17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– This afternoon, a statement was broadcast that wheatgrowers would come to Canberra tomorrow to discuss with the Government the International Wheat Agreement which is said to provide for a minimum price of 2s. a bushel, and a maximum price of 2s. 6d. a bushel. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether those prices are correct?
– The broadcast statement is absurd. The subject has not been discussed, and the International Wheat Council has not yet reached a decision regarding prices. How that information was conveyed to the broadcasting authorities, 1 do not know ; but it is incorrect.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether any restrictions will bc imposed upon the sowing of wheat next season? I ask the question because farmers in al) the dry areas should begin to fallow immediately the present cropping season is finished. As that will occur in my electorate a couple of weeks hence, fanners are anxious to know whether acreage restrictions’ will again operate.
– I do not think that wheatgrowers, who are fallowing now for next season, heed, fed any anxiety that restrictions will be imposed on the sowing of wheat. No matter how favorable the season may be. our carry-over will be only normal. The Government will ask all wheatgrowers to plant their maximum acreage not only for this season but also for the following season.
Borneo Operations: Equipment - Vocational Training fob Ex-Service Personnel.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to reports attributed to naval observers who witnessed the landing of the Australian 9th Division on Tarakan Island, that mechanical equipment was both meagre and out of date? Has he seen. a report alleged to have been published in the London Daily Mail that “observers are shaking their heads dubiously over the Australians’ lack of adequate equipment, and they are openly fearful that lives will be sacrificed needlessly unless Allied units doing these jobs in future have the right equipment in sufficient quantities”? Do all those reports confirm the assurances which the Government has given in this House, that the Australian- forces are adequately equipped? Is it true that the Government has already sought from General MacArthur a report to tide it over public reaction arising from these shortages of equipment? Does anything in the secret and confidential reports submitted to Cabinet by the Acting Minister for the Army, following his tour of operational areas, explain discrepancies between statements in his first report and the facts as related by overseas authorities? Will the Acting Prime Minister table that report, and will the Government appoint forthwith a parliamentary committee, consisting of returned soldiers, to examine immediately the equipment position in all areas in which Australian troops are engaged?
– by leave- My attention has been drawn to criticisms which have been reported by war correspondents and attributed to American naval observers, on the inadequacy of the equipment of the 9th Australian Division for its operations in Borneo. At the meeting of the Advisory War Council this morning, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden,) also referred to the subject. These criticisms were immediately brought to the notice of General MacArthur who, as CommanderinChief of the South-West Pacific Area, exercises personal and direct command of assault forces under their respective commanders. General. MacArthur has furnished me with the following report -
I am entirely at a loss to account for any criticism of the Tarakan operation. It has been completely successful and has been accomplished without the slightest hitch. The equipment and methods were essentially the same as those used in nearly 40 amphibious landings in all, all of which were victorious. I know nothing of any criticism by Vice-Admiral Barbey and am requesting him to clarify this point. Australian casualties as of the morning of the 8th May, 1945, are reported as 76 killed in action and 271 wounded in action - light figures in view of the great objectives attained. If there has been any finer operation of this size in the war, I do not know of it. The Australian forces performed as they always have under my command - with splendid efficiency. I have nothing but praise for them and for the operation.
I cannot but deplore these irresponsible criticisms which are unfair to the Supreme Commander, in whom the Government has entire confidence, and to our gallant forces. Such reports cannot but be disturbing to the people at home and, in view of the fact that they are unsubstantiated, I am sure all fair-minded persons will strongly deprecate them.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction: Is it correct, as I have been informed, that ex-service men and women of this war already have been compelled to withdraw from vocational training courses, because of the inadequate allowances that aTe now paid? Will the Minister investigate the complaint, with a view to increasing the allowances?
– I do not believe it is correct to say that any ex-service man or woman has been compelled to relinquish the vocational training provided by the Commonwealth under reconstruction regulations, but I shall have an investigation made in order to determine whether or not there is any substance in the statement. The Re-establishment and Employment Bill deals with the rates of allowance that are payable to those who undertake vocational training under the Commonwealth scheme. Honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss those rates when that measure is before the House.
– As the Commission has now been established to control the aluminium industry in Tasmania, can the Minister for Munitions inform me when that body will be ready to undertake its heavy and arduous duties?
– No time is being lost in advancing this project. Next weekend I shall proceed to Hobart, and on
Saturday morning the first meeting of the commission will take place. That body will then accept full responsibility for organizing the aluminium industry.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether it is true that one of the first duties of the commission will be to select the site for an aluminium smelter in Tasmania ? In view of the fact that the commission was only recently appointed, will the Minister see that all correspondence addressed to officers of the Supply Department on the subject of a site will be forwarded to the commission, so that it may have knowledge of what sites have been suggested?
– All information that it is possible to place before the commission will be made available to it in order to guide its judgment in these matters.
Reported Applications for Release
– Has the Minister for Air yet obtained any information about the reported applications by certain fighter pilots and other officers for release from the Royal Australian Air Force ?
– I have no information about the receipt of applications from certain officers for release from the Royal Australian Air Force, but as I stated previously, an investigation is being arranged for the purpose of clarifying the whole matter. The inquiry is expected to commence early next week, and its duration will depend upon the availability of witnesses. When it has been completed, I shall be able to decide whether the applications which have been made are justified.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been advised that substantial quantities of hay in the York Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula areas of South Australia are awaiting distribution? Has he been approached by the South Australian Government to provide machinery, manpower or supplementary transport to enable the hay to be cut for chaff and distributed? If he has not been approached for assistance, and in view of the urgent fodder requirements of many South Australian districts, will he ask his officers to confer with representatives of the State government to see whether they can help to expedite the distribution of available foodder supplies?
– I am surprised and pleased to hear that there are substantial supplies of fodder in any particular area. However, as the disposal of fodder is controlled by the States, I shall ask my departmental officers to communicate with the Government of South Australia regarding this matter. If the Commonwealth Government can assist the State with transport or in any other way, the necessary action will be taken.
– The Government of Western Australia has agreed to make available to the Commonwealth all surplus hay and chaff in that State, so that it may be distributed equitably in the other States that need it. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether or not the Commonwealth is paying the cost of transport? Have Victoria and New South Wales shared in the fodder that has been brought from Western Australia? In view of the breaking of the drought in many districts of New South Wales, and in the absence of drought-breaking rains in Victoria, will the Minister consider making a larger allocation to the latter State?
– The whole of the supplies of fodder has been earmarked by the Commonwealth Government, in consultation with the Government of Western Australia. The cost of transport is being defrayed by the Commonwealth Government under the subsidy scheme, and it has undertaken to distribute the supplies equitably in the States that need it, whenever transport is available. The substantial rains in portions of New South Wales may alter the situation slightly. But, because of the demands on account of urgent and essential horse transport in the Sydney metropolitan area, the probability is that the additional relief sought for Victoria cannot he given. However, I shall take the matter up with the authorities concerned. The honorable member may rest assured that the fodder obtained from Western Australia will be distributed equitably upon its arrival in the different States.
– A few days ago, the Minister for Repatriation stated that he anticipated that the sanatorium for the treatment of tubercular soldiers at Kenmore, Queensland, would be ready for occupation on the 10th May. That date has now been reached.. Can the honorable gentleman say whether or not the sanatorium has been made available to tubercular patients?
– I was advised by the Works Department that this sanatorium would be completed about the second week in May. I have not received later advice. As there are empty beds at Rosemount Hospital, no tubercular patient can claim to have been refused accommodation. I have been in constant touch with the Works Department, and have done, and am doing, my utmost to expedite the completion of the Kenmore Sanatorium. Immediately it is ready to receive patients, and the necessary staff can be obtained, accommodation will be made available and the opening ceremony can be held later. I have instructed that there must not be any avoidable delay.
New Zealand Legislation - EMPLOYMENT
– Will the Acting Prime Minister request the Prime Minister of New Zealand to permit Colonel F. Baker, Director of Rehabilitation in that dominion, to visit Canberra, and at a convenient time address the members of this Parliament on the provisions and working of the Rehabilitation Act of New Zealand ?
– I hope that the honorable member does not propose that Colonel Baker should address this House in session. That, I imagine, would be a matter for Mr. Speaker to decide. Consideration will be given to the practicability of a- private address to honorable members by the gentleman mentioned.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction had his attention drawn to the comment by Mr. J. Ferguson, State Secretary of the Australian Railways Union, in last Monday’s Sydney Sun, on the remarks of Mr. Justice Taylor in regard to chaotic conditions in industry, in which
Mr. Ferguson said that the Commonwealth Government had not taken the trade union movement into its confidence in relation to its post-war employment plans, and that he regarded the uncertainty of the future and the fear of another depression which existed in the minds of the workers as factors which were contributing to the general feeling of unrest in industry? In order to allay any fears that may exist, and to raise the morale of the workers, will the Minister make an early pronouncement in respect of the Government’s post-war plans for industry, taking managements, workers, and honorable members into its confidence in this regard, thus following the precedent set by the British Government, which already has announced its plans for the changeover from war to peace-time production ?
– I have not read the report mentioned. The Government has given careful consideration to its plans for industry in the post-war period, and has engaged in discussions with the Labour movement generally, and the workers of this country, in far greater detail than had been the case previously in the history of the Commonwealth. The matter of presenting to this House a statement on employment policy in the post-war period, is at present being considered by the Government, and I hope that such a statement will be made very shortly.
– In view of the cessation of hostilities in Europe, will the Acting Prime Minister ascertain whether or not it is possible to arrange with the health section of Unrra that when delegating medical personnel, men shall be made available on loan to Australia, in order to relieve the acute shortage of medical practitioners in this country?
– I shall ask the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services to give consideration to the suggestion.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to a sub-editorial in the
Brisbane Courier Mail, -which stated that the representative of that journal at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco had reported’ that Australia had been represented in a comic role at a recent film screening, to which the delegates to the conference had been invited? The reporter said that the film shown was fifteen years old and did not portray any war activities of Australia, but depicted Australian girls in out-moded, ankle-length skirts, such as were worn in 1930. His concluding comment was: “It made us look a nation of fools”. “Will the Minister state whether or not the film was an official one issued by his department? If not, who was responsible for the screening of it? Will he rebuke that officer for his responsibility in connexion with an advertisement so detrimental to Australia?
– I have not read the sub-editorial on the report mentioned. If such a film has been screened, it was not one that had been made by the Department of Information, which is concerned solely with the making of films that deal with the war effort and with matters that affect the’ lives of Australians at the present time. The department has no old films of the kind referred to by the honorable member. I shall make inquiries, and, if I can learn who was responsible for its exhibition, shall take action to prevent a repetition of the occurrence. I shall let the honorable member know the full facts as soon as I obtain them.
– Last year, the War Expenditure Committee presented to the Government a report covering certain construction contracts in New South Wales, and invited it to take legal action against the persons named’ therein: Will the Acting Attorney-General make a full statement of what legal proceedings, if any, have been commenced, the names of the persons against whom they have been taken, and the stage that the proceedings have reached ?
– Did the committee ask to be furnished with a legal opinion?
– No; it presented a report and invited the Government to take action on the material which it supplied. The Attorney-General, before leaving Australia, said that legal proceedings had been commenced. What I now ask is that the Acting AttorneyGeneral shall make public the details of those proceedings.
– I am not acquainted with the details, but I shall see what action has been taken.
– As the war in Europe is now over, will the Acting Prime Minister, on behalf of the Com.monwealth Government, make representations to the Combined Chief sofStaff of the Allied Nations, with the abject of having a force of the necessary strength applied to the task of releasing Ocean Island and Nauru Island from the grip of the Japanese, in order that their phosphates, which are of great importance to food production in Australia, may be made available to us without delay?
– The Government has taken an active interest in this matter, because of the great importance to Australia of the phosphate deposits of Ocean Island and Nauru Island. The Prime Minister communicated some time ago with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He had previously discussed the matter with the British Government, during his visit to that country. My recollection is that the British Government had taken the matter up with the authorities concerned. A military operation is involved. I have no recollection of a reply having been received to those representations. However, the honorable member may rest assured that they were made in the strongest possible form and communicated to authorities responsible for the conduct of the war. When any further information is available it will be communicated to the honorable member.
Stocks in Cool Stores.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that in cool stores in Australia there is a considerable quantity of meat of a quality inferior to that which is acceptable by the Government of the United Kingdom under the agreement for the purchase of Australian meat? Have any steps been taken to dispose of this meat, cither by discussion with representatives of the United Kingdom or with authorities elsewhere?
– This matter has been the subject of negotiation between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government for some considerable time, but no decision has yet been reached. Several days ago, I discussed it with the Meat Controller, and we are doing all we can to arrange for the meat to be sent to India or to Europe, where the food shortage is acute. “We are losing no opportunity to dispose of it.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a paragraph in the Finance Diary published in the Sydney Sun, in which it is stated that during the last nine months Australia has increased its exports of beef, mutton, pork, rabbits, milk, wheat, flour, jams, hides and skins, wool and coal? It is also stated that exports of certain other commodities have fallen off. Will the Minister make a statement setting out the full position regarding Australia’s exports so that the public may know in regard to what commodities there have been increases or decreases within the last year?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to, but I shall ask the officers of my department to compile the information for which the honorable member has asked.
V-E Day Stoppage in New South Wales.
– Can the Minister for Transport say whether it. is a fact that railway workers in New South Wales ceased to work on V-E Day in defiance of his direction that transport workers were to remain on duty? Is he content that his instruction should be so flagrantly disregarded? If not, what action does he propose to take to discipline the railway workers who have absented themselves from duty?
– I understand that some railway workers in New South Wales did absent themselves from duty on V-E Day - enough of them to make it impossible to run the normal railway services. I am not aware of the full particulars regarding the interruption to railway services, but I propose to obtain a report on the matter. The honorable member may rest assured that I shall do nothing to aggravate the position and to cause further stoppages.
Statement . by Lieutenant - Colonel W. R. Hodgson - ‘Policy of Australian Delegation - Control of Dependent Territories.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for External Affairs been drawn to a report published in the Daily Telegraph this morning, that Lieutenant-Colonel W. R. Hodgson, on his return from America yesterday, made a statement that the United States was more concerned than- any other of the Great Powers about beating Japan, and, when referring to discussions in San Francisco concerning the Polish question, said, “ I admired the steadfast role which Molotov played throughout “ ? Does not the Minister consider that these statements, coming from a man who has been appointed to represent Australia in a foreign country, indicate an unwarranted bias of opinion that is antiBritish in sentiment and unworthy of a representative of the Commonwealth Government?
– I have not seen the report ; but at the earliest opportunity, I shall peruse it, and ask LieutenantColonel Hodgson to explain any statement that he may have made upon the subject.
– by leave - About a week ago I raised, by leave, in this House the question of what proposal was being put before the San Francisco Conference on behalf of Australia in relation to the proposed system of trusteeship of dependent countries. On that occasion, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that he would see whether information elaborating or explaining what had been said or recorded could be put before the House. Later, he was courteous enough to show me one cablegram which contained a summary of the opening remarks of the leader of the delegation, and I am indebted to him for it, although, as he probably realizes, the substance of it had appeared in the cable news. Apart from that, no other information appears to be forthcoming. In this morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph there is published a message from San Francisco which quotes certain observations that were published in the New York Herald-Tribune, a newspaper of high standing and great authority in the United States of America. This is what it is reported to have published : -
Australia will take the lead in the fight against United States of America and British plans for trusteeships of backward areas.
Australia considers these plans little more than “window dressing”, says a New York Herald Tribune correspondent at the United Nations Conference.
Australian delegates ask why trusteeships should be confined to former mandated territories and new areas taken from the enemy nations.
They ask why all colonial areas should not be put under international supervision.
These areas would, perhaps, include IndoChina (French), Burma (British), Borneo (British and Dutch), Puerto Rico (United States of America).
The New YorkHerald-Trtbune correspondent adds: “The Crimea Conference, foreseeing this issue would be raised, specified that the World Security Organization could accept jurisdiction over any colonial areas which a nation voluntarily offered for trusteeship. “ The Australians at San Francisco doubt whether Britain or any other nation would make a voluntary offer. “ Accordingly, the Australians will propose that the general assembly be given power to place any dependent territory under a trusteeship. “This proposal is notably unpopular with Britain, the United States of America, France, and the Netherlands, but the Australians plan to press it in committee sessions.”
Assuming that that is anything like an accurate account of the view that is being advanced on behalf of Australia, I take this opportunity to say that there is no evidence that it is the view of Australia at all. Indeed, I shouldlike very much to be enlightened as to whether it is the considered view of Cabinet. After all, as honorable members will recall, when this matter was raised a week ago, no information was forthcoming. The Acting Prime Minister did not have the information, and I am not criticizing him on that account. It is quite clear, however, that if this proposal had been discussed by Cabinet before the delegation left Australia, and represented the settled policy of this country, there ought to be no difficulty, even at ten minutes’ notice, in. the Government making a statement on the subject of the proposals, of their meaning, and of the reasons for putting them forward. In the absence of any such statement by the Government, one can only conclude that the proposals had not been discussed by Cabinet. Plainly, the matter is one of first class importance. It has already publicly and notoriously given rise to differences of opinion between Australia - treating Australia as represented for this purpose - and Great Britain. It has also given rise to some differences of opinion between Australia and the United States of America, and perhaps, also, between Australia and France. In a matter of this kind it is of the utmost importance that any view put forward on behalf of this country should really have the backing of the considered judgment, if not of the people - because that cannot be secured very readily - then, at least, of this Parliament. Therefore, I put it to the Acting Prime Minister that it is urgent that this House should be given an opportunity to discuss the matter, and that it should be enabled to carry on the discussion by having put before it chapter and verse of the proposal.
So that the Acting Prime Minister will understand the kind of difficulty that exists in my mind, and in the minds of my colleagues, let me point out that the “ principle of trusteeship “, as applied to some dependent countries, is a highly ambiguous phrase. It may be simply a new name for the old system of mandate. If so, does it mean that Australia, for example, is putting forward the idea that Papua should no longer be a territory of Australia, but should be put under mandate as New Guinea is? Is it suggested that British colonies, forming parts of the
British, colonial Empire, are to be put under mandate? Is there to be a selection of countries to which the system is to apply? If so, who is to make the selection ? If, on the other hand, all that is meant is that the principle of government to be applied is a system of trusteeship for the citizens who are to be governed, then it lacks novelty altogether, because that is the accepted principle of government in democratic countries.
Finally, if there is to be trusteeship in relation to territories which, up to the present time, have been the territories of the Crown - taking our own British Empire as an example - who is to supervise the carrying out of the terms of the trust? Is some international body to be given authority, not only to receive reports, but also to issue instructions? If there is to be some international authority with power to give binding directions, all I point out is that that is the end of the sovereignty of the country previously controlling the territory, because any group of nations able to give binding instructions in these matters is in fact possessed of the real power of sovereignty in relation to that particular country. All these things cry aloud for examination and explanation. On one view, it may be that what has been said on Australia’s behalf at San Francisco is quite all right, that it is little more than a gesture; but on another view, we may find ourselves, largely by the exercise of apparently some independent judgment, on the part of one Minister at that conference, the Minister for External Affairs, involved in disputes with other countries on matters in respect of which Australia would not want to be involved, and it requires only the smallest step forward, apparently, from the cable reports of the action taken, for this country to have the official right to put f onward views in relation to India. On the problem of India we may as citizens hope to have informed minds and judgments, but the intervention of the Commonwealth Government would be extremely dangerous and, at its very best, grievously ill-timed.
– Atn I in order in moving that the statement be printed?
– Not a verbal statement. It will be printed, in any case, in Hansard.
– In the absence of an opportunity to move that this statement be printed, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will assure the House that an opportunity will be given to debate the matter?
– by leave- I cannot promise that an opportunity will be given to debate the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I said on Tuesday, when various questions were asked regarding the San Francisco Conference, that I would obtain copies of the speeches made by the Australian delegates, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and any other information required to enable honorable members to be fully apprised of what is being done and what representations are being made. I will obtain that information. I said later that an opportunity would be given, when the delegation returned, to debate the whole matter. That does not meet the point made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding immediate consideration of certain aspects of the conference’s deliberations. I arranged for a cable to be forwarded to the delegates asking for all the information that could be made available. I propose to circulate that information among honorable members. Some of the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition have already been covered in statements made by tha Prime Minister, in which he generally enunciated the views of the Government. At such conferences propositions arise on which delegates have to exercise discretion, apart from the general authority given to them. I shall obtain information which will enable the Leader of the Opposition to be fully informed of not only the views that our delegates have put forward but also, as far as possible, the views in relation to these matters that the Prime Minister himself has expressed on behalf of the Government.
– Will that information be made available to the House generally?
– I shall see what I can do about providing all honorable members with copies, with the consent of the Leader of the Opposition, when I prepare the statement in reply to the point that he has made.
– Would it not be possible for the honorable gentleman to make a statement to the House in order that we may move that it be printed ?
– My only objection to making statements to the House is that they take so long to make that few take any interest in them. But I shall see what I can do.
– Arising out of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition there was one point which the Acting Prime Minister did not touch upon. It is very evident that the matters upon which discussions are now proceeding in San Francisco may be completed long before we can have the opportunity to discuss them here. Will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to convey to the representatives of Australia at the conference the views of the Government on the points raised by the right honorable gentleman? Some of the possibilities of trusteeships are most disturbing, and I think I ought to say that I do not believe for one moment that all are contemplated by the two Ministers representing Australia at the conference. But one never knows. Therefore, I think that an opportunity should be given to this Parliament to discuss the matter while we are able to mould decisions.
– Perhaps I did not make it completely clear in reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I did realize that in his statement he pointed out that some matters might be raised which should be the subject of an early intimation to Parliament of the Government’s views or, if necessary, the views of the delegates in exercising their discretion. I promised on Tuesday that when the delegates returned there would be an opportunity for a full debate, but that may not be for some time. I have promised to assemble the facts in a statement for presentation to the House at as early a date as possible.
– Has the Acting Prime
Minister seen the report in the press of the speech made by the CommanderinChief of the British Fleet in the Pacific, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, at the opening of the Navy branch of the British Centre in Phillip-street, Sydney, in which he said, “Although the docks here are not my responsibility, I do have the responsibility of ordering my ships forward when I know that they are not right “ ? Does the Government intend to honour the promise made by the Prime Minister, when he asked the Prime Minister of Great Britain to send forces to this part of the world, that we would undertake the docking of British warships and that, after having sailed 12,000 miles to these waters, they should not be forced tobe sent forward inadequately repaired after action against the enemy? What action does the Government intend to take to insure that the vessels shall be docked and not called on to return to action incompletely repaired ?
– I should prefer that the question be answered by the Minister for the Navy, who has had closer contact than I have had with Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser.
– This matter was raised at the Advisory War Council by Australian Country party members and others. I had brief contact with Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser on Tuesday afternoon, but it did not give me adequate opportunity to discuss with him many essential matters in relation to ensuring the provision of every possible help to units of the British Fleet. Opportunity will be taken for a further consultation with Admiral Fraser next Tuesday morning, when the Acting Prime Minister and other Ministers concerned will be present. An important omission from the report of the Admiral’s speech was the very warm compliment that he paid to workmen in the Port of Sydney who had already undertaken certain important work on vessels of the fleet. I think a fair interpretation of what he said is that he expressed an earnest wish for a reconciliation of the differences that have arisen in the port in order that the fullest co-operation may be given in maintaining and servicing the vessels of the fleet.
Issue to Discharged Servicemen
– A considerable time ago I asked a question relating to the case of a discharged serviceman, No. QX6743, Mervyn Taylor. He was discharged in November, 1943, as medically unfit and given 100 per cent, pension. Because he was discharged before January, 1944, he has been denied the right to register for a personal issue of tobacco and cigarettes. His is not an isolated case. It is typical. The Moreton sub-branch and several other sub-branches of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia are protesting against this. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), undertook to place my question before the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have had no reply. I am receiving constant complaints.
– Order ! What is the question ?
– When can I get a reply ?
– I will see whether I can get a reply for the honorable gentleman to-day.
Admission of Discharged Servicemen
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the Waterside Workers Federation has closed its books against further members and whether certain other unions are also placing difficulties in the way of demobilized servicemen applying to join? If so, will he confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service to see how the difficulties can be overcome? Otherwise the legislation that he has brought forward for the re-establishment of exservicemen will not be effective. Will he tell us how he will overcome these difficulties?
– I am not aware that the Waterside Workers Federation has closed its books to further members. I am also unaware that demobilized servicemen have had any trouble in joining appropriate unions. However, I shall consult the Minister for Labour and
National Service regarding this matter and endeavour to obtain a reply for the honorable member.
– I have just received word that naval ratings employed at Flinders Naval Base are unable to purchase fruit at the canteen. In view of the fact that great quantities of apples and pears are going to waste in Tasmania because of transport difficulties, will the Minister for the Navy look into the matter with a view to providing the canteen with fruit?
– Certainly. If I can in any way help the men at Flinders, or any other naval , base, to get adequate supplies of fruit I shall feel it my duty to do so. Transport is a difficult problem but I shall see how far it can be overcome.
– In view of the fact that the War Service Homes Commission is advising soldiers who apply for homes that nothing can. be done at present because of its lack of finance, I ask the Minister in charge of War Service Homes whether he will arrange for the commission to sponsor the building of homes by soldiers who are able to finance themselves until such time as the commission is able to provide money for this purpose ?
– Finance is one thing ‘ that has not troubled my department.
– I have received letters from two or three soldiers that finance has been a difficulty.
– Under certain conditions, from time to time, it may have been, for brief periods. It was of no use for me to inform soldiers that the commission would provide finance to build houses for them when I knew that for the time being the houses could not be built. I have never deceived the soldiers. When it has not been possible for us to build homes we have said so. I have the word of the Treasurer that lack of finance will not stop us.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether he supports the Government’s decision to compel citizens to fill in registration cards for an occupation survey next month? If so, does this indicate that the Minister’s views have altered since the 5th June, 1939, when, in speaking on the National Registration Bill in this House, as reported at pages 1185 and 1189 of Vol. 160 of Hansard, he described the measure as the second step towards industrial conscription and as an effort to establish a military dictatorship in this country?
– If the Hansard reporter has been able to understand the honorable gentleman’s question, I will have a look at the report of it and prepare an answer for him; otherwise I shall have to get him to repeat his question, as I did with a former question, because, for some reason which is unknown to me, it was completely unintelligible.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S.Rosevear). I have received from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The Government’s refusal to provide landline facilities required by commercial broadcasting stations for the transmission of independent news services.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I take this action because I consider that the withholding of land-line facilities from B class radio stations constitutes an arbitrary exercise of ministerial power in flagrant violation of a departmental decision, and that the Government, in condoning such ministerial action, is undermining the integrity of the entire communications system of the Commonwealth. Furthermore, the action is necessary in order to focus public attention upon the Government’s attempt to establish a regimented radio news service under its control. It is almost sublimely inappropriate that the Government should have engaged in the activities which have forced me to submit this motion at the very time when the Allied armies have achieved in Europe the complete vindication of democratic liberties.
Through the war period, and in the years just before it, complete government control, in the dictator countries, of all instruments of publicity has been the plainest visible mark of the repression we have been resisting. The underground radio stations which refused to be silenced and gave the peoples of the countries in which they operated the facts which governments were trying to hide from them were among the strongest weapons in the cause of. freedom. Apparently, the Australian Government is now prepared to copy the methods of our enemies and to endeavour to make sure that only versions of news which are suitable to it will be permitted to be heard over the air. That is what lies behind the arbitrary action of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) last week in interfering in the normal conduct of the business affairs of the telephone department and insisting that land lines for relaying independent news services shall not be made available to the B class radio stations.
There is no doubt that land-line facilities are physically available for use. The letter to the B class stations from the Acting Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, to which I shall refer later, shows plainly that these facilities would, by now, be enjoyed by the stations if the Government were not determined to try to suppress all competition with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service.
Before narrating to the House the extraordinary course of events which has led to the present position, I desire to outline some of the most important points which seem to me involved. These are -
First, the use of government powers over a public utility to limit the one thing that, in a democratic community, should be quite illimitable, namely, freedom of news and. expression.
Secondly, the deplorable precedent established by open interference with the normal operations of a public utility which exists to serve the public at large, and not the political ends of the government of the day.
Thirdly, the implied defiance by the Government of the undertakings it has so often given to relax, as quickly as possible, controls which have been imposed to meet alleged war necessities.
Fourthly, the Government’s manifest desire to set up a government monopoly of news over the air which may advantage it to-day, and might advantage other political parties after the next election, but could, if persisted in, ultimately advantage a government which was quite candidly out to establish in this country totalitarian rule. That totalitarian rule might be from either the left or the right, but in either event it would be abhorrent to all good Australians.
Fifthly - and on this point particularly the Australian Country party feels that it must make an emphatic protest - the discrimination involved between city and country dwellers, since the refusal of the land lines is denying to many country listeners the independent news services which the populations of the cities cannot be blocked from hearing.
We must go back to the opening of the Pacific War for the beginning of the story which led to the PostmasterGeneral’s decision on the 30th April, last to override undertakings which had been given to the B class stations eleven days before by the Acting DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning. When Japan came into the war, there existed in the Australian news broadcasting field, a state of affairs which had been working satisfactorily alike for the listening public, the broadcasting stations, both national and commercial, and for any reasonable government. The national news service was available to those who preferred news which placed primary emphasis on the domestic side of official and semi-official statements. Varying types of services were being broadcast over the various B class stations, which were probably giving greatest publicity to types of news in which they found their listening public most interested. In that set-up, there could be no justification for saying that any worthwhile type of news was being withheld from the public. The national and independent news services were a check on each other. If the public found that the national news service was suppressing facts inconvenient for a reigning government, it could listen to the independent services. Alternatively, if it found that it could not get important news on the B class stations, it could switch over to the national news. That system was nationally desirable and to it, with improvements, there has been reversion during the last two weeks, to the degree to which the PostmasterGeneral’s obstructive tactics permitted.
The change from the existence of free competition in news between the national and the B class stations to the uniform news service, which was heard over all stations in Australia till Tuesday of last week, came in February, 1942, following a conference in this chamber at which the B class stations, in general, agreed that they all would take the Australian Broadcasting. Commission service. Just to clinch matters, the Government issued a National Security Regulation, which turned the voluntary agreement into a binding and compulsory one. The B class stations were undoubtedly acting under the spur of an intense patriotism. A stage of the war had been reached in which the invasion of Australia was very probable, and it was to the apparent advantage of the nation that major government decisions and pronouncements on matters integral to the conduct of the war should reach the widest possible national public.
It is, perhaps, doubtful whether the B class stations would have been as amenable to the arrangements made if they had realized that, even then, Ministers of this Government were engaging nightly in so wild and competitive astruggle for individual radio publicity in the national newsservice that the authority of the Prime Minister hadfinally to be invokedby the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order that Ministers’ names should be more sparingly used in the news service. That revealing fact did not come to light till many months later in evidence given before the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee by the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary.
I emphasize that the agreement of February, 1942, was made to meet specific war emergencies which have completely passed to-day, and it was never suggested by the Government, and certainly never conceived by the B class stations, as the forerunner of a permanent arrangement for the stifling of the news freedom of t]] e air. The uniform national news service operated for many months and, on numbers of occasions, raised considerable public dissatisfaction. As the evidence by Mr. Cleary, to which I have referred, clearly demonstrates, that dissatisfaction was due to the lack of proportion in the handling of news, caused by actual direct political interference and attempted interference. The fault was not with the journalists who provided the news, and did an honest and conscientious job, but with the pressure tactics applied from within the Government.
Mr. Cleary and the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, as the evidence before the parliamentary committee clearly showed, were keenly sensitive to the dangers involved, and the upshot was the drafting of agreements in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission was to have shared with the newspapers in the control of a basic agency for some factual news from Canberra. The agreements proposed had other aspects which do not touch the subject-matter of this debate. It is significant that the Government intervened to prevent the completion of the agreements and that its action was finally upheld in a completely party division within the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. The dissenting report, signed by the vice-chairman, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and all those members of the parliamentary committee who did not support the Government, showed that, on this side of the House and in the Senate, there was a unanimous feeling that the Government had not produced adequate evidence te justify the banning of the agreement.
The only conclusion that could be drawn was that the Government wanted no arrangement which would lessen its opportunities to intervene to its political advantage in the conduct of the national news service. The uniform news arrangement might still have existed but for action taken last year, not by the B class stations, but by the Government.
The then Postmaster-General, Senator Ashley, suggested to the B class stations that, in the Government’s view, the time had come to transform the temporary arrangement made in 1942 to something more durable. The proposition put up under Senator Ashley’s auspices, on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, was that the commission should te paid for the national news service, and that it should be acknowledged by the commercial stations as the commission service. It must be plain to any thinking person that what was wanted was something more than payment or acknowledgment. What the Government desired, as later events have abundantly demonstrated, was to establish, permanently, a complete monopoly of radio news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Any agreement would have had to be for some defined term. If the agreement were reached and all the B class stations were bound by it, there would be no fear of inconvenient revelations over the air between now and the elections of the many ways in which the Government was falling down on its job. But, in the negotiations which took place, Senator Ashley, having been the PostmasterGeneral who entered into the temporary war-time news arrangement with the B class stations, recognized the temporary nature of those arrangements. He was asked by the B class stations at a conference on the 5th December, at which the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposition was put forward, whether in the view of the Government, the emergency which had dictated the uniform news service had passed. He agreed to find out, and he said quite frankly -
If the commercial stations are not prepared to acknowledge the Australian Broadcasting Commission service or make a contribution to it, the only thing is to terminate the agreement and the commercial stations could then furnish their own services.
At another conference attended by the same parties on the 10th January, Sentor Ashley said that the Government considered that the emergency had passed. That intimation completely abolished the circumstances which had been the whole case, and the only case, for retaining a uniform and monopolistic news service. On the Government’s own say-so, no patriotic reason existed for the B class stations continuing to relay news services in the selection of which they had no voice.
Even the inducement that they would continue to have free land-line facilities if they continued to take the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service could not persuade the B class stations to look kindly upon the commission’s offer of a permanent service for a total payment from all stations concerned of £9,000 a year, plus acknowledgment to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in three news sessions. It was then that the B class stations made the arrangement with the newspapers of Australia, and other sources of news, which have resulted in the populations of the cities, but not of many country areas, now having the choice of a number of different news services, including that of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
As the position developed,Cabinet changes occurred. Senator Ashley, who had committed the Government to the undertaking that, if they so desired, commercial stations could provide their own services, and who had played an honest and open part in the negotiations, was promoted to another department. In his stead ruled Senator Cameron. As everybody knows, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and Senator Cameron play together the parts of Mary and her Little Lamb - “ Everywhere that Mary went, her lamb was sure to go”.
The Minister for Information and the new Postmaster-General put their heads together and spent, many hours in trying to determine how they could surmount this hurdle and obtain a dictatorship of the news service. The B class stations had intimated that they desired theemporary war-time arrangement to terminate on the 30th April. They had made contractual arrangements for independent news services. The Postmaster-General and the Minister for Information summoned a conference in Melbourne on the 10th April and tried to get an agreement by which the B class stations would continue to take the Australian Broadcasting Commission service till the war ended. Their endeavours might have been more convincing but for Senator Ashley’s prior honest acknowledgment of the Government’s view, that the state of emergency had passed. They were apparently prepared to make almost any concession in order to keep the service on the basis which might still have been existing if the Government had not shown before that it wanted a long-term agreement as a precursor to permanent air monopoly. The B class stations, sure that there was a “ nigger in the wood-pile “, and contractually bound by their new arrangements, rejected the suggestion.
Mention was made of land lines and later, on the 19th April came the official letter from the Acting Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning, which is the exhibit on which the Government now stands definitely indicted. Mr. Fanning’s letter said that, while it was not possible to provide interstate land lines for news broadcasts, land lines to country stations would be available. The letter set out in detail the land-line facilities available as follows : - 2AD Armidale. - A . B.C. or one commercial news service; would be required to take the same news service as 2N Z (Inverell).
Note. - If A.B.C. news, not required by 2TM (Tamworth) or 2MO (Gunnedah), 2 AD could participate in one of two commercial services which, however, must also be taken by 2NZ (Inverell). 2AY,Albury. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. The commercial news selected must also be taken by either 2GN (Goulburn) or 2WG (Wagga). 2BE Bega. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services; would be required to take the same news service as 2XL (Cooma). It would be necessary for the selected commercial news service to be taken also by one of the three stations - 2GN (Goulburn), 2WG (Wagga), or 2 AY (Albury). 2BH Broken Hill. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services from Adelaide. 2BS Bathurst; 2DU Dubbo; 2LF Young ; 2LT Lithgow ; 2PK Parkes. - As a group these stations would be able to take the A.B.C. news or one commercial news service. If, however, 2KA (Katoomba) and 2GZ (Orange) were to share in a commercial news service each of these five stations would have the opportunity of participating in either the A.B.C. news or the news service relayed to 2KA and 2GZ. If none of the five stations desired the A.B.C. news each would be able to take one of two commercial news services, one of which would be that being relayed to 2KA and 2GZ. 2GF Grafton; 2LM Lismore; 2MWMur- Willumbah. - A.B.C. news only. 2GN Goulburn. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. The commercial service selected should also he taken by either 2WG (Wagga) or 2AY (Albury). 2GZ Orange. - Private line from Sydney. 2HD Newcastle. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. 2HR HunterRiver. - Private line from Sydney. 2KA Katoomba. - Private line from Sydney. 2KM Kempsey. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. 2KO Newcastle. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. 2MG Mudgee. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. 2MO Gunnedah. - A.B.C. or one commercial news service. If A.B.C. news not required by 2TM (Tamworth), 2AD (Armidale), or 2NZ . (Inverell), 2MO could participate in one of two commercial news services. 2NZ Inverell. - A.B.C. or one commercial news service; would be required to take the same news services as 2AD (Armidale). If A.B.C. news not required by 2TM or 2MO, 2NZ could share in one of two commercial news services which, however, must also be taken by 2AD (Armidale). 2QN Deniliquin. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services from Melbourne. 2RG Griffith. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. The selected news service would be required to be taken also by either 2WG (Wagga), 2AY (Albury), or 2GN (Goulburn ) . 2TM Tamworth. - A.B.C. or one commercial news service. If A.B.C. news not required by 2MO (Gunnedah), 2AD (Armidale), or 2NZ (Inverell). 2TM could participate in one of two commercial news services. 2WG Wagga. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services. The commercial service selected should also be taken by either 2GN (Goulburn) or 2 AY (Albury). 2WL Wollongong. - Private line from Sydney. 2XL Cooma. - A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services; would be required to take the same news service as 2BE (Bega). It would be necessary for the selected commercial news service to be taken also by one of the three stations - 2GN (Goulburn), 2WG (Wagga), or 2AY (Albury). 2CK Cessnock, 2CA Canberra.- A.B.C. or one of two commercial news services.
Details of facilities available in all the other States were also given in the letter.
That shows the extent to which residents of country areas will be affected by this curtailment of the news services as the result of monopolistic ownership and control of news. It is ironical that that decision synchronizes with the introduction of the zoning system giving taxation concessions to residents of remote areas. One of the best facilities that can be given to settlers in sparsely populated districts is an efficient broadcasting service including the news. There was nothing ambiguous about the letter. There was no doubt that the facilities, as set out, were available, and that the transaction, where independent news services replaced Australian Broadcasting Commission ones, would be financially profitable to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, whose business it is to give service to the public and pay its way, not to act as a political tool for furthering the feuds which the Minister for Information and his complaisant colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, seem to wage against any system of news distribution which they cannot completely control.
Mr. Fanning’s letter was honest ; in keeping with the high traditions of the permanent staff of the department. It gave practical effect to the assurances Senator Ashley had given on behalf of the Government, and in any court of equity would be taken as binding a party to a commercial transaction. But the PostmasterGeneral, with the Minister for Information sooling him on, had other ideas. The 1st May was zero hour for the news services. On the 30th April, be “ hopped over the top “. He ordered that the land lines mentioned in Mr. Fanning’s communication of the 19th April should not be provided. He discarded the advice of his acting departmental head on a plain business transaction. Furthermore, he repudiated one of his own ministerial colleagues. When he was trying to justify his action in Melbourne last Friday, all he could produce was a pitiful “ red herring “ that he was using just the same powers as he would use to suspend the telephone services of convicted starting-price bookmakers. Obviously, it is a crime in this Government’s eyes to do anything that may upset the Government’s political apple-cart.
I might not be so worried for the welfare of democracy in this country if I thought that the Postmaster-General, the Minister for Information and the Minister for Transport represented only a minority opinion within this Government. But I am concerned when I find the Acting Prime Minister putting himself “ on side “ with them, and against the preservation of all the liberties which we enjoyed in Australia before the war and which our sons and brothers have fought in the war to preserve. In asking me to put questions on this matter on the notice-paper last week, the Acting Prime Minister said a wise and moderate thing. He stated that the provision of land-line facilities would depend largely on whether it would he physically possible to make them available. If that test had been applied, this motion would have been unnecessary. Mr. Tanning’s letter made it completely clear that the land lines were physically available, and they would have gone into operation but for the Postmaster-General’s arbitrary use of power. After I had put the question on the notice-paper, the Acting Prime Minister suffered an unbecoming change of heart. He must have had a word with the Postmaster-General. To clear and specific questions, he gave me a long and meandering reply, in which he tried to focus the limelight on the interstate land-line position and divert attention from the intra-state one. He concluded -
The Government does not propose to comply with the request made by commercial broadcasting stations for land lines that would be required to permit interstate or intra-state networks to .he established for the simultaneous broadcasting of commercial news services on several occasions daily.
There, apparently, the matter stands. I understand that, in the Senate this morning, the Postmaster-General reiterated that the Government did not propose to comply with the B class stations’ request for land lines. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister. Unless the Government wants to commemorate the death of Dr. Goebbels by using in Australia a little of the technique which that propagandist employed to prove that you can fool all the people some of the time, this decision must not stand. The people will express their view of it al next year’s elections. If the Acting Prime Minister wants to maintain in this House and with this country that reputation for sturdy and candid democracy, which so far he has enjoyed, he must induce the Postmaster-General or the Cabinet to withdraw a decision which has not even the merit of effectiveness. The independent news services are again in existence. The public will realize that any attempt to ‘ban them completely would only be a final proof of the Government’s desire to abolish freedom of news and freedom of expression over the air. The land-lines ban is merely depriving country listeners of the freedom to select their news services, and is putting to considerable inconvenience small country B class stations which have cooperated with the Government to the maximum degree for all national, as distinct from party political, purposes. I repeat, that the attitude adopted by the Government is not in the best interests of democracy, and is one that will have particularly detrimental effects on the country. A straightforward examination of the matter should be made, and the Government should reverse its decision which can only be described as a monopolistic misuse of power.
– There was one significant omission from the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) : The right honorable gentleman did not state whether his party had requested him to move for th* adjournment of the House to-day at the instigation of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, or whether the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations had had any voice “in the matter. I know very well the members of that federation, and am satisfied that they had no part in the preparation of the document which the right honorable gentleman read to this House. It is a product of the imagination of member* of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, who have known from the outset that this action was to be taken to-day. In fact, they suggested that it should be taken, and laid down the policy for the Leader of the Australian Country party to follow before the members of that party had had any opportunity to consider the matter. I read from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 4th May -
Land Line Debate in House Likely.
Action will probably be taken by the Country party to secure the adjournment of the House of Representatives to discuss the position.
That was published a week before the Australian Country party decided to move for the adjournment of the House.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Apparently, the right honorable gentleman cannot take it.
– I cannot take the honorable gentleman’s lies. His statement is untrue, and is objectionable to me. I demand that it be withdrawn.
– There is no point of order.
– I ask for an unreserved withdrawal of statements that are untrue and are politically objectionable to me.
– There is no point of order in the matter raised by the right honorable gentleman. Parliamentary privilege is not involved in the statement of the Minister for Information, who merely referred to certain matter published in the press.
– I rise to a point of order. So far as I can recollect, it has always been thepractice for the Chair to require the withdrawal of a statement which an honorable member claims is personally offensive to him.
– There is nothing unparliamentary in the statement of the Minister for Information. It is open to honorable members who disagree with it to challenge its veracity subsequently.
– I rise to a point of order. Do I understand that if an honorable member says that a statement is offensive to him, and asks for its withdrawal, the Chair can ignore him?
– The Chair has given its ruling. If a point of order were raised in respect of every statement to which objection was taken, parliamentary debate would become impossible.
– I was quoting what I regard as circumstantial evidence in support of my statement that the speech read by the Leader of the Australian Country party to this House to-day had been prepared for him by somebody outside this chamber, and that the authors of it are members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. I now quote from the Melbourne Herald of the 3rd May, a passage under the heading, “ Radio Land Lines May Be Big Issue “. It says -
The Country party is awaiting written answers from both Mr. Chifley andMr. Calwell to questions on the subject asked by its leader, Mr. Fadden, in the House yesterday. Should these answers prove unsatisfactory, it seems that the Country party will decide to have the matter aired on a motion for the adjournment.
That is further evidence that to-day’s action did not originate with the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, the body most vitally concerned, but with certain newspaper interests which are anxious to extend the monopoly that they hold over the newspapers of this country, so as to embrace the commercial broadcasting stations of the Commonwealth. That raises the question as to whether or not it is desirable in the country’s interests that newspaper proprieties should be permitted to either own or control any of the commercial broadcasting stations that are operating in the Commonwealth. There are 100 such stations, and newspaper proprietors have a direct or an indirect interest in 40 of them. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who has studied the situation to-day, that the Leader of the Australian Country partyis merely the “ Trilby “ of the scene and that “ Svengali “ is not here but in a newspaper office in Sydney or Melbourne. I listened to all that the right honorable gentleman read without deviating from the text of the statement that had been prepared for him. His speech consisted of a conglomeration of wild speculations, gross misrepresentation, inaccuracies, mendacities, foolish suppositions, arrant stupidities-
– The honorable gentleman must moderate his language.
– I merely add- and plain, downright abuse.
– Orde*! I do not consider that much could be added to what the honorable gentleman had already said.
– I protest.
– To which statement does the right honorable gentleman object ?
– To the statement which the Minister has just made, containing adjectives large, wide and abusive.
– The Minister gave quite a number of classifications. I am not sure of the one to which the right honorable gentleman objects.
– The whole motley collection; their collective use, or abuse.
– I am afraid that the Chair could not ask for all of those adjectives to be withdrawn. As I indicated to the Minister at the time, his reference to mendacities was somewhat out of order. In deference to the House, that ought to be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word “ mendacities “. Had you, sir, heard the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party-
– Order ! I cannot be in two places at once.
– Had you done so, you might have upheld my claim for a qualified privilege. The history of this land-lines controversy is not, of course, as the newspapers have written it and the Leader of the Australian Country party has delivered it. In February, 1942, the Minister for Information at the time (Senator Ashley) presided over a conference attended by representatives of the Department of Information, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The agreement then reached was not made the subject of a National Security regulation. The statement of the Leader of the Aus tralian Country party that it was, indicates his ignorance, not merely of that particular incident, but also of the position as a whole. The agreement came into operation purely on a voluntary basis, and remained voluntary until the 30th April last. These are the terms of it-
It shall be compulsory-
And the compulsion was exercised by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations on its member stations - for commercial stations to take the Australian and overseas news sessions at 7.45 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday, timed for five minutes in the morning and midday sessions and eight minutes for the evening session.
The optional portion of the agreement reads -
Immediately following the compulsory sessions, overseas news sessions at 7.50 a.m., 12.35 p.m. and 7.8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 8.45 a.m., 12.50 p.m. and 7.8 p.m. Sunday. On weekdays the durations are ten minutes in the morning, seven minutes at midday and three minutes in the evening sessions. On Sundays the morning relay is for fifteen minutes, the midday for ten minutes, and the evening for three minutes.
Honorable members can see that there were only three compulsory sessions, and that at other times the commercial stations could broadcast any news services they chose. They were not obliged to take the 9 o’clock or 11 o’clock news session from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They were not obliged to take all of the seven o’clock session, but only eight minutes of it. They had perfect freedom in regard to all times other than those indicated. Many commercial stations did conduct news services additional to those mentioned in the agreement, and land-lines were made available to them for the purpose. It is not proposed to deprive them of any of the land-line services which they have had up to date. It has only been stipulated that they shall be prevented from getting additional land-line services. The commercial stations, from February, 1942, until now, have not offered any criticism of the quality of the news service, of its suitability, of its independence of Government control, or of any other aspect. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has supplied the service, and would still be supplying it, had it not been that Mr. C. J. A. Moses, as general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, acting entirely on his own initiative, I am told, and without reference to his commissioners or to the PostmasterGeneral, told the Federation of Commercial Stations that they would have to pay £9,000 a year for the news service, and give an acknowledgment of it three times a day. He subsequently reported the facts to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but it is a downright lie to say, as the Leader of the Australian Country party did, that Senator Ashley instructed Mr. Moses to demand payment for the news service.
– I ask that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) be required to withdraw the statement that what I said was a downright lie.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party has asked that the Minister withdraw the statement, and I think the request is justified.
– I withdraw the statement, but I shall read the relevant extracts from the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party, a copy of which I happen to have before me. It is as follows : -
The proposition put up under Senator Ashley’s auspices on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was that the Commission should be paid for the national news service, and that it should be acknowledged by the commercial stations as the commission service.
– I said that he had made approaches.
Mr.CALWELL.- He made no approach, and I think that the Leader of the Australian Country party ought to withdraw his statement, and apologize to Senator Ashley for the way in which he has bandied his name about in this chamber. He accused Senator Ashley of having done something that he did not do. It was never suggested that there should be a long-term agreement. The desire of the Government is that the people of Australia shall have an opportunity to hear factual news about the war over all stations. The war emergency has not passed, although the Leader of the Australian. Country party said that it had. The emergency can only have passed for honorable members opposite if they have lost all interest in the Pacific war. As a matter of fact, while the Pacific war lasts, the emergency lasts. I quote again from the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party -
The then Postmaster-General, Senator Ashley, made approaches to the B class stations which implied that, in the Government’s view, thetime had come to transform the temporary arrangement made in 1942 to something more durable.
There are two inaccuracies in that passage. Senator Ashley did not put the proposal forward and the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not consulted. The right honorable gentleman also said that the agreement was intended to meet a specific war emergency. That is true, and the emergency still exists. As I have said, the agreement would never have been questioned had it not been for the action of Mr. Moses, in demanding from the commercial radio stations something which the Government never intended that they should pay or do. The commercial radio stations said that they would not pay the money demanded, nor give the acknowledgment asked for. They desired to set up separate news services. Conferences were called, and negotiations took place. The Leader of the Australian Country party has deliberately misquoted the letter which the Acting Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs sent to the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. While he was speaking, I interjected several times to inform him of this fact. The Acting DirectorGeneral said that the lines “could” be provided, but the Leader of the Australian Country party said the Acting Director-General had said that the lines “ would “ be provided. For the right honorable gentleman thus deliberately to mislead the House is certainly without precedent in this Parliament. We never said that the lines could not be provided. We never said that it was not physically possible to do some of the things which the commercial stations wanted done, but in order to meet the requirements of the federation it would have been necessary to provide about sixteen trunk lines over and above those now used by them, and all such circuits are already overloaded. Theses are intra-state lines, not interstate, and delays in the making of calls already range from 45 minutes to as long as three hours. The Government believes that a duplication of trunk-line facilities for news relays would be quite unwarranted at the present time. Restrictions are already in force on the provision of telephone facilities for private subscribers. As a matter of fact, several honorable members opposite have interviewed the Postmaster-General recently, complaining of the long delay when they have sought to communicate by telephone with places in New South “Wales and in other States. They cannot have it both ways. They are not justified in complaining because insufficient facilities are made available to private subscribers and then complain because increased facilities are not made available to commercial radio stations over and above those already provided.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I intend to move that the honorable member be granted an extension of time; I also raise a point of order. The Minister for Information began his speech at 4.3 p.m. Of the twenty minutes permitted him under the Standing Orders he was for more than five minutes sitting down while points of order were taken.
– The Chair can take no cognizance of that. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has been a member of this House long enough to know that the time allowed to an honorable member under the Standing Orders is the time by the clock. [Extension of time granted.]
– Restrictions have been imposed upon the extension of telephone facilities generally, and requests for additional facilities have to be refused because of the shortage of manpower and materials. Numerous restrictions have been imposed upon the private and business activities of the community, and they must continue in force for some time to come. Goods and service* have been rationed. Petrol is rationed to motorists, and wages have been pegged. These and other disabili ties are suffered by the community because of the war-time emergency. However, honorable members opposite say, “ Never mind what the people are suffering. Make them suffer a little more. Let there be even longer delays in getting telephone connexions so that the newspaper interests whom we serve may relay their news over commercial radio stations.” It is true that, so far, the commercial stations have not asked for interstate lines, but if they could succeed iri this attempt at buccaneering on intrastate lines, they will soon come with a request for the use of interstate lines also. An a matter of fact, they have actually asked for an interstate line to Tasmania. Until recently, one line was used to transmit the news service to Tasmania from the mainland. When it was received there, it was split so that it could be taken simultaneously by the two commercial stations and the two national stations. If honorable members opposite, and their newspaper masters, have their way we shall have to provide three circuits to Tasmania instead of one. It is not true, as the Leader of the Australian Country party said, that the facilities asked for by the commercial stations can be made available. That can be done only at the expense of the general public.
– That is a quibble.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was one of those Opposition members that I cited as going to the Postmaster-General and complaining of telephone delays. I did not want to bring him into the argument, but if he pushes himself in I will push him out again. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has every right under the Telephone Regulations, issued under the Posts and Telegraphs Act, to refuse any application for a telephone service. As a matter of fact, honorable members of all parties have been besieging every Postmaster-General who has been in office since the beginning of the war with requests for additional telephone services. It has never been suggested that the Postmaster-General did not have the right to refuse an application for the installation of a telephone for a member of the public but honorable members opposite are now asserting that he has not the right to refuse the application of the commercial radio stations for additional land lines. The PostmasterGeneral has taken the responsibility of saying that if the public interest is to be protected additional land lines cannot be made available at present. They will be made available only when the position in regard to man-power and materials improves, and when there is a general review of the restrictions now imposed on the public. No special facilities can be made available for the benefit of newspapers or commercial radio stations. Eighteen permanent relay lines have been leased, fifteen of them full time, and three part time, to commercial stations. The full-time channels, that will not be interfered with at all, are the following: -
There is also a part-time channel available from Sydney to Canberra, from Sydney to Maitland, and from Melbourne to Carisbrook. The Leader of the Australian Country party asked last week for special facilities in regard to land lines for 2CA Canberra, in addition to those it already has. The Acting Prime Minister said that they would not be made available.
The difficulties of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in meeting the requirements of the community for trunk-line service are very real, due to the enormous demands on the facilities available which have been made by the armed forces and essential organizations on the home front. The Post Office has experienced the utmost difficulty in obtaining adequate supplies of plant and. equipment from overseas and from local sources, with the result that on the majority of the main long distance telephone trunk-line routes throughout the Commonwealth it is im- possible under existing conditions to furnish a reasonably prompt service. Whilst a measure of relief will be afforded from time ‘ to time as equipment and man-power ‘become available, there is no early prospect of any substantial improvement in this regard.
The congestion is particularly acute on the main interstate routes where calls are being subjected to serious delays which are causing great inconvenience to commercial and business organizations, including many who are associated more or less directly with the war effort. That clears the Post Office of any responsibility to make available the services that are being asked for. It also clears the Government of the charge that we are deliberately refusing to give something that we could reasonably give to the commercial stations. I repeat that this issue would never have arisen had Mr. Moses not interfered, without right and without reference to the commission or the Government, nor would it have reached its present stage had the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association not seized the opportunity to pursue its campaign to get control of the Australian Broadcasting ‘ Commission news service. That service was .set up in the days of the Lyons Government, and continued in operation for a long time without any interference at all. When the Gibson Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting sat, Mr. Cleary, the then chairman of the commission, defended the independent news service, but the stage was reached when the commission changed its mind and decided that i ts national news service should be handed over to the control of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The then Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) vetoed the proposal, and, because of that, this Government has been viciously attacked by most newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. They somehow or other obtruded themselves into the discussions of April last. They claimed that the news broadcast was their news, and that they should., therefore, have a say as to how and when the news should be broadcast. They claimed ownership of 90 per cent, of the news. The truth is that the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association owns from 5 to 7 per cent, of the news from Canberra and very little more of the State news. It would not own 10 per cent, of the lot, but it bases its claim to interfere on the falsehood tha.t it owns 90 per cent, of the news that comes from Reuters, the Australian Associated Press and other news-getting agencies here and overseas. The newspaper (proprietors have been frustrated in their attempt to seize the national news service and in their attempt to get hold of the news services on most commercial broadcasting stations. They want to deal with all the news at the source. They want the people to hear the same distortions and misrepresentations as they are forced to read. Let me tell how these newspapercontrolled broadcasting stations deal with those who go to them for commercial purposes. Smith’s Weekly, which is published in Sydney, submitted an advertisement to 3DB Melbourne, which is owned by Sir Keith Murdoch and the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, Smith’s Weekly asked that this be broadcast as a paid advertisement -
Do you know why 1,000,000 people read Smith’s Weekly every week? I’ll tell you. First, because Smith’s Weekly gives you the facts which other newspapers don’t get . . . the stories that other newspapers don’t print.
The advertising agency that submitted the advertisement to 3DB was told that the station censors - the newspaper’s own censors - had got to work on the submission and had decided that they would not permit Smith’s Weekly to have broadcast over the air these words -
Smith’s Weekly gives you the facts which other newspapers don’t get . . . the stories that other newspapers don’t print.
The example I have quoted shows how the newspaper-controlled broadcasting stations behave towards those who unfortunately have to deal with them. There is no such thing as freedom of the press or freedom of the air. Let me show how in their desire to establish news services the commercial stations have been hawking sponsorship of their news around Sydney. Station 2G-B has asked £17,000 for the morning session and £20,000 for the mid-day session and even more for the evening session. Its owners want some business firm to sponsor that news. Can honorable gentlemen not see that the man who pays the piper calls the tune and that if business interests sponsor news sessions they will colour the news. The so-called Liberal party of Australia and all those who talk about the freedom of the press ought to know that what they say is all moonshine. A few weeks ago the Sydney Morning Herald misreported a Country party conference, and was censured by that conference for abusing the privilege of freedom of the press. To-day the Country party leader stands up for the Sydney Morning Herald in its plan to monopolize news broadcasts for the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. Last Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald boasted that it had fiercely criticized the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. On the same day it used the honorable member’s statement on land lines as an ineffective whip to flay and flog the present Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was hounded1 and persecuted by the Sydney Daily Telegraph at the 1940 elections in a manner almost unprecedented in campaigning history. Yet he and his leader to-day defend the newspaper interests that seek to widen and extend their power to persecute and tyrannize.
– We have listened to a very interesting speech from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). Out of the tangled skein that the honorable gentleman presented, I am going to try to fasten on to a few threads which may give some clues as to exactly where we should get if we followed the skein right through. The first thread I get hold of is that it was very clear from the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that what the Country party desired to get hold of was a concrete statement of whether this was government policy. The Minister for Information has not enlightened the House very much on that inasfar as he failed to make a statement one way or the other, but every honorable member listening to what he said could cometo no other conclusion than the one which I came to, namely, that, regardless of what merits the case mav have or the inconvenience to individuals or interests involved, this matter rests on government policy. He also made it clear that the Government, with his own particular and interested approval, has determined that there shall not be more than one news service in Australia. I am not complaining of that because I am one of those on this side who did not agree with the attitude adopted by some of my friends on the broadcasting committee who favoured a certain agreement. But the fact arises that the Ministry, if I interpret the honorable gentleman correctly, was quite prepared to grant land-line facilities to certain commercially owned broadcasting stations provided they used the Australian Broadcasting Commission service. So if we accept that position-
– That is not the position.
– It is not? Well I think the Minister for Information ought” to make his speech again. The position I put to the House is that if the facilities are available to broadcast the Australian Broadcasting Commission news - and I gathered very distinctly from the rather impetuous flow of remarks that came from the honorable gentleman - that the Government had no objection to the Australian Broadcasting news going out but was fighting certain commercial interests and supporting the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and if the Australian Broadcasting news can go over those lines and it is physically possible for the department to deal with the distribution of that news, it should be able to deal with the distribution of news provided by one of the two independent services to which the honorable gentleman referred so frequently’. That stands to reason. If that were not so, it would not be possible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to distribute its news at all. I put it to the House that the debate this afternoon, with due respect to the Leader of the Australian Country party who initiated it, is one skirmish, but a very important skirmish in the big battle behind the scenes between certain interests, some governmental, some private and some semigovernmental, the object of which is to determine whether certain people will get complete control of the collection and dissemination of news in Australia. I do not believe that this issue can be satisfactorily settled in this House this afternoon. Too much is involved. Too many cross-currents and different interests are involved. I believe that Parliament is fast approaching the point at which it will be necessary for the Government to set up a select committee of both Houses to investigate certain specific questions, which will have to be propounded for it to investigate, and to determine upon what rights, methods and conditions there shall be and produce some balance between the interests of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the one hand, and the commercial stations and certain newspapers on the other. Here we get a division again. Some newspapers are owners of commercial broadcasting stations, and others have no share whatever in their ownership. So you have a division of interests in regard to both the ownership of broadcasting stations and the ownership of commercial broadcasting stations by newspaper interests. lt is out of that conflict of interest that this act arises as a matter, apparently on what the Minister said just now by interjection, of Government policy. If that is Government policy, it is a policy to which I object on principle. The Post Office is a public utility and, if it has available the facilities to enable broadcasting stationsto present certain news services, I first demand that those facilities be granted,, and, secondly, that as long as commercial broadcasting is the law and practice of the Commonwealth the operators shall havethe right to say which of the news servicesavailable they prefer to accept. On top of* that, I say that no government has any right whatever to try to push the interests of one news service as against those of another. It is true, of course, that many advantages enjoyed by the newspapers areprovided by the Postmaster-General’s Department, but very little seems to havebeen said about that.
What I want to know is whether theincongruous attitude of the PostmasterGeneral in refusing land-line facilities” to broadcasting stations owned by news- papers has been dictated by government policy,, as was suggested by the interjection of the Minister, or whether it is due to the personal decision of the honorable gentleman. If it is due to government policy, how doe3 the Government square its attitude with the procedure of the department in granting concessions to newspapers, in the use of telephones and teleprinters?
– “Will the honorable member say something about the second point?
– As the Minister who has interjected knows very well, because of his firm adherence to the Standing Orders when he was the leader of a certain party which sat on the opposition back benches- some years ago,- 1 would not be allowed to go far in that direction. Speaking for myself, and, I am sure, for some other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I say that we are no better informed on government policy or on what the Government proposes to do in the future in this connexion than we were before the Minister for Information spoke. I had a feeling, as I am sure the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) had, that if the Minister obtained an extension of time, Sir Keith Murdoch and his doings would figure in this debate, and that was the case. In my opinion, the later remarks of the Minister had no bearing whatever on the matter raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party, and were entirely beside the point.
We desire to know whether the Postmaster-General’s refusal of land lines to the commercial radio stations was founded upon government policy. If the answer to that question be “ Yes “ nothing more remains to be said, except that honorable members on this side of the chamber entirely disagree with it. If, on the other hand, the action was founded not upon government policy but upon the individual decisions of one or two Ministers, speaking as individuals, as they are apt to do, and, in fact, have done in the last few days, without any regard to the views of other members of the Ministry, we wish to know whether land lines are available to commercial stations, and if so why the stations were refused the use of them under previous instructions. (Extension of time granted. ] If the Government supports the Minister for Information to the degree that he claims, does it desire to nationalize commercial radio stations in Australia? If that be the case I can see some consistency in its action, but unless it is prepared to make a public statement to that effect the sooner it dissociates itself from the untenable attitude of the PostmasterGeneral, the better it will be for all concerned.
– I desire to make only a few observations. The first is that this dispute would not have arisen except for the fact that some newspapers have substantial and controlling interests in some commercial broadcasting stations. That cannot be questioned.
– Why not?
– It is so clear that I shall not take, up the time of the House in debating it.
– The Acting Prime Minister should explain his remark.
– In various ways, in my capacity as Commonwealth Treasurer. I have had a great deal of association with the commercial broadcasting stations of Australia, and our relations nave always been amicable. The commercial radio stations have given the Government a very fair run, and the Government, in its turn, has given the stations the best run that they have had in their history. In 1942, when conditions were very difficult in Australia, and when radio advertising was being withdrawn and many of the country stations, in particular, were in trouble, I received a deputation from commercial radio station interests. The Government did its best, to help the stations, because it believed that they were providing a form of entertainment which had a value to the community. In particular, the Government made additional advertising available. I do not say that that was done without some expectation of a reasonable return; it was not a purely philanthropic act.
– The Government got service for its money.
– I shall tell the honorable member the kind of service it got. Since 1941, the Commonwealth Government has paid £196,000 to commercial radio stations for advertising. In 1941 the amount sopaid was about £20,000; in 1944 the amount was £84,000.
– In connexion with war loans?
– I shall tell my story as I think it ought to be told. The dealings between the Government and the commercial radio stations have been without animosity or venom. Our activities have involved payments for services which previous governments received for nothing. This Government decided that reasonable service should receive reasonable payment. I do not intend to go into the details of the business, but the agreement provided that the Government should receive from the commercial radio stations a certain amount of free time, and should pay for a certain amount of time; the proportions were about 75 per cent. and 25 per cent. But we discovered, in due course, that the free time was given during periods which were suitable to the radio stations, but not so suitable to the Government. Later, as Treasurer, I arranged with the commercial radio stations, at a conference, that all time should be paid for at concessional rates. The rate agreed upon was about 80 per cent. of the full rate. I again emphasize that our relationships were amicable. I defy any honorable member of the House to name any representative of the commercial stations who has said that they were not receiving a fair deal from the Government.
– It was a business transaction.
– What I have said shows that the relations between the radio stations and the Government were amicable. The Minister for Information has dealt with some aspects of the agreement in regard to the broadcasting of news. That agreement has been in operation for more than two years, and no complaints have been received from members of the public about the services that were provided. I have not received a single complaint from the public about the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service, nor has the PostmasterGeneral or the Minister for Information.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission has received complaints.
– That may be so; I do not know. We have merely asked that, for the benefit of the general public, the arrangements which have existed during the war period shall continue until the end of the war.
Let me tell honorable members something about the conditions under which the commercial broadcasting stationsuse post office lines for relay purposes. In order to provide a five-minute relay it may take up to fifteen minutes to obtain the necessary clearances of the lines. For a fifteen-minute or twenty-minute relay it probably takes, on an average, half an hour to clear the lines.
– Has not 2CA its own line?
– During the halfhour that the land lines are being “ lined up “ in this way, service is being withheld from the Australian public, many of whom are required to wait for hours at telephone boxes. I heard an honorable member say something about the loss of revenue. This year, because of the inadequate facilities available, the Government had to issue a National Security regulation to prevent citizens from sending telegrams during certain periods. Probably tens of thousands of people were inconvenienced on this account. The plain fact is that adequate facilities could not be provided for the business that was offering.
– Is it not a fact that the land lines are already there ?
– I shall not take time to go into details on that point. If the Government granted the request of the commercial radio stations for land lines, the public would have to be satisfied with a less efficient service. That point is clear beyond question.
– The experts do not say so. Does the Acting Prime Minister know more than Mr. Fanning?
– I could tell the honorable gentleman something about experts. I remind him that, in 1930, the government of the day, which was not a Labour administration, appointed a special committee to investigate broadcasting affairs. That committee, the chairman of which was Sir Harry Brown, was the first authority to open up the subject of the nationalization of broadcasting. The committee also recommended that C class stations should be licensed for sponsored programmes, and a sub-committee of Cabinet endorsed the recommendation. The proposal may have to be re-examined.
– Is that a threat or a promise?
– I am referring to what a previous government did.
– This is the big stick.
– It is not the big stick, for, asI have already said, my relations, as Treasurer, with the commercial radio stations have always been amicable. There would have been no trouble now but for the fact that some of the commercial stations are dominated by newspaper interests. We all know that such stations broadcast exactly the same opinions as those expressed in the newspapers concerned. That is not freedom. There is nothing to prevent any commercial broadcasting station from broadcasting a news service from its own studio, so I cannot understand why this argument should have arisen, except, of course, for the fact that the question of syndication is involved, and it is desired that the radio stations controlled by the newspapers shall broadcast news in conformity with the views expressed in those journals. That is the truth. No difficulty would have arisen if the commercial broadcasting stations had not linked up with newspaper interests. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked, “What does the Government propose to do about it ? “ The Postmaster-General did not take this action entirely on his own initiative. He discussed it with Cabinet and was told that while the people are deprived of facilities for telegraph and telephone services and are subject to many restrictions, no necessity exists at this stage to alter an arrangement with the commercial broadcasting stations which operated for two years.
.- I protest against the injustice that has been done to commercial broadcasting stations. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) declared that this situation would not have arisen if the commercial stations had not linked up with newspaper interests. I have no association with the press, but I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the fact that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations had always been found quite satisfactory, and he eulogized the president, Mr. Paddison, and other officials. Yesterday, Mr. Paddison stated that the issue regarding the granting of land lines to country stations had nothing to do with the number available. He added that if this issue could not be settled in any other way, the federation was prepared to accept the same number of land lines as was used for the broadcasting of the Australian Broadcasting Commission news services. In reply, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) said -
As intimated in my telegram of the 3rd May, the matter has been considered by the Government which cannot agree, in existing circumstances, to land lines being made available for the purposes indicated.
The Acting Prime Minister stated that radio stations broadcast the news services from their studios. If he had paused to consider the matter, he would have realized that that was not possible, because country stations require land lines. They cannot obtain up-to-date news and broadcast it from the studios unless they wait for the newspapers, or have some other source of information. So the land lines are necessary to them, and the federation offered to accept the same number of land lines as had been used during the period of emergency. The PostmasterGeneral refused that reasonable request.
The Minister for Information abused the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, for having dared to propose a charge for the
Australian Broadcasting Commission news.
– I criticized him, but 1 did not abuse him.
- Mr. Paddison, whom the Minister eulogized, said that the commercial stations considered that the news services had been compulsory since February, 1942, and they had accepted that position during the period of national emergency. But at a conference summoned in August, 1944, the federation was informed by the then PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) that the Australian Broadcasting Commission required payment for the news service and suggested that a conference should be called to deal with the subject. That occurred before Mr. Moses attended the conference, and, on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, demanded payment for the news service. Obviously, the proposal that the commercial stations should pay for it was initiated by the then Postmaster-General. The conference was held on the 5th December, 1944, and Mr. Moses represented the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commercial stations were informed that the commission required payment for the news services and also an acknowledgment that the service emanated from the commission. Evidently, the Minister for Information is not satisfied unless he controls the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because he abused Mr. Moses and described him as being the author of this trouble. As I have shown, the proposal for payment for the Australian Broadcasting Commission news services was originated by the then PostmasterGeneral. The federation then took the initiative and asked whether the Government considered that the period of national emergency had passed. I emphasize that the federation took no action until it had received that information from the Government. On the 10th January Senator Ashley replied that, in the view of the Government, the emergency had passed. Yet the Minister for Information declared that the emergency still existed.
– Who said that the former Postmaster-General made that statement?
– The president of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, whom the Minister eulogized this afternoon. In his speech to-day, the Minister entirely misrepresented the position. I am of the opinion that while the news service was compulsory, the commercial stations should not have been asked to pay for it. But if the service was to be optional, the Australian Broadcasting Commission naturally had every right to specify its terms. The then Postmaster-General agreed with that view. He said -
If the commercial stations are not prepared to acknowledge the Australian Broadcasting Commission service or make a contribution to it, the only thing to do is to terminate the agreement and the commercial stations could then furnish their own services.
That proves conclusively that the then Postmaster-General initiated the alteration of the arrangement in existence at that time. Following the conference on the 10th January, and not until the Government had intimated that the national emergency had passed, did the commercial broadcasting stations accept Senator Ashley’s invitation to act independently, if they would not continue to take the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service. Some of the commercial stations made contracts - I do not know with whom - and the Postmaster-General then declared that land-line facilities would not be made available to them. The officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have been humiliated by his action. I should like to know why he scorned their advice. Interstate land lines were denied to the commercial stations, and they were not allowed to create news collation services on ,a basis similar to the national news service. At the outset, they were told to deal with intra-state lines. When arrangements had been made on that basis, they were submitted to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in accordance with its advice to them. Surely that constituted a commitment to provide the service for which arrangements had been made. Although, as I indicated, the first suggestion emanated from the department, a new obstacle was created. At 9 p.m. on the 30th April, the day before the independent services were to begin, the department advised the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations by telephone, and after the normal working hours, that the land lines would not be available on the following morning. That was an act of Fascism. [.Extension of time granted.] The Australian Broadcasting Act, which this Government introduced, rightly provides that commercial broadcasting stations shall not discriminate against their advertisers. The act should make further provision in order to protect the community against the actions of the PostmasterGeneral himself, because oddly enough, he can commit with impunity the offence for which he may punish a commercial station. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department provides a service of which we are justly proud, and as the representative of a country electorate, I am not in favour of any action that would debar country districts from obtaining additional telephone services. If I desired, I could complain about telephonic delays when the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service is in operation.
– The honorable member’s station has not been deprived of its news service.
– I have no axe to grind, because the broadcasting station at Kingaroy has a permanent land line and is not affected by the PostmasterGeneral’s decision. Obviously, the Gov.vernment intends to provide fewer land lines for country broadcasting stations for the purpose of enabling them to obtain news services.
– I am opposed to the regimentation of news services. After having listened to the protests of the Opposition any one would imagine that the object of this motion is to prevent the regimentation of news services, but its real purpose is to establish, in this country, a monopoly of’ news services. The Labour party has more to lose than any other political organization by a regimentation of news services. Personally, I am in favour of independence, and the right to freedom of expression, in regard to the dissemination of news. But that is not the purpose of this motion. Honorable members opposite contend that the denial to various broadcasting stations of the use of land lines provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department constitutes an interference with their liberty, and is an endeavour to marshal news through one channel so that the people will hear only one set of views. While Labour governments are in office, it may be said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent news service. That is, it is not influenced in any way by interference by the Minister in control of the commission. But if we had a change of government - I hope that I shall not live to see one - we might be faced with a situation such as was caused by political interference by an anti-Labour government, when permission was given to broadcast political speeches over the Australian network almost to the exclusion of contributions by representatives of the Labour party. I want to protect the right of the very few commercial stations which the Labour party has - for example, SKY in New South Wales, and the Labour stations in Victoria and Western Australia - to conduct news services. It cannot be claimed that thecommercial broadcasting stations are denied the right to have an independentnews service. Their desire is that, by tying themselves up with the newspapers, the whole of the radio system eventually will disseminate only that news which is published in the columns of the antiLabour -press. What can be said of those honorable members who have suddenly found that they have democratic views? The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who proclaims himself a staunch supporter of art independent news service, put station SKY off the air completely when he was Postmaster-General. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) is a director of a B class station in the northern part of Queensland, and I say without hesitation that the brief from which he presented his case to-day was prepared for him by Alderman Chandler, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, who control? station 4BH, Brisbane. Those gentlemen are concerned only with profits. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave interesting figures showing how the Government had assisted commercial broadcasting stations since 1942 ; he said that £196,000 had been paid by the Government for advertising through their medium. I am not certain that that can be defended. Commercial broadcasting stations have some entertainment value, but they are no more entitled to make a profit from the expenditure of public money in this war than is any other commercial group; all that they should ask in return for any time which they make available to the Government is to be recouped the actual working expenses during that time. I believe that the clash between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association began when the newspapers wanted to receive payment for the publication of the commission programmes. They wanted to dip their hands into the public purse for their own benefit, and demanded payment for what previously they had published without charge, because of its news value. It is said that the cost to the Commonwealth for the advertising cf the Australian Broadcasting Commission^ programmes would have amounted to approximately £100,000 per annum. But once the newspapers had established their right to payment there would have been nothing to prevent them from increasing the charge for such advertising. I am left completely cold by the talk of the great service which the newspapers have done for the Government and the country during the present national crisis. Is it not a fact that since the war commenced the advertising rates for in memoriam and funeral notices have been increased? Let us examine subsequent happenings. When the newspapers failed to secure the payment of advertising rates for the publication of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes, they began to wage what has since been continuous warfare. Repeatedly in this Parliament, ‘ attention has been directed to the loss on the publication of the A.B.C. ‘Weekly. It is true that there have been losses on that journal, but against them can b°. set what the Government otherwise would have had to pay for advertising in the columns of the daily newspapers.
Actually, therefore, the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly has been fully justified. Now consider the overseas news service. How many newspapers are not dependent upon the service provided by the Australian Associated Press? So far as I know, only two or three newspapershave an independent overseas news service. Yet honorable members opposite claim that the Australian BroadcastingCommission ought not to be committed to the expense of maintaining an independent news service, but should takethat provided by the Australian Associated Press! According to them, that is an independent service. Reading the1 columns of the newspapers, one would’ imagine that their sole aim is not to* make as much profit as they can for themselves but to give to the public the news which it is anxious to receive. I was in New Guinea when the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) cameinto conflict with the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association on one occasion, and I well recall the blank, columns which the newspapers thenissued, claiming that the matter which they had contained had been deleted by direction of the Minister for Information.. War correspondents for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, at a conference which I had with newspapermen, complained that, on. the very day on which that newspaper had blank columns, they had despatched important communications in regard toft war action, but these had been pigeonholed in order that on appeal might be< made to the prejudice of certain membersof the community. In my opinion, the only concern of the newspaper proprietors is to conserve their own interests. I compliment the Minister for Information om the unanswerable case that he presented. Even the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) found it necessary to> make an apology, by way of interjection, for an approach that he made to the Postmaster-General a few dayspreviously regarding telephone services. [Extension of time granted.] I repeat, that the question before us is, whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission i3 to be allowed to conduct an independent news service, or whether certain people are to have placed in their hands an instrument which wall enable them to establish a monopoly in the dissemination of news in this country. The Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association has carried on a war against not only the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but also the Government, because it wishes to destroy the Government as quickly as possible. The honorable member for Barker made a suggestion which, in my opinion, is worthy of consideration. He said that it would be interesting to know whether or not a propel* examination would disclose that a number of the licences issued’ to commercial broadcasting stations are held in accordance with the law. I believed that it was not proper that a chain of. stations should become a combine, as certain newspaper interests have endeavoured to make them. It is true that some commercial broadcasting stations are not in this “ ring “. Although the honorable member for Barker did not give figures, he will agree that approximately 75 per cent, of the broadcasting licences held to-day are controlled either directly or indirectly by the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. Therefore, the suggestion of the honorable member that an investigation might be made to determine what interests control the licences that have been issued, could be advantageously adopted. It would be a good thing if the Government were to ensure that no newspaper or “ ring “ should control, either directly or indirectly, any commercial broadcasting station. How can there be an independent news service, if. the newspapers are permitted to control numerous broadcasting stations to which licences have been issued ? I want an independent news service. The Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association says: “We want to have an independent news service in this country, so that the people may ibc told the truth, and views other than those of the Government may be expressed over the air “. Have honorable members forgotten the attempts by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to have syndicated news from Canberra? That association wanted to reduce the outlet of news from Canberra to one channel, in order that it might be in a position to determine what information in respect of the proceedings of the National Parliament should he given to the people of this country. Many men use expressions which they consider meet with popular appeal. At one time, Hitler described himself as a national socialist. Nobody else would so describe him’. Nor would anybody describe Opposition members as democrats who want to protect the interests’ of the people. We had an examination of this matter, and the opportunity was given to discuss it. I approve, and so does the Government, of the action taken by the Postmaster-General. Whenever a decision has to he made between vested interests and the interests of the general community, there is only one decision that a. Labour administration can make. We have made such a decision, and we intend to stand by it.
.- Neither the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), noi* the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), has a case; therefore, each of them has resorted to abuse. The Minister for Information saw fit to occupy his time in abusing the Leader of tie Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the newspapers, whilst the Minister for Transport, occupied his time in abusing commercial broadcasting stations. Those are merely “red herrings “. One fact has been clearly’ established. Mr. Fanning, one of the most competent and respected officers of the Public Service, in the exercise of his public duties, saw fit to address a letter to the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting ‘Stations on the 19th April. In it he said -
I enclose a statement showing in respect ot each of the country commercial stations the land-line facilities which could be allotted at times corresponding with the existing national news session, for the purpose of enabling those commercial stations which do not participate in thu national service to share in the news relays from the appropriate capital cities. It will be seen that as a general rule it would be practicable for any station to participate in a commercial news service if preferred.
That is a clear authority from the Assistant Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. No newspapers are concerned in the matter. It is an intimation to the commercial stations that they might go ahead in good faith, make their contacts and establish their news service.
This they did, and then, a few hours before it was to be put into operation, they received telephone messages that the authority already given had been withdrawn.
Mr.Calwell. - No authority whatever was given.
– I do not want to hear from the Minister for Information any more abuse of the newspapers. It appears to be the only thing he can do whenever he opens his mouth. I protest against the cancellation of this agreement with the commercial stations. There is no doubt that the facilities could have been provided. It was said that the lines could be made available. That was what Mr. Fanning said, and his statement was endorsed by the then PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley),I object to the undertaking being withdrawn in this way. Such action isutterly dishonest. The public and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have longbeen dissatisfied with the political colouring of the commission’s news. The fault does not lie with the pressmen who prepare the news, but with honorable gentlemen opposite who give the news its colour. The new chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, before he accepted appointment, asked for, and received, an unqualified assurance from the Prime Minister that there would be no further political interference.
– That is not true.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 886), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - This bill is one of the most important measures with which the House will deal. It covers a very wide field, and in introducing it the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), made an interesting speech. The first embarrassment one feels in approaching the second-reading debate is an embarrassment of choice as to what to discuss at this stage, and what not to discuss. There are many matters of detail - but most important detail - which will have to be tackled closely in committee. I thought it would be useful if, at this stage, I said something about the general matters of principle which will have to be settled before we can get to the committee stage. I am not proposing - and I think I can say this for all honorable members of this House -to make this a party debate. We are dealing with a problem which is above party, a problem which is intimately associated with the discharge of the nation’s duty to those who have served the nation in time of war.
If one were to ask what is the dominant feature of thebill, I suppose the answer would be that it deals with the re-establishment in civil life, and in the ordinary civil economy, of men and women of the services. Effective reestablishment in civil life of members of the services is something which will require more than a good set of rules. It will require something far more than a good act of Parliament. It will, in my opinion, require above all things sympathetic, intelligent personal handling of the cases covered by this measure. In the long run, the test of rehabilitation measures directed to ex-servicemen will be how they have succeeded in treating individual cases. At the very outset we all ought to make up our minds that nothing but disaster would follow an attempt to formulate a set of hardandfast rules which would apply, any one of them, to thousands of cases. If there are 100,000 people or 200,000 or 300,000 people to be re-established, the first thing to he remembered is that there will be 100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000 individual human beings to be considered, each one quite different from the others, and each one, therefore, requiring very close personal contact with the administration.
I propose to look at three things - first, at the general nature of the problem, and in particular at the nature of our obligations; second, at the necessary administration; and, third, at the question of preference, its nature, its extent and its duration. I take first, the general nature of the problem, and of our obligations. I have just said - I am sure with the agreement of everybody in this House - that there will be an almost infinite variety of individual cases, and it is difficult to put them even into categories. Nevertheless, we will not really succeed in passing good legislation unless we have certain categories in mind, because they will serve to illustrate the nature of the problem. Let us consider one case, which will be a fairly common one. A serviceman comes out of his service, having maintained or improved his own industrial technique. For example, there will be many men in the ground musterings of the Royal Australian Air Force who will come out of their service much more competent technically at their jobs than they were before they entered and, therefore, to that degree much more employable, and much less in need of positive establishment. That class of case is the most favorable of all.
– Except that men may be prevented by union rules-
– I am talking in terms of employability. Such men will be entitled, I hope, as a result of this legislation, to effective preference, and they will be entitled, I hope, to join the appropriate union of their calling. If any restriction stands in the way, assuming that the men are qualified to belong to that particular union, the House and the country will regard it as most improper. Some men will come out of their service physically unimpaired, but technically behind in the race. For instance, one man was at the bench before the war engaged in a certain craft. He went into the Army or the Navy and served for three or four or five or six years. He will come back to his old job almost immeasurably less employable than when he went away, because he will have lost those years of concentrated experience. Another man, who was next to him at the bench, remained on the job. He continued to practise his craft, say, in a munitions factory. No doubt he did very meritorious work. We are not concerned to discuss that, but at the end of the war he will be immeasurably more competent than the other man because of the concentrated experience of half a dozen years. As a result, he will be much more employable, although each is, in theory, qualified. If we are to give some form of preference in a case like that to the man who comes back from one of the services, but so hedge it about with conditions that it amounts to the old formula of “ other things being equal “ ; if we say that he shall have preference only if he is equally well qualified as the other applicant, he will never get the benefit of the provision at all, because, though both men are technically qualified, one will be immeasurably more efficient than the other because of his greater experience. I propose to draw attention to the way in which the bill deals with preference. Any measure of preference which fails to deal adequately with a case of the kind I have mentioned will be a mere illusory benefit to the man coming out of his service.
In the case of the man I have instanced, the community owes him a greater duty than merely to say, “You are to have preference “. After all, the community’s first task - and the Minister recognizes this - is so to handle the case of that man, so to bring to his assistance further training and, if necessary, to subsidize his wages, as ultimately to restore him to the position where he is not only equally as qualified but also equally as efficient, as the man who did not enter one of the services. The community’s first job is to do everything possible by providing training and, in some instances, financial assistance, so as to put that soldier or sailor or airman, at the end of some limited period of time, back into the position he would have been in if he had not gone off to serve the country in one of the armed services.
We must also remember that many men will be discharged from the forces who, before the war, were self-employed. I mention this because we all, myself included, are somewhat disposed to assume that we are considering only employed persons, those on salaries or wages. As a matter of fact, many servicemen, before entering the services, were self-employed in the running of small businesses, or on the land, or they were getting ready to go on the land. Many of them will desire to resume those occupations. If the man who had a small business, and sacrificed it to go into one of the services, comes back to find that the business is no longer there, the Government has a positive obligation to give him assistance. It is just as much obliged to assist him to open a small business as it is to give another man four or five years’ technical training so that he may qualify for important work.
– Does the bill not provide for that?
– I am not discussing these categories as a criticism of the bill. I am endeavouring to state in my own fashion what I believe are the principles upon which the provisions of this bill must be examined. There is another category which to me is the most difficult of all. Thousands of men in the services who enlisted as boys of eighteen were junior clerks in offices. They were not receiving technical training and were not designed to become technical men. They belonged to the great army of men in offices whose career is, in the broad sense, an administrative career. They may rise to be senior clerks or managers or to fill other clerical and executive posts. No problem could be more acute than that of the boy who, for all practical purposes, was a’ junior clerk when he went into one of the services at eighteen and comes back at 24, perhaps having held a commission or been a non-commissioned officer, with years of responsibility and experience. He comes back not only a man of 24, but also a very mature man, who has seen life in concentrated form and whose general experience is, as honorable members may imagine, that of a much older man. It will not be sufficient for us to say to him, “ You have the right, demand the job you had “. We have to see whether we cannot establish him in a job appropriate to the man of 24 “who has had the experience that he has had in the service of his country. It is very difficult to know the answer. I confess that I do not know how you can give that man” the tuition in his administrative job which will serve to bridge the gap of years between 18 and 24. We can do it in the case of men who were just entering apprenticeships when they enlisted. Men of that sort are described in the measure. You can say to them, “ Complete your apprenticeship. You will receive award wages. Your employer.”; will be subsidized according to your efficiency”. That, is relatively simple, to state, anyway; but, in the case of the office employees, of whom there are many thousands, ways and means will have to be found to give them some tuition, some special experience, in order to give then* the knowledge of the business in which they are employed that they would have had if they had not been at the war. That will impose very large financial responsibilities on the Government, because, in all these cases, if we are going to recognize that those who were boys are now men, we must recognize the principle that they must be paid as men, and, therefore, the Commonwealth Government must be prepared to lay out large sums in subsidization of their employment. There are other cases. Many men will come out with impaired health. They will need what the country has always been prepared to give - medical treatment and training and permanent financial aid to the extent of any remaining disability. But impaired health will not necessarily be a matter of some physical disability readily detectable. I believe that after the war we shall have more cases than ever before of psychological derangement as the result of the war - the difficulty of settling down, the difficulty of a man who has been away on service for years to accommodate himself again to the more prosaic events of civil life.
– That is already very noticeable.
– I agree. It is something that every one of us in this House will need to watch very closely, because, in this war, though the extent of the fighting and the casualties have been limited, as compared with the former war, it is still true that much of the fighting done by the Australian forces has been done under indescribably trying physical conditions, and the result will be, I venture to believe - and I say it with great sorrow - a large increase of the percentage of people who will find difficulty psychologically in being reabsorbed in civil life. Of course, for a man of that kind the closest individual attention will be required. Cold officialdom, and sets of rules and regulations, will never cope with that case. A man may be placed in employment and then, apparently quite capriciously, walk out in a month’s time, and, in nine cases out of ten, the reason willbe that he, for months and perhaps years, served his country under difficult conditions and finds it almost impossible to accommodate himself to the ordinary run of life. It may require years of sympathetic administration, study of cases, words of advice, and a helping hand before he finally settles down and finds his place in the community. Then, of course, many men will come out of the forces permanently disabled. For them no financial provision which this country can make will be too generous.We shall also have the dependants of the dead and the disabled for whom generous provision must be made by the community. The categories that I have indicated are not exhaustive, but I have mentioned them because I think that in an approach to this legislation and the subsequent administration of the scheme we are undertaking a responsibility which is in the truest sense a national responsibility, and yet it is a responsibility which must be discharged by concentrating on individual treatment of individual cases. To whatever category members of the services may belong there will be two other great problems to he overcome. One of them is the problem of finding a useful and productive job with some future in it, and the other, the problem of getting a home. So if we had to write the objectives on the wall so that we might never forget them, I believe that we should write that the three things required are training, a job in the real sense, and a home to live in.
I turn from that to consider, again quite broadly, the nature of the administration required in a matter of this kind and here there are two cardinal defects in the bill. The first is that the bill, in Part II., Division 5, clauses 46 and 47 includes civilian re-employment. I just direct the attention of honorable members to that. Clause 46 says that there shall be a Commonwealth Employment Service and clause 47 says -
The functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service shall be to provide services and facilities in relation to employment for the benefit of persons seeking to become employed, to change employment or to engage labour, to provide facilities to assist in bringing about and maintaining a high and stable level of employment throughout the Commonwealth.
And, “ in particular, without limiting the generality “ of that provision, there are others dealing with service personnel. The point made by the Minister himself, because he naturally approves of this idea, is that the employment service to be established by the Commonwealth is to deal equally with civilians and soldiers. Clause 32 contains a provision which enables civilians in some unspecified circumstances to be treated as service personnel for the purpose of preference. I say, with great respect to the Minister and the work that he has obviously put into the formulation of this measure, that the moment you introduce, in any sense, provisions to meet civilians in a bill for the re-establishment of service men and women you do something immeasurably dangerous. It must be some one’s business to look after the soldier, and nobody else, if the job is to be done and the soldier is to succeed. The second administrative defect I find in the bill is that it perpetuates a system which I suggest to the House requires our most anxious consideration. At present various departments or authorities handle soldier problems. I use the word “ soldier “ in its widest sense as including all the services. To-day the War Service Homes Commission deals with homes; the Repatriation Commission, with pensions and medical benefits; the Department of Labour and National Service, with employment; the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, with vocational and professional training; the Social Services Department, with unemployment allowances and the States’ Lands Departments with some aspects, at any rate, of soldier settlement. I do not believe that you can have coherent, consistent, sympathetic, individual handling of exsoldiers if you try to do it through half a dozen different departments. When a man finds that there are half a dozen authorities dealing with some aspect of his problem he tends to get the impression that he is being “ run around “ ‘by those departments. Not only will it stand in the way of the departmenthandling his case with success, but it will make him more and more a misfit in the community. He will become resentful at having to run from pillar to post, from, one department to another. We must make up our- minds, if this problem is to be effectively handled, that we must establish in Australia a Commonwealth Servicemen’s Rehabilitation Department and Ministry in which all these things will be included. The keystone of the department, I believe, should be a rehabilitation commission with a personnel, so constituted as to guarantee wide experience as well as broad knowledge. Radiating from that central commission, about which I shall say a few words later, there should be other authorities, all within the same ministry and all’ observing the same administrative rule3 laid down by the commission, to deal in their own fashion with the matters that I have referred to - homes, pensions and medical treatment, employment, vocational and professional training, unemployment allowances, and settlement on the land. The first essential element of the scheme is one ministry and one department and its job should be to deal with the soldier and nobody but the soldier.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The ex-servicemen’s rehabilitation commission should be a body to which men could go to present their case. A man should be able to begin, continue and end with one body. The proposed commission should have wide powers for the formulation- of administrative policy; but it should be, as far as possible, free from political interference. The service men and women who will be demobilized at the end of the war will look not for political administration, but for a consideration of the merits of their case. There should be a minimum of political control at the centre, and a maximum of administrative power in the field of action. The central body should draft comprehensive rules of procedure which should be applied in local centres by local committees and regional bodies. Not for the first time in our history, do we need to give attention to the ideal of great power at the centre with a high degreeof decentralization of the actual administration. I do not refer to any particular political party when I say that we must confess that we have an indifferent record of achievement in this regard. We tend far too much to centralize administration. If, in our re-establishment and rehabilitation work, we centralize administration as distinct from power the result will be disastrous, because the individuals, Jones, Brown and Robertson, will require their cases to be dealt with individually. If this is not done the individuals will become mere entries on the file, and the central administration will of necessity deal with the eases by some broad rule formulated to cover thousands of cases. I believe that New Zealand has taken a big step in the right direction in decentralizing its administration as far as possible. Though this will be a formidable task the difficulties should not be insurmountable.
We have seen some marvellous examples, during the war, of the success of local voluntary committees, local red cross units, local agricultural committees, local comforts fund committees, and thelike, and our people have gained a great deal of intensive experience in the use of local knowledge and- enthusiasm. If Jones and Brown and Robertson, my postulated soldiers, come back from the war to have their cases dealt with principally by local committees in the districts from, which they enlisted’, they will find much more sympathy and understanding than they are likely to obtain from a central administration, or if they have to go from one to another of half a dozen different departments.
I have a vivid recollection, as I am sure my friend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has, of the confusion and injustice that arose in Victoria as the result of. the soldier and closer settlement activities in that State between the two wars. I speak with first-hand knowledge of this subject, because I was a member of the State Government which attacked the problem in 1932-33. I have always believed that many of the problems of land settlement that arose during those years were due to the fact that ordinary departments dealt with the subject. Too much attention was given to decisions concerning the areas to be subdivided, and the basis of subdivision, by people sitting in head office administrative centres, who were not familiar with the localities under consideration. When the problem was ultimately attacked and solved, in what I regard as a successful manner, the attack was made by : a commission independent of political control which was able to exercise its own view of the merits of the particular cases, and which, because it was able to travel round, obtained firsthand knowledge not only of the localities and the individual holdings, but also of the individual settlers. Its consideration resulted finally in the elimination of some areas from the scheme and of the amalgamation of other areas. By this means some measure of justice was introduced into the confusion. If we are to avoid experiences of that kind in the days following this war, I believe that the Government will need to consider the proposals that I am making for the establishment of a commission, with a maximum of power at the centre, and a maximum of activity in the field.
Because I regard repetition as necessary, I repeat that the problem that we have to deal with is not a mass problem, which concerns many thousands of men, but an individual problem which concerns each particular case. Rehabilitation cannot succeed unless there be the closest individual treatment of every individual case. This becomes clearer when we remember that the real question is not one of reward to Jones, and Brown, and Robertson, but one of readjustment. Jones entered the forces on a certain date, and he was demobilized on another date. The question is: What economic disadvantage has he suffered by reason of his service? Such a question cannot be answered sensibly, except individual by individual. We are not concerned, at the moment, with the honours that should be accorded to the soldier, or with the rewards that he should have because of his dangerous experiences; we are concerned in meeting the problem of the economic disadvantages that he suffered while onwar service. This question in relation to, say, 100,000 men may admit of 100,000 different answers. For this reason I emphasize, even perhaps to the point of tedious repetition, that the whole problem should be considered, from first to last, as an individual problem, and our administration must be designed to permit of such consideration of it.
I come now to the subject of preference, its nature, extent and duration. This is admittedly a complex problem. While it may be relatively simple to lay down general rules, it may be infinitely difficult to give effect to them. If there is one thing that we should be clear about in dealing with this measure, at the second-reading stage, it is that we subscribe wholeheartedly to the principle of preference. But what should be the nature of the preference? A preference which does not, as far as possible, compensate a serviceman for the experience that he has lost during the war is of very little value. In speaking on this subject on the 31st March, 1943, when the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was under consideration, I ventured some remarks on the principle of preference, which on re-reading, I found stated accurately my views on the subject. I said -
The true principle of preference is not one of reward or recognition-
I emphasizethat point - it is one of restoration to a man who, in the course of carrying out his war duty, has had to abandon his own occupation, and has had to give up for two, three, five or seven years his chance of acquiring real skill and experience in his own craft. That man comes back at the end of the war and finds himself greatly handicapped. He should be given preference.
If that be true, and I consider that it is true, I believe it outlines the principle that should lie at the base of all our reestablishment activities, in relation to service personnel.
Now let me saya word about the extent of the preference. To whom should it be given? I assert, in the first place, that unless the value of the preference is to be destroyed, it can be given to none except members of the fighting services. The moment the door be opened, even so ingenuously as it is opened by the provisions of clause 32, it will neverbe closed. If there be any intrusion of civilians into the preference its value will be lost.
M.r. James. - Would the right honorable gentleman exclude merchant seamen?
– I would. I recall to my honorable friend what I said on a former occasion on this subject. No member of this House has any doubt about the great service that has been rendered by our merchant seamen, but they have been engaged in their normal vocation. Although they have encountered great risks, they have received extra remuneration because of such risks. That is not the case with members of the fighting services. Other classes of civilians have also encountered great risks. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) could name one or two classes that would come into this category, but I submit that the moment preference is given to other than members of the fighting services, it loses its value. To be of real value, preference must be confined, in some manner, to service personnel. If I am right in saying that economic disadvantage suffered by members of the services is the true and logical basis upon which to establish rehabilitation, I have answered another question, namely, whether preference should be confined to those members of the services who have actually been in some combat area. I do not believe that preference should be so confined. When men have enlisted in the services and have been available for duty anywhere it will be quite unjust, in my opinion, to say that preference should be granted only to men who have been seat, for example, to New Guinea, but shall not be granted to men who, though willing to go anywhere, were sent to Alice Springs or Western Australia. That applied to probably half the members of the Australian Imperial “Force. Such men have suffered economic disadvantage.
– What about men who were willing to serve in the forces but were prevented from doing so?
– Those men automatically remained in their normal employment, and so did not suffer economic disability in relation to their work. At the end of the war they will not find themselves at an economic disadvantage because of their service.
– Where does the right honorable member suggest the munitions workers came from?
– The munitions workers in the country, meritorious as their work has been, have, from first to last, enjoyed conditions of remuneration that no member of the fighting services could aspire to. They have had continuous experience in civil production and, as the result of it, most of them are more employable now than they were when the war began. To my mind, the whole principle is economic disadvantage, and if that is the principle, I do not believe that the House can make flesh of one and fowl of another in considering the fighting services. But if, contrary to the bill, the honorable member for Calare is right, and all warworkers should be introduced into the scope of the preference provisions, he knows as well as I do that the provisions will be quite worthless. It means that there will be more people entitled to preference than there will be people disentitled to preference, and the result will be that the man who has been in the fighting services and who, of all people, is entitled to it, will find that it is worth nothing when it comes to him.
I now propose to discuss the quality of preference as provided in clause 27. Sub-clause 1 reads -
An employer shall, in the engagement of any person for employment, engage, in preference to any other person, a person entitled to preference, unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing bo.
Obviously, we have not yet got very far, because “reasonable and substantial cause” is an extremely flexible phrase. Sub-clause 3 prescribes its conditions. It reads -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider-
And then five paragraphs are set out. I shall make a number of references to them, because I shall submit to the Minister, with great deference, that they are so extraordinarily difficult to understand or define that, under this clause, the whole gift of preference may prove to be an illusion.
– It is interesting to note that this clause has been taken word for word from the Queensland legislation.
– The Queensland Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia supported the Queensland legislation.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) for that information. Paragraph a provides that the employer shall consider - “Che length, locality and nature of the service of that person.
Has the Minister considered how the employer, upon whom the onus is placed here, is to discover those things?What records will be available to him? Only the man’s total length of service will appear in his discharge papers. They will not indicate whether or not he served overseas.
– Yes, they do.
– With great respect, there is nothing on the discharge papers to indicate the nature of the service of the serviceman. What puzzles me is that these are things which the employer must consider. Suppose he considers them and says, “ I am not satisfied with your length of service; I think that it should have been longer “, or, “ I am not satisfied with the nature of your service; I think that it might have been better”. Is the employer just to consider these things, or is he bound by them in the giving of preference?
Paragraphb provides that the employer concerned shall consider -
The comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in theposition concerned. “ Consider “ is a word which I have heard many times from the table of this House and which, if my memory does not fail me, I have used many times when sitting at the table; therefore it may be regarded as an admirably flexible political word. The employer concerned shall consider the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in the position concerned. The “ comparative qualifications “ ! A man who may have, as a matter of form, the qualifications required for the employ ment, but who has been in the services for five years, will not have as good qualifications as another man who, for five years, had continued in that job. If the qualifications of the exserviceman were as good as or better than those of the civilian, the question of preference would not, need to arise.
Paragraph c provides that the employer concerned shall consider -
The qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position.
The House will notice that paragraphs b and c refer to qualifications. Paragraph c refers to the qualifications required, and paragraph b refers to comparative qualifications. Therefore, the employer does not stop when bo says, “I want a man who can use a comptometer “.
Mr.Coles. - The Leader of the Opposition will realize that these are ways out, or reasons for not engaging an exserviceman.
– I agree. I was not overlooking that. I am rather at a loss to understand why the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) thinks that if these are ways out for the employer, they obtain some virtue because they are vaguely drafted. If they are vaguely drafted, the more easy will be the way out. Paragraph c deals with the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position and paragraph b must mean what it says, namely, “ You are to ask not only whether the man is qualified for the job, but also whether he is as well qualified for it as the civilian who is also applying for it”. The only difference in the qualifications may be the difference of five years’ experience, when one man was on military service and the other man was not.
Paragraph d provides that the employer shall consider -
The procedure(if any) provided by law for engaging persons for employment in the position.
I do not know what that means. Paragraph e provides that the employer concerned shall consider -
Any other relevant matters.
Matters relevant to what? Relevant to the question as to whether reasonable and substantial cause exists? And who is to determine whether they are relevant? Presumably, in the first place, it will be the employer, because he has the onus of giving the decision. Later, provision is made for an appeal to a police magistrate. I suppose that, in that event, the police magistrate will determine whether some matter is or is not relevant. As there will be quite conceivably thousands of cases and hundreds of police magistrates dealing with them, we may very easily have one hundred different rules established as to what matters are relevant. 1 warn honorable members that the moment we leave it to a tribunal to say what is relevant to this matter, we shall get a variety of judgments and standards applied, and the result will be that preference, instead of being at last a uniform principle, will become a fluctuating one.
– Patriotic employers will not go to the court.
– I hope that there will be very few applications to the court, but in my life, I have hoped about many things, sometimes unsuccessfully.
Looking at the other side of this matter, I find in sub-clause 5 -
Nothing in this section shall -
apply in relation to the engagement for employment by any employer of a person who is already employed by him.
That means that the rule is not to apply to promotion within the service of an employer. Paragraph b provides that nothing in this section shall - require the engagement in employment of a person who has, since the termination of his service, been convicted of an indictable offence.
Am I to understand from this paragraph that if, after the termination of his service, a person has been convicted of an offence which may involve gross moral turpitude but is not an indictable offence, the employer wall be bound to give him preference? We should be very careful about this matter. Returned soldiers’ leagues and other organizations, who are vitally concerned with the principle of preference, will be very reluctant to find themselves advocating preference for a man, who, since his service, has been convicted of an offence which is not an indictable offence but which may well have resulted in im prisonment. It may have ‘been prosecuted on summary procedure in a court of petty sessions and not have been an indictable offence but one involving gross moral turpitude. I suggest that the Minister should consider a broadening of that provision, so that there shall not be preference in the case of a man who has been convicted of an offence involving actual moral .turpitude. Great as the principle of preference is, and sincerely attached to it as I believe most honorable members are, it is not to be made the instrument for compelling the employment of persons of bad character.
The last aspect of preference is duration. I direct attention to clause 33, which provides for the preference provisions of the act to cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war. This clause is plainly insupportable, because it contains an artificial time limit on preference, and, therefore, ignores all the varying circumstances which give rise to preference. It may very well be that if a man is able to complete his course of training and become a skilled craftsman, his very qualifications will give him employment, and preference for him may be merely an academic matter. But what of the partially disabled man - the man who has lost a limb and can get employment only within a limited field of activity? He will need preference just as long as he needs a job.
– Special provision is made for disabled persons.
– But the preference provision of the bill is covered by clause 33. In other words, preference as one of the instruments of rehabilitation, will terminate under this legislation seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war. Consequently, it terminates for all purposes - for partially disabled men just as for men who have full strength and vigour and can go forward to full employment. The House would not tolerate the idea that we should say to a man who has been partially disabled in the service of his country, “ You may have preference in employment for seven years and after that, go into the higgling of the market with all your physical disadvantages”. That could never be done in Australia. The truth is that it is unutterably foolish to endeavour to lay down a broad statutory limit in respect of a principle of this kind. As I have said repeatedly, there may be 200,000 or 300,000 cases, all of which will have different features. If, in future, the preference principle is to be modified in respect of some classes of men or in some circumstances, leave that matter to the Parliament then in existence. In no sense would it be likely to deal with it more unjustly than we would; and it would have all the advantages of the reports that had been made year by year by those administering the act. The Commonwealth Parliament, at any time in the future, could make such changes of this law as it thought fit. To say that preference shall continue for seven years and shall then terminate, will certainly be to do the greatest injustice to some men, and it may do injustice to most men.
– Could not such cases be reconsidered at the end of seven years, if necessary?
– If a provision continues, subject to its repeal or alteration, it has a much greater expectation of life than one that has to be dealt with afresh. If a limit of seven years be imposed, preference will automatically terminate at the expiration of that period. If any alteration had to be made at that time, the initiative of somebody in Parliament would be required. To get rid of or to alter a limit would require positive action. According to my experience, it is always harder to get things done when positive action is involved, than it is to leave a matter as it stands. Consequently, if we are to assure permanent preference for men whose title to it is unanswerable, the better plan is to get rid of the seven years’ limitation and leave to a future Parliament the decision as to what shall be the duration.
– Would not that affect the boy who is too young to go to the war ?
– That point was made by the Minister, who is always clear in such matters, in his secondreading speech, in language which I thought was plain but perhaps unfortunate. He said -
The Government has made preference available for seven years after the cessation of hostilities. After seven years there will b« new generations of workers coming along, many of them the sons of servicemen, and these should not be handicapped by old history.
Let us concentrate on one clear, unanswerable case: The soldier, sailor or airman who is limbless as the result of his service in this war, will always be handicapped by old history, because the old history is the history of his service. I invite honorable members to ask themselves whether they can stand up to the proposition that, in respect of those men, preference is to determine automatically at the end of seven years. I am not saying that all the rules which we make to-day are immutable. Of course they a.re not. I should hope that if I were in this Parliament in five, six or seven years’ time, I should be immeasurably better informed in practice in relation of the re-establishment department and to these matters, as the result of the work and experience gained by its administrators. All of us should be wiser. I am not saying that some rule which seems good to us to-day must always maintain its present form. [Extension of time granted.] But I do say that where we can see a certain clear type of case, with which a time limit on preference i* utterly inconsistent, the first thing we have to do is to reconsider our attitude towards the seven years’ limit.
There is one other thing to be said, and I shall have done. I am happy to say that perhaps it introduces a light note into a speech which otherwise has represented for me a serious attempt to see this great, grave problem. When I knew about the term of seven years, I wondered - as did other honorable members - whence it had some. It represents the happiest of compromises - the compromise between those who believe in preference, and those who do not.
– Who told the right honorable gentleman that?
– Will the honorable gentleman deny it?
– There was no whip cracked over me.
– The honorable member for Hume displays an inquiring mind. As I always like to satisfy my clients, I could, perhaps, give the show away; because, on the 31st March, the Age, a Melbourne newspaper that is not hostile to the Government - so far, I think I am right in saying, the only great daily newspaper unattacked by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), so I quote it with goodwill - published a report of a certain conference held in Melbourne. I shall read it, in justice to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), who figures in it in a very favorable light. This is what it says -
Mr. Dedman said the history of the preference bill began in 1043, when the Labour Govern ment, without n majority-
That is not quite fair to the honorable member for Henty - and relying on the support of Mr. Cole* (Independent, Victoria) for its continuance in office in the House of Representatives, was » mending the Repatriation Act in the Federal Parliament. During the debate on that bill, the Opposition moved an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers, and Mr. Coles told the Government that, unless it accepted that amendment, or gave some undertaking to grant preference in a later bill, he could no longer support the Government. If the Prime Minister had not made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on ite neck-
That is a beautiful description - before the last election. In the face of that, caucus agreed to the bringing in of a preference bill in the lower House, but that bill was not gone on with. That was when the Labour party was first committed to preference to returned soldiers.
It has to be said at once, in favour of the honorable member for Hume, that he was not with us at that time. He now represents a portion of a large and, mathematically speaking, noble majority. But he cannot be quite so innocent as not to know that the Australian Labour party in Victoria has expressed, quite publicly, hostility to preference, and that the fate of the whole matter is so contingent, because there is to be a conference in June, that the bill has been brought on in this House out of its turn, so that it may be un fait accompli before the time for the conference arrives. He will also be not so innocent as not to know that whilst there is passionate attachment on the part of most of his friends and fellow supporters of the Government to the principle of preference to unionists, the plea for preference to ex-servicemen has always been met by Ministers in this House, with the argument that, in future, there will be full employment for everybody, consequently, the problem of preference will not arise. There is no question of preference when the matter is one of preference to ex-servicemen, and no question of the full employment doctrine when the matter is one of preference to unionists. So, even those of us who sit in the unsophisticated shades of the Opposition can clearly understand that there has been a clash of opinion - that somebody said, “ no preference “, and somebody else then said, “ but we promised that we would give it”. When those two forces met, the result was the happy compromise of a term of seven years. If. that term stands, it will be, at least, to many hundreds of the men who have served this country with great sacrifice, a constant reproach to the Parliament and to Australia. The bill deals, as I have said, with a problem of the first magnitude, to which all of us will have to direct the best, that we have. All honorable members will agree with me that on the solution of the problem of restoring to civil life those who have served in war, will depend very deeply, national pride and self-respect.
.- This bill, which concerns- the future of those mcn and women, who to-day are sacrificing so much in order that we may live in freedom’, is a most important one, and is worthy of the greatest and most sincere consideration which this House can give to it. I listened with considerable interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who, in his opening remarks, outlined what he considered should be the measure of compensation or justice andi opportunity which should be -given to those men and women. 1 agree with him. It is a pity he did not have similar thoughts some years ago, because the ideals to which he gave expression are quite good. I speak very feelingly as an ex-soldier. In the matter of re-establishment, we should be guided by experience. I do not want any bitterness to be displayed. All that we are concerned about is the future of our boys, and we should do our utmost to provide the best means for dealing with the problem. Most of the ideals of the Leader of the Opposition are provided for in the bill. It is a comprehensive measure, which demonstrates the sincerity of the Government and those responsible for its drafting. It gives effect to policy in regard to the re-establishment in civil life of the members of the fighting forces. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that problems of great magnitude are involved. I agree with him. The bill is designed to meet the requirements of the different classes of men who will need to be re-established. In some degree, the problem to be solved will be an individual one. The first part of the bill deals with the reinstatement of servicemen in the positions they held before their enlistment.. Some may elect not to return to their former occupations, but most of them will want to. The bill makes it mandatory on employers to give back to returned servicemen their former jobs. The Leader of the Opposition referred to a “ let out “ in regard to this provision.I was astonished to hear the right honorable member, who is the representative of the employers, suggest that compulsion would be necessary to make employers do their duty.
– “Who told the honorable member that I represented the employers? I undertake to say that I represent more employees than does the honorable member.
– Scant consideration for the returned soldiers was shown by honorable members opposite when they were in control of the administration. I should be very sorry for the men coming back from this war if the parties opposite were responsible for drawing up provisions for their re-establishment in civil life. Returned soldiers of the last war had to live for too long on the empty phrase, “ preference to soldiers “. To the average soldier it was worth no more than if you offered him a drink out of an empty water bottle. Nevertheless, some honorable members opposite got away with the preference cry for years, and to it they owe their places in this House. “When we remember how many returned soldiers were unemployed and on the dole, it becomes clear just how much preference to soldiers was worth.
This bill represents an attempt to grapple with a problem of great magnitude. The matter is, of course, associated with employment in Australia generally. During the last war, a constantly recurring topic of conversation was, “ What will happen to us when we get home?” This was the subject discussed when men gathered for warmth around a brazier or sheltered in a shell hole. Some of the men then with us wore the Boer War ribbon. They told us that, after the war, we would have to battle for ourselves - that the soldier was a great hero while the war lasted, but that he would have to look after himself when it was over. Nevertheless, we heard rumours that various schemes, such as soldier land settlement, were to be put into effect after the war. I heard about the land settlement scheme just after the armistice, while I was still abroad, and I felt grateful for it. When I returned to Australia I availed myself of the assistance provided under the scheme, and I know how badly it was administered.
Soldiers of the last war were promised jobs fit for heroes, but legislation was never introduced to make the promise effective. The Leader of the Opposition has criticized this bill on certain minor points, but those matters can be adjusted. The main thing is that we must make up to the men for what they have suffered. Some of them were only boys eighteen years of age when they went away, and they will return as men of 24 or 25 years old. They will have been absent from civil life for five or six years. In that time they have received an unnatural kind of training - they have been trained to kill. All their energies have been devoted to the destruction of the enemy ; that cannot be helped. But when they return they must be treated sympathetically. Returned men who were too young when they enlisted to have had an occupation will be given an aptitude test. For instance, a man may think he would like to be a bootmaker, but the test may reveal that he possesses talents, of which he himself was unaware, fitting him for a much better-paid job. Then the scheme will provide that he shall be trained for that occupation. This will cost money, and it must be provided without stint.
So much for the men who return comparatively fit. We come now to the disabled or partially disabled man who will receive a pension. The bill provides that employers must employ a certain percentage of these men once they are qualified. The returned man does not want sympathy; he wants to be able to make his own way in life as others do. In the past, there has been a prejudice against giving jobs to disabled men. A disabled man may be qualified, but the employer is reluctant to take a chance by employing him. It is proposed in this measure to meet that situation by requiring employers to give jobs to partially- disabled men who have qualified themselves. It is much better for a man, no matter what pension he receives, to have an occupation.
The bill provides for preference to returned men. It should not be necessary for a soldier to take an employer to court in order to enforce this provision. The employer would know what military service the man had to his credit and give the degree of preference to which he was entitled. The Leader of the Opposition criticized the proposal to give preference for only seven years. At least, that is better than no preference at all, which is what the soldiers received from governments supported by the party now led by the right honorable gentleman. In any case, the provision can be re-enacted at the end of seven years if that is thought to be necessary. Preference for exservicemen presupposes a shortage of jobs, but it is the policy of the Government to provide full employment for all. I hope that this can be achieved, and so do the servicemen. The returned soldier of the last war did not want to put his brother out of a job in order to get it for himself. There used to be many arguments about this. People would ask me whether I believed in preference, and I used to reply that I had always believed in it and always would, but it was necessary for the whole community to believe in it, too. I could not compel any man to give me a job. That rested with him. I was a burnt-out old digger, and if there was a pick-and-shovel job going, the employer would naturally give it to the young man with plenty of muscle, who could shovel twice as much earth as I could. Effective preference to returned soldiers existed only in the Public Service. Honorable members opposite could have made preference effective everywhere if they had wished to do so. The Leader of the Opposition knew well enough what should have been done for returned soldiers. Why, then, did he not do it?
This Government has made an honest attempt to do the right thing by the men returning from the war, and we hope that it can be done without causing conflict between soldiers and civilians. I am sure that some people would like to divide the workers on this issue, and it must be remembered that a very large proportion of the returned servicemen will be workers, either skilled or unskilled. I can speak for them, and also for the men who came from the country. This measure will do more to promote decentralization than any legislation passed hitherto. We have all heard of the wastefulness and inefficiency of the old Land Settlement Board which controlled the destinies of soldier settlers. I had experience of it myself when I applied unsuccessfully for a grant with which to buy sheep. The official whom I interviewed seemed to think that I could take out a reaper and binder and cut wool off the ground as one would cut wheat. But I replied that I had no sheep and had to find £200 a year for rent, and without sheep could not do so. He, 200 miles away from my property, was trying to tell me what to do. I finished the discussion by telling him that it was as silly for him to be employed to tell soldier settlers what to do as it would be for me or any digger like me to be employed by a big city drapery to buy lace in Brussels. I expect that officers to whom ex-servicemen will be able to apply for advice on all their problems and worries will be stationed in the bigger country centres, removing the necessity for the settler to travel to capital cities. Unfortunately, the limitations of the Constitution compel the Commonwealth, in matters of land. settlement, to co-operate with the States. Only three of the States have consented to the Commonwealth’s acting as a principal in soldier-settlement matters; in the other States, one of which is Victoria, the State authorities will be the principals, and the Commonwealth’s job will be to guarantee the States against financial loss. It will be powerless on the administrative side except with the consent of the States. Therefore, in Victoria, the administration of land settlement will be like it was after the last war. The overall decentralization referred to by the Leader of the Opposition will be through national service employment bureaus. The soldiers will not be run from one department to another as the right honorable gentleman predicted. They will know where to go for advice. The essential thing to do is to select the right men to give it. From personal experience, I know that what the soldier needs is sympathetic administration of the departments handling his affairs. It is imperative that appointments be closely supervised to ensure the appointment of the right men so that the ex-servicemen shall be encouraged to place their problems before them, knowing that they will have a sympathetic hearing and need have no fear of being overawed into leaving without having accomplished their desires. I make no complaints against the men at present administering returned soldiers’ affairs, but I do not want to see a repetition of what took place after the last war, when the most harsh officials towards returned soldiers were other returned soldiers holding administrative positions in the departments established to deal with them. The appointment of men sympathetic towards returned soldiers will avoid trouble and lift from members of Parliament what tends ‘to be a worry to them caused by letters of complaint which need not have been written had the writers received departmentally the sympathetic hearing that was their due. I should like to see in these jobs men who were at the last war and have served in administrative capacities in this war, area officers for instance. The authorities should have the records of such men and know whether they would be able with their knowledge, judgment and experience, to give valuable service to all concerned in the administration of this measure. This bill, like most others, may not be perfect, but all the men to whom I have spoken know that they will be given a fairer deal than was given to their fathers. An error of omission in the measure is that the rates of interest which those who come under it will have to pay are not presented. I want to ensure that men returning from this conflict shall not be the victims of interest burdens to the extent that I and others were. No preference in that respect was given to us then, but we should ensure that this time those who take up war-service homes or land shall become absolute owners after ten years at the latest. Then their minds will be free from worry and they will be able to say, “ No matter what happens, we have our home “. I still have 40 years to go before the property I farm will be mine. I shall not live it out. We now have the opportunity to ensure that the men to whom this country owes an unpayable debt shall have at least some of that debt repayed by their being given low rates of interest and the opportunity to become owners of their properties within a reasonable time. Unfortunately, we are powerless, because of constitutional limitations, to do anything in regard to tenure. That responsibility falls on the States, and it will mean a perpetuation of the conditional purchase system, even though the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, has taken the responsibility of writing down payments to what it considers is practicable. But the soldier settlers will be saddled with a heavy interest burden, even if it is written down after certain improvements have been made, which is the intention. The same will apply to the occupants of war service homes. A practical measure of preference to returned soldiers would be a rate of interest of not more than 2- per cent, per annum. That would be no hardship on any one, and this Parliament has the power to do it. If those things be done the returned men will not want to put other men out of jobs. On the contrary, they will want every one to be in a job, because they will know that if a proportion of the population is out of work every one suffers. Preference will not solve the unemployment problem. Neither will it turn a labourer into a skilled- tradesman. To grant preference in employment to returned men is not enough. The provisions relating to technical and professional training are evidence of the Government’s awareness that rehabilitation of servicemen demands much more than just that. It may be said that the rate of allowance to be paid to trainees is insufficient, but, within a short space of time, they will have become 40 per cent, efficient, thereby qualifying for the award rate paid in the industry in which they are employed. The employer will pay the 40 per cent, of the wage in accordance with the trainee’s 40 per cent, efficiency, and the Government will pay the rest. That is a wise innovation. I think the principle of subsidies could be extended to the purchase of war service homes. No matter what we do, we can never make up in terms of money what our boys have suffered in this war, because, tough as the last war was, we were in a cool climate - it was too cold; our feet frozen - it was not so tough as this one. In the tropics the white man has to undergo conditions that are almost unbearable despite what science has done to overcome malaria and other afflictions. For some time the returning servicemen will be run down, and will need nursing. The best restorative of a man’s morale is knowledge that he has the charter contained in this bill to assure his ‘future, that employers outside the Public Service will be compelled to give him preference in employment for the first time in history, and that if he wants to set up in business for himself he will be lent money with which to do so. Naturally, no wild cat schemes will be allowed. All applications for loans to establish businesses will be carefully sifted to ensure that each proposal is basically sound, and that the applicant WiN make good. He will then be lent the money on terms which, I think, will be fairly generous. It is even provided that the debt, under certain circumstances, can be written down or forgiven. Despite the criticism levelled at the measure by the Leader of the Opposi- tion, on the whole he admitted that the needs of the servicemen are covered for seven years. On the time limitation of the bill, he made the very strong point that disabled men would suffer. My reply to that is that if a man is crippled and loses his job it becomes the responsibility of the Government to pay him the full award wage of the industry in which he worked. I have always said that. If men are occupying war service homes, for example, and find it ‘ difficult to maintain their payments because of the economic disadvantage under which they suffer, the Government should see them through. We cannot do too much for men who have suffered the loss of limbs, or the loss of an eye, or whose health is seriously impaired.
That is the point on which we shall have conflict. This legislation will cost money; the old preference cost nothing. I am not concerned about the cost. Some suave gentleman may come along and say that the task will be done better than the similar task was done after the last war, but to make a better job of it this time will cost a great deal more money, and my experience, like that of many other soldiers after the last war, was that when money became the issue, a good deal of the enthusiasm for preference to soldiers disappeared. I speak from practical experience. I do not want to see a cooling off of interest in returned men. I believe that the Government is absolutely sincere in its wish to help the returned men, particularly those who have actually suffered. Such men should be adequately compensated, even if the compensation involves heavy expense. Talk will not satisfy our servicemen. We should have before us a plan which will ensure that even the younger men who may suffer seven or eight or ten years hence will not find themselves at an economic disadvantage.
If we are to enter upon an era of peace and happiness, full employment must be found for all. Only by the adoption of a policy which will achieve that result shall we be able to banish the fear of war. There need never be another economic depression of the kind we passed through in the early ‘thirties, but if such a time should come preference will not be of much use to ex-service personnel. Therefore, all nations and all governments must evolve a policy which will ensure employment for all. This Government is wise in looking well ahead. It appreciates the fact that only world-wide economic security will protect the peace which we hope shortly to achieve.
One aspect of preference has not been mentioned so far in this debate. In the days that followed the last war, there was preference for the pick-and-shovel man but very little consideration for trained men who desired preference in the professional callings and in high administrative positions. Provision is being made in this bill to ensure that preference shall be sufficiently comprehensive to cover the more lucrative as well as the lower-paid jobs. I am not so sure that honorable gentlemen opposite are too keen on providing preference in the professional callings. A controversy occurred some years ago on this subject, and there was a tendency in some quarters 1 to deny preference in relation to more highly paid callings, in which some kind of licence or other legal qualification was required. One object of this bill is to ensure that returned personnel will be enabled to obtain preference in such callings.
Time will reveal the sincerity of honorable members of all parties in relation to assistance for those who return to civil life from war occupations. I hope that my contribution to this debate will not be regarded as too controversial, for I have no desire to see preference become a kind of political football. In the past Opposition members have frequently suggested amendments to preference procedure. I have not always been satisfied that their suggestions have arisen from a genuine desire to assist ex-service personnel, but whatever may be said on that subject, I trust that we all shall be sincere in our approach to this measure. Any practical man must know that absolute preference is a will o’ the wisp. The soldier will not desire preference of that kind. If he has been a shop-walker, he will not expect to be given the manager’s job; but he will aspect reasonable treatment. T am glad that if employers show any tendency to delay decisions in regard to certain matters, a magistrate can be asked to make a decision for them.
If a measure of this description had been passed after the last- war, our repatriation record would have been much better than it is. The Government sincerely desires to assist returned men and women. Soon after it assumed office it took steps to improve the wages and conditions of returned men, and I regret to say that it was accused by some of its opponents of offering political bribes. Nevertheless, it proceeded with its policy of increasing war pensions. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which was passed in 1943, proved the bona fides of the Government. The olid phrase, “ all things being equal “. has been discarded. Things were never equal in regard to soldiers, and that phrase was merely a “ let out “ for employers who had no wish to apply the preference principle. When our men return, after this war, I am sure that they will find, if this Government if still in office, tb at it will be sympathetic to them. It will deal with their problems with good judgment and understanding. I hope that our men will not become “ fed up “ as they did after the last war, for when they return to their civilian life on the declaration of peace they will find that measures have already been taken to provide for their training, and for the payment of adequate allowances until they can regain their former skill in their olid occupation, or become skilled in some other calling of their own choice. I trust, ail so, that thos* who desire to take up a professional career will be assisted to do so, for the men who have been prepared to sacrifice their lives for their country in wai should be assisted to give their best skill to the development of its civil life.
.- I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the Leader of th« Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and I consider that the House is indebted to him for having pointed out, so clearly the many defects of this bill. I listened with interest, also, to the speech of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod). but I cannot see in the measure many of the virtues which he found in it. I hope that I shall be able to make a few remarks which will restore the debate to a basis of reality.
Every honorable member must agree, after a perusal of the definitions and the miscellaneous clauses of the bill, that the measure is designed to provide for many more people than those who are specially designated. The bill could be described as a measure to apply to every person or inhabitant in a nation at war. I recall to the minds of honorable members a French proverb, “ The friend of all is the friend of none “,. which I paraphrase as “ Preference to all is preference to none “. Nothing that this Parliament has done or can do will have a more general effect upon public morale than the enactment of a re-establishment measure. Wisely directed, such a measure can be piloted through the Parliament; but one false step may mean complete ruin. I would say to the Government that if we are to avoid confusion this bill should be treated as a parliamentary, rather than a government, measure and the prestige of the Government will not be diminished by the acceptance of amendments or additions when these can be proved to be of advantage.
The bill, as drafted, is designed to re-establish the nation in its peace-time pursuits. It is a voluminous and comprehensive measure which bears evidence of a tremendous amount of hard work. Whether it will meet with general approval or not, it is a framework to which to add, either by way of immediate amendment in certain respects or alterations as anomalies are discovered in practice. The measure cannot possibly be accepted as the complete answer to all the requirements of the gigantic problem which it seeks to solve - a problem more complex than any which has previously been faced by this Parliament in relation to civil administration; but it should be accepted as an instalment unfettered by rigid laws, such as characterized the old repatriation legislation, which would prevent us from adapting ourselves to realities disclosed by the passage of years. Next to the war, which is now happily approaching its conclusion, what the people of this coun- try have to fear most is a life rigidly controlled by red-tape regulations. Nothing but stagnation, can follow the perpetuation of a system of filling in forms for everything under the sun. This bill, because its. comprehensive nature directly affects so many, must indirectly affect all of the people. Therefore, any scheme must be elastic enough to provide for improvements where such are found necessary in practice;. But recognizing that a tremendous amount of thought has been given to this measure, I shall not indulge in carping criticism of its provisions. Although I do not admit that it is a complete answer to th& nation’s^ prayer, it has at least provided a kneeling stool, and therefore I shall confine my utterances to those features of the bill in which I find little or no merit.
First among them is naturally Part IX, division 2, which deals with preference in employment. This may easily prove to be the most controversial portion of the bill and should be debated from the right point of view. In my opinion, the need for preference, denied by so many, does not arise, but recognition of the right to preference very definitely does arise. It is from that stand-point that this subject should be approached in order that we may evolve something which will be a credit to the Commonwealth and an example to the States, instead of being something purely negative in character and designed to override the States. This bill reminds me of the Shakespearian line, “ ‘Tis an ill-favoured thing, but mine own “. I can well imagine Ministers in their reflective moments being equally honest and saying of this preference provision, “ ‘Tis an ill-favoured thing, but our own “. I realize that the Government has included the term “ preference “ in defiance of the wishes of many unions, which make up a goodly portion of the Australian Labour party. These bodies persistently and consistently condemn preference to every one but themselves. Constituted as they are, they can demand a complete monopoly of all work which comes within their particular sphere of interest. These organizations are naturally afraid of another union - the ex-servicemen - whose claim to the nation’s favour is immeasurably greater than their own. I shall test the sincerity of the Australian Labour party, in. all friendliness, both industrially and politically, and I shall base the test on a passage from the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) when moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. He said -
Our safety is due entirely to the fact that many of our countrymen placed their bodies between us and the enemy . . . No effort on the home front is comparable to the effort on the fighting front.
Here we have, in the general assessment of values, a frank acknowledgment that there has been, no equality of sacrifice, and that the effort on the fighting front is measurable not in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but by the exhaustion of flesh and blood, caused by our soldiers interposing their bodies between us and the enemy. There, in the simplest words, we have the case for preference, delivered by a member of the Australian Labour party. Those who are opposed to preference should find in this bill the fulfilment of their hopes, because it is only a poor substitute for the real thing. I cannot, for the life of me, understand what they are complaining about. I cannot decide whether their protests are genuine, or whether they intend, by pretended opposition, to publicize what they would term the “magnanimity of the Government “ in including this provision. No one appreciates more than I do that many complex problems can arise in the administration of preference. Some of the difficulties will be solved, not by regulations but only by tolerance, understanding, and common sense. The Government also recognizes these difficulties and if we are to be guided by the evidence of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Cabinet decided to have nothing to do with preference. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) quoted extracts from certain utterances by the Minister. For purposes of clarification, I propose to quote additional extracts. I give the Minister credit for not having wanted to say these things, but he was compelled to do so by an organization which said, “We have nothing to hide; you make your statement in open court “. On this occasion, the Minister was present at the
Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne, and I shall read his defence.
– It may appear to be, but actually is not a defence.
– The Minister is reported to have said -
The Federal Government’s bill made provision for both returned soldiers and civilian* who had served in combat areas.
This is worthy of note -
It may be that in the selection of a mab for a job a civilian who had served for a long period in forward areas would secure * job in preference to a returned soldier who had served for a shorter period in New Guinea. The Labour party has got itself into this position, and, in my opinion, the very best thing it can do, if it wants to avoid disrup-tion, is to endorse this bill.
The report continued -
Mr. Dedman said the history of the piference bill began in 1943, when the Labour Government, without a majority and relying on the support of Mr. Coles (Independent, Victoria) for its continuance in office in th« House of Representatives, was amending th« Repatriation Act in the Federal Parliament. “ During the debate on that bill, the Opposition moved an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers, and Mr. Coles told th# Government that unless it accepted that amendment or gave some undertaking to grant preference in a later bill, he could no longe support the Government,” Mr. Dedman said. “ If the Prime Minister had not made th« decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the last election.” In the face of that, he said, caucus agreed to the bringing in of s preference bill in the lower House, but tha< bill was not gone on with. “That was when the Labour party was first committed to preference to returned soldiers, and at that time not one word was said about it by any State or Federal executive.’ said Mr. Dedman.
In those words the Minister told thidelegates to the Australian Labour party conference where they “ got off “. Hf dealt with the problem most ably. Hit remarks were illuminating and forthright, as we would expect them to be. But his speech portrayed the Government’* attitude to preference. The Minister said, in effect, that the Government included s preference clause in the bill not in justice to those who had interposed their bodies between us and the enemy, bu.1 because its political life depended upon it.
– No, that is not correct.
– The Minister might not have meant it, hut that is the only interpretation which can be placed upon his remarks. To honour its pledge to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) the ‘Government inserted this provision, which, I think, honours the promise in the letter but not in the spirit. I have no doubt that this was brought about by a fortuitous turn of; the wheel of political fortune. The Government found itself independent of the goodwill of its Nemesis on this question. But it is a disquieting thought that preference should be a political plaything, and that when considering it, we should be influenced by how much or how little will accrue to us in the political sense.
– Preference was an empty thing for twenty years when antiLabour governments were in office.
– This hill is an empty thing. Having committed itself to the inclusion of a preference clause in this bill, and having at the same time to placate the hostility of its own organization, the Government produced something which does little credit to the honour of the Commonwealth. This consists of granting preference for a period during which, everyone believes, preference will not be required because there will be an abundance of work for all. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
First among the Government’s objectives is the maintenance of a high and stable level of employment, and in this objective, the servicemen’s interest is in common with that of the civilian. To achieve the objective, measures must be devised to ensure that at any time more potential jobs exist than the number of people seeking jobs, and that as far as possible these jobs are of the right kind and exist in the right places.
Those sentiments are admirable, but there are two schools of thought on this subject - the idealistic and realistic school. The idealists dream of a Utopia in which there will be work for all for ever, and preference will be required by none. If those people honestly believed in this, they would not hesitate to vote for preference because, according to their own beliefs, it would not be required anyway.
– Does the honorable member believe in work for some?
– I believe in the sentiment of work for all, but I recognize, as others must do, that work is not an end in itself. The slogan “ work for all “ may easily prove to be’ a snare and a delusion. It can easily prove to be a sharing of general misery rather than , a general sharing of prosperity. But it is undeniable, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said, that in an undeveloped country like Australia, work for all is a practical possibility. The realistic school takes cognizance of the fact that we are entering an era of buttons to be pressed and- switches to be turned, and that in this period of scientific discovery in a fully developed country work for all is merely wishful thinking. Therefore, the slogan should be changed to “ security for all “. That, of course, is another story. The Government, recognizing that there is merit in both of those arguments, has produced this measure, which gives recognition to neither. The chief objection is the limitation to seven years, while recognizing as a permanent institution the policy of preference to unionists. I know that that is not a pleasant thought to many persons; nevertheless, it is true, and nobody has denied it. Our experience after the last war proved that the lapse of seven years may be needed for the effects of war to be manifested, and an ex-soldier who, in the first years after his discharge, will be quite capable of holding his own against all competitors, may, in seven or even in ten years, be dependent on preference, because of a breakdown in health due to service in an active theatre of war. I have heard it said many times that the ex-soldier must have preference withdrawn from- him after seven years in order that no injustice may be done to those who are now growing up. My reply to that view is, that the law of nature will continue to apply - as the young come in, the old will go out. I do not think there willi- be a great deal of trouble in that direction. As I have said, these matters can be dealt with if wisely administered on the basis of understanding and common sense, but not by regulation. It will be noted that this division of the bill is very carefully worded - preference in employment. The public believes that we are discussing preference to ex-servicemen. Clause 32 deal’s with regional committees which will adjudicate on entitlement to preference. There is no question of entitlement where ex-servicemen are concerned. As their title will be clearly recognized by ail Governments, this clause obviously refers to other people. Apart from the fact that every man and woman who has given service to the nation is entitled to recognition, there must be no confusion whatever between soldiers and non-soldiers. This House either believes in preference to ex-servicemen or it does not. If it does not, to say so would’ be more honest. In my opinion, tho wording of this provision enables the Government, in a political sense, to stand four-square to the world, with a leg in every camp and a soul in none.
I come now to the proposal to repeal section 83 of the Public Service Act, which is in these terms - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier. (2.) Upon report from the Chief Officer that a returned soldier temporarily employed has satisfactorily performed his duties, the Board may extend his employment for such time as temporary assistance is still required. (3.) Where the employment of a returned soldier has been terminated owing to temporary assistance not being further required, he shall be eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous employment.
Although the Government has made provision for the more seriously disabled ex-servicemen, I protest against the repeal of this provision, as it could easily be made to meet the case of slightly incapacitated ex-servicemen capable of working for a short duration, but incapable of sustained effort. The repeal of the provision will mean that, handicapped as some ex-servicemen will be, they will be forced into competition with more virile and rugged persons, and will be foredoomed to failure. Therefore, it is obvious that this proposal is meant to conform to the requirements of clause 33, which limits to seven years the period during which preference will operate. I shall move in committee for the deletion of that provision, in order that section 83 of the Public Service Act may continue to operate. It is the basis of the whole matter, and the continuance of its operation will be no more than fair, so that those who are temporarily or slightly incapacitated may be covered.
I shall make only a brief survey of the vocational training portion of the bill. In the general sense, this is good and will meet the case. But I criticize the age limit which is to he a qualification for entrance. For the most part, entrance is to be limited to persons who were under the age of 21 years when they enlisted, and would now be about 24 or 25 years of age. I agree that such a limitation would be reasonable in normal circumstances. But we are living in abnormal circumstances, and if this provision is allowed to remain it will further penalize a large number of a generation who have never had a chance, because of a combination of problems which neither this nor any other nation had previously experienced - problems which denied them the opportunity to express their individuality or initiative. The war intervened and gave to them an opportunity of which they took advantage. With the ending of the war, are they to return to a grateful country only to find that, in their absence, we, the custodians of their privileges, had denied them the right to qualify for their chosen avocations? That provision could well be reconsidered with a view to making the age limit not lower than 30 years and thus embrace many persons of the class that I have described.
In regard to demobilization, the Minister stated that priority will be given to length of service, age and marital status. That is a logical approach to the subject. But the Government should take cognizance of the fact that tens of thousands of members of the forces will repatriate themselves, and will not constitute any problem. It may be found expedient to release them as quickly as possible, if no injustice will thereby be done to others. It may be advantageous to use their services immediately where required, in industries which have a high national priority - for example, housing and primary production.
In regard to general repatriation, one of the most important considerations - as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) pointed out - is to avoid the disasters which occurred after the last war. From time to time, members of all parties have committed themselves to this desire. The time has come to give practical application to it. Although the bill deals only in an abstract way with such matters as land settlement and housing, the Minister made reference to them, more particularly to the amount which will be made available to those who wish to help themselves. I recognize that the matter of land settlement will be discussed on another bill. Nevertheless, there are certain principles associated with it which can very profitably be discussed under this measure, if only in reply to the Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth Government will make advances in agreement with the States. It should deal with the States on a uniform basis, and on such a high and generous plane as will set an example to the States, helping them to implement legislation which will ensure that exservicemen shall not be treated in the future as they have been in the past. The policy of the governing party in Victoria - I mention this only to give point to my remarks - provides that a substantial equity shall be given to every settler at the time of settlement. This could be not less than 20 per cent, in house or land, the remaining liability to the Crown to bear interest at a rate not exceeding 2 per cent. That would give to the settler an increased, equity in his property, and as time went on would also encourage him to feel that at all times he had at least a substantial “ nest egg “. Adequate safeguards could be provided to prevent speculation or early disposal of assets. I have mentioned an interest rate of 2 per cent. The proposal of the Government is that the rate shall be 2 per cent, for the first year, and shall rise to 4 per cent, in the second year. If 2 per cent, will cover the cost of administration, why increase it and make the burden so much harder to bear? The Government should review .the matter, with the object of providing for a flat rate of 2 per cent. The extra cost would not be equal to the war expenditure for two or three months, and there would be the advantage that it. would be spread over 20 or 30 years. It must be recognized, also, that a soldier is not rehabilitated, though his land were given to him for nothing, unless he is assured that what he produces will bring him a return over an average number of years that will enable him to meet his commitments, and, at the same time, live in reasonable comfort. Therefore, a part of the rehabilitation scheme should be to begin now to fight for a place in the* markets of the world, and particularly to exploit the potentialities of the markets that are opening up in India and China. I should be glad to hear that the Government is doing something in this direction. Finally, I urge the Government to err on the side of generosity in dealing with all servicemen. All have offered themselves to whatever fate had in store. Many thousands have been prisoners of > war, and have suffered unprecedented privations in enemy horror camps. Others who escaped that unenviable experience have faced dangers and suffered in ways which we, who were left at home, will never be called upon to endure. Most of these men, despite their youth, will look at post-war problems with eyes that have grown old with a knowledge that can come only to those who have successfully matched themselves against a ruthless enemy. Let
Us remember that, during the next ten years, much history will be made, and the destiny of the world will .be fixed for a long time to come. It is unquestionable that returned servicemen will play an important part in all this. If they choose, they will be able, by their numerical strength, to exert a tremendous influence upon the shaping of things to come. However, as they are entitled to justice and fair dealing from the nation, I am certain that they will, in turn, give a fair deal to the nation. I have never had any doubts about that. I have always held that those who have been scorched by the flame of war have a far greater sense of national responsibility than have many of those who were more fortunate. Such men are not likely to be led astray by the wild talk of irresponsible persons. Out of the wealth ofl their experience they will form their own opinions, and act as their intelligence directs. In other words, they will preserve to democracy this country for which they have fought and died. The nation, in gratitude for services rendered, can afford to be generous to them, wi thout, regard to political considerations, and without regard to party, class or creed.
.- It is fortunate,, indeed, that a temporary southern posting has enabled me to come to the House this evening, and deliver myself on one of the most important legislative proposals that has been before this chamber since the 3rd September, 1939. The subject-matter of this bill is the responsibility, not only of the legislature, but also of every citizen of Australia. In this regard, it is for Parliament to set a high standard. There may .be differences of opinion as to the methods by which the principles contained in the bill ought to be given effect, but I ask honorable members not toapproach the matter in a party spirit. It is necessary that we should give a guarantee for the future to those who have fought for Australia in the jungles of New Guinea, Bougainville and the Philippines.
There should be a complete reorientation of outlook by mem,bers of Parliament and the public generally. Some people believe that those who return from active service should not be treated any differently from those who stayed at home. This belief may not be very widely held, but it exists, and it is likely to embitter the minds, of ex-servicemen. This bill provides certain benefits, and I ask honorable members, when they return to their electorates, to publish those benefits as widely as possible. It sometimes happens that those who are entitled to benefits do not know of them. ft must have come as a shock to most honorable members to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) say that he was not in favour of preference to members of the merchant navy. He said that they were continuing to follow the same avocation, as they had followed during the war, and were not, therefore,, entitled to preference. That may be true literally, but many of those who have had ships sunk under them will no longer be able to go to sea, and will need shore jobs. Perhaps, as many as 50 per cent, of those who served in the merchant navy during the war will not. be able to follow the sea. in the future.
The right honorable gentleman also said that a- single ministry should be established to attend to all matters pertaining -to- the- rehabilitation of exservicemen. That is the very thing which the Government is trying to avoid. It desires the ex-serviceman to be assimilated as quickly as possible into the community - not to be wrapped in cellophane, as it were, and kept apart from the rest of the community. To attempt to do thatwould be extremely dangerous, and would create grave administrative difficulties. It might be possible, as the right honorable gentleman suggested, to have such matters as housing and medical benefits attended to by a single ministry, but returned servicemen, as citizens, would naturally have dealings with various other Commonwealth departments, and even with State departments. Thus, a single ministry to deal with soldiers would result in the duplication of other administrative machinery in the Commonwealth, whilst in respect of State departments it would be impracticable.
The Leader of the Opposition advanced a definition of preference - an extraordinary definition, it seemed to me. He said that preference should be measured by the economic disadvantage a person had suffered due to the war. Does he deny that many workers who were directed by the man-power authorities to jobs in munitions factories suffered economic disadvantage by being taken from the office jobs, or from the farms where they previously worked ?
– Did they thereby suffer any great hardship?
– I am not now entering upon a discussion of the hardship suffered, but I am saying that the class cf person to whom I have referred comes within the category which the Leader of the Opposition says is entitled to preference. The right honorable gentleman said that a man would suffer economic disadvantage, because, during the period of his service, he would not have become more skilled in the particular occupation or trade he was following before he entered the service. Either the right honorable gentleman is not serious in offering his definition of preference, or he has missed the fact that it would extend preference to several categories of persons who never served in uniform at all. The most important thing he said - and if he had said only that, and then sat down, he would have done well - was that what the soldier was looking for was individual treatment, a job and a home. The aim of the Government is to provide, in the terms of the Atlantic Charter, employment for every -person who wants it. From a national point of view, the problem is how many unit3 in the community who are capable of producing are employed productively. The displacing of one person in a job by another person is of no real economic benefit to the nation. In spite of what honorable members- say about the attitude of the trade unions, no one will deny that preference to returned servicemen is necessary.
– Does the honorable member agree to the seven-year limitation?
– I shall come to that matter later. The Leader of the Opposition delivered a typical speech, and from his own point of view it was a .good one. but it was full of contentions which would not bear close examination. He concluded by playing party politics and making a personal attack on a supporter of the Government. I suggest to the Government that it should include in clause 4 a definition of “ merchant navy “. If other services are entitled to be mentioned specifically, so is the merchant navy. I understand that clause 32 has been inserted to cover persons employed in the Civil Constructional Corps who have been in operational areas and subjected to enemy bombardment, or who in the course of travelling to those areas may have been exposed to torpedo attack by enemy submarines.
The bill seems to me somewhat inexplicable in certain respects. Clause 61 deals with demobilization, and although the Minister has made specific reference to the categories according to which the demobilization of some members nf the force0 is to be effected, I should have thought that the persons who ought to be demobilized first are those, such as engineers, who are capable of preparing for the employment of those who will be demobilized afterwards, lt is not sufficient to consider only length of service. The first released should be those who by virtue of their technical skill! and previous employment in civil life are capable of undertaking work in key positions. I cannot understand why a demobilization provision has been inserted in the bill at all. The war service moratorium provisions and the reinstatement provisions, which are practically a rehash of the existing National Security Regulations relating to those matters, ought to be embodied in a separate bill of a machinery nature. Other clauses, too, help to congest the measure, and are really only of a machinery character. As the House has to deal with many bills to which a similar objection could be taken, it would be advisable possibly to appoint a small committee to consider the matter, with a view to the introduction of a machinery bill which would operate on the dines of the Acts Interpretation Act. In a bill containing 135 clauses, one is apt to be confused in considering it, and if the measure were made as simple as possible the work of this House would be considerably facilitated.
Clause 27 is popularly referred to as the preference provision. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of what I regard as the essence of preference. This claus* contains a “ let out “ for the employer, and it is found in sub-clause 3, which states -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for nut engaging in employment a person entitled to preference the employer concerned shall consider . . . the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position.
I do not know what plans the Government may have in mind with regard to adult education or the vocational training of ex-service personnel, but it is unfortunate that it does not make known to the House what other plans it has for the equipment of persons with the qualifications necessary to enable them to compete on an equal basis with other persons who have not been away from Australia on war service. The Leader of the Opposition said that the preference in respect of persons who had not been given an opportunity to improve their technical skill while on war service was merely illusory. I do not go so far as that, but the Government should, make known its plans with regard to adult education and land settlement. Members of the Opposition have little to complain about on the subject of preference, whether it be limited to a period of seven years or not, because the parties opposed to the Labour party were in office for 25 years after the last war and failed to introduce any measure which gave substantial benefit to ex-service personnel. Such preference as was granted was of a very limited kind.
A fairly common case may arise which is not covered by the preference clause. I have in mind a former apprentice who, instead of having his indentures suspended, had them cancelled in order that he might enlist. That person has no reinstatement rights, and although provision is made in clause 37 that in respect of an apprentice engaged on war service the contract shall be deemed to have been suspended, it is not clear that persons who have had their articles cancelled merely by reason of their having enlisted are entitled to be reinstated as apprentices with their former seniority.
Clause 49 deals with vocational training. I hope that the Government will undertake immediately to introduce a better scheme than that operating a,t, present at the Sydney Technical College. Because of the limited number of teachers at that institution persons who have reached different stages in their work are being taught in the same class. I urge the Government to make available for the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme a sufficient number of teachers to guarantee that, vocational training as envisaged in the bill shall result in real benefit to the persons who desire to avail themselves of it. Clause 76, relating to the period for which the re-employment allowance will be payable, is only ‘ a temporary provision covering a period of three months, and in some cases >ip to six months. It is not clear from the clause whether the person to benefit from it will be entitled to the benefit of the existing legislation dealing with sickness and unemployment. It may be desirable to allow those cases to be covered by that legislation rather than by a special provision in this bill.
I hope that the Government will make the preference clause applicable to every government appointment and not merely to the appointment of members of the Public Service. I hope that in every appointment made by the Government, and not merely appointments to the lower paid jobs, consideration will be given to the fact that every person with war service is entitled to priority because of that fact. It was interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition did not refer to the constitutionality of this bill, a matter which has been canvassed a great deal in the press. At the last referendum members of the Opposition told the people that it was unnecessary to vote in favour of granting increased powers to this Parliament, because it already had power to pass a bill such as this. Although some action may be taken by people outside this House who are interested in this matter, I am glad to know that no objection has been taken to the bill on the ground that it is unconstitutional.
It would be helpful if this measure provided for the establishment of decentralized local committees. It would be « good idea if in some country areas the parliamentary representative of the Commonwealth division were a member of the committee in order that he might know what was being done in connexion with the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. Those committees should be able to intervene in a case, for example, where an ex-serviceman desiring to purchase h farm was being defrauded by being charged more than the economic value of the property. In all ca.=es those rehabilitation committees should be made to follow out the policy of the Government in it” broadest aspects. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) mentioned prisoners of war. In my opinion it would be better to make some special provision for them rather than to deal with them under clause 61, relating to demobilization. It is true that they may be organically unimpaired, and cannot be classed as disabled persons; but undoubtedly some will come within the category of what we knew after the last war as “burnt-out soldiers”. I’ have had the experience of dealing with two or three of these chaps, and I feel very sorry for them. I hope that their condition will be recognized in a special clause. In regard to housing, which was touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition, I say that the Commonwealth Government ought to provide homes for all persons wanting them without making any agreements with the States. Commonwealth homes should be provided, firstly, to all ex-servicemen, secondly, to the aged and the sick, thirdly, to people with families and, fourthly, to any other persons wanting them. In regard to ex-servicemen who want to build homes, the class of men provided for in clause 4, I suggest that the Government should pass a special amnesty in respect of sales tax.
– I removed the sales tax from 85 per cent, of building materials, which is not bad for a Treasurer.
– That does not benefit the returned servicemen especially; it benefits every one, including speculators. T also direct the attention of the Government to the fact that in the New Zealand legislation there is a provision which allows an ex-serviceman to obtain an interest-free loan when he builds or buys a home. That is designed to bridge the gap between pre-war and present-day building costs. He is not required to repay it unless he sells, and, if he cares to complete his life in it, he saves that expenditure. The New Zealand legislation also contains a splendid provision whereby ex-servicemen may obtain a loan of up to £100 to buy furniture, and the New Zealand Government has taken the furniture trade by the hand and arranged with it that furniture bought by ex-servicemen is to be of standard quality, not necessarily standard design, and sold at fixed prices. In that way, returned men endeavouring to make a home can make their money spin out in the best possible way.
It is imperative that in the administration quick decision shall be made and that the remoteness of the areas in which the beneficiaries may live shall not disentitle them to expedition in respect of any matters which they may raise.
That is why I suggest decentralization of the administration through local rehabilitation committees, of which, in country areas at any rate, the local federal members should be members. It is probably most important of all that the persons appointed to the staff to handle ex-servicemen should not only be sympathetic but also experienced and capable. They should have had personal experience of what the returned men have gone through, and should be prepared to go out of their way to help them and remove as much anxiety from their minds as possible. In that connexion the Commonwealth should build spacious welllighted offices. Any one who has been to the Repatriation Department in Chalmers-street, Sydney, knows that the dinginess and lack of light make the premises depressing. Having regard to the fact that most returned servicemen have at least some psychological difficulties to overcome, in the early stages of repatriation, at any rate, airy offices in decent surroundings, where the men can have a patient hearing and know that something will be done to help them, will be a most important part of their rehabilitation. It is true that the undertakings contained in this measure will be costly. I read that the Leader of the Opposition has already asked, despite the fact that V-P Day has not yet come, for a reduction of taxation. I would not ask for a reduction of taxation until the last ex-serviceman has been reestablished. There is no doubt that some people have grown fat in this war. There has been considerable evasion of taxation, and some are richer to-day than they ever were or ever would have been but for the war. They must be made to disgorge their ill-gotten gains by bearing the burden of the cost of rehabilitation and re-establishment of those who went away to do the job of fighting for them. If this b’i’l represents the final say of theGovernment in respect of reestablishment 1 shall be very disappointed. I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in his reply, to give an undertaking that every authority which has as its objective the advancement of returned servicemen and women, whether they served in or out of Australia, shall’ be consulted with the object of making: this bill the most perfect piece of machinery possible to ensure that there shall be no bitter feelings between sections of the community who have had taken out of their lives what, in some cases, is almost a vital period. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned boys who went to the war at eighteen and will return as veterans at 24. There are plenty of boys who went into action on leaving school and have known no other profession than that of killing, and, unless the administration of this legislation is closely watched so that such persons shall be properly cared for, there may be a number of complications not envisaged when the measure was introduced.
I come now to the limitation of time imposed by the bill. I regard this measure as an instalment of the Government’s policy, and do not think that it is meant to be the ultimate in preference or reestablishment legislation. For many points of view it is most desirable that preference legislation should be limited to a definite period. For instance, without such limitation, the time might come when the hand of the son would be set against his father ; or a person who ought properly to be given certain work would be unable to get it, notwithstanding that the nation would benefit if the job were given to him. It is idle to say that the limitation of preference to seven years was the result of trade union agitation and pressure. That was not so. It is true that, at first, it was intended that the preference should be for an indefinite period; but surely a government is entitled to second thoughts. It was probably quite coincidental that other persons should have suggested a period of seven years. I regard this measure as the first instalment of the Government’s intention. When its plans for national development have been announced - I hope before the present session ends - honorable members will be in a better position to judge the merits of the Government’s proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with -amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of joint committees of War Expenditure and Social Security, and had appointed Senators Large and Sampson to serve on the War Expenditure Committee, and Senators Cooper, Foll and Tangney to serve on the Social Security Committee.
Australian Army: Equipment; Remarks by Mr. A. W. Fadden, M.P. - Industrial Unrest - Post-war Reconstruction: Use of Government Factories.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I hold in my hand an extract from the Mackay Baily Mercury, containing remarks reported to have been made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The report is as follows : -
Mr. Fadden said he had received many complaints, but did not listen to hearsay evidence. To-day, however he had received a letter from a former Mackay solicitor who was a former schoolmate and one-time Labour candidate. The writer, Captain W. F. Lee, QX18513, had risen through the ranks from private to captain, served in Libya, Egypt, Palestine and various parts of Australia, and was now in a forward area in New Guinea.
The right honorable gentleman made three mistakes. Captain Lee was not a school-mate of his, because when he was still attending Nudgee College the right honorable gentleman was in business in Townsville. Nor did Captain Lee serve in the campaigns to which the right honorable gentleman referred. The statements made by the right honorable gentleman are false, misleading, and dangerous; he should have ascertained the facts before he made such statements. I believe that the Leader of the Australian Country party thought that Captain Lee had been a school-mate of his, but he was not. Captain Lee wrote to me regarding Army equipment, but at the time I was resting in the country on medical advice.
In his letter to me Captain Lee said -
In five years of soldiering in Australia and New Guinea. I have never seen the morale of Australian troops so low. Indications of this is the n umber of soldiers either in detention or A.W.L. at the present time. As a matter of interest you might ask the Army Minister to supply those figures to you. I am sure you would be astounded.
Some time back 1 got the impression that soldiers with long service would receive prior consideration when applying for discharge. He enlisted in October, 1939, and since that time has served continuously in a rifle company in one of the best known A.I.F. battalions. He saw action in Libya, Greece, Syria and New Guinea, where he was commissioned in the field. He is 30 odd years of age and is married, with a wife and four kiddies whose ages range from four to ten years. He has been wounded at least once. The application was refused. In the same week a young chap, 23 years of age, with about two years service - this is his first time out of Australia - was released to take up theological studies. I did not know that the study of theology was a reserved occupation.
I make no apology for taking up your time. As the elected representative of my electorate you arc the liaison between me, as an elector, and the G overnment, and it is therefore through you that I should be able to place my views before responsible governmental officials. I await with interest your reply.
On the day following its receipt, the letter was forwarded by my secretary to the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser), but he was away in New Guinea at the time, and did not receive it until his return. I was asked by Captain Lee to send it to the Minister, and he also acquainted the Leader of the Australian Country party with what had been done. The right honorable gentleman quoted extensively from the letter in this House a few days ago. Captain. Lee was never a member of the Labour party, nor was he a Labour candidate and, as I have said, he did not go to school with the Leader of the Australian Country party. The right honorable gentleman has made serious misstatements which can only have been made for party political purposes.
– Does the writer hold the rank of captain in the Australian Imperial Force?
– I do not dispute that he does.
– Did he supply to the honorable member information about lack of equipment?
– If the honorable member for Richmond had been paying attention, he would have heard me say that Captain Lee did supply the information.
– Did not the honorable member deny that he had received from a member of the forces, any letter complaining about lack of equipment?
– I did not see Captain Lee’s letter until after the Leader of the Australian Country party had spoken in this House. My secretary dealt with the correspondence, and complied with Captain Lee’s request to me to act as a liaison between the troops in his sector and the Government.
– Did the honorable member do anything to improve the position?
-I try to do every thing possible for every one in my electorate, regardless of his political views.
– But did not the honorable member say-
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert is not under cross-examination.
– I know my duties and I am carrying them out faithfully. I do not require any assistance from the Leader of the Australian Country party or the honorable member for Richmond. I always tell the truth. If I had not been, under doctor’s orders, convalescing in the Blue Mountains, I should have attended to the letter personally. In any event my secretary forwarded it to the Acting Minister for the Army. The action which the Acting Minister took was abundantly proved during the debate on equipment, when the Leader of the Australian Country party had to insult his own supporters by denying the accuracy of their statements.
.- I express concern at the wave of industrial unrest in the community, which is affecting the morale of the workers and undermining the war effort. As the representative of a large industrial electorate, I keep my ear to the ground, and know that these unsettled conditions are causing concern to many leaders of trade unions and industrial managements. For this industrial unrest there are various causes, including general war weariness, the strain of long hours of work and of travel to and from the place of employment, and lack of proper housing. In view of the favorable war situation, we should be able to ease some of the burdens on Australians. Other countries, particularly the United States of America and Great Britain, are preparing for the post-war period. They have representatives in various countries who are trying to establish post-war trade relations and are preparing for an immediate change over from war-time to peace-time production. That is indicated by a statement published in the Daily Mirror on the 8 th May -
A regional organization for handling reconversion of British industry to a peace-time basis, the most comprehensive step yet to be taken in planning for the industrial switch over has been announced by the British Board of Trade.
Sinister influences, including fifth columnists and anarchists, are at work in this country. In fact, they have been operating since the outbreak of war. The British Navy hasbeen compelled to bring from England 3,000 workers to repair warships and other vessels. The gravity of the situation isrevealed by the warning given by Mr. Justice Taylor, the chairman of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales -
Abundant evidence existed that Australians were 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. In an outspoken statement to The Sunday Run, Mr. Justice Taylor contended that these saboteurs were acting with complete recklessness, and from a purely personal and petty cause. “ This mischievous and stupid policy, if persisted in, will just as surely destroy our institutional and industrial liberty as Fascism destroyed progressive thought in those countries where it was allowed to develop,” he said.
Some persons are serving overseas interests by trying to throttle our post-war development. Similar influences were at work after the last war. Whilst those factors undoubtedly prevail, another strong reason was indicated by Mr. Ferguson, the secretary of the Australian Railway Workers Union in New South Wales. The Sydney Sun, on the 7th May last, published Mr. Ferguson’s reply to the remarks of Mr. Justice Taylor -
Mr. Justice Taylor’s statement in The Sunday Sun that industrial relationships were verging on chaos was substantially true, said the State secretary of the AustralianRailway Workers Union (Mr. J. Ferguson) to-day.
The judge’s analysis of the position - a position which, he said, was indicated by the numerous petty, stupid and mischievous strikes - did not, however, reveal the fundamental causes of discontent, declared Mr. Ferguson.
Fear for the future was a big factor. The Federal Government was missing an opportunity of dissipating that fear by shrouding its post-war employment and social security plans in “ painful secrecy “.
Personally, I believe,” said Mr. Ferguson, “ that there is an intrinsic belief among an overwhelming number of the people that » post-war depression will follow.” They see in present-day conditions an opportunity to get the best out of the probabilities offering.
Government had not taken the trade union movement into its confidence, he said.
I t was this kind of thing that contributed to the general feeling of unrest, and, of course, the effect of war neurosis could not be overlooked.
The Government, particularly the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), should take managements and workers into their confidence. What we require is a practical programme for an immediate change-over from war-time to peace-time production. After the outbreak of war, it required two years to gear our industry to maximum war-time production. A similar delay should not occur at the end of this war, when we desire to make a rapid change to peacetime production. Hostilities against Japan may cease overnight, just as they terminated suddenly against Germany. Unless our post-war plans are ready for immediate operation, a chaotic condition of affairs will result. We do not want theories and blue-prints for Utopia in the dim, distant future. Some interested organizations have already submitted valuable suggestions to the Government. The metal trades unions, which represent more than 250,000 workers, have published their proposals in a pamphlet entitled Those Government Munitions Factories, which has been distributed to honorable members. It reads -
Forty factories £30,000,000 worth of modern factory buildings (including land and service works), £27,000,000 worth of manufacturing plant and equipment.
Large factories, medium factories, small factories - a system complete with research laboratories, design and drawing offices, stores and transport service. All completely owned ou behalf of the people by the Commonwealth Government.
What shall be done with these factories) Shall they be leased or sold to private enterprise, or shall they be retained by the Commonwealth Government?
This £27,000,000 worth of modern factories and plant must be retained and operated by the Government for the benefit of the people of Australia, to whom it belongs.
Peace-time control and use of national war factories by the Government to produce needed goods is common sense and necessary to ensure full employment. It means -
The key defence factory system, which would otherwise disintegrate through idleness or skeleton use, will be efficiently maintained by full operation. Employment for a wide range of factory, technical and administrative workers. Decentralization and regional planning.
First-class factories, with latest equipment will greatly contribute to the industrial progress of the Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has stated that the Government will retain all the factories necessary to Australia’s defence. Where peace-time production of munitions is not sufficient for their effective maintenance, supplementary manufacture for commercial purposes will be undertaken. The rest of the factories will he either operated jointly by the Government and private enterprise, or leased or sold to private enterprise.
But the Prime Minister has not yet stated -
Which factories will be retained for defence purposes.
Which will ‘be operated jointly by the Government and private enterprise.
Which of the remainder will be leased and which sold.
Nor has the Prime Minister made any reference to the possibility of the State Government operating the factories which may be neither retained for defence purposes nor operated jointly by the Commonwealth Government and private enterprise.
The Commonwealth Government has not yet produced a plan on these four essential points in determining the future of Australia’s war factories - a national asset worth f 57, 000,000 - but the Government for three months has had before it a practical, detailed plan, which it received from the Metal Trades Federation.
Tub Metal Trades Federation Plan. The Metal Trades Federation carefully considered -
The employment possibilities of the factories ;
The practical usefulness of each of the factories;
The capacity of the plant to manufacture commercial goods, particularly many metal goods formerly imported;
The maintenance of a defence factory system as a permanent nucleus for Australian defence needs;
This is the Plan.
The federation names eighteen factories (exclusive of aircraft, shipbuilding and naval armament factories) as permanent defence factories to be operated to full capacity by supplementary manufacture of commercial goods in addition to peace-time defence needs.
These eighteen factories, plus plant from factories already leased, represent 85 per cent, of the capital value of the 40 government factories.
The Government should retain ownership of the remaining 22 factories (worth about £8,000,000, excluding plant), and, where .practicable, operate them directly, or in joint enterprise with others, for purposes that aid the extension of primary and secondary industry, decentralization and regional planning, and thus full employment.
Where the Government finds it impracticable to operate these 22 factories, it should lease or rent them, with or without plant, to State, municipal, co-operative or private industry, strictly in accordance with its policy of full employment, extension of primary and secondary industry, and decentralization and regional planning. A condition of tenancy should be the maintenance of present working conditions and amenities.
The Government’s large holdings of machine tools and manufacturing plant should be utilized so that defence factories under government control will bc equipped efficiently to manufacture a wide range of articles.
The statement goes on to point out that the Metal Trades Federation has been prepared for some time past to discuss these proposals with- the.. Government. This is a practical proposal made by a representative body of trade unionists, and calls for consideration as a practical programme for the changeover to a peace-time economy. The Government should also give immediate consideration to plans for the full employment of private factories in the post-war period, because the workers in those factories are just as much concerned with this problem. In this respect, I mention a very large undertaking in my electorate, the Clyde engineering works. That concern is hoping to develop its post-war trade. During the war it has done everything the Government has asked of it. Several Ministers who visited the plant promised the industry that if the workers in it played their part during the war, they would be looked after in the post-war period. The workers responded to that call. Not one hold-up has occurred in that industry since the outbreak of war. Yet the Government recently missed an opportunity to enable our heavy industries to prepare for the post-war period when it failed to secure any part of an order for 50 locomotives and rolling stock, at a cost of £2,500,000, which the Indian Government endeavoured to place in this country. I understand that the order has now been placed in Canada. That fact shows that other Empire countries are preparing for the post-war period. I admit that more urgent demands upon our limited manpower, resources in respect of the prosecution of the war precluded acceptance of that order. However, I fail to see why a sample order could not have been accepted on behalf of Australian industry. That would have enabled our industries to make valuable contacts with India, and might have led to substantial orders in the post-war period. The Government should also be on the look-out for orders in the postwar period from other countries, such as Russia and China. Recently, the Russian Government approached the British Treasury for long-term credits for huge industrial orders, but its request was found impracticable. According to press reports the Russians are believed to have approached the United States of America, but the London Sunday Times correspondent reports that “ there is no reason to believe the United States of America will be more favorably disposed than Great Britain “. Here is an opportunity for Australia to establish valuable trade contacts with Russia. The present regime in Russia has honoured all its obligations. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the matters I have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented -
Black Marketing Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 65.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Bushmead Western Australia.
Nationality Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 55.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 62.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Post-war Works: Commonwealth Subsidy.
y. - On the 1st May, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked the following question : -
For some time past, the Commonwealth Government has made references to a policy of post-war works by local authorities. The Co-ordinator of Public Works in Queensland, has requested all local governing bodies in that State to supply to him proposals of post-war works which they intend to undertake. As the Queensland Treasury has adopted a scheme for the payment of a subsidy on approved works by local authorities, with the maximum of 174 per cent, on the amount of the loan raised for the purpose, will the Acting Prime Minister state what amount of subsidy, if any, the Commonwealth proposes to advance in addition to that maximum of 174 Per cent.?
The public works programme of the first few years after the war has been considered by the National Works Council. This programme consists almost wholly of deferred maintenance projects, replacements, renewals, and new capital works that would have been constructed but for the war. At the second meeting of the council, neild last August in Canberra, it was agreed that the finance for the State - including local government - programme.1! will be found from State revenue, trust funds, and the balance from loans. Provision of the loan money needed will be a matter for the Lean Council when the funds are actually required. Thus the Loan Council will decide the amount of money to be made available to the States, and through them to local government bodies. The National Works Council also agreed that, financial responsibility for this programme of works was wholly a matter for the internal arrangements of the States and that no direct financial contribution by the Commonwealth would be made. Apart from the National Works Council’s initial programme of urgent and important works referred to above, it will be necessary to carry out certain national works, for instance, for defence purposes. These will be financed fully or partly by the Commonwealth according to their character and location.
Queensland Milk Supplies.
y. - On the 20th April, 1945, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the special retail prices operating for sales of milk in the Brisbane area by the Metropolitan Milk Supply (G.B.) Limited. I advise the honorable member that in August, 1943, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner took steps which brought about a far greater degree of uniformity in retail prices than had existed previously in Brisbane. Although certain reductions of the prices which had been charged by this company were effected, the company’s peculiar financial position was such that a complete reduction to the level obtained by the other retailers would have forced it to cease operations. It will be recalled that at that time, and during a great part of 1944, thousands of Australian and: Allied servicemen were quartered in Brisbane, and any action which might have threatened the delicate food situation in that city could not have been contemplated. The position has been under constant review, and it is now considered that the general efficiency and financial position of the company has sufficiently improved to enable its retail prices to be reduced to the level obtained: by other retailers. A Prices Regulation Order effecting this reduction was issued on the 27th April, 1945.
n. - On the 4th May, 1945, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question concerning the system of tobacco rationing for members of the Australian Imperial Force who had been discharged on 100 per cent, pension.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that all members are granted 24 days’ supply of tobacco on discharge, and are advised to apply to the Tobacco Distribution Committee, at the Customs House of the State concerned, for further supplies to be made available to a tobacconist nominated by the member
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) last week asked me a series of questions on plans for the development of post-war trade.
Following the return from abroad last year of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) the Government decided to establish an Export Advisory Committee. The duty of this committee, in short, is to advise the Government on the methods which should be adopted to develop Australia’s post-war trade. The specific functions of the committee are - (1) To provide the means of contact and co-operation on commercial export matters between the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which is the Commonwealth Government authority on commercial export matters, and other departments which have control over materials or the export of them and with the manufacturing and commercial interests of Australia; (2) to advise and assist the Government in preparing for the resumption of export trade and in finding and developing export markets, particularly in regard to secondary products; (3) to make recommendations to the Government in regard to assisting exporters in the development of export markets; (4) to advise on the relative roles of Government and business in the international trade field. The Government, in establishing the Export Advisory Committee, was seized with the importance not only of Australia recovering markets lost because of war, but also of providing new markets for Australia’s greatly expanded manufactures. Exports are essential if Australia is to provide a high and stable level of employment. The original committee consisted of the permanent heads of the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, Trade and Customs, Supply and Shipping, and Munitions, and one representative each of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures. A representative of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has since been added because of that department’s particular interest in the development of certain aspects of Australia’s post-war domestic economy. As the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is the Commonwealth Government authority on commercial matters, the secretary of the department is chairman of the committee. The main organizing work of the committee is being carried out by Mr. E. McCarthy, Acting Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and Mr. C. E. Critchley, Assistant Controller-General of Food. Mr. McCarthy, as honorable members know, has only recently returned from abroad. During his period abroad he represented Australia at the important international discussions on the post-war marketing of wheat. Prior to the war he was officially associated with export trade policy. Mr. Critchley, who relinquished his post as Australian Trade Commissioner in New Zealand to establish the emergency supplies organization when Australia was threatened with invasion, has represented Australia in many countries. Mr. Critchley, like
Mr. McCarthy, is specially equipped foi the task of developing any plans for postwar trade which may be recommended by the committee and endorsed by the Government. The Government has agreed to the setting up of State export advisory committees. These committees provide a most important link between business and exporting interests, the central committee, and the Government. The State committees which have been established have already done valuable work. As the result of their efforts, the Government is getting a much clearer and more intimate picture of the export potential of secondary industry. Representative as they are of business and exporting interests, the State committees will ensure that the viewpoint of exporters and manufacturers in each State is known to the Government, through the central committee. They will also ensure that the maximum assistance and co-operation is received from manufacturers and exporters by the Government in the development of plans for post-war trade. Committees have already been established in Victoria and New South Wales, and are in the course of establishment in South Australia and Western Australia, and will be established in the near future in Queensland and Tasmania. An officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, experienced in trade matters, will be attached to each committee. The New South Wales State Advisory Committee has already caused a questionnaire to be circulated asking for details from manufacturers of their production, and of the possibility of their engaging in post-war export trade. I understand that similar action is to bc taken by the South Australian committee. The Commonwealth Export Advisory Committee has given special consideration to a review of the list of goods, the export of which has been prohibited because of the demands of war. Many of the goods on the prohibited list are still urgently required for war purposes, but it is considered that it may be possible, in the case of certain goods either to remove the prohibition or to issue permits for their export from time to time. At the request of the committee, all departments are closely overhauling their controls, and I have no doubt they will be able in some cases 1o agree to a measure of relaxation. Honorable members will recognize that the determining factor as to whether goods can be released for export must be whether the release of the goods will, in any way, interfere with Australia s war effort. While Australian farmers have always been export minded, the same cannot be said of those engaged in secondary industries. This observation is not made in any spirit of criticism. The reason for the difference between the outlook of farmers and manufacturers is plain. The output of primary industries has, with few exceptions, been greatly in excess of domestic requirements, and special marketing organizations have been established to market primary products abroad.
Long-term contracts have already been entered into between the Commonwealth and British Governments to ensure payable prices for dairy and meat exports in post-war years. Plans for the marketing of wool exports are now under discussion, while post-war wheat exports, it is hoped, will be safeguarded by an international wheat agreement. The final details of the international wheat agreement are now under discussion. In the years immediately prior to the war there was a marked expansion of the export of secondary goods, particularly to countries adjacent to Australia. Nevertheless the marketing of the excess production of secondary industries presents much more difficult and complex problems than does the marketing of primary products. Whilst our secondary exports were increasing in pre-war years, the manufacturers of many lines were not able to satisfy the domestic market. In other cases, goods could not be marketed in competition with those produced in low-wage countries. The output of many industries, whose production was not sufficient to satisfy domestic requirements, has been expanded under the impetus of war, and many industries will produce more than enough for Australian needs once the demands of war cease. The increased output of others has led to a marked reduction of production costs. This means that they should now be able to export in competition with other countries. The indications are that there is a strong demand in other countries for goods which Australia can manufacture, and that other countries are planning to enter the trade that is offering. The problem is how best to inform the world of the type and quality of the goods which Australia is producing - goods which will be available for export when the war ends. This can be done partly by publicity and partly by the despatch of small shipments of Australian goods to overseas markets, in anticipation of a greater flow as production for war purposes eases and greater quantities become available for civilian trade. Arrangements are being made to see that Australian goods are adequately publicized. This work will be carried out by the Public Relations Division of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in co-operation with the press attaches appointed by the Department of Information to assist Australian representatives abroad-. Honorable members will realize that there is a very real need for improving our trade publicity. They will also realize that the value of such improved publicity can be greatly enhanced at the present time by introducing Australian goods in the civilian markets of overseas countries. For this reason, the Government has agreed to the recommendation of the Commonwealth Export Advisory Committee that token shipments of goods be sent to customer countries. Where the demands of war are such that goods cannot be made available in sufficient quantities, it is proposed that samples of these goods be forwarded for the purpose of interesting potential customers. To neglect to take some positive action, however small, would be to take undue risks of dislocation in industry at the end of the war. Such risks cannot be taken in view of the responsibility which the nation has to rehabilitate returning service men and women. The need for taking positive action has been stressed in memoranda to the Cabinet by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). As the result of their experiences abroad, both Ministers strongly stressed the need for protecting. Australia’s interests in overseas markets. It is intended that the token shipments and the samples should be sent only to those markets where there is a possibility of developing post-war trade. The goods to be despatched will have to conform to high standards of quality. In the view of the Government, high-quality products are more desirable than lowgrade .goods, however cheaply the latter may be produced. Australian standards are as high as those of any other exporting country, and Australia’s name must remain synonymous with quality if there is to be a permanent expansion of secondary exports.
The intelligent administration of wartime price controls will, I believe, ultimately provide the basis for increased exports in post-war years. Price control, although it has proved irksome to some people, has assisted to keep production costs in check. Reports received by the Government suggest that this has not been the experience in all countries. Undue increases of production costs have been checked in Australia,’ and thus we are in a sound position to export goods in competition with other countries. It. may be necessary at a later stage to arrange for trade delegations to visit customer countries. Such delegations might he accompanied by representatives of this House. I have not discussed this proposal with my colleagues, but it seems to me that there are few honorable members who are competent to express an opinion on the possibilities of developing trade with the respective countries. Australia has already been, visited by trade delegations from overseas. The latest advice is that other delegations may visit Australia in the near future. Although the interest in Australia as a potential market is a tribute to our way of life and may lead to a measure of reciprocal trade, it only partly solves the problem of finding a new outlet for our expanded production of secondary goods. While .the Government is very anxious to develop post-war trade and to further its plans for strengthening the trade commissioner service and for adequately publicizing primary and secondary goods, there is one point which must not he overlooked. Our manpower resources are strained to the limit, and any large-scale development of exports would mean that we would be exporting man-power hours - an export which we can ill afford. This would mean that the man-power hours would be taken- from the war effort - from the production and processing of food or from some other vital civilian task. The despatch of token shipment and samples to overseas countries does not mean, that vital tasks will be neglected.
My comments must he interpreted to mean that, whilst all preliminary plans can and should he made for the resumption of merchant-to-merchant ‘ trading, the essential tasks of the moment must not he subordinated to this end. There arc few who would expect that vital and essential tasks should be subordinated to post-war aims. Nevertheless,- 1 sound this note of warning because some honorable members may overlook this point. Associated with the Government’s plans for the development of post-war trade is the rebuilding and strengthening of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture; Provision is made’ for the building up of the export division. Since war conditions curtailed normal export trading, this division has functioned mainly as a research section. The export division will be divided’ into the following three -sections : - (o)-‘ trade promotion, commercial intelligence; (&) trade agreements; and (c) research. It is hoped, through such re-organization, to provide a service of great value to intending exporters, the public and Australia’s potential customers. I believe that there’ will be general acceptance of the need for strengthening- the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to the extent that it will he sufficiently well equipped to carry out it3 duties as the Government’s authority on commercial exports. It is not intended that there shall he any large-seale recruitment of staff, hut rather a reallocation of duties. Many officers previously associated with the export division of the department, either in Australia or overseas, have been engaged in other tasks since the outbreak of the war. These men are .being released, where possible, from their temporary war-time duties in order to assist in the development of the Government’s plane for post-war trade.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450510_reps_17_182/>.