17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear; took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motions (“by Mr. Curtin) - ~by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be given to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), on the ground of his absence from Australia as a prisoner of war.
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be given to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), on duty with the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture further examine the possibility of making available to citrus-growers in the Gosford district an additional allotment of fertilizer mixtures containing sulphate of a mim on ia?
– I regret that it lias not been possible to approve of the supply of sulphate of ammonia to citrus-growers in the Gosford district, due to the extreme difficulty of obtaining adequate supplies of this fertilizer from overseas. The policy laid down by my department has permitted sulphate of ammonia to be made available for citrus growing only where irrigation is used, thus ensuring that the best possible use shall be made of the fertilizer available. The existing supply position does not permit me to make an alteration of the method of allocating sulphate of ammonia; but the honorable member may rest assured that if additional supplies are received the position will be reviewed, and I shall endeavour to -comply with his request.
– I have heard, on authority which I consider good, that the Deputy Directors of Man Power in the States have been advised that no fur ther releases are to be made from the services, other than of persons who are to engage in the building trade. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service either verify or deny this? If it is correct, will he clarify the situation, in order that those who are engaged in rural industries will not continue to seek releases to assist them in their operations ?
– There is some truth in the statement, but it is not correct to say that future releases are to be confined to those who are to engage in the building trade. An order has been issued that there are to be no further releases for the dairying industry, because its quota of 4,000 has been exceeded by 2,000, and other industries have to be given their share of the total number to be released. The tightening up of releases from the forces will operate for some weeks and perhaps months.
– In view of the acute shortage of labour in primary industries and essential services, will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army have a survey made of the R class men in base military camps and lines of communication, in order to see whether any of those men could be released for those industries? I am informed that a great number of them in base camps and on lines of communication are doing practically nothing.
– I shall ask the Acting Minister for the Army to give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Can the Treasurer give any information in regard to Australian funds in London, including their disposition, and the redemption of certain loans?
– The total’ of the funds held in London to the credit of Australia is approximately £160,000,000 sterling, representing approximately £300,000,000 Australian. During the war, the redemptions have totalled about £20,930,000 sterling, in addition to an amount of £12,000,000 temporarily borrowed by the previous Government. The two amounts are equivalent to approximately £41,000,000 Australian. The £20,930,000, less £3,000,000 that had been raised on account of local authorities in Brisbane and Melbourne, represented State debts, and £1,360,000, calculated at $4,866 to the £1, was held in America. Against the £160,000,000 sterling, we have war commitments totalling £20,000,000. We propose to repay £34,000,000 of the loan that is falling clue. The Prime Minister has announced the arrangements that have been made in respect of the conversion of the balance.
– Will the Treasurer ascertain whether or not it is the policy of the Commonwealth Bank to refuse to make loans on the security of live Stock, and to demand in addition collateral security, presumably real estate?
– I have no knowledge of the details of the bank’s administration and the conditions on which advances are made. I shall endeavour to obtain exact particulars from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what progress has been made towards meeting the urgent request for labour by the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia, for the purpose of repairing the damage caused to homesteads, shearing sheds, fences and mills by the cyclone “Which recently struck the north-west coast of Western Australia.
– I have received a telegram in connexion with this matter from Mr. Wise, the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia. The reports that I have received reveal that the cyclone caused appalling devastation to practically the whole of the countryside. Buildings were demolished, and stock was killed. Mr. Wise suggested that prisoner of war labour might be used to repair the damage. I have not discussed this aspect with the Minister for Labour and National Service or with the Security Department, but the honorable member will agree that the use of such labour in the area affected might present some difficulty. The matter is being investigated, and my department will do everything that it can to assist.
– I move -
That the House, at its vising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 18th April next, tit 3 p.m.
About a fortnight ago, I stated that it was intended that the House should resume on Tuesday, the 17th April, and should meet on four days a week thereafter. It has been represented to me that whilst some honorable members will not be convenienced by meeting on the Wednesday instead of the Tuesday, a large number of them will be, in that they will not need to leave their homes until the Monday, whereas they would have to leave on the Sunday if the House were to meet on the Tuesday. That is the reason for the present proposal. Having regard to the legislative programme, I shall be obliged to ask the House to meet on four days a week after the first week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether consideration may be given to the granting of gold leases on the Warramunga gold-field, Tennant Creek. The Government ordered the miners to leave that field, and confiscated their tools. I have received an official letter, which states that if rents are not paid for leases which the Government will not allow to be worked, those leases will be allotted to other applicants. [ have also been informed officially this week that the one mine that is allowed to work is yieding 48 ounces to the ton. This furnishes a reason for the desire to secure leases on that field. “I request the right honorable gentleman to ensure that the rights of persons who held leases and were forced off the field shall not be Pre.indiced by reason of the non-payment of rent; because I consider that rents should not be claimed in respect of leases which the Government will not allow men to work.
– I shall be happy indeed to consider the matter which the honorable member has raised. So that there may be no ambiguity, will he be good enough to send to me a memorandum, or place a question on the noticepaper, in order that I may be quite sure that all the points which he has raised may be answered ?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether or not it is proposed that petrol users shall have issued to them in the near future petrol of a low grade. If so, would it be possible to increase the ration to which users are entitled?
– I am not aware that that is intended. I understand that the grade of petrol customarily used for commercial purposes is 80 octane. There must be good reasons for the change, and I shall make inquiries regarding the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister road a report in the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial of Saturday last, in which it was stated that a document setting out the policy of the Post-war Reconstruction Department had been released on the previous day? If so, in view of the fact that the report referred to migration proposals, and as I and other honorable members on the Opposition side of the House have been endeavouring for some time to secure information regarding the Government’s migration policy, will the right honorable gentleman state whether the press report may be regarded as official, and why the department outlined government policy on migration before it was made known to this House? “Will the Prime Minister table the document?
– I have not read the report; and I do not know anything about any such document. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction may have made a statement somewhere, based on notes. I do not know whether that occurred or not, but I am quite sure that no department or Minister has allowed a public docu ment to be circulated to some members of the Parliament and has denied it to others. If that has happened, I shall take steps to see that it does not occur again.
– The statement appeared in the press.
– I am sure that the right honorable gentleman would be the last to regard a newspaper as a completely reliable authority.
– I desire to inform the House that Sir William Glasgow, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S..O., V.D., a former Commonwealth. Minister, who has recently relinquished the position of High Commissioner for Australia in, Canada, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s Chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Sir William Glasgow thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
– Will the Treasurer give further consideration to representations previously made to him regarding the exemption of bush nursing hospitals from the pay-roll tax, the entertainments tax, and the sales tax, as well as the tax on donations to those bodies? The payment of the taxes mentioned imposes a severe strain upon the finances of those most admirable institutions. The matter is one of some urgency because, on the 28th April next, the Pakenham Racing Club is holding a meeting in aid of the Bush Nursing Hospitals at Pakenham and Koo-wee-rup.
– As the honorable member knows, having been one of a deputation which waited upon me some time ago regarding this matter, the conditions under which the Bush Nursing Associations work vary in different States. I thought that I had fully indicated to the honorable member why those bodies are not exempted from the taxes mentioned in a letter which I forwarded to him in response to his personal and written representations. I am always willing to examine such matters, but, while the rules of the associations and the conditions under which they operate remain as at present, the Commissioner of Taxation would, I think, find it extremely difficult to issue a ruling which would give to those organizations the benefit which the honorable member seeks. However, I shall have the matter re-examined.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether a man-power officer, Mr. H. Cheeseman, has resigned from his post in Sydney, because he gave preference in a pick-up to members of the Builders Workers Industrial Union over members of the Ship Joiners Union? Is the present man-power officer at that location working under such instructions, and, if so, will the Minister have inquiries made and submit a report to this House on the matter before the conclusion of to-day’s sitting?
– I can tell the honorable member the facts regarding this incident without any inquiry. Mr. Cheeseman did nothing of the kind indicated by the honorable member, and ho was not ordered to do so. I, myself, gave him instructions that no preference should be shown to either one union or another, and that there should be no nomination of -employees by employers, but that every worker attending the office should be picked up in his proper order, irrespective of the organization with which he was associated.
– If I baud to the Minister immediately a letter which I have received from one of my constituents, who has, in fact, been debarred from work because he is a member of the Ship Joiners Union, will the Minister take steps to see that the instruction which resulted in that man being debarred from employment shall be immediately withdrawn?
– If the honorable gentleman furnishes the name of the person concerned I shall certainly have inquiries made in order to discover what has happened; but I cannot say what action will be taken until I know the facts.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether consideration has been given to the request that the Sydney Post Office clock and its chimes should be restored to its original place? If the matter has been considered, when is the clock likely to be restored.
– I am not in a position to furnish offhand the information desired by the right honorable gentleman. I shall bring the matter to the attention of the Postmaster-General, and I am sure that an appropriate answer will be supplied.
– Yesterday the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction quoted extracts from a letter expressing eulogy of himself which he had received concerning the Government’s banking proposals. I understand that the letter is similar to one recently used in Western Australia by a member of the Senate. Does the Prime Minister recollect ever receiving a letter of protest from the writer of that letter saying that it had been extracted by the censor?
– The answer is “ Yes “. I recollect receiving a letter containing such an accusation; but I replied to the writer of the letter that there was no ground for the statement made. If I remember correctly the honorable member for Fawkner asked a similar question, and I believe that I gave to him a similar answer. Therefore, my present reply is that I recollect having a matter of the nature so described brought to my attention, and having replied to the effect that there was no foundation for the statement that the letter had been supplied by the censor or that the consorship was responsible for anybody having it.
– When the Prime Minister received that letter of protest did he take steps to bring it to the notice of Colonel Ettelson, chief censor of the Posts and Telegraphs Department, and did he bring it to the notice of the parliamentary committee which inquired into censorship matters?
– The honorable gentleman asked without notice a question regarding which I am dependent absolutely on ray recollection. My recollections, of course, embrace thousands of matters, that have been brought to my notice in the course of my administration. The question now asked is one which I do not feel disposed to answer, because I might inadvertently mislead the House, unless I answered it upon notice.
– Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain what is the position?
– Yes, of course.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information to convey to the House regarding the shearers’ strike which has been in progress in Queensland and New South Wales for some time? I have been receiving a number of telegrams on the matter from many centres. We were told that the strike was over, but according to the telegrams received it is over all the country.
– My information from people in Queensland who ought to know the position is that the strike there has been settled. I asked, the court to expedite the hearing of the dispute, and I was informed that a date had been fixed for the hearing and I need not worry any more about it. I accepted that assurance.
– Are the men returning to work?
– I cannot make every man go to work. I understand that, although all of them have not returned, they will do 5,0 shortly. The matter has been discussed by me with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and other officers of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney, and we hope that the strike is over.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The improper use by the Government of the Commonwealth Investigation and Security Services”.
. -I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
-Is the motion supported ?
Five, honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders bc suspended as would prevent the debate being concluded at 12.45 p.m. this day.
– I take this action because I feel that it is necessary that the House should have an opportunity to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the improper use by the Government of the Commonwealth Investigation and Security Services. On Wednesday, the 14th March, there appeared on the notice-paper a question addressed to the Attorney-General, under the name of Mr. Mountjoy, who is the member for Swan. The question was divided into eight parts, six of which were directed against an organization called the Sane Democracy League, the activities of which are no concern of this House. It is an organization of a semipolitical character, and the questions asked by the honorable member for Swan did not refer to a matter of public business, nor to any matter which is the concern of this House. Two of the questions were directed to inquiries instituted against LieutenantColonel Powell, while two others were deliberately designed to besmirch the moral reputation of the secretary of the Sane Democracy League, Mr. A. de R. Barclay. I shall read the questions to the House because it is well that they should be placed on record. I do not wish to canvass matters associated with the Sane Democracy League, beyond saying that the questions should never have appeared on the notice-paper of this House, because they had nothing to do with the affairs of Parliament.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair-
– You certainly are, and you will not be permitted to do so.
– I am sorry. I shall not offend in that way again. The series of questions, numbers 6 to 8, appeared on the notice-paper as follows : -
Honorable members will agree that no more scurrilous attack has ever been made under cover of the privileges of this House. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) replied to the questions, and I really believe that he was caught off guard. I regard him as one of the fairest Ministers in this House, and I am sure that, upon more mature consideration, he would not have answered as he did. In his reply he stated -
The Attorney-General has no present information as to these matters, but the matters are being referred to the Department of the Army and the Security Services so that the information may be obtained.
I believe that, had the Acting AttorneyGeneral given the matter more consideration, he would have refused to give such a direction. However, the questions were, by direction of the Minister, subsequently referred to the departments mentioned and later the following reply was made : -
The Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department forwarded to the Secretary, Department of the Army, and the DirectorGeneral of Security copies of the question and the interim answer given and asked those officers if they would let him have such information as they could concerning the subjectmatter of the question in order that a further reply might be furnished to Mr. Mountjoy. The Secretary, Department of the Army, and the Director-General of Security have replied respectively on the 21st March and the 20th March and from their replies I answer the questions 2 to 8 as follows: -
The officer who held rank as LieutenantColonel Powell held an executive post in Military Intelligence, but was retired from office on the 21st May, 1943, on account of ill-health.
Neither service has any information as to whether the Sane Democracy League receives subsidies from big monopolies or from any other sources.
Neither service has any information as to whether Mr. Barclay, the secretary of that league, has any funds set aside for political propaganda.
Mr. Barclay does not receive, nor has he ever received in the past, any subsidies from investigation or security organizations under the control of the Attorney-General or the Minister for the Army.
Neither service has any information on this matter and it does not appear to be a matter for the Commonwealth to make an investigation in relation to the question. 7 and8. Neither service has any information on this matter and it is not proposed to make the investigation suggested.
Honorable members will note that the directions given by the Acting AttorneyGeneral were in pursuance of the undertaking which he had given in answer to the question. That is the gravamen of my complaint. I maintain that, by giving that direction, he acted in an improper manner in that he required an investigation to be made of matters in no way related to this Parliament or to any matter of public business. Although the Acting Attorney-General directed that these grossly libellous statements should be investigated, there appears to be still sufficient decency within the departments themselves to cause them to refuse to allow their officers to be dragged into this muck-raking probe initiated by the honorable member’ for Swan. The public will want to know how such an attack could have been made against a thoroughly reputable citizen. The forms of the House will not allow me to discuss the matter of parliamentary privilege.
– Let the honorable member be clear on that.
– But perhaps the Chair will allow me to make a brief reference to it, because it was under the protection of privilege that the questions were asked. Mr. Barclay’s record shows that he is a thoroughly honest, loyal and law-abiding citizen, who enjoys an excellent reputation in the community. In fairness to him I propose to read to the House a letter signed by a number of prominent men of good reputation in New .South Wales. The letter was addressed to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, and is as follows : -
The object of this letter is to protest against the depths of degradation to which public life is sinking in this community as evidenced by certain libellous questions asked in the House of Representatives this week, and answered in all seriousness by a responsible Minister.
The House of Representatives consists of members elected by the people of Australia to represent them in the governing of Australia, and they should be fit persona to do so. On Thursday one of these persons, a Mr. Mountjoy, exercising his privilege as a member, asked a number of questions. One question asked whether a certain respectable citizen named in the question, Mr. A. de R. Barclay, “held an interest in what was known as a select house of assignation at 34 Crown-street, Sydney “, and another question stated that a Mrs. Ryan “ was associated with Mr. A. de R. Barclay in this Crown-street, business “.
We have known Mr. Barclay for a great number of years, and the statements so far as they relate to him are an absolute invention.
No more serious reflection can be made on the reputation of a citizen than is contained in these questions, and it is surprising to us that such a happening should be tolerated in the Parliament of the’ Commonwealth of Australia.
That letter was signed by Messrs. David Maughan, K.C., L. Napier Thomson, Ernest A. S. Watt, J. W. .Scott Fell and Charles Ludowici. Reference is made in the question asked by the honorable member for Swan to No. 34 Crown-street. I quote the following letter from the tenant of 34 Crown-street, Mr. John Galloway : -
Sir. - I desire to protest strongly against Mr. Mountjoy’s allegation in the House of Representatives last Thursday that No. 34 Crown-street is a house of ill-fame. He has used parliamentary privilege for a statement having no foundation in truth. My wife and I have lived here for many years as respectable and law-abiding citizens, and hope to continue so to live in our declining years. We do not know Mr. Barclay, nor are we connected in any way with the Sane Democracy League.
John Galloway. 34 Crown-street, East Sydney.
– What was the motive of the attack ?
– I shall deal with that later. As I have said, Mr. Barclay enjoys a very good reputation. He has been favorably known as a citizen of Sydney for the last 30 years, and before that he lived in New Zealand. He had a distinguished career as a journalist, having been assistant sub-editor on the old Daily Telegraph, and later was editor of the Sunday Times. For some years now he has been associated with the Sane Democracy League, a non-political organization, which was established 24 years ago. He is the father of a lad who served with the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East, then returned to Australia, and was killed in action in New Guinea. The fact that five dead Japanese were found near his body indicates how dearly he sold his life, and how stoutly he fought in defence of the decencies of life which were so grossly outraged by the honorable member for Swan, who did, not hesitate, under the protection of parliamentary privilege to make on the father of this lad a scandalous. attack which must bring the blush of shame to the cheek of every decent member of this Parliament. The honorable member for Swan did not dare to make his statement outside this House, because he knew that he would, either have to substantiate it, or run the risk of paying heavy damages. I am not going to argue that privilege is not essential to free debate, but because it is essential it should be most jealously cherished, and should never be abused.
– The honorable member is now debating the subject of privilege, and he knows that to be out of order. The matter before the Chair is the alleged improper use by the Government of the Commonwealth Investigation and Security Services, not the privileges of the House.
– Very well, I do not propose to go any further with that matter. I was only leading up to the point of saying that malicious and scandalous statements of this kind should not be permitted under privilege. The Acting Attorney-General, knowing that false statements, once they are published in the press, cannot be overtaken, should not have allowed himself or the departments concerned- to be used for the purpose of giving them publicity. I do not believe that the Minister intended to do anything of the kind but, being new to the position of Acting Attorney-General, he took the necessary step to put the investigation machinery into operation. I believe that, unwittingly, he has allowed himself to be used for this purpose. Rut he has aggravated the offence by asking his department to take action in the matter. This is not an isolated case in either this chamber or the Senate. Repeatedly honorable members ask questions directed against political organizations opposed to them and the Government’s policy in an attempt to bluff those organizations by the threat of an investigation under National Security Regulations. Such a practice may result in the forms of the House being used, for example, by certain parties which aim to destroy the prestige of Parliament and the public reputation and character of people who are opposed to them politically. I refer particularly to the Communist party, whose technique is well known. It is to destroy the reputations of those who oppose it, and by bringing Parliament into disrepute to destroy it also. Indeed, there is more than a suggestion that such is the case in this particular instance. It is rather significant that the Sane Democracy League, of which Mr. Barclay is secretary, has continuously opposed, and exposed communism. The Tribune, the official organ of the Communist party, has constantly attacked him and he has been threatened that if he persisted in his opposition to communism he might “stop something “. This foul accusation by the honorable member for Swan might be the first step in such a campaign. It is also significant that the Leader of the Communist party in Western Australia is named Mountjoy, and I understand that he is a relative of the honorable member for Swan.- I am wondering whether the right Mountjoy has come to Canberra.
This question is only one of a series, but it is evidence of a growing practice in which Ministers agree to use their epartmental officers to investigate loose statements made in the form of questions by certain honorable members. If this practice be not checked, the improper use of these departments must bring the Government into disrepute. Ministers are repeatedly asked to investigate matters reflecting upon the character and bona fides of persons and organizations opposed to the Government. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) aid and abet this practice by promising that such investigations will be pursued.
– We have been pretty right up to date.
– It is not a question of whether the Minister has, as he claims, proved certain allegations regarding the private life and character of certain individuals. It is a question of whether the common decencies of the House should be strained to permit a Minister to do that. The Acting Attorney-General has done a great disservice to this House by lending his ear to these infamous charges. He has been guilty of improperly using -his department in a way which has no relation whatever to its official duties. A direction such as that given by the Minister to his department might well be interpreted by less responsible officers as an open charter to them to investigate in all its ramifications the private life of an individual who is maligned in this House through questions asked by certain honorable members. Such a direction savours of the notorious Gestapo. The technique of governments in totalitarian States is to give a direction such as this to a secret investigating body to probe the private life and character of individuals on charges made by informers. (Extension of time granted.’] There can be no more fruitful opportunity to indulge in this practice thanthat of making statements in this House under privilege. Directions of this nature might well be the means of forming a Gestapo in this country. There would then be no security for the individual citizen against malicious and foul accusations being levelled against him under parliamentary privilege. Such a position is intolerable in a democratic country.
The remedy lies in the hands of Parliament itself. I suggest four ways in which the House can deal with the matter. First, Ministers should discourage honorable members from asking questions of this nature by refusing to take any notice of them at all. If Ministers would follow that practice they would help to preserve the decencies of the House and to prevent malicious insinuations being made against people who Iia ve no opportunity to reply or to defend themselves against such attacks. The second remedy is that the House should direct the Committee on Privilege to call upon any honorable member who asks a question of this kind in this House to substantiate his accusations; and that committee should then report upon the matter to the House. Should it deem fit, it could even move for the expulsion of an honorable member who offended in this way. I believe that the honorable member for ‘Swan has seriously offended, and, therefore, is deserving of censure and, possibly, expulsion, because no honorable member has the right to traduce the character of a person outside Parliament. He should at least have grounds upon which he can base his accusations; but even then he should observe the ordinary decencies of Parliament. In any circumstances, he should be prevented from indulging in muck-raking in this House.
The third remedy I suggest is that the Standing Orders Committee should draft a standing order along the lines of that which now obtains in the House of Commons. Under that standing order, all questions of .a personal nature regarding the character and conduct of private individuals are disallowed unless they have to do with the public or official capacity of the person against whom they are directed. The fourth remedy is that the House should insist .upon observance of the decencies associated with Parliament. The honorable member for Swan is deserving of the censure of this House. The fact that he is a new member does not mitigate his offence, because every new member should make himself acquainted with the forms of the House, the ethics of parliamentary practice, and the decencies inherent in the Parliament. If an honorable member has not been in the habit of associating with people who observe such decencies, he should not be admitted to the House until he learns bow to conduct himself with propriety. The honorable member has been guilty of a breach of decency. His action tends to bring Parliament into disrepute. No words of mine are sufficiently strong to condemn an honorable member who violates all forms of decency by making foul accusations besmirching the character of an individual who has no redress.
– The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) charges the Government with the improper use of the Commonwealth Investigation and Security Services. In determining whether improper use has been made of these services we must first examine the questions upon which the honorable member bases his charge. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) asked -
Is this the Lieutenant-Colonel Powell who held an executive post in Military Intelligence, and, if so, by whose authority did a military officer act as canvasser for a political organization ?
What steps could I or any department take other than to refer that question to the Army authorities in order to ascertain whether Lieutenant-Colonel Powell held an executive position in Military Intelligence, and whether, while in that position, he canvassed for a political organization? The question was quite legitimate. It was allowed by Mr. Speaker. Therefore, it was my duty and the duty of my department concerned to answer it. It is obvious that the honorable member for Wentworth has misconstrued the action taken by the department with respect to Mr. Barclay. The reply given to the question relating to Mr. Barclay on the 14th March was -
The Attorney-General has no present information as to these matters, but the matters are being referred to the Department of the Army and the Security Service so that the information may be obtained.
Had the department refused to answer question No. 2, which referred to Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, honorable members might have been entitled to draw the inference that the implications made against him were true. If he were not guilty, it was to his benefit that the question should be answered. Therefore, I ask the honorable member for Wentworth whether it would have been fair to
Lieutenant-‘Colonel Powell had the department refused to answer the question? In that case, a stigma would have been placed upon him.
– I agree, but the Acting Attorney-General could have dealt with each question independently.
– Questions by honorable members have been the subject of controversy in this House during the last fortnight, and suggestions have been made that Ministers are endeavouring to frustrate honorable members, and are inclined to remove questions from the notice-paper without supplying proper answers. The House cannot have it both ways. Ministers must either attempt to answer the questions asked, or, as the honorable member for “Wentworth suggests in this case, refuse to answer questions.
– This is the most humorous speech the Acting. AttorneyGeneral has made for a long time.
– Humour is not one of my attributes; but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is a member of the learned profession of the law, will appreciate the points that I am making. I have dealt with question 2. The next relevant question was No. 5, which involved the Security Service. It was -
Docs Mr. Barclay receive now, or has he received in the past, any subsidies from investigation or security organizations under the control of the Attorney-General or the Minister for the Army?
How was I to answer that question? Or was I to refuse to answer it, and leave it open to honorable members to draw the inference that probably Mr. Barclay had received funds from security organizations. So what was to be done? It was referred to the Security Service, not for investigation, but to ascertain whether the departmental files contained information that Mr. Barclay had received any funds from it. If proof be necessary that that was the course followed, I am willing to table the file, which shows the steps taken by the Solicitor-General. It shows that he wrote to both the Army Department and the Security Service, and that in each instance he asked, not for any investiga tion by them, but simply whether they had any information in regard to questions Nos. 2 and 5.
– The honorable gentleman is an absolute master of dissembling.
– Well, those are the facts. To allay any doubt in the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite, the file will be tabled before the debate ends, if they wish to have it, and it will show very clearly the departmental attitude taken to the two points, which, after all, are the only points which concern me as Acting Attorney-General. I am not interested in the other questions. Tt will be noticed that I did not take steps to make any inquiries into them, because I did not believe that that entered into the duties of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. That is exactly what happened.
The honorable member for Wentworth at some length talked about the character and qualifications of Mr. Barclay. I do not know him personally. All I know is that he is actively associated with the political interests that are represented on the Opposition benches. I suppose that he is perfectly entitled to be.
– The son served a higher interest.
– Yes, but it is a matter of opinion whether the interests served by Mr. Barclay are high or low. The best judges are the people who from time to time express their opinion. I am very philosophical nowadays. One becomes more seasoned as time passes. All these things right themselves in due course. In regard to all the other remarks concerning this gentleman, including the funds he receives, I point out that he does not do this work for nothing. As seasoned men, we know that a source of finance must be available for this work. No doubt, Mr. Barclay receives his quota and does his work in various ways. As to the third, sixth, seventh and eighth questions asked by the honorable member for Swan, honorable members will note that in the answers tabled on the 15th March I said, particularly in regard to the seventh and eighth questions, that neither the Security Department nor the Commonwealth Investigation Branch had any information. Again, it was a matter of having to go to those departments.
– We either had to do that or refuse to answer the questions. If we had refused we could have been accused of cutting down the rights of honorable gentlemen. After all, the honorable member for Swan was entitled to ask me whether LieutenanTColonel Powell had any executive post in Military Intelligence. Only the Department of the Army could answer that. Only the Department of the Army and the Security Service could say specifically whether Mr. Barclay had received any subsidy from a government source.
– Carry on from there.
– I am not standing trial in connexion with the other questions. I am answering the charge that improper use has been made by the Government of the investigation and security services. I say that improper use has not been made of them.
– What about questions Nos. 6, 7 and 8?
– Wc asked the Department of the Army whether the Security Service had any information whether Lieutenant-Colonel Powell had done certain things and we asked the Director-General of Security whether any moneys- had been paid to Mr. Barclay. They were perfectly legitimate questions, which no Minister could avoid taking the necessary steps to have answered.
– But the Minister is disregarding questions Nos. 6, 7 and 8.
– They were answered on the 15th March.
– They could not have been answered without an investigation.
– The honorable member for Wentworth misconstrued the answers given on the 15th March, I think for the purpose of establishing a defence of Mr. Barclay. It was a good move, quite subtle. Those of us who have been here for years .play the same game in different ways. I understand his motives. However, he must not try to put me in the dock and charge me with having used Commonwealth departments for improper purposes. He can take whatever steps he likes to defend Mr. Barclay - that is his concern - but, in defending him, he should not charge me with having used Commonwealth departments improperly. The case that the honorable gentleman tried to make out has not been established. The file will prove that the Solicitor-General made no request for an investigation and that the two departments said that they had no information regarding the matters raised. I have , beer asked to point out that Army Intelligence is reluctant to disclose whether it provides funds to individuals in return for information which it must obtain.
– Has it some “secret fund”?
– No. The right honorable gentleman adopts an innocent air. He and every other honorable gentleman know that if the security of the country and all we stand for is to be preserved itbecomes necessary, whether we like it or not, to take all steps within our power to ensure that subversive elements’ shall be put in their proper place.
– Now let us have as honest an opinion about questions 6, 7 and 8.
– The honorable member for Swan may be in a better position than I am to deal with that aspect. I did not prompt the questions. Every honorable gentleman is entitled, in accordance with the Speaker’s direction, to use what he considers to be his privilege as a member of Parliament to ask questions of Ministers. My duty is to defend the Government against a charge that it has made improper use of public departments. I think I have convinced all honorable gentlemen that the charge is false: I hope that, on reflection, the honorable member for Wentworth himself will admit that his accusations are baseless.
– The Minister will table the file?
– I will give the honorable member the file. The whole matter has been conducted on a high level. Therefore I ask the House to reject the charge that departments have been used for improper purposes.
.- The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) is a very able and astute parliamentarian. We have seen him playing many roles in many different ways. To-day we have seen him in the role of an old philosopher, a man regretting the sins and excesses of his youth and taking a broad view of the administration. But, as he has become philosophical, we have become cynical, being not certain that his detachment arises from recognition that life is so short that one should not burden oneself with worries. We think that his attitude to-day more directly arises from his knowledge that behind him he has preponderating forces which will not be overcome by whatever protestations come from this side. Despite the story told by the Minister, I think there will be a general feeling among honorable members that the questions asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) should not have appeared on the notice-paper in the language in which they did appear or have been answered in the manner in which they were answered. However, I am not asking government supporters to vote in accordance with that feeling because that would be asking too much ; it would be too great a departure from precedent. The technique of character assassination, if I may use that phrase, is not new. It is an old but none the less effective technique to damage an individual’s character and, th rough that individual, a cause. The technique was adopted by the revolutionary elements of the Communist party in Russia, and, as MeinKampf shows, Hitler is an active advocate and exponent of it. We all must be on guard, as Ministers charged with administration must be, to ensure that members of Parliament shall not be permitted to damn fellow citizens without giving them full opportunity to defend themselves. I do not intend to deal in detail with the matters raised by the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Harrison). But he referred to the improper use of security officers by the Government, and that is a matter to which this Parliament should devote attention. I suppose that if any of us were asked what we understood to be the security officers of the Commonwealth we should have only a vague idea that they were the officers available to the Government to investigate breaches of Commonwealth law. I am certain that few honorable members realize how the work and numbers of these investigation officers have grown. Instead of there being one organization, as I had always imagined, I found on inquiry that there are no less than seven different investigation organizations within the Commonwealth services. I refer to the investigation officers of the Prices Commission, the Taxation Department, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Rationing Commission, and the Post Office in addition to the two groups in the Commonwealth Investigation Branch and the Security Service. I am given to understand that there is no common direction of those officers. They represent separate groups attached to separate sections of the Administration, and are presumably under the direct control of individual Ministers in charge of those departments.
– Keep these departments going after the war and there will be full employment.
– However necessary it may appear to the Government that these officers should be available to investigate breaches of National Security Regulations, this” practice represents a most undesirable growth in this young democracy - a hothouse, unhealthy development which we should check at the first available opportunity.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion now before the Chair. He is not in order in discussing the growth of the investigation services. The motion specifically refers to the misuse of the services.
– Needless to say, misuses of these officers can occur easily when there is no central authority directing their activities.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss the general control or organization of investigation services.
– I submit that I am entitled to discuss the use of investigation officers by the departments to which I have referred.
– Yes, but so far the honorable member has not done so.
– Honorable members understand the term “ security officers “ to mean investigation officers attached to Ministers and available to investigate offences against Commonwealth law. I shall cite three specific instances of the misuse of these officers which have come to my notice - I am sure that there are many others within the knowledge of honorable members. These cases suggest either the misuse of the services of these officers, or their employment in a manner which would not receive the general approval of the Australian people. One case concerns the investigation officers of the Prices Commission. It is the practice to send these officers out to investigate the operation of the Landlord and Tenant Regulations. In this role, they interrogate tenants and landlords, or landladies as in a case mentioned by me in the House on a former occasion. The landlady complained to me that she had been put through a “ third degree grilling “ by two officers who had arrived in aCommonwealth car driven by a lady chauffeur. They asked her detailed questions about her relations with her tenants. I suggest that that is not a proper use of the services of investigation officers. As a further illustration of the great powers of investigation officers, and the manner in which those powers may be abused, I point out that only the other day publicity was given to a man who had committed an offence against the customs regulations, and because of that his motor car had been seized and held for many months by the customs authorities. The action of the department was challenged in the courts, and. if my recollection of the judgment is correct, the department was reprimanded for retaining this man’s property after the case had been dealt with by the court and was ordered to return the motor car immediately. A complaint was also made to this House recently about the action of investigation officers conducting certain taxation inquiries. We are not here to protect taxevaders, but the methods adopted by some of these officers are reprehensible. I remind the House of the celebrated case which occurred in Sydney not long ago when money was provided by the Com monwealth and the services of Commonwealth officers used, to persuade a man to commit a breach of the prices regulations. A few days ago the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred in this chamber to an incident which occurred in his electorate. The honorable member stated that in order to secure a conviction, officers of the Rationing Commission endeavoured to induce a butcher to sell meat without coupons, by saying that the meat was for a ‘party to welcome home a man who had returned from fighting overseas.
– Service personnel have been used as “ decoys “.
– I submit to all fairminded members that the instances which I have given - no doubt they could be multiplied from the experience of other members of this House - indicate the abuses which can occur in the employment of these officers. The growth which has taken place in the war years of bureaucratic control and government by regulation may have made inevitable the use of a body of investigators, but if that be the case, itis another good argument for sweeping away these controls as soon as practicable. The recruitment and training of officers for this highly responsible work - often of a very delicate character - does not come within the province of any central organization or control. In effect, these people constitute what are virtually private police forces for use by Ministers. The Government should consider immediately the desirability of adopting the system which I understand operates in America, of having one centrally controlled force to deal with all these cases. Such a force could be trained and supervised adequately, and we in this Parliament could go to one Minister with grievances about any abuses which may occur. What is happening now is an unhealthy development in Australian community life. However necessary it may be under war-time conditions, it is something which we should endeavour to curb. Where abuses of authority do occur, we should be scrupulous to ensure that they shall be stamped out immediately, and the responsible officers reprimanded. I submit that the honorable member for Wentworth has done a valuable service to the Parliament in raising this issue in a manner which enables us to make a brief examination of the operations of these investigation authorities.
.- By means of this motion, and under cover of parliamentary privilege, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made a personal attack upon me. If I desired to learn anything about muckraking, he is the person I would approach for instruction, because nobody else in this chamber has such a record -for scurrilous attacks. When I asked certain questions in this chamber I did so for the genuine purpose of seeking information. I had no desire to defame anybody. I feel that I should apologize to my colleagues for having forced them to listen to a debate of this character. It is not a pleasant task for me to descend to a sewer, but the boys up north can wade through the mud and slush of feverridden jungles, to find and defeat the Fascist enemy, and, as the Fascist enemy at home takes refuge in a sewer, the least I can do is to pursue him and destroy him there. I wish to make it quite clear that I have no quarrel with Mr. Galloway, the present occupier of 34 Crown-street. I have no reason to believe that he is other than a loyal Australian citizen. If I have caused him any embarrassment I am sorry, and I tender to him my apology. I understand that when Mr. Galloway took over his luxuriously appointed home in 1941, he was almost driven mad by the doorbell ringing night and day. Previously, the house was occupied by a Mrs. P. Ryan, and the telephone number was FL1264. I believe that the Sane Democracy League is subversive of the good order and government of the Commonwealth, and that the country should know a little more about it, and about Mr. A. de R. Barclay. This gentleman, with tens of thousands of pounds at his disposal, has never yet published a newspaper advertisement attacking Himmler, the chief of the German Gestapo, or the Japanese who butchered Australian lads at Rabaul and worked and starved to death heroes of the 8th Division in Malaya and
Burma. He reserves all his abuse for the working people of this country, for their trade unions, and for Labour governments which they have elected.
– I rise to order. The question before this Chair has to do with the misuse or alleged misuse of officers of the security service. The honorable member for Swan seems to be using this debate as a means of repeating a personal attack upon, an individual who is not a member of this House, and therefore cannot reply. As that personal attack has not any relation to the question now before the Chair, I invite your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
-So far, the honorable member for Swan has not departed from the subject-matter of this debate. Largely, he is retracing the ground covered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), and endeavouring to indicate to the House the reasons which he believed justified him in asking for the use of Commonwealth investigation officers. Surely, those who condemn the use of investigation officers in this instance must allow the honorable member for Swan an opportunity to state the reasons why he believed they should be used.
-Exactly. Although the Sane Democracy League obviously has plenty of money at its disposal, it has yet to publish an advertisement calling for support of war loans. Mr. Barclay prefers to distract attention from the needs of the nation, at war to imaginary issues and false bogies at home.
– Mr. Barclay gave his son to die for his country in New Guinea.
– It is most regrettable that Mr. Barclay’s son died in the jungle fighting Fascists while his father was supporting them at home. ‘ Mr. Barclay tells a deliberate lie when he says that this Government is putting communist policies into effect. The Government is carrying out the policy of the Labour party, having been elected for that purpose by a majority of the Australian people. At the last elections, Mr. Barclay, with unlimited money . to spend on radio and newspaper advertising, raised the communist bogy against the Labour Government in the same way as Hitler and Goebbels raised that bogy against all democratic governments in Europe, and even branded Mr. Churchill a Bolshevik. When a hired and well-paid propagandist does Hitler’s work in this country by causing scares, raising bogies, and telling downright lies to undermine morale, should he be immune from having a searchlight thrown on his activities and character? I say that when a man has full pages of the press open to him, his character and his activities become a matter of the greatest importance to the Australian people The Labour party cannot afford to publish full-page advertisements in reply to Mr. Barclay’s propaganda. lt cannot obtain subsidies from business organizations like Commercial Steels Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, or the Associated Banks; but any member of the Labour movement has a right to tell the people that these Sane Democracy League advertisements are sponsored by a person of shady character, who is neither to be trusted nor believed, and who is the enemy of Australian democracy. This man Barclay has for years been collecting dossiers on Australian citizens. He is what they call in America a “ Labour sPy”> “whose profession is to spy on working men, a<nd others who seek toimprove their lot, and to give to their employers the information which he collects. The authorities should pay the closest attention to persons and organizations who collect dossiers on the political activities of Australians and Australian democratic organizations. If the Japanese had come to this country, Mr. Barclay’s dossiers would have been available to them, and would have been used to condemn to execution and torture members of the Australian Labour party. J apanese killers concentrate their hatred upon democratic Labour men, not upon Labour-haters like Mr. A. de R. Barclay. He shares with the Japanese fascists and the German gestapo a hatred of trade unions and Labour parties. His political home is not in Australia, but in Berlin, or Tokio. Why are honorable members opposite so anxious to defend the Sane Democracy League from exposure ? The reason is that this league does for the anti-Labour Opposition the underhand, dirty work to which they are not prepared to sign their names. The monopolies which support honorable members opposite also support the Sane Democracy League. To-day, this league is merely repeating, in more slanderous form, the propaganda of the Opposition parties against the Government’s proposals for banking reform. At .the federal elections, the league was merely a harsh and strident echo of the United Australia party propaganda machine. When honorable members opposite wanted to appease Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan, in the hope that they would fight the Soviet Union, the Sane Democracy League assisted them with pro-fascist propaganda, and by inventing all the lies possible about the Russian people, who are now our allies.
Lest any honorable member has doubts about the close relations between the Opposition parties and this pro-fascist Sane Democracy League, I shall give a few facts about the people behind this organization. A member of the Sane Democracy League executive, and one of Mr. Barclay’s public defenders, is Mr. Charles Ludowici. This executive member of the Sane Democracy League is a wealthy tanner, and is well-known for his activities on behalf of the United Australia party in Lane Cove, Sydney. A former president of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, he was also for fifteen years president of the Lane Cove branch of the United Australia party, and has been a member of the council of the National party. One of the Ludowicis is listed among the members of the notorious Australia First Movement, some of whose leaders are now in internment camps because they wanted to betray this country to the Japanese. [Extension of time granted.]
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) is entirely out of order. I agree with your previous ruling, Mr. Speaker, that in fairness, the honorable member should be given an opportunity to establish at least a prima facie case for the questions which form the basis of this debate to-day.
But I and many other honorable members have been earnestly waiting for the honorable gentleman to justify, if possible, the filthy insinuations which he has made.
– Order ! That remark by the honorable member for Parramatta is not conducive to the maintenance of order in this chamber. The subject of the motion for the adjournment of the House is the improper use of Commonwealth investigation and security services. That has been disc«ussed by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– The honorable member for Swain has not yet mentioned it.
– Order ! The honorable member for Fawkner should be aware that under the Standing Orders, an honorable member is not permitted to interrupt Mr. Speaker. The position is that the honorable member for Wentworth defended, in effect, the persons referred to in the question asked by the honorable member for ©wan. He defended their character and their associations, and denounced the honorable member for Swan for having cast aspersions upon them. In fairness, the honorable member for Swan is entitled to defend his own action in his own- way, and also to express his view regarding the character of the persons mentioned. So far, he has not transgressed the Standing Orders. He is justifying in his own 1-1 V. as he is entitled to do, provided he does not transgress the rules of debate,
Hie asking of certain questions.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Swan in order in traducing public citizens? I do not know Mr. Ludowici ; but the honorable member for Swan declared that Mr. Ludowici was guilty of treasonable conduct by associating with Japanese. I submit that the honorable member’s remarks are not in order when he traduces citizens who have no opportunity in this chamber to reply to his charges.
– That point of order cannot be sustained. From time to time, honorable members on both sides of the House refer, not. always in a complimentary way, to various persons outside the Parliament.
– The honorable member for Wentworth said harsh things about me, declaring that I was not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Parliament. I am endeavouring to show that my statements about those people were correct. I did not ask the questions without having good reason for doing so. 1 am quite prepared to have the details of my life subjected to the closest examination. Is the honorable member for Wentworth prepared to submit to a similar examination?
– He will not agree to that.
- Mr. Charles Ludowici was also one of the sponsors of the fascist New Guard, whose leader, Colonel Eric Campbell, went to Germany and Italy to be feted by blackshirt and brownshirt murderers. Colonel Campbell, the would-be fascist fuehrer of Australia, reveals in his book, The New Hoad, the close alliance between the New Guard and the United Australia party, which is now the Liberal party. Colonel Campbell reveals that he arranged with Mr. Horsfield, then the general secretary of the United Australia party in New South Wales, to provide “strong arm” bashers for a United Australia party meeting ut the Town Hall. Colonel Campbell’s only complaint seemed to be that his fascist bashers were not needed, because Sydney citizens were quite peaceful.
– I rise to order. The’ name of Mr. Eric Campbell has not, until this moment, been introduced into this debate. Therefore, I submit that the honorable member for Swan is breaking new ground in an effort to traduce an Australian citizen.
– There is no substance in the point of order raised by the honorable member.
– This is an extraordinary situation.
-The honorable member complains about the breadth of the debate. I remind him that the motion which he submitted was of the broadest possible character, covering the whole subject of the use of Commonwealth investigation and security officers. The honorable gentleman, under cover of this motion, discussed little else than the charges implicit in the questions asked by the honorable member for Swan, and he defended Mr. Barclay. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who followed the honorable member for Wentworth, made no reference to this matter, but dealt “with the activities of Commonwealth officers investigating breaches’ of the taxation, prices and customs laws. If the point of order taken by the honorable member for Wentworth had any substance, the whole of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner was entirely out of order. In fairness, the honorable member for Wentworth cannot expect the Chair to confine those who oppose his views to the limits that he prescribed for himself. The questions asked by the honorable member for Swan involve tb» credentials of the Sane Democracy League, and the honorable member is quite entitled to mention the activities of this organization as a justification for his asking the questions out of which this discussion arose.
– I shall not refer further to the New Guard. I shall leave that to the honorable member for Wentworth. Another executive member of this pro-Fascist organization, and a public defender of its secretary, is Mr. David Maughan, K.’C. Mr. Maughan represented the Australia First quislings at the recent inquiry. He was quite within his rights in doing so, but one cannot fail to remark the sympathy which these Japanese agents have found in high Liberal party circles. Mr. Maughan, a member of the executive of the Sane Democracy League, is to-day a prominent supporter of the party for which the league puts out its lying propaganda. That party is, of course, the Liberal party. It was even suggested at one stage that Mr. Maughan might emerge as a possible substitute leader of this party, before it had gathered its shattered forces into some kind of unity. But Mr. Maughan is too old, and the present leader has too tight a grip to be displaced at the moment. Mr. Maughan can be of more service in aiding the Sane Democracy League to undermine the democratically elected Labour Government while it is waging total war against Japan. In the federal elections, some of Mr. A. de R. Barclay’s radio advertise ments, paid for by his friends the monopolists, were so false and filthy, so insulting to Australian democracy, that radio announcers would not read them. Mr. A. de R. Barclay had to go to the broadcasting stations, or make recordings, and thus do- his own dirty work, because Australian announcers refused to support his theory that the main enemies of Australia are 3,000,000 Australian working people. Unlike Mr. A. de R. Barclay, they believe that the Japanese and German Fascists are the main enemies of Australia. Alined with those Germans and Japanese are the people like Mi’. A. de R. Barclay, who divert attention from the war to defeat Germany and Japan..
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his extension of time.
.- The House has just listened to a document read by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy), which can only be described as grossly aggravating his original offence, because it is an offence against good taste and decency for a member of this House to use his position in order to traduce the character of a citizen. I had thought, after the events which had occurred and after the publicity which had been given to this matter in the press, that at least we might have heard from the honorable member some decent withdrawal of his allegations. Instead of that, he has most palpably gone to the same source as the one from which he got his original questions, and secured subject-matter widening the area of the libels and tearing at the characters of those persons, while he huddled behind his privilege as a member of Parliament.
– The .persons to whom I referred are the friends of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I happen to know some of them, and have the highest regard for them. That seems to me to be a very poor reason why their characters should be torn to pieces in this House by a man who obviously would not have the elementary guts to go on to a public platform and say such things about them.
– That is the Communist technique.
– Of course it is. The honorable member for Swan has given us a perfect exhibition of the Communist technique - one not .unexpected from him. The Communist technique in Australia is to use every possible privilege for vilifying the characters of citizens who are opposed politically to them. The Communist technique in Australia is to seek to persuade Australians that in this country a person is either a Communist or a Fascist. That, of course, loses sight of the fact that 90 per cent, of Australians are neither Communist nor Fascist, but people in a democracy who, whatever their party political views may be. believe in parliamentary selfgovernment. Nevertheless, these wretched Communist advocates try to persuade people that unless a person is a Communist, he must be a Fascist, and they will attach, as the honorable member for Swan has attached, the grossest slander to men who have served this country, and in this instance to a man whose son has served this country to the death in the fight against fascism:. That means nothing to hi in. He simply says, “ I can hurt these people if I brand them as Fascists “, and so I have no doubt he invents this foul story about some house of assignation and ties it on to this man Barclay. He and his kind know well that when mud is poured on somebody, some of that mud will stay for ever, particularly if it is smelly mud. The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) made an extremely able speech ; he is a very adroit politician, and nobody has a greater regard for his subtlety than I have. He endeavoured to take the issue right aw;ay from the atmosphere that had been created, and concentrated his attention on those parts of the questions which related to LieutenantColonel Powell, until the colonel was almost a major red-herring. But I come back to this: Questions 6 and 7 placed on the notice-paper by the honorable member for Swan had relation to Mr. Barclay and to his alleged association with some brothel. These are the questions - fi. Will he ascertain whether the same Mr. A.” de E. Barclay held an interest in what was known as a select house of assignation at 34 Crown-street, Sydney 1
These two questions obviously had nothing to do with any matter into which the Commonwealth’s security officers could legitimately inquire. I propose to substantiate that statement because this is a matter of high principle, and we should clarify our minds on it. Of course the Government of the country is at liberty to have investigation services for military purposes. That is elementary. I believe also that, for civil purposes, the Commonwealth is entitled to maintain investigation services, first to deal with subversive activity designed to destroy the constitutional structure of the country, and secondly to investigate alleged offences against Commonwealth law.
– It would be better to include those services in one organization.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman, but I am not discussing the technical structure of the services. I am considering what matters are legitimate subjects of Commonwealth investigation. I repeat that, in my opinion, on the civil side, they are subversive activities and alleged breaches of Commonwealth law. What breach of the Commonwealth law was involved in this dirty little suggestion that a private citizen was connected, in terms of profit, with a house of assignation? The VicePresident of the Executive Council naturally endeavoured to find some ice on which to’ slide away from that issue, but he must answer this question : Did this matter call for investigation by the Commonwealth authorities? The only answer that should be made in the circumstances is that it did not. But in spite of that, the answer given by the honorable gentleman to the questions which I have quoted - and it was not a casual answer to a question asked without notice, but an answer to a question upon notice prepared after due consideration - was as follows : -
The Attorney-General has no present information as to these matters, but the matters are being referred to the Department of the Army and the Security Service so that the information may be obtained.
We have not failed to notice that some honorable members on the Government side of the House consider that the security and investigation services of the Commonwealth provide a golden opportunity to threaten private citizens who organize themselves against the Labour party. They engage in a process of intimidation. This process is not, I venture to say, favoured by most honorable members on the Government side of the House, because, most of them know that the freedom of the country essentially depends upon the protection of the ordinary citizen against the arbitrary use of executive power. They know that, if the ordinary citizen be told that he must not join the Liberal party, the Country party, the Labour party, or this or that political league, all of which may be perfectly legitimate politica-1 bodies, he will say to himself, “ The farther I can get away from any of these political organizations the better “, and to that extent his freedom will have been taken away from him. This matter should not be dismissed after merely considering its effect upon a particular individual. The real question before the House, although it is indirectly concerned with the characters of the two gentlemen whose names have been mentioned, relates to this process of using, or threatening to use, the security and investigation services of Australia for palpable political ends. Is that question to be answered in favour of freedom or in favour of the utter subordination of the private citizen to the Executive of the day?
– The- name of Mr. David Maughan, K.C., has been mentioned in this debate. I know him personally, and although I disagree with his political opinions, I am proud to enjoy his friendship. He is a fellow member with myself of a committee, and I know the value of the work which he is doing in that capacity. I do not believe that his personal reputation or integrity needs any defence from me, but, as his name has been mentioned here, I am constrained to say that, knowing him well, I honour him as a citizen.
– This debate might have taken a different course if the motion before the
House had been couched in wider terms. It does not provide sufficient scope for us to debate the real matter . at stake. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) apparently considers that the main point at issue is the necessity for a guarantee that the Commonwealth security services will not be used for the investigation of purely personal or political activities. The questions that were put by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) - and I use the word “ honorable “ with some diffidence-
– Order ! The honorable member must use the word “ honorable “ without diffidence in that connexion.
– Those questions have only one parallel in my recollection of this Parliament.
– Order ! Whether the honorable gentleman likes it or not, he must refer to all members of this House as honorable members and without qualification.
– I did so. I referred to the honorable member for Swan as an ‘honorable member. On one occasion not very long ago, a senator belonging to the same political party as the honorable member for .Swan cast aspersions on the character of a man living in Sydney. They were as false as the insinuations which have been made by the honorable member for Swan. Of the two gentlemen mentioned in the questions which he asked, I know LieutenantColonel Powell fairly well. I, know nothing of the other gentleman. I understand that the honorable member undertook to prove to the House that he had at least some justification for placing his questions on the notice-paper, but every word which I heard him utter in his speech helped to prove to me that he had no justification whatever for framing the questions as he did. He endeavoured to cover up one enormity by perpetrating others which brought into the limelight other persons not named’ in his questions. In my opinion, there is only one way to deal with this kind of thing in Parliament. There should, be some provision for bringing an honorable member who makes insinuations of. the kind made by the honorable member for Swan before a committee of the House, devoid of all parliamentary privilege. He should be obliged to prove his statements to the satisfaction of that committee. I favour the greatest possible- liberty for honorable members in the carrying out of their duties in this chamber. However, in the case under discussion, nothing which has been alleged against the persons named in the questions could not have been said outside Parliament if the honorable gentleman had the courage to do so. He asked the questions knowing well that they would’ have unpleasant repercussions against the gentlemen whom he named. They were deliberately designed to leave an indelible stain on the characters of two private citizens. One of these gentlemen, Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, had an honorable record in the First World War, and has also rendered service in this war. In fact, he was decorated for his service in 1914-18.
– That is another stain on his character, so far as some honorable members opposite are concerned.
– I should not be surprised if the honorable member for Swan regards it as a stain. If one could get behind that honorable member in certain circumstances, one would probably see the hammer and sickle device imprinted- in the only place where he is game to wear it. Because of his present affiliation with the Labour party, he does not dare to carry it in front where all can see it. Honorable members should “ be protected by parliamentary privilege when conscientiously carrying out their duties as representatives of the people, but, when an honorable member casts aspersions on individuals who are unable to come before this House in order to obtain redress, we should bring him to book, and force him either to prove his charges or to vacate his seat, and go back to the people who were misguided enough to send him here, so that they could, have a second- chance to decide whether they want to be represented by him or not.
.- The arguments ofl honorable members of the Opposition have been capably answered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), who disposed of their claims that the Commonwealth security services had been improperly used in connexion with this case. He showed conclusively that, had he not taken the action which he did the person said to have been defamed would have been held to he guilty of the allegations made against him. That fact is obvious, notwithstanding the attempts of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), to ridicule the honorable gentleman’s defence against their attacks. For that reason, the motion before the House must be defeated. The debate has raised a matter of very serious concern. In the long history of the human race there have been many and varied forms of government and community organization. In some countries we have seen them swept away for one cause and another. Indeed, in the years that have passed since the last war, democratic forms of government in some parts of Europe or elsewhere have been submerged and overthrown, and the rights and privileges of the people have been abrogated by force, in the main by an enemy from within. I should not have taken the action that has been taken by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) had the matter been brought to my notice; but there is little doubt that he sees - as all of us must - in organizations such as the Constitutional League and the Sane Democracy League a threat to democratic institutions. I believe that the people of this country will never support individuals who have not the courage to proclaim their membership of an organization and to declare their intentions. With all our f aults and failings, we honour to-day, ‘have always honoured, and will honour in the future, those men and women who put their cards on the table, declare their intentions, proclaim their ideas, and stand or fall upon the decision of the people. But organizations such as the Sane Democracy League and the Constitutional League descend to the depths of degradation in their party political propaganda in every State when a battle is being waged against the Labour movement. By the use. that they are able to make of the press and the radio, they demonstrate conclusively that they have command of vast sums.
They also have the support of the monopolistic institutions which hope to gain their ends by the defeat of Labour candidates. Wittingly or unwittingly, they play the game of those who seek to prevent the resurgence of Australian democracy and, by stealth or subterfuge, attempt to achieve for all time the domination of the people by vested interests which to-day have far too much power in this country. My condemnation embraces not only the organizations I have mentioned, but also any other organization, whether it be leftist or rightist, which is unwilling to proclaim its intentions and to make public its membership. The danger that they do is in ratio to the degree to which the people are deceived, and its proportions would be revealed should there be a recurrence of the depression with which this country was afflicted in the not-distant past. So long as the social conditions remain on an even keel, I have no doubt that the common sense of the Australian ‘people will prevail; but they will grasp at any straw in a situation involving the unemployment for a long period of 800,000 persons, in consequence of which their dependants are ill clad, underfed and badly housed. They might even lean towards the Communist party; because, when one is in desperate straits, any change seems likely to be for the better. The vested interests which stand behind honorable members opposite, in order to consolidate their position, must oppose any change, however much it may be designed to advance the welfare of the people, which on the surface might appear to take from them one jot or tittle of their power and prestige. As has ‘happened in other countries in which we believed that the seeds of democracy had been sown, vested interests, fearing a challenge to their privileges, will make use of all the power that they possess, and any instrument that they can influence, in order to establish a ruthless and bloody dictatorship. In the Sane Democracy League, and other organizations similarly constituted, we have the germ of such an event. If honorable members can lay substantial claim to the possession of high standards, it is their duty to disclose any affiliations they may have with organizations whose activities are likely to “gull” the Australian people. ‘ The experiences of the past have taught us that one reason for the failure of some systems of government has been the character borne by those associated with them, and the way in which they have applied their power and ability in exploiting a popular name. Any organization which usurps the sacred name of democracy, and in that guise indulges in what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has described as character assassination., becomes discredited, and finally is destroyed. 1 should like honorable members to realize what have been the actions of this organization, and other similar organizations, in recent times. I direct their attention to the last elections, when endeavours were made to “ assassinate “ the reputations of leading men in this country. I cannot help remarking that when leaders of this nation have been attached to the Labour movement, they have been scorned and vilified, and persecuted by the press and the radio; but when they have renounced their allegiance to, and discontinued their championship of, the Labour movement and the working class, they have been feted and glorified overnight as the saviours of democratic institutions, and the champions of the rights of the people. I believe that an attack has been made on my colleague for party political reasons. It has been asserted that he is a member of the Communist party, and that he, in fact, secured election to this House under false colours. I have known him for years, and hold him in high regard. I have travelled throughout Western Australia in his company, and know of the esteem in which he is held by the people of that State. I am acquainted with his painstaking attention to the requirements of his constituents. If 1 thought that he was a member of the Communist party, the regard in which I hold him, and which 1 freely express, would not exist. [Extension of time granted.”] As a member of the Australian Labour party, I have frequently been the butt of attacks . by the Communist party in Western Australia. But I respect the right of the members of that party to hold the views that they espouse, if they are willing to proclaim themselves as Communists and bear the odium which to-day attaches to such an affiliation. They and any Other honest individuals who have the courage to state their convictions have that right in this free country. If I thought that my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Swan, was a member of the Communist organization, my complaint would be, not that he was a member of it, but that he had not the courage to proclaim himself to be one. However, from my knowledge of him, and my association with him over the years, I can vouch for his moral courage. Anybody who makes himself unpopular by challenging the faults of existing institutions is usually defamed and subjected to persecution. Many great men have, in their day, been vilified and persecuted, and even put to death, but their names have been written large in the annals of history as the defenders of human rights and as teachers of the human race. So far from being a liability to the community they have rendered real service to the people by their courage and determination, and fearless adhesion to their cherished principles. By their determination not to be deterred from following the path that they have chosen, they have been of service, to not only the people of their own time, but also to the generations that have followed them.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat told us at the outset that he would not have committed the offence of which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) was guilty in submitting certain questions to the Acting AttorneyGeneral, but that is about the only reference he made to the matter before the House. His speech was a typical Yarra Bank diatribe regarding political organizations. We have been waiting in vain for some member of the House to defend the honorable member for Swan for having utilized parliamentary privilege, which is his and ours, in order to vilify a man whose shoes he is not fit to clean. It is a great pity that some of his more decent colleagues, if they cannot express approval of his action, have not, in the interests of honorable members generally, dissociated themselves from his action. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), who, in his capacity of Acting AttorneyGeneral, was associated with the answering of the questions tabled by the honorable member for Swan, has very subtly skated away from the real issue. It is correct to say that the activities of the investigation and security services should have been used to investigate several of the matters raised by the honorable member, and no objection could have been taken to the series of questions tabled by the honorable member, had he stopped at the fifth question. But when, under the pretext that the matter is of public importance, questions 6, 7, and 8 are seriously dealt with by the Attorney-General or his representatives, I think this House has descended to a low level. It is, of course, customary - it seems to be in their makeup - for some honorable members to indulge in abuse and personal vilification of other people.
Debate interrupted (vide m., page 855).
Sitting suspended from, 12.45 to 2.15p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As the Minister recently assigned the public tasks associated with the general work of reconstruction, and as a former soldier, I regard it an honour and a privilege to submit for the consideration of the Parliament a bill of this description. The measure is designed to give further legislative expression to our sense of obligation to our fighting forces and to the auxiliaries for the part that they have played in this war. The bill, therefore, embodies in a comprehensive statute the Government’s programme of aids to their civil re-establishment when their war service is ended.
The stupendous struggle is - still proceeding, and we do not know when it will end. We do know, however, that on every front the Allies are making satisfactory progress, and if the end should come sooner than some of us imagine, we must be fully prepared for the many problems that will confront us during the transition period. Many thousands of men have already been discharged from, the services, and an obligation already exists to provide whatever assistance is necessary to enable them to find employment in civil life. Consequently, the measure is submitted at this stage so that all those whose interests are our concern may know clearly just what aids to re-establishment the Government is empowered by the Parliament to extend to ex-service personnel, and in what manner these may bc applied.
The Government, in this comprehensive bill, aims to set out its general reestablishment policy. It is desirable that this be done, as far as possible, in order that the various benefits may be seen in. their proper relationship to one another, and as parts of a well-considered whole. Studied in conjunction with certain other legislation, with which it is integrated, it may, perhaps, be regarded as the serviceman’s charter of reestablishment. In the preparation of the bill I have had the fullest co-operation of my colleagues, who will be concerned with different phases of its subject-matter. I refer particularly to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), whose officers have worked closely with the officers of my department in drafting the provisions. I am also indebted to other members of the Inter-departmental Committee on Re-establishment for valuable advice.
If the bill ‘be agreed to, the legislation will benefit ex-service men and women in two main categories. The first has regard to national responsibilities such as pensions, medical care in all its forms, dwellings, and1 land holdings. The second relates to the aids to transition from the forces back to civilian life. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, the War Services Homes Act, and acts implementing land settlement agreements
with the States will cover the first category, whilst this measure when enacted will meet the needs of those in the second category, which are mainly economic. The bill gives expression, to that part of the Government’s ex-service policy of which employment is an outstanding feature. In other words, it concerns re-establishment and reconstruction measures which, for the most part, are likely to be operative only during the period of reconstruction. In addition, those discharged from the forces will have as a contribution to their establishment, the moneys represented by various leave entitlements, their deferred pay and the war gratuity which it has been suggested that the nation should pay as a recognition of its obligation for the services rendered by the fighting forces.
Parts of the re-establishment programme already exist, to some degree, in the form of National .Security Regulations, and in the regulations dealing with certain classes of benefits under the Australian Soldiers7 Repatriation Act. These have been examined, and, where appropriate, revised to meet current requirements, and embodied in the bill. The transfer of some provisions from the National Security Regulations follows the undertaking of the Government to review those regulations from time to time, and embody in legislation any of them which should continue in force after the war. The reinstatement and the apprenticeship regulations are examples of this transfer.
Although the bill has been framed primarily to deal with the problem of reestablishing servicemen and servicewomen in civil life the provisions have been so drafted as to be capable of being applied to assist in re-establishing some nonservice groups, attached to the services, and also civilians, in cases where it is reasonable and economical to utilize for nonservice groups and civilians, the facilities to be provided in the bill.
The majority of benefits conferred by the bill are extended to all members of the Australian forces who have served on continuous full-time duty for a minimum period of six months, as well as to members of the forces of the United Kingdom and other of the King’s Dominions, who were born in Australia or domiciled in Australia before commencing their service. Certain of the benefits, however, are available only to limited classes of service personnel, which are specified in the relevant parts of the bill. Provision is also made for extending benefits to ex-servicemen who may have served with the forces of the United Kingdom, the Dominions and our Allies, and who may settle in Australia under reciprocal re-establishment plans that may be entered into with those countries.
The re-establishment programme of the Government is a primary and integral part of plans for reconstruction. The programme is in no way self-contained, nor has it been drawn up in abstraction from the general post-war plans of the Government. Ithas been fitted into the policy and programmes for reconstruction generally in the most desirable manner. The Government holds firmly to the belief that no programme for the reabsorption of ex-service men and women in civil life can be effective unless the general post-war objectives of the Government are achieved.
First among the Government’s objectives is the maintenance of a high and stable level of employment. In. this objective the serviceman’s interest is in common with that of the civilian. To achieve the objective, measures must be devised to ensure that, at any time, more potential jobs exist than the number of people seeking them, and that, as far as possible, employment must be of the right kind, and in the right places. As will be explained in detail in a white paper on employment policy which will shortly be presented to the House, full employment is complementary to the planned organization and use of our resources to achieve the other main objectives of national policy. These are defined broadly as -
While plans for re-establishment are of necessity part of the larger plans of general reconstruction, the serviceman and servicewoman will be faced, because of their service, with special problems of re-adjustment to civilian life. Consider the scale of the task ahead. Well over 900,000 men and women have served in the forces, while civilian diversions may involve up to 700,000 persons. Many of the service men and women have already been discharged, or will be discharged before the end of the war, for medical and other reasons, and in order to build up various essential industries - rural, food and materials production, building and the like. At the end of hostilities, there may still be about 500,000 men, and 40,000 women serving in the forces. In addition to the servicemen, there will, of course, be many thousands in war jobs who must be re-absorbed into civilian industry. The process of demobilization, itself, will take some time, hut it is a reasonable assumption that, allowing for those who will have to be returned from overseas, the wartime forces, as a whole, should be demobilized within a year or eighteen months after the cessation of hostilities.
What kind of measures are necessary to ensure the effective re-establishment of the service men and women? First, the Government and the country recognize the primary obligation to ensure that those servicemen who wish to return to their pre-war service jobs are reinstated and not penalized in their employment because of the period they havebeen absent on military service. It is estimated that a very high percentage will wish to resume their former employment if such is practicable. The Government has carefully revised the reinstatement provisions which were introduced by National Security Regulations in 1939 by the previous Government. The present scheme corrects rigidities and certain impracticable provisions of the old scheme disclosed by actual experience. The Government, whilst assuring reasonable consideration to the employer, is much more emphatic in its assertion of the rights of the service man or woman. The Government believes that the provisions in their present form will be effective, but if experience discloses shortcomings remedial action will be taken.
On the 20th December, 1939, the provisions of the Defence Act, designed to prevent a man from being prejudiced in his employment by reason of his obligation to perform military service, were supplemented under the National Security Act by specific regulations entitled the National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations. In essence, the regulations were similar to the British provisions which had been made a few months earlier. Regulation 7 attempted to provide for the modification of apprenticeship contracts during war service. This rather sketchy regulation was repealed, however, in June, 1940, and the subject of apprenticeship contracts has since been dealt with by separate National Security Regulations known as the National Security (Apprenticeship) Regulations. The original apprenticeship regulations were considerably amended by the Governmen in July, 1942, to take care of apprenticeship contracts where the employer was absent on war service. In addition, provision was made for transfer, suspension or modification of apprenticeship contracts where war-time developments rendered continuance of those contracts impracticable. Those provisions have now been included in the present bill. Before the entry of Japan into the war, the National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations were applied mainly to persons who performed military service for 90 days and then returned to their employment until required to re-enter camp. The regulations were amended from time to time to strengthen their application in these cases.
In recent months, it became clear that the provisions were no longer adequate to deal with a discharge of substantial numbers from the forces. Experience had also shown very serious weaknesses in the regulations which could work to the disadvantage of servicemen, and a thorough overhaul of the regulations became necessary as part of the preparations to draft the Reestablishment and Employment Bill. In December last, new regulations were gazetted. These later provisions which appear in the present bill set out specific reinstatement procedure to ensure that servicemen who wish to return to their jobs will not be defeated in their desires by technical defences. At the same time, the provisions also particularise the employers’ obligations in these matters. After five years of war, many employers have almost completely new staffs and have been faced with applications for reinstatement in positions which have been held during the past three or four years by war-time employees. The reinstatement provisions now make it quite clear that such an employee must make way for the serviceman. Employers are also told that where several servicemen apply for reinstatement in the same position, the man primarily entitled to reinstatement in the job is the man who first began a period of war service.
If an applicant for reinstatement cannot be reinstated in the job which he occupied prior to war service, because of disabilities which render it no longer possible for him to perform the duties of the job or for some other such cause, the employer and the applicant may agree on some other position which the applicant can occupy, or, in the event of their disagreement, a reinstatement committee may investigate the matter and determine it for the parties. Not only must the employer reinstate the former employee in his former job under conditions as favorable ‘ as those which previously existed, but be must also grant to the serviceman upon reinstatement a salary which includes any increases to which the serviceman would have been entitled had he remained in the employment of that employer during the whole period during which he was absent on war service.
But, however important it may be to many to be sure of getting the old job back, where the old job is available, many, by choice or necessity, must be concerned with the new job. The new job will often involve the acquisition of skill, or skill of a higher order, and some priority in selection. Hence men will be most interested in training as a preparation for particular employment, and to increase the assurance of special consideration for employment. The Government is aware that the part of the bill dealing with preference may excite more controversy, perhaps, than any other. Preference to ex-service personnel presents the most stubborn difficulties of application and enforcement, quite apart front the justification of the principle itself.
The Government has endorsed the principle of preference according to services rendered, disabilities incurred, and the relevant and surrounding circumstances of the persons applying for the position. At the same time, the Government has taken the view that something more than mere declaratory statements of principle is required. To be workable, a preference policy must ‘be recognized, as fair and reasonable; and to appear fair and reasonable the legislation must avoid the dangers of endeavouring to simplify what is undoubtedly a most complex problem. This war has been widdy different from the war of 1914-18, both from the point of view of the nature and locality of service of the serviceman, and from the standpoint of the form of national services rendered by the war worker and other civilians, especially in the war sector of our national economy. All these differences must be taken into account when Parliament considers what preference policy is appropriate. The Government has had regard to the recommendations of the inter-departmental committees which have reported to it on the subject, and proposes to make preference available for seven years after the cessation of hostilities. After seven years there will be a new generation of workers which will include the sons of servicemen, who should not be handicapped.
The Government proposes that preference shall apply to employment generally, whether by the Grown or by private employers. Members of the fighting forces of both wars will be entitled to preference, and a person who believes that his service in relation to the war entitles him to preference may apply to a board to be registered as a person entitled to preference. Unless’ he can show reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so, an employer is to engage a person entitled to preference. In deciding whether reasonable cause exists for not engaging an entitled person, the employer is required to consider the length, locality and nature of the service of the persons entitled, and their qualifications as compared with other applicants. The preference scheme which is now submitted by the Government for consideration is the most liberal and comprehensive that has been brought to the notice of the Government. This is a matter for congratulation.
I come now to training. This is an immensely important feature of the Government’s re-establishment policy, to which very much thought has been given. The scope and pattern of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme has been well defined, and the machinery for its operation has been in working order throughout the Commonwealth since February, 1944. Already more than 1,2’5’0 ex-service men and women are undertaking full-time training, while more than 3,000 are in part-time training for a very wide range of vocational and professional activities. The scheme is primarily designed to re-establish in civilian occupations after discharge certain classes of service men and women, particularly the great number who enlisted when under 21, and whose civil careers have been prejudiced by the war. In addition, the Government will introduce special training plans to meet clearly established needs for extra trained personnel of particular types. In this training, opportunities will be available for civilians as well as for servicemen. An important feature of the training scheme is that it begins in the services, and training may be carried through after discharge in the case of eligible and suitable persons. More than 31,000 of those who are still on service are taking pre-discharge training courses. When in full operation, the training scheme will be an immense enterprise, offering opportunities to the individual concerned and to the community. Never before have the people of this country stood more in need of training to meet post-war needs - vocational, professional and rural - and never before has the Government organized on such a scale to provide the. nation with trained skilled personnel.
Presently, I shall offer some particulars about the administration of the scheme. I should like to dwell on the scope of training on the industrial side. Training for the full range of the professions will follow the usual lines at universities, technical colleges and similar institutions. Apart from rural professional training, agricultural courses will be closely linked with settlement projects under the servicemen’s settlement scheme. It is important to note that the scheme of training has been endorsed not only by the educational authorities, but also by representatives of employees, employers, and the ex-servicemen’s organizations. On the industrial side, training is by one of two methods, first, training in technical schools until the trainee attains a standard of proficiency to entitle him to not less than 40 per cent, of the award minimum: wage payable in the calling for which he is being trained, as assessed by industrial committees set up under the scheme. This period will, in general, vary from three to twelve months, according to the nature of the calling, and the initial qualifications and’ aptitude of the trainees. .Secondly, where suitable courses cannot be arranged in technical schools training may be given in industrial establishments. These must first be approved by an industrial committee representative of employers, employees and technical education authorities, as suitable establishments for basic training purposes. During the period of training to 40 per cent, proficiency, male full-time trainees receive allowances varying from £3 5s. a week for a single man to £5 5s. a week for a married man with two or more children. When the trainee attains a proficiency of not less than 40 per cent, he is placed in employment at full award rates for completion of his training “on the job “, suitable placement being assured by close co-operation between the industrial committees and the Man Power Directorate. Training on the job is continued until the trainee can be regarded as fully trained. In this stage, the Commonwealth reimburses the employer the difference between the award rate and the rate equivalent to the percentage proficiency of the trainee as this is assessed from time to time. Approved industrial establishments are used for training purposes only in those callings where the numbers to be trained are small, or for which the establishment of. costly special classes in technical colleges is not justified. During the demobilization period, when more trainees come forward, the need for training to be given in approved industrial establishments will decrease. Before an industrial committee will approve an industrial establishment as a suitable means of training up to 40 per cent, proficiency, it must be satisfied that the establishment possesses the necessary facilities for all-round training. The establishment is considered as an annexe or extension of the regional technical training system for purposes of general supervision, standards of tuition, assessment of trainees, and the like. The trainee’s progress must, as I have said, be periodically assessed by the industrial committee. He will be placed in employment - not necessarily with the establishment in which he has been trained, to 40 per cent. - on reaching this standard ; and full award rates, with Commonwealth subsidies, will be paid in the same manner as applies to trainees directly trained in the technical schools. As the employer in the case of an approved industrial establishment for basic training is acting as a training agency in place of the technical college, he is not called upon to make a contribution to the living allowance paid during this period, but is obliged to give thorough training to the satisfaction of the Industrial Committee.
The Government has given special attention to the problem of expanding the facilities in technical schools for training. Over and above £250,000 worth of additional buildings erected for Commonwealth training purposes, surveys of buildings available for training purposes and suitable for annexes to technical colleges have been made’ in respect of all technical college training cent-res in the Commonwealth. A number of buildings in various centres have either been erected or leased. Transfers have been and are being effected from munitions, aircraft production and service departments of suitable buildings in other centres as they become available. In addition, State governments have, at the request of the Commonwealth, submitted their short and “long term plans for the development of technical education. These plans are to be the subject of a conference between Commonwealth and State representatives on the 26th March. It is intended that selected portions of such plans suitable for ‘Commonwealth training purposes should be carried out immediately with Commonwealth assistance. If Commonwealth training commitments are to be met, it is essential that a large technical school building programme be undertaken as early as possible, especially in those centres where it has been found, after exhaustive surveys, that leased or transferred buildings will not be available. A similar building programme is also being considered for university and rural training. Provision is also being made on a large scale for the training of qualified tradesmen as instructors of ex-servicemen’s classes. Training of instructors on a large scale will be undertaken as the need arises and the end of the war appears likely. Plans are well under way towards this end. Through service general routine orders, all qualified servicemen ha.ve been invited to send their applications to the deputy directors of industrial training in each State so that they may also be considered for training and employment as instructors on the cessation of hostilities.
Obviously, the training scheme could not be carried out without generous State .co-operation, and I am happy to say that this co-operation has been readily forthcoming. How complete the co-operation of the State governments has been will be apparent when I relate that from the first they have placed practically all the resources of their technical systems at the Commonwealth’s disposal. This assistance has been subject only to the Commonwealth undertaking to finance the cost of any additions in the way of staff, equipment, and premises necessary to meet the Commonwealth’s requirements. Not the least valuable part of the States’ contributions has been in the form of skilled administrative and instructional personnel. These have included the deputies of the Commonwealth Director of Industrial Training in the States, the deputies being, in each case, the head of technical education for the State. The Commonwealth Government gratefully acknowledges its -indebtedness to the State governments for this co-operation, and also to the universities for their indis- pensable assistance in the matters of cultural studies and education for the professions. In both instances, it is their help which has made the training scheme possible.
Whether trained to undertake suitable employment; to become eligible for reinstatement, or to take advantage of the preference scheme, many service men and women will look to the Government for assistance in finding appropriate employment. Accordingly, the Government, in co-operation with the States, intends to set up a very widely decentralized employment service primarily to provide facilities to aid servicemen to become suitably employed, .and to be of assistance for civilian placement as well. The service also will provide means to assist any person in receipt of unemployment benefit under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, or the reemployment allowances which are to be made available to servicemen who may happen at any time within twelve months of discharge to be seeking suitable employment or who may have temporarily lost their employment.
The war lias brought home to all Allied countries the importance of having an efficient employment service if the most effective use is to be made of the working population. In pre-war days, most of these countries had some system of labour .placement offices, and now, in the light of war-time experience, they are examining the adequacy of their services to deal with the problems of the peace. Under the pressure of war-time circumstances, it has been necessary to superimpose on normal employment service functions certain sanctions and controls which are not needed in peace-time, but basically, the effectiveness of the usage of labour resources has depended largely on the experience and effectiveness of peace-time employment organizations. Unfortunately, in Australia before the war only two States, New South Wales and Queensland, could make any claim to an organization remotely resembling an employment service of the character so well established in Great Britain. After the war, the problems of re-establishing discharged service men and women, and re-settling civilian war workers, great numbers of whom have been displaced from their normal jobs or hare never worked in normal peace-time occupations, will demand the existence of an employment service of the highest calibre. Its function, in short, will be to find the right jobs for these people - jobs which will best fit their qualifications and experience. Careful consideration has been given by the Government to the problem of whether the Commonwealth should establish and maintain the necessary employment service or leave the function to the States. The matter was discussed at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Commonwealth has a special responsibility for the demobilization and rehabilitation of ex-service personnel; it also has clear obligations for the re-establishment of war workers and the many other civilians whose normal employment has been materially affected by the war. Because of this, and also because the Commonwealth has assumed domestic and international responsibilities for the achievement and maintenance of a high and stable level of employment - and an efficient placement service is a vital instrument for this purpose - the Commonwealth has decided that it should establish a decentralized Commonwealth-wide employment service. I might mention the other reasons leading theGovernment to this conclusion. The Government, after discussions with the Premiers, decided that it had to accept the primary responsibility for the actual administration of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act passed by the Parliament last year. The extent of the Commonwealth’s financial liabilities for unemployment benefits will be directly influenced, of course, by the efficiency of a placement organization. Secondly, the existence of numerous Employment Service Offices scattered throughout the Commonwealth in all the large centres of population will constitute a series of handy focal points to provide facilities for the decentralized administration of social service benefits and the other functions which the Commonwealth is being called upon to discharge. Conversations are proceeding with the States with a view to utilizing State officers and agencies to assist in the general scheme, and the service will be set up with the help of the States.
I emphasize that the function of an employment service is not limited simply to the provision of employment offices scattered throughout the country through which employers may engage labour and employees find the employment opportunities best suited to their qualifications. A vocational guidance organization and special facilities for dealing with different classes of persons, such as discharged ex-servicewomen and women war workers, and the disabled with their special needs, are necessary concomitants of an employment service. If an employment service is to function to the best advantage of the community, it must keep in the closest contact with other departments and authorities planning or directing general economic and financial policy and public works and housing programmes. This is another reason why the Commonwealth felt that the community would be better served if theCommonwealth itself conducted an employment service. Then again it must be in touch with employment and unemployment trends, with changes in skill requirements within different industries. These data in turn are required to plan the incidence and need for public works programmes, to predict the requirements of workers of different types or in different places, and to arrange advance training, facilitate geographical and industrial mobility of workers and to dispense with unemployment. The Government has decided that the employment service shall be established within the Department of Labour and National Service. We intend to use every opportunity from now on to develop the existing organization into one which will be able to carry the burden of demobilization and transfer of war workers. The experience in labour organization gained during the war will be invaluable for this purpose. An essential element in the process of conversion from war-time man-power functions to peace-time employment service functions will be comprehensive training courses for employment officers, whether already with the National Service Office organization or recruits who may he appointed. The Government does not wish to be misunderstood. After the war we shall have none of the direct labour controls now functioning. The employment service will provide a service freely available to employers and workers, and we intend that it will succeed purely upon its merits. The success of the service will largely depend on tie degree to which employers’ and employees’ organizations co-operate and contribute to its work. I am sure that they will realize that it will be to their advantage as well as the community’s to support and use the service to the maximum. An employment service should be much better placed than an employer in very many instances to find the labour of the type and skill required, and better circumstanced than the employee to find the right billet for the best utilization of his services.
A perusal of the bill will show that provision has been made for the establishment of committees to advise the employment service, and it is anticipated that after the war the employment service will receive even more help and assistance from these committees than the manpower organization has received during the war from the mixed committees of employers’ and employees’ representatives throughout a wide range of industries and occupations. It is well to remember that already the national service organization is providing for personnel discharged from the services special facilities and services which are akin to those which an employment service would provide. In fact, a special organization has been established within the Man Power Directorate and through the national service office system to deal with ex-servicemen. I refer to the rehabilitation sections at national service offices staffed by ex-servicemen. This special organization is, of course, in process of being developed at the moment so that it will be ready to handle the problems and heavy load of demobilization. Special employment offices have been established at all service discharge centres to provide facilities w7hereby the employment and rehabilitation of personnel being discharged may be commenced. Some indication of the efficacy of this service is demonstrated by the fact that 73 per cent, of all personnel passing through these offices have been found employment before their leave has expired. The remainder, many of whom want to exhaust their leave before looking for work, are referred to national service offices or the central rehabilitation offices. These special central rehabilitation offices have been established by the Man Power Directorate in each capital city, to confine themselves exclusively to the employment problems of ex-service personnel. Special facilities are provided in these offices for the giving of advice to exservicemen on their rights and entitlements. The closest liaison exists between these rehabilitation offices^ the Repatriation Commission, and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Machinery has been developed to enable the central handling at these rehabilitation offices, as far as possible, ofl those individuals whose problems in relation to employment reestablishment, are the concern of a number of departments.
Ancillary to this special organization there have been established sections to deal with problems of the disabled and the nucleus of vocational guidance facilities, which it is proposed to extend as fast as suitable qualified personnel can be secured or trained. The sole object of the policy being applied in relation to the employment of ex-service personnel, is the permanent rehabilitation of each, individual, by providing positions which will carry the maximum tenure and security. This is the policy which would be normally followed by an employment service and is in contradistinction to the war-time man-power policy which applies to ordinary civilians, namely, placement in positions where the individual’s abilities and, qualifications may be used to the nation’s advantage in the prosecution of the war.
A particularly pressing moral obligation applies in regard to the disabled men, of whom there will, no doubt, be a considerable number to be placed in employment. Irrespective of other provisions on behalf of disabled servicemen, such as pensions, it is desirable that employment should’ be found for them which is not only within their impaired capacity, but which also will give them the satisfaction of earning their living as productive members of the community. The full reestablishment of these men will depend upon the rebuilding and maintenance of their self-respect and self-confidence. The provision of employment at rates of pay, or under conditions savouring of charity, will fail to achieve this purpose. The men will expect employment on worthwhile jobs under normal conditions of remuneration.
Mr.White. - Will they be eligible for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– If the honorable member will listen to my explanation of the provisions of the bill, he will obtain all the information that he requires. To this end, provision will be made under the bill for special facilities so that voluntarily registered persons, who, because of disability, are unfit to work, may be enabled to undertake employment or be made ready to undertake pre-vocational training. Preparations for employment will embrace the provision of necessary appliances and surgical aids. During the period of such preparation for employment, provision is made under the bill for disabled persons to be paid expenses and prescribed living allowances for a period of three months, which may be extended to six months. In order to ensure that disabled persons, so prepared, shall, in fact, be given employment, the bill provides that any class of employer may, by regulation, be required to employ a specified number of disabled persons or a certain number of disabled proportionate to the total number of employees on his pay-roll.This provision is in line with the provisions of similar legislation in Great Britain. It is designed to overcome, in some measure, the reluctance of those who need to be convinced that disabled men and women can, under appropriate conditions, do a wide range of work at award wages with satisfaction to themselves and their employers.
On administrative grounds, it is desirable that there shall be some definition of the scope of these provisions. All servicemen, therefore, who are handicapped by reason of some injury or disease from obtaining employment suitable to their age, experience, and qualifications, will, under the provisions of this part, be invited to place their names upon, a voluntary register. Again, this provision is in line with similar legis lation in Great Britain, where, during the 25 years since the last war and as a result of dealing with civilian and service casualties during the present war, a wealth of administrative experience has been built up. It is agreed that the interests of the disabled will be best served by the exchange of ideas between all interested parties, and by the progressive enlightenment of both employer and employee as to the needs and capabilities of disabled workers. The bill, therefore, provides for the establishment of committees to advise the Minister on matters relating to disabled persons. Employers, in co-operation with the government departments concerned, are giving careful consideration in advance to the jobs which they can make available to employees suffering from various disabilities, such as loss of one or more limbs, blindness, and the like. Investigation of these matters by various employers has revealed a surprising number of avenues in which disabled employees can be absorbed with advantage to both parties. An interdepartmental report is to be submitted to Cabinet on the organization of a common rehabilitation scheme for disabled persons, service personnel and civilians alike.
Other re-establishment provisions available to the man or woman seeking employment are those assuring to service men and women a minimum period of leave after discharge during which to seek suitable re-estaiblishment, by seeking training, or a house, and so on. The provisions of this bill provide a breathing space. Another important provision is in relation to the modification of conditions of entry into certain employment, so as to enable, for example, reconstruction trainees to enter employment for which they are trained.
So far, I have dealt with provisions which are to be made available to assist service men and women to obtain suitable employment. I turn now to measures proposed in the bill to assist the service man or woman who was normally a worker on his or her own account, or an employer before the war, to re-establish himself or herself in business, including agricultural pursuits. It is proposed that loans of up to £250, or £1,000 in the case of agricultural pursuits, shall be made available to persons wishing to re-establish, themselves on their own account. The limit of £250 imlay be raised to £500 if the Government, on the basis of investigations of the requirements of certain forms of business activities, believes that £500 would be a more appropriate limit.
In order to qualify for this assistance, the applicant must be in need of financial aid in order to establish or reestablish himself satisfactorily in civil life, and he must also satisfy the administering authority that the business is such as will enable him to repay the loan within a reasonable period - that is, the economic prospects of the business, as well as the applicant’s capacity, will be decisive.
– Will that grant of £250 he in addition to the grant that may now be made under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act?
– I understand that it will replace that grant.
– If the Minister is able to reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Henty, I should like to know why he did not give me the information that I sought a few minutes ago.
– Order ! The Minister is not called upon to answer any interjections.
– These provisions for business loans will replace the more limited provisions at present existing under the repatriation regulations.
The agricultural loan, which will supplement advances obtained in the ordinary way from a credit institution, is designed to assist servicemen returning to their own farms, which have in many cases deteriorated owing to war conditions. Servicemen who do not wish to apply for holdings under the Soldier Settlement Scheme, but who wish to obtain farms privately will also be assisted under these provisions. As the amount of capital normally required for farming is greater than in most types of small businesses the limit of the loan has been raised to £1,000. The principles agreed to in the Soldier Settlement Scheme will be applied in granting these loans, particularly in regard to the qualifications and experience of the settler, and to the economic outlook and market prospects for the products of the industry in which he wishes to re-establish himself. Until adequate returns are coming in from the business or farm, a. person in receipt of a loan, or who would have received a loan had he not had sufficient capital of his own for the business, may apply, in addition, for a business or farm reestablishment allowance. The rate of the allowance is not to exceed the re-employment allowance provided for under Part VI. of the bill or, in the case of agricultural pursuits, the training allowance.
As I have pointed out, the selfemployer’s agricultural loan will be closely connected with the scheme for soldier settlement. The Government will be bringing down separate legislation on land settlement, but meanwhile this will re-affirm the Commonwealth’s intention to grant financial assistance to the States to aid land settlement projects conducted by servicemen. The bill provides that the Commonwealth may, in accordance with any agreement entered into with any State, make advances to enable that State to acquire, develop and improve land and to settle servicemen on the land.
Ranking equally with employment in the mind of the serviceman is housing. The War Service Homes Act will deal specifically with homes for servicemen, but, in addition, the Commonwealth will enter into agreements with the States for the allocation among ex-members of the forces of quotas of houses erected under Commonwealth-State housing schemes.
Since the early days of the war provision has been made by the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations to give protection to members of the forces and their dependants in cases where enlistment has made it difficult for servicemen to meet financial commitments entered into previously. It is now proposed that these provisions shall be incorporated as part of the statute law, but to provide for flexibility of amendment, power is being taken to vary the provisions of the statute by regulations. Particulars of the protection afforded are, no doubt, familiar to honorable members, but I shall refer to the more important provisions. The due date of the principal money secured by a mortgage or the purchase money under an agreement for the purchase of land, entered into by a member of the forces or female dependant before the member concerned became engaged on war service is postponed until twelve months after the member has ceased to be engaged on war service. The penal rate of interest under a mortgage is not enforceable. Except by leave of a court, the enforcement of a judgment against a member of the forces or female dependant under a contract made before the member engaged in war service is prohibited. The exercise, except by leave of an appropriate court, of certain legal remedies in consequence of any default in the payment of a debt by a member of the forces or female dependant, where the debt arises under such contract, is also prohibited. Except by leave of a court, goods which are used by or belong to a member of the forces or a female dependant of a member cannot be seized under a bill of sale, writ of execution or under a hire-purchase agreement made before the member engaged in war service. Bankruptcy proceedings for debts which arose before a member of the forces engaged on war service cannot be taken against the member or against any of his female dependants except by leave of a court. Land owned by a member of the forces cannot be compulsorily acquired by the Crown or any governmental authority without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral, except for defence purposes.
During 1942 the Attorney-General established a Legal Aid Bureau for the purpose of furnishing free legal advice and assistance to members of the forces and their dependants. At the present time, a bureau is operating in each of the State capital cities. The bureau advises members of the forces and their dependants on legal matters generally, but represents them in court only on matters arising either directly or indirectly under National Security Regulations. In other cases the bureau puts the member of the forces in touch with a solicitor who will act for him in the ordinary way. The bill now gives statutory recognition to the bureaux and provides not only for their continuance but for the establishment of additional offices of the bureau at such places as are necessary.
I have now covered in general terms the scheme of re-establishment benefits contemplated in the bill. It must be understood, however, that its provisions will not be fully applicable until general demobilization is entered upon. The Government has already announced the principles upon which demobilization will proceed, and administrative arrangements to carry out the demobilization scheme are now being put into effect. This does not mean that demobilization is just around the corner. The war has still to be won.. At the same time, it is necessary that pre-determined principles and procedure should be laid down now. The Government has adopted a system under which men and, women will be released from the services according to their length of service, their age, and their marital status; that is, the older and married; men and those with longer service will be discharged before the younger men and those with shorter service. Exceptions will be made for certain key persons whose discharge is considered essential at the time on occupational grounds, or for training. The first people to be discharged may thus include some who will have most difficulty in readjusting themselves to civilian conditions, and although this may present problems to the employer and the community generally, it is obviously just from the serviceman’s point of view that these individuals should be given the greatest opportunity to adapt themselves to post-war employment conditions. The Government believes that its demobilization plan will commend itself to members of the forces, to Parliament and to the public generally. It is sometimes advocated that the existence of definite jobs to go to should be made the guiding principle in determining priority for discharge. But the Government holds that this would cause extreme dissatisfaction among men not fortunate enough actually to have employment to go to or to have been able to arrange for employers to provide it. The system of release according to availability of employment was found unworkable from British experience of demobilization after the last war, and was discarded at the outset of demobilization. It is not a practical scheme. Broadly, demobilization should be based on the fair and reasonable principle of “ first in, first out “, modified by family responsibilities and the age ofl the member.
I come now to the subject of administration. The carrying out of the programme will naturally place a tremendous load on the administrative resources of the Commonwealth. In fact, it will greatly strain these resources. Consequently we must not only utilize to the full our existing administrative machinery, but also provide for its expansion wherever necessary. Furthermore, since re-establishment matters are the concern of the whole community, the Government is anxious to organize the administrative scheme so that it will be possible to keep closely in touch with public opinion by drawing at all points on the advice and experience of the various bodies interested in public affairs, and in the welfare of the serviceman. As far as departmental organization is concerned, honorable members will notice that the bill does not affect present departmental administrative responsibilities. The several parts of the bill will be administered by the Ministers who will be concerned with the matters dealt with therein. However, certain departmental adjustments will be necessary and, of course, some departments will need to be considerably enlarged and adapted to meet their increased responsibilities. Where appropriate, advisory committees will be linked with the departments in order to bring in the advice and experience of exservicemen, employees and employers organizations. It has been suggested that some super-department should be established to administer all matters of concern to servicemen. From its own experience, reinforced by rather unhappy results with single old established departments in other countries, the Government is convinced that this is a completely wrong approach to the problem to-day. It is true that after the last war it was found expedient to concentrate the administration of practically all ex-servicemen’s entitlements in one authority. The exceptions were war service homes and land settlement, which was split up among the States as the authorities controlling the
Ifr. Dedman. land. That way of dealing with exservice problems worked well in some ways, and not well in others. What Ave have to recognize, however, is that the problem confronting us to-day is radically different from that of 25 years ago. Then, we had only to re-establish the serviceman in . a civil economy that had been little disturbed by the war. Now, we have to re-establish, not only a vastly greater number of servicemen, but also, at the same time, a great number of civilians in an economy which has suffered much distortion.
Apart from pensions and medical benefits, the matters which concern the servicemen to-day happen to be also the concern of civilians, and whilst particular emphasis must be given to the needs of servicemen, there are points at which those needs - for example, in the vital matter of employment - coincide with those of the general body of civilians. The assurance of this employment is bound up with the general government policy of full employment, which, in turn, is the concern of several departments. Moreover, it is of definite advantage to the serviceman to be placed in the main stream of the administration of this policy, rather than to be dealt with in isolation.
Sound administrative practice counsels the separate administration of matters concerning classes of persons, only when the entitlements are specialized to those persons, as in the case of the Repatriation Commission and its administration of pensions and medical benefits. Even if all this were not so, no single department could possibly deal adequately with the numerous and diversified benefits and services already provided for, or contemplated, by the Government for exservice men and women.
Owing to the complexity of the problem, and the impossibility of having it dealt with by a single department, the matter of co-ordination becomes of first importance. It is not so much coordination within any single department, as co-ordination among almost all the departments of the entire government machine. Particularly concerned are the Repatriation Commission, the Departments of Labour and National Service - the Navy, the Army, and Air - Education and Rehabilitation Sections - the Universities Commission, and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. This department is finally responsible for ensuring that any gaps which may emerge in policy from time to time shall bc filled in, and that the complete programme of re-establishment shall be unified as far as possible and fully coordinated. It acts through administrative machinery set up by the Government to pool the departmental knowledge and experience available to the Commonwealth, notably the Reconstruction Training Committee and the Re-establishment Committee.
The Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme affords an excellent example of how this co-ordination can be achieved. The scheme is illustrative of co-ordination and co-operation on three levels: First, between the Commonwealth and the States, which have placed their training facilities and the services of the heads of their technical education systems, at the disposal of the Commonwealth; secondly, between the Commonwealth departments which are concerned with training; and thirdly, between Commonwealth departments and organizations of ex-servicemen employees and employers.
The Central Reconstruction Training Committee is responsible for organizing the training which is to be made available as a part of re-establishment. and for reconstruction purposes. It comprehends vocational, professional and rural training. On the committee are brought together representatives of the Commonwealth and State agencies concerned with training, namely, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which is finally responsible for planning and principles of policy; the Repatriation Commission, which is concerned particularly with the training of war-damaged persons who are not in a position to take advantage of training by normal methods ; the Department of Labour and National Service - Industrial Training Division - which is the training authority for technicaltype and industrial training; and the Universities Commission, which is the training authority for university-type training. Then there have been added to the committee representatives of the Navy, the Army, and Air, and experienced men with knowledge of the exserviceman, and of trade and industrial matters, namely, representatives of exservicemen’s associations, and of employers and employees organizations. In this way, full use is being made of both departmental and non-governmental machinery. The training under the scheme is decentralized, and committees, with the same pattern of membership, are already operating in the States, where the head of the technical education system acts as deputy director of industrial training. Similar arrangements have been made for rural training.
The machinery set up to co-ordinate and organize the training scheme has so far been remarkably successful. It is intended to develop similar machinery to co-ordinate general re-establishment matters. Here, a slightly different pattern is necessary, with the emphasis on the centra] re-establishment committee for policy and general co-ordination, and on the widely decentralized employment service - rehabilitation section - for detailed administration.
A special information- and inquiry service for ex-servicemen is to be developed. The Repatriation Commission will provide a central inquiry office in the State capitals, and the rehabilitation section of the Commonwealth employment service will continue to develop the facilities already established to deal expeditiously and through one centre with problems of employment significance which involve a number of departments.
I believe that I have given a fairly full indication of the ground covered by the bill, and the broad policy considerations which have weighed with the Government in giving form to the provisions. Those honorable members who may wish to inform themselves in close detail are referred to the explanatory matter which will be circulated with copies of the bill. It remains for me only to commend the measure warmly to the consideration of the House. As I have already said, it is intended to stand, with other special ex-service legislation, as the charter of re-establishment of the Australian serviceman and his civilian associates in the war effort. As such, it is the concern of every section of the Australian community. This being so, I believe that I can appeal for its consideration by honorable members in a non-party spirit. Whether the end of this tremendous conflict be near or far, we know that in the final accounting Australia’s share in the Allied fight for freedom, contributed by its fighting forces and their civilian auxiliaries, will be the abiding pride of Australians in the generations to come.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
.- by leave- Oil the 17 th July, 1944, I gave to Parliament a review of the proceedings of the meeting of Prime Ministers in London. During the course of that review, I dealt with my proposals for improved machinery for Empire co-operation. I said that the Prime Ministers had undertaken to consult their Governments on my proposals and on additional suggestions that had been made during the discussion of them. When referring to the views expressed by Prime Ministers, I said that the position of each dominion differs so greatly in regard to defence, that the machinery and procedure must be appropriate to the, circumstances of each. This has been demonstrated by the differing experiences of the self-governing parts of the British Commonwealth in this war. Only the territories of Britain and Australia1 have been subjected to direct aggression by the enemy. Australia is the only dominion whose strategical problems have rendered it necessary to have an accredited representative to the British War Cabinet, with the right to be heard in the formulation and direction of policy.
The progress of the war and the developments towards the establishment of a world security organization have now reached a stage which has rendered it necessary to review the machinery the function of which is to serve the Government and the country in the thought, planning, and development of policy in the realm of defence. As we have- learned from experience, the connotation of defence policy is wide, embracing not only a navy, an army, and an air force, but also the resources from which to equip, supply, and maintain them, and the existence of plans for their maximum expansion in emergency. Whilst making provision that the future shall be soundly based on the experience of the past, we must, at the same time, ensure that the efficiency of the machinery for the continued vigorous prosecution of the war shall not be prejudiced. I have accordingly approved the expansion of the joint-service and interdepartmental machinery of the Defence Department to ensure its adequacy to deal with the problems associated with the development of an effective post-war defence policy, and the study and development of its relation to co-operation within the British Commonwealth and the world security organization. The Defence Department, which is responsible for the administration of defence policy, is closely linked with the higher machinery of government through the permanent head, who is also secretary to the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. Within the department, the advisory body on defence policy and important matters of a joint-service or interdepartmental nature is the defence committee, which comprises the Chiefs of Staffs of the three services and the Secretary of the Department of Defence.
In the new organization, provision is made for four main committees to be established under the defence committee, as part of the machinery of the Defence Department, as follows : -
A joint planning committee with appropriate subordinate subcommittees responsible for inter-service operational plans and appreciations, subject to the present spheres of command in the South-West Pacific Area, joint intelligence, and strategic appreciations relating to posthostilities planning.
A principal administrative officers committee - personnel - with appropriate subordinate sub-committees responsible for important jointservice and policy matters in relation to personnel.
A principal administrative officers committee - maintenance and material - with appropriate subordinate sub-committees responsible for important joint-service and policy matters in relation to works, supply, services, munitions and equipment.
A post-hostilities planning committee, with appropriate subordinate sub-committees responsible for appreciations and plans, other than of a strategic nature, concerning armistices and peace terms, control commissions, world organization and post-war forces.
In addition, a joint administrative planning staff willbe establishedparallel with the joint operations planning staff. It will be responsible for formulating inter-service and inter-departmental administrative plans as distinct from, though related to, operational plans. The joint planning committee for operations will comprise representatives of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. With a view to the closer integration of the service and civil aspects of defence policy, the principal administrative officers committees and the joint administrative planning staff will be representative of. the three services of the Defence Department. The Department of External Affairs will be represented on the post-hostilities planning committee and representatives of other civil departments will be co-opted to this and other committees, as required.
This integration will be extended to the secretarial and executive work of the various committees. This will be undertaken by a combined staff of civil and service officers, which will be responsible to and work under the control and direction of the secretary of the Department of Defence. The whole trend of the experience of this war has been towards a unified joint-service view of operations, as exemplified by the appointment of commanders-in-chief, such as General MacArthur, directing the control of naval, land and air forces. This cohesion of the fighting forces has had its parallel in the closer integration of all the service and civil components of a total national war effort. Our post-war machinery must, therefore, provide for defence planning to be on a nation-wide basis.
The service staff of the accredited representative to the British War Cabinet will be strengthened by the appointment of a permanent officer of the Royal Australian Navy and a permanent Royal Australian Air Force officer, in addition to the Australian Army officer now allotted for that duty. To ensure closer liaison on defence matters on the official level with the corresponding British machinery, direct communication channels have been authorized between the secretary of the Department of Defence and the senior service member of the staff of the accredited representative, and also with the secretariat of the British War Cabinet. Without in any way committing the governments concerned in matters of policy, this arrangement will enable information to be exchanged on administrative and planning problems with mutual advantage to each party. The Australian-New Zealand agreement already provides for co-operation between the Dominions in all defence matters of mutual interest.
Some time ago, I issued a standing instruction to the defence committee requesting it to keep constantly in mind the matter of post-war defence policy from the angles of the experience of this war in relation to the principles of Australian and Empire defence, and to the nature, strength and organization of the Australian forces, as and when any progress is made in regard to the principles and nature of the collective system, and that on either a world or a regional basis, their implications in regard to Australian defence should be considered. All departments were also instructed to record the lessons of their administrative experience in this war, so that a revision of the Commonwealth War Book and the departmental chapters might be undertaken when hostilities cease. Co-operation between members of the British Commonwealth is a matter of bi-lateral or multilateral planning, according to the strategical position of the particular part of the British Empire concerned, and the views of its government and those of the other governments that may be concerned. Any such, arrangements would, of course, be subject to the sovereign control of th policy of each part of the British Empire by its own people, parliament and government.
I said in Parliament on the 28th February last, that the aim of the Government was the establishment of defence and security policy on an all-party basis, in order to ensure its continuity. When the Advisory War Council is replaced in the post-war period by the peace-time ‘Council of Defence, it is my intention, if I am the Prime Minister at the time, to invite the Opposition parties to be represented on the council. Speaking from my own experience as a Leader’ of the Opposition, I felt that I was at a definite disadvantage in the formulation of a defence policy owing to the lack of authoritative information on which the policy must be based. As our democratic form of government functions on the basis of parties, it is evident, if defence and security policy is to be raised above party, that both the ‘Government and Opposition leaders should have full access to the information which governs the basis of policy.
In the wider pattern of collective security, which can be organized on a world and regional basis, defence schemes must exist for the preservation of peace. World peace is indivisible, and the responsibility for its maintenance primarily rests on the big powers which have the greatest resources and responsibilies. However, the small nations, as well as the great, have their part to play in the maintenance of peace. In many cases, their geographical locations in important strategical areas make them potential battlegrounds. This has been the experience of Australia. An essential prerequisite to the defeat of Japan was the denial to that power of a f oothold on the Australian continent, for it was the only base from which offensive action on an adequate scale could be undertaken against the Japanese. In terms of a military problem, the security of Australia and New Zealand is best achieved by a system of defence based on the island screen to the north of these Dominions. The holding of the island screen requires sea-power, air-power and garrisons with installation facilities, such as docks, aerodromes and defences. The local defence of the mainlands of Australia and New Zealand entails similar demands. The crux of the situation is the capacity of Australia and New Zealand to provide for the defence of the screen and, at the same time, for the local defence of their territories. In actual fact, it is impracticable for Australia and New Zealand to defend the area unaided.
With regard to sea-power, it is necessary, in order to combat a potential enemy such as Japan, to have a. base in a suitable strategical position, and a fleet which can ensure command of the sea in the South- West Pacific Area, apart from the maintenance of overseas communications to this area. Australia and New Zealand cannot provide a fleet and equip a base on the parallel of what was contemplated in regard to Singapore as the bastion of the defence of British interests in the Pacific. Co-opera.tion with Britain is therefore essential. The defence of the screen also involves co-operation with foreign powers, such as the Netherlands, for the Netherlands East Indies and Dutch Timor; Portugal, for Portuguese Timor; the United States of America, for American possessions in the SouthWest Pacific; and France, for New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and other Pacific islands. From Australia’s war experience, it will be apparent that American co-operation is of paramount importance.
The, security of Australia or any other part of the British Commonwealth in the future will rest on three safeguards, each wider in its scope than the other. These are the system of collective security which can be organized on a world and regional basis, the degree of Empire co-operation which can be established, and national defence, the policy for which is purely the responsibility of the Government concerned. The extent and nature of a government’s defence policy will be influenced by the degree of reliance that can be placed on the other two safeguards. These three safeguards, are complementary to one another, and none is exclusive of the others.
We, therefore, approach the fundamental question of world security to be considered at the San Francisco conference with great hopes. On its success hinges the future fate of the world for peace or war. We trust that there will emerge from, the conference, a structure based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States, which will guarantee that basic security from aggression, without which conditions of social betterment a>re unattainable. 1 am. sure it is the unanimous, hope of all Australians that the outcome of the preliminary meeting of representatives of the British Common wealth will be a unanimity of opinion of the British, peoples which will enable the delegations of the British Common wealth to make a notable contribution to the success of the conference. This would be in keeping with the heroic efforts and noble sacrifices which the British peoples have already made in the war for the cause of world peace.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Higher Defence Organization - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Gold-mining Leases in the Northern Territory - -Payment for Contract Crops - Adelaide Potato Market - Petrol Rationing : Prosecution of Service Station Operators - Wheat Industry - War Service Homes - Prices Control.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– This morning, I asked a question about the Tennant Creek gold-field, and the re-allotment of leases. This is a matter into which a government inquiry will have to be held, before long. I understood that last year a firm understanding had been .reached regarding what was to happen to gold leases in the Northern Territory. After the outbreak of war with the Japanese, it was decided as a matter of government policy - and I do not quarrel with it - that the goldmining industry was to close down. With the exception of one mine at Tennant Creek, the industry did close down in the Northern Territory. The owners are scattered all over Australia, and some of them are in. the forces beyond Australia. I now find that twelve leases have been re-allotted recently. One, man was served with notice that he would have to pay up all back rent on a lease which, because of government policy, he was not allowed to work. The notice was sent to his address at Tennant Creek. It was not claimed, because, the uran, was no longer there, and it was returned to the department, which then said, that, as it was not known where the lessee was>, it would re-allot .the lease. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has refuted my statement that ore, from one of these leases yielded 31 oz. of gold to the ton. He says that the yield was 48 oz. to the ton. Seeing that the yield is so high, there will be a strong incentive for other people to try to get hold of the leases. It is true that only a 5-ton parcel of ore was crushed, but people will believe that where one lot of such ore was obtained more is obtainable.
I have passed on to the. Department of Commerce and Agriculture a letter in which a vegetable-grower in my electorate states that he entered into a contract with the department to supply swede turnips. The department did not need all he grew, and he agreed to accept £440 as compensation for his labour in respect of that part of the crop which was left in the ground. So far, however, none of this money has been paid, although the arrangement was entered into on the 1st November last. There is a general complaint that the department is too slow in settling claims of this kind. Honorable members, from time to time, bring before the House examples of dilatoriness in payment. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to see that payments are made more promptly.
I have received from Senator Mattner a telegram stating that several hundred tons of potatoes from Western Australia have been dumped upon the Adelaide market, thus seriously depressing prices. The potatoes were originally consigned to Sydney by sea and were unloaded ait Port Adelaide with the idea of sending them the rest of the, way by rail. However, the Transport Department objected, and the potatoes were dumped on the Adelaide market. I recognize that in the first place the consignment was probably despatched from Western Australia with the best of intentions, and that, owing to circumstances which subsequently arose, the potatoes were dumped in Adelaide. Such an occurrence, however, is discouraging to men who gave up dairyfarming at the request of the Government in order to grow potatoes. The potato-growers in the vicinity of Adelaide have suffered a severe knockback, and this is likely to have repercussions upon the Government’s food programme in the future.
.- On the 16th March, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked, in effect, whether the regulations for the review of decisions made by the Liquid Fuel Control Board revoking motor spirit retailers’ licences were being defeated by reason of the institution of proceedings against retailers under other regulations. As promised, I asked the Solicitor-General to examine the whole matter. With the consent of the House I shall incorporate in Hansard the following report on the subject.
The regulations for the appointment of reviewing authorities in connexion with motor spirit retailers’ licences have not yet been promulgated, but it is expected that a decision on this matter will be made at an early date. The proceedings to which the honorable member refers are those in connexion with the acceptance of forged ration tickets. Regulation 51(1.) c of the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations makes it an offence to have forged ration tickets in one’s possession, while regulation 51 (1.) e of those regulations makes it an offence to accept or obtain possession of such tickets. By amending regulations- S.R. 1944, No. 113 - made on the recommendation of the Regulations Advisory Committee, any person charged with an offence against the former regulation can plead in defence that he believed on reasonable grounds that the tickets were genuine. This defence is not open to a person charged under regulation 51 (1.) e. Instructions have now been given that, pending consideration of the question whether the defence in question should be extended to contraventions of regulation 51 (1.) e, proceedings be not instituted for contraventions of regulation 51 (1.) e where the acts complained of amount also to a contravention of regulation 51 (1.) c.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the imperative need for Australia to be in a position, by the time the war ends, to discharge our obligations under the International Wheat Agreement. To this end it is necessary that there should be functioning a full local stabilization scheme to dovetail with international arrangements. Details of three years’ actual crops and prices are now available to show the realized net cash return to growers over the last three seasons under the Scully plan. From these figures can be very readily estimated the cash returns to growers of the working of the stabilization scheme I brought into being in November, 1940. A comparison of these two realizations shows that, had my stabilization scheme been continued during those three years, wheat-growers would have received in actual cash a sum very closely approximating what they have actually received, and, in addition, would have a stabilization fund of, roughly, £11,000,000, accumulated during those three years, to be available against future years of low prices.
The Government, this year, has eliminated1, in its dealings, with growers, the discrimination between advances to growers above and below 3,000 bushels of wheat. This decision to treat the whole crop in the same way has wiped out one of the main differences between my stabilization scheme and the Scully quota plan. It seems to me that the time lias arrived when we might put into operation the stabilization scheme that is in full accord with the International Wheat Agreement. In October, 1941, I wa3 asked to speak at an international wheat conference to outline exactly what was being done in Australia; and the consensus of opinion of the representatives of all of the great wheat-producing countries was that if that scheme were adopted the machinery would be easy to work. I draw the attention of the Government to that aspect of the matter, and suggest that this year presents an extraordinary opportunity to restore my full stabilization plan. However, I suggest ,a slight amendment of my plan which would possibly enable the Government to extricate itself from most of the difficulties it is now experiencing with growers, namely, that the guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel be increased in accordance with the increase of the price level index in the intervening period of approximately 30 per cent. In these circumstances the return to the grower would be sufficient to stimulate them to carry out their sowing and go on with their crops. I also point out that the extra money in the stabilization fund would still be available to the Government on loan for war purposes. In addition, the fund would be of great value in providing against periods of low prices which are sure to come after the war. If my stabilization scheme had been adopted last year when the crop was so low and the prices overseas were so high, we should not have witnessed the absurd spectacle of growers receiving 4d. a bushel less than they received for their wheat in 1942-43 when they had three times more wheat to sell. In order to present the details to the Government. I have prepared a comparative statement which, with the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard. I urge the Government to study these details, because the stabilization of the wheat industry may easily be one of the primary factors in the rehabilitation of Australia. The prosperity of the industry is essential not only for our internal welfare but also in order to enable us to establish overseas funds to buy goods which we cannot ourselves produce. My statement is as follows: -
Summarizing these tables, it will be seen that under the Scully quota plan 72,000 farmers have received an extra £.1,442.949 in cash over three years, or, approximately, £20 a head; but they have nothing in any stabilization fund, whereas under the original stabilization scheme they would have had nearly £11,500,000 in the stabilization fund against future bad years. The farmers’ position, in the aggregate, therefore, would have been practically £10,000,000 better if the stabilization scheme had notbeen interfered with. They would have 140 a head in the stabilization fund as against having received £20 a head extra in cash with nothing in a stabilization fund. Over the three years under the stabilization scheme, they would have been almost £1 a week better off, as against the 2s. 6d. they have received. i”h is result would have occurred with the stabilization scheme in its original form without taking into account increasing costs due to the war. Provision should now be made for a guaranteed minimum payment in accordance with the inflation that caused such an increase of general costs, equipment and wages. With this position remedied, the scheme would function with satisfaction to farmers and have at least two or three years’ continuous experience in working before the removal of war-time powers. This would assist very materially towards its continuation as a permanent part of the marketing machinery of the wheat industry. My plan would have given to the growers a very definite interest in future transactions, and a very definite equity in the stabilization fund which would have helped them, as they will inevitably need to be helped, when prices again decline. Seeing that a scheme on practically identical lines to my scheme is absolutely necessary for carrying out the international wheat scheme I urge the Government to examine the position carefully now that no discrimination applies between growers regardless of the quantity individual growers may produce. That being the case the Government is enabled to implement all of the other parts of my stabilization plan and thus bring into being a scheme which can be supported whole-heartedly by all farmers and all political parties, and enable us to establish a traditional international wheat policy which will prevent the industry from being used as a party political football.
.- Although I am tired of raising the matter of war service homes and resentful of the scowls of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost), and the howls of bis supporters, whenever I do so, I take this opportunity to do so again in the hope that the Minister will realize how acute the position is.We have had today from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) much talk about rehabilitation of service men and women after the war. The Standing Orders prevent me discussing that subject now, but that is something for the future, and already we have about 200,000 men and women who have returned from the forces to civil life. Their inability to get homes is a bar to marriage in many cases. In others, children are being reared in squalor, and families are living together in one home because they cannot get other accommodation. The provision of war service homes is of first importance. I am glad, therefore, that the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) is present, because I know the difficulties that junior Ministers have in having their requirements dealt with as against those of more important Ministers. The right honorable gentleman ought to realize that to the returned man a home is as great a need as a job. The War Service Homes Department, which was set up after the last war, was a good department. It built thousands of homes for men who returned from the last war, but, since this war began, it has built less than a score. Yet, it has a commissioner, six deputy commissioners, six architects, and a staff of about 100 men and women. That staff has produced during the whole time of this war three houses for men returned from the last war, and eleven for men returned from this war, or it may be the reverse. That is what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was told in reply to a question on notice, and I have been told the same thing. I exhort the Minister to try to ensure that something shall be done to alleviate the position. Only this week we read in the press that the Repatriation Department is to build temporary premises - only temporary buildings - at the cost of £80,000. When I asked a question about that the Minister for Repatriation became very annoyed, and said that I knew everything, or words to that effect. That is not the stand that he should take. We want information, not displays of petulance, for the people for whom we speak. The money, men and materials that will be required for the erection of a temporary administrative building would be better diverted to the erection of 80 war service homes.
– Surely there must be an administrative section.
– Yes, but the right honorable gentleman should not sidetrack me. That would be more than four times as many war service homes as have been built during this war. In answer to the right honorable gentleman, there must be administrative quarters. The Minister for Repatriation told us that the Repatriation Department had vacated its premises in St. Kilda-road in favour of the United States Army head-quarters. I do not know the subsequent events, but I do know that the United States Army has moved on.
– Then the Army took over the building:
– I should be surprised if that building could not suffice until hostilities cease. If materials can be obtained to build a structure of the kind contemplated, the Government can no longer say that materials are unobtainable for houses.
Mr.Curtin. - The same materials are not required.
– It is the same labour and some of the material is the same.
– The honorable member knows that 100,000,000 superficial feet of timber was sent out of this country for purposes which may not be disclosed, but the honorable member can guess the purpose for which it was used. The troops know the reason as well as I do.
– Yes, but, at the same time, a lot of our defence work is at an end. The war has moved on. Men and materials are available. I could name twenty builders who could get the materials and build the houses if they were allowed. I have sent numerous letters to the Department of War Organization of Industry giving the names of builders and others able to supply materials for home building, but the people who want those homes have to wait for months to learn whether they will be allowed to build. They are ordinary civilians. But returned servicemen have a special department, -which is not functioning. The War Service Homes Commission owns blocks of land in every State which are lying idle while children are growing up in overcrowded conditions. Men are returning from the forces to civilian life unhappy and discontented because they cannot get homes through the failure of the War Service Homes Commission to function. Honorable members will have read about a leading aircraftman of the Royal Australian Air Force who, after four years abroad, was so disgusted at his being unable to find a home for himself and his family that he walked the streets of Melbourne wearing a sandwich board. He is probably still doing so. It is pathetic and serious.
– Yes. It is felt with great concern in every Allied country.
– We know that, but feeling concerned and thinking about it do not get houses built. Houses could be built.
– Thinking about it may save a lot of silly criticism.
– It may save a lot of silly comment across the table. The Minister for Repatriation said yesterday that he was always “ thinking about the boys at the front “.
– The honorable member & thinking about those who have come back, not about those at the front.
– I spent five years of this war in the Royal Australian Air Force abroad or at home. I do not make any plea on that account, but I know many young men who are pressing for houses, and do not know how a huge department like the War Service Homes Department can pretend to be a department or the honorable gentleman can pretend to be the Minister in charge of War Service Homes if the War Service Homes Commission does not build houses. The position is-, indeed, serious. When we return after Easter, I shall want to hear the Minister say, “We have a definite plan, and will build houses “. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction stated to-day all the things that will happen on general demobilization. Have those who have already been demobilized to wait until then for relief? The Government has the Housing Trust, which is building houses for workers in various localities. I asked how many ex-servicemen had got houses from that trust, but I was not told. I was informed that no particulars were available, or something of that sort. If a reasonable programme of home building has not been produced by the War Service Homes Commission by the time we meet again I shall move that the whole matter be discussed. I am tired of having my constant complaints treated facetiously or not discussed in a reasonable manner. Full details should be given of the materials available in this country, the number of homes required by ex-servicemen, and what the Government intends to do to provide dwellings for ex-servicemen. I hope that what I have said will induce the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of War Service Homes to take prompt action.
– I bring to the notice of the Government the latest bureaucratic absurdity. The request made to Queensland farmers by the Acting Deputy Prices Commissioner in Queensland to supply certain information is extremely ridiculous. Farmers have been requested to supply audited balance-sheets covering seven years. The following is the letter sent to farmers by the Queensland Prices Branch on the 20th February last :-
Under the authority of regulation 17a of the National Security (Prices) Regulations, you are hereby required to furnish to me as soon as possible for examination copies, in duplicate, of the balance-sheets and supporting accounts of your business for the years 193S to 1944 both inclusive or, if balancesheets are not prepared for your business, certified copies, in duplicate, of your income tax returns and supporting statements for such period.
These documents are required for detailed analysis, and it is desired, therefore, that the detailed accounts be forwarded. The copies forwarded should be certified ,by your auditors, or, if this is not practicable, by the person responsible for the preparation of such documents.
I might add that these documents are regarded as strictly confidential, and officers handling them are hound to secrecy under regulation 11 of the National Security (Prices) Regulations.
An early reply is requested. (Signed) E. P. Bendixen,
Every one with knowledge of the difficulties through which the farmers are passing will agree that it is unreasonable to ask them to supply such- information. Under the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Prices Commissioner has all the authority he requires to check the income tax returns of farmers. Section 16 (4) of that act provides -
Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the Commissioner, Second Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner or any person thereto authorized by him from communicating any information to - ig) The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner.
Therefore, if the information is indispensable, it can be obtained from the most reliable source, namely, the Taxation Department. It is ridiculous to request farmers to furnish such information when they are working many hours overtime and enduring all kinds of disabilities. The sooner we get down to practical administration the better. This is another instance of bureaucracy run mad, and of the impractical outlook of people in whose hands power rests. The energy which is being devoted to securing this information from farmers could well be directed into more useful channels. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is carrying out a. costly .advertising campaign, some of it allegedly humorous, calling upon farmers to increase production; yet, at the same time, they are being asked .by the Acting Deputy Prices Commissioner in Queensland to supply this information, which will take considerable time to compile. I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to examine this matter, 1 and, if possible, remove hindrances such as this which serve to reduce, rather than increase, primary production.
– The honor able member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stated that the War Service Homes Commission has maintained a large staff throughout the war. The fact is that a big percentage of the staff enlisted for service in this war. Throughout the war the staff has been at the minimum that is required.
– The figure which I gave excluded members of the staff who had enlisted for w.ar service.
– I do not challenge the honorable member’s figures. So far as the building of homes is concerned, I admit that not many have been built since the Avar started. The honorable member has given the figure as approximately twenty, and that may be correct. I remind the honorable member, however, that in 1940, when a government of which he was a supporter was in power, no war service homes were built.
– Very few men had left Australia for war service at that time, and none had returned.
– War service homes were needed fas much then as now.
– How many homes were built for ex-servicemen of the last war?
– Thirty-seven thousand. The honorable member for Balaclava said also that he had not been able to obtain a very courteous reply from ‘me. I maintain that I have always given courteous replies to the representations of honorable members. The honorable member should realize that we on this side of the chamber are just as anxious as he and his colleagues are to provide war service homes. I have given every attention to the representations of honorable members opposite, some of whom have interviewed me in the presence of the Commissioner for War Service Homes. I have visited various States with the Commissioner. We visited one State, which we had been informed had sufficient material and labour to build homes, but we found that this was not the case. .Certainly weatherboard was available, but other materials and fittings including galvanized iron were not.
– Where was that?
– In Tasmania. I visited that State with the Commissioner after we had been informed that 300 war service homes could be built. Our investigations showed that not even three homes could be built. The commission is still buying land for war service homes. Recently it purchased another 100 blocks, which will be available for the construction of homes as soon as materials and man-power are available.
– Are any of the blocks in Tasmania?
– No. Some are in Western Australia, and others are in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The Commonwealth has not bought one block in Tasmania.
The trump card produced by the honorable member for Balaclava was his allegation in respect of the temporary repatriation building in Melbourne. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and I examined this matter in every possible way with a view to arranging for the building of a permanent structure, but we were informed by the Works Department that this was not possible: One of the first requests made by United States Army Head-quarters upon arrival in this country was for the building then being used by the Repatriation Department. That request was granted, and we vacated the building immediately. We then occupied temporary premises in Craig Williamsons’ Building, in Melbourne, which were not suitable in any way. In the following week we had to move to the premises of Melford Motors Proprietary Limited where we have had temporary quarters ever since. In these premises, my staff has had to work under great difficulties. I had inquiries made through the Hirings Administration with a view to securing other premises. That body searched the whole of Melbourne, but could not meet our requirements.
– ‘Certain buildings were available, but their occupation would have grossly inconvenienced a number of estimable citizens in private business.
– That is so. We could have taken over the whole of the pre- mises of Melford Motors Proprietary Limited, but that would have interferred considerably with the business of that firm and, in any case, the building was not entirely suitable for offices. We subdivided the showroom on the ground floor but the space upstairs is restricted. When I was informed that a permanent building could not be provided, I asked for temporary premises. We hope to be in our new building in a little more than six months. We must look ahead. When the war in Europe ends we shall have to be ready to undertake greatly increased activities. The original Melbourne staff when I assumed office was 250. It has now been increased to 600, and will be 800 when the war ceases. Accommodation must be provided for a large staff. The honorable member for Balaclava claims that we should remain in our present premises, and divert the building materials to be used in the construction of temporary accommodation for the provision of 80 war service homes.
– Cannot the construction of new premises wait?
– The health of employees of the commission must be considered. They have worked hard during the last three years, under difficult conditions.
– So have the men who have been away.
– Yes. We have before us now quite a number of applications for soldiers’ homes. In some instances we have prepared plans and called tenders for homes only to find that the soldiers will not accept them because the price is too high. A home which after the last war could be constructed for about £750 now costs from £1,500 to £1,600, and is built of inferior material. The honorable member is well aware that building materials are practically unprocurable, and even if the department were able to obtain a small quantity of galvanized iron and some timber, the costs would be excessive.
– In the opinion of the War Service Homes Commission, the cost of home building is grossly excessive at the present juncture.
– The department would not advise ex-servicemen to purchase homes at the present excessive ‘prices. The honorable member for Balaclava declared that if I were unable, when Parliament meets next month, to give him information about the department’s building programme, he would raise the matter in the House. He i3 perfectly at liberty to take that course, but that will not build homes. The department is most anxious to provide dwellings for exservicemen. Housing has always been a problem in Australia. Large quantities of building materials, which otherwise might have been available for the erection of homes, have been sent overseas for war purposes. While the department is most anxious to provide homes for exservicemen, we must not overlook the fact that Australian troops are still fighting and require material. They have first claim on them. My departmental officers and. I would, work day and night if our efforts could produce even five homes.
– That is the best explanation that the Minister has yet given.
– That is the position. Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Prisoners of War in Japanese custody - Report from Army authorities.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations^ - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 35.
Dean, Angus - Legal Proceedings and Circulars - Report of Board of Inquiry appointed under National Security (Inquiries) Regulations.
National Security Act - National Security (Potatoes) Regulations - Order - No. 19.
House adjourned at 4..I7 p.m. to Wednesday, the 18th April, at 3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
With reference to the statement of the Minister for the Army on the 21st July, 1944, that the sum of £80,000 had been expended by the Government on the Masonic Schools, Baulkham Hills, Sydney (occupied as a military hospital known as the 103rd General Hospital, as from the 17th February, 1942), in effecting improvements, and the further statement of the Prime Minister, made on the same day, to the effect that such expenditure was on the recommendation of the former DirectorGeneral of Medical Services (Major-General Maguire), who was now in another capacity seeking to have the premises vacated -
Is it a fact (a) that Major-General Maguire vacated, the position of DirectorGeneral of Medical Services on the 1st April, 1942 ; ( 6 ) that no expenditure on- these schools was either made or authorized while he was
Director-General; (o) that the whole of the expenditure was authorized by Army authorities since the date above-mentioned; if not, what amounts were authorized (i) before, and (ii) after that date? 2. (a) Did the Prime Minister receive a telegram complaining of extravagance and waste by the Military authorities in relation to such hospital from or on behalf of the trustees of the Masonic Schools on the 8th September, 1943; (6) as a result, did the Board of Business Administration appoint a special board of inquiry, which was to report to the Commonwealth Treasurer; (c) if so, was any such report made, what was its nature, and what action, if any, was taken on it? 3. (a) Is it a fact that the sewerage system that has been installed was put in in defiance of the public health laws of New South Wales, was not linked up with the Sydney water and sewerage system, although it could have been, but run off into a sewage farm built on private property, and, consequently, cannot under the laws of Now South Wales be used when the schools are re-occupied by the children; (6) what was the total cost of the installation of such sewerage system? 4. (a) What was the total cost involved (including damage to property) in laying down asphalt roads on these premises; (b) was the erection of the buildings such roads were intended to serve ultimately abandoned; (c) was the construction of such roads, notwithstanding this, continued; (d) what useful purpose, if any, do such roads now serve?
In view of the fact that the Burnside Homes have been returned to the Presbyterian Church, the Deaf and Dumb Institution, and St. Paul’s College, Sydney University, have been returned to their owners, why are these schools, which provide accommodation and education for 400 Masons’ orphans (many of whom are orphans of mon of the services) not returned to their owners, while large Army hospitals at Tamworth, Goulburn, and Bathurst have been closed down, or greatly reduced in capacity, and while a large camp at Prospect (less than 5 miles from the site of the schools, which has never been used and would have been suitable for the transfer of the 103rd General Hospital from Baulkham Hills) was dismantled within the last five weeks 1
What was the total cost of (a) construe Mon, (b) maintenance, and (c) dismantlement of the camp at Prospect?
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Yes. (6) It is not a fact, .(c) Mo. Commitments entered into prior to 1st April, 1942,, amounted to £12,270 and after that’ date £79,836. 2. (o) No. Two telegrams received from Major-General Maguire on this date complained of extensions being undertaken but did not mention extravagance and waste. (6) and (c) In August, 1943, the Business Board examined a proposal by the Army that the property be acquired by the Commonwealth. The board advised against acquisition and recommended that the property be retained for use by the Army until such time as it was possible to obtain other suitable accommodation without undue expenditure of materials and man-power. Arrangements are being made for the matter to be further examined in the light of existing conditions. 3. (a) No. Plans for the sewerage system were prepared by the Public Works Department o£ New South Wales and endorsed by the New South Wales Department of Public Health. The cost of connecting the home to the Sydney sewerage system would have been £50,000. There is no reason to doubt that the local government authorities would grant an application for the sewerage system to be used by the school authorities. Although the construction work carried out for the Army was exempt from Local Government Regulations, care was ‘ exercised to ensure that the installation conformed to the requirements ot the Public Health Department of New South Wales. (6) Total cost was £23,000 of which approximately £10,000 was for the treatment plant. 4. (a) Cost of roads was £2,150. No assessment of cost of damage to property, if any, has yet been made. This normally is done when property is returned to owner. (6) No, hut owing to the favorable trend of the war, the number of buildings contemplated was modified, (c) Roads were constructed at same time as buildings, (d) The roads now serve annexes in use, various, administrative buildings, the Red Cross and recreation buildings.
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War Service Homes.
t.- On the 21st March, 1945, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) addressed the following question to me : -
I ask the Minister for War Service Homes whether it is correct that a number of war widows have been informed by his department that their application for war service homes cannot be considered because the. department does not believe that they are able to assume the instalment obligations? If that is so, docs he consider it other than a reflection on Australia that war widows should be in that sub-economic condition? Will he take steps to ensure that the department shall accept some moiety of financial risk in respect of people who have taken very much greater risks?
My reply was as follows : -
I am not aware whether that is true, but Ishall have inquiries made, and supply the honorable gentleman with an answer.
I now desire to inform the honorable gentleman that I have examined the matter and have made inquiry. This discloses that the provisions of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1941 place the commission in a fiduciary capacity and, in establishing the eligibility of applicants for loans, it is required to be satisfied, before granting assistance, that such persons have a reasonable prospect of carrying out the terms and conditions of the contract of sale or mortgage in respect of the loan into which those persons are desirous of entering.
The provisions of the act permit loans being made to widows and widowed mothers over a repayment term not exceeding 50 years and, consequently, monthly repayment instalments are on a correspondingly liberal basis. Notwithstanding this, it is inevitable that some applications must be declined where the income is regarded as insufficient to reasonably meet outgoings for instalments, rates and taxes, insurance and maintenance of the dwelling, as wellas ordinary living expenses. The Commissioner informs me that in a few instances applications have been declined because of applicants being unable to satisfy this requirement. However, the commission is prepared in every case to review the decision should an applicant’s financial position change.
Regarding the latter portion of the question, it is mentioned that apart from the question of risk as regards the ability of the applicant to meat outgoings referred to, the commission is required by the act to be satisfied that the proposal regarding which the loan is required represents in every case a reasonable security from a risk viewpoint. It will be seen, therefore, that the act only permits the commission to accept a reasonable risk in proposals for the granting of loans submitted to it, and cannot accept risks regarding fulfilment of obligations by applicants, or security proposals other than those which are regarded by it as reasonable.
As to the further question whether I consider it a reflection on Australia that war widows should be in such a subeconomic position as to be not able financially to undertake obligations such as those attaching to loans permissible under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act for the purpose of acquiring or erecting dwellings, I can only say that it is to be regretted that such a position exists, but I point out that widows of deceased Australian soldiers are covered by the act irrespective of whether their husbands’ decease was attributable to war service or otherwise. The question of providing sufficient income for widows generally to a degree which would permit them to undertake the obligations of home purchase would appear to be one which comes within government policy on social service amenities rather than within the provisions of the War Service Homes Act.
l. - Last week the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question concerning the reduced frequency of mail services.
I am advised by my colleague, the Postmaster-General, that the Post Office has not taken any steps to reduce the frequency of mail services in country districts, nor is there any intention of doing so. In certain isolated instances^ due to causes beyond the control of the department, it has been necessary to make some curtailment in the existing frequency respecting the exchange of mails.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
y. - On the 28th February the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Kew England (Mt. Abbott) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Did the method adopted by the Prices Commissioner, and approved by the Price Stabilization Committee for estimating the amount of subsidy required by milkproducers to the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Newcastle, involve any errors nf calculation or departure from normal practice under the price stabilization plan that would cause the Ministers to make « decision as tn the amount pf subsidy that would differentiate against these producers ?
Mir. Abbott asked the Prime Minister, upon notice
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No. 2. (o.) No. The then Acting Prime Minister undertook to ask the Treasurer to appoint a competent treasury officer to have the matter further investigated.
I have submitted to the former Commonwealth Statistician, Professor L. F. Giblin, the following question: -
Did the method adapted by the Prices Commissioner, and approved by the Price Stabilization Committee for estimating the amount of subsidy required by milkproducers to the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Newcastle, involve any errors of calculation or departure from normal practice under the price stabilization plan that would cause the Ministers to make a decision ns to the amount of subsidy that would differentiate against these producers?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450323_reps_17_181/>.