows that in some areas establishments have been magnified in order to increase the ranking of some officer on the spot. These occurrences are inevitable in a rapidly growing organization. The Royal Australian Air Force, in the course of this war, has multiplied itself many times, and it would be a miracle if there were nol some overlapping and inefficiency. i put these matters to the Minister for him to look into them, if he considers that they are worthy of investigation. i may recount to him a humorous conversation i had only this week with an Air Force officer whom i know personally, and met quite informally. When i asked him where he was now stationed, h» replied, “At Stalag ii.”. i asked. “Where is that?” and he replied, “The Albert’ Park Barracks”. When i requested an explanation as to why he had bestowed the name “Stalag ii.” upon those ‘barracks, he replied, “We have barbed wire on the outside, and nothing to do on the inside “. That story seems to reflect some of the redundancies to which i have directed attention. i hope that the Minister will do what he can to reduce the wastefulness in the use of man-power which may be occurring at a time when an additional 50,000 or 60,000 persons are needed for the provision of essential civilian needs.
.- The statement by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) lends point to the matter which i am about to raise. At present only black corrugated iron and black wire are being manufactured. i understand that the extra man-power that would ‘be required to produce galvanized iron and wire would be very small indeed. i am told that with fewer than 200 more men than are now employed in the steelworks and in the associated industries, iron and wire which would be of permanent value to those requiring it could be manufactured, instead of the inferior articles now produced. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) told me ten or twelve days ago that abundant zinc supplies are available, and it should not be impossible to obtain the necessary man-power by enlisting members of the services who are in redundant positions, men employed in non-essential industries, or men who are not employed at all. Skilled men are not needed. I am informed that any able-bodied man can be taught to do the work in a few days. The stereotyped reply to those who make application for corrugated iron is to advise them to use corrugated fibro sheeting,but this is not always suitable. it is very heavy and. very brittle, which makes it difficult to transport to country areas. The production of food, and particularly of vegetables, is suffering because ammunition is not available for the destruction of rabbits and hares. There would be a saving of man-power if the Government were to adopt my suggestions and make available galvanized iron and wire netting.
– I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Molt) not to accept newspaper reports as a necessarily correct presentation of the facts. Newspapers always tend to use information which comes into their possession in order to criticize whatever government happens to be in power. Perhaps it is well sometimes that governments should be criticized. I am not unduly sensitive in this regard, and if criticism is sound, I believe that it is the duty of Ministers to do what they can to put things right. As a matter of fact, long before any newspaper articles were published on the subject, I had taken steps to see that Air Force establishments were not becoming bloated. Of course, no Minister can prevent the development of certain anomalies arising out of the fluctuating demands of war. I appreciate the manner in which the honorable member for Fawkner presented his information. He was not unduly critical, but he feels, evidently, that there are grounds for investigation. I assure him that the position is being carefully watched. I make no apology because men qualified for air-crew duties were used for picking fruit.
– I was not objecting to that.
– No,but the newspapers from which the honorable member quoted tried to pillory me on that ground. Members of the Australian Country party have repeatedly asked that servicemen should be used where possible to save crops that might otherwise be lost. I have been informed that action taken by my department last year to release men resulted in the saving of valuable crops.
– It would be a good thing if the Army were to follow the example of the Air Force in this respect.
– We know that during the last war, soldiers were taken out of the actual battle line in order to harvest crops in France. Therefore, I believe that I was fully justified in directing that men who were temporarily idle should assist in harvesting the pear crop. On the other hand, it may be that men who have been trained for flying could be better employed than on the harvesting of crops, and that aspect of the matter is being examined. As for the alleged overloading of Air Force establishments, there are inspectors whose duty it is to examine establishments and report upon any which are over-manned, so that appropriate action may be taken. In this connexion, there are factors not generally known. For instance, it sometimes happens that men cannot be sent to forward areas, even though others are waiting to be relieved, because shipping is not available. The only way to get over that difficulty is to get more ships and the demand for shipping, as I found during my visit to the United States of America and Great Britain, is worldwide. Indeed, so serious is the shortage that we are not even able to bring to Australia the wives of servicemen who married in Great Britain and the United States of America.
– Mr. Churchill has referred to the shortage of shipping.
– That is so. Some of the criticism directed against my department is not justified, but where there is ground for criticism I recognize that it is my duty to do what I can to improve matters. It is not my wish that any Air Force establishment should be overloaded. The need for men is too great for us to have men not properly occupied, more particularly at a time when we are making heavy demands on primary producers for food for the services, and for relief purposes. It does happen that, from time to time, establishments are somewhat overloaded, but inspectors are then supposed to report the matter so that adjustments can be made. There is, perhaps, a tendency for those in official positions to keep establishments at as great a strength as possible so as to maintain the importance of their positions. I do not support that practice. It is the duty of an officer, when his unit is over strength, to report the matter to his superiors. The Department of Air wishes to render the best possible service with the fewest number of men, and that is what I am striving to achieve. It may be that some of the critical letters referred to were written by officers who did not get the kind of job they wanted. I know nothing of the so-called “Stalag II.”, where, it is alleged, barbed wire is being used to enclose men who are not fully occupied. A good deal of important administrative work is being done at Albert Park, and a considerable number of men are occupied in doing it. Since I returned from overseas I have been seeking to make adjustments so as to avoid carrying more administrative officers than are needed. I must point out in this connexion that some honorable members on both sides of the House pestered me to have certain persons appointed to administrative positions in the Air Force. Such requests became so frequent as to increase appreciably the burden of work upon the officers of my department. After we advertised for administrative officers, it appeared that every one knew of some person possessing startling qualifications which would qualify him for appointment to the Air Force. It may be that the need does not exist now for so many administrative officers. If so, we cannot afford to keep them on merely because they were appointed at that time. The honorable member for Fawknercited certain figures to show that there is a disparity between Australia and New Zealand, but I point out that, even if the disparity be as he suggests, the true state of affairs is not necessarily revealed. Australia has certain types of units, such as works units, in the Northern Territory, New Guinea and elsewhere, which come under Air Force administration which New Zealand does not possess. Recently New Zealand applied to Australia for men trained in such units to help its Air Force in certain areas, but, unfortunately, we could not supply them. Some types of squadrons require many more personnel than others, so comparisons are not to be relied upon. The honorable member will see that when a proper comparison is made there may be a complete answer which will entirely satisfy the critics. In addition, the Australian lines of communication are longer than those of New Zealand. The New Zealand forces are operating in theSolomon Islands zone, which is nearer to the home base. Where the scene of operations is a long distance from base head-quarters more men are required than with shorter lines. I do not know whether that is the explanation, and I do not say that it is a complete answer, but it may throw some light on the apparent disparity. The honorable member for Fawkner presented his case without animus and on the matters raised by him an inquiry will be made. At a later date I hope to be able to present to the House a statement which will satisfy him and other critics.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers : -
Electric Lighting Restrictions.
y. - On the 7th March the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked if the Minister for Munitions would have a survey made of the present position of electricity supply with a view to relaxing present lighting restrictions to permit the use of electric lighting for night sport. The Acting Minister for Munitions has had this matter investigated and has made the following information available: -
The conservation of coal is still a matter of prime importance and it is regretted that it is not possible to ease the restrictions at the present time. This matter is being constantly reviewed and restrictions will be relaxed as early as possible.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the cabled report in a Sydney daily newspaper of the 15th March that penicillin will be on sale in chemists’ shops in Great Britain in two or three months in the form of powder, cream and pastilles, will he indicate if it is intended that it will similarly be available in Australia for general use?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer : -
It is not likely that penicillin will be available for general uncontrolled sale in Australia before the end of the war. Information available here suggests that the newspaper report referred to by the honorable member may not be literally correct.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Negotiations are still proceeding with the officers of the railways workers unions and through the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The honorable member can be assured that the Government is doing, and with the assistance of the officers of the unions, will continue to do, everything possible to settle the dispute by constitutional means and thus avoid a stoppage of railway transport.
Australian Army: Neurosis Cases; Service Camps near Parramatta; Military Personnel in Civil Gaols.
n. - On the 1st March the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the Minister for the Army whether he would investigate an allegation, published in the Sydney Sun and attributed to a leading Macquarie-street psychiatrist, that the Army was discharging large numbers of nerve case soldiers who should not be returned to civilian life until they had been rehabilitated.
The Director-General of Army Medical Services has confirmed that every soldier being discharged from the Army on medical grounds is brought before a final Medical Board. By a recent War Cabinet decision authority has been given to final Medical Boards to recommend the retention of any soldier in an Army hospital or convalescent depot for a period of up to one year, and in certain cases up to eighteen months, if the soldier’s recovery and rehabilitation into civil life may be made easier by such retention. Provided the senior medical officer of the command or Line of Communication Area concurs, treatment will continue and the soldier’s discharge will be postponed accordingly. At the end of these periods, if the illness or injury is related to war service, the member is transferred to the care of the Repatriation Commission, although treatment may be continued inan Army Medical Unit. If the illness or injury is not related to war service and further in-patient treatment is required arrangements are made for admission of the soldier to an appropriate civil medical institution. These provisions apply equally to “nerve cases “. The desire of the Army has been to ensure that disabled members shall be retained within the Service until they are either fit to take up civil employment or to be trained for civil employment.
On the 23rd February the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked the Minister for the Army the following question: -
In the light of the serious shortage of manpower and material in Australia, will the Minister for the Army inform me why a camp constructed at Prospect, near Parramatta, at an expenditure of many thousands of pounds, was never occupied and is now being demolished, although a new camp is being constructed for the British navy about 10 miles away on the Blacktown-Richmond railway line?
The camp at Prospect, to which the honorable member for Parramatta refers, was provided in 1942 to accommodate American troops. Living accommodation was provided by tents with hutted amenities such as messes, kitchens, showers, ablution facilities and latrines. The buildings for amenities were dispersed on various sites throughout the camp area in positions most suitable for serving the tented accommodation. When the war took a more favorable trend the American forces were moved northwards instead of occupying the Prospect camp. No accommodation for the British navy is being erected on the Blacktown line. Presumably, the honorable member refers to the establishment at Hargrave Park, adjoining Warwick Farm. The proposal to provide accommodation at Hargrave Park was reviewed by the Works Priorities Sub-Committee which functions under the Defence Committee and by the Board of Business Administration.
In the course of the review, consideration was given to the utilization of the Prospect camp, but it was concluded that, because of its dispersed nature, and the distance from rail facilities, the Prospect Camp would not be suitable for the purpose required. It was recommended, however, that arrangements be made to transfer from that camp to Hargrave Park such buildings, latrines, ablution sheds, &c, as could be moved economically. The question of availability of material for the Hargrave Park project was fully investigated and reviewed in its relationship to the War Housing programme. The man-power aspect and the question of availability of American and Australian warehouses, camps and facilities were also fully investigated. The proposal to proceed with the Hargrave Park project was endorsed by the Board of Business Administration and. after full consideration, was approved by War Cabinet.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
n. - The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Yes. This policy is generally followed. Approximately 2 per cent. of soldiers under sentence are serving their sentences in civil gaols, compared to 98 per cent. in detention barracks.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
How many permits for the construction of houses were issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry in each capital city in each of the years 1942, 1943, and 1944?
– The information is being obtained, and. will be supplied as soon as possible.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Curtin. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
r asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
n. - On the 9 th March last, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question seeking information concerning the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to British migration to Australia. I desire to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government is very earnestly desirous of obtaining large numbers of British subjects as migrants. To this end, negotiations have been proceeding for some time with the United Kingdom Government concerning the extent to which financial assistance in regard to transport and in other directions can be rendered to enable (a) British ex-service personnel and their dependants, and (b) other British subjects in the United Kingdom to migrate to Australia. The stage to which these negotiations has now advanced indicates that at an early date mutually satisfactory agreement will be reached between the two Governments in regard to the terms and conditions applicable to each scheme. When the negotiations are completed I shall make a full statement to the House. I point out, however, that the early implementation of the Government’s migration schemes on a large scale will be dependent upon various factors, including the availability of shipping, of which there is at present a serious shortage. civil Aviation.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450316_reps_17_181/>.