17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Prime
Minister seen the article published yesterday by the Daily Mirror under the heading “ Cavalier Treatment of Migration”, which sets out that the room at Australia House that is used for interviewing prospective migrants is unsuitable, that alternative accommodation is available in the building, and that persons who apply for information receive very little consideration, being merely told that nothing can be done until the end of the war with Japan. In view of the great interest which Australia will have in the subject of migration . at the termination of the war with J apan, will the honorable gentleman take every step to ensure that as far as possible suitable accommodation for the interviewing of prospective migrants shall be provided at Australia House, that all available information shall be given to persons who may contemplate migrating to this country, and that names and other particulars shall be recorded, so that, when migration may bo resumed, they may be contacted with a view to their transport to this country being facilitated?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I had not seen the article until the honorable member drew my attention to it. I do not necessarily accept as correct every statement that is published in the newspapers. If any statement in this article bears a semblance of truth, I shall take steps to have any deficiency rectified.
“Hansard” Reportof Speech by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– On the 23rd March, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction moved the second reading of the Reestablishment and Employment Bill.
Before delivering his speech, he was good enough to provide me, as Leader of the Opposition, and doubtless also my colleague the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with a roneo-ed copy of what he intended to say. A passage to which I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, read in this way-
After seven years there will be new generations of workers coming along, many of them the sons of servicemen, ami those should not tie handicapped by old history
The Minister read that passage to the House, and it was heard by other honorable members as well as by me. Considerable reference to it has been made in the course of the debate on the bill. Hansard No. 5, which contains the corrected proof of the Minister’s speech, makes the passage read in this way -
After seven years there will be a new generation of workers, which will include the sons of servicemen, who should not be handicapped.
The expression “ by old history “, which was considered sufficiently important by many honorable members to provoke a considerable amount of discussion, has been omitted. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is within the competence of either the Hansard staff or the Minister to make an alteration of that kind to a speech as delivered ?
-The practice is for the Hansard department to deliver to an honorable member on the day following that on which he has made a speech, a proof of what the Hansard reporter had recorded him as having said. If the wording of that report does not convey exactly the meaning intended by the honorable member, he is allowed a certain degree of latitude in the matter of alteration, but I understand that the insertion of new arguments or comment is not permitted. It may be that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction issued roneo-ed copies of his speech in advance of its delivery. It is possible that when he made the speech he said more or less than appeared in that copy. I shall have the matter inquired into by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, in order to determine whether or not the shorthand notes of the reporter who took that portion of the speech contain the words which the right honorable gentleman says have been omitted from the published report, and shall acquaint the House of the result (vide page 1S39).
– I rise to a personal explanation. It is true that I provided the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with copies of the speech which I proposed to deliver on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill.
– All of us had a copy of it.
– That was before I had actually made the speech. ‘ It is also true that, in delivering the speech, I altered the verbiage in some degree. I cannot say with certainty whether or not the phrase to which the Leader of the Opposition has directed attention was actually used by me when I delivered the speech.
– It was.
– I wish to make it perfectly clear that, so far as my memory serves me, I did not alter the Hansard proof in any way. Certainly, I did not delete from it the phrase to which attention has been directed.
– The curious feature is that the phrase in question is in the “ flat “.
V-E Day : Recompense for Service Personnel
– A public holiday was gazetted for the day following V-E Day, and by a decision of the Commonwealth Government those who worked on that day were entitled to receive double pay. I :ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether the Government has given consideration to the case of service personnel who were engaged in combat with the enemy while V-E Day was being -celebrated throughout the world? Will it -direct immediately that members of the services located in combat areas, or engaged on essential work elsewhere on the public holiday, shall be entitled to at least an additional week’s leave when their next leave falls due?
– The conditions relating to payment on this day were those for which provision is made in the various industrial .awards. If these provide for payment as for double time, that payment was made. That is the custom. The alternative would foe a day off in lieu of the holiday, if the circumstances necessitated work on that day. The honorable gentleman has raised the point as to whether some reward might be given to service personnel whose duties kept them engaged on the holiday. The matter is one which the Cabinet might well consider, and I shall refer it to my colleagues.
Demobilization - Release of Driver Brouff - Booklet, “ Five Fighting Years
– Will the Acting Prime Minister ensure that when War Cabinet is considering the demobilization of Australian soldiers who have had long service, it will take into consideration the pronouncement by General Eisenhower that American soldiers who have fought in two campaigns will not be asked to fight in the Pacific?
– The matter of leave for, or discharge of, men who have had long service is now under consideration by the War Cabinet. I hope that within a short period I shall be able to make a general statement on the position, but the point raised by the honorable member will be considered.
– Has the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army read an article published in the Sydney Sun on Friday last, in which it was stated that Driver Brouff, aged 40 years, with his six children, all girls between the ages of three and fifteen years, had presented himself at the Sydney Showground Army Depot, stating that he had no one to look after his children, as his wife had been away from home for ten weeks, and that he had been refused a discharge from the Army. Is it a fact that he is a first-class farmer who for some years had been in charge of a lucerne farm, and who volunteered three years ago for service in the Australian Imperial Force? In view of the acute shortage of fodder, and the Government’s repeated appeals to maintain food production, will the Minister order an immediate investigation of the case, with a view to enabling Driver Brouff to care for his children and return to rural industry?
– I have not read the article referred to, but I shall have the matter investigated immediately, and a reply to the honorable member’s question will be supplied to him.
– Can the Minister for Information say whether it is a fact that be has been so absorbed in his private fight with the newspaper proprietors that he has neglected to give publicity to the deeds of Australian soldiers, thus causing the Army Public Relations Directorate, which is under General Sir Thomas Blarney, to issue abooklet entitled, Five Fighting Years, which contains a foreword by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in which the Minister states that the outstanding achievements of our soldiers are not sufficiently appreciated by the people of Australia, and that therefore the issue of such a booklet became necessary? Will the Minister say whether the issue of this booklet is not a duplication of work which should be carried out by the Department of Information, and will he take time off from his private war to publish the deeds of Australian soldiers so that it will he no longer necessary for General Blarney to take individual action?
– I am not engaged in a private war with the newspaper proprietors, but I have done my best to defend democracy against its enemies in the editorial chairs of certain newspapers in this country. If it is a war, I can only say that it is a one-sided conflict, because I am winning all along the line. The booklet, Five Fighting Years, was published by the Army Public Relations Directorate, with the knowledge of my department, because it was thought better that the complete story of the campaigns in which Australian forces had been engaged should be compressed into one booklet rather than that it shouldbe published by means of pamphlets and newspaper articles, and the other methods usually employed by my department. The Army Public Relations Directorate thought that the Army should undertake this publicity, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) agreed. There was no conflict between the Minister for the Army and myself in regard to the matter. We have co-operated with the Army authorities in securing as wide a distribution of the booklet as possible, and I hope that the honorable member will take time off from his money-making activities to read the story contained in it. The Army Public Relations Directorate, in conjunction with my department, has arranged for further publications, which will emphasize that, the end of the war in Europe does not mean that the war in the Pacific is over. I hope that we shall have the assistance of the honorable member for Richmond and some of his colleagues, who seem to think that the war in the Pacific no longer matters, in the distribution of these publications.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs read the statement in the report of the Tariff Board on. the Control of Liquor Order, which has been tabled in the House, that between 2,500,000 gallons and 3,000,000 gallons of fortified wine withdrawn from bond between 1942 and 1944 has not been accounted for? In the circumstances, will the Minister order a further public investigation in order to determine what has become of this wine and to probe the ramifications of the black market? Will the Minister also consider the advisability of increasing the beer quota for workers, in order that they may he protected against the consumption of inferior and adulterated wines and spirits?
– The attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs will be drawn to the matters mentioned by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether vital naval communications are threatened by the possibility of failure of the electricity service in Sydney, arising out of the industrial dispute at the Bunnerong Power Station? Is it also a fact that the State Minister concerned has asked the Commonwealth Government whether it will issue a direction to the men out of work to resume their employment? In view of the excellent record of continuous pro duction of members of the engineering unions generally throughout the war, will the Minister make a statement to the House regarding the facts of the matter, so that members may know something of the issues involved?
– This matter has been referred to the Attorney-General’s Department as the result of a telegram received from the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, who has asked that an order should be issued to the employees. The department is not quite ready to take the suggested steps without giving the matter full consideration. Discussions regarding it were proceeding prior to the meeting of the House, and we hope to resume them at 3 p.m. to-day.
– In view of the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald was compelled to publish in its issue yesterday three corrections of untruthful reports, will the Minister for Information recommend to the proprietors of that newspaper that they should make it easier for the leading public by featuring each day on the front page a brief synopsis entitled “Summary of to-day’s corrections”?
– The honorable gentleman’s suggestion is certainly timely. I think I shall add a suggestion of my own, and act upon it. We should ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to increase the supply of newsprint to the proprietors of that journal, so that they mav publish all of their corrections in full.”
– Yesterday 1 drew the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the shortage of wheat for the feeding of pigs in the dairying district on the far north coast of New South Wales. I now ask the Minister whether he will take immediate steps to have the weights at which pigs may be sold reduced, so that smaller pigs may be slaughtered before they lose condition and become less valuable? The matter is urgent, unless sufficient feed be supplied. Will the Minister take up with the Rationing Commission the reduction of the coupon rating in respect of pork, if such action be later required?
– As I stated yesterday, this matter has been exercising the mind of the Meat Commission, under instructions from me, with a view to the conservation of fodder. I think that the minimum overall weight at which pigs may be sold has been reduced from 80 lb. to about. 72 lb., and only a few days ago I had a further conference with the Controller of Meat Supplies in order to find out whether we could reduce the minimum selling weight even below that figure. The breeders of heavyweight pigs, which use the hulk of the feed available, have been requested to reduce the weight at which their pigs are marketed from 200 lb. to about 160 lb. As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, pork is. not made available to the civilian market, as the whole of the supply is being reserved for the services and for export to the United Kingdom. The meat position is such that there is no possibility of pork being released to civilians.
– In view of the necessity for obtaining the maximum wheat production during the present season, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether those farmers who hold registered wheat-growing areas are planting full areas where the seasonal conditions are favorable? If the Minister has no information on that matter, will he institute inquiries with a view to obtaining it? Will he also give consideration to the permanent transfer of the wheat licences and fertilizer quotas of the men not using their farms at present to the full extent allowed, to those desirous of planting wheat?
– The whole matter of the distribution of superphosphate is in the hands of the State Departments of Agriculture. The available supplies are distributed by a Commonwealth committee among the States, but the distribution to the respective farming areas is made locally through State instrumentalities. It has not yet come to my knowledge that any person receiving a supply of superphosphate for the purpose of wheatgrowing has not used it for that purpose. It would he a most serious matter if that practice prevailed. New growers of wheat have come into the field this year, and we notified them before they obtained registration that no superphosphate would be available to them. We thought it would he more equitable for the distribution to be made amongst the old growers. However, I shall take the matter up immediately with the State governments in order to find out whether the position is as the honorable member suggests. If it is found to be so, we shall, in conjunction with the State authorities, take drastic action against offenders.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether anything has yet been done in connexion with a letter which I passed on to him from Councillor King, president of the Warracknabeal Repatriation Committee, relating to the supply of superphosphate to a sergeant who had returned to his farm and wished to resume wheatgrowing? When I asked a question on this subject about a fortnight ago, the Minister promised to look into the matter.
– The letter was referred to the Director-General of Agriculture, who was asked to take the matter up with the Victorian Department of Agriculture. In answer to an earlier question ‘by the honorable member, I said that the distribution of superphosphate in Victoria is in the hands of the State Government, and that in some States emergency supplies had been established. I understand that in some instances those emergency supplies have been exhausted and that no further supplies of superphosphate will be available until next season. I shall again consult with the Director-General of Agriculture on the matter.
Inquiry by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C.
– Has the Minister for Air been advised that the inquiry being conducted by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C, into certain Air Force matters is closed to the public? Will the Minister at least make public the terms of reference to the commissioner ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter other than I have road in the newspaper reports. Whether the inquiry is to be held in private or in public is, under the National Security Regulations, a matter for determination by the commissioner himself. The terms of reference have been given to him. At the end of the inquiry he will supply me with a report, and I shall then decide whether to make the report, or any part of it, public.
– -Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether any further progress has been made in the negotiations regarding the manufacture of rolling stock in Australia to the order of the Indian Government, with particular reference to the participation by the Clyde Engineering Company in such manufacture? Australian manufacturers are anxious to extend their post-war trade, but are handicapped in their efforts by the present regulations which require all overseas trade to be carried on through government channels. This places local manufacturers at a disadvantage when competing with overseas firms. Will the Government consider relaxing the present restrictions so as to enable Australian manufacturers to deal more expeditiously with overseas orders?
– The honorable member will recall that I received a deputation which he introduced on behalf of one of the companies interested in the manufacture of rolling stock for export. I told the deputation that I would obtain full particulars about the possibility of getting orders from overseas. The information has been supplied to me through the Minister for Munitions, but I have not yet had an opportunity to study it. However, I hope to be able to do so in the near future, and will then communicate further with the honorable member. The only reason why the Government has concerned itself with the manufacture of goods in Australia for export is that such manufacture requires the allotment of priorities for materials and the use of man-power to do the work. The Government is anxious to allow overseas commercial trade to revert to normal as soon as possible. In addition, it will, as has been promised, gather information which may be of help to firms in getting orders from abroad. Consideration will be given to the relaxation of existing restrictions as soon as possible.
Appraisement Centre at Townsville.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yet received a report on the proposal to establish a wool appraisement centre at Townsville? If so, can he say when the centre will be established?
– A committee recently visited Townsville to inquire into this matter, and it has reported to me. The report must be submitted to Cabinet, after which a statement will be made on the subject.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that an appeal was made recently on behalf of the Government to those employing prisoners of war in rural areas to retain them in their employment? Does he know that among members of returned soldiers’ organizations, and among citizens generally, there is widespread indignation at the highly favorable treatment being accorded to prisoners of war? Will he state the Government’s intention regarding the deportation of these people when the war ends, having regard to the fact that hundreds of thousands of servicemen will then be returning to civil life. Is it a fact, as has been claimed in some quarters, that the Government is granting a concession to some aliens in the form of free naturalization? Does the Acting Prime Minister believe that there is any justification for the granting of such a concession, and will he take steps to ensure that the naturalization laws, which have been in force for some years, shall apply to all enemy aliens?
– I have not heard of any instances of generous treatment being accorded to prisoners of war by the Government. Under the international convention covering prisoners of war certain rules are laid down regarding their treatment, and those rules must be applied when dealing with them. I have already replied to a question about the alleged granting of free naturalization to certain aliens. I have no knowledge of anything of the kind being done. It has been made clear that prisoners of war will be repatriated as soon as that can be clone.
Statement by Mb. McClure-Smith
– Is the Minister aware that the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. H. A. McClureSmith, was reported in a Canadian paper, the Oil awa Citizen, of the 24th April, as stating that Australians felt “a little resentful in 1941, when they were in great danger from the Japanese, and Canada did not seem anxious to help. Now resentment is growing again, due to Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s statement that only volunteer forces will be sent io the Pacific theatre” ? Did the Government, permit Mr. McClure-Smith to leave Australia to attend the San Francisco conference, and, if so, was he given an official status to criticize Canada’s war effort? As the reported views of Mr. McClure-Smith are apt to create misunderstanding between Australia and Canada, will the Minister take steps to record Australia’s appreciation of Canada’s splendid war-time achievements in Europe and the Pacific?
– The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question was brought to my attention. Mr. McClureSmith is representing his paper at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, but he has no official position as a representative of this Government. The Australian High Commissioner in Canada took such a serious view of the outrageous and impudent intrusion o.f Mr. McClure-Smith into the affairs of Canada that he caused a letter to be written to the Ottawa Citizen disclaiming any association of the Australian Government with any of the sentiments expressed by Mr. McClure-Smith in the statement referred to. Further, he recorded Australia’s sincere appreciation of the splendid assistance which Canada had given to Australia in the Pacific, as well as to the British Commonwealth of Nations as a whole in Europe.
– In view of the cessation of hostilities in the European zone and the consequent easing of the war situation, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it will be possible to relax the restrictions on the sale of petrol to civilians?
– Earlier in the week, when a similar question was asked, I stated that the chief difficulty in connexion with petrol supplies was a shortage of tankers. I noticed in this morning’s newspapers that the Minister for Supply and Shipping had said that lie was endeavouring to ger. more tankers for the Australian run. I should think that the successful operations in Borneo should have improved the position, but I cannot hold out any hope of an immediate increase of the petrol ration.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen a statement in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph in which Mr. John Storey, a director of the Beaufort Division of the Department of Aircraft Production, is reported to have said on his return from Britain and the United States of America that the Commonwealth Government should make it clear to British and American manufacturers that Australia would welcome the establishment of branches of their industries, and that whole staffs for such factories should be invited io migrate to this country? Will the Government give careful consideration to this excellent suggestion, and are there any difficulties in the way of its implementation ?
– 1 have not seen the newspaper article to which the honorable member has referred, but I thought that it. had been made fairly clear in a recent reply to a question by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), that, in respect of projected new manufacturing industries in this country, first preference would be given to industries to be established with Australian capital and employing Australian labour, including technicians, and that, after that, all possible encouragement would be given to British manufacturers to establish branches in Australia. I also said that we should be glad to give as much help and encouragement as possible to American manufacturers. I. am not aware of any proposal to bring labour to Australia except in respect of technicians. I assure the honorable member that there will be no discouragement of persons who wish to establish new industries in this country.
– On the 7th March, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked what progress had been made in the inquiry which I undertook to make as to the possibility of extending the issue of complimentary copies of Hansard to members of the House. In reply I desire to say that, through the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, I have made inquiries from the Government Printer and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) as to the prospects of increasing the issue. It would appear from the information I have received from the Treasury that the cost of an additional fifteen copies to each member would be £2,000, and the cost of increasing the number from 35 to 75 copies would be £3,200. The Treasurer has indicated that he is prepared to increase the issue to 50 copies when labour and material are available. Unfortunately, the Government Printer has indicated that the labour available at present would not yet allow him to undertake the issue of an additional fifteen copies a member. I shall watch the position carefully and as soon as the Government Printer indicates that he is able to undertake the work, I shall make arrangements to take advantage of the offer of the Treasurer to have the additional copies made available.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922- 1043.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 16th May (vide page 1799), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill “ to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes “. To members of the forces, either serving or discharged, it is personally as important as is the Defence Act under which they were torn from civil life, many of them almost six years ago, because under it they expect to be re-established in that life. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said in moving the second reading - lt is intended to stand along with other special ex-service legislation as the charter of re-establishment of the Australian serviceman and his civilian associates in the war effort.
The service men and women hope that this bill will enable them to fulfil the aspirations and hopes that they had to set aside in order to serve the nation in war. It has been suggested that this Parliament does not possess the power under the Constitution to implement the provisions of the bill relating to employment. I was interested’ to read in the press yesterday that Mr. Fullagar, K.C., had delivered an opinion to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, that the Commonwealth Parliament had the power, under the Constitution. to give limited preference in employment to returned soldiers, as is provided for in this legislation, but had not the power to give preference for an unlimited number of years. I cannot understand why Parliament should not have the power to restore sailors, soldiers and airmen and the women in the various auxiliaries to the civil life from which they were so rudely torn to defend this country. Section 51, vi, of the Constitution gives full power to the Commonwealth Parliament over the defence of this country. That enables it to upset the whole civil life of the community for war purposes. There must be inherent in that power the power to restore to civil life those whom it has removed therefrom. During the referendum campaign last year on the proposed transfer of powers to the Commonwealth, it was argued by some of the greatest legal authorities in this country that there was not the slightest doubt that the Commonwealth Parliament had that power. Therefore, I do not believe that there can be any doubt that it has the power to enforce this legislation on behalf of the soldiers to the utmost. If there is a power of destruction, there must also be a power of reconstruction. There is the additional argument that, unless the Commonwealth did have the power to restore what it had removed and replace what it had displaced, it would be unjust ever again to expect the youth of the country to defend it. I believe that it would be defended again with valour equal to that with which it has been defended this time, hut, if there were anything that would tend to lessen that unselfish valour, it would be the knowledge ofl our men that although the Commonwealth had full power to direct them to war, it had no power to redirect them to civil vocations. However, I do not think there is anything to support the view propounded by the Government in its disastrous referendum campaign last year, when its proposals were overwhelmingly defeated by the people of Australia, that this Parliament had not the fullest power to re-establish its disbanded servicemen in civil life. If there was any doubt about the validity of that power, it was wicked for the Government to link it at the referendum with other powers to which the people of Australia would never agree. But, leaving that aspect, I return to the promise that this is a bill to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that the bill could be regarded as the charter for their re-establishment. What the servicemen are wondering is whether it is really a charter for their re-establishment or whether, the presence of the words, “ and for other purposes “, may not make it a Trojan horse, a Greek gift, the contents of which will destroy their rights as the Greek soldiers within the wooden horse destroyed the Trojans. I intend to show that many of the contents of this bill are deceptive, that they are inimical to the interests of the ex-servicemen, and must be struck out before the bill may be regarded as a charter for their re-establishment. While a war is in progress, nothing is too good for our sailors, soldiers and airmen, but, when the war ends, they are no longer heroes. As the years pass there is a tendency for them to be quickly shelved and forgotten. I wish to speak now to my militaristic friends opposite, particularly that authority on war, that hero, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) who has always taken care in time of war to preserve his disgusting hide from being pierced by bullets. I remind honorable members opposite of the following lines by Rudyard Kipling: -
For it’s Tommy this and Tommy that, an’ “Chuck ‘im out, the brute”;
But it’s “ Saviour of ‘is country “ when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a blooming fool - you bet that Tommy sees.
Honorable members opposite ask what these lines have to do with the matter now before the House. They have a lot to do with this measure, because just as yard Kipling said, “An’ Tommy ain’t a blooming fool - you bet that Tommy sees “ ; so Tommy Cornstalk in the armies of this country to-day, “ ain’t a blooming fool “ and knows what is going on. The 900,000 men and women of Australia who are or have been members of the fighting forces of this country are vitally interested in this bill, and are prepared to see that they shall not have filched from them the rights and privileges which they have earned by virtue of their war service. It is obvious from the interjections of honorable members opposite, particularly the Minister for Information, that they already can hear the tramp of thousands of feet, marching even to this House to make certain that this Parliament shall fulfil its obligations to members of the services. If these men and women are misled by this measure, not only will their voices be heard in protest throughout the land, but also their votes will finish this Government because of its betrayal of the fighting forces.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave a fine exposition of this measure and stated clear reasons why it should apply only to ex-service personnel. I do not propose to cover that ground. I made my views quite clear when speaking on the repatriation legislation passed in the last Parliament. It is clear, however, that servicemen, many of whom have been torn from their civilian occupations, and have devoted five or six of thebest years of their life to the defence of this country, will have benefited little by that service. If one examines this bill carefully, clause by clause, one is struck by two features. The first is that in the drafting of this measure obviously great care has been taken to protect the rights of civilian employers and employees. I refer particularly to clause 52 in Part III. of the measure devoted to vocational training, which states -
Nothing done under this Part shall deprive any employer or employee of any rights under any industrial award, order, determination or agreement, or in accordance with any custom or usage in any profession, occupation, business, trade or industry.
It is all the “ employee “ and the “ employer “ ; Tommy Cornstalk is forgotten. The second striking feature of the bill is that by permitting civilians to share its benefits, it whittles down heartlessly the existing rights of ex-servicemen, thus making preference a hollow mockery and a sham. In the definitions clause of the bill we find that the term “war service” means, inter alia -
In relation to any of the provisions of this act, the continuous full-time service of any person as a member of an organization or part thereof which is declared by proclamation to be an organization in relation to which those provisions apply.
That widens the scope of this bill to an enormous degree. In clause 32, in the preference division of the measure, we find the following provisions : - (1.) Where any person not otherwise entitled to the benefits of this Division considers that, having regard to the service performed by him in relation to the war, he is entitled to receive the benefits of this Division, he may apply to the Central Preference Board for registration. (2.) After the prescribed date any such application shall be made to a Regional Preference Board.
There is no provision in the bill to ensure that members of these boards shall be returned soldiers. They may be civilians who may be entirely hostile to the rights of returned soldiers under this legislation.
The bill also wipes out the rights of returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war. In clause 4 “ the war “ is defined as “ the war which commenced on the third day of September, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine “. Consequently, war service can refer only to that war, thus the rights of returned soldiers of the war of 1914-18 are abrogated. Clause 22 states - (1.) Section one hundred and seventeen of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1943 is repealed.
The next clause provides - (1.) Section seven of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is amended by adding at the end of the definition of “Returned Soldier” the following words: - “, and also includes a discharged member of the Forces within the meaning of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945; “. (2.) Section eleven of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is amended by omitting sub-section (2.).
The same clause provides also for the repeal of sections 83 and 84 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Each of these amendments limits or injures the existing rights of returned soldiers. Many times in this House I have heard the argument for preference to unionists advanced by Government members.
Mr.Calwell. - Hear, hear !
– I am sure that every honorable member opposite would say “ hear, hear “ to that, and would agree that there should be absolute and unlimited preference at all times to members of unions. They claim that the reason why they advance this doctrine is that members of unions, by subscribing to union funds, and, in some cases, by taking part in strikes, obtain better industrial conditions. For example, when travelling allowances and overtime rates payable to members of the parliamentary staff were to be increased a couple of years ago, the Government went so far as to provide that the increases would be payable only to members of unions covering the officers concerned. In defence of that, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that it was quite right that only unionists should have these benefits, because they were the ones who had fought for the rights of trade unionism and so obtained better industrial conditions. Government supporters believe that doctrine and preach it in season and out of season. That preference is not something which is to last for only seven years ; it is to apply for ever. It is to be’ inherent by custom, even though not written into the Constitution of the Commonwealth. The Government was willing to delegate this power, almost of life and death, over- the employment of men and women, to the trade unions, which are practically beyond the control of this Parliament. This monstrous doctrine is the very breath of life to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and his colleagues in the Ministry. If it be right to give absolute preference to men who won better industrial conditions - and that is a moot point - what then should we give to the men of our armed forces, who have been fighting for us for the last six years and who are helping to crush Japan, the greatest menace that Australia has ever known? It seems to be hard for members opposite . to realize that these men fought on our behalf on most of the continents of the world, on, under, and above the seven seas, and in the air over many countries, and that many of them suffered the tortures of the damned in the prisons of our enemies in the East and the West. Have they done nothing for Australia? They have done ten thousand times more for us than have the men of the trade unions, to whom this Government desires to give absolute preference in employment. The Government says that it will not give absolute preference for all time to our fighting men, although they saved Australia from the rape and destruction to which the Nazi forces of Germany and the Fascist forces of Japan subjected other countries. However, there is one lone voice to be heard above the clamour of Government members and their supporters, a birdlike trilling from the highlands of Eden-
Monaro. The honorable member ‘ for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) said -
Our safety is entirely due to the fact that certain of our countrymen placed their bodies between us and the enemy.
He also said -
No effort on the home front is comparable to the effort on the fighting front.
The policy of the Australian Country party is that Australian servicemen are entitled to absolute preference in employment, without any qualification, and that servicemen only should benefit under the provisions of this bill. The Government should not drag in all sorts of people who have never worn the King’s uniform and are never likely to do so. If we extend preference to other than exservice men and women we weaken its strength. Preference to all means preference to none. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) attempted to justify the time limit of seven years on the granting of preference by saying -
After seven years there will be new generations of workers coming along, many of them the sons of servicemen, and these should not be handicapped by old history.
I hope that the servicemen of Australia will examine the honorable gentleman’s speech with meticulous care. It indicates his idea of what they have done- for the nation and the Government’s conception of a just repayment of the debt which we owe to them. The Minister said, “ These new generations should not be handicapped by old history “. I say to him that if old history had not been made by old soldiers there would be no employment in this country for new generations, except such as the German or Japanese masters cared to give to them. But for the courage and determination of our servicemen, Australia would be in a desperate plight indeed. The reward which this Government proposes to give to them for tearing themselves from their civil occupations and offering their lives for the nation is this, “ You will have preference in employment for seven years, but you will share that preference with many thousands of workers who have never fought for the country “. When young men wish to join trade unions there is no suggestion that old members should resign to make way for them. That doctrine has never been accepted by the trade unions. Our soldiers should be given preferential rights to employment as a reward for what they have done for their fellow Australians.
During this debate we have frequently heard interjecting that babbling brook, known as the ‘Minister for Information, like a torrent of dirty water pouring down in flood. He gushes on in an endeavour to make us believe that there is some high principle behind the Government’s proposals. However, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who served in a. famous Scottish regiment in the last war, but in this forgets the men in uniform, had this to say at a meeting of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour party -
The Federal Government’s bill made provision for both returned soldiers and civilians who had served in combat areas. It might be that in the selection of a man for a job a civilian who had served for a long period in a forward area would secure a job in preference to a returned soldier who had served for only a short 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 disruption, is to endorse this bill, Mr. Dedman declared. Mr. Dedman said the history of the preference 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 the House of Representatives, was amending 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, Mr. Dedman said. If the Prime Minister had not made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the last election.
There is no dispute as to the authenticity of that report, and if any proof of its accuracy were needed it would be found in the bill itself. Limited preference to ex-servicemen is provided for in the bill, because the Government fears that, if absolute preference were given, it would be put out of office. At the same meeting the Minister stated -
There was already a preference to returned soldiers act on the Victorian statute. So far as the workers were concerned, it was a rotten act, but it could be overridden by the federal act if the bill now before Parliament was agreed to.
An examination of the bill shows how truly he spoke on that occasion. Clause 4, dealing with the definition of war and war service reads - (/) . . . the continuous full-time service of any person as a member of an organization or part thereof which is declared by proclamation to be an organization in relation to which those provisions apply. t
The bill provides that “ war service “ shall refer only to the war which commenced on the 3rd September, 1939. Clause 24, in Division 2 of the bill, reads -
Under those preference provisions, the Australian servicemen will lose the real and considerable rights which they possess by reason of the preference legislation of the various States, because the Commonwealth law is specifically stated to overrule any law of a State with regard to preference. Honorable members will recall the speech which the late honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, delivered in this House on the 31st March, 1943, during the debate on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. He then pointed out that, without a specific withdrawal of the preference provisions in a State act, the Arbitration Court of that State could not grant preference to unionists over soldiers so long as the State act granting preference to soldiers remained in existence. Similarly, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not grant preference to unionists over soldiers. Under this legislation, however, the gate is left wide open for that to be done. For example in clause 41 (1) “war service” means - (/) in relation to any of the provisions of this Act, the continuous full time service of any person as a member of an organization or part thereof which is declared by proclamation to bc mi organization in relation to which those provisions apply.
This relates to every division of the bill, consequently it must relate to the preference division. The expression “war service “ may apply under the act to an organization such as the Federated Ironworkers Union, and thus embrace all the members of that union. Under clause 32, any person to whom the provisions of the measure do not apply otherwise may, if he considers that his services in relation to the war entitle him to the benefits of preference, make application to a Preference Board, and obtain all the benefits in connexion with preference in employment which the serviceman believes are being retained for him. Is there anything to prevent the secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Union, Mr. Thornton, an avowed Communist, to whom the Government is always most attentive, from appearing before the Preference Board with a complete list of the members of his union, and asking that they be given entitlement to the description of having rendered “ war service “ under the act, by means of a ministerial proclamation under the provisions of clause 4? It is quite possible that a subservient board would make a block registration of such members under the provisions of clause 32. This happy position could be reached. That very well known Labourite who is not “ the darling of the gods “, but the darling of this Government - Mrs. Jessie Street - a very well known socialite in Sydney, as a member of the Federated Ironworkers Union, might have equal rights to preference in employment with a soldier who had served ;n the Middle East, over the Kokoda trail, through the green hells of New Guinea, and on to Tarakan. It is wicked to mislead sailors, soldiers and airmen, by stating that, in the guise of preference, they are being given an advantage which, in fact, could bp given to a woman like Mrs. Jessie Street, whose hands are not calloused by work at the wash-tub, but who is a fre- quenter of the social clubs of Sydney. Iii the old days, the members of the Labour party were renowned as the wearers of bowyangs on their trousers. They have now discarded the bowyangs, and! frequent the boudoirs of Sydney and Melbourne. The address of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is a number in Collins-street. One shrewdly suspects that it is Collins House, which is the habitat of a band of gentlemen who are closely allied with members of the Ministry, and make frequent contact with them. Under the provisions of this measure, a returned soldier who is not a member of a union will lose all his preference rights, because he will be on an equality with the members of a union. Evidently, these provisions havebeen designed to overcome the existingposition, which was put so clearly by the late Mr. Blackburn, namely, that preference could not be withheld from a soldier when it was granted’ to the membersof a union, because he did not happen to be a member of the union. One canvisualize the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, at a conference not attended by press reporters, saying totrade union leaders: “Don’t take any objection te this bill. It means nothing, and in fact will place your members in* a better position’ than they hold to-day,, because it abrogates the rights which soldiers how have”.
Let us now consider the provisions in relation to reinstatement in employment. Clause 12 provides that any person whohas completed a period of war servicemay apply to his former employer for reinstatement in employment. Under the definition of “war service” in clause 4, a person who has been employed inan industry proclaimed to have beenengaged in war service, which he mayhave left of his own free will during the war in order to better himself, will have equal rights with the soldier who has had six years’ war service, to employment in his previous occupation. For the purpose of reinstating men in employment, there are to be reinstatement committees. The bill does not provide that either a reinstatement committee or, in fact, any other committee constituted under this legislation, shall be composed either wholly or in part of ex-servicemen, of this war or the last war. [n view of the deceitful manner in which this legislation has been drafted, there will he very little chance indeed of any ex-serviceman obtaining appointment to any of those committees.
I come now to the extraordinary provisions to which the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred at some length last night, relating to demobilization. I remind honorable members of how lightly and airily, as the honorable member for Warringah ‘pointed out, this very important matter of demobilization has been dismissed. It is provided for in one clause, with three sub-clauses, which say that regulations of all sorts may be made for the demobilization of members of the services in various categories. I have no doubt that later the brain trust “ which controls the Government will be put to work, and gentlemen like the Minister for Information will determine theoretical categories in which service personnel may be demobilized. In 1918, I saw the armies in Europe demobilizing themselves after the last great war. I do not believe it is possible to lay down absolute rules in relation to demobilization. All that I would say to the Government is, by all means try to make theoretical rules, but he prepared also for mass demobilization by the troops themselves, because “ the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley”. The practical policy is to be ready for the rush that is bound to start when the members of the services desire to return to their homes and meet their wives and children, whom they have not seen for many years. That will be the spirit of these men. They will not desire to be kept employed on garrison duty in the islands for many months. Sub-clause 2 of clause 135 states -
During the war, the regulations may provide for the repeal or amendment of, or the addition to, any of the provisions of this act.
That means that during the Avar any provision of the act, or the whole of it, may be amended or repealed by regulation, without the matter being referred to this Parliament. That is a very dangerous power, and it should be deleted. The clause drives the final nail into the coffin of the sincerity of the Government to wards soldiers. Throughout my life I have advised servicemen that they should not, on any account, allow themselves to become entangled with a political party, or lend their support to any one party. The great strength of the servicemen’s organizations lies in the fact that they are non-political, but that does not prevent them from taking such political action with regard to members of this Parliament as will make the Government realize that they mean business in asking that justice be done to them under this bill. Despite caucus decisions and pledges to outside bodies, the Government should not forget that the 900,000 service men and women in Australia, and their relatives, are potentially strong politically. If the Government will not give justice to them, and agree to the amendments which the service organizations demand, I hope that the members of those bodies will band themselves into a force in the Commonwealth, and throw the Government out on its neck. Their only way to get justice is to take political action and see that any Government is destroyed which refuses them equity and common justice.
Never in my political life have I read such a hypocritical measure as this bill, which has been described by the Minister as a charter of the rights of ex-service personnel to re-establishment in civil life. Admittedly the hill provides for small advantages which are to be whittled down, but it leaves a large gap which could be opened at any time by a ministerial proclamation, thus allowing any small benefits which the bill contains to be conferred on thousands of others who have never fought for their country, and have done little to prevent the people of Australia from being raided, raped and ruined, as has happened to the people of any countries invaded by the Japanese.
.- I regret that the Opposition did not take the advice given by its Leader (Mr. Menzies) and. consider this measure from a non-party point of view, in order that the Parliament might make it as effective as possible for the purpose of protecting the interests of exservice personnel. I should not have spoken on the second reading of the bill but for the fact that the debate has developed into a party political one, as the result of the tactics of the Opposition. Many of the statements that have been made .by honorable members opposite are misleading and incorrect. In the short speech delivered last night by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), he dealt principally with war Service homes. Those of us who have been in this chamber for a considerable number of years are aware of the efforts made from time to time to induce former governments to have justice done to returned servicemen. We well know that the statements by honorable members of the Opposition do not accord with the facts. Honorable members opposite seem to imagine that the people have forgotten that for twenty years prior to the present Labour Government’s advent to office the Opposition parties were in power. They were responsible for the introduction of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but they allowed it to remain on the statute-book without correcting the many anomalies which were discovered during their periods of office. Consequently a large number of the men who fought in the last war and returned to Australia did not get a satisfactory deal under that measure when members of the Opposition were in power. The honorable member for Richmond quoted passages from the annual report of the War Service Homes Commission, but such a report does not disclose all relevant facts. Even if it did, the honorable member would probably not have admitted them in his speech.
A meeting has taken place in my electorate of nearly 200 men who have purchased war service homes, and the Minister in charge of War Service Homes has agreed to meet them a few weeks hence and discuss their grievances. If the honorable member for Richmond, or any other honorable member opposite, is not fully aware of the conditions under which the purchasers are labouring, he will be free to attend the deputation which will wait on the Minister. I do not blame the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) for the present unsatisfactory position with regard to war service homes. The original scheme was introduced by the Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). About £30,000,000 “ was borrowed in London in order to establish the War Service Homes Commission. The rate of interest in London at that time was, I believe, 5 or 6 per cent. The men went back to their civil avocations after the war, and, through no fault of their own, a large number of them who had been hit badly by the depression fell into arrears with their payments. At present many of them have paid in rent and interest sums exceeding the original capital value of their homes. I shall suggest to the Minister a few weeks later that their case should be investigated with a view to granting them some redress. I know that many returned soldiers have completed their payments on homes, but they are the more fortunate ones. Most of those who have failed to meet their full commitments were unskilled workers, and during the depression they got behind with their payments. I have been making representations to the Minister for Repatriation with a view to having adjustments made in their favour. Men who took up land under the soldiers’ settlement scheme have, in all States, had their purchases reviewed, and adjustments have been made. I can see no reason why the Government should not also review home purchases with a view to making adjustments.
After the last war, a measure of preference was granted to returned soldiers in the matter of employment, and in many instances it operated harshly against the families of returned men themselves. I know of cases in which the ex-soldier, although unable to go to work because of a war disability, had to watch members of his family refused employment because they were not returned soldiers, having been too young to go to the war. The same thing will happen after this war. As a matter of fact, I am not very keen about preference to returned soldiers, although I shall support the provision in this bill granting preference for seven years. I have here a letter from the father of a family, of which two boys have been serving in the front line for several years. This is what he says -
Now that soldiers’ preference is about to be discussed seriously, may 1 be permitted, as one of your constituents, to make one or two suggestions. I have two sons aged 23 years and 2] years respectively serving with the Australian Imperial Force in forward ureas for a period of four years. I also have two aged sixteen years and fourteen years respectively, just about to complete their school education. Whilst the boys who have sacrificed so much of their youthful lives in the cause of the nation, as soldiers, ure entitled to considerable recompense, 1 am not at all favorable to preference to the extent that it inflicts injustices upon the younger generation. I have canvassed the opinion of both my Australian Imperial Force sons and they state definitely they have no desire to bc placed in a favorable position, for all time, at the expense of their younger brothers. Had the younger boys been of age their services would have been available to the country, as were the older boys. The returned man from combat areas is entitled to every caro and consideration in health, employment, technical training, full artisan’s wages during period of training, a less rigid standard in vocational training, but let us not be a party to condemning the present-day schoolboy to n life of unemployment, hardship and despair, simply because we find him guilty of being too young to participate as a soldier in the present war. As the father of seven young Australians I sincerely appeal to you to do everything in your power to prevent legislation that will tend to divide the people of Australia.
Those are the sentiments of a man who, has reared a family of seven children, and has two hoys serving at the front. Some honorable members have tried to make party capital out of this bill; that is a despicable thing to do. It should be the aim of all of us to see that the men who return from the war are given a fair deal. We should co-operate to pass the best possible legislation so as to ensure that the sacrifices of our servicemen shall not have been in vain. I hope that the passage of this hill through Parliament will not be delayed, because it contains many provisions which will confer great benefits upon ex-servicemen. The bill represents ti conscientious effort to provide for exservicemen the best that Australia can give to them.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) 1 4.7]. - When he was introducing this bill, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that it was destined to become the ex-serviceman’s charter of re-establishment. Equally extravagant claims have been made by other speakers on the Government side. However, there is ample evidence thai the servicemen themselves, or those who represent them, do not regard the charter with any particular enthusiasm, nor is this to be wondered at, when we remember the genesis of the measure.
The bill purports to redeem an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in this chamber two years ago, when the Repatriation Bill was under consideration. Honorable members will recall that an amendment was moved from this side to provide for the granting of preference to ex-servicemen, such provision having been omitted from the bill. In pleading with the Opposition to withdraw that amendment, the Prime Minister, for the first time, publicly associated himself with the policy of preference to returned soldiers, and gave an undertaking to the country that at an early date a comprehensive bill endorsing that principle would be introduced. Two years have passed since that eventful evening, and now we have before us a measure which, I am sorry to say, does not redeem the promise given by the Prime Minister on the occasion referred to. That promise contained no reference whatever to such limitations as are embodied in the bill. Recently, we had the sorry spectacle of a Minister of the Crown attempting to justify the Prime Minister’s promise by telling the Victorian Labour Executive that the Government would have been defeated had not the promise been made. It is clear that the principle of preference to service personnel has been included in the bill, not because the Government believes in it, but because of political expediency. On the evening to which I have referred, I well remember that some members, including one on whom this House has since conferred a high distinction, publicly stated that the Prime Minister would not be allowed to implement his promise, because it was in opposition to the platform of the Labour party - I refer to Mr. Speaker. Several times during the course of this debate the constitutionality of this legislation has been questioned. It has also been raised officially by outside Labour organizations which propose to spend their good money in securing the opinion of counsel. That decision does not astonish me, because I recall that noi many months ago, legal members on the
Government benches told the people of Australia, that unless an affirmative vote were recorded on certain issues then being submitted to the people, it would be impossible for the Prime Minister to redeem his promise in respect of preference to servicemen. Apparently, the Government has sought other legal advice since then, and now is of the opinion that such action would not be unconstitutional. I ask the people of Australia to note the change of attitude on the part of the Government. Other persons, who do not question the constitutionality of this action, raised doubts as to the necessity for it. Among them are some Ministers who have said that it is unnecessary to .provide for preference in employment to returned service personnel because the policy of the Government will lead to full employment for every one. If that should be the result of the policy of the Government, no harm can be done by providing for preference to members of the forces. Moreover, if that contention be true, why is it necessary for certain State administrations to continue to legislate for preference to unionists, which is the real policy of every Labour administration. I am not the first to say that full employment for every one as a physical objective is practically impossible. It certainly is not practicable, unless we contemplate retaining in their entirety the present man-power regulations and all the regimentation associated with them. Only a few days ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) told a Labour conference in Melbourne that as soon as hostilities ceased the Government would revoke all the regulations providing for the conscription of manpower for industrial purposes. He went on to say that the Government would not even avail itself of the six months’ grace which the present law allows. But even supposing that it was the intention of the Government to retain the man-power regulations, how could we expect a Government, which cannot secure obedience to its directions in war-time, even when issued over the name of the Prime Minister, to secure compliance with its directions when the peril which now faces the country has passed? In dealing with this matter there are considerations which :no government can overcome, and others which no government should overlook. Geographical considerations enter into any discussion of full employment, as do also seasonal conditions which control sowing and harvesting, and the processing and preserving of foodstuffs. Many other considerations also play a part in providing full employment for all sections of’ the community. It is no secret that the policy of the Labour party is preference to unionists rather than preference to service personnel.
– Has the honorable member any idea of the number of unionists in the fighting forces ?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.There are numbers of them, but I do not know what they think of some persons who are not fighting with them. We know that the Prime Minister was compelled by unionists to dilute the fulfilment of his promise. That is the reason why this bill does not give unqualified preference to servicemen. His promise has been modified, and now the Government proposes’ that preference shall continue for only seven years. Moreover, it will be subject to State industrial laws, and the preference is to be extended to include civilians who have not been combatants.
I regret that all matters associated with the rehabilitation of returned service personnel have not been placed under one administration. This bill is to be administered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but also the War Service Homes Commission, the Department of Social Services, and . the Repatriation Commission, all with their appropriate Ministers, will play a part in the rehabilitation ofl ex-servicemen. It would be much better if all those activities were gathered in the one department under the one Minister. Much of the material in this bill is, of course, as the Minister himself would admit, not new, being already the subject of Commonwealth statutes or regulations. The obligation of employers to re-employ men whose employment has been disturbed in order to meet national demands is provided for in a regulation. So are vocational training and apprenticeship. The provision of war service homes and the settlement of returned soldiers on the land are covered by a statute. Already they have a history of administrative practice. One wonders, therefore, whether some of the things that will he lost by the returned soldiers because of the operation of this measure will be sufficiently offset by the few new concessions provided. Some of the provisions of this measure I intend to make specific reference in the hope that the Minister will respond with appropriate action. One of the objections raised against this bill by representatives of the returned soldiers is that it includes categories of people whom they consider should not be included. Neither they nor we believe that some of them should not be entitled to special consideration because of the disturbance of their lives by national obligations, but they should be dealt with under other legislation and by another department. Under this bill an alien, who, in the interest of security, was interned and later released, would obtain benefits at the expense of Australians. I illustrate what I mean by the fact that an alien may have been conscripted from his job to serve in the Labour Corps. An Australian may have left the same employer at a later date to enlist in one of the fighting services. It may be that the alien will be reinstated first under the preference provisions which require that persons entitled to re-employment shall be reinstated according to the date on which they left their civil employment. We object, also, on behalf of the returned soldiers to the dragnet provisions that give the Executive the right to proclaim any section of employees as coming within the categories provided for by this measure, because it would be possible for it to proclaim that the coal-miners hadbeen engaged on war service and were therefore entitled to be brought within the ambit of the legislation. I direct the attention of the Minister to clause 27 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. . . .
It has been said, in the course of the debate, that that means that a returned soldier already in employment would not be able to claim promotion over any other individual. There may be some justification for that, because unbridled right to promotion could be carried to illogical lengths and cause chaos, but I wonder whether the words do not have a much wider application and mean that the” only jobs available for returned soldiers on demobilization shall be those which are vacant and that they shall have no claim to displace men already in employment. I should like enlightenment from the Minister on that point when he makes his speech in reply.
One of the benefits that this bill purports to give to returned soldiers is the provision of housing. It helps to make an attractive picture of what the Government intends to do. I think, however, that the returned soldiers are more likely to judge the Government on its performances rather than on its promises in this measure. What worth will the returned soldiers place on the promise to provide houses when they realize that in the last budget, which provided for the expenditure of between £600,000,000 and £700,000,000, only the miserable sum of £200,000 was provided for war service homes? The lack of housing, of course, is a most serious matter, particularly to the young men who married on the eve of their departure for war and whose wives, pending their return, have lived with relatives or found board and lodging; now these young couples aspire to make homes, and they have the right to the utmost consideration. Their needs should not be deferred until all other civil requirements have been met. Incidentally, in this connexion, I hold in my hand a letter sent by a delegate of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to an ex-serviceman in my electorate who had been bold enough to express a wish to enter business, and had sought permission to build a lock-up shop of a modest type. He was refused permission to do that, and the tenor of the letter which he received from the delegate of the Minister left no room for doubt. It reads -
Your application has been carefully reconsidered and thoroughly investigated, but permission to erect the lock-up shop cannot be granted at the present time. This is definitely final.
There is no ambiguity about that. I suggest that returned soldiers would be more impressed by the Government’s assurances of its interest in their welfare if something were done to allow such men to rehabilitate themselves in this easy way, instead of leaving their fate, and “that of other ex-servicemen, to the rosy promises of this legislation.
I shall say a few words now about the imposition of a seven years’ limit upon the preference clauses of this measure, which purport to fulfil the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Clause 33 states -
Sections twenty-four and thirty-two (inclusive of this Act shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war.
In his second-reading speech upon this measure the Minister said that the reason why the limitation of seven years was inserted was that the Government did not want to handicap non-service individuals by remembering old history. There has been a good deal of complaint - much of it from honorable members opposite - that the returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war were forgotten 25 years after the hostilities finished ; but here is a definite legislative enactment which provides that we shall forget the old history of this war seven years after its termination. I am sure that some honorable members apposite are not very happy about this provision, because they have advanced diversified’ explanations and justifications of it. The honorable and gallant member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) told us that the seven years’ limitation might be in the interests of the nation. He did not say that it would be; he merely said that it “might” be. If that is so, then why not six years, or five years? Who was able to fix with mathematical accuracy the period for which preference should apply? The learned member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) said yesterday that the reason for the imposition of the limitation was to make constitutional a measure which otherwise would be unconstitutional. However, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) justified the limitation on entirely different grounds. I suggest that it would be very helpful to members of this House and less confusing to the soldiers and the community at large if we could hear a consistent story from Government spokesmen.
The bill makes provision for certain aspects of vocational training and, of course, no one will object to that. It is most desirable that soldiers who left civilian jobs in which skill was not required should be given the opportunity, which has been available to many of those who did not go. to the front, of improving their skill and aptitude as artisans. To that, I have no objection. I commend the principle; but what will be the value of providing vocational training for these men if the czars and dictators of the various trade unions are not prepared to accept these men as members of those organizations? The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) may smile, but our memories are not short. We remember the undertakings entered into with the unions when the training of dilutees was under discussion early in the war The unions made it very clear that, whilst they were prepared to make some concessions during the war, those concessions had to end with the cessation of hostilities. I repeat then, what good purpose can be served by training ex-servicemen, and improving their technique, if they are to be outlawed- by the unions and therefore debarred from obtaining employment?
The preference provisions of the bill not only create new legislation, :but also repeal some very important existing legislation. Not very much has been said about this aspect of the measure, but I think it would’ be wise for us to examine the legislation which this bill proposes to terminate. The sections of the Commonwealth Public Service Act which this measure proposed to be repealed include section 84, which states - (I.) In the making of appointments to the Commonwealth Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the Board shall give preference to returned soldiers. (2.) In making any appointments under section thirty-eight, thirty-nine, or fortyseven of this Act preference shall, subject to competency, be given to returned soldiers.
That is all to end, and for seven years only will returned soldiers enjoy the measure of preference in the Public Service which they now possess in perpetuity. Section 84 also states - (3.) In notifying any proposed examination for admission to the Commonwealth
Service, the Board may specify that any particular examination shall be restricted to returned soldiers.
This bill repeals that provision, and no longer will the Public (Service Board be able to restrict examinations to returned soldiers. I should like my friend, the honorable member for Bourke, to say whether he approves of that repeal. Sub-section 9 of section 84 of the Public Service Act is also to be repealed. That is another long provision dealing with preferential treatment of returned soldiers in Commonwealth employment. Section 104 of the same statute is to be repealed. It states -
Returned soldiers shall, in respect to consideration of qualifications and claims for appointment, have priority over all other applicants.
Is my friend laughing at that?
– Then I hope that the returned soldiers in his electorate learn about it. The honorable gentleman will laugh on the other side of his face then. I again urge the Government to eliminate all reference to civilians in this bill, which has been described to the people as a measure for the rehabilitation of servicemen, and to amend the measure to provide that the task of replacing servicemen in civil occupations shall be administered by one department and one Minister.
.- I support this billbecause I am a supporter of the Government. I shall explain my attitude to the measure by candidly repeating what I said in an early speech in this House, namely, that I am totally opposed to preference to returned soldiers. This is not because I do not want to help returned soldiers but because, as I have said before, the Repatriation Commission and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal served to prevent ex-servicemen from obtaining justice rather than to help them. The majority of returned soldiers are not particularly anxious to be given preference in employment. Admittedly, one vociferous section demands preference, but that section does not support the Australian Labour party and is not truly representative. Nearly all returned soldiers are workers and unionists. Large numbers of them have written to me in my capacity as an official of long standing in a ‘big union. Many members of this union fought in the last war and in this war, and they tell me that they do not want to be given preference over anybody else on account of their war service. All they ask is to be allowed to work in jobs to which they are suited. I want them to achieve their aim. I appreciate to the full what our fighting men have done for us,but I also appreciate what thousands of Australians in civilian jobs have done for us. Many of these workers wrote to members of this House asking for help in obtaining release from their civil occupations in order to enlist in the armed services. They were prevented from enlisting by an anti-Labour government, which decided, quite rightly, that certain industries were essential to the war effort and that employees in those industries should not he released to engage in war service. Nobody should be given preference in employment over these men, and dinkum soldiers do not ask for such preference. They ask only to be provided with work, and if they cannot obtain employment they should not be forced to go before such a body as the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal to plead for a miserable pension. The record of that body is most unsatisfactory. I know that many men who enlisted during the last war were physically unfit when they were accepted for service. Many of them went overseas and were sent back soon afterwards, perhaps after seeing some combat service, and were discharged. They should be granted a pension which would enable them to live in reasonable comfort and security. They served voluntarily, and they deserve some compensation for the effort that they made for their country. Many ex-servicemen contested the State elections in Queensland recently, but not one of them said that he was in favour of preference to returned soldiers. They want jobs for everybody, and there should be jobs for everybody in Australia when the war is over, not because of the destruction wrought by war, but because new machinery and plant will be needed to replace worn-out equipment which has not been manufactured during the war period. As ;m example of what will be needed, I refer to our railways systems. An enormous amount of work will have to be done after the war to produce new rolling stock ;ind to recondition stock which has become unserviceable. Anybody who had suggested prior to the war that the railways of Australia would be capable of doing the vast amount of work that they have done would have been regarded as a lunatic by any experienced railways officer. Nevertheless, an enormous volume of work was done and this necessitated the working of long hours by employees. It has been suggested that civilian workers, such as these railways employees, did not experience the dangers to which servicemen were subjected. I appreciate that, but I remind the House that a number of civilians served in danger areas. Many wharf labourers and merchant seamen were killed on the ships and wharfs at Darwin. Excuses have been made for not compensating such men for the dangers which they experienced. They have received nothing iri return for their sacrifices. Any civilian worker who has worked in an operational zone - and the war was very close to the shores of Australia at one time-is entitled to any benefits which may be granted to returned soldiers. A lot of humbug was talked about preference to returned soldiers after the last war. Preference was granted to ex-servicemen by the Commonwealth and the States, but not by those great patriots, the private employers. They did not give preference if they could avoid doing so. I have had many protests from officials of the Cairns Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia against the fact that foreigners were employed on the sugarcane farms, while returned soldiers were unemployed.- The allegedly patriotic employers were not prepared to employ ex-servicemen because they said that returned soldiers were not physically fit for the work required. Most of the servicemen were also precluded from obtaining pensions because they were discharged from the armed services in a medically fit condition. I recall Sir Neville Howse stating in this chamber that the soldiers would not feel the full effects of their war service for ten or fifteen years. Many soldiers who fought in the last war were discharged as medically fit but later developed tuberculosis or some other ailment which they could not have contracted in the course of their employment. They were refused pensions, and some of them died of the diseases which they contracted overseas, but which did not become apparent until long afterwards. Whatever consideration our governments may have given, private employers did very little to help returned soldiers. They invariably excused themselves by saying that returned servicemen were not physically fit-
I am glad that the Government proposes to expend a great deal of money on the education of servicemen. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that we should train our young fighting men in trades or professions in order to fit them for their return to civil life. It will be a reward that they richly deserve. I do not care how much this training may cost; if I have to continue to bear a heavy burden of taxation for that purpose I shall be happy to do so. Unfortunately, when young men don the King’s uniform they are treated as great men, but when they return to civil life they are allowed to hump their swags and employers will not give them jobs because they are not physically fit. Our preference laws have never done any good for returned soldiers and the majority of our servicemen do not want preference in employment; they want jobs. The question is, are they to get the jobs? Are we going back to the old system under which a proportion of our population was always unemployed? Already we have had hints, not so much in this country as in others, that it will be difficult after the war to find employment for all the men returning to civil life. At least, let us ensure that our ex-servicemen shall be cared for properly by the Commonwealth, no matter what the cost, and enabled to fit themselves once more to enter civil life, whether in the professions or in industry.
Much has been said about preference to unionists. I know that there are. weaknesses in the principle of preference to unionists, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. One disadvantage is that it necessarily weakens an organization when you compel men to join it, but at least the system of preference to unionists protects a man against himself, and ensures that he shall pay something for the benefits which he derives from Arbitration Court awards and agreements between organized labour and employers. I am sure that preference to unionists would he supported by the soldiers, just as they opposed conscription in the last war. Most of them are, in fact, unionists themselves. Every day officials of labour organizations are receiving shoals of letters from soldiers asking them to retain at least the conditions which existed when they went away. There is no real analogy between preference to unionists and preference to soldiers. Preference to unionists is a reality; preference to soldiers has never been anything but a mockery and a sham. I know that it is good policy for honorable members opposite to say that those on this side of the House believe in preference to unionists. Of course they do; I do not think that there is any member of the Labour party who does not. If there is such a person, he does not understand the Labour movement. Preference to unionists has been a fact for a long time, but it cannot be enforced by awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, or by enactments of this Parliament. Sir John Latham, now Chief Justice of the High Court, said, when he was AttorneyGeneral, that preference to unionists could not be provided by statutory enactment of this Parliament, or by a declaration of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Thus, it is absurd to suggest that we can ensure general preference. It cannot be done under the Constitution. If an employer believes in the principle of preference to returned soldiers we will apply it, but the employers in the district I come from did not believe in it, and certainly did not apply it. In every instance, the man who could shear the most sheep or cut the most cane was given preference over the returned soldier, simply because he could make more profit for the boss, and the returned soldier could go to hell. There was no real preference to soldiers in the past. Governments’, generally, did give preference, but private employers, who had the bulk of employment to offer, did not do so, nor will they do so in future unless they are compelled by law. Neither would they employ unionists if they were not compelled to do so, as they are compelled by law in Queensland. There is only one House in the Queensland Parliament, I am happy to say, and that Parliament was able to pass the law providing preference for unionists. When there is only one House, Parliament can reflect the will of the people, and so the Labour party has been in office in Queensland for a great many years. When the people are tired of a government they can turn it out, as they turned the Labour party out for a brief period in 1929. After three years, they voted it back into office, and I believe that 50 years will elapse before there is a change. It was suggested, when the Upper House was abolished in Queensland, that the Labour party would go berserk, and would ruin the State. So far from that being the case, Queensland has the lowest cost of living, the highest basic wage and the best living conditions for the workers that are to be found in any State in Australia. That is what has been achieved by a Parliament which has got rid of the so-called brake on ill-considered legislation represented by a second chamber.
I maintain that we cannot do too much for those who have been fighting in the defence of Australia. Those taxpayers who are agitating for a reduction of taxes should remember that money has to be found with which to pay service pensions, and to repatriate servicemen. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) spoke of the need for more university training. He said that education was not an individual matter, and I agree with him. It is a sorry thing that, in the past, higher education was not available to the sons and daughters of working people because they could not afford to pay the fees. Every brilliant child, whether his parents be rich or poor, should enjoy full educational opportunities. Every such child is an asset to this country. The fact that so many Australian men and women who have graduated from our universities have been able to fill good positions overseas is a tribute to the work done by our universities. The opportunities thus provided should be made available to every one capable of benefiting from them. I do not think that the Government will be parsimonious when it comes to providing opportunities for the education of young men who enlisted in the services when they were under the age of eighteen years. We know that many well-grown lads under that age did, in fact, join the Army. I heard of one such boy who met in Greece his father, who was also a member of the Australian Imperial Force. The father exclaimed, “Good God, I didn’t even know you were in the Army. You were only sixteen when I left “. That was a brave boy, and in his own interests, and in those of Australia, every opportunity should be afforded him to develop himself. I do not want the servicemen to be given preference over those who could not go to the war, but I want them to be given equal opportunity, and to be ensured full-time employment. I realize that, with the wider introduction of machinery, it may be difficult to find jobs for all’ returning servicemen. This danger will exist until we produce for use rather than for profit. Speaking as long ago as 1899, Sir Samuel Griffith said that the problem for statesmen in the future was not to obtain greater production of wealth, but to ensure its more equal distribution. The problem is how to feed the people, how to care for them, and to this end it is necessary to realize that they are human beings, entitled to the things which human beings need. I nin in favour of the introduction of machinery in industry, but its introduction should be accompanied by a reduction of the number of working hours so that the workers may be assured of employment, and there should be a guaranteed wage so that people might live - in the words of Mr. Justice Higgins - in decent comfort as human beings.
It is on record in Hansard that I have never been in favour of preference to returned soldiers, and I am convinced that the majority of the soldiers themselves are not in favour of it, either. I can appreciate their desire to have legislation passed providing for preference because they fear there will be a shortage of jobs after the war, and it is only human nature for them to wish that they themselves will be provided for. I believe, however, that the Government should see that all have jobs doing those things which should have been done years ago, but which were not done because, it was said, there was no money. How much money have we spent in this war, and how much was spent during the last one ? Nevertheless, when it is proposed to spend £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 on some really useful project, we are told that the money cannot be found. During the regime of the Stevens Government in New South Wales, it was proposed to embark upon a housing scheme at a cost of £2,000,000, but not a single house was built because, it was said, there was no money; yet all the time the men and materials were there in the State with which to build the houses. Why, then, could they not be built?
Years ago, wise men in Australia decided that the railway gauges of Australia should be standardized. The work could have been done at that time for about £16,000,000, but it is now stated that the cost will be about £40,000,000. At the time when the proposal was first put forward there was no scarcity of either labour or money, and it is regrettable that the work was not undertaken when it could have been carried out at a reasonable cost. We should determine to execute public works which are essential to the advancement of this country. The necessity for the building of more homes for the people has long been talked about in this Parliament, but, irrespective of the party in power, the argument always advanced was that no money was available for the purpose. Yet houses are a real asset to the community, whether the occupants rent them or are assisted to purchase them on the instalment plan. By encouraging people to .become householders we shall produce better Australians, and the houses will be of real value to the Commonwealth. In New South Wales there is plenty of wealth, and a great deal of work needs to be done; but during the depression, when many people were living on the dole, 2,000 girls assembled at the Sydney Trades Hall on one occasion in search of employment, and no jobs were available for them. It is not true that money cannot be found for the provision of the necessary homes for the people. This work should have been put in hand a long time ago. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) recalled that, when a procession of unemployed persons, including men who served in the last war, halted in front of the steps of this Parliament. and asked to be provided with homes, the government of the day said that the houses required by them could not be built because it had no money for that purpose. Such a tragic position should never be allowed to arise again, and I am sure that the people will not believe that funds cannot be made available for the building of homes, when hundreds of millions can be provided for war purposes.
The problem of the care of servicemen is one not for the Government, but for this Parliament. The people generally would not object to the imposition of taxes for the purpose of making proper provision for the men who have fought for their country. Some private employers will not grant preference in employment to returned servicemen unless they are legally bound to do so. After the last war, certain employers in the Cairns district gave work to foreigners in preference to Australians who were ex-servicemen, on the plea that the latter were not physically capable of doing the jobs required of them. Many of them were not physically strong, because they had suffered severely as a result of war service, but as they were not regarded as entitled to a war pension they had to walk the roads looking for jobs. Those who criticize returned soldiers should be made to spend three months with them in the jungles of New Guinea. I am sure that they would then readily admit that any taxes necessary to make adequate provision for the rehabilitation in civil life of ex-servicemen should be gladly borne. Some members of this House and some people outside it claim that the proposed preference to ex-service personnel should not be limited to seven years. Many young men will be ready to enter Industry in less than seven years, and surely they should not be deprived of the opportunity by the operation of preference to soldiers. No matter what this Parliament does in the interests of exservicemen, it will not have compensated them fully for the sacrifices which they have made in the interests of their country. [Quorum formed.’]
– I am sure that every member of this House regards the bill as one of the most important which we have been called upon to consider. The measure is a comprehensive one, and it has been effectively discussed from various aspects. In his valuable analysis of the bill, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), showed that he had given a great deal of thought to it. He discussed it from the serviceman’s point of view. He pointed out various defects, and emphasized the responsibility of this Parliament to give full consideration to the needs of servicemen. We are indebted to the honorable member for his contribution to the debate. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, the matters with which we are dealing should be considered apart from party politics. The measure is so important that it transcends party political considerations, and the members of the party which I have the honour to lead will present their views with that fact in mind. We regard the re-establishment in civil life of servicemen as a matter which this Parliament should approach on a national basis, for out debt to them is truly a national one. From that angle and in that spirit I approach the consideration of the bill. I trust that the Minister in charge of the measure (Mr. Dedman) will not pursue the policy, which the Government has rigidly adhered to during the present session, of refusing to accept amendments submitted by members of the Opposition. I hope that the Minister, and the Government as a whole, will recognize that Opposition members are entitled to have their views considered. The bill is not perfect; therefore, the observations, suggestions and amendments which emanate’ from this side of the House must be thoroughly weighed, in order that the legislation may be made as nearly perfect as possible. We have an obligation to discharge to the members of the fighting forces. The Government should demonstrate a willingness to accept amendments which are designed solely to give to those concerned the most effective security in the postwar years. In common with my colleagues, I realize that the task of reestablishing service men and women in civil life is not only of the greatest magnitude, but also of extreme complexity. Consequently, it would be to the advantage of the Government to give conscientious consideration to, and to weigh thoroughly, the constructive amendments which later we shall move. Australia is confronted to-day with the enormous task of harnessing the resources of the nation for post-war purposes, including the rehabilitation and re-establishment of those who have made it possible for us to maintain our freedom. The magnitude of this task will be little, if any, less than that which had to be faced when the resources of the nation had to be harnessed for war purposes. The Government should not permit any factor to militate in any way against the effective re-esta’blishment of those who have served this country so honorably and well that to-day our title deeds are intact, and we are still a free democracy with a constitutional form of government.
A perusal of this legislation makes it abundantly clear that the Government’s conception of its duty to service men and women falls far short of what the country owes to them. This is not surprising, when we recall the traditional antagonism of the Labour party to soldier preference. Apparently, political necessity has forced on the Government a change of heart. Nevertheless, the limited preference which it proposes to grant furnishes clear-cut evidence that it is not really sincere in its efforts to help service personnel to return to civil life expeditiously and with adequate protection. The Australian Country party, on the other hand, is pledged, to a policy of unqualified preference in the reestablishment in civil life of men and women of the fighting services. Its proposals include a just repatriation scheme of pensions and benefits for service men and women and their dependants, as well as for members of the mercantile marine, and civilians who have been injured by reason of war operations. The members of my party consider that no sailor, soldier, airman or nurse should be discharged until such time as all can be absorbed in civil occupations. Before discharge, full training should be given to all who require it to equip them for civil employment.
In connexion with demobilization, I commend to the House and the Government the policy approved at the recent conference of the Australian Country party, Victoria. This policy, which was based on recommendations of a special committee of Federal and State parliamentary parties, laid it down that, discharges from the Services should be arranged on a systematic basis, with the application of these principles: (1) Adequate demobilization leave for all service personnel; (2) no member of the Services shall be finally discharged until adequate arrangements for reestablishment have been offered to him or her; and (3) priority in discharge shall take into account urgent national requirements, particularly primary production and housing accommodation. These are highly important considerations, because this Parliament will be guilty of a betrayal of those who served their country if it fails to extend to them the maximum facilities and benefits, with a view to enabling them to take their place in civil life, and to advance the economic welfare of the nation.
Before dealing specifically with the matter of preference, I shall touch upon re-establishment and1 employment from the viewpoint of rural interests. All of us know that many members of the Services who left the land will experience difficulty in returning to it after their enjoyment of the amenities of thicklypopulated centres. I am reminded of the song which had a considerable vogue after the last war: “How you gonna keep em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree “. This Parliament has a definite responsibility to ensure the decentralization of national activities. During the war, and particularly in the twenty years between the two wars, the drift of population from the country to the highly industrialized and thickly-populated centres was disastrous to rural enterprise and to the real wealth of this great primary producing country. During that period, the population of Australia as a whole increased by 32 per cent. The population of the capital cities increased by 54 per cent., whereas that of the country districts increased .by only 23 per cent. That state of affairs was aggravated by the war, because men enlisted from rural occupations and were drawn by war industries into the thicklypopulated centres. There is urgent need for a thorough re-survey and redistribution of the population of the continent. In that connexion due consideration must he given to the demobilization methods employed, in order that young men and women who enlisted from country districts may be encouraged as effectively as possible to return to their original habitat. Accordingly, it is of the first importance that the Australian Country party should ensure that adequate provision shall be made to induce such people to return to the land, and to encourage others to engage in rural occupations. Every rural electorate, and every provincial city and town, must be taken into consideration. Plans must be formulated which will be conducive to their development, as well as the development of the districts which support them. If we implement such a policy, we shall be able to repatriate men and women of the services to the districts from which they enlisted or were called up. In that regard, I bring to the notice of the Government a scheme that has been applied in my electorate. The various local authorities in it have formed patriotic groups. Every part of the Gatton shire participated in the establishment of a patriotic fund. The committee which administers that fund meets about once a fortnight to evolve schemes which will benefit the men who have gone from their district. Up to date it has collected about £11,000, much of which is invested in interest-free loans. Their objective is to encourage back to their own district the men and women who have enlisted or have drifted from it. That is a scheme which the
Government would, do well to consider. We must encourage back to their former habitat those who have left to engage in war activities; otherwise, the countryside will be neglected, and that, in turn, will have a serious effect on the economic future and welfare of Australia. We must remember that it is in the rural areas that the real production of the nation takes place. It is there that wc must look for the wherewithal to carry out any policy of rehabilitation. Accordingly, I suggest that there should be established at key points in country districts authoritative committees, with a full knowledge of local conditions, which” will ensure that any land made available for repatriation purposes shall be suitable and properly valued, and that there shall be personal touch with the men who will return. The re-establishment of servicemen is a psychological problem. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said in a most constructive speech last night, these men must not be known by tags or numbers; there must be personal association between them and those who will be responsible for their re-employment. The personal aspect enters into this matter, and that means active interest in these men by committees which have a first-hand knowledge not only of local conditions’ but also of the circumstances and characteristics of the men whose rehabilitation will be their responsibility. At the same time, the Government should provide facilities to ensure that any serviceman who needs proper training to fit him for rural production will receive it. Had the Government established War Agricultural Committees in various districts at a much earlier period, the manpower position and conditions generally in rural industries would not be so chaotic as they are to-day. For the employment of those who do not wish to engage in primary production, the Australian Country party aims at the establishment of secondaryindustries in country districts. That will make for a better industrial balance, and will represent a practical form of decentralization. We know that Australia cannot depend entirely on its rural industries, but that secondary industries must be established side by side with primary production. We hold, however, that the establishment of secondary industries must not be confined to the already thickly populated metropolitan districts. There must be. a proper decentralization of industries. The right honorable member for Cowper also referred to the field that is open to cooperative effort. We have only to consider the success which has attended the Returned Soldiers’ woollen mills at Geelong, and -other co-operative concerns associated with the sugar industry, to realize what can be done. I emphasize the need for the establishment of local committees in country districts to guide and assist the nien who will come back to those areas. J commend also the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a Commonwealth Servicemen’s Rehabilitation Department and Ministry should be established. After several years of fighting for his country, a serviceman is entitled to something better than being passed from one department to another - from one bureaucrat to another. The Government should seriously consider the need to re-orientate the administration, in order to concentrate in one department all the activities which concern servicemen from the time of their demobilization until they become taxpayers in the community.
I come now to the subject of preference. I recognize that the Labour party holds a view which is entirely different from that held by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The first consideration of the Labour party has always been preference to unionists. Members of that party are entitled to that opinion as much as we are entitled to oppose it. The view of honorable members on this side is that preference should be given to the greatest union of Australians ever formed, namely, ,the union of servicemen. We -believe that preference to unionists should be secondary to the claims of ex-service personnel. No honorable member opposite would deny that had it not been for the valour of our fighting men, unionism in this country would not exist. For some years, there has been in existence in Australia a system of priorities. That system should be extended to give first priority to members of the fighting forces, who have made our continued existence as a democracy possible. In introducing this legislation, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that the provisions relating to preference were likely to excite move controversy than any other part. He then went on to make a most curious statement; he said that the preference provisions presented the most stubborn difficulties of application and enforcement, quite apart from, the justification for the principle itself. It is important that the people of this country should have no doubt as to where members of the various parties stand in regard to this vital issue. As far back as 1.930, during the Scullin Government’s term of office, preference to returned soldiers became a live issue in this House. The then Prime Minister was asked by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) whether the preference provisions in government contracts had been deleted or amended. The right honorable gentleman replied that instructions had been issued to departments that, in carrying out work under contract, preference wa3 to be given, other things being equal, first, to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service who were members of trade unions, and secondly, to members of trade unions. The right honorable gentleman said that his Government’s policy was one of preference to unionists and that, within that preference to unionists, preference for returned soldiers still stood. He went on to say that no returned soldier could be denied preference by the Commonwealth Government if he joined a union. So widespread and white-hot was the indignation of returned soldier organizations that the Government beat a hasty retreat. Within a week, the then Prime Minister announced that conditions in contracts would be that preference should be given, first to returned sailors and soldiers, and secondly, to members of trade unions, and that that would also apply to employment and dismissals in the public service.
From this, it will be seen that a previous Labour Government, of which the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr.
Beasley), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), were members, was opposed to the granting of preference to returned soldiers. They demonstrated that their concern was for trade unionists in preference to the men who fought for their country. The facts I have cited provide undeniable evidence of the Labour party’s antagonism to soldier preference. I relate those facts to the present bill in order to query the Government’s sincerity. After much delay, this Government decided to introduce certain legislation. The Federal Australian Labour party executive decided to recommend acceptance by State executives of the preference proposals, provided a seven-years time limit was fixed. In due course, the seven-year time limit was endorsed by the caucus and Cabinet, proving to the nation that the Government and members of the Labour party are prepared to sacrifice the ex-servicemen on the altar of political expediency. No need exists for me to go into the political history of this matter. Various speakers on this side have pointed out that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction told the Australasian Council of Trade Unions how necessary it was to give at least some form of preference on account of the attitude of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), who had stated, in 1943, that unless the Government was prepared to accept the principle of preference to returned soldiers, he would be instrumental in having it thrown out on its neck.
– Where did the honorable member get that?
– It is a fact. It has never been denied. This is what the Minister said -
If the Prime Minister had nut made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the last election.
That is why we have embodied in this bill a piece of camouflage designed to try to make the servicemen believe that the Government is sincere when it is not, because it is wedded to perference to unionists. In my State, Queensland, the legislation providing for preference for discharged members of the forces does not lay down a time limit. It will be interesting to see whether this Government insists upon the State Government amending its legislation by inserting a similar time limit. Returned soldier organizations, which have a first-hand knowledge of the problems of exservicemen, have denounced the time limit in the most trenchant terms. The Australian Country party has expressed its strongest opposition to any limitation on preference. We stand for effective preference. To impose a limit on preference is to insult the men who have sacrificed years of their lives to keep Australia safe. The Government cannot in any circumstances justify the limitation. There is no need for me to canvass the views advanced on this matter. Surely to goodness, the man who has lost a limb or an eye will not find of much use preference in employment limited to seven years. The lost limb or eye cannot be restored. The preference is a shameful sham.
– There is no preference in other countries at all.
– We are talking about Australia. The Labour party skites that we lead the democratic world. We are here to establish, not to follow, precedent. If the Government had to appease the opponents of preference let us be told why seven years was selected as the period beyond which preference shall not operate. I submit that the next five years will be the most prosperous in Australia’s history. There will be all kinds of activities, involving huge expenditure of public and private money. Public works, properly delayed by war, will have to be undertaken. The railway systems will have to be rehabilitated. There will be extension of electricity undertakings. Streets, bridges and all sorts of public utilities will be provided by local authorities. All kinds of things which have disappeared from our lives under war conditions, will reappear. Wardrobe.1! will be replenished. All these activities will involve huge expenditure and employment. There will be expansion of our primary ^producing industries because we shall have to help to feed Europe. I agree with Professor Giblin that for many years our problem will be to find not work but workers, so great will be our capacity to absorb men and women in public and private enterprises. Therefore, to provide that there shall be preference to returned soldiers during that period is mere deception. Returned soldiers will require preference and protection when they are growing old and when economic conditions are not so favorable. I do not suggest that preference would operate unfairly against the rising generation. Young members of the community also must be the responsibility of the Government, and it will be necessary to establish a proper balance. To adopt a defeatist attitude to this problem would be unworthy of the position which we occupy in this Parliament, where each of us is a trustee for approximately 60,000 people. I believe that we have only started to develop this country. The State of Queensland has scarcely been touched. Properly developed, Queensland could quite easily support the entire present population of Australia. This country has certain obligations, and with proper guidance, these obligations will be fulfilled. Anybody who is foolish enough to imagine that we shall be unable to meet our present and future obligations is a defeatist. Due regard must be paid to the measures necessary to assist ex-servicemen and re-establish them in civil life. Who can say that these plans will be a success, especially in view of the fact that the whole trend of Labour policy, particularly in very recent times, has been towards socialization rather than encouragement of sound” private enterprise as an indispensable factor in postwar reconstruction? As honorable members opposite are well aware, this measure will not bind future governments. What is the use of trying to appease the opponents of preference by imposing a limit of seven years? No future government will be bound by that limitation. Therefore, I say that this part of the measure is mere deception, unworthy of a national government.
When the bill reaches the committee stage, I intend to move various amendments. I am opposed particularly to the imposition of a limit of seven years upon the preference provisions. These provisions are to become inoperative seven years after “ the cessation of hostilities in the war “. In clause 4, “ the war “ is defined as “ the war which commenced on the third day of September, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine “. But what about the Japanese war? That did not start until December, 1941. If the Government does not intend to deceive ex-servicemen, it will have an opportunity to clarify the position by accepting an amendment which I shall move when the bill is in committee. I contend, however, that this definition has been so worded deliberately. If the Government will not accept my amendment - I do not think for a moment that it will accept it, despite all the talk by honorable members opposite about approaching this measure in a non-party spirit - I give an undertaking that when we on this side of the chamber are again in occupation of the treasury bench, and that will not be very long in coming to pass, we shall take effective measures to provide real preference for returned soldiers, without any time limit.
I come now to a very important omission from the bill. I assume that the omission has ‘been inadvertent, because I cannot imagine any government deliberately countenancing it. Clause 27 makes it mandatory on an employer to give preference in employment to returned soldiers, except in certain specified circumstances. ‘Clause 28 gives to an aggrieved person the right to appeal to a court, which may order the employer concerned to engage the plaintiff. However, no penalty whatever is provided for an employer’s noncompliance with these provisions. What is the use of inserting in a bill mandatory clauses such as this, imposing certain obligations upon employers in regard to the employment of exservicemen, when no penalties may be imposed on an employer who ignores them ? However, if, in circumstances specified in Part VIII. of the bill, a person repossesses a wireless set used by the wife of a member of the forces, he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £100, or imprisonment for six months ; yet, if an employer refuses to obey an order of the court to give preference in employment to a returned soldier, no penalty can be imposed upon him. Apparently, the Government is determined that nothing shall stand in the way of the wife of a serviceman retaining a wireless set so that she may listen to popular songs or the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news, but is not prepared to safeguard the ex-serviceman against being jobless.
I emphasize that clause 33 of the bill provides that the preference provisions, namely, clauses 24 to 32 inclusive, shall cease to operate “ at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war “. This is a deception as bad as any ever perpetrated by a government. As I have said, in clause 4 the war is defined as the war which commenced on the 3rd September, 1939. This clause must be read in conjunction with clause 33, and then it becomes obvious that the tide begins to run against the serviceman from the cessation of hostilities in the war against Germany. I shall give the Government a chance to make its intention clear. The war against Japan, which is not included in the definition, may last for some years longer, and while Australian soldiers are actively engaged in that war the seven years’ period in which preference will apply will be dwindling. The bill is as full of holes as a colander. This shows the Government’s lack of sincerity as to preference, and as to penalizing employers who refuse to give preference to exservicemen. I repeat, because it is so important as to warrant repetition, that soldiers engaged in the war against Japan may be deprived of a portion of the time during which preference will be compulsory. The ambiguity of the bill in this connexion is obvious even to the most biased person. Therefore I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide more adequately for the reestablishment of members of the forces, more especially with regard to the incorporation of -
effective preference unlimited as to time ; and
the maintenance of the principle of preference in the Commonwealth Public Service Acts “.
This will give the Government an opportunity to prove its sincerity.
– I wish to make a statement on a matter which arose earlier to-day. At question time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to an alteration in Hansard of some words in the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1945. I have made inquiries, and I have received the following letter from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter : -
The alteration in the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, to which the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to-day, had already been the subject of inquiry by me, following repeated quotations in debate of a passage that did not correspond with the printed report.
I wish to make clear that neither the Minister nor his department was concerned in the alteration. It was made in the course of editorial revision of the proof: the officer concerned thought the words “ old history “ vague and without special significance and struck them out.
In view of the importance since attached to the words, this alteration appears to have been an error of judgment, which is deeply regretted.
I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has already been acquainted with the details of this report.
– Will the words be reinstated ?
– I believe that could be done. Personally, I do not attach a great deal of significance to the matter. It is not uncommon for members of the Hansard staff to make alterations of that character, sometimes in grammar, sometimes in punctuation, and honorable members generally ought to be very thankful for the improvements effected to their speeches.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that the second-reading speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on this bill has been published in the Digest of Decisions and Announcements which is published and circulated by the Government. As the Hansard issued in the magazine form purports to contain only a proof report of the speeches made in the Parliament, and as the final official form appears in the bound volume, I suggest that the matter may be placed in order if you, Mr. Speaker, direct that the speech published in the bound volume shall be in the form in which the Minister delivered it to this House.
– I regarded the matter as of sufficient importance to justify my making known to the House at the earliest moment the explanation furnished to me by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. I do not think there is any doubt that the words to which attention was directed by the Leader of the Opposition were used by the Minister, and that their omission from the proof Hansard report was due to a regrettable incident, for which the officer concerned waa responsible. I shall issue instructions for the inclusion of those words in the final report, as the honorable member suggests.
– I shall follow the example set by practically every honorable member opposite, by saying that this is not a party matter. I regret that, having begun on that plane, these honorable members should then have accused the Government of a lack of sincerity. The bill which I introduced in 1943 to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was debated on non-party lines, and I urge the House to treat this measure similarly. The department which I administer has a keen interest in it, because many of its provisions cut across, in some degree, what is being done in relation to repatriation. We should endeavour by every means in our power to assist exservice personnel to realize their expectations. The present Government has done more than any previous administration in regard to repatriation. For twenty years, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act had not been altered substantially until it was amended in 1943. The new provisions have been the means of distributing an additional amount of approximately £4,000,000 in repatriation benefits. The procedure for the placing of cases before the Repatriation Commission has been simplified, and numerous claims which had been rejected for many years have been allowed. Previously, a claimant for a pension had to prove that the disability from which he suffered was directly attributable to his war service. That is no longer a requirement; pension is now paid when incapacity or death arises out of or is attributable to service. In this war, young men who have been taken from the southern States to the northern parts of Australia, not necessarily for the purpose of being sent overseas, have met with accidents or have been taken ill; some have met with fatal results. Their dependants have been able to obtain a pension, and thus have been on the same level as the dependants of men who have gone overseas. This is a departure from the previous practice. When I became Minister for Repatriation, there was one war pensions assessment tribunal and one entitlement tribunal. I have had to appoint another entitlement tribunal and three more assessment tribunals. At the present time, there are two entitlement tribunals ‘and four assessment tribunals. This will ensure that all claims lodged will be adjudicated upon with as little delay as possible. The number of claims lodged is sufficient, to keep the assessment tribunals fully occupied. Should it be essential to appoint further tribunals, I shall make the appointment. I know what it means to ex-servicemen to have to wait for many months to have their claims attended to. We have endeavoured to keep right up to date. Every appointee to these tribunals has to be an exserviceman. I have appointed to an entitlement tribunal, a young soldier of this war. For appointment to the assessment tribunals, a panel of names is submitted by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and any other organizations concerned, and I select a name from the panel. An appointee as chairman of an assessment tribunal has to be a barrister >as well as an exserviceman. I have appointed a man who had seen service in both the last war and this war. I trust that future appointments will be made from the ranks of those who have served in the present war. Exservicemen of the last war are well represented already, and are doing good work. They devote to their duties a great deal of time, and have given considerable satisfaction. It is not my desire that men who served in the last war should be shelved ; nevertheless, beneficial results must accrue from the appointment of men who have participated in the present war, and that would seem to be the more satisfactory course to adopt. Under my administration, members of the militia force in Australia have been given many repatriation .benefits. Those who have bad to leave home, and perhaps travel to the northern parts of the continent, have had the same repatriation privileges >as are enjoyed by the men who go overseas.
The bill cuts across the work of my department in regard to the training of servicemen. So far, the Repatriation Department has been responsible for practically all the training that has been carried out. It has had a tentative scheme for vocational training, but that has now been taken from it, and in future will be under the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The employment bureau will be under the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). However, there is one class which we shall continue to train - the blinded and the very badly injured servicemen. It is considered that the Repatriation Department can handle this matter more suitably than any other department. We have done a very good job with servicemen in these categories. There are about twenty blinded soldiers from this war, and nearly every one of them has been placed in employment. There are also some double amputees who have been brought back and placed in work. One man who had both his hands blown off, had commenced to study for a university course before enlistment. By means of various gadgets which took the place of his hands, he was able to matriculate and go to the university. There is a place in the world for every man, no matter how badly wounded he may be. We do not trouble about the expense to which we are put, so long as we can make up for the great loss which we know that these men have sustained.
We realize that we cannot replace the loss of sight or limbs, but at least we can make life interesting, and have done so. Mr. P. J. Lynch, federal president of the Australian Blinded Soldiers Association, who was very badly wounded in the last war and has been totally blind for about 27 years, in a report that he presented recently in Sydney, said this -
It is my considered opinion, and this I feel certain will be shared by those who have been as closely associated with the task’ as I have, that the measures taken in Australia to solve the individual problem which each member of the forces who has suffered the loss of useful vision in this war presents, have been the best possible. I say this deliberately, and after giving u great deal of thought to the matter. It is simple enough for wellintentioned people to be somewhat critical, in addition to be impatient at the lack of prompt and tangible results in the re-orientation of war-blinded members, but if dramatic achievements are looked for, disappointment is almost inevitable. A man who lias been an athlete, living an active industrial or mercantile life, is suddenly blinded; it is obvious that a period of readjustment must take place.
That period, unfortunately, must be rather a lengthy one in most cases. It is a matter of experience and wisdom as to the degree of help and training which should be given to him, under what circumstances and when. Re-establishing the war blinded can be* a slow and tedious process, and there is no golden rule which can lie applied in the matter.
I have not sufficient time to refer to all of the cases in which my department has given assistance to war-blinded exservicemen, but many of them have been placed in employment. In Western Australia two blinded soldiers who have returned from the present war are now employed on the land, one as a vegetablegrower and the other as a flower-grower. Another has taken over a furniture business and yet another is installed in a job at a telephone switchboard in the employment of a large firm with which he was associated before going to the war. Those men who return from the war badly disabled will be reassured to know that the Government, is alive to their needs.
Many requests have been made to my department on behalf of men who desire artificial limbs. We were told by some returned servicemen that Australian artificial-limb factories were not up to date, but, after having sent two of our best technicians overseas, I have satisfied myself that, that charge is unjustified. Two men who were in charge of the Repatriation Artificial Limb Factories in Sydney and Queensland respectively spent six months in various factories of a similar kind in the United States of America, Canada, and Great Britain, and they reported to me the result of their visit. Everything possible was done for them, and they were permitted to inspect the plant and the operations generally in every factory visited. They took note of the kinds of joints used in. the manufacture of artificial limbs and of the metals being employed in other parts of the world. They told me that in the United States of America they gained much experience and found that some of the new machinery seen in operation there would be of great benefit. In Canada they had a similar experience. In Roehampton, in Great Britain, where high-class artificial limbs are made, the officers spent a few months and tried out all the machinery that was in use there. The report that was furnished to me was to the effect that in certain respects the plant used in Australia could he improved upon and that the money expended on their trip had not been wasted, but that, generally speaking, the Australian factories were well up to the standard of those overseas.
– Are those men amputees?’
– - Yes. There are over 50 men employed in the Sydney factory. All of them are amputees, and some of them are double amputees.
The Government has done a good deal to assist men who, prior to their war service, were apprentices in various trades. A lad of eighteen years who enlisted in 1939 is now an adult, and on discharge will be entitled to the remuneration appropriate to his age. He should be, and is, assisted financially. It is not necessary that an instrument of indenture should exist to enable him to participate in the benefits of this provision. As long as he is a trade learner, and not merely a junior worker, he can benefit under the wage supplementation scheme. The total expenditure which has been incurred under it since its introduction some yews ago is £23,273:. We. have not applied the scheme as fully as we should have liked to do, but much assistance has been given to apprentices.
Under the repatriation regulations, a gift of a kit of tools of trade up to the value of £10 may be made to an ex-serviceman, and a loan, free of interest, up to £40. may be granted. This benefit has involved an expenditure of £73,120. Some ex-servicemen have been placed on small farms and some in small businesses. Others may have been assisted in obtaining a motor vehicle with which to undertake cartage contracts. In various, ways the department has assisted them to. get back into industry. The statement has been made on many occasions that the Government has not done much to., assist ex-servicemen, but in every genuine case the department has rendered help. Up to the present it has expended £99,553 in helping men to get back on farms and into factories, or to resume their previous calling whatever it may have been.
I now turn to the subject of vocational training. As soon as men have come back from this war and have received their discharge they have been able to take jobs in ammunition or food factories, if they are only partially disabled, but that will not debar them from participating in the training scheme .later. Pending the introduction of the reconstructiontraining scheme, the Repatriation Commission was authorized, in conjunction with the Department of Labour and National Service, to conduct a tentative scheme which was limited to those who,; through war disablement, were unable to return to their pre-enlistment occupations. In view of the commencement of the more comprehensive scheme, no applications under the tentative scheme were taken after the 30th June, 1944. The following figures indicate the position, as at 31st March, 1945, under the Reconstruction Training Scheme: -
These figures, however, do not include 80;000 service personnel; enrolled for correspondence courses up to the 31st March, 1945.
A matter that has exercised the minds of many honorable members is the transportation to Australia of the wives and children of servicemen from Canada, Great Britain and the Middle East. I have often been accused of not having done all that should have been done in this matter. As everybody knows, the shipping position cannot be discussed publicly. My department has received 800 applications for the transportation to Australia from overseas of wives and children. We have already brought out 445 wives and widows, and 140 children, and as the war in Europe is over, many more will, I hope, be transported to Australia as soon as possible. In the early stages of the war arrangements were made for passages for these women and children, but -when the sea routes became unsafe, a ban against their travelling was imposed. I was asked -recently whether the widow of a serviceman would ‘be brought to Australia. I point out that
Already a number of widows of Australian servicemen have been granted passages. They have young children and they have come out to the parents of their late husbands. Some of the applicants have cancelled the passages arranged for them, but the “bulk of them are anxious to come to Australia and the department is keeping in touch with them. 1 had hoped to make arrangements for a family ship, so that husbands and wives could have come out together, but that has not been possible. Some difficulty has been experienced in the Middle East, but much of it has been overcome, and most of the wives who have been living there nave arrived safely in Australia. The department pays the fares from the dependants’ home town to the port of embarkation, to and from the port of disembarkation to the ultimate destination in Australia. If they happen to be .living in the north of Scotland the department pays their fares to the port of embarkation. Everything possible has been and will be done to assist them. Recently a rather disturbing statement appeared in the press ‘to the effect that some war brides had arrived in New York and had to spend a fortnight on the Hudson ‘River in the middle of sum mer. On the day they arrived in New York I received telegraphic advice that there were 26 war brides and fifteen children. I was informed that if the women went ashore they would have to pay their way. It was in the middle of the summer, when the heat was intense, and they asked the Repatriation Department to make provision to meet the case. We cabled immediately that the department would meet any reasonable cost, and instructions were given to arrange for accommodation ashore for the women .and children. We have not quibbled at meeting any reasonable expense. In spite of this, it was reported in the press that the .women and children were left on the ship. We received the cablegram at 9 o’clock in the morning and replied immediately. Our reply was received in New York at 10 o’clock the same evening. Surely we could not do more than that.
During this debate, conflicting statements have been made about Australia’s war pension bill. I propose, therefore, to place on record the actual figures, which are as follows: -
“When the first war pensions bill was introduced into this Parliament it was thought that the liability would practically cease within 25 years. It is now nearly 30 years since the 1914-18 war ended, and there are at.il 1 181,000 war pensions in force from that war. This is an indication of how long we may expect the War Pensions Department to remain in existence after the present war.
Honorable members have frequently asked me about the hospitals which the Repatriation Department is building, what other provision is being made for the men who have returned, and who will return when hostilities cease. There are 20,000 Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands. Their living conditions have been hard, and when they return many of them will need medical treatment. Also, there are a great many soldiers now receiving treatment in military hospitals, and after the war their treatment will be continued by the Repatriation Department. I have been anxious to proceed as rapidly as possible with the erection of hospital buildings, but. I have been handicapped by a shortage of materials and labour. Moreover, when I have asked that extra hospital accommodation be provided, I have been told that, when the war is over, the military hospitals, such as those at Heidelberg and Concord, will be turned over to the Repatriation Department. In spite of this, I have pressed for the continuation of our building programme. The following is a list of the major works in Queensland and New South Wales which have been authorized since October, 1941:-
Repatriation General Hospital, Rosemount. - One ward (30 patients) and accommodation for night nurses - Completed.
Repatriation Sanatorium, Kenmore. - A new institution for 32 patients, but with services to provide up to 100 patients and staff. - Nearing completion.
Wacol. - Segregated accommodation for S8 mental patients. - In course of erection.
Repatriation Artificial Limb Factory, Brisbane. - Extensions and additions. - Authorized.
Repatriation General Hospital, Randwick. - Two wards (72 beds). - Completed and accommodation for female staffs. - In course of erection.
Lady Davidson Home, Turramurra. - One Chalet (30 beds) completed, one ward (36 beds) completed, one chalet (30 beds) authorized, medical superintendent’s residence completed, nurses’ quarters completed, staff officer’s residence authorized and, in addition, extensions of ancillary services have been made and a new kitchen authorized.
Repatriation Block. Callan Park Mental Hospital. - One new ward (02 patients). - In course of erection.
In addition, various works have been undertaken in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
I have always been in favour of preference to returned soldiers in the matter of employment. Honorable members opposite have objected to the provision in the bill limiting the period of preference to seven years. I remind them that, at the end of the seven-year period, whatever government is in power can extend the time if it thinks fit. In 1940, when the Menzies Government was in power, the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act was amended, and a period of seven years was fixed within which incapacitated soldiers of the present war might marry and obtain pension benefits in respect of their wives. When the present Government came into power this period was extended to fifteen years. This is the provision in the act as put through Parliament by the Menzies Government -
. The wife or widow of a member of the Forces who was married to the member before or during his service, or within seven years after his discharge from the Forces, or the termination of the war, whichever first happens. . . .
In the 1943 act, the period of seven years was extended to fifteen years. Honorable members opposite, when they were in power, tried to do the job “ on the cheap “, and so limited the period to seven years. No doubt they will reply that the period could be extended at the end of that time, and I point out that the preference period provided in this bill can also be extended if it is thought advisable.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested that all repatriation activities should be under the control of one department, but I do not think that such a scheme would be workable. If one department were to be given all the work it would not ‘be possible to house the administrative staff in one building. For example, the staff of the Repatriation Commission in Sydney alone is expected to number 1,000, and between 150 and 200 will be employed in connexion with war service homes administration. If we add to these the staffs required to deal with land settlement, ge.. it will be seen that a huge department would be created. As a matter of fact, the Government is training a special staff for a central information bureau in each city, the duty of which will be to direct servicemen and their dependants to the department where their wants will receive attention. The staff of the bureau, which will be located in some central place, will know the location of all the other various departments, and will be able to tell ex-servicemen where to go. The existence of these information bureaux will be of great assistance to servicemen on their return, and will meet the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I believe that this bill to provide for the re-establishment in civil life of members of the forces, and for facilitating their employment, is the most important measure that has come before the Parliament since the inception of federation. It deals with matters which transcend party political considerations. Having said that, I shall not proceed to make a party-political speech. After we have dealt the final blow to the Japanese, we shall still have a big job to which we should devote all our energies, namely, the rehabilitation of the men and women who left their homes and their families not knowing whether they would ever return to them, and risked their health and their lives that others might be free. Unless we regard their re-establishment as a prime duty, we shall be unworthy of the sacrifices which they have made. Australia is one of the few countries at war which have not suffered considerable physical damage.
– No credit is due to previous governments for that.
– If we were considering how best to repatriate the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), we should send him back to the East Sydney sewers whence he came. The party to which I belong is prepared to make any sacrifice to ensure that the men and women of the fighting forces shall be given a fair deal.
– That is the party that wanted to give a. big slice of Australia to the Japanese.
– If the Minister for Transport tried to tell the truth, he could not do so. I shall address myself to the bill, as I have no interest in the Minister, or his views. I was astounded to hear the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) say that certain important sections of repatriation and rehabilitation are to be taken from the control of his department and put under departments which are not working solely in the interests of servicemen. The Minister said that the placing of service men and women in employment will be under the control of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) ; that is under a civilianorganization. I regard that as a retrograde step.
– That is better than having the work controlled by brass hats.
– I am certain that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) does not favour the change. He realizes that repatriation has to do with the placing of men back into industry, professional life, or other avocations.
– There will be vocational training.
– I am aware of that, but will it come under the administration of a civilian organization? I realize that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is himself a returned soldier, but the great majority of the members of the staff of his department have not served in the forces. In my opinion, the rehabilitation of service men and women should be under the Minister for Repatriation; it is a pity th-at any change is -contemplated.
– What difference does it make, so long as the men and women get sympathetic treatment?
– It is rarely that I agree with the Minister for Transport but he is right in saying that they need sympathetic treatment. I doubt, however, whether servicemen will get sympathetic treatment from a civilian administration. Australia has a large section of its people in the armed forces but it has lagged behind other countries in providing for them on their return to civil life. In 1941 New Zealand passed a repatriation act, and in the light of the experience gained since then, twenty amendments to it have been made.
– There is no preference to returned soldiers in New Zealand, and a means test is necessary to qualify for a family allowance.
– New Zealand service men and women are given benefits which members of the Australian fighting services do not get. In Australia the head of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is not a returned soldier, whereas a distinguished soldier of this war is in charge of the New Zealand department. The Australian Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is not’ a returned soldier although I believe that he is sympathetic to the needs of servicemen, but the New Zealand Minister for Repatriation won the Military Cross in the last war, and served overseas in this war as a senior officer. The New Zealand legislation which was passed in 1941 has been amended in about twenty different ways because certain provisions of the original act were found to be unworkable, or unfair. It is a disgrace that not till May, 1945, has this measure come before us.
– Does the honorable member favour what has been done in New Zealand?
– I am in favour of many things that have been done there. I am sure that if the Minister lived in
New Zealand he would have been interned before this.
– Is the honorable member in favour of preference, or against it?
– I always knew that the Minister for Transport was weak minded, but I did think that he could read. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have never modified my views on the question of preference to servicemen.
– It is difficult to hear the honorable member.
– If tie Minister would scrape the filth of the East Sydney sewers out of his ears, he would be able to hear me. I believe in 100 per cent, preference to members of the fighting forces.
– What is wrong with providing full employment?
– I know that there are anomalies, but it would be impossible to employ the Minister if it meant that he had to work. I believe that we must make provision for young people of sixteen or seventeen years of age who had no opportunity to serve with the fighting forces. Jobs must be kept open for them, just as, in my opinion, the trade unions should be forced to accept a certain proportion of returned soldiers as trainees. In the past the Waterside Workers Federation has opened its books on mornings when no one except relatives of members and a few of their’ friends knew anything about it. No one else was allowed to join the federation.
– When did that happen 1
– It happened since the last war ended. The unions would do the same thing again in order to get friends of unionists as members.
– Is the honorable member opposed to trade unions?
– If the Minister were a typical unionist, I would be opposed to unionism, but I believe -that unionists generally are fine men. Only about 5 per cent, of them are responsible for most of the trouble that takes place.
– I think that the honorable member is an old Fascist.
– The Standing Orders would not permit me to say what I think the Minister is. If the Minister thinks the very worst he can of himself, and then doubles it, he will be close to what I think of him.
– I suggest that the Minister and the honorable member should settle their dispute outside.
– In my opinion, such organizations as the grocers’ union and the chambers of commerce and similar organizations as well as trade unions, should be forced to accept a certain proportion of returned servicemen into their ranks, in the same way as the shearers’ union has been compelled to accept one learner to every ten members. The industrial unions should train these returned soldiers. Surely the members of such organizations as the Waterside Workers Federation, the Miners Federation and various societies of engineers know that had it not been forthe gallant young men who have resisted the enemy, their organizations would not now exist.
– Should we not offer to returned servicemen something better than work in coal-mines or at the docks?
– I believe that these men should be given an opportunity to enter any occupation that they wish. They cannotall become professional men. They should not be permitted to flood any organization. They should be given a chance, just asI believe that young boys from school should be given a chance.
– Ninety per cent. of servicemen are already unionists.
– That is untrue, but it does not matter what percentage of servicemen are unionists. Many of them who were unionists before they enlisted will be so disgusted by the actions of union leaders that they will not want to join a union again.
– They voted for Government candidates at the last election.
– The votes of men serving with the Allied Works Council outside their own State were included in the vote of members of the forces.
-Some one has been pulling the honorable member’s leg.
-That is more than the Minister can do. When it is said that the service vote was in favour of the present Government, I am remanded that a member of the New South Wales
Parliament was chosen to visit the troops to issue propaganda and to fill young men with poisonous lies.
– If he was a soldier, he was closer to the war than the honorable member has been.
– Th at may be, but I remind the Minister that I have served five years at war, whereas the Minister has kept well behind the front line and has devoted much of his time to disseminating political propaganda. The Minister’s chief war activities have been as a member of an East Sydney “ push “. So I do not think he is any judge of warfare. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) said that war was a national problem in which all parties should work together. With that I thoroughly agree. The only objection that I have to his saying it is that he is a member of the party that refused to join a national government.
– We are particular about whom we associate with.
– So are we; but we knew that, if a national government were formed, the Minister for Transport would not have been in the Ministry. Great Britain and New Zealand, which did form national governments, are two countries which have to their credit possibly the greatest war effort of any country in the world. In Great Britain, the Conservatives were in power, but Labour went in with them, and, in New Zealand, the Labour party was in power, and those on the conservative side linked with it to form a national government. Both countries have a marvellous record on every battle-field on which their troops have been engaged. Moreover, New Zealand, although it stood with Australia in equal danger from the Japanese, was not afraid to allow its men to remain to fight the enemy across North Africa and into Italy where they covered themselves with glory. We could have done the same thing. We had in Australia the Armoured Division, made up of some of the best fighting men the world has ever seen. They were kept here for two years sitting down at Seymour, in Victoria, and in other camps in New South Wales and Queensland, heart-broken at their inactivity. They enlisted to fight but were not given the opportunity. They should have been with Field-Marshal Montgomery among the British forces on the shores of Normandy on D Day in order that they might have written on the fields of Flanders another glorious chapter in Australia’s history.
– The honorable member would have sent them to Burma.
– Had they been sent to Burma, Australia might not have been so exposed to such great danger as it was.
– Tell us about “ the Brisbane line”.
– i: do not talk about non-existent things. The men of the Armoured Division should have been with the Allies in the invasion of Europe. Then we should have had reason to be proud of them. But they were kept here unused, and then the regiments were broken down into infantry battalions, in spite of the large expenditure on their training to fit them for armoured warfare.
– Does the honorable member want bigger casualty lists?
– In the last war I had the honour of commanding a regiment and lod 500 or 600 .nien into battle.
– I am glad I was not one of them.
– The Minister would have had very good reason to be sorry if he had been. I repeat: that I had the honour of a command. [ led men into battle. I went out of my way. and every other officer worth his salt did likewise, to save live? and to achieve the objective at the least possible cost. Every officer fit to wear the uniform of this country did so, because to him his men were as his children, as his family, and he was deeply hurt, by the death of one man of his regiment, company, platoon, squadron, troop or whatever group of men he was leading. The death of one of the wonderful men who followed them into action and whose deeds were responsible for the fact that many of us to-day wear military decorations was to those officers a matter of not only deep concern but also profound sorrow. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. .Sheehy) told a pitiful tale about war service homes. I remind him that the Government that he supports has been in office for three years and eight months, but has done nothing to alleviate the housing position. I believe that the Minister for Repatriation, who is also in charge of the War Service Homes Commission, is sympathetic, but. he has not altered the conditions that were in operation when Labour took office. When I asked the honorable member for Boothby what the Government had done, he carefully ignored ray question, in spite of which he told me that the returned soldiers would be satisfied with this bill. There are many provisions that satisfy me. For instance, the provisions relating to housing are very good. I believe, however, that the bulk of the bill is a deliberate attempt to rob the returned soldiers of repatriation benefits enjoyed by ex-servicemen since the last war. For instance, it will definitely take away from the returned man his right to preference in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Lt will interfere with the Repatriation Act passed by the Victorian Parliament which gives absolute preference in employment to returned men, and provides for a land settlement policy under which the eyes will be picked out of the best land in the State, that is, the land in the irrigation areas and the heavy rainfall areas, the owners of which will have no option but to surrender it in return for suitable compensation to which they are entitled. The western district, the garden of Victoria - I would almost say the garden of Australia - sent as great a proportion of its population to the war as any other section of Australia, but in spite of that, that land, without regard to present ownership, is to be acquired, by the Victorian Government for soldier settlement purposes. Great irrigation schemes are intended. Towns in rich country along the .river banks will be submerged by the damming of the rivers for irrigation schemes. It is right that that should be, because the time has come when the interests of the people of the State as a whole must be considered rather than those of the individual. Therefore, I believe that it is right that the Victorian Government should do all the things that it proposes to do under its act, which this bill, if enacted in its present form, will destroy, as it will destroy the soldiers’ right to preference, which has been given in Victoria not only in the State public service hut also in civil employment.
– Where is Victoria going to get the money from to do all that?
– All I can say is that a great proportion of it must come from the Commonwealth Government. It could well come out of the £4,000,000 per annum of which Victoria has been robbed in the interests of New South Wales under the so-called uniform tax legislation. This legislation will destroy State legislation providing for preference to returned men - deliberately, I believe. The bill does not lay down anything definite regarding the financing of soldier settlement. I am interested in land settlement because I believe that after the war it will be one of our safeguards. I remember that after the last war thousands of men who before enlisting had worked in industry, offices and shops decided that they could never return to their former vocations after having lived in the open during the war and decided to make their careers on the land.
– Anti-Labour governments settled them.
– It is of no use for the Minister to talk that way, because in the Commonwealth, and in practically every State, the Labour party was in power when it was decided to invite Sir Otto Neimeyer to Australia. Mr. Hogan was Labour Premier of Victoria.
– He is a “ rat “, not a Labour man.
– He is a much better Labour man than many of those in the party to-day. Labour governments invited Sir Otto Neimeyer to visit Australia. They bowed their necks to the yoke and let themselves be dragooned into the depression. They are the ones responsible. Make no mistake, the Labour party was in power at the time. They agreed to the Premiers’ plan and must carry a great deal of responsibility. The people of Australia will demand that whatever party is in power, service men and women shall be reinstated in the jobs, commercial, industrial, professional or agricultural, that they had before their enlistment so that they and their children shall be at least as well off as they would have been had they remained in Australia and never taken up the burden of its defence. Make no mistake about the position. I have received letters from practically every organization representingexservice men and women and not one of them is satisfied with this bill.
– What are they against.
– They have this against it: that those privileges that they had after the last war are being practically wiped out. Thousands of workers who, during the war years, have been employed in munitions factories, on the wharfs, and in the mines, living in their own homes, working short hours, and enjoying higher wages than they had ever received before, are to be placed in the same position as ex-servicemen. The Minister administering this measure will be able at his discretion, to make members of any of these unions or organizations, eligible to benefit under the repatriation clauses of this bill, inadequate as they are. In Victoria, I was a member of a committee which brought forward at a Country party conference the actions which it considered to be essential in the interests of returned soldiers. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) dealt with some aspects of this matter, but there are certain other phases with which they did not deal. Any man who, under the provisions of this measure participates in a land-settlement scheme, builds a home - home building is regarded as one ofthe most stabilizing influences in the world to-day - or sets up in a small business, must be given some equity in his undertaking. I believe that that equity should be 25 per cent. In the case of soldier-settlement schemes, the Government should buy the land and pay reasonable compensation to the owner. In estimating the capital value of land required for any settler, or in assessing his liability to the Crown, the average productivity of that land, and the average price of the produce which it has yielded over a twenty-year period, should be the determining factor. Land should be made available to settlers at 75 per cent. of its cost. That would be much better than loading a settler up with debt and then, after he has fought a losing battle for ten or fifteen years, writing down the capital value of the property. “Why not write it down in the first place, and give an equity to the settler? All necessary safeguards could be provided so that the landholder would be safe from exploitation. The land could be tied up for a period of say ten years or twelve years, except in special circumstances such as the death of the owner, each case being determined upon its merits, by a board. Interest should not exceed 2 per cent. If that were done exservicemen would be encouraged to work to retain their properties, knowing that at the end of 35 years, they would be able to retire, or in the event of prior death, that their families would be provided for adequately. Security is essential, not only for people settling on the land, but also for those building homes, or establishing businesses. Steps should be taken also to ensure that the money made available to assist ex-servicemen should be distributed fairly throughout the country, and not expended mainly in the cities as was the case after the last war. It should be distributed according to population.
I shall have more to say about various provisions of the bill when the measure reaches -the committee stage, but before concluding to-night, I wish to ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction one question : Does he realize that in this bill “ the war “ is defined as meaning the war which commenced on the 3rd September, 1939? That of course is the war against ‘Germany, which has just concluded. Surely the Minister must appreciate the fact that the war against Japan may continue for another couple of years.
– The Government has prepared an amendment to meet thai; point.
– After the last war had ended, there were many side “ shows “ in which Australian soldiers were engaged. Many of them volunteered for these operations, others were ordered “to participate in them. No gratuity was paid to these men for the additional period which “they served in these minor operations. I know of many men who served for five months in the Egyptian rebellion, and in other operations. They did not receive any additional gratuity for that service. This measure should be clear on that point.
I am not clear whether this bill covers returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war. That is another aspect of the measure which is worthy of re-examination by the Government. 1 say to this House and to the people of Australia-
– They will not listen.
– I realize that the Minister will not listen. He has not been a soldier and does not understand the soldier’s problems. He has no sympathy with soldiers. If we do not stand by our servicemen and ensure that they shall be re-established in civil life, and given some hope for the future, we shall be, as is the Minister himself, unworthy of this country.
.- I support the bill. I have listened with interest to the speeches made by Opposition members. In my opinion, this measure is one of the most vital pieces of legislation with which this Parliament has ever had to deal. ‘ After applying his legal mind to the bill, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) claimed that it was useless, and would not attain the objectives for which it was drafted. I do not profess to understand the legal implications of the bill, but I do say, without any spleen, .that I can understand legal gentlemen discussing, a measure such as this, and placing their own constructions upon it. Usually those constructions would be the ones which suited their own ends. On one or two occasions, I have had to seek the advice of legal men, and my experience has been that one can always get the advice that one pays for, but that is not always- the advice that suits one’s case. I can quite understand that legal men of the Opposition would naturally interpret the bill in the way in which they want this House and the people of Australia to interpret it. I do not blame them for that, but it must be remembered that we, as a Parliament, and particularly as a National Parliament, owe a tremendous debt to members of our fighting forces who have dons such a magnificent job- for this country and for the Allied Nations. When I was conducting my election campaign, one of the foremost planks in my platform was that if I were elected to Parliament, I would do everything in my power to see that men and women of the services were given the best that this country could possibly provide for them. We should be failing in our duty if we did not do that. Many members of the fighting forces are young men who did not have an opportunity to establish themselves in civil employment before the war. Many of them enlisted straight from school, and have given five . or six of the best years of their lives to their country. These lost years can never be regained. It is our duty to ensure that these men shall he given an opportunity to establish themselves in civil life. It is of little use to hold a post-mortem on what has- happened, to returned; soldiers of previous wars. I know that mistakes were made. . Returned soldiers were settled on land purchased at inflated values. I do not Warne the governments which were responsible for those schemes. Quite a number of private individuals who sold their properties to returned soldiers claimed that they did so for patriotic reasons, but many of those properties were certainly not of the best type. As one honorable member opposite said, those soldier settlers did not have a chance from the start. They were severely handicapped at that time because of the class of land they were allotted. With the experience of the days following the last war to guide us, .we ought to avoid many of the mistakes that were then made. I believe that every honorable member of this Parliament desires the service personnel to be given a fair deal when they return to civil life. The members of the Opposition are as sincere as I am in this respect. I know, also, that the electors of Wakefield desire our returned personnel to be helped in every possible way. I support this bill because I believe that it provides for a fair deal. Possibly some of the provisions of the measure arc not exactly to our liking, but these can be altered as experience dictates. This law will not be like the laws of the Medes and Per sians which weise unalterable, for Parliament will be able to amend: the measure from time to time. The basic principle of the bill is that the men and women* who return to civil, life after their war. experiences- must be treated not only justly but also generously.
I listened with interest to the speech by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who is a returned soldier of the last war. . He and the men who fought with him in that great conflict did wonderful things. But I do not agree with the honorable member’s view that this measure should be administered solely by returned soldiers. The administration of a measure of this description, requires special experience and trainings and it is not always possible to obtain & sufficient number of adequately trained officers for a particular job from one class in the community. I am quite certain, however, that the Government WL ensure that the persons charged with the responsibility of administering this measure will be whole-heartedly in sympathy with the people to whom it will apply, and will have their best interests Bt heart.
In regard’ to housing; I should’ like to see the returned personnel receive loans free of interest. All the men and women who went into the operational areas risked their lives for us, and they deserve the very best that we can do for them. In fact, nothing that we can do would be too great a reimbursement for them. A3 the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has repeatedly said, those who went into the battle-line placed their bodies between us and the enemy and we should, therefore, give them the most liberal compensation possible. I hope that the Government will make available at the earliest possible moment the building materials and man-power necessary to provide homes for the men and women who- will return from the war.
A paramount need of Australia is the decentralization of industry. It is an unfortunate fact that by far the greater proportion of our population is concentrated near out capital cities. Between 63 per cent, and 65 per cent, of the population of South Australia - and I speak of that State because I know it best - resides within five miles of the Adelaide General Post Office. A similar situation exists in the other States. That is a bad thing for the country. It is highly desirable, therefore, that the (government should do everything possible to encourage our returned personnel to settle in country districts. Australia is a fair and lovely land, and a duty rests upon all of us to do the best we oan to ensure that it will be developed in the best possible way. In fact, only by developing and populating Australia can we be sure of retaining it.
We have a great asset in the Northern Territory. Some time ago Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, who recently relinquished the position of United States Minister to A.ustralia, travelled through the Northern Territory, and on his return to the southern States he spoke very highly of its potentialities. Air. Johnson had had experience of great tracts of similar country in America. He knew how those areas had been developed, and he made it quite clear to us that, in his opinion, our northern areas could be similarly developed. In this connexion, I bring to the notice of honorable members some information contained in the report on the administration of the Northern Territory for the year 1943-44 by the Administrator, Mr. C. L. A. Abbott. In view of what Mr. Abbott says, I suggest that the Government should give earnest consideration to the possibility of settling in suitable areas of the Northern Territory some of our returned men and women who know the country through having been located in it for a considerable time during the war, >and who would be willing to take uo land there on their return to civil life. I do not suggest that anybody should be sent there who does not desire to go there. I believe, however, that the opinion of many people in the southern parts of Australia that the Northern Territory is little more than a desert is entirely incorrect. Some time in the future, if not in our own day, it will, to use the words of the Scriptures, “ blossom as the rose “. Mr. Abbott, in his report states that it is possible to regard with considerable optimism the future of the Territory for the following reasons, which he lists : -
It would be apparent from the foregoing that the problem’ of full and successful pastoral settlement in the Northern Territory presents no difficulties which are incapable of solution.
The first point that he makes concerning drought-proof areas should weigh heavily with us, for we have had a sad experience with droughts during the last two seasons. I am glad, also, that the Administrator referred to the possibilities of irrigation, for I consider that they are very great. In his previous annual report, Mr. Abbott stated -
The Commonwealth has really a seventh State in the Northern Territory which is its responsibility alone. 1 am quite certain it can rank with some of the existing States if its resources are developed and if it is given the facilities to increase such development.
Reverting for a moment to the possibilities of irrigation, I direct attention to the following passage from the Administrator’s latest report: -
I will, therefore, only say this: That the opportunity for irrigation settlement is definitely in the Northern Territory. In the northern portion of the Northern Territory are three rivers, all running into the sea. These are all north of the 18th .parallel of south latitude and are the Victoria, tho Daly and the Roper. They are each approximately 300 miles in length.
The Victoria River has a catchment area of 29,000 square miles and its basin has an average rainfall of 25 inches per annum. The Daly River has a catchment of 20,000 square miles and CO per cent, of the area has a rainfall of over 40 inches pur annum and only 15 per cent, has an area below 30 inches per annum. Its main’ tributary is the Katherine River.
The Roper River has the largest catchment area, over 19.000,000 acres. This is larger than the State of Tasmania. Its basin has an annual rainfall of over 25 inches. A great deal of this country is comprised of arable land and a lot of it would be easily accessible by water from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
There can be little doubt from these observations that the Northern Territory is a land of intriguing possibilities. I am confident that, many of our returned men would be glad to settle there, provided that they were granted adequate assistance by the Commonwealth. Mr. Abbott went on to say -
I have not sufficient technical knowledge to write with authority on the possibilities of damming, &c, but I recall that an engineer I sent there in 1038 opened his report to me with the following words: “The situation at Red Lily, Wagon Lagoon, and various other channels’ along Roper through the Roper Valley Station, are a water conservation and irrigation engineer’s dream”.
The name of the engineer is not given.
I have said previously in this House that our great need is population. We must hold out inducements to people to come to Australia, and we must also ensure that our own people who return to civil life after the war is over are given every reasonable chance to settle successfully in areas that at present are only sparsely populated. In some of the more southerly parts of the Commonwealth many people are struggling to make a living in districts that have a rainfall of only about 10 inches per annum, although in the north, as I have shown, we have vast tracts of country with a rainfall ranging from 25 inches to 60 inches. The Government should do its utmost to develop these areas. It should take particular notice of the statements of men like Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, who have seen similar country developed in their own land.
I support the bill, because I regard it as an honest attempt to do the right thing by ex-service personnel. If it does pot do all what is expected of it, this Parliament can make whatever alterations that may be found necessary. I am not very much concerned as to whether preference is to be granted for seven years or a longer period. If it should have to be continued, a future Parliament will have the com.monsense and initiative to provide for an extension of the facilities that are now proposed. Britain, America, and other countries are planning for full employment. I hope that, in the years to come, this fair country will not be confronted with what it has had to face in the past, and that those who have taken part in this war will be given the best possible deal. I trust that even the Opposition will eventually be prepared to. concede that the Government has made an honest attempt to do the best that could be done in the interests of exservice personnel. I have not indulged in party political propaganda, but have tried to make an honest approach to the matter.
, - .Several Government supporters have expressed the hope that this legislation will be considered from a non-party stand-point. That was made impossible by the inclusion in it of provisions which are pregnant with party politics. Had the Government desired to have the matter discussed on non-party lines, there was an easy, simple and practical way of achieving that aim. When it desired to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, it appointed a committee representative of all parties in the Parliament to consider the various problems that had arisen, and to make recommendations in respect of them. When it decided that a gratuity should be paid to members of the fighting forces, it again appointed a similar committee to discuss the matter and make recommendations. But that was not done in connexion with this matter. All honorable members take a very keen interest in everything which affects the lives and welfare of the men who went on service. The Government knew that it would be useless to place legislation of this character, with the meagre preference it was prepared to extend to ex-servicemen, before an all-party committee. The father of this brand of preference is compromise, and its mother is something that I should not care to mention. The bill violates those principles for which honorable members on this side have fought for 25 years, and it attempts to enact what has been the traditional policy of the Labour party for a similar period.
– The preference which Opposition members would grant is the preference to starve.
Mr. MoDONALD. - The honorable member for Lilley knows, as I do, that two of the cardinal planks in the platform of the Labour party is preference to unionists and non-preference to exservice personnel. The bill makes provision for a limited preference of seven years to those men who have fought the battles of unionists and have kept this country safe for them. Yet there are honorable members opposite who have the audacity to say that there should be compulsory unionism and preference to unionists, but that there should not be preference to the men who considered that this country was worth fighting for. Those honorable members cannot have it both ways. To-day, one of them proclaimed himself a believer in preference to unionists and compulsory unionism for as long as this country exists, yet said that preference to ex-service personnel should be limited to a period of seven years. If that is the best that the Government can do for the members of the services,, it will not satisfy either those men or the trade unionists. It is a clear example of having £1 each way. In other words, the Government says to the unions which have steadfastly set their face against preference to members of the services: “It does not matter; it is only for seven years, and then it will vanish “ ; whilst to the servicemen it says : “ We shall look after your interests for the next seven years. We are instituting a .plan which will give to you preference in employment “. In my opinion, such preference is not worth a “ tuppenny dump”. I have worked as hard as any man in this House. As an ex-soldier of the last war, I did not ask for help from any government, or for preference, but made my own way. I was in’ a fortunate position compared with other men who were temperamentally and physically incapable of continuing the battle of life after the last war. It is on behalf of such men that I am speaking to-night. If the honorable member for Lilley, who has been interjecting, had been as good with the rifle as he is with his tongue, the war in New Guinea would be over by now. I can appreciate that many members of this House do not like having this matter debated, because they have a guilty conscience in regard to it, which goes back to the time when an all-party committee recommended that absolute preference to ex-service personnel should be granted wherever practicable. I was a member of that committee.- Had the Government seen fit to accept its recommendation, none of this trouble would have occurred. But because pressure was brought to bear by outside sources, the Government wilted, and preference legislation, which we were promised two years ago, saw the light of day for the first time only, within recent weeks; and embodied in itis the most meagre measure of preference, which one would be ashamed to offer- to. any one.
– The Opposition defeated the other proposal.
– We did not defeat it. If the Minister for Repatriation wants a little ancient history, he can have it. He should have reason to remember that when the matter was raised in this House, I supported the recommendation of the committee 1.00 per cent. Every time there was a division in the House 1 voted in favour- of the recommendation of that committee. When we had to divide on the preference proposal which the Government refused to incorporate in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, I supported it.
– The Opposition had a promise from the Prime Minister.
– I was prepared to accept it until a certain gentleman reminded the Prime Minister that he was committed to preference to unionists and not to preference to returned soldiers. Because of statements from various honorable members who backed up the left wing of the Labour party on that occasion we insisted on a showdown.
At a recent conference the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction threw a little further light on the matter. He had good reason for asking that the proceedings should take place in camera. Members of the Opposition consider that the whole world should hear our debates. We have seen newspaper reports of the recent conference and the defence put up by the Minister was that newspapermen had not been admitted and that one could not vouch for the accuracy of the reports published in the press-. In- the statement of the Minister, however, not one word of denial has come from his lips. He said, in effect; “We are committed to preference because the Prime Minister had to compromise with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) or we should have been thrown out of office “. The implication was that the honorable member went to the Prime Minister and told him that, if the Government did not adopt the recommendation of the allparty committee, and include preference to ex-servicemen in the hill brought down to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, he would feel impelled to vote against the Government.
– The honorable member is misleading the House-
– I am stating facts. Lt is probably wise to remember what has transpired, because it may assist us with regard to the future.
Another unfortunate statement by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in introducing the bill, was that after seven years new generations of workers would be coming along, many of them the sons of servicemen, and that these “should not be handicapped by old history “. It would be most unfortunate if, seven years hence, ex-servicemen were handicapped by occurrences during the last five or six years. If there are any people in the world who need have no fear about looking into past history it is the men of our own race who fought on the Kokoda Trail, at Buna, and El Alamein, and in Greece and Crete. Are they to be told to forget all about those campaigns? They did a good deal to bring about victory even in those engagements which were regarded at the time as failures, but, actually, they were the turning point of the war in Europe, because they enabled the Allies to hold up the enemy and marshal their resources, with the happy result we have just learned. I believe that tradition has played an important part in the history of the British Empire. When the time arrives that we are ashamed of the performances of our servicemen to whom it is proposed to give a meagre- preference of seven years’ duration, this country will he on a down grade.
The proposals put forward by the Government with regard to housing have some merit, but I believe that during the last two years it should have paid more attention than it has to this problem. Time and again instances have come to notice of returned men having been unable to get permits to build houses for themselves, although they are entitled to the highest priority. I have brought to the notice of the House the case of a man who has served in the Army for five years and four months. He spent three and a half year3 in the Middle East including seven and a half months at Tobruk. On his return to Australia this “ digger “ purchased a house, and after his marriage he asked the tenant to vacate it. The tenant took advantage of the Landlord and Tenant Regulations and declined to vacate the premises unless another house could be found for him, but he said that if the owner would divide it into two self-contained flats one of them would be sufficient for his purposes. The owner agreed to do that, and applied to the Department of War Organization of Industry for the necessary building permit. Two months ago I sent a letter to the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction concerning this man’s case, but up to the present I have not received a reply. It is shocking to find that a returned serviceman, who has spent his own money in providing a roof over his head, is refused a permit from a department which has been set up during his absence at the war. The Government should encourage every “ digger “ who wishes to build a home for himself. We are confronted with the old argument that building materials are at a premium, but enormous sums’ of money have been expended on large buildings which have never been used for the purposes for which’ they were erected. In travelling to Melbourne by train, one sees a building which is reputed to have cost £500,000, but it has never been used. A power alcohol distillery was erected at Warracknabeal, but it has never been used. At Ballarat a theatre has been burnt down, but it has been rebuilt and a permit to dp that had to be obtained. . That is wrong, when hundreds of ex-servicemen are calling out merely for permission to build a roof over their heads.
– The honorable member is wise after the event.
– Then I have some advantage over the Minister who interjects, because I should not say that he is wise at any time.
Various speakers on both sides of the House have referred to the unfair treatment received by ex-servicemen who fought in the last war in the matter of land settlement. We heard a slight echo of that when the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was- appealing to the people of Australia to grant the increased powers proposed to he given to this Parliament. When he made the rehabilitation of the members of the fighting forces the first plank of his platform, it was to be the honey that would attract the bee. It was to be the chief attraction which would induce the majority of the people to vote in favour of the referendum proposals of the Government. The Minister for Repatriation gave the show away when he said that nowhere else in the world had returned men been treated better than in Australia. No less than £270,000,000 has been expended upon the repatriation of returned men, and it must be admitted that this is a splendid effort for a country with a population of only 7,000,000. We all know that some returned soldiers who went on the land did not make a success of the venture. Sometimes unsuitable land was bought for them, and sometimes unsuitable men went on the land. In some instances it was impossible for men, because of war disabilities, to work their holdings successfully. However, it is wrong to blame the Government for the failures, which were not due to niggardly treatment. Victoria has set an example to the rest of Australia in the clearing-up of difficulties associated with soldier land settlement. It was not done by appointing n Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but by appointing a commission independent of political control, and giving it power to revalue holdings and write off excessive charges. To-day, the record of Victoria in the matter of land settlement compares more than favorably with that of any other State.
– It is not very creditable even yet.
– None is so blind as he who will not see. I have stated the facts, and I challenge the Minister for Repatriation to disprove them. The authorities in Victoria are further advanced in the matter of soldier land settlement than is the Commonwealth. Months ago, the Victorian Parliament passed a bill in which power was taken compulsorily to acquire any land thought suitable for soldier settlement. I understand that a similar measure has been passed in South Australia. Thus, these States will be ready, as soon as they get. the word from the Commonwealth, to launch their land settlement schemes which, this time, ought to be successful. After the last war we had had very little experience in the matter of soldier land settlement. In future land settlement undertakings we shall he able to benefit from our previous mistakes and those difficulties which the “ diggers “ of the last war found insuperable can this time be avoided. It is untrue to say that ex-soldiers were forced onto the land after the last war. No soldier could get a block of land until he applied for it. Of course, any man, when deciding to take a block, was really backing his opinion as to its value. In a sense, he was doing the same thing as when, say, the Minister for Repatriation goes to a race-course and backs a horse. He is backing his judgment, and if his judgment proves wrong he cannot blame anyone but himself. The soldier settler, who inspected a block of land, and decided to take it at a certain price, was in the same position. It sometimes happened that the settler found out afterwards that the block was not as good an investment as he thought it would be.
Another factor which contributed to the failure of some soldier settlers after the last war was the decline of prices for primary products soon after they took over. The price of produce must always be considered before one can say with any certainty that an investment in land is really sound. To-day, the prospects are good because the price of primary products is high. That is an added reason why . servicemen already discharged should be able to go on the land immediately so that they may be able to make their position good while primary products are in demand, and are bringing good prices. I am pleased that provision is made in this bill for the granting of loans up to £1,000 to men who were on the land before their enlistment and who, after their discharge, desire to re-establish themselves on their former holdings.
– Would the honorable member describe them as race-course speculators, as bc did me?
– I did not intend to cast any reflection upon the Minister for Repatriation. I mentioned the matter of betting on race-horses as an illustration only. I certainly did not intend to hurt the Minister’s feelings. Men returning to their holdings after their war service will find that the value of their land has depreciated, because it has not been possible to keep pastures in good condition by the application of dressings of superphosphate. These men will need assistance in the form of loans at a low rate of interest, and I am glad that provision is being made to give such assistance.
I am disappointed with the preference provision in the bill. If the Government had done what some of its supporters wanted, and come straight out in favour of preference, it would have had the respect of every one. It is obvious that the Government attempted to placate the unionists on the one side, and the servicemen on the other, with the result that it has pleased no one. When the men return from the war, it will be the duty of every citizen to do what he can to assist in their rehabilitation. I hope that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments will seek the cooperation of regional committees and municipal councils, which should be invited to assist in the re-establishment of servicemen. Wherever possible, men should be placed on land in the district* , from which they enlisted. They will be more likely to make a success on land with which they are familiar, and in a district where they know the climate. Moreover, they will then have the assistance of friends who will be able to advise them and lend them machinery.
.- This is one of the most important bills that has ever been placed before members of this Parliament, or is likely to be placed before them in this generation. I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House are anxious to do their best for the returned men who have made such sacrifices to keep Australia free, although there may be differences of opinion as to the best way to go about it. The re-establishment of the members of our fighting forces is a colossal job for any government to undertake. Tb” situation is essentially different from that which existed after the last war. Thi.time, men andi women have been directed by the authorities to work in munitions and food production factories, because it was realized that the soldiers cannot win the war if they are not properly equipped and fed. I congratulate the Government on the bill before the House; it is a sincere attempt at the rehabilitation of service men and women. I shall not refer to matters which have already been fully discussed, but I desire to refer to clauses 91 and 92, which provide for financial assistance to men starting in business or settling on the land. In the case of the former, an advance of up to £250, or in special cases £f>00, is proposed, whilst for a man engaging in rural pursuits the advance may be £1,000. The amount of £500 should be increased to £1,000 and the £1,000 to £2,000. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) that the amount involved should not be the determining factor. I agree also with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that every man starting in business is entitled to an equity in his business. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the experience of many men after the last war. We all know of the hardships suffered by hundreds of returned soldiers, as well as civilians, who worked from daylight to dark throughout the year for practically no return. The honorable member for Richmond said that in 1923 cattle brought high prices, as did alaf wool, butter and lambs. He did not mention that wheat, which was sold at 7s. 6d. a bushel in 1921, fell to ls. 6d. a bushel in 1931. We must try to avoid such fluctuations in connexion with land settlement. Land values should be stabilized, and the prices of all primary product; guaranteed in order to avoid financial depressions. The prosperity of the people in the cities, and of businessmen in country towns, depends on the success of the primary producers. I should like to see an increase of the amount of money to be provided for men starting in business or engaing in rural pursuits. ^ We al] know of instances of primary producers failing through over-capitalization of their land, and high rates of interest We cannot, stress too strongly the danger of settling men on the land without sufficient capital. Soon we shall have before us for discussion, legislation designed to enable the Commonwealth Bank to function as it did years ago. The money for the purposes of this bill should be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank at the lowest possible rate of interest - I suggest about 1 per cent. If a man engaging in business were able to obtain money from the Commonwealth Bank for a long period at a low rate of interest, he would have a reasonable chance to make a success of his undertaking. The least that we can do for these men is to give them financial security and some equity in their business, or holding. It would be a small business, indeed, which would find the amount set out in the bill sufficient. I repeat that the amount is not enough, and I should like the Minister to reconsider this matter. Many of the men who will return from the war will have wives and families to maintain, and we must see that their children are not handicapped through lack of finance. Other honorable members have stressed the need to provide returned servicemen with homes. We must ensure that homes are provided for them, and that the liability in respect of such homes shall not be too great. Every returned serviceman will be entitled to a home at a low rate of interest. These men have offered their all in order to keep Australia free; if it were not for their service, we should not be engaging in this discussion to-nigh,t. When we recall the heavy demands on men and materials caused by the war, we must conclude that the Government has done a magnificent job in the circumstances. This bill is an earnest attempt on the part of the Government to do the right thing by its fighting men, and I am sure that any constructive suggestion which honorable members may offer will be given careful consideration. This is not a .party measure; party politics should not come into it.
A good deal has already been said on the subject of preference to servicemen. This is a broad subject on which divergent views are held. The letter which the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) read this afternoon expresses the views of many fathers of sons fighting in the war. Many hundreds of re- turned soldiers are agreed that younger men should not be handicapped in life because they were too young to participate in the fighting. We must remember, too, that numbers of men volunteered for active service but were found to be medically unfit. Some of them undertook work in munitions factories. They should be given a chance when the war is over. The problems associated with the re-establishment in civil life of the members of the forces are so complex that most honorable members would find difficulty in saying what they would do if given the powers of a dictator. During this discussion it has been said that the aim of the Government is to provide work for all. I hope that that objective will he reached. The time will come when the inventive genius of man will have machines doing all the work and men will be idle. That is a problem that can he left to a future Parliament, but this war has demonstrated what human ingenuity can produce to facilitate slaughter, and I have no doubt that the stimulus that war has given in the inventive field will be carried on into the days of peace. Many machines and instruments devised for war will be converted, and others will be invented to meet the needs of peace. Gradually all industrial operations calling for the hand of man will be taken over by machines. The progress towardsthat made in Australia since the war began has been more than amazing. We have done things which we never thought were within our capacity. We shall continue to do great things. We have, within Australia, untouched resources worth countless millions of pounds. They will be exploited. From the national wealth thus developed we shall, I have no doubt, be able to ensure the payment to every individual in the community, whether he is still at work or has been deprived of his work by machines, a dividend which will enable him to live in the comfort to which his membership of the nationally wealthy Australian community will entitle him. I repeat that our progress has been beyond anything we should have dared to imagine only a few years ago. It is not so very long ago that Australia relied on horses and bullocks for transport. Progressively we have passed through the railway and motor car eras to the era of the aeroplane. Air transport will bulk large in our lives henceforth. Wherever we turn our eyes we see evidence of progress, but greater progress lies ahead. We must go with the times,, not buck against them. If it is inevitable that man shall be displaced by machines, we can do nothing to prevent it, nor do 1 think we should try. How much better it is that masses of rock, which formerly had to be dynamited and then manhandled1, can now be shifted by steam navvies fitted with gigantic scoops. Men will be looking on and machines will work. That, however, lies in, I think, the not too far-distant future. Meanwhile we shall have to make do as we are doing, and the- things that we have to do will keep all our men at work for- 20 or 25 years.
I do not wish to occupy the attention of honorable members much longer. The principles of this legislation have been thoroughly debated. I content myself by saying that whatever we do for the ex-service men and women will not be enough. I hope that improvements of this .measure suggested from both sides wi,l.l be accepted by the Minister in the spirit in which they have been made. Some good; suggestions have come from the Opposition side. I deprecate the intrusion of personalities and heat into a debate on a subject like this. All honorable members make suggestions to the best of their ability. The point that I want to stress most is that it is essential that the returned men shall be provided with sufficient capital, to. relieve them of financial worry when they axe trying to regain their rightful place in the civil community. They .must be protected against further worry, they have had sufficient to worry them in the front line. Relieved of financial worries, they will be able to marry and rear the families that will ensure the future well-being of Australia. Therefore, if this bill can be improved, let it be improved. I hope that it will not be long before all our men and women, will have returned to civil life. If they return, as I pray that they may, before we have been, able to so prepare for their return as to ensure that every one of them shall be able to step into his allotted niche, it will be Australia’s obligation, through the agency of the Commonwealth Govern.ment, to demonstrate in a tangible way its deep gratitude by paying them at least the basic wage for three months, six months, or as long as may be necessary before they are able to be employed,.
.- The pros and cona of this measure have been, fairly fully canvassed on both sides, and, therefore, I do not wish to traverse all. that has been said. I rise merely to makea few comments, on- certain matters which seem to me to> be appropriate and have not been touched on by others. The main point seems to be that we should pass this bill as quickly as possible and get on yith the job of implementing it. If verbal assurances count for anything, those given on both sides of this House about the welfare of ex-service men and, women mean that their future will be assured, but, after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof, and in the manner in which it is served, and I believe that the success of this measure will depend mainly on its sympathetic administration. I do not think that recriminations on either side as to what has gone before, or what are the shortcomings of previous, administrations, get us very far. Neither do. glowing, promises as to what we are to do count for very much more than the sneers of Opposition members as to what may not be done. But I do regard this bill as a token of the Government’s sincerity. It is concerned with the welfare of the men and women of the fighting services. I appreciate, too, that the criticisms of possible shortcomings, in this measure by honorable members opposite may have some substance. But let us test it. In the light of experience, it may be improved from time to time. I should have liked to see incorporated in this measure a. provision for the establishment of a standing committee- of this Parliament to deal with matters affecting repatriation and rehabilitation of members of the forces. Such a provision was contained in the bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act that was brought down by the Government in the last Parliament but, unfortunately, was thrown out by the then Opposition majority in the Senate. I hope that the Government, having adopted the principle of such a standing committee, will incorporate, either in this bill or in some other bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, a provision for its establishment. That would give opportunities for consideration of this and other legislation affecting members of the fighting forces from time to time in the light of experience, and afford other people, particularly ex-servicemen’s organizations, opportunities to make suggestions to the Government for improvements. In that connexion, I received to-day the following letter from Mr. E. S. Vidal, federal secretary of the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women : - [Re-establishment and Employment Bill.]
We attach hereto a critical appraisement of this bill in general and our proposals in detail for its amendment.
This legion is a young and vigorous association of men and women of this war. Its federal councillors are particularly able and clear-thinking advocates, carefully selected by the various State councillors throughout Australia as men fitted to discuss the country’s problems, and make sane recommendations when deemed necessary to our various legislative bodies.
We represent all sections of servicemen, irrespective of the nature and place of service, and are concerned only that they need rehabilitation within our civil community.
We are disturbed by the inadequacy of the measure under review as a means towards the solution of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. We sought an interview with the Prime Minister, or any other responsible Minister, anywhere at any time, and that interview was not granted to us.
If that is so it seems to me that that organization and similar organizations attending to the care of ex-service men and women might have been taken into consultation by those who drafted this measure. He goes on to say -
We feel that our representations should have been gladly sought, as coming from an association whose councillors and delegates have seen service during the present war, in all branches and ranks of the armed forces - submissions of thinking men who have served
With, and discussed the future with, men and women now on active service in all parts of the world in the ranks of our Navy, Army and Air Force.
We desire your assistance to seriously consider our proposals. We feel this bill merely incorporates existing facilities, and we urge that it be re-drafted after consultation with ex-servicemen’s associations.
I have not had an opportunity to analyse the proposals which have been put forward by this organization in eight foolscap pages of typescript. Possibly by the time this bill has reached the committee stage, I shall be familiar with this document, and shall be in a position to suggest certain amendments. In many case I submit that proposals of this nature might well be placed before a standing committee on the repatriation and rehabilitation of members of the fighting forces.
Criticism has been expressed by certain honorable members opposite, of the various amenities and concessions which are to be available to ex-service men and women under this measure. It has been suggested that the allowance payable for the purchase of civilian clothing to members of the forces upon discharge compares very unfavorably with similar allowances paid in other countries, particularly New Zealand. I point out, however, that this allowance was considerably increased by the present Government. The amount payable under the administration of the previous Government was only £2 10s., which was sufficient to purchase only what has been described aptly as the “ zoot suit “ issued to discharged soldiers. My personal view, however, is that the allowance should be even higher than the present figure. In New Zealand, I understand, the allowance is £25. However, when considering this matter, we must not lose sight of certain other concessions which are available in this country to discharged service personnel. I have in mind particularly, the vocational training scheme, advantage of which is already being taken by quite a number of returned soldiers. The amount payable under that scheme is approximately the basic wage. Here, too, there is scope for improvement in view of the financial difficulties which returned soldiers have to face. The cost of living is high and house rents are almost prohibitive. I know of one case where a former serviceman has gone back to the university, and is receiving a net allowance of £4 10s. a week. He has a wife to support, and has to pay £3 3s. a week for a furnished flat. That does not leave very much to meet other expenses including food, clothing, fares and incidentals. In cases like that the body charged with the responsibility for making these allowances should be able to permit the ex-servicemen to supplement their income by undertaking a part-time occupation. In the case of university students, it might be possible to allow them to earn a little extra money by contributing articles to newspapers, and in other ways. Other benefits which must be taken into consideration include the war gratuity, which to-day is three times the amount payable after the last war. All these things must be considered when determining whether or not the Government is doing the right thing by members of the fighting services.
I regard the preference provisions of this measure as an earnest attempt to rehabilitate members of the fighting services. The position is unprecedented and it is impossible to find an example which can be followed. Therefore, the Government has had to do what it considered to be best in the circumstances. The Government’s opinion is that the clauses covering preference in this measure are the best that can be devised in the circumstances. Even the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) admitted that a proposed bill drafted by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was not adequate. The Government has brought forward this measure, and the best thing we can do is to put it into operation so that it may be tested. If in the light of experience it is found to be inadequate, steps can be taken to improve it accordingly. After all, it will be the spirit in which the measure is given effect that will really count. I do not think that any difficulties will arise so far as good employers are concerned. The preference provisions are designed mainly to cover those employers who are unsympathetic or selfish in their approach to the employment of ex-service personnel. I am confident also that the workers in industry will approach the matter in the right spirit, and will do their best to help the men who have returned from the war. The whole question of preference must be taken into consideration in connexion with the
Government’s proposals for full employment. That is a natural corollary to the rehabilitation of members of the fighting services. 1 was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) say that the theory of full employment was mere wishful thinking in a machine age. That is a very narrow outlook. The inventive genius of man is a gift from the Almighty for the benefit of mankind as a whole, and not for the enslavement of workers in the interests of a few privileged individuals. The use of machines in industry should enable the provision of further amenities for the workers and an improvement of their conditions generally, with an ultimate shortening of hours, thus allowing increased leisure for cultural development.
Whilst I appreciate that the general provisions of this measure will ensure a considerable measure of rehabilitation for the members of the fighting services, there are other ways in which I think that could be achieved. Provision should be made for ex-members of the fighting services to work together in co-operative organizations, community settlement schemes and so on. These men have been bound together in a common cause for the establishment of a new order amongst mankind. They have been joined by a spirit which only those who have been in the fighting line can understand. Why should they not be bound together also in a common enterprise during the years of peace? I urge the Government to give consideration to assisting ex-service personnel to band together in co-operative undertakings. There are large tracts of land in this country that might well be set aside for such schemes. Take, for instance, the Port Stephens area: The port itself is thrice the size of Sydney Harbour and could be established as one of the finest ports in the world. Tha* and other parts of this country might well be opened up for settlement by ex-service personnel, for whom such provision should be made as will enable them to enhance their prosperity and make of this country a land fit for heroes to live in.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bernard Corser) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On the 27th April, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) raised the matter of leave for members of specialist Army units in New Guinea who have served for periods of two years and more without having had leave. He made particular reference to members of the 37th Australian Telephone Switch-board Operating Section, No. 2 Company, 19th Australian Lines of Communication Signals. I have inquired further into this matter, and assure honorable members that it is the policy to relieve as many signal units as possible from service in tropical areas after a period of eighteen months. It will, however, be readily appreciated that there are obvious difficulties in the way of arranging regular relief for technical units, because of their composition and the specialized nature of their work. Arrangements were recently made for the section referred to by the honorable member to be relieved by a similar unit. Unfortunately, the unit which was to effect the relief was required for an urgent operational purpose, and had to be diverted to fulfil that commitment. However, I have now been advised that relief for the 37th Australian Telephone Switchboard Operating Section arrived in New Guinea on the 7th May. As soon as possible after the change-over of duties has been effected, members of the section will be returned to Australia, where they will be granted all their accumulated recreational leave, and will undergo a period of rehabilitation and refresher training prior to being allotted to a. new task.
– From time to time, the Opposition in this House has raised a matter which is causing a good deal of dissatisfaction among the general public, namely, the failure of the Government to do justice to our land forces that have fought in Malaya and New Guinea, by withholding from them the award of the 1939-43 Star. It is rather significant that British servicemen, and the other two arms of the Australian services, have received this award for service in Malaya and New Guinea. The public wants to know why there has been such flagrant discrimination in regard to our land forces. Wherever Australian and British forces have fought side by side, they have invariably shared in British awards; for example, east of Suez they have been given the 1939-43 Star, and west of Suez they have been given the Africa Star. All men who have fought in those areas, whether they are members of the British armed forces or the Australian, armed forces, have received one or other of those awards. Australians have won in Malaya and New Guinea the highest decorations that can be awarded on a field of battle. Here is an anomaly which the Government might well investigate because of the grose nature of it: LieutenantColonel Anderson won the Victoria Cross in Malaya - the highest decoration! for valour that can be awarded on a field of battle - yet he is not entitled to wear the 1939-43 Star. Surely, if any man is entitled to wear that decoration it is a man who has won the Victoria Cross! Can the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army give to the House and the country an explanation which will place the responsibility for the discrimination between British land forces and other arms of. the Australian forces, and the Australian Military Forces? Why have these last mentioned forces been singled out as the victims of this flagrant discrimination? Is the British Government or the Commonwealth Government responsible for it? The Government is always ready to eulogize the bravery of the Australian Military Forces in. the Pacific theatre of war. Members of the Opposition have joined with. Government members in expressing recognition of the heroism which our armed forces have displayed in that theatre of war. Those men have fought magnificently, often against great odds and with inferior equipment. Why have they been denied the right to wear this award ? What mystery is associated with the matter? Why have the British forces received the award? Why has it been received by those in the service of the Royal Australian Wavy and the Royal Australian Air Force? Peculiarly enough, it has been denied only to the Australian land forces. Is it because there is a decided rift between the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces and Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett, or is it because of the tendency on the part of the CommanderinChief and certain other senior officers to discredit the part that has been played by the Militia in the defence of Australia and New Guinea? I grant that “ rumour is a lying jade “ ; nevertheless, rumour has it that at one time the Government approved of this decoration, but the Commander-in-Chief had the decision reversed. Because this award has not .been made to men who have given service in this theatre of war, it is not strange that rumours should be circulating. I ask the Minister to state whether or not the rumour I have mentioned is true. Did the Government approve of this award, and subsequently reverse its decision? If it did, at whose instigation was it reversed? Common justice demands that these men, having fought side by side with others who have received the decoration, shall be entitled to wear it. Honorable members will recall that from time to time the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been questioned on the matter. It is more than a coincidence that the right honorable gentleman deflected them on every occasion, by saying that the matter was one for consultation between the Australian Government and the British Government. How does that square with the fact that the award has been granted to British forces, members of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, merchant seamen, and all the others who have served in this theatre? There is a mystery which the public wants to have unravelled, [f the Minister can unravel it, he should do so in justice to these mcn who have fought so honorably and bravely. Surely the award should not be withheld from them! I understand that a new Pacific decoration is to be awarded. Does that mean that it is proposed to withdraw the 1939-43 Star, or will the new decoration be given only to the Australian Military
Forces, or be additional to the 1939-43 Star? There should be enlightenment on the matter, for the benefit of the general public and all others who are interested in it. If the new award is to be a consolation prize to the Australian Military Forces, and not an additional decoration, then the general public and the men themselves will have nothing whatever to do with it. It must be an additional decoration. This matter has been lightly passed over when questions have been asked about it in the House, but the Government must now make a decision regarding it. It is incomprehensible that the star should be awarded to members of the British forc.es while it has been withheld from members of the Australian forces who have received the highest distinction. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matter with a view to making a statement in the House regarding it.
– I draw attention to the desperate position of the poultry industry in New South Wales. A meeting of poultry farmers was held at Hamilton, in the Newcastle district on Tuesday last, and other meetings have taken place or are about to be held from Maitland to Parramatta. The poultry industry is largely a small man’s industry, because it provides a means of giving many people a start in life. There is a small settlement of poultry farmers al; Medowie, near Raymond-terrace. The men engaged in that locality were thrown out of employment in the Newcastle district during the depression. They bought their land from private owners and the small farms which they now possess have been paid for by their toil and sweat through the years. Before the present disaster overtook their industry their prospects were fairly good, but they are now faced with a deplorable outlook because they are threatened with the loss of their farms and are suffering to a. greater degree than during the last depression. In a letter published in the Australian Poultry Journal and addressed to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) ‘and to Mr. Finnan, the honorable member for Hawkesbury in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, it is said that 75 per cent, of fowls in the poultry farms in the Gosford district may have to he slaughtered. Farmers from the Fairfield and Cabramatta districts near Sydney have informed me that they consider that at least 60 per cent, of their poultry will have to be killed. This will result, not only in a heavy loss to the farmers themselves, but also in a great diminution of the number of eggs produced in that State.
The industry is faced with the greatest disaster in its history, because of the shortage of feed for poultry. The farmers are being misled to a considerable degree by the Government departments which are distributing the feed. I have ‘a circular before me that was issued by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, and it is entitled “ Equitable Distribution of Bran, Pollard, Meat Meal and Mixed Feeds”. It is dated the 26th April and states inter alia -
ALLOWANCE OF MIXED FEEDSPOULTRY.
Concern has been expressed by some persons at the apparently disproportionate amounts of mill offals (bran and pollard) and meatmeal on the one hand, and mixed feeds on the other. One hundred fowls are allowed 140 lb. of mill offals and 4J lb. of meat meal per month, or 370 lb. of mixed feed per ‘month. The explanation of this difference is as follows : -
The allowance of mill offals and meat meal per 100 birds only provides about .12 per cent, of the mash requirements. The remainder of the mash must be made up with other feeds, such as wheatmeal and oil meals and any other suitable feed which may lie available. A total of about 370 lb. of mash is ‘required per 100 birds per month.
The manufacturers of mixed feeds are being required to limit the amounts of mill offals and meat meal in their rations, so that 370 lb. of mixed feed will only contain about 40 lb. of mill offals and 43 lb. of meat meal. The remainder of the 370 lb. will be made up with wheatmeal and other feeds which may be available.
Mashes made up on the farm with the mill offals and meat meal allowance, together with whcatmca.1 and other feeds which may be available, should contain about the same amount of mill offals and meat meal as the manufactured mixed feeds.
Stockowners may not always be able to obtain all the mixed feeds they require, as manufacture of mixed feeds will, of course, be limited by the supply of wheat. In this event they will need to make up their requirements with the mill offals and meat meal allowances and, in addition, purchase as much wheatmeal and other feeds as may be available. 1 have received a letter from Mr. E. J. Campbell, honorary secretary of the Fairfield and District Branch of the Associated Poultry Farmers of Australia, in which he states, inter aiia -
I can assure you that in this district alone, unless the feed position improves, all the poultry-farmers eventually will have to dispose of their flocks. In my opinion, it will eventually rebound on the public, depriving them of the egg which is so necessary to the whole community.
Mr. Campbell said he visited the various produce merchants, and the first merchant he contacted was Mr. A. Stockman, of Canley Vale, who also has a branch at Liverpool. Mr. Campbell’s letter proceeds -
Mr. Stockman deals with a broker in the country and is already 1,200 bushels behind in his quota. Mr. Stockman, from his Canley Vale store, supplies feed for the whole district, and he informed me that he has 350 farms registered with him, and, combined, they have approximately 000,000 laying hens. At the moment, between his two stores he has 1,000 bags of wheat, and if wheatmeal is made it has to be taken from the 1.000 bags he has oil hand.
Mr. Stockman has applied to the Wheat Board for extra wheat, but the board claims that he .has exceeded his quota of wheat for this month. The board would not give Mr. Stockman details of his official monthly quota of wheat he is entitled to, nor would they give it to his country agent.
Then Mr. Campbell interviewed Mr. C. McNaughton, of Smithfield. His letter continues -
He informed me that he used to get between 60 and 100 bags of wheat meal per week from Thorpes Limited, and now he is not getting any wheatmeal at all. He was also getting 188 bags of laying mash from Thorpes Limited, and he has now been cut 40 per cent. He also informed me that he was purchasing between 60 and 70 tons of bran and .pollard per month and ho has now been cut to 10 tons per month.
The next produce merchant I contacted was” Mr. R. A. Williams, of Fairfield. Mr. Williams states that he has 400 farms registered with him, and, combined, they have approximately 430,000 laying hens. He also said that if he was to supply his customers with their quota of bran and pollard and meatmeal he would he out of produce before next Friday.
The three produce merchants state that although linseed-meal, coconut-meal, key-meal, milk powder and other essential meals for poultry are not rationed they are unprocurable.
It is quite impossible to obtain other feeds in Australia at present.
At the meeting of poultry-farmers at Hamilton, resolutions were carried asking that the Government shouldbuy the poultry at 10s. to 15s. a head. The cost of raising the stock was from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a head. They are probably worth more than that at the end of the first year as laying hens. I know that an arrangement has been made with the Government of the United Kingdom under which it will purchase poultry from Australia at a price equal to1s. 6¾d. per lb. f.o.b. in Australian currency, but of this the farmer will receive only11d. per lb. live weight. I am told that white leghorns weigh approximately 4½ lb. live weight, which, at11d. per lb. would return 4s.1½d. Coloured fowls weigh approximately 6 lb., which, at11d. per lb., would return 5s. 6d. each. Pullets are worth 7s. 6d. to 10s. each, first-year hens 6s. 3d. to8s. 9d. each, and second-year hens 3s. 6d. each. It is stated that poultry- farmers will have to reduce their flocks by at least 60 per cent., and probably 70 per cent. This must result in a tremendous capital loss. Farmers complain that the feed ration is insufficient to keep the fowls alive. They say that the ration is estimated on a total of 19,000,000 birds in New South Wales. Actually, they believe that there are not more than 9,000,000 to 10,000,000. The number of hens registered with the Egg Board is approximately 4,000,000. They claim that, because of this faulty estimate, the ration is unduly small. The poultry-farmers also say that no provision has been made for the rearing of chickens. It is pointed out in the circular issued by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture that chicken grain mixtures are not subject to control, but the point is that the farmers are unable to buy this mixture or, indeed, any other kind of feed. No ration has been provided for chickens under twelve weeks old. I understand that 1,000 chickens consume 1,017 lb. of mash a month. This exceeds by 30 lb. a month the amount of mash which can be made from the ration allotted for the feeding of 1,000 hens. It is evident that departmental officials, working behind closed doors, have evolved this extraordinary formula which, if applied, will have the effect of starving the adult hens so that the chickens may be reared. I submit that this formula is absurd.
It is evident that farmers will not be able to obtain feed for their fowls, and that there will be a great loss of poultry this year in New South Wales. For poultry which will have to be killed, the Government should compensate breeders at the rate of 7s. 6d. to 10s. for pullets, 6s. 3d. to8s. 9d. for first-year hens, and 3s. 6d. for second-year hens. This should be accompanied by an increase of the price of eggs. The poultryfarmers who will meet at Parramatta on the 30th May will discuss an increase of8d. a dozen. I do not know whether that is a proper figure, but it is evident that some increase is justified, and the Government should subsidize the consumers so that the cost of living will not be unduly increased.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Rankin) negatived -
That the honorable member for New England be granted an extension of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations - Nos. 621, 622.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes - Townsville, Queensland.
Postal purposes - Spring Hill, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Order - No. 81.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945. Nos. 66, 67,69.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions w ere circula ted : -
r asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
With reference to the statement that permits are being issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry for the erection of houses in Canberra -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Price of Milk.
y. - Yesterday, the honor able member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question concerning the inquiry being made by Professor Giblin into the question submitted to him by the Prime Minister relating to the payment of a subsidy to milk producers for the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Newcastle.
Professor Giblin has intimated that he hopes to be in a position to present his report onthis matter to the Government next week.
y. - On the 1st May, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked whether it was a fact that, under a National Security regulation issued during the previous week, aliens with good records who had served in the labour corps would be granted naturalization free of charge.
As promised, I asked the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) to look into the matter and I am now advised that no such regulation has been made under the National Security Act or any other act. However, a regulation was made recently under the Nationality Act providing that no fee would be payable for the grant of a naturalization certificate to the widow of an alien who was formerly a member of a labour corps with a good record of service. The standard fee for the grant of a naturalization certificate is £5, but in 1935 the Naturalization Regulations were amended to provide that no fee would be payable by aliens who served in the last war. In 1942, this privilege was extended to aliens who are serving or have served in the armed forces (other than as members of a labour corps). At the present time, consideration is being given to the granting of free naturalization certificates to members of employment companies serving in the present war. Many of these enlisted aliens have been wearing the King’s uniform for two years and have served their adopted country diligently. As to the general policy with regard to the naturalization of aliens, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has furnished me with the following statement: -
Naturalization is granted only to aliens who are permanently domiciled in Australia and who can comply with all the requirements of the Nationality Act, such as five years’ residence in British territory, adequate knowledge of English, intention to remain here permanently and satisfactory record.
Before any application for a certificate of naturalization is granted, exhaustive inquiries are made to ensure not only that the applicant can comply with the prescribed requirements, but also that there’ is no ground whatever for suspecting disloyalty on his part. If, in any instance, the Security Service has any reason for offering a security objection to the grant of an application, the application would be refused.
Munitions Establishments : Explosives Factory at St. Mary’s.
asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
n. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Inquiries have been completed regarding the question asked by the honorable member on the 20th April concerning allegations made in a Sydney newspaper respecting St. Mary’s Explosives Factory. As stated, there were 13,000man-hours lost in six months, but for some reason best known to itself the newspaper did not state that this related to some 2,000 employees. Had it done so, a simple arithmetical process would have shown that the average loss per employee inthe six months was six hours, or, put in another way, one hour per man per month. I hope that any industry the honorable member is interested in can show as good a record. I would like to addthat while I deplore loss of time through unauthorized absences from work, the employees were not paid for the absent time, and invariably the loss of time arose out of some discussion amongst employees during the lunch-hour which continued after the time for resumption. In no case was the meeting held on a matter which concerned the management.
There is also some reference to resignations of officers, but the facts of this are that the great majority of the officers referred to resigned for some purpose or other of their own, mostly to take other positions, and, as for the existing officers, each one since publication of the article in question has voluntarily assured the management of co-operation and confidence.
The article endeavoured to make capital out of a fire which broke out in one section, but the facts are that there were no explosives in the section concerned. Honorable members can be assured, however, that the precautions against fire and the spread of explosions in the government factories are not excelled in any part of the world. It is because of that fact that in Australia we have, fortunately, been free of disasters such as have occurred elsewhere.
Other allegations have been made in the article in question, and I have satisfied myself that there is as much value in them as the instances I have given. The point is that the factory is one of several operated by my department, and its productivity and costs compare favorably with other factories of the kind.
n asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Willhe lay on the table of the House a detailed statement incorporating such matters of public interest as are contained in reports submitted by Messrs. Slater and Maloney during their respective terms as Australian Minister in Moscow?
– Reports submitted to the Government by Australian representatives abroad are of a confidential nature and it would be a breach of established practice to lay material from them on the table of the House. Information received in such reports is, however, normally used in the preparation of ministerial statements on international affairs.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What is the number of unemployed returned servicemen on the books of the placement depots of the Repatriation Commission in each State at the present time!
– The numbers of unemployed ex-servicemen registered with the placement depots and receiving repatriation allowances were as follows as at the 31st March, 1945 :-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450517_reps_17_182/>.