17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Re-allocation of Ministerial Duties.
– by leave - I inform the House that, owing to the illness of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and in the absence from Australia of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production (Mr. Makin) will, from to-morrow, the 9th May, act as Minister for External Affairs.
. -by leave - I inform the House that advice has been received that the surrender of all German forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force and the Soviet High Command was signed at 1.41 a.m. European time, on Monday, the 7th May, 1945, by representatives of the German High Command and General Eisenhower and General Susloterov. The surrender will be effective as from midnight, European time, Tuesday, the 8th May, 1945.
At the equivalent of 11 o’clock Eastern Australian standard time, to-night, a full announcement will be made simultaneously in the capital cities of the United Nations.
So that the people of Australia may hear the broadcast by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, at that hour, it is proposed to delay slightly the announcement in this chamber. I propose asking you, Mr. Speaker, to suspend the sitting of the House at a suitable time to-night so that honorable members may hear Mr. Churchill’s statement. The bells then can be rung to summon honorable members to hear an announcement by the Commonwealth Government and speeches by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). These speeches will be broadcast to the people of Australia direct from this chamber.
– After the announcement had been made that all hotels in Australia would close on the day set aside for the V-E holiday, the news has been published that in New Zealand and Great Britain hotels are to remain open on that day.Will the Acting Prime Minister say on whose suggestion it was decided to close the hotels in Australia?
– In a statement on the 1st May I said that the decision had been reached by the Premiers Conference. The matter was raised by the Premier of Queensland at a conference in October, 1944. I understand that he had been asked for instructions by the Commissioner of Police in his State. The conference decided that the hotels should he closed on surrender day, as soon as possible after the news was received. For this purpose, the day following the proclamation of the cessation of hostilitiesin Europe is regarded as the victory holiday. It was decided that the period for which the hotels would remain closed would depend largely upon the hour at which the news was received.
– I present the seventh report of the Broadcasting Committee, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service been approached on behalf of the paper bag manufacturers who make paper bags for the cement companies of Australia? Many urgent works are being held up because of a shortage of these paper bags.
– I have not yet been approached on this matter. If the honorable member can furnish to me information that will enable me to give assistance in the direction sought, I shall place it before the officials of my department.
Case of Sergeant Lowerson, V.C
– Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation been drawn to the statement published in last week’s MelbourneTruth that Sergeant Lowerson, a V.C. of the last war, and a soldier in this war, had been removed from the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital on Anzac Day, and had been placed in a public hospital, on the ground that his ailment had been diagnosed as not being due to war service? Is the Minister aware that in this article it is stated that unnaturalized aliens, unable even to speak our language, are in the same repatriation hospital receiving full benefits, such as pensions and free treatment, because of their compulsory service in some labour corps? If these statements are true, will the Minister take steps to have aliens treated under some other regulation or act, : and thus save Australian people much distress and humiliation?
– I have not seen the article referred to, and I do not give much credence to the statement that unnaturalized aliens are being treated at this hospital. As a matter of fact, we have had a great deal of difficulty in getting staff for the hospital, and sonic wards have been closed down for that reason. However, I shall look into the matter.
Reported Resignation of Officers - Return of Overseas Personnel - Report by Air Vice-Marshal Jones.
-Can the Minister for Ai r say whether it is a fact that certain distinguished members of fighter commands in the Royal Australian Air Force, including Group-Cap tain Caldwell, Wing-Commanders Gibbes, Arthur and Waddy haveeither resigned or have sent in their resignations? If so, can the Minister give any reason for this action ?
– A similar question was asked ofme last week. I am not aware that any officer of the Royal Australian Air Force has the right to resign from the service while a state of war exists. Sonic discussions have taken place on matters concerning themselves, at the advanced station where these men are located, and certain statements have been made which are at present being investigated. I am not able to give any further information at the present time, but I can assure the honorable member that whatever has been said or done is being investigated, and the matter will be followed through until it is cleared up.
– Will the Minister for Air inform the House approximately what number of Australian airmen are serving in the European and Mediterranean theatres of war? Will he now, or later, announce what plans have been made by the Government for their speedy return to Australia?
– There are between 13,000 and 15,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force, including ground crews, overseas. Plans are being prepared now for their return to Australia, but how these can be carried out will depend largely upon the availability of ships. A great demand on shipping will he made immediately for the purpose of transporting essential troops from the European theatre to the Far Eastern theatre of war. I assume that first priority will be given in that connexion. However, the honorable member may rest assured that everything that can be done will be done to enable our airmen, who have rendered such magnificent service overseas, to return to this country as early as possible.
– On several occasions, I have asked the Minister for Air to lay on the table of the House any report he had received from Air Vice-Marshal Jones, who recently, in Adelaide, made statements concerning the difficulties and inefficiency of the Royal Australian Air Force. The honorable gentleman informed me recently that he had received a report from this officer, and was considering it. As the matter is of consequence to the whole of the people of Australia, will he now state whether or not he has completed the consideration of it, and is prepared to lay it on the table of the House?
– I have given consideration to this report, but do not propose to lay it on the table of the House.
– The press report of the statement by Air Vice-Marshal Jones placed on it a construction which, in my opinion, was not intended. In his report to me, that officer has given an explanation with which I am satisfied, and I do not consider that it is necessary to lay the report on the table of the House.
Blood Transfusion Pump - Long Service Personnel - Supplies of Canned Foods
– Has the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army seen a recent press reference to a blood pump for transfusion purposes which was invented by Dr. Julian Smith, jun., of Melbourne. In view of the reported success attending its use at Tarakan by a doctor who had privately purchased one of the pumps, will the Minister have inquiries made regarding its efficacy, with a view to having this pump made a part of the regular equipment for the Army if it is found suitable for the purpose?
– I have seen some reference to that matter in the press. I will ask the Acting Minister for the Army to make inquiries.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister take up with the Commander-in-Chief the question of granting either long-term leave or discharge from the service to men who have served for five years or more, or are suffering from the effects of their service ?
– This matter was raised recently. The assurance was then given that it was receiving close consideration. I repeat that assurance.
– I am credibly informed that the Army Supply Department in Victoria is issuing to the Royal Australian Air Force in large quantities canned meats and vegetables, in lieu of the ordinary ration, accompanied by the request that none of it should be returned. This canned food is crated. Will the Minister see that surplus canned foods in army stocks in Australia shall not be scrapped, as they are being to-day, but shall be ear-marked for export to Great Britain or to liberated countries?
– If the policy stated by the honorable member is being pursued, I regard it. as rather strange. The matter doubtless concerns the Army primarily, but the Department of Commerce also has some connexion with it.
– The supervision exercised by the Army is most meticulous.
– If the honorable member can furnish details, I shall have the matter investigated this afternoon, because the policy is not one which, in my opinion, should be pursued.
– Did the Acting Attorney-General see in the Sunday Sun of the 6th May the following article: -
MISCHIEVOUS SABOTEURS ACTIVE.
Abundant evidence existed that Australia was approaching a condition in industrial relationships verging on chaos, said Industrial
Commission President, Mr. Justice Taylor, last night. Numerous petty, stupid and mischievous strikes, he declared, were a clear indication of this position.
Workers should guard against mischievous saboteurs who would plunge the community into discord.
Mr. Justice Taylor contended that these saboteurs were acting with complete recklessness and for a purely personal and petty cause. This mischievous and stupid policy-
-Order! I think the honorable member has quoted enough to make his question clear, and that is all he is entitled to do.
– Will the Acting Attorney-General order an immediate investigation of the activities of the saboteurs and take action to curb them?
– I read the statement. The department has an organization which furnishes weekly reports on these matters. It is fully aware of most of what is happening. I assure the honorable gentleman that at the appropriate stage, if circumstances warrant it, necessary action will be taken.
May Day Holiday
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether (1) 4,000 employees in heavy industries at Port Kembla were absent from work yesterday to celebrate May Day; (2) whether Judge Cantor of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales declared last Friday that the failure of the men to attend work yesterday would be a breach of their award and of Commonwealth law; (3) whether a special order was issued last night by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, preventing the South Coast industrial firms from carrying out threats to suspend the men; (4) whether the Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Funnell, advised those firms that any suspensions that they made would not be upheld by the department? If so, will the Minister inform the House of the reasons for the action taken last night and why the absentees have not been dealt with according to law?
– I know that a number of men took a holiday on May Day, butnot whether they numbered 4,000. I also know that that lost us quite enough working time. Not wanting more loss we took action to ensure the attendance of every one at work today and every one is at work. Whatever further action may be necessary will be taken.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Solicitor-General issued an instruction that the firms which proposed to take disciplinary action against some of the 4,000 employees at Port Kembla who absented themselves from work yesterday were not to do so, will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether or not it has become a part of the policy of the Government to conduct an appeasement campaign in order to induce men to work, rather than to assist firms in their endeavours to uphold the law ? ‘
– -I cannot understand the question, although the honorable gentleman has twice asked it. If the Attorney-General’s Department issued an order which resulted in men returning to work and the employers opening their establishments, what objection can be raised? .Surely that should meet the desire of the honorable gentleman! It certainly is what the Government wanted.
– Even though there has been a violation of the law of the country 1
– In my view, there has not been a violation of the law of the country. But if there were, the employers must have been a party to it, because they complied with the order that their establishments should be opened and that the men should return to work.
– Has the Treasurer seen a misleading statement–
– Order ! Leave out “ misleading “. Comment must not he introduced in questions.
– In the Melbourne Herald on Saturday night the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have made the following statement: -
Servicemen who owned homes, possession of which they could not regain, were being penalized by existing income tax provisions.
Men who had been discharged, and were receiving rent from their own homes were charged heavily on this income, although they were paying rent for other accommodation.
The position could be illustrated in this way: -
A serviceman, on enlistment, let his home for £100 a year. On discharge, he was unable to regain possession, and temporarily obtained other accommodation, for which he paid £100 a year. Under the present system the £100 he received in rent was added to his income, and, if he was earning £000 a year, he paid between £30 and £40 additional taxation for only one reason - that he enlisted in a service and as a result let his home.
Is it not a fact that returned servicemen can regain possession of their, homes under certain conditions?
– I did not see the newspaper article.
– But the Acting Prime Minister heard me refer to the subject during the debate.
– I intended to mention that. My notice has been directed to the fact that the article appeared in the press. During the debate, I heard the Leader of the Opposition refer to this subject, but I do not remember his exact words. The position is that if a serviceman has leased his home to a tenant for a. period, he may not regain possession of it until the expiration of the time. Under certain conditions, an exserviceman may regain possession of his dwelling, and I shall have a complete answer prepared explaining his rights.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received any reports regarding the extent of Communist control of key unions, and the efforts which are being made :by the Communist party to gain control of unions in which, at present, they have not a majority of office bearers? If so, do those reports indicate the extent to which Communist activity is responsible for stoppages in various industries? Will the Minister lay the reports on the table of the House?
– Only about 1 per cent, of the working-class population of Australia may be rightly described as Communists. I have not received any reports regarding their activities, and, therefore, I am not able to take action thereon.
– Last Tuesday, the
Acting Prime Minister undertook to ask the Acting Attorney-General to prepare a statement about the national security regulation which provides that aliens with good records, who have served in labour corps, shall in future be granted nationalization free of charge and setting out the Government’s policy generally in relation to aliens. Has that statement yet been prepared, and is the honorable gentleman yet in a position to make an announcement on the subject?
– I regret that the statement has not yet been prepared, but the matter is receiving attention, and I shall make the information available to the right honorable gentleman as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that British ships damaged in operations off the Ryukyu islands, near Japan, which were on their way to Sydney for repair have been diverted because of strikes that are taking place among the dock workers in Sydney? If this is correct, will the honorable gentleman say what steps are being taken in connexion with such workers in order to ensure that warships of the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy shall not be prevented from being repaired in the dockyards of Sydney?
– I have no knowledge of British warships requiring repair in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member, but I believe that certain ships belonging to the Fleet train need attention, for I have received requests from British authorities on that point. Steps were taken to deal with the matter, which involved members of the Shipjoiners Union who were engaged in a dispute in Sydney. Fortunately, the difficulty was overcome. I am not able to inform the honorable member of the exact position at present. The Minister for the Navy is, at the moment, in consultation with British representatives on this and other matters.
– Will the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether Mr. Ifould, Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry, in Sydney, has resigned his position? If so, is a more liberal policy likely tobe adopted in connexion with the granting of permits for the building of working class homes, costing up to £500? If not, why not?
- Mr. Ifould is relinquishing the position of Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry in Sydney. He accepted the position at a time when it was most difficult to obtain officers with the necessary administrative experience for such work. He has given excellent service to the Commonwealth, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the efficiency with which he has administered the branch of the department under his control. Relaxation of the regulations in regard to the granting of permits to build houses is very closely related to the availability of man-power and materials. If more man-power can be found for the building industry, and if more building materials become available, my department will be able gradually to increase the number of permits.
Absence of Industrial Trouble
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a press paragraph at the week-end which, quoting from Common Cause, the official journal of the coal miners, stated that the co-operation betweenmanager and worker which largely exists on the Broken Hill mine-fields should be an example to coal-mine owners and miners throughout Australia, adding that the Barrier had lost none of its militancy through this co-operation but that a valuable roundtable conference understanding had developed, to the mutual interest of the parties? In view of the widespread industrial troubles which persist elsewhere, will the Minister undertake to have an examination made of the immediate factors which have operated to establish the satisfactory position that is said to obtain at Broken Hill?
– I have not seen the press report referred to, but I know of the magnificent efforts which the workers of Broken Hill have made during the war, and agree that they have not lost any of their militancy. The round-table conference method having been so successful at Broken Hill, there is no reason why it should not be adopted elsewhere. I shall discuss the matter with the appropriate Ministers, in order to learn whether or not it can be introduced on the coal-fields.
– Does the statement made last week by the Acting Minister for External Affairs, that the proposals drawn up at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco will not be binding on Australia until final approval of them has been given by the Government, mean that, as in the case of the so-called Anzac Pact, the Parliament will not be given an opportunity to express an opinion before decisions of vital concern to Australia have been made?
– I made it clear last week that the Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss major decisions in which Australia is involved. I have no doubt that when the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) return to this country, arrangements will be made for a discussion of major matters by the Parliament. At the conference, many points arise on which a decision must be made immediately, but these would not affect the general world security plan. As the matter is of international importance, the Government will provide an opportunity for a debate on it.
Replies by Ministers.
– Recently, the Minis ter for the Interior refused to furnish information relating to the use of government motor cars, for which I had asked in a question upon notice, on the ground that its preparation would involve considerable work and overtime. Last Thursday, the Minister for the Navy refused to give information regarding comparative shipbuilding costs, in reply to a question upon notice, on the ground that it was not intended that invidious comparisons should be made with overseas countries. As technical answers of this description invariably are compiled by departmental officers, I ask you, Mr. Speaker: Should not this House, rather than a departmental bureaucrat, decide whether or not the information sought is invidious in nature or is too difficult to compile? Is there any standing order under which the Ministers concerned can be compelled to answer these questions? If not, will you refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee, with a view to the promulgation of such a standing order ?
– I pointed out recently that whilst an honorable member is entitled to ask any question permitted by the Standing Orders, a Minister is not compelled to furnish an answer. I do not profess acquaintance with the routine followed by Ministers in the preparation of answers to questions. I state quite definitely, however, that a Minister is not obliged to answer a question, and to press for an answer would be quite out of order.
– From time to time in recent months, the Government has stated that it is proposed to make a review of the man-power position in June. I now ask the Acting Prime Minister whether any date has yet been fixed for this purpose? Does he believe that the cessation of hostilities in Europe will enable it to be made earlier than was previously planned?
– It has been made clear by the Prime Minister in a number of answers to questions that, having regard to changed circumstances, and to the role which the Australian forces are to play in the war, a review of the manpower position, as it affects those in the services, will be made. That will be done as soon as circumstances make it possible. I am unable to say whether the events in Europe will immediately affect the situation.
Mr.holt. - Has any date in June been fixed?
– The date will depend upon circumstances relating to the war in the Pacific as well as the war in Europe. Certain agreements were reached regarding what was to be done, and as matters develop it will be made clear how soon the review can he made.
Debate resumed from the 22nd March (vide page 828), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to repeal the Motor Vehicles Engine Bounty Act of 1939, and the Motor Vehicles Agreement Act of 1940. Honorable members will recall the act of 1940 because it gave rise to a very considerable debate in this Parliament at the time. Its purpose was to approve of the execution of an agreement between the Government and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited with respect to the manufacture of motor vehicles, and for other purposes. I recall to the memory of honorable members that the schedule of that act did not take the form of an agreement, but set out a series of undertakings, some given by the company and some by the Commonwealth; or rather, in the case of the Commonwealth, they were called assurances, not undertakings. Section 3 of the act states -
The execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement to give effect to the matters specified in the schedule to this act, between the Commonwealth and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, hereinafter referred to as “ the Company “, is hereby authorized.
It now appears that no agreement was thereafter, in fact, executed. It has been said in some quarters that that fact is indicative of indifference on the part of the company, but I say, in justice to the company, that the managing director, who had been the negotiating person during the discussions leading up to the passing of the act, very shortly afterwards became involved in a full-time munitions undertaking. A very few days after the act was passed France collapsed, the munitions department here in Australia was re-organized, Mr. Essington Lewis was appointed DirectorGeneral with wide powers, and the chairman of Australian Consolidated Industries became a director. The Motor Vehicles Engine Bounty Act, passed in 1939 is the statute under which funds were raised and provision made for the payment of a bounty on engines. I would have had very little to say on this bill had it not been for the speech delivered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). Some weeks ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) introduced the bill and moved that it be read a second time. It provides for the clearing of the ground by repealing existing legislation so that new proposals may be considered. It also provides that -
Any right or claim which Australian Consolidated Industries Limited may have against the Commonwealth shall not be affected by the repeal effected by the last preceding section, and any such right or claim may be enforced by action or otherwise as if this act had not been passed.
The war has passed through many intense phases since May of 1940. The whole manufacturing position in Australia has changed. Secondary industry has developed and has been remarkably intensified in many ways. We have successfully attacked the problem of the manufacture of aeroplane engines of various types. Consequently, it would be difficult to oppose the passage of a bill designed to clear the ground for a complete reconsideration of the problem of motor vehicles manufactured in Australia. Insofar as Australian Consolidated Industries Limited is concerned, there should be a proper protection of any legitimate claim which the company may have. I do not necessarily mean a claim legally enforceable by proceedings in the courts. I would include a claim which, in the opinion of the administration, is a sound moral claim for some compensation for moneys laid out. After all, the company, although it is a very large concern with many ramifications, and engaged in a variety of manufactures, was, in May of 1940, the only company in Australia which was prepared with a proposition for the manufacture of motor vehicles. It was the only company at that time which was prepared to invest capital in the setting up of what was then regarded as -a new and somewhat speculative undertaking. ‘Consequently, if it has legal or moral claims, they should not be lightly set aside. The bill before us recognizes this - how far, I am not too sure. The bill says that “ any right or claim which Australian Consolidated Industries Limited may have against the Commonwealth shall not be affected “. I am not clear whether that was designed by the draftsman to include moral rights or claims, although I am certain that if it came to mere interpretation of the words it would apply only to legal claims. But the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) thought fit to adopt a very unusual course in this debate. The second reading had been moved by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and I had secured the adjournment of the debate, or some one on this side had secured it for me; but, before any speech had been made from this side, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction intervened with a speech which must be regarded as a supplementary second-reading speech. At its finish he made some remarks which so utterly misrepresent the former government and seek to make such political capital of that misrepresentation that it becomes necessary for me to remind the House of the true course of events. In the course of his speech the Minister-
– What Minister?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who, perhaps for this purpose, can be regarded as the honorable member for Corio. In his speech he said -
In proceeding with its plans to establish the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia the Government has been confronted with a serious obstacle which it inherited from a former administration. I refer to the Motor Vehicles Agreement Act 1940. which grants a monopoly to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited.
Later he developed his view that there should be no monopoly except a government one. The House will recall that ho was very interesting on that point. He began to develop a most attractive argument, I thought, in the course of his speech in favour of competition. The last thing he wanted was something which excluded the benefits of competition, and in my normal charity of mind, feeling that that might embroil him with the members of caucus, I gave him his way out. He then said that he was against monopoly unless it was government monopoly. That put him right back into favour with caucus, because that is one of the things on which, I understand, members of the caucus’ do agree. Then he went on to say about the act of 1940 -
Needless to say, I believe that this negative approach was fundamentally unsound - so unsound indeed as to jeopardize its prospects from the start. Perhaps that was the intention; I do not know.
That was a strange allegation to make against his predecessors who had embarrassed him with their legislation. Then, astonishingly enough, he went on to say that the present Government proposed to establish this important industry - I now quote his words - not as a claimant on the public revenue, but as a self -reliant unit of Australian enterprise.
Whether that means that there is to be no bounty upon production or no protective tariff to guard that production is left to the imagination. Then he went on to quote in substance from the report of the Secondary Industries Commission. The House is becoming a little weary of ministerial methods of quoting from these reports. We have had two or three experiences. The Acting Prime Minister will recall, with his usual pleasure, I am sure, the occasion on which the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) - I must get the order of precedence right - was referring one day to the report of the interdepartmental committee on interstate air lines. An honorable member, I think the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), said, “I require production of the document “, whereupon the Deputy Prime Minister said, “ It is confidential and I am not bound to produce it “. Then he proceeded to quote bits of it. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction did not want to be a mere copier of the technique of the Deputy Prime Minister, and, when asked to produce the report, because it would obviously be of great value to this House, he said that he would consider the request, which he noted as a matter of substance. I thought from the way he said it that he would consider the request sympathetically,but, whatever consideration he has given, so far he has not produced the report.
– It is a wonder he answered.
– He did, and I almost had the impression that the rights of members were at last to be recognized and that reports quoted by Ministers would be made available to those who have to consider legislation; but unfortunately we have not the report of the Secondary Industries Commission before us, if, indeed, there is a report. Hitherto I have viewed that in the Minister’s favour. The Secondary Industries Commission appears to be superseding the Tariff Board, which I regard as a retrograde step, because the Tariff Board has an established position, prestige and authority in this country which we should not lose. Having mentioned these matters, I now make one or two comments on them. First, as to whether the Motor Vehicles Agreement Act of 1940 is an embarrassment to the present Government, which inherited it from its predecessors, what are the facts? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has conveniently forgotten that, although he won his seat at aby-election, at which, for obvious electoral reasons, he became the advocate of theFord company at Geelong, and was here as a critic of the proposal to establish the complete manufacture of an Australian car by another company, his party, immediately after he arrived in this House, supported the main principles of the bill and confined its real criticism to the allegation that the heads of agreement then before the House would give rise to a monopoly. That was the one ground of the Labour party’s criticism. There was criticism of the bill on my side of the Parliament, but it was on entirely different grounds. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the 31st May, 1940, moved an amendment to give effect to the then Opposition’s view. The principle portion of the amendment was this -
That the Commonwealth will pay bounty in accordance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Engine Bounty Act 1939 and that, in the event of more than one Australian com pany being established for the purpose of manufacturing motor vehicle engines and becoming eligible to receive payment of bounty under that act, the Commonwealth will review the relevant provisions of that act with a view to ensuring that the proposed company will be provided with the opportunity of obtaining payment of bounty on engines manufactured by it for the numbers specified in and at rates in accordance with the provisions of section eight of that act.
In other words, an amendment was moved contemplating more than one company as a claimant to the bounty, and the then Leader of the Opposition, explaining his amendment, said -
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that other Australian companies which may be formed and which seek to engage in the manufacture of motor vehicle engines shall not be precluded from doing so, but will be given an opportunity, if they feel disposed to embark on the enterprise, to compete for the supply to the Australian public of motor vehicle engines to be manufactured in Australia.
So far, the House will see that there is a statement of an amendment and a case against a monopoly and in favour of letting other companies into the field. The then Leader of the Opposition proceeded -
The amendment will carry out the general purport of the objection which the Opposition had to the original agreement. It ensures that there will be open to Australian enterprise an opportunity to compete, if it so desires, even against Australian Consolidated Industries Limited in the manufacture of motor vehicle engines. I have only to say that the Opposition has always been in favour of the establishment of this industry. It has a stronger conviction now than ever that in this time of dire national crisis we cannot do all that is required of us unless we do something to establish this industry in Australia forthwith.
Words could not be clearer. The then Leader of theOpposition moved an amendment which, he said, removed the Labour party’s objection to the legislation. In submitting that amendment, he explained that if it were accepted, the Labour party’s objection to the bill would cease and that it would welcome the establishment of the industry on those terms. Very well ! I myself was in charge of the bill, and I accepted the amendment.
– Naughty, naughty.
– It was naughty. It has acutely embarrassed the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The amendmentwas agreed to, and the bill was passed with the approval of the
Labour party. But it did not stop there It is noticeable that the only honorable members who at any stage voted for the postponement of the measure or for its rejection on the second reading were certain members of the United Country party and the United Australia party at that time, and the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. He was the only member of the Labour party to vote against the bill. Although he withheld his approval of the bill which was finally fashioned by an amendment proceeding from the Labour party, he now has the gall to say that his colleagues have found a serious obstacle, which they had inherited from a former administration.
– Nevertheless that statement is true.
– Everybody will share the hope of the Government that the prospects are bright for the establishment of the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country after the war on a basis which will involve real development and will not place an undue burden on the users of motor vehicles. I confess to some disturbance at the implications of the Minister’s statement that the industry is not to be a claimant on the public revenue. If that statement means that there is to be no tariff protection or bounty, it is the Minister’s plain duty to put before the House something that has not been disclosed to honorable members, namely, an objective statement of the facts which would lead to the conclusion that this industry, with three or four manufacturers as we are now told, can be established without protection, and will develop, and place no undue burden on the users of motor transport. If, on the other hand, the statement means that the bounty system is to be abandoned and a tariff system substituted for it, the Minister again should tell us the objective facts, so that we may know what costs, if any, will be imposed, as the result, of such tariff, upon those who will use motor vehicles made in this country. In a matter of this kind, the great advantage of the bounty system - and apparently it is now proposed to repeal it - was that it did not lead to a general increase of the imported cost of vehicles. In the post-war period, the cost of transport will be of such immense importance, especially to primary production, that we are concerned with the method by which government assistance is to be given. There was great merit in the bounty method. If it is to be abolished, and we are committed to a tariff of some unknown level, we may find that, in establishing a motor car industry, we have loaded up the cost of transport in a country in which cheap transport will be of the first importance. On these matters, the speech made by the Minister was silent. I do not mention these facts at this stagg because I can give answers to them. I can only express the hope that when some concrete proposals have not only been made but also accepted - I do not refer to some vague exchange of correspondence that has been put before the House - this Parliament will have the opportunity to consider them on their merits and to examine with great care any legislative action that may be taken in relation to them.
The only other matter to which I desire to refer, is the protection of the rights, if any, of a company. If honorable members care to investigate the history of this proposal, including the steps leading to the introduction of the bill in 1940, they will find the facts in my second-reading speech on the 22nd May, 1940. There they will see an account of the attempts which had been made for some years before the war to induce motor car manufacturers to come forward with specific proposals. One or two of my then colleagues will remember very vividly how attempts were made in Great Britain to interest British motor car manufacturers. “We know also that attempts were made to interest certain overseas American firms in this country - the Ford Motor Company of Australia and General Motors-Holdens Limited - and we remember very clearly that the two companies which are now meritoriously associated with propositions to manufacture motor vehicles in Australia, knew all the reasons in the world in 1939 and 1940 why the job just could not be done. In that condition of affairs, when the Parliament of the Commonwealth was, by an overwhelming majority, in favour of establishing the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia, the one company which came forward with a specific proposition, which it obviously had enough strength to carry through, was Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. 1 am not in the least concerned to make some personal plea for the managing-director of that company, whose name was prominently associated with the matter at that time, or for the company itself.
– There is nothing wrong with him.
– I know nothing wrong with him, but I am not concerned with that aspect. I emphasize that this company was the only one, at that time, which put itself into a position of satisfying what was the general demand in this Parliament for the manufacture of a motor vehicle, and as the result of correspondence which took place between the managing-director of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson), a general arrangement was made. I am not here to discuss whether it was a legal agreement or not. All I know is that the parties to the discussion found themselves sufficiently in agreement regarding what was to be done, to induce the managing-director of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited to go to America and investigate the possibility of buying plant. Undoubtedly, whatever was done by the company in those months was done in the belief either that an agreement had been made or that an agreement would be made; and that the broad outline of any such agreement was not in dispute. In these circumstances, I suggest most earnestly that the Government should not take an und’uly legalistic view of the subject. I do not say that vast sums of money arc owing to the company. I do not know what sum may be thought to be fair compensation. I do not know whether, morally, a claim can or cannot be made. But I believe that if it became apparent, upon investigation, that this company had incurred certain expenditure the value of which was, in effect, lost, because of the failure to proceed with the project on which it had emharked on the strength of even a tacit agreement, the Government should acknowledge the fact. If I were still head of the Government, I would consider that an unanswerable moral obligation rested upon the Government to compensate the company in some way for its outlay. I am sure that it would be in accord with the general sentiment of honorable members that the Government should deal fairly with any reasonable claim made by a company which was sufficiently enterprising and sufficiently willing to undertake risks in order to embark upon a new manufacturing venture to which it. had committed itself, at least morally. I emphasize that, having regard to events which have occurred since then, and to the change that has come about in regard to manufacturing, it is wise to clear the ground so that a fresh start may be made, but the Government should not put itself in the position of clearing the ground for a national purpose in such a way as to inflict injustice on a body of men whose only offence, if indeed there be any offence, was that they were prepared to undertake this task at the time they did undertake it.
.- The history of the motor vehicle bounty legislation of this country goes back some years and it is well that the minds of honorable members should be refreshed in regard to it, so that the background of this subject may be correctly understood. The late Sir Henry Gullett was responsible for the original proposal that the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country should be encouraged by means of a special tax on imported chassis. The responsibility for the introduction of the legislation was mine, while I was Minister for Trade and Customs. Difficulties which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has referred to were encountered later in connexion with the project. At that time, 1937, various components of motor vehicles were being manufactured in Australia, and only a narrow gulf had to be bridged, in order to make possible the construction of the complete motor vehicle. Motor bodies, tyres, batteries, spark plugs and’ many engine accessories were being produced in Australia under tariff protection, the whole of which were under constant review by the Tariff Board so that the business should bc kept on an economic basis. The amount of tax paid under the legislation to which the honorable member referred must have aggregated some millions of pounds, which, I suppose, was finally swallowed up in general revenue.
In 1938, I was authorized by the Government to explore, while I was in Great Britain, the possibilities of British manufacturers of motor vehicles establishing works in this country. I approached Lord Nuffield, with whom I had already had talks in Australia, but, although that great philanthropist and Empire citizen was sympathetic, and desired to do whatever he could to create additional employment in Australia, apart altogether from the profit motive, he was not disposed, at that time, to take any action in the matter. General Motors Limited, the manufacturers of the British Vauxhall cars, the Ford Manufacturing Company, and the Rootes organization, which manufactured the Humber, Hillman, Sunbeam and Rolls Royce cars, promised to send experts to Australia to investigate the position, and that was done at a later date. However, nothing substantial eventuated. Various proposals which had been advanced in Australia were investigated by the Government, but none was sufficiently substantial to warrant acceptance. I was authorized by the Government to keep the offer open until March, 1939, in the hope that by that time some acceptable proposition would be forthcoming.
I was not a member of the Government during the negotiations to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred and I cannot say from personal knowledge what happened. General MotorsHoldens Limited, and the Ford Motor Manufacturing Company of Australia, which were operating in this country at that time, were not interested in the project sufficiently to take effective action, but the proposal advanced by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited was apparently considered by the Menzies Government to be sufficiently attractive to act upon. I opposed the project because I feared that it would lead to the establishment of a monopoly in motor-vehicle manufacture in Australia. I do not favour monopolies and I desired the whole subject to be investigated by the Tariff Board. The worst kind of monopoly is, of course, a government monopoly. I should hate to think that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who had spoken his piece to suit the great motor manufacturing industry in his electorate, and had voted in a certain way in 1939, would now change his views.
– That is most unkind !
– I am merely referring to certain remarks by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction would regard it as unkind of me to say that he is a sincere Socialist, and that he, and certain of his ministerial colleagues, and some government supporters, have said, on various occasions, that the industries of this country should be under the control of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Minister is pledged to a policy which provides for socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Consequently, if, for the moment, the honorable gentleman is supporting a proposed private enterprise that undertaking can be regarded only as an interlude before the achievement of the socialist State under which the whole nation will be enslaved in the Public Service. However, we can deal only with the present and I am glad that signs are apparent that the pioneeringwork of the late Sir Henry Gullett may yet come to fruition. At least it can be said that the present Government is showing a desire to encourage the motor manufacturing industry in this country. To-day, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
How many proposals for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia have been notified to the Government from -
established firms having most of their capital outside Australia;
established firms having most of their capital inside Australia; and
firms not at present engaged in manufacturing but claiming to have capital and facilities available for the manufacture of cars?
The honorable gentleman has furnished me with the following replies: -
Two in detail about which the Government has made a statement -
One in general terms and about which a public announcement has been made by the company, i.e., Nuffield (Australia) Proprietary Limited. The proposal in detail will be examined by the Secondary Industries Commission when it is received from the company and the House will be informed at the appropriate time.
It is good that two great organizations have made proposals for the manufacture of complete motor vehicles in this country. The establishment of this industry would undoubtedly do a great deal to provide post-war employment for many of the members of our fighting services, and, particularly, for many of the 30,000 members of theRoyal Australian Air Force who, during the war period, have been trained in technical branches of the engineering industry and so would be well fitted for employment in motor vehicle manufacturing. Such an industry in Australia would enable many of our trained Air Force personnel to continue employment in a calling to which they have given themselves during the war.
We should be able to obtain an Australian-produced motor vehicle suitable for Australian conditions at a reasonable price, but I hope that the Government will approach the subject in the right way. It should follow the good example of the Lyons Government and ensure that a thoroughly effective organization will be established. In this regard the services of the Tariff Board should be sought. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the members of the Tariff Board stand high in public estimation, and the board would be able to give the Government reliable advice on the whole project. I hope, therefore, that any schemes that are brought forward will be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. It is desirable that all plans submitted to the Government should be properly probed by experts, and the Tariff Board is a body of experts. The Secondary Industries Commission is also an excellent organization of officers mainly within the Public Service. It has made a report to the Government on certain matters, the full details of which have not yet been made available to us. Such organizations as the Tariff Board and the Secondary Industries Commission are not likely to be swayed by mob psychology, and they should not be expected to take orders from socialistic governments. They should retain their complete independence. It is desirable that such bodies should be permitted to give full expression to their views; they should not be subject to government control. Competition in the industry is desirable. I hope that the Government will bring the negotiations to finality, and will have an authoritative inquiry made so that before long the industry may be established on a flourishing basis within Australia, thus benefiting the many for whom employment would be provided by it, as well as the nation as a whole by lessening imports and thus avoiding the depletion of our credit account overseas. I shall support any sound proposal to establish the manufacture of motor cars in Australia.
.- Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to hear the second-reading speech of the Minister, because I was engaged in industrial matters on the coal-fields when it was made. I recall clearly the introduction by the late Sir Henry Gullett of a measure’ to establish a fund for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of motor car engines in this country, as well as the other legislation to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has referred. I was under the impression that only one firm had made a proposal to the Government for the complete manufacture of motor vehicles in this country. Because the proposal came from an Australian firm, the support accorded to it by this House was practically unanimous, every honorable member being keenly anxious to have another secondary industry, and one of such great importance, established in this country. Australian Consolidated Industries Limited is entitled to be reimbursed for any expenditure which it may have incurred in the belief that it was to be the sole manufacturer of motor vehicles in Australia. But the right to change one’s views in order to meet different circumstances, must be conceded. At times, I may be inclined to permit my heart to dictate what my head would reject by reasoning politically. But whenever I regard myself as indebted to a . person who has rendered some service to me, I endeavour to repay him. That Australia is indebted to the United States of America cannot be denied. In the early part of the war, that great country came to our aid when the Mother Country said that it was unable to do so and that we should have to make provision for our own defence. Are we, then, to deny to the United States of America the right to compete in the manufacture of motor cars in Australia? According to the press, Lord Nuffield has made a proposal in connexion with the matter, and proposals have been made also by the Ford Motor Company and General Motors-Holdens Limited. There is no bar to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited entering the field. I have always believed in the establishment of secondary industries for the development of our resources, instead of our people remaining hewers of wood and drawers of water by supplying all our raw materials to the manufacturing industries of Great Britain and importing the finished articles. Any person who is not similarly minded has little regard for his country. Because of lack of assistance in the early days for the development of manufacturing industries in the United Spates of America, division was caused in the ranks of the people of that country. When we were required to make provision for our own defence, we had not even the blueprints that we needed in order to establish plants for the manufacture of munitions. These were sent to us by Great Britain, which also tried to assist us by providing some of the machinery that we required, but most of this was sunk on the voyage to Australia. We had to obtain machine tools for the manufacture of the plant that was essential to our purpose. Our achievements have been remarkable. We have proved to the world that our artisans are just as capable as are those of any other country. The war in Europe has been brought to a conclusion, and it is hoped that a similar result in the Pacific will not be long delayed. We must avoid a repetition of what happened after the last war. During the present conflict, the trade unions agreed to the request of the Government that they should vary the long-standing practice of requiring an apprenticeship of five years to a skilled trade. The Amalgamated Engineering Union permitted the employment of “ dilutees “, the majority of whom became probably just as efficient as men who had served an apprenticeship of five years. What is to become of many of those men if we do not proceed with this motor car industry? It should not be established as a monopoly, but should be open to all who are prepared to engage in it. The Minister is reported to have said that a Government monopoly was the only one to which he would agree. I congratulate him. I hold the same belief. Had the referendum been carried, probably this measure would have been drawn in different terms. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) proclaimed himself a believer in private enterprise. One of the most potent factors in causing international strife and hatred, is production for profit instead of for use.
– That has .not been proved in Great Britain or the United States of America.
– Australia is a younger country than either of those two, but our social ideals are far in advance of theirs. I believe in a social order that will give equality and justice to all persons. In the depression years, a plentiful supply of the necessaries of life was accompanied by misery and comparative starvation. If private enterprise can do no better than was done in that period in Australia and in other countries, the sooner we have a social order in which the Government will control production for use instead of for profit, the better it will be for the world in general.
I believe in justice and equity. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, certain expenditure may have been incurred by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited in preparing to manufacture motor vehicles in this country, and I have no doubt that if the company can establish a claim in that regard, the Government will reimburse it. I have a slight acquaintance with the chairman of directors of the company, and have found him to be a good Australian. I believe that he has risen to his present position from that of an ordinary workman. His political views are different from mine, but if Commonwealth legislation has led to the company incurring expenditure in connexion with motor car manufacture, I think that the Government should compensate it.
– This measure is of great importance to honorable members who represent rural constituencies. In considering the secondreading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) one is impressed not so much by what he has said as by what he has omitted to say. He delivered an oration against monopolies- except government monopolies. I go further than the Minister and say that I dislike them, whether they be government monopolies or those granted by a government to private enterprise. The Minister has stated that the bill proposes to abolish a monopoly gi ven to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. He also remarked that there is nothing to prevent that company from undertaking the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia if it so desires. He said that applications for permission to manufacture them had been received from three companies. Two of them are the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, and General Motors-Holdens Limited, the Australian subsidiary of the General Motors Corporation of the United States of America. Lately we have read of a proposal by Lord Nuffield, on behalf of Morris Motors Limited, to manufacture motor vehicles in this country.
The Minister claims that there is nothing to prevent an Australian company from engaging in the manufacture of these vehicles, and that certain tentative proposals have been made by at least two Australian companies. I believe in the development of secondary industries, but I also favour the maintenance of a balance between the. price levels ruling in primary and secondary industries, because those engaged in primary production are dependent largely on world prices for the sale of their commodities. In a letter written in reply to a communication from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), Mr. Hartnett, the manag ing director of General Motors-Holdens Limited, stated that the type of vehicle which his company would undertake to manufacture in Australia was “ a fiveseater sedan and a related utility which would be specially designed for the economic operating conditions of Australia “. No doubt Morris Motors Limited will make a similar claim, and the Ford Company has announced that it proposes to manufacture a 4-ton truck, a “utility”, and a car of the Ford V.S type. I point out, however, that certain kinds of motor vehicles are essential to primary producers who are engaged in export industries, and these may not be able to be supplied by Australian manufacturers. I am afraid that, owing to the operation of the tariff laws and the proposed banking legislation, which might result in withholding overseas exchange for the importation of those vehicles from abroad, primary producers may be prevented from obtaining the vehicles they require, and may be forced to use unsuitable vehicles produced in Australia. That is a real danger and I hope that the Minister, in reply to the debate, will have something to say on that aspect of the proposal. Otherwise it may be difficult for members of the Australian Country party to support the measure. They desire to know what kind of protection is proposed to he given to motor vehicle manufacturers. If a high tariff is to be imposed against motor vehicles competing with those made in Australia, are the primary producers to be forced into paying a price for their vehicles out of all proportion to the cost in other parts of the world?
– The same old wail.
– The Minister has the same old head into which it is impossible to drive the truth. Those engaged in primary industries have had to face up to that difficulty year after year in selling their products on the markets of the world.
In some open-cut mines in Australia a certain earth-moving machine is employed. It was originally imported from Alaska, where it was used for removing earth from coal seams to enable the opencut method of mining to be adopted. I am told that those in use in Australia are of a small type, and lift only 5 cubic yards of earth at each bite, but, when filled, they remove the soil at a speed of about 20 miles an hour and are admirably suited for the sinking of tanks and dams. I cannot conceive that any Australian company would undertake the manufacture of those implements, because the local market would be so limited that the selling price would be prohibitive. Members of the Australian Country party want an assurance from the Minister that all those types of vehicles and implements suitable for moving earth, the manufacture of which might be contemplated in Australia, will be exempted from import duties, so that primary producers may be able to purchase them and have a better chance to sell their products in competition with those of the rest of the world. I hope that the Minister will give to the House an assurance with regard to these important matters.
I have no objection to the abolition of a monopoly given to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, because I detest monopolies whether they are operated by private enterprise or are of a socialist nature and operated by a government. I believe that the greatest good results to the greatest number from liberty to operate as free as possible from monopolistic restrictions. The living conditions of the peoples of the United States of America and .Great Britain have been raised to a far’ higher standard than could have been attained in a communist or socialist State, because private enterprise, always striving upwards, achieves far more than a controlled economy ruled by bureaucrats. I hope that the greatest possible care will be exercised in the control of the proposed new undertaking, and that a fair balance will be maintained between primary and secondary industries.
– This short bill is designed to repeal the Motor Vehicles Engine Bounty Act and the Motor Vehicles Agreement Act, and to allow Australian Consolidated Industries Limited to recover from the Commonwealth any sum to which a court may consider it entitled in. respect of expenditure incurred under those acts. The bill opens up anew the subject of the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country, but we have heard little from the Minister in. charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) as to what course the Government intends to pursue. I believe that a decision should be made as early as possible, and that full details of any proposed venture should be placed before the House. The manufacture of complete motor vehicles in this country has been the subject of much dispute, and it has been based largely on geographical considerations, because a wide difference of opinion has arisen, between those honorable members who represent country constituencies and those returned by city electorates. That is natural. The problems involved are different. In the past, there has been a wide difference of opinion regarding the degree of development which should be aimed at. The countryman sees this continent in its true perspective. It is a very large country possessing certain definite geographical features. It lends itself to easy development around the coast, but development of the interior depends in great measure upon the provision of transport. The tendency has been for all governments to attack the motor industry with almost malicious intent. They have loaded on to it all sorts of costs by taxing vehicles, tyres and petrol until they have made motoring in Australia one of the most expensive luxuries in the world - and this is a country for the development of which cheap transport is a vital necessity. During the war, the views of those other than country dwellers have altered. considerably, and the need for decentralization has become evident to members of all political parties. The economics of motor car manufacture come down, in the long run, to a matter of volume sales. Two decades ago, Henry Ford taught the world that it was by giving service that a manufacturer gained profits. He taught the lesson that it was better to place a commodity on the market at a price which showed a very low margin of profit, and to get a return by selling a great many units. The present-day system of mass .production is directly related to this doctrine. . We now realize that, if costs are to be kept down, production must be on a large scale.
In 1940, I opposed the legislation which was then introduced for the encouragement of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. I objected to it because it sought to set up in Australia a monopoly and I oppose monopolies on principle. Once competition is destroyed in an industry we lose the vigour, enterprise and willingness to take risks which make for progress. I am not in favour of just one company manufacturing motor vehicles in Australia, bolstered up by a bounty on its products, and with the likelihood of further tariff assistance later on. Such an arrangement could result only in excessive transport costs, and country members of this House regard it as vital that transport costs should be kept down.
No good purpose can be served ‘by re-stating all the old arguments. We must examine the position as it is, and find out whether conditions to-day are more favorable to the successful manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia than they were five years ago. To-day, we are much better equipped industrially to embark upon this enterprise than we were then. Many of the teething troubles which a young industry would have experienced five years ago have been overcome. To-day, we have skilled operatives, technical knowledge, and many of the necessary machine tools. In fact, we have gained experience from the drawing board to the end of the production line, and a great part of the cost of this experience has been debited to the war.
The other important factor to be considered is the market requirements of Australia. At the present time, there are in Australia about 890,000 motor vehicles of all descriptions. So far as the number of units is concerned, we are in about the same position as Germany was in 1935, and as Britain was in 1926, but there is this fundamental difference: Germany had then a population of 66,000,000 people among whom to develop a market, and Great Britain had a population of 46,000,000. We have a population of only 7,000,000.
However, a good many of the motor vehicles in Australia are worn out or are approaching that condition. One might make a rough guess, and say that 400,000 of them are well on the way to being worn out, and all of them have seen considerable service. Thus, the situation is fundamentally different from what it was, so far as production and sales are concerned. It will be difficult in Australia to obtain new cars in sufficient numbers for many years, because production has declined owing to the war, and there will be a tremendous demand both in Britain and the United States of America as soon as the war is over. We cannot expect to be able to import nearly as many motor chassis as we shall need.
In addition, the price of new cars imported into Australia after the war will be considerably higher than the price of pre-war cars. Manufacturing costs in the United States of America have soared during the war. Here in Australia we have been fortunate in being able to keep costs relatively ‘ low, but in America, from which most of the cars will be imported, costs have risen to .the skies, and they will be reflected in the prices of the cars. It is probable that the prices of Chevrolet and Ford cars will be considerably higher immediately after the war than they were before the war. These facts completely alter the situation so far as the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia is concerned. It is not unreasonable to assume that, if an early decision were made regarding the manufacture of cars, there would be a demand for about 100,000 vehicles a year for many years to come. No doubt, the offers which the Government has received were made with all these factors in mind. However, we must be careful that those who have submitted offers have not done so with the idea that, once production has been begun, they will approach the Government for increased tariff protection. We know that the offers received from two firms stipulate that no financial assistance whatsoever is sought either by way of bounty or increased tariff. However, it has happened before that those who have embarked upon a new industry in Australia have come to the Government shortly afterwards and complained that circumstances had altered, that the market was not so large as they had been led to expect, and that they could not carry on without additional tariff protection.
– Does the honorable member mean that manufacturers should not have the right to approach the Tariff Board?
– No. I am merely making the point that manufacturers may begin production upon certain stated terms, but have in their minds the idea that if something should go wrong they can always demand additional tariff protection. Once the industry had been established, it would be very difficult to refuse the demand. The making of motor cars in Australia should be a purely business proposition. There is not an occasion for introducing politics into the matter. The only thing that should concern us is the cost of the car. The firms interested should submit their propositions to the Government, and their figures should be then carefully examined by the Secondary Industries Commission or the Tariff Board. There are two factors to be considered - the cost ofproduction based upon a certain volume of sales, taking into consideration existing tariff and manufacturing cost, and costs which are under Government control and which can be reduced by Government action. It will be readily appreciated by honorable members that if we are to maintain motor car production in Australia in competition with overseas manufacturers we must keep the cars as cheap as possible. Anything which adds to the cost of the car will militate against volume sales. If sales decline, overhead costs must be loaded on to a reduced number of units, which will necessarily increase the price per unit and this, in turn, will affect the volume of sales. I believe that, the circumstances being what they are, it is possible to embark successfully upon the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, but certain things must be kept in mind. We must have a market for about 100,000 cars a year. We should aim at producing passenger cars and utility vehicles which can be sold for not more than £300, and tractors for not more than £200 - prices at which the great mass of the people can afford to buy. Mr. Henry Ford had in mind a car for every person who nor mally drove a horse and buggy, and we should have a similar aim. Of the many factors in the production of motor cars which will affect volume sales, I shall mention first, the effect of sales tax. If this tax be repeated during the course of production, the total tax may add materially to the cost of the finished car. It has been estimated that sales tax during the process of production of a motor car would represent from £15 to £20. That additional cost may vitally affect volume sales. Should the major manufacturing companies have some of the components of cars made by other companies the sales tax aspect will have to be carefully watched. To begin mass production of motor cars will be costly; an expenditure of millions of pounds will be involved in building factories and providing jigs, dies, machine tools, &c. Sales tax or tariff duties on those machine tools would add to the overhead expenses and would be passed on to the purchaser.
– Jigs and dies should be admitted under by-law free of duty.
– They should come in duty free, because any tax on them would vitally affect the cost of production. Sales tax on motor cars is at the rate of 121/2 per cent. What does that mean to those who aim at producing a popular motor car, such as a Ford or a Chevrolet, the price of which beforethe war was from £380 to £400? It adds another £40 or £50 to the cost of the car. If we take into account sales tax during the course of production and sales tax on the finished vehicle, the total tax may be between £50 and £70. That additional cost would materially affect volume sales, and might seriously retard the expansion of the industry.
Another important factor is the price of sheet steel. Australia can produce better pig iron and steel at lower prices than can either Great Britain or the United States of America. Nearly every product of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is cheaper than are similar products in the countries mentioned. The position is different, however, in respect of sheet steel. Australian costs of this basic material are almost double those of the United States of America and about one-third more than in Great Britain. An examination of a motor car will reveal that it consists largely of sheet steel; probably 50 per cent, of the weight of the car, and 40 or 50 per cent, of the cost of the basic material is represented by sheet steel. Unfortunately, its price in Australia is higher than almost anywhere else in the world.
– That is not so.
– It is so. I understand that the company which manufactu res sheet steel is not connected with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. As sheet steel so greatly influences the price of motor vehicles, we should consider what the Government can do to improve the position. It is here that government planning is necessary. The establishment of this new industry will have an enormous influence on the production of sheet steel, and therefore an excellent case can be made out for some action to reduce the cost of a raw material which is so essential for the production of motor vehicles.
Most people visualize’ a great increase of .labour saving devices, such as refrigerators and washing machines, in the post-war world. Sheet steel is an important component of these appliances. If Government action to reduce the cost of sheet steel resulted in a big reduction of the price of household articles, the volume of sales would increase enormously, and Australian householders could enjoy the advantages of cheap serviceable labor-saving devices.
Another matter which will require consideration is the standardization of traffic regulations so far as they relate to the production of motor vehicles. It is remarkable how different are the regulations in the several States. For instance, regulations governing tail lights, stop lights and number plates vary considerably. Unless removed, these variations will have an effect on the cost of production, because they may mean an alteration of either the body or the chassis of the motor vehicle, and every departure from mass production methods increases the final cost of the vehicle. These are factors over which the Government either already has control,, or could take action, and I ask that they be given consideration.
A most important factor in any manufacturing country is the per capita production. Unfortunately, Australia’s production per man doe.s not equal that of Great Britain or the United States of America. That fact is a challenge to the management and the workers in industry, as well as to the Government of this country. I believe that this problem can be solved. One reason for the lower output in Australia may be the heavy taxation. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that if manufacturing industries are to expand, the productive capacity per man is of tremendous importance. Most of us desire that this new industry shall succeed, and that in time Australia, like Canada, will be an exporter of motor vehicles. A considerable export trade in motor vehicles would have an important influence on costs, and should tend to reduce prices. That result will not easily be attained, partly because of Australia’s distance from world markets, involving heavy transport costs. But in New Zealand, the Netherlands East Indies, and India there exist large potential markets for Australian manufacturers. If large numbers of Australian-made motor vehicles could be exported to those countries, the increased volume of sales would tend to reduce costs, and, therefore, anything that the Government can do to assist in finding a market for motor vehicles should be done.
I emphasize that unless there be the greatest co-operation between the Government, and industry, this new venture will not succeed. On tie other hand, with that co-operation, great possibilities lie ahead. We must be careful that in establishing this industry we shall not act to the detriment of primary industry generally. We must not create an industry which, by increasing costs to primary producers, will militate against the development of thu Commonwealth. And so we get back to the matter of cost. So far, no information has been placed before the House on that subject, and so far as I know, no inquiry is being made by the Government into production costs, although, no doubt, inquiries are being made by those who contemplate engaging in the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. Before we can visualize the future of this industry we must have more information than, has been given to us so far. The Government would be wise not to delay matters, because with the end of the war in Europe and the termination of hostilities against Japan in probably twelve or eighteen months, post-war problems are becoming more and more pressing. I should not be astonished to find that in other countries the production of manufactured goods for export will commence within a few weeks, and therefore if this new industry is to take advantage of the immediate post-war situation, prompt action is necessary. I shall await further information from the Government along the lines that I have indicated.
.- Although debate on the prospect of the construction, in Australia, of internal combustion engines for motor vehicles is in the nature of a post-mortem, information will be gained from speeches which will help us considerably in deciding on the development and location of secondary industries. Thus, debates like thi3 are very useful. Soon the future of the Government-owned munitions factories will have to be considered. In that connexion, the question arises of how far government help can be given to encourage one group or several groups of manufacturers prepared to initiate the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia and the part that ‘those factories may play in the industry. It is unfortunate that Australian Consolidated Industries Limited did not go ahead with the construction of motor vehicles in the early part of the war in order that we might have the benefit of its experience and research. The question now is whether the Government is not- legally or morally obligated to compensate that company which, with initiative, undertook research work, and allocated funds to the project of constructing an Australian motor vehicle. I think that should there be no legal obligation if the company can prove that . it did commit itself to expenditure in furtherance of the project, it should be suitably compensated. I do not suggest that all the claims submitted by any company for compensation should be met with an open cheque for the amount demanded, but. consideration should be given to the claim. I think, too, that & direction should be given in the appropriate quarters that claims and representations by private operators for the use after the war of governmentowned factories which the Government itself will be precluded by the Constitution from using in peace-time, shall be fully considered. Those factories are well equipped with machine tools and have staffs trained in mass production methods. Their use would contribute to the decentralization of industry and thus improve our general economy. At present various engineering companies are negotiating with the Government for the use of those factories, and it is the duty of every member of Parliament, as a trustee of the property of the people, to interest himself in such projects and in the type of private firms offering to operate them. An industry operating with the tremendous amount of capital necessary to develop the motor vehicle industry will give a tremendous fillip to Australian secondary industry, and, for that reason, if for no other, it is our duty to make ourselves conversant with what is being done, in keeping with the wish of the people expressed at the last general elections, to transfer to private enterprise the ownership or control of government-owned factories, quite a few of which are in my electorate. One of the companies interested in the manufacture of motor vehicles may be interested in acquiring one of those factories, but I find great difficulty in getting from the committee set up to dispose of them, “the information to which I am entitled as a member of Parliament. I think that I am entitled to all the information. I find, however, that such bodies as the Secondary Industries Commission often act as though they were agents negotiating a private sale between private citizens, without interest in the benefit of either party. Their attitude is a wrong one to adopt towards a member of Parliament whose interest as a representative of the people is to ensure the disposal of the people’s property to the best advantage. In order to impress upon honorable members the sort of enterprise I have in mind. I instance the small arms factory at Orange which in three years increased its production twelvefold. Honorable members will realize bow many workers had to be trained. They have had a lot of experience, and it would be a calamity if by a. wave of the wand, as it were, theywere dispersed, the machines stopped and a potential industry lost. I therefore consider that members of Parliament should he consulted now, not four or five years after the event, in the disposal of factories and in the location of new secondary industries. That is why 1 refer- to this debate as being in the nature of a post-mortem. “We should be consulted in order that we may have a personal interest- in industrial development as well as the opportunity to vote yes or no on proposals that emerge from reports by experts, with the details of which honorable members have not had the opportunity to make themselves conversant. That is necessary if they are to bring informed minds to bear on the proposals. Ministers directly concerned with the development of industries should bring the full details of proposals before the House in order that they may be intelligently discussed.
.- This bill proposes to repeal the legislation passed in 1940 for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia and the making of an agreement for that purpose with Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. Justice is to be done to the company in the matter of any rights it may have or losses it may sustain as the result of the annulling of that agreement. We should concentrate whatever resources we have in the form of skilled men, machines and factories in the manufacture of utility vehicles necessary to enable this country to meet its urgent needs. I “have in mind particularly motor tractors of which there is and has been ever since the war began a great shortage. Farmers cannot get their orders filled and have been awaiting delivery for periods of twelve months and more, although importations have been greater than in the pre-war years. We had reached a stage when we “were producing tractors in Australia of more than one type. They were wholly built in this country, and proved most satisfactory. Despite the implications of war-time conditions, I do not think that we are wise in absolutely prohibiting continuance of production of; those tractors, particularly when we are importing them in increasing numbers. When I speak about utility vehicles I refer to farm tractors of suitable types, utility trucks and a utility car. I have in mind a cheap standardized car which is thoroughly efficient although not built on luxury lines. The manufacture and importation of luxury cars should be left entirely to private enterprise. With respect to the disposal of governmentowned factories, which have been established during the war, we should give full consideration to the utilization of those factories for the production, at competitive prices, of the vehicles I have indicated, including tractors, utility trucks and utility . cars for general use. The price of tractors to-day is excessive and generally beyond the means of the smaller farmer. Only farms operating on a large scale can afford to purchase tractors. Therefore, the Government should discuss with the State Governments constitutional difficulties which may be presumed to exist, and in that way enable us to utilize governmentowned war factories for the production of utility vehicles such as I have indicated. We have a tremendous job ahead of us in the postwar years. We must give useful and gainful employment to our people. The change-over to peace will have a great impact upon our economy generally. Whether we shall be able to weather the storm successfully will depend upon whether the Government can give an impetus to industry generally. In order to do so, it should, if necessary, retain direct control of factories it has set up during the war. Our primary responsibility is to provide full employment for our people in the production of goods needed in this country, and in demand for export. Markets of which we do not even dream to-day will probably be disclosed after the war, and they will be won only by those countries which make their industries most efficient and capable of competing on the world’s markets. I believe that we are capable of doing that, by achieving a name for our manufactured goods. Such a policy will require courage on the part of the
Government. We should not be bluffed’ by the propaganda which we hear on all sides to-day to the effect that governments cannot successfully control any enterprise. I disagree with that view, and I ‘believe that in so far as private enterprise fails to meet the country’s needs, the Government must step into the breach. In encouraging the production of cars and motor vehicles in Australia we should not throw the field wide open, because under such conditions some of the concerns moist go down through their inability to carry on economically. For that reason the field should be restricted to the number of firms which a thorough investigation shows can economically produce motor vehicles of the types required to meet our particular needs.
.- This bill repeals the measure passed by the Menzies Government with the object of establishing the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. Following the passage of that legislation protracted negotiations with overseas companies took place with the object of inducing them to manufacture cars in this country. However, the government of the day was not successful in that direction. The main reason why overseas companies were not prepared to manufacture in Australia was that this market was already open to their products, and, therefore, they found it more economical to export to this country. They were not concerned with the development of industry in Australia, or the provision of employment for our people; they were interested solely in the making of profits. 1 do not condemn the Menzies Government for having brought down its legislation. To-day, however, a number of companies are anxious to start manufacturing here, probably because they have more confidence in the present administration. The main argument used in the past against the establishment of this industry was that Australian workmen were not sufficiently skilled. The fallacy of that argument has been disproved since the outbreak of war. Previous governments failed to implement the legislation passed by the
Menzies Government, but during the wai Australia has proved its capacity to manufacture motor vehicles of all kinds equal in standard to those manufactured elsewhere. We have made not only the equivalent of motor engines, but also aeroplane engines’ which are most intricate. I understand that they are equal to any of their type made elsewhere. We have also demonstrated our ability to manufacture high-class mechanical equipment; and what we have been able to do in war, we shall be capable of doing in peace. To-day, overseas companies recognize the high skill of Australian craftsmen, and they realize also that Australia requires motor vehicles adapted to its special conditions. At the same time, extensive export markets exist in Java and the Far East. I congratulate the Government on having induced manufacturers to establish the industry in Australia. If we are to defend this country adequately in the future we must establish essential industries. The war has shown the motor manufacturing industry to be indispensable for defence purposes. It has played a prominent part in basic war industries. We must never again be dependent upon outside sources for supplies of essential war equipment. The war in Europe is over, and we hope the conflict in the Pacific will soon terminate. We also hope that this war will be the end of all wars. However, we entertained a similar hope after the war of 1914-18, and in’ vain. Despite our hopes, we must prepare to defend ourselves in the future should the occasion arise. The motor industry is essential to our defence and, therefore, we must encourage it. Already, three big overseas companies are prepared to- invest millions of pounds in establishing in this country the manufacture of cars and motor lorries. Undoubtedly, the industry will supply tractors and other farm equipment. In the production of such vehicles special consideration must be given to the problems confronting transport generally. Before the war, British manufacturers endeavoured to supply Australia with vehicles which were not suited to our conditions. Certain standards in respect of horse-power were observed mainly in order to meet taxation provisions applying to motor manufacturers in Great Britain. Once the industry is established here, it will not be difficult to manufacture vehicles suitable to our conditions. The industry will also expedite the mechanization of primary production and will thus enable us to compete on the markets . of the world. In order to do. so, we must apply modern methods in the production and handling of our primary products. During the war, the use of modern machinery has revolutionized vegetable-growing and other phases of primary production. It is our duty to give every encouragement to those prepared to establish the basic motor vehicles industry.
In order to make itself secure against future aggression, Australia must substantially increase its population; but it will not be able to support a larger population unless it can provide employment for them. If we are fully to employ not only workers now engaged in munitions establishments, but also ex-service personnel, we must expand our present industries and found new ones. The motor vehicle building industry offers wide scope in that regard. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) referred to the valuable use that could be made of Commonwealth factories established in war-time for the production of munitions. To-day, many of them have been closed and more of them will cease to function in the near future. Possessing most modern machinery and equipment, those factories could be used with advantage for producing the components of motor vehicles.
As yet, I dp not know what processes will be adopted by the manufacturers when they begin to make motor vehicles in this country. One huge organization might undertake the manufacture of a complete motor vehicle, or a number of engineering firms might make components under a contract system. From the knowledge that I have gained from reading and discussion, I believe that the best system of manufacture would be to have the components made in many factories dispersed throughcut the country. In that way, industry could he decentralized. For example, electrical equipment could be made in one part of the country, the bodies in a nother centre, and the springs and wheels in a third centre. In the United States of America, the most successful form of manufacture is to have all the parts made in various factories, and brought to a general assembly plant. The tendency throughout the world is to standardize, and it would be advantageous if motor cars made in this country were substantially standardized so that components and tyres would be interchangeable between the various makes of motor vehicles. The companies should not compete with one another in an endeavour to make different types of vehicles, because that policy would be the most expensive method of manufacture and from the national stand-point the least helpful. In wartime or any other national emergency, it is a great advantage to have standard components for all makes of motor vehicles. Therefore, when the industry is established in this country, it should endeavour to standardize in every possible way. If the three manufacturing firms operate their factories in competition with one another, their output will be reduced, and the cost of the completed vehicles will be higher than it would be under a system of standardization. “With manufacturers specializing in making particular parts, the completed vehicle would be able to compete in price with imported cars, the Australian user would have a moderately priced car, and the industry would find a demand in overseas markets.
At this moment, when we are rejoicing at the cessation of hostilities in Europe, this legislation may appear superficially to be trivial, but to me, it is one of the most important bills that has been introduced into this Parliament for a long time. It will establish an industry that has long been required. Once Australia begins to make its own motor vehicles, the transport requirements of this country will be more satisfactorily met, and new avenues of employment will be open to our people. The Australian motor car will compete in the markets of the world with the products of other countries, and that business will improve our trade balance and add to the general prosperity of our people.
.- It is in keeping with the atmosphere of the day we are celebrating that the House should be engaged in a placid discussion of a measure which commends itself to all honorable ‘members. The bill is important not so much for what is does as for what it portends. It, therefore, deserves discussion. The measure will, of course, have considerable influence upon the future of the manufacturing industry in this .country. We are being asked to repeal legislation now on the statute-book concerning arrangements made some years ago by the Menzies Government with the only firm which, at that time, was prepared to embark upon the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country. But several years have elapsed and many great events have occurred since then, and it is fitting that we should make a fresh start on this big project. There can be no doubt in our minds now concerning the capacity of Australia to engage successfully in motor vehicle manufacturing. Any doubts that may have existed six years ago have been swept away by the almost miraculous achievements of Australian industry in connexion with the war effort. Our manufacturing operations in connexion with aeroplanes, optical munitions and munitions components of many other kinds have entirely banished any misgivings we may have had about our ability to manufacture motor vehicles. It is of extreme importance to Australia that this industry should be established, for we have discovered during the war, that the country has been greatly handicapped because it lacked such manufactures. Not only our transport services, but also many other activities associated with the war effort, have been at a disadvantage because we have had to rely upon deteriorating and, in many instances, obsolescent motor vehicles. We must not fail to take advantage of our industrial development to make our country as self contained as possible in these regards in the days to come.
Other considerations also are of great importance. We have in operation in Australia at present between 800,000 and 900,000 motor vehicles, most of which are between five and ten years old, and which, because of war conditions, could not be maintained in what would be a normal state of repair. We must expect, therefore, that in the next few years many of these vehicles will have to be replaced. It is a commonplace to say that the number of motor vehicles at present in use in Australia does not meet the needs of the country for business and private services. We can also reasonably expect that, with the accumulated spending power indicated by swollen savings bank accounts and other bank balances, the people of Australia will desire to buy heavily in motor vehicles as well as other goods to meet their business and personal needs in the next few years. In addition to these considerations, we have become converted to the motorized method of conducting rural industries. Horse-driven vehicles are being superseded by motorized units, and it is reasonable to assume that this replacement will be accelerated in the days that follow the war. If Australia has to import replacements, additional vehicles and spare parts for its various descriptions of motor transport, a heavy burden will be placed upon its financial capacity, particularly in regard to foreign exchanges. I do not propose to develop that aspect at the moment, because the foreign exchange position is clouded with uncertainty. We have hopes that the post-war overseas markets for our primary products will be sufficient to absorb all that we can produce, but we would be foolish to ignore the lessons of the pre-war years, during which difficulties were experienced in marketing our exportable goods. Even at this early stage, therefore, we should be looking for ways and means to conserve our foreign exchange resources. The replacement of our 800,000 or 900,000 motor vehicles by chasses costing, say, £100 each would represent approximately £80,000,000 or £90,000,000 in foreign exchanges which, in itself, is another cogent argument for establishing a soundly based motor vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia.
It is heartening to note the contrast in the experience of the Menzies Government, when it endeavoured to interest motor vehicle manufacturers in an Australian industry before the war, and the experience of ‘this Government in that regard at present. The Menzies Government was able to discover only one firm which was ready to embark upon motor manufacturing, but we have been informed, and the copies of letters which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) had incorporated ‘ in Ilansard at the conclusion of his speech indicate that the General Motors organization, one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, motor manufacturing organizations in the world, is interested in the project. We have been advised also that the Ford organization is prepared to undertake motor vehicle manufacturing here. Newspaper reports indicate, too, that the Morris organization is interested in the project. A further reason for satisfaction is, that Aus- . tralian firms do not lack the courage to undertake this work, for one of our most enterprising firms, Diecasters Limited, which has done a remarkably good job in connexion with the war effort, intends to enter the motor manufacturing field. It seems clear, therefore, that at no distant date this industry will be established in Australia.
One other important aspect to which I shall direct attention is that the Australian industry will not be confined to the organizations which I have already named, because, in accordance with American and British practice, many firms, other than the principal manufacturing firms, will act as sub-contractors for different components required in a complete motor vehicle. Our manufacturers have developed their own technique and accumulated skilled staffs during the war years, and they will be able to undertake sub-contracts. This is an important consideration because it should lead to notable developments in our great metal trades. It is of primary importance that these basic industries shall be maintained at- full capacity, so that they may give full employment in the post-war years. Whilst there is an unfulfilled need in the Australian community for refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances of that description, there are limits to the absorptive capacity of our market in those goods, and we need a big industry, such as motor vehicle manufacturing, which will provide employment year in and year out for the men who have been trained in engineering work in our war services and munitions establishments. This industry will not only come to our financial relief in connexion with foreign exchanges, but will also be the means of providing employment for the thousands of skilled metal trades workers and dilutees who have been employed in our munitions production programme.
One healthy result of the competitive element resulting from the interest of the great motor vehicle manufacturing organizations should be the production of a variety of types of vehicles in Australia. This is a subject which deserves some emphasis. I feared that, under the legislation passed while the Menzies Government was in office, Australia might be limited to one standard utility car. Even in the correspondence between the Government and Mr. Hartnett, of General Motors Limited, there is ‘an implication that that firm may concentrate on one type- of vehicle, for it is suggested that it will manufacture - a five-seater sedan cav and related utility which would be specially designed for the economic and operating conditions of Australia.
There are some peculiarities in Australian conditions which should be met. One of these is the high cost of fuel, relative to the price in America. The fact that motor vehicles in America may have a high fuel consumption is not of very great importance, but it is of first class importance to Australian users. If a vehicle can be manufactured here to meet ordinary needs which will have double the fuel mileage of comparable vehicles in America, it would mean a great deal to Australian users, where motor transport has to be considered in terms of geographical situation and widely distributed centres of population.
In the larger capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the baby type of car, because of its low running costs and the ease with which it can be parked, has always been very popular; but no one would suggest that it has been designed for Australian conditions, as one understands that reference by motor manufacturers. I sincerely hope that, whatever else may happen, the Government will take no action which would amount to a virtual embargo on the importation of motor cars of other types, provided the tariff protection is considered proper and such as will give whatever encouragement may be necessary for the establishment of the industry in this country. There would be no warrant for preventing a purchaser who so desired from obtaining a car of a different type, manufactured in Great Britain, the United States of America, or any other country, so long as he was prepared to pay the additional cost. The progress that will ensue from the competitive activity of the firms in Australia will be stimulated by the knowledge that they have to stand up to the best production in other parts of the world. I am certain that the firms which have interested themselves in the matter do not fear that competition. It is a good sign when we discover this statement in Mr. Hartnett’s letter -
An efficient automotive industry, providing low-cost satisfactory quality transportation to the Australian public, can best be established under free competitive conditions.
His correspondence is of importance to this House because, for the first time, it sets out the views of a large organization, and indicates the conditions which would be needed to give a proper start to the industry in this country. The Government also has stated its attitude, which can be taken as a guide by other firms which desire to engage in the manufacture of motor cars here. It is good to find that, far from wanting any subsidy or special tariff protection beyond what is already provided, this firm believes in free competition and - re cognizes that any other concern will be equally free to enter into manufacture of any type under the same conditions as are accorded by the Government to General MotorsHoldens Limited.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson”) has dealt very effectively with the danger to Australia of allowing its production costs to rise in such a way as to hamstring any attempts at competition with the products of other countries. There is no good reason why we should not be able to compete on favorable terms with other countries. In fact, we start with a decided advantage.
Before the war, Australia was producing steel more cheaply than any other country. In the modern motor car, steel is used extensively. Therefore, if we are able to give to the industry a good start, by providing it with the cheapest steel, keeping down our production costs in connexion with other components in its manufacture should not be beyond our capacity. In this regard, all of us must be concerned at the serious decline of production in our metal industries in the last year or so. Attempts have been made to assess the loss that has occurred. Whether it be due to war weariness, lack of proper discipline of the workers, or - as I believe it to be largely - lack of adequate incentive for the worker to increase his output, the result is undeniable. So there must be a fresh approach to the matter by the Government, and a complete examination of the causes. I was interested to learn that a particularly militant trade union official who has become almost notorious in this country on account of his activities, commenting on his observations of American industry, said that we should have to recast our ideas about piecework payments if we were to compete with the production of that country. The experience of Russia confirms the need for this new approach. That country, under the pressure of its defence programme and the . need to maintain its security, found that it had to cast aside many out-worn political shibboleths, and accept the economic realities of expanded production, increasing incentive in order to achieve that objective. As the representatives of the working man must recast their ideas of piece-work arrangements, so must the employers recast their ideas in regard to profit-sharing. A combination of piece-work payments and the knowledge that the workers would share in whatever profits were derived as the result of their labours would induce them greatly to expand production both during and after the war. I know of one employer - one of the very few whose cases have come to my notice - who has been able throughout the war to maintain the output which he received from his men in pre-war years. He has achieved that by continuing his pre-war policy of allowing his employees to share in. the profits distributed by his organization.
Mr. Hartnett, in his correspondence, raised the matter of a special tax encouragement. This passage occurs in his letter -
General Motors-Holden’s Limited plan to finance half of the cost of the proposed manufacturing undertaking by reinvestment of profits.
Under present tax laws, profits remaining and undistributed to shareholders, after payment of income tax, super tax and war-time company tax, are subject to an undistributed profits tax of 10 per cent.
General Motors-Holden’s Limited submits that the operation of this tax is an unwarranted penalty where the reason behind such non-distribution is the furthering of an industrial project which has been initiated by the Government, and requests that the Government give favorable consideration to its repeal, where such funds are reinvested and employed in the business.
The Government replied that it would give earnest consideration to the incidence of the undistributed profits tax, but said that a general survey of Commonwealth finance was involved and the time occupied in the investigation might preclude an early decision. That is another instance - we have stressed many in recent times in this House - of the need for special government encouragement of industry if it is to survive in the post-war years. It is remarkable that, so far as I am aware, this country, alone of the Englishspeaking countries, has not made ample and special provision to enable industry to carry on and maintain adequate reserves for its .post-war development. In fact, the only measure that I can recall having been introduced during the war to a&91 sit industry, was that in relation to deferred maintenance which was included in last year’s budget legislation.
– That decision was made by a committee on which the Opposition was represented.
– Members of the Opposition pointed out at the time that it was about as useful as a cigarette to a dying man - it would cheer him, but not save his life. Recently, I asked the Government to state the number of firms or persons in Australia who had taken advantage of this much vaunted concession, and I was amazed to learn that only 71 had done so. This established, as fully as one would desire, our contention that industry as a “whole would not receive any real benefit from: that legislation. I contrast the casual approach of the Government to the need for keeping industry alive and in a flourishing condition, with what is happening in Canada, America and Great Britain. In some of, those countries, industry is being enabled to build up special .post-war credits. A specified proportion of the profits may be retained for developmental purposes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain has forecast special action, with a view to enabling British industry to stand up to the fierceness of post-war competition. So the Commonwealth Government might well examine its capacity to help in like directions. If it is looking fox finance, perhaps it could turn for a portion of its provision to the special subsidy levied under legislation introduced by the late Sir Henry Gullett in 1936. By means of the customs tariff on imported chassis, a levy of .7d.. per lb. was made, and by the end of 1944 this had realized £1,586,000.
– All of which went into Consolidated Revenue.
– I should be interested to learn where it had gone. That is one way in which- useful help could be given to this industry on a sound basis.
There is one small matter that I should like the Government to investigate; it has come to my notice recently, and is linked, with the general problem. I am informed that in Great Britain a number of motor vehicles will be available for export to Australia in the months immediately after the war. One of the practical problems will be the securing of timber in which to enclose them for shipment to this country. The shortage of timber is world-wide, and with all the other demands for it in Great Britain now that hostilities in Europe have ended, it is not likely that supplies will be made available on a high scale of priority for the export of motor components to Australia, especially as thenars could be shipped in a completely assembled state. It has been pointed out to me that what are called the C.K.D. cars - completely knocked down cars - are allowed into Australia free of. duty, but that British cars completely assembled carry a duty of 1.25d. per lb.
– That duty was imposed under a tariff introduced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) as Minister for Trade and Customs.
– It is not action which any one would condemn in ordinary circumstances; it was entirely praiseworthy as an attempt to have employment provided in Australia in the assembly of the cars. But in the present circumstances the motor exporter might be unable to send out a car under the more favorable G.K.D. duty terms, because of his inability to secure the necessary timber. It is suggested that, for the limited period during which these conditions are likely to last, the Government might waive the duty in respect of the completely assembled car. Finally, I extend a welcome to this new industry. We all wish it well. We can best help it by leaving it as free as possible of any interference by Parliament or by the Administration. We can rely on the sturdy independence and resourcefulness of the industrialists to carry this enterprise through to a successful conclusion. Thus we shall render it a greater service than by coddling it with government aid, even in its initial stages. We may justly take pride in the technical skill of our workmen. Properly encouraged, they will do work as good as that of any one else in the world. The ‘task of the Government and of Parliament is to encourage in every way possible the workers and the entrepreneurs in this industry, while leaving them free from unnecessary government control.
.- This bill, which repeals the Motor Vehicle Engine Bounty Act and’ the ‘ Motor Vehicles Agreement Act, has a somewhat turbulent background. We all remember when the Motor Vehicle Bill was introduced in 1939. The purpose of the measure was to provide funds for the payment of a bounty on engines manufactured in Australia. The measure excited a great deal of comment at the time, but we have moved a long way since then. We are all much wiser than we were when that measure, and the Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill of the following year, were introduced into Parliament. If no other good comes out of this war than the experience we have gained in developing the technical skill and ability of the men and women of Australia, something, at any rate, will have been achieved. It is interesting to read in to-day’s newspapers that a very distinguished citizen of the United States has commented most favorably upon the quality of the precision tools and technical instruments supplied by Australia to the forces of the United States of America. This compliment, coming from the citizen of a country noted for the production of such equipment, is a high compliment, indeed. To-day, abundant proof is forthcoming that Australian workmen can produce technical equipment of a quality equal to that produced in any other part of the world.
The first requirement is to cancel the arrangement entered into in 1940, thus clearing the decks, and providing an opportunity for all who may be interested to embark upon the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. Some honorable members have raised the subject of sales tax on motor vehicles, arguing that it will unduly increase their cost. I maintain that sales tax will not bear more heavily on motor cars manufactured in Australia than it will upon those imported into Australia and sold here. In any case, while this Government remains in power, it can be relied upon to deal realistically with such matters. If sales tax, or any other tax, is found to be unduly impeding the successful establishment of this or any other industry in Australia, the Government will do what is necessary to remove the obstacle.
I support this measure as, indeed, all honorable members appear to do. I welcome the proposal to establish in Australia an industry for the manufacture of motor vehicles, particularly as it may well be a contribution towards a ‘general decentralization of industry. Even if the assembling is done in one or more of the great cities, there is no reason why the components should not be manufactured in a number of widely separated places. When I was abroad last year, I visited Trentham, in the United States of America, where General Motors Limited has a plant now engaged in the manufacture of aircraft. Before the war, this plant was manufacturing, not complete motor cars, but various parts, which were finally brought to a central point for assembly. At the present time, there is a factory in Launceston which was formerly engaged in the manufacture of munitions, but which is now making parts for motor vehicles. It will be all to the good if we are able to arrange for the decentralization of the motor car manufacturing industry in Australia, and I am sure that a part of the work could be successfully performed in Tasmania.
– What about making it a government undertaking?
– The Government is getting into all sorts of bother to-day for proposing to assume control of undertakings of one kind and another. Nevertheless, I do not see why the Government should not undertake some part of this work in the factories which it has already established. The only reason against it is that the Government may be already too heavily involved in other directions. It is known that many big firms are interested in the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. They have the experience and the necessary technical equipment, and it is perhaps, as well that they should be given an opportunity to establish the industry. If they are able to make a success of it, so much the better for them and for Australia.
.- This night, when we are about to hear an official declaration of the cessation of hostilities in Europe, reminds me of a night about five years ago, namely, the 30th May, 1940, when we debated in this chamber the Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill. The scene in Europe has greatly changed since then, as has the scene in Australia, also. One of the most remarkable changes of all lies in the fact that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman), now the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, is in charge of this bill, which proposes to rescind the old agreement with Australian Consolidated Industries Limited for the establishment of a motor car manufacturing industry in Australia. The wheel turns. We are very happy to-night to think that in
Europe the wheel has turned the full 360 degrees. Whereas in May, 1940, France was tottering and Paris about to fall, five years later, at 11 o’clock to-night, we shall hear the Right Honorable Winston Churchill tell the world that the British Empire has succeeded in the task that five years ago seemed impossible.
– That has nothing to do with the bill.
– It has a great deal to do with the bill because, when the legislation proposed to be repealed was before the House, I had such illustrious company in my opposition to it as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, then only the honorable member for Corio. He and I differed in some respects. He did not believe in the establishment of the motor car industry in Australia.
– The honorable member is wrong there.
– On the 30th May, 1940, in this chamber, you, Mr. Speaker, then only the honorable member for Dalley, agreed to what I say now, and, if I may quote your remarks-
– The honorable member has my permission to quote them, but I remind him that the mill will not grind with waters that have passed.
– Yes, and “the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small “. This is what you then said about the honorable gentleman -
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) left no doubt in my mind as to his attitude towards this scheme. He is opposed to the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia.
The turn of the wheel has placed him in charge of another bill clearing the way for new proposals for the establishment of an Australian motor vehicles industry. In 1940, I voted against the bill providing for the establishment of a monopoly to manufacture motor vehicles, but, to-night, I support this bill. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then when I said as my reason for opposing the measure -
If conditions had been normal, or if this proposal had been submitted to us after the war, I should have gladly supported it.
Now we can visualize the end of the war in the Pacific as it has already ended in Europe, and we are sufficiently confident of the future to develop our resources in order to meet post-war needs, a nd, although I opposed the plan of five years ago, when Paris was about to fall, on the grounds that it was a most inappropriate measure to bring before Parliament when we did not know where we should get the petrol to fuel the cars that we produced, it is a very different proposition to-day, and I shall reverse my vote then and support the proposal for the manufacture of motor cars here. There are, however, qualifications of my support which it is necessary to state now. I believe that we should endeavour to develop secondary industries. It is frequently alleged that the Australian Country party, of which I am a member, is opposed to secondary industries, but that is a mis-statement of the first water. We believe that secondary industries are necessary in Australia because those employed therein provide the first market for primary products. My statements and vote on this measure will give the lie to the charge that the farming community of which we are the representatives has little regard for secondary industries. It is necessary that Australia should develop secondary industries, particularly of this character. The war has done some strange things. One is that it has taken from farms, shops, banks and all kinds of occupations tens of thousands of young men who, previously knowing nothing about mechanics or machinery or any branch of engineering, were converted into skilled engineers, mechanics, fitters and turners. They will need an outlet in their new sphere of life, and I believe that the manufacture of motor vehicles will be one means of, assuring them of a useful occupation. Therefore, I support the establishment of the industry. Probably for many years to come, however, Australia’s prosperity will depend on the export of primary products. We shall not be able to export motor cars in competition with the United States of America and Great Britain. Our industry will depend on various protective devices established by the Government, and its products will be for Australian use. Many things will have to be imported, for instance, rubber and petrol, which will have to be paid for from the proceeds of the successful sale overseas of our primary products. That brings me to what I regard as a serious departure in this Government’s proposal from the scheme contained in the legislation passed during the Menzies regime under which a bounty ranging downwards from £30 per engine unit was to have been paid, according to the quantity of engines manufactured. The protection to be afforded the industry under this proposal will be by means of the tariff.
– We are not sure of that.
– Official statements have been made indicating that the tariff will be the only protection.
– That is good assistance.
– Yes. I welcome the honorable member’s interjection. Tariff protection means that the burden will not be spread over the whole community. Its cost will fall on those who buy motor vehicles, upon which no one depends more than the primary producers miles from town. So the cost of the protection of this industry will fall with particular severity on the farming community. Under present conditions, the duty on every motor vehicle is 65 per cent, of its value. The Menzies Government proposed to pay a bounty of £30 a unit on the first 20,000 engines manufactured, £25 on the next 20,000, and £20 on the third 20,000. Under this scheme, the only protection which will be given to the new industry, whether motor vehicles be manufactured in Australia by the Ford Motor Company, General Motors-Holdens Limited, or the Nuffield Corporation, will be that provided by the tariff. It would appear that prior to introducing this legislation no investigation was made by the Government to ascertain whether it would be better to produce motor vehicles in this country under the protection of the tariff, or by a bounty on each engine or car produced. More consideration should be given to that point. I recognize that General Motors-Holdens Limited and other well-known motor vehicle makers have said that they are prepared to manufacture in Australia under existing conditions, but I point out that those conditions involve a tariff protection of 65 per cent., plus an ad valorem duty, and exchange, as well as a number of other factors which may aggregate 100 per cent, protection! There are two systems by which primary and secondary industries can be assisted, namely, by means of customs duties, or by the granting of subsidies or bounties. Under the legislation which this bill seeks to repeal, the motor car manufacturing industry was to be established under a system of bounties. In my opinion, that is a better system, than is now proposed, although I shall not be dogmatic on the subject. From the Minister’s second-reading speech it appears that no adequate investigation has been made of the relative merits of the two forms of protection and- assistance.
– Does the honorable member think that under the Atlantic Charter and other treaties which are likely to be entered into it will be possible to afford this new industry 100 per cent, protection?
– I understand that the existing duty on motor vehicle parts, including chassis, is 65 per cent, if of foreign manufacture, and 45 per cent, if of British manufacture. In addition, there are other forms of protection. In this connexion, I shall quote from a speech, which I made in this chamber five years ago -
A Plymouth 5-passenger sedan in Australia costs £492, made up as follows: - Engine, including oman freights,” buying commission, &c, £1.12 ; exchange, £30; marine insurance, £2; duty and primage, £44; and wharfage, stacking, carting, &c, £1 Ils. 4d. When we add to these items the sum of £30 in respect of bounty, we find that the margin of protection given to the Australian engine and chassis as against the imported Plymouth car, is £108.
Those are costs which amount to protection additional to the actual duty, I have not the exact figures with me, and therefore I speak broadly, but it would appear that the protection given to Australian manufacturers is about 100 per cent,
– That is not so.
– Even if the protection be not 100 per cent., it is substantial when, all factors such as exchange, freight, and marine insurance are taken into consideration.
– I do not think that in the post-war world we shall be able to impose such heavy duties as the honorable member has mentioned.
– The figures which 1 have used relate to a period three or four years ago when motor cars were being imported. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that in the future we may not be able to impose prohibitive duties. Australia has substantial lend-lease commitments to the United States of America, which we shall not be able to meet. In view of the limitations which may exist in the postwar world, I suggest that insufficient consideration has been given to some aspects of the proposal before us, particularly as to the relative merits of tariff protection and the assistance of the industry by means of a bounty. The way in which this proposal has come before the Parliament calls for some criticism. On the day following the announcement by the Government that it proposed to arrange for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, a circular from General MotorsHoldens Limited reached me, and, I suppose, other honorable members also. That showed clearly that there had been consultation between that company, of which Mr. Hartnett is the general manager, and the Government. In its statement, General Motors-Holdens Limited stated that the company would manufacture motor vehicles in Australia under certain conditions. Obviously, there was collaboration between the Government and the company in relation to the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country, without any regard whatever to the rights of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited which had entered into an agreement with a previous government. Five years ago, in company with the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, I voted against the ratification of that agreement, and, therefore, I cannot be charged with having any special interest in Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. Nevertheless, I believe that any individual or organization which has entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth Government in good faith, and has carried out its part o? the contract, is entitled to fair treatment. I question whether the present Government has extended to that company treatment that is fair. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is the elected representative of the people of the Corio electorate. He entered this Parliament because he expressed certain views which were favorable to the Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited, and its employees at Geelong. I do not blame him for wanting to represent the views of a large number of the electors of that district, but Australian Consolidated Industries Limited had an agreement with the Government, and, in my opinion, ought to have been consulted before the conditions relating to the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia were changed.
– Does the honorable gentleman want a race-horse?
– I do not think that the Minister for “Works (Mr. Lazzarini) who has interjected would appreciate references being made to the speech which he delivered in this House on the 30th May, 1940. I remind him that one of the things for which the war has been fought is the right of the humblest person in the community to protection from those who would rob him. Every individual and organization in the community is entitled to fair treatment at the hands of a Government which claims to be democratic. In my opinion, Australian Consolidated Industries Limited has been scurvily treated by the Government; I say that notwithstanding that five years ago I criticized the agreement between that company and a former Government. I do not think that the action of the present Government in disregarding the rights of that company is in accordance with the principles for which we have fought, and are still fighting. Regardless of the methods by which rights are obtained, those who have rights are entitled to have them respected. I do not suggest that Australian Consolidated Industries Limited should be paid large sums by way of compensation, but I criticize the way in which this matter has been dealt with.
– The honorable member does not know anything about it.
– Five years ago, the Minister appeared in this chamber as the representative of the Ford Motor Company, and to-night he is still the representative of American interests. When this House was debating the Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill in 1940, members of the Labour party contended that the manufacture of motor cars in Australia should be financed with Australian capital. If honorable gentlemen will read the debate on that bill, they will find that almost every member of the Labour party emphasized that point. After the lapse of five years, those honorable members are supporting a bill which will mean that if the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia is undertaken by the Ford company, the Nuffield company or General Motors-Holdens Limited, very little Australian capital will be invested in it. Their contention that this industry, should be financed wholly with Australian capital has been completely ignored. I ask honorable mem,bers to attempt to reconcile their statements of five years ago with their actions to-night. I do not stand as a particular proponent of the view that Australian capital should be used in the development of Australian industries, because I believe that we should welcome the investment of overseas capital in this country. But the opinion which I express to-night, that only Australian capital should be employed to finance the manufacture of motor vehicles, was voiced five years ago by almost every member of the Labour party. They supported particular provisions in the bill designed to achieve that objective. “ The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.” Tonight, after five years, almost every member of the Labour party is recanting the speech that he made in 1940, and no longer insists that this industry shall be financed completely with Australian capital.
– The honorable member desires Australian Consolidated Industries Limited to have the monopoly of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia.
– The’ Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) interjects for the sole purpose of obscuring the issue. Let him explain to the country why he has changed his view.
In May, 1940, I strongly opposed the implementation of the bill, not because I objected to the establishment of another secondary industry in Australia, but because I considered that at that particular time, when Germany was overrunning France,, we should not be diverted from the real war effort. Last week, supporters of the Government blamed the previous anti-Labour Government for not having made an appropriate war effort, but in 1940, when France was reeling under heavy German blows, they advocated ‘the establishment of the motor car building industry in Australia. The only member of the Labour party who did not vote for the bill was the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
If Australia is to meet its overseas commitments and import essential goods, it must export some of its produce. Wool, wheat and butter represent 95 per cent, of the value of our exports. In order to pay for our imports of essential requirements, we must build up credits overseas by exporting primary products. Unfortunately, various actions by the Government, such as the introduction of legislation of this nature, seriously prejudices primary industries. The Government has not investigated the possible consequences of this proposal upon the wool industry, the proceeds from which enable Australia to import many necessary commodities. Without them, this country would not be able economically to function. If the Government of the day, irrespective of its political beliefs, -does not pay sufficient attention to the welfare of the great primary industries and imposes high customs duties on imported motor vehicles, clothing, machinery and electrical equipment, without any regard to the effect upon wool-growers, the motor vehicle manufacturing industry must ultimately fail. The reason is that the wool-grower is not able to pass on his costs and will be forced into bankruptcy. If the wool industry collapses, then the motor car manufacturing industry, among others, must also fail.
Although I support the establishment of this industry, I regret that the Government has not thoroughly investigated the possible effects upon our primary industries. It follows some socialist ideology without any thought of the consequences of its action upon many sections of the community. If it continues that policy and, by so doing, destroys the great exporting industries, the national economy will be gravely affected. Substantially, I support the bill, although I voted against it five years ago. My reason for changing my mind is that in May, 1940, we had before us a long, difficult struggle. To-night, the situation is very different.
.- Although, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated, this bill is a short one, it has great significance, because it will open the field for the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who delved into ancient history, devoted the major portion of his speech to a recital of events in this Parliament five years ago. If we are to progress and be Australiaminded, let us look to the future and, in some instances, forget the past. Five years ago, we were not building merchant ships, corvettes, aircraft, aircraft engines, tanks or guns, but to-day, Australia is utilizing its- great iron deposits and is manufacturing heavy machinery. When I inspected an industrial establishment at Wangaratta, which is converting into ingots, zinc recovered from aircraft, I was amazed to learn that all the heavy machinery there had been cast in Australia. I am confident that if Australians are able to make that class of machinery, they can build motor cars.
Another matter which appeared to perturb the honorable member for Richmond was that if the Ford company or the Nuffield company begin to manufacture motor vehicles in Australia, the industry will be financed, not with Australian capital, but with overseas capital. I do not regard that as a serious objection, because Australian workers will be employed and Australian wages will be paid to them, and the money will help to maintain many Australian families. If the Labour Government remains in office in the post-war period, we shall not witness the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of unemployed persons walking the streets of our cities in a vain quest for work, and existing on the dole. To-day, Australia has all the plant and the precision tool specialists required for the manufacture of motor vehicles. Let us forget the past. If the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction did make a certain decision five years ago, he is entitled to-day, with the change of international and Australian conditions, to take a different ‘view regarding the motor car manufacturing industry. Let us hope that other honorable members opposite particularly those who have been in this House for many years, will now be prepared to move with the times. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) expressed the hope that if the industry were established in Australia some thought would be given to profitsharing within the industry. I have always been a strong advocate of profitsharing. I believe that profit-sharing contributes substantially to the success of any industry. It is also refreshingto hear the honorable member for Fawkner praise the Australian workman, because for many months past honorable members opposite have not missed an opportunity to condemn the Australian worker. 1 pay a tribute to the great assistance which the workers of this country have given to our fighting forces. Indeed, they have been largely responsible for the success of our arms. I have every confidence in them. I believe that we can, and will, manufacture cars in Australia. I hope to see the day when our factories will turn out a car which will be within the means of the basic wage-earner. That can be done.We have every faith in the ability of Australian artisans to manufacture motor car engines. I trust that in the post-war period the objective about which we ha ve heard so much said will, in fact, be achieved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That a joint committee be appointed to examine current expenditure defrayed out of moneys voted by the Parliament for the defence services and other services directly connected with the war and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided on by the Government may be effected therein.
That the following members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Holt, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lawson, Mr. McLeod and Mr. Rankin be appointed to serve on such committee.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to appoint, sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committeee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee;
the committee have power, in cases where considerations of national security preclude the publication’ of any recommendations and of the arguments on which they are based, or both, to address a memorandum to the Prime Minister, for the consideration of the War Cabinet, but on every occasion when the committee exercises this power, the committee shall report to the Parliament accordingly.
That a messagebe sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that two members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
– I suggest that the procedure followed by the War Expenditure Committee in its various investigations in the past might be amended, particularly to enable it to inquire into the cost of, projects before they are actually undertaken. Last week I asked a question with respect to the building of stores at Broadmeadows and
Tottenham, and was informed that those two buildings were estimated to cost approximately £825,000. Considerable man-power and materials will be utilized in the undertakings. Hundreds of skilled tradesmen, such as carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and the like, are employed on those jobs. I was also informed that the buildings would not be completed until late this year. To-night we shall hear the news of the end of the war in Europe, and we know that the war against the Japanese will thus be accelerated. In these circumstances it is extremely unwise to expend huge sums of money on structures of this kind, particularly when their value is dubious. There are large stores at Seymour, in Victoria, many of the existing buildings there being unused, yet it is proposed to proceed with the structures at Broadmeadows and Tottenham. No doubt the undertakings were recommended on good authority, but they may have been projected some years ago, and approval may have just been given for commencement on the work. At any rate, the fact is that to-day when sufficient houses cannot be provided for our people, including exservicemen, the Government proposes to tie up valuable man-power and materials on these jobs. The War Service Homes Department has constructed only fifteen houses since the outbreak of war, yet building material is to be absorbed on these unnecessary structures. In respect of works of that kind, for example, a committee like the War Expenditure ‘Committee could find out the real position before expenditure is incurred. Such investigations would prove far more useful than the post-mortems which the committee has hitherto conducted after the expenditure has been incurred. One could cite many other instances. The Repatriation Department is now building a structure at an estimated cost of £80,000 which is to bo only temporary. The activities of that department are related to the re-establishment legislation which will be before us within -a few days. Although the Government is concerned with the settlement and rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, it is now utilizing precious man-power and building materials on work which is not nearly so urgent as the provision of homes for ex- servicemen. Therefore, we should make some change in the present set-up. Perhaps, honorable members can suggest improvements in that direction. The War Expenditure Committee should have the right to interview the business boards of each of the three services, the Navy the Army, and the Air Force, and obtain from them and investigate in advance their schedules of public works. I say advisedly that many camps, training schools and military establishments are now unnecessary, and from these substantial quantities of materials could be provided for the building of homes. The committee might investigate that aspect. A Commonwealth Arbitration Court building is being constructed in Melbourne at an ‘ estimated cost of £60,000. The construction of that building could be postponed until after the war. Owing to the shortage of houses many people are now obliged to live in squalor. We find children herded into rooms without ordinary civilized amenities for which we are supposed to be fighting. Timely inquiry by the War Expenditure Committee in the directions I have indicated could be the means of saving millions of pounds and diverting urgently needed man-power and material to the construction of homes. In view of war developments we shall need very few more defence jobs in Australia.
– That is not so.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say that the stores which I have mentioned are necessary? Are the Ordnance Stores at Albury necessary? The Acting Prime Minister is an adept at magnifying minor considerations. He will not deny that substantial quantities of man-power and material are being tied up on jobs which are not urgent. Every honorable member has applied from time to time for the release of men urgently needed in essential industries, both primary and secondary. When the Prime Minister suggested the release of thousands of men from the forces for primary industries, I urged that he should also arrange for the release of men skilled in the building trade. A job and a home are almost synonymous. However, very few skilled builders have been released. ‘Consequently, sufficient houses are not being built to meet the need. At the same time, the Government in New Zealand has constructed 18,000 houses since 1938.
– And it is a Labour Government also.
– It is a good Labour Government. Unlike this class-conscious, socialist Government, it also believes in conscription for military service wherever its troops may be required. Despite high costs the New Zealand Government has constructed large numbers of houses, and, to-day, it is not experiencing anything like the shortage confronting us in Australia. It has also encouraged private enterprise to co-operate in that work.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– My point is that before defence works are undertaken, we should be assured of their urgency. I have mentioned only three or four undertakings; there are many more. We hear of surplus defence huts being made available to the public, but who wants to live in a defence hut? Huts are still being built in certain service areas. Let us give the people the use of huts or camps, but we should not go on utilizing and monopolizing the man-power and materials of the nation at a time like this when so much can be done for the general good. The proposed committee should have the right to go to the source of the contracts, and make inquiries there if necessary. I realize that the Department of the Interior has done good work, but it works slowly. It may be that some of the big undertakings on which it is engaged to-day are of early vintage, and were proposed in the early days of the war. It may be sheer waste to continue with these works now. This waste could be eliminated by giving’ to the War Expenditure Committee power to make inquiries in the departments in which the proposals originate. If members of the proposed committee do not know of any specific instances, I shall be only too pleased to supply them, and to make a request in this House that inquiries into them be instituted by the committee.
– I believe that the War Expenditure Committee on which I served for four years is one of the most valuable committees ever set up by this Parliament. I know of the valuable work that the committee has done, and my own experience as a member of it has convinced me that it should be enlarged and that its field of inquiry should be extended. Obviously, it would be impossible for a committee such as this to inquire into the whole of the ramifications of war expenditure in Australia. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) mentioned one or two undertakings in which he considers that money and man-power have been wasted. I am satisfied that in the services there is a considerable amount of unnecessary expenditure which should be investigated ; but it is not the job of the War Expenditure Committee to determine whether or not a particular undertaking is necessary. In fact, the committee only inquires into projects after the money has been spent.
– It is too late then.
– I believe that in many instances undertakings involving considerable expenditure could be referred to the Public Works Committee. That body would be competent to express an opinion as to whether or not proposed projects were necessary. The War Expenditure Committee has done a fine job, and from my own experience I know that it has been responsible for saving this country something like £1,500,000.
I support this motion and I hope that the Government will consider the suggestion which I have made in regard to the referring of service projects to the Public Works Committee. I urge also that the War ExpenditureCommittee be enlarged so that if necessary it can be split up into sub-committees and so extend the scope of its activities’. Whilst I was a member of the committee, it had investigation officers carrying out inquiries into certain undertakings. In one case in New South Wales, as the result of the work of these investigation officers, £250,000 was returned to the Commonwealth. I recall also that when it was proposed to employ a company to manage a factory in Victoria at a fee of £20,000 a year, the former member for Gippsland, Mr. T. Paterson, and I investigated the matter as members of the War Expenditure Committee. We reported that, if necessary, we could find a manager at a salary of £1,000 a year. The result was that the contract was reviewed and the management cost was reduced from £20,000 to £5,000 a year. I cite these cases as an illustration of the work that this committee is doing for the Commonwealth. I believe that its powers should be extended and its membership increased so that the scope of its investigations may be widened.
.- As a member of the last War Expenditure Committee, I feel that the House is entitled to some comment on the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in particular, with respect to the operations of the committee. In the first instance, I am sure that all members of the committee welcome the interest that has been shown by honorable members in its work. From time to time, the committee has invited members of this Parliament to place before it matters which they believe should be investigated. Also, we have inserted advertisements in the press inviting members of the public to tell us of undertakings which they think involve waste or inefficiency. We are very glad at any time to look into matters of that kind.
– When was that invitatation extended to members of Parliament ?
– I shall ascertain the exact date for the honorable member. My recollection is that a circular letter was sent to all members and senators. I recall that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) wrote to the committee and that certain inquiries were instituted as the result of the correspondence received from him. We also received a considerable volume of correspondence from the general public following the publication ‘ of the advertisements which I have mentioned.
– Does the committee report to the Parliament or to the Government ?
– I think that seven reports have been presented to Parliament, but as the committee has been investigating matters associated with defence expenditure, many of its reports have had to be presented privately to the Government or to a Minister. However, we shall be glad to give to the Parliament wider information on the work of the committee should that be desired. I have suggested to the secretary of the committee that he should prepare a summary of the work that has been done to date.
I appreciate, as do other members of the committee, the generous references that have been made to its work by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). I share the honorable member’s view that the committee can do very valuable work. There is a good deal to be said for the suggestion that the membership of the committee should be increased because, in the present circumstances, it is impossible for it to do the job that it was meant to do as adequately as we should all like. There are obvious reasons for its imperfections. The first is that Parliament is meeting for a considerable portion of the year, and it is not practicable for the committee to function continuously whilst we are in session. Then, of course, after a prolonged sitting of Parliament, there is a natural desire on the part of members to return to their constituencies for some time at least. We have experienced real difficulty in maintaining continuity in om- work and in our investigations of particular matters. If the membership of the committee were increased, as the honorable member for Lang has suggested, Ave could split up into subcommittees and in that way we could cover much more ground than we are able to cover under the present arrangement. It will be seen from the terms of the motion that the committee has been given a wide charter. As a member of a former War Expenditure Committee, I feel bound to say that the Government has been very co-operative and so far as I can gather, has welcomed the assistance of the committee. Certainly it has made officers of the various defence services and of government departments generally available, to assist us in our work.
The point raised by the honorable member for Balaclava is important; he said that much of the work of the committee must necessarily be done ex-post facto - after the money has been spent - so that its inquiries are very largely in the nature of a post-mortem.
Whilst that may be true of certain investigations it is not true of all of them. I was not a member of the committee when it inquired into the cost-plus system, but those inquiries were made while that system was still in operation, and the Government was able to benefit by the investigations carried out by the committee. There have been occasions when the Board of Business Administration has submitted to the committee matters which have come before the Board for determination. In some of these cases, we have been able to make recommendations which I believe have had the effect of saving considerable sums of money. Similarly, from time to time, Ministers have referred to us matters which they have felt should be investigated. In fact, the only limit placed by the Government upon the field of investigation, is that any investigation must be consistent with the execution of the policy decided upon by the Government. Nevertheless, that leaves a very wide range of items awaiting inquiry. Personally, I do not feel that the committee, as constituted, is able adequately to carry out its responsible task as the watchdog of the Parliament on government expenditure. I do not believe that honorable members can, consistently with their responsibilities to the Parliament and to their constituents, give the continuous application to the inquiries that most of the matters under review -demand. I put this to the House for its reflection: In the early stages of the war, costs had in some instances to be disregarded. We had to get on with the job, and the supreme responsibility was the security of this country. We had to furnish the necessary munitions and war equipment to our fighting services ; but now that one phase of the war has ended, and the other is well advanced, the people having carried for a number of years a crushing burden of taxation, there is a call upon the Parliament and upon committees of the Parliament, to bring government expenditure under even more searching review, and to the extent that members of Parliament cannot adequately discharge this task, they should be supplemented by other instrumentalities. In Great Britain, after the last war, a continuing royal commission, known as the
Geddes Commission, was established. That commission had the task of pruning government expenditure, reducing the war inflated bureaucracy, and helping to restore government administration to something like a normal state of affairs. Action of that kind is needed immediately in Australia. With all the goodwill with which the members of this committee may discharge their responsibility, the public cannot be certain that there will be continuous oversight of government expenditure. Nor can. the Government itself. Whatever useful work can be done by the committee in the sporadic fashion in which it is called upon to discharge its functions should be undertaken, but there should be a body of a more permanent character, and one better qualified by reason of its composition and the time it was able to devote to an uninterrupted review of Commonwealth expenditure. I ask the Government to consider that suggestion seriously. It can rest assured that the members of the committee realize the disadvantages under which they are working. Their well-meant efforts should be supplemented, by assistance along the lines I have indicated.
.- It has been suggested that the personnel of the War Expenditure Committee should be enlarged. That is a responsibility of the Government. In. my opinion, unwieldy committees are less responsive than are committees which can be summoned at frequent intervals. I endorse the statement of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), that in each session of the Parliament every member of the Senate and the House of Representatives has been circularized by the committee, requesting that reports or allegations of wasteful war expenditure should be brought to its notice. Few members have responded to that request. The work of the committee cannot be challenged successfully. In the early period of its functioning when big organizations were being established, ceiling prices had not been fixed, and the cost-plus system was in operation, its investigations resulted in substantial savings being effected for the benefit of the people of Australia, and the Prime
Minister commended it for the work that it had done. The previous committee was hampered in many ways. The investigation of huge undertakings must be accompanied by research if the committee is to make a definite finding; but its staff has been limited in number, and research officers have not been available to it. That has been the experience also of many of the departments established during the war period. In the last few months, when the Parliament has not been in constant session, the committee could have made progress with many investigations, but it was automatically dissolved with the prorogation of the Parliament. After a lengthy session, many members of the committee find it necessary to return to their home States, to attend to the parliamentary business that has accumulated during their absence. This hinders the operations of the committee. The reports which it has submitted to the Parliament speak for the work which it has accomplished. As the honorable member for Fawkner has said, seven reports have been tabled. In addition, when the committee wanted to short-circuit the procedure in order that action might be taken quickly to prevent wastef ul expenditure, it has exercised the power to submit a report direct to flip Prime Minister. I am not prepared to support the proposal for a larger committee. Even though sub-committees may make investigations, the matter must eventually be decided by the full committee. Possibly, a larger committee would tend to hinder rather than advance investigations. Repeatedly, the committee has asked Ministers to bring to its notice large contracts which havebeen let, so that it might investigate them in the early stage and thus avoid the criticism that it had intervened only after the money had been expended . On many occasions in the early days of the committee’s operations, money was expended before the investigation was commenced. That condition has now been removed, and reports are presented quickly when theGovernment asks the committee to conduct an investigation of any undertaking.
.- This subject is of great importance to the House; therefore, a few observations will notbe out of place. For a considerable time, the Parliament has surrendered its control over expenditure. Reasons given are mainly connected with the impossibility during the war of exercising a closevigilance due to considerations of security. Accordingly, the work of the War Expenditure Committee is of outstanding importance. Iam in favour of the committee so far as it goes, but consider that the Government’s proposal does not deal adequately with the problem with which we are confronted. We have had a War Expenditure ‘Committee and a Public Works Committee without any clear delineation between the field of the one and the other. It seems to me to be necessary to have a fresh approach to public expenditure in this country. Out war expenditure has totalled half a billion pounds, and not a few millions of it has been wasteful expenditure. War conditions have caused a sense of irresponsibility amongst some persons regarding the expenditure of public moneys, and therefore, the importance of a close scrutiny of such expenditure by parliamentary committees has become more urgent. We should attack the problem at its source. I favour the scrapping of the existing committee system in favour of a new form of safeguard in the form of a statutory body called a budgetary and expenditure committee. Such a committee should be provided with funds voted by Parliament to enable it to obtain proper secretarial and export assistance, it should have complete power to call for information from any person, and it should be able to control expenditure from the time when estimates are first prepared until the money voted has been disbursed. I applaud the work that has been done by the War Expenditure Committee and the Public Works Committee, but their field of activity has been too restricted. As the nation finally turns to peace-time activities, we shall find a tendency on the part of many officials to maintain the high wartime rate of expenditure for the purpose of maintaining their own prestige and position. There are many people who, during war-time, have become temporary government officials exercising substantial power. They will seek to keep up expenditure for their own ‘benefit.
Therefore, Parliament should appoint a committee to examine the budget while it is in course of preparation and consider the necessity for the proposed expenditure. Further, as budgeted expenditure is being added to during the year, which is inevitable, the committee should investigate each fresh proposal and should watch the expenditure as it is made. This work cannot be carried out by a committee of this House alone. Such a committee must be reinforced by experts, and it must have substantial financial support in order to enable it to employ independent expert advisers and investigators. It should not merely he appointed by this House, but should be established by statute. Its powers should include the right to interrogate Ministers. In that way we might secure 30me satisfactory form of control over public expenditure. We are all aware of the fact that there has been much wasteful expenditure during the war. The tendency has been to think that money does not matter at all; that one may spend what one likes so long as one gets the jobs done. That might have been very well, subject to some qualification®, in the early days of the war, but to contend that such a policy could be justified during the last two years would be fallacious. Money does matter. Although it is true .that we depend primarily upon marrying materials with human labour to obtain production, that production is determined in terms of money, and one reacts upon the other in an economy such as our own. Therefore, I am not satisfied with the arrange- - ment which is foreshadowed by the proposed appointment of this committee. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) that a big committee is cumbersome. The most effective committee is a small committee, supported by experts to do the spadework of investigation. Accordingly, whilst I am in accordance with the purpose of this committee, I do not believe that it can deal with the problem of public expenditure in a realistic wayIt is true that the War Expenditure Committee and the Public Works Committee have done some first-class work. But the War Expenditure Committee cannot cover the whole field, and its approach to problems of war expenditure must be very largely fortuitous. If that be conceded, it shows with greater emphasis how necessary it is to have a completely fresh approach to this problem.. Every honorable member knows that, when this Parliament votes a sum of £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 for war purposes, it has no control over the expenditure of that money. That involves the surrendering of one of the primary controls of Parliament over the Executive. I have always asserted that this Parliament must take the responsibility for the expenditure of public funds, and I geek to assert the rights of private members. Therefore, I urge the Government to consider establishing a budgetary committee along the lines of committees existing in Great Britain and the United States of America, where committee work has been developed! so as to protect Parliament. We are developing committee work in Australia, too, but, whilst we are at the end of one phase of the war, we still have another phase to complete, and after that we shall have to face the difficult task of post-war reconstruction. Large sums of money must be expended, on post-war reconstruction, and it will be important to secure full value for every £1 expended on that wO’rk. Now is the time to establish a budgetary and expenditure committee .with the function of examining the budget while it is being framed, considering whether the Estimates are excessive or not, and deciding where economies, can wisely be made. Such a committee should not act in a niggardly manner, but should aim to protect the people from oppressive taxation and seek to obtain the fullest benefit from every £1 of public expenditure. Having examined the budget proposals, it should then maintain a close watch on increased expenditure during the year and keep the overall picture of the budget in mind from year to year. In this way we can restore to Parliament some of its former control over the public purse.
.- 1 endorse what the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) has said about the good work that has been done by the former War Expenditure Committee. and I agree with his proposal for granting greater powers to the proposed new committee. The Truman Committee in the United States of America has shown us what oan he done in the way of preventing wasteful war expenditure. It effected savings of over £100,000,000 involved in various war contracts. I venture to *say that the War Expenditure Committee did similar work for Australia on a reduced scale. Unfortunately, it was handicapped by the fact that it could only meet and make its investigations during parliamentary recesses. Furthermore, some of its members came from distant States and their duties in their electorates prevented them from carrying on the work of the committee as assiduously as they would like to have done. The committee did not have the benefit of sufficient assistance from expert investigators. I was a member of that committee for a short time, and I know from experience the conditions under which it operated. It could have done much better work if it had had more expert assistance. At one stage, it had’ the advice of an expert, Mr. Evans, who did splendid work. The committee became so effective at that time that when many concerns learned that it was about to investigate their operations they disgorged large sums of money without waiting for inquiries to be made. I have in mind two instances in which business organizations voluntarily disgorged excess profits to the amount of £100,000 and £40,000 respectively as the result of the operations of the committee. Unfortunately, Mr. Evans was taken away from the job, and requests that were made for further assistance were not granted. If the committee had the benefit of the services of an expert in vestigator all the time to carry on inquiries while members of the committee were busy in Parliament or in the electorate even better work could be done. The Government should make a more earnest endeavour to give effect to the recommendations of the committee. On one occasion I brought to the attention of the committee a certain irregularity in regard to war contracts. One had to do with the carting of sand for the Captain Cook Graving Dock and for other undertakings. The contractor had let a sub-contract for the carting of sand at 7s. 6d. a yard, despite the fact that lower tenders had been submitted-. One was for 4s. 3d. a yard, but it was found by the committee upon examination, that the tender had been altered by some one on the staff of the Allied Works Council to read 8s. a yard. The committee directed, that fresh tenders be called. This was done, and the man who had submitted the tender for 4s. 3d. a yard was given the contract. After a while, however, the principal contractor cancelled the arrangement, and gave the contract to the man who had. first submitted a tender of 7s. 6d. a yard, but who later tendered at 3s. lOd. a yard. One would have thought that no further business would have been done with a man who bad overcharged by so much in the first place. It was also found that he had defrauded the Government of some thousands of pounds by returning incorrect quantities. That matter is now being followed up. I understand that certain officials of the Allied Works Council were dismissed over these transactions, but I submit that proceedings1 should be taken against them. Control of expenditure should certainly be tightened up, particularly in view of the fact that considerable expenditure will continue after the war. Some of those who have Government contracts now will probably tender for work after the war, and all expenditure of the kind should be closely investigated.
.- While I appreciate the good work which has been done by the War Expenditure Committee and by other parliamentary committees, I believe that there is room for improvement in some directions. The War Expenditure Committee deals with war expenditure only, and many of its inquiries are directed to expenditure which has already been incurred. Thus, the committee does not serve so useful a purpose as it might. As for the Public Works Committee, I have always felt that the procedure might be varied with advantage. Under the act, the committee is required to report on certain public works which are to be undertaken by the Government. After taking evidence and examining the project, the committee reports to Parliament. If it recommends that the work be undertaken, the report comes before Parliament with plans and specificationss and Parliament accepts, rejects or varies the recommendation. My complaint is, that,, after Parliament has accepted a recommendation of the committee, the Works Department is then able to do what it likes with the plans and specifications. It can sovary them as to increase or decrease expenditure on the undertaking. I submit that no variation of the recommendation should he made except by Parliament, and that the recommendation should, if varied, be referred back to the committee. Otherwise, there is no check an expenditure.
I cannot understand why the Public Accounts Committee, which was constituted by statute, to which assent was given on the 19th December, 1913, is not functioning to-day. That committee carried on very effectively and usefully until the depression. Public accounts then became thoroughly disorganised. The committee was disbanded, and has never since been reconstituted. The duties of the committee were- - (a)To examine theaccounts of the receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament any items in thoseaccounts or any circumstances connected with them to which they think that attention should be directed.:
The committee could be reconstituted, and the necessary secretarial and clerical staff appointed to enable it to function. It would serve a useful purpose in checking wasteful expenditure and would, in effect, act as the watchdog of Parliament The War Expenditure Committee should inquire into war expenditure as such, and all other Comm on wealth, expenditure should be reviewed by a Public Accounts Committee.
.- 1 believe that it is advisable to reconstitute the War Expenditure Committee, and that it should furnish more frequent re portsto Parliament concerning its activities. We have been told that the previous committee submitted seven reports to Parliament, butI have not heard any of them discussed here. Probably, the reason is that the reports came before Parliament when their subject-ma tter was out of date, therefore having ceased to be of general interest. If the committee is to be of great value, its reports should be up to date and should be tendered to Parliament frequently. If necessary, interim reports should be submitted. It is of no use to lock the stable door after the steed has escaped., and therefore it is of little value for a committee to submit a report about something which ought not to have been done, after man-power and public money have been expended in doing it. If the committee resumes its activities in a way which permits of an extravagant expenditure of money before anything can be done about it,the value of its work will be lost. The public contributes in taxes and in war loans the necessary finance for the war effort, and the people and this Parliament are entitled to a better record of the nature of that expenditure than appears to have been supplied in the past. I thoroughly approve the reconstitution of the comimittee and reiterate that it should make more frequent reports than, hitherto about the matters investigated, particularly those in regard to which prompt action is called for.
I notice that the motion for the reconstitution of the committee provides only for the investigation of expenditure on services directly associated with the war,,but I think that its functions might be extended in several directions. In the Glen Innes district, which is part of my electorate, tens of thousands of pounds were expended in the construction of an. aerodrome which was intended for use in the event of an invasion of Australia. The sum of £60,000 or £70,0.000 or even more, was expended on that work, which was completed except for the tarring of the runways; but, because they were not tarred, grass and timber have appeared on them and the value of the whole of that expenditure has been practically lost. The committee should be empowered to inquire whether the further expenditure of a reasonable sum of money might prevent the waste of a vastly greater expenditure, seeing that the aerodrome could be used for post-war purposes. I hope that the committee, when reconstituted, will be able to do more valuable work than in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and, from time to time, report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia and of rectifying any anomalies in existing legislation.
That the following members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Barnard, Mr. Daly, Mr. Haylen and Mr. Ryan be appointed to serve on such committee.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of (he Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee may add a protest or dissent to any report;
three members of the committee constitute a quorum.
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that three members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
– I have no doubt that all of the laudatory remarks made regarding the War Expenditure Committee are applicable to the committee now proposed to be appointed. The wide charter to be given to the committee calls for the formation from time to time of sub-committees, and these should be given permission to take evidence in such a way that the reports of the committee will be useful. I am surprised that certain powers conferred on the War Expenditure Committee are not proposed to be extended to the Social
Security Committee. The former committee was given power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members to deal with matters which the committee is empowered to examine. Honorable members realize the importance of the appointment of subcommittees so that one may investigate a set of circumstances obtaining, for example, in part of a State while the remainder of the committee carries out investigations elsewhere. No doubt an oversight on the part of the Government is responsible for this omission, and I believe that the Government will be willing to rectify the error. I move -
That, in paragraph 3, before sub-paragraph (a), the following sub-paragraph be inserted : - (aa) the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three ormore of its members; and to referto any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine.
If that amendment is agreed to it will thenbe necessary to insert after “ committee” in paragraph a the words “or any sub-committee”. That provision would then be in complete accord with paragraph b of clause 3 of the motion relating to the War Expenditure Committee. After paragraph c it will be necessary to add the words “ and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum “. It is obvious that this amendment is intended to give to this committee the same power as has been given to other committees of this Parliament.
– How many members does the honorable gentleman propose should constitute a sub-committee?
– That is left entirely to the committee; two members will form a quorum of a subcommittee. The amendment if adopted will enable the committee to expedite its work. I have no doubt that this provision was overlooked-, and I ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) to give serious consideration to the amendments.
.- I was chairman of the former Social Security Committee for some years, and I can see no objection to the proposed amendments. We have visited places to take evidence with just a quorum when we have thought that that was all that was necessary. I see no objection to the proposal that two members shall suffice as a quorum of a sub-commiittee, but I do not know that there is any great advantage in the proposal.
.- I support the amendment, which, if adopted, will merely place theSocial Security Committee on exactly the same footing as regards the appointment of sub-committees and quorums as the War Expenditure Committee. I have never understood why it should not have the power to appoint a sub-committee. Every other committee appointed by this Parliament has that power. It will no doubt be recalled that about eighteen months ago the committee delegated certain members to confer in Sydney with representatives of the British Medical Association and others. Those members did excellent work, but, when it was discovered that the committee had no power to form a sub-committee, a heated debate occurred in this House. I will not go into details ; they are well remembered. I do not want it to happen again. I agree with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that it would be a distinct advantage for the Social Security Committee to have power to appoint a subcommittee and I hope that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) will accept the amendments.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), with whom I have discussed this matter, has also discussed it with members of the former Social Security Committee. I am assured that power to appoint a sub-committee would facilitate its work, and I am prepared to accept the amendments.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Harbison) agreed to.
That, in paragraph (3), sub-paragraph (a), after the word “ Committee “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “or any sub-committee “.
That, in paragraph (3), at the end of subparagraph (c), the following words be added: - “ of the Committee and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee “.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 10.50 to 11.10 p.m.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Acting
Prime Minister and Treasurer). - by leave - It is with great pleasure that I announce to the House the complete defeat of Germany and the official cessation of hostilities in the war in Europe. That pleasure is tempered with regret that the Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honorable John Curtin, who has contributed so much to this war effort, is not able, due to illness, to make this announcement to-night. I am sure that every honorable member will share with me a feeling of regret that he is not present on this historic occasion.
The ability of the Nazi regime in Europe to resist effectively the forces of the United Nations has ended. Victory has crowned the arms of those who have stood for so many weary years against aggression. Fighters and workers in the cause of freedom have come through the mightiest convulsion in the world’s history. The terms of the military instrument of surrender signed at Rheims, France, at 2.41 . a.m. Central European time on Monday, the 7th May, have been made public, and are as follows : -
TEXT OF MILITARY INSTRUMENT OF SURRENDER.
We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command all forces on land, sea, and in the air who are at this date under German control.
The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hour’s Central European time 8th May and to remain in positions occupied at that time. No ship, vessel or aircraft is to be scuttled or any damage done to their hull, machinery or equipment.
The German High Command will at once issue to appropriate commander, and ensure that carrying out of any further orders issued by the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, and by Soviet High Command.
This act of military surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of surrender imposed by. or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable to Germany and German Armed Forces as a whole.
In the event of the German High Command, or any of the forces under their control, failing to act in accordance with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, and Soviet High Command will take such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate.
Signed atRheims at 0241 on 7th day of May. 1945, on behalf of German High Command.
In the presence of -
On behalf of Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces -
B. Smith,lieut. -General.
Sevez, General. (11.) On behalf of the Soviet High Command -
These are accompanied by an undertaking signed by General Jodl, representing the German High Command, that the Commanders-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy and Air Force would arrive at a place and at a time designated by Supreme Allied Head-quarters and the Soviet High Command, with plenary powers to execute, on behalf of the German High Command, the formal ratification of the act of unconditional surrender. Formal ratification will take place in Berlin.
In accepting the unconditional surrender of Germany, the representatives of the Supreme Commands of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and France have acted by the authority of their respective governments and in the interests of the United Nations. In this the Allied representatives have, of course, acted, in effect, on behalf of Australia as well as other United Nations which have contributed to the German defeat, and the Australian Government is, therefore, fully associated with the acceptance of the German surrender. The Australian Government has also been consulted on the general terms to be imposed on Germany and will be associated in an appropriate way with the machinery for the control of Germany which will operate during the Allied occupation.
Let us all, at this historic moment, pause and remember those whose lives have been given, or whose bodies and minds have been broken and seared, that we might live.
Let us remember, too, the men and women and children whose lives and homes were plunged into the horror of war. Let us think of the people of bombbattered Britain who set the example - so many years ago it seems now - for all the world to follow. Let us think of the agony of Stalingrad, of Sebastopol, of Rotterdam, of Malta, of occupied France.
Let us remember, too, the men who covered the seas so that vital forces and supplies could be carried to the points at which they were essential to the carrying on of the struggle, and then to the offensives that have brought victory.
And now, with brutality, physical and mental disfigurement, human degradation and enslavement no longer capable of being imposed on the peoples of Europe, let us pray that the rebuilding of lives and homes, the feeding and nursing and, so importantly, the reestablishment, or the gift, of free government, will have the full strength of the United Nations whose concert in war has won victory. Let not the peace be lost.
I feel that a great debt of gratitude is owed to the leaders of the United Nations and to the commanders in the field. History’s place for men such as Mr. Churchill, the late President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Genera] Eisenhower, FieldMarshal Alexander and Field-Marshal Montgomery cannot adequately reflect the great devotion, ability and steadfastness which they brought to their tasks.
Above all, let us give thanks to Almighty God.
Australian men and women, fighters and workers, can join, with just pride, in the parade of victory that has now commenced. Our place has been won with blood and with sacrifice. Our name is known in the shifting sands of the Western Desert, in the mountains of Greece, in Crete and in Syria. . In every theatre of aerial warfare, our name has been made known. On every sea, Australia has had its ships and men. For, let it be known to the world, that where<ever the enemy has been met Australians Vie, whether in graves or beneath the restless sea.
Australians have won their place with sacrifice, by miracles of production, by unstinted contributions in money, and by an unswerving spirit of devotion to all the tasks that war imposes.
For us, thanksgiving and rejoicing are tempered by the stern reminder that that other enemy - that assassin that struck at Pear] Harbour and Manila and Malaya - still, remains. The Japanese still occupy territory that is Australia’s responsibility, still hold in their ruthless grip British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, French Indo-China, and a heartbreaking part of China, and they still hold their own mainland.
In countless prison camps are Australians who fought their way down Malaya to Singapore. They must and shall be freed. The forces of Britain and the United States of America and, I hope soon, those of Russia, provide a key for the unlocking of prison camps and for the freeing of so many unhappy people. Peace will come to this Pacific only on the unconditional surrender of the Japanese. The alternative for Japan is to be smashed into submission.
It is our task to maintain the great effort which, since Japan entered the war, has won world praise for our country. Our fighting men have added such places as the Kokoda Trail, Buna, New Britain and Bougainville to their battle honours. The Royal Australian Air Force has sought out the enemy in countless places. The Royal Australian Navy has paid its price in battle.
Let us do nothing that will prolong by a day the moment when our fighting men, and) those under the command of General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, General Arnold and Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten can administer the final crushing blow to our enemy.
In the name of His Royal Highness the Governor-General and of the Commonwealth Government, I invite all citizens to attend to-morrow the services arranged by the appropriate authorities to give thanks for the victory, to rejoice at our deliverance, andi to dedicate Australia’s every resource to the victory yet to be won.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition I support what has been said by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Before we came into this House to-night, we had listened to a broadcast from London, and we had hoard two voices, not for the first time. The first was the voice of Big Ben, sounding victory to-night as he has sounded defiant for years past. The second was the voice of Winston Churchill, announcing victory - as, perhaps, no other man alive has the right to announce it - with the true brool of the British lion in his voice ; announcing victory to-night as he has announced even disaster in the past - with undefeated courage.
On the 3rd September, 1939, it was ray solemn responsibility, as the then Prime Minister of Australia, to announce that we were at war with Germany.
In broadcasting to the Australian nation at that time, I used these words) -
There never was any doubt as to where Great Britain stood and neither is there any doubt that where Great Britain stands there stand the people of the entire British world. What may be before us we do not know, nor how long the journey; but this we do know, that truth is our companion on this journey, that truth is with us in the battle, and that truth must win.
At this moment, more than five and a half years later, we are in this National Parliament rejoicing in victory over Germany. I regret, as do all honorable members, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is not able to be present to share in our happiness., for he, like his predecessors, has devoted himself unsparingly to our great cause.
The writing has been so clear upon the wall for so many months, that the final surrender of Germany comes with relief but not with surprise.
We thank God for a great deliverance from a powerful and savage enemy. Those who lived by the sword have perished by it.
We shall press forward with renewed strength to the defeat of Japan, which is certain, but which will yet involve a large sacrifice of precious blood and material treasure.
In our natural joy, in the brief period of celebration which will precede the girding of our loins for the final battle, I am thinking most of those who have died for our defence against Germany, and of their families, for whom national victory brings inexpressibly sad, proud memories.
Amid our cheers for victory, let u& remember with grateful hearts all our citizens who have accepted the burdens of war, but in particular the intrepid sailors, the tenacious soldiers, and the gallant young airmen who, in treacherous seas, in blinding sandstorms or reeking jungle, or in the shattering skies, have been most willing to pay the greatest price for freedom.
Let us remember our Allies and their courageous peoples.
With special feeling let us, as Australians, within the covenant of the British blood, remember our own folk of Great Britain and their immortal leader, for it was they who, in the darkest days of this war, stood undaunted to defend in, over and around their small islands the whole future of the human race. Though a host was encamped against them, their hearts did not fear.
And, above all, let us remember that our task has changed, but not ended.
There are war-torn countries to be restored, great peoples to be fed, the cruel wounds of five years to be healed, and half a world to be brought back to sanity and justice.
In the months that remain for Japan, we have heavy tasks - to destroy the power and tyranny of the Prussians of the Par East, to release thousands of our people from bitter captivity, and to build a better world upon the ashes of the greatest war in history; “to give light to thom that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace “.
– by leave - On behalf of the Australian. Country party, I join with the previous speakers in expressing regret that the Bight Honorable John Curtin, our Prime Minister, is not able to be with us to-night to voice his happiness at the termination of the war in Europe.
We, who are assembled in this Parliament to-night, have every reason for jubilation at the ignominious downfall of Germany, once the most tyrannical nation in the world.
From the dramatic afternoon of the 6th September, 1939, when my colleague the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, announced to this House that Great Britain and, likewise, Australia were at war with Germany, we have watched the progress of the conflict which has brought untold suffering and misery to hundreds of thousands of people in all parts of the world.
Therefore, the news of unconditional surrender is an occasion for the people of Australia to join with those of other democratic nations in rejoicing at the humiliating defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
The war in Europe is over; the war to crush the remaining active .partner of the Axis - Japan - has yet to be won. Tasks of the greatest magnitude, and involving the gravest danger, still lie ahead. Hordes of fanatical Japanese, existing virtually at Australia’s front door, have to be exterminated.
Fierce and bloody .fighting will be necessary to accomplish the total defeat of Japan. And, until Japan shares the defeat, which has now been administered to Germany and Italy, the United Nations will not have completed the solemn mission which they have pursued through the last five and a half years. For Australia, particularly, there can be no carefree rejoicing until the martyred 8 th Division has been rescued from the prison camps of Nippon; until we have back home again the sailors, soldiers and airmen who have fulfilled the Anzac tradition on sea, on land, and in the air.
Thankful to God for the European triumph of justice, recognizing, however, that the time for relaxing our own war effort has not yet arrived, let us honour all who have shared in the common effort which, in the European theatre, has now brought common victory.
Let us honour the Americans, whom that great General Eisenhower led in a succession of victories, the Russians, who stood desperately at Stalingrad and thereafter steamrolled on from success to success, the valiant Yugoslav partisans, the tiny Greek nation which refused to knuckle down to Nazi-ism and took the known consequences, and all those splendid patriots who, through years of subjection, kept the spirit of the overrun nations of Europe burningly alive. But, above all, let us honour the grand and valiant people of Britain - our Mother Country. But for them, we would not know this day of rejoicing.
The people of Britain endured, without complaint or any thought of surrender, ordeals just as great as those which now have reduced swashbuckling Germany to a shivering mass of disorganized cowardice. Had they failed or flinched when bombs rained about them, the dictators would have enslaved the universe.
Under a good King and a great Prime Minister they defied the idea of failure; the opened gates of hell could not prevail against them. Their resistance provided the rock foundation on which the whole salvation of the democratic world could be built.
As a nation, whose servicemen made substantial contributions to Germany’s defeat, we recall the deeds of Australian fighting men which have helped to bring this day. We recall them with sorrowful pride for those who have fallen, with proudly anxious admiration for those who, in Pacific theatres of the war, must still fight on.
We recall the Middle Eastern and North African exploits of an Australian Imperial Force which to-day is winning new battle honours; the campaign in which, surging into Bardia, Australian Imperial Force battalions chalked up for the democracies their first land wins of this war; the grim months when, holding Tobruk, they gained a decisive North African victory over Rommel and Hitler ; the superlative occasion of El Alamein, when they acted as the essential hinge on which the immortal Eighth Army began the triumphant swing that covered two continents and ended, only the other day, on the north coast of Germany itself.
We recall the many thousand fearless exploits of the Royal Australian Air Force which was in at the kill. We recall what glimpses we have so far been permitted of the stirring deeds of the Royal Australian Navy in little ships and larger, wherever danger required to be faced and honour could be won.
We now face two great tasks. One is immediate. The Japanese jackal must be relentlessly pursued, overtaken as soon as can be, and whipped into the same sort of kennel as that which now contains his German and Italian confederates.
The other task is ultimate. Never again must our women be subjected to the sorrows, our sons to the perils of the last five years. We as the United Nations, and we Australians, as one of the United Nations, must subordinate everything in the future to ensuring that peace is always maintained, by the goodwill of free peoples backed by their strong combination against all oppressors.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 - No. 20 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Department of Trade’ and Customs; and others.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 48.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Mulwala, New South Wales.
Sydney, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Marble Bar, Western Australia.
Pemberton, Western Australia.
Sydney, New South Wales.
Telephonic purposes - Pialba, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (Agricultural Aids)
Regulations - Orders -
Oil meal (Restriction of sales).
Wheat (Restriction of sales).
National Security (Capital Issues) Regu- ati ons - Order - Exem ption .
National Security (Emergency Control)
Regulations - Orders - Mil itary powers during emergency (2).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (51).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 79, 80.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
BROADCASTING : Staff Resignations FROM australian broadcasting commission; News Services; Station 2CA.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Manufacture ok Motor Vehicles.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
How many proposals for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia have been notified to the Government from -
established firms having most of their capital outside Australia;
b ) established firms having most of their capital inside Australia; and
firms not at present engaged in manufacturing but claiming to have capital and facilities available for the manufacture of cars?
y. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Two in detail about which the Government has made a statement -
One in general terms and about which a public announcement has been made by the company, i.e.. Nuffield (Australia) Proprietary Limited. The proposal in detail will be examined by the Secondary Industries Commission when it is received from the company and the House will he informed at the appropriate time.
Australian Minister to the United States of America.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
When is it intended to make an appointment to the vacant post of Australian Minister to the United States of America so that Sir Frederic Eggleston may be relieved to resume his position as Australian Minister to China?
n. - The post of Australian Minister to the United States of America is at present held by Sir Frederic Eggleston. The question of the post of Australian Minister to China is at present under consideration.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice-
To ensure that no preferential rights in migration to Australia arc accorded to Italy under the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1883 between Great Britain and Italy, Which gave Italians certain rights above other nationalities, will the Government take steps to abrogate this agreement as far as Australia is concerned?
n. - The Government’s attitude to this question was defined by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in a statement to the House on the 21st November, 1941, as follows: -
After the outbreak of war with Italy, the treaty ceased to be effective. Whether it is annulled or merely suspended is a question of international law on which opinions may possibly differ. In any event, the treaty has nooperation during the war and the Commonwealth Government will take care to see that in the treaty of peace the interests of Australian citizens are fully safeguarded in relation to the treaty.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
n. - The Australian Minister to Russia is at present in Australia on a short period of leave. He has had full discussions with members of the Government, but has not presented any formal reports.
asked the Minister for Information, upon notice-
l. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Liberal party of Australia submitted to the office of the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Man Power in Sydney a draft form of advertisement inviting applications in writing for a director of finance, stating that preference would be given to returned servicemen. This advertisement was approved by the directorate, and the replies when received were referred to the Liberal party for consideration. Subsequently Mr. Wilson submitted a letter from the secretary of the Liberal party indicating that it wished to engage Mr. Wilson for the position mentioned in the advertisement. Mr. Wilson was instructed that he should seek the necessary permit through his local national service office at Willoughby. This he subsequently did, and the necessary N.S.F.7 has been issued to cover his employment. As there is as yet no legislation on the statute-book dealing with preference to returned soldiers by private employers, it is not one of the functions of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to inquire into appointments made by any political organization. Accordingly I cannot comment on the appointment made or the statement of the chairman of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal party.
Special Appeal embracing Art Union, Lady Gowrie’s Red Cross Appeal, Women’s Hospital Jubilee, Anzac House Appeal, and others.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Shipping Services for Roebourne and Port Hedland.
y. - On the 4th May the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question regarding the provision of additional shipping facilities for Roebourne and Port Hedland, “Western Australia. I referred the honorable member’s representations to the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has made the following information available : -
The possibility of providing additional shipping for Roebourne and Port Hedland was investigated as a result of representations made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. These ports are receiving the best possible service with the limited shipping tonnage now available, but an additional vessel which will probably be commencing operations this month, has now been allotted to this area, and it is anticipated that as a result it will be possible to provide a more frequent service.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
A careful check in kept on cargo-handling rates and it is known that the average rate of handling is notas high at present as it was prior to the outbreak of war. The handling of cargo under war-time conditions is affected by many factors which are not present in peace-time. The average age of the men in the industry now is considerably higher than it was five years ago, and men are required to work more hours per week. Other conditions which must be taken into consideration are different types of cargo now being handled, larger cargoes per ship, congestion of wharf berths and sheds, and other allied difficulties. coal-mining Industry.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: -
Australian Prisoners or War.
y. - On the 2nd May, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) inquired as to the possibility of dropping medical supplies to prisoners of war in camps in Thailand.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the matter has been under consideration by the United Kingdom authorities, and a public statement will be made when it is practicable to do so.
Statements by “ Army Spokesman “
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has his attention teen drawn to report* from Melbourne in the following newspapers of the 23rd April: -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450508_reps_17_181/>.