17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a letter from the Ex-Naval Men’s Association of Australia, New SouthWales section, which is endeavouring to raise £20,000 as a building fund to provide a home and offices for the head-quarters of the association in Sydney. This is the only organization in Australia which provides amenities exclusively for ex-naval men and women while in the service. Will the Treasurer consider making tax-free any donations to this fund?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I cannot say offhand whether or not such donations will he tax-free. A very fine line is drawn between those contributions or donations to certain institutions or bodies which are tax-free, and those that are not. I shall arrange an interview with the Commissioner of Taxation, with a view to having the matter examined and obtaining further particulars in regard to it.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, inquire as to whether or not land-line facilities are now being made available to commercial broadcasting stations for the broadcasting of commentaries on race meetings held in Melbourne to South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and, if Army traffic permits, Queensland? If so, can the Government justify’ its refusal to provide either interstate or intra-state land lines for the relaying of independent newsbroadcasts by commercial stations? Why does the Postal Department refuse to provide a split land line to station 3BA Ballarat from the permanent land line which station 3DB Melbourne has to station 3LK in the Wimmera district, passing through Ballarat? Does the department contend that an additional land line would be required to enable this service to be provided to station3BA Ballarat?
– There has been some relaxation of the conditions relating to the interstate broadcasting of race meetings on a Saturday, on which day, I assume, there is not much traffic on the available land lines. If the honorable memberwill place his other questions on the notice-paper, I shall endeavour to obtain replies to them.
– In view of the extreme gallantry of the Australian forces in Bougainville, is the. Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army able to reveal the identity of the units that are doing such great work in an arduous and hazardous campaign? Will the Minister also state what decision has been reached in the issuance of a Pacific Star as a war decoration to the Australian fighting services?
– Being privileged, for the time being, to be a member of the Advisory War Council, I have heard from service chiefs accounts of the operations on Bougainville. Our troops in those operations have made very gallant efforts, indeed. I do not know whether any mention may be made of the units actually engaged in that fighting,but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army. I am not in a position to say what progress hasbeen made in the matter of the issuance of a Pacific Star,but I shall ascertain the facts and advise the honorable member later.
Farm Horses - Mill Offal
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the report in the Queensland press that, according to the secretary of the Queensland Cane Growers Council, Mr. Muir, canegrowers in North Queensland, who are unable to obtain fodder for farm horses, are incensed at the fact that their urgent requirements cannot be met although supplies of fodder are still available for race horses? Is it a fact that farm horses have no priority in the matter of fodder supplies?In view of the inconveniences which cane-growers have suffered because of the impressment of their tractors, the difficulty they experience in purchasing new machines, and the shortage of spare parts, will the Minister take action immediately to ensure that fodder for farm horses used for such essential purposes as those of the sugar industry shall be given a high priority?
– Under National Security Regulations, the control and distribution of fodder arc entirely within the province of State Ministers for Agriculture. In South Australia the whole of the fodder available has been acquired by the State Government, which has distributed supplies on what it regards as an equitablebasis. I have no doubt that the right honorable member has correctly stated the position in Queensland. It behoves the Government of that State to take immediate action to rectify any anomalies that may exist. I shall bring to its notice the representations which the right honorable gentleman has made to me.
– As the shipment of large supplies of wheat from South Australia will reduce the amount of milling, and thereby the quantity of mill offal available for stock in that State, will the Minister examine the position in order to ensure that South Australian interests shall’ be protected?
– It has been decided by the Australian Wheat Board, with my approval, that there shall be a reduction of the milling programme throughout Australia, and a reduction has occurred. In Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland the mills will have to work two shifts instead of three as previously, and in the large milling States of Victoria and New South Wales the shifts have been reduced from three to one. We have not sufficient wheat in Australia to provide for a bigger milling programme commensurate with the need for stock feed. The manager of the Australian Wheat Board will meet me in conference in Canberra to-day, and this matter will be discussed. I anticipate a reduction of the milling programme in South Australia, but the honorable member can rest assured that sufficient wheat will be made available to offset the loss of offal caused by a reduction from three shifts to two.
Alleged Disclosure of Military SECRETS.
– The Canberra Times to-day, under the heading “ Alleged Disclosure of Military Secrets to Australasian Council of Trade Unions Conference”, has published this1 statement -
Military information, which was so secret that it could not even be divulged to Parliament, had been given to a recent trade union convention by the Federal Labour Minister (Mr. Holloway), declared Mr. W.C. Wentworth, when addressing the Killara branch of the Liberal party to-night.
The convention was “ stiff with Communists “ and it was scandalous that a Minister should divulge secret military information, on which the lives of many soldiers depended, added Mr. Wentworth.
Has the Minister for Labour and National Service read that statement? If so, can he either confirm or deny the accuracy of it?
– I have read the statement, which is not only reckless, but also disgusting. Nothing in the nature of a military secret was discussed at the convention. Although the gathering- was attended, by seven or eight Ministers, the only reference to the war situation was made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on behalf of the Government. “There is not the slightest truth in the charge made by Mr. Wentworth, which is dangerous, in that it is likely to injure the war effort by lowering the morale of the people. I am certain that the leaders of the Liberal party, m “Whose name Mr. Wentworth claimed to speak, must resent his reckless statement as much as I do. If the Liberal party is depending for its progress on men of such character, who would appear to be unfitted to “hold any responsible public position, I am sorry for it. Exception cannot be taken to statements couched, in proper language, which must be expected in the clash of party political rivalries. This statement is not in that category.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister .inform thu House whether the convention was so disturbed by a leakage of information that a session was devoted to a search for those responsible? Does this show that the press reports of the convention .were substantially correct?
– I have no recollection of any discussion at the convention about a leakage of information. I understand t’hat at no time during the convention did any discussion occur with regard to a leakage. I can assure the honorable member that no such discussion took place. It may be that, since the convention, officials of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions have been disturbed by reports, and sometimes completely inaccurate statements, concerning the proceedings ; but that is the business of the executive of the council. Certainly .nothing occurred at the convention of the nature indicated by the honorable member.
Alleged Contempt of COURT
– According to the press this morning, the Sydney Morning Herald has been cited to appeal’ before the Arbitration Court to answer a charge of contempt of court. As the Communist newspaper Tribune published a report identical in substance with that for which the Sydney Morning Herald bas been cited, has the Acting Attorney-General any information which suggests that that publication also has been cited for contempt of court ?
– This action has been taken independently of the Government. The only knowledge that -we have is that the judge requested permission to brief counsel to state his case before the court this morning. I assume that if His Honour considers that the action should cover a wider field, he will move accordingly. If he again seeks permission to be represented by counsel, his request will be granted.
– The Minister has no .knowledge of proceedings having been taken against” any other newspaper ?
– In view of the ^excellence of the publication Facts and Figures, and the wealth of information which it contains in regard to Australia’s war effort, will the Minister for Information consider issuing copies of it to every school in Australia?
– I thank the honorable member for Martin lor his delicate and well-deserved compliment. The printing and circulation of this publication to every school, as he suggests, would cost a great deal; but if I can persuade the Treasurer, who has many other financial commitments, to ‘provide further money for the purpose, its distribution will be widened. However, I cannot hold out the hope that every school in Australia will be able to obtain copies of at, much as I should desire so wide a distribution of such an excellent publication.
– Has the attention of the Acting Attorney-General been directed to the report that Mr. Justice Cantor, in a judgment delivered yesterday in connexion with the dispute at, the Newcastle works of Lysaghts Limited, ruled that exservicemen are legally entitled to resume work in positions which they held at the time of their enlistment? Is the Minister aware that, in this dispute, the Federated Ironworkers Union has claimed that an employee of the company who was working as a shearer in a certain mill at the time of his enlistment in 1941 should take up work as a shearer in another mill, because no vacancy existed in the firstmentioned mill, and that the judge said that the policy of the union was in direct and open conflict with the law? In view of the importance of maintaining the principle of rehabilitating members of the foi-ces, was the Commonwealth represented at the hearing of the case ? If not,, why not? Does the Government intend that the ruling by Mr. Justice Cantor, regarding ex-servicemen, shall be given effect in this case and future cases- of the kind?
– I read the report in the press to-day. Mr. Justice Cantor is a member of a State industrial tribunal, and my deductions were that his thoughts and opinions on the subject of preference were directed to State laws.
– The Prime Minister saw no difficulty when I brought the matter under his attention previously. Hp promised to have counsel appointed to look into it.
– After all, there are both Commonwealth’ and State jurisdictions, and I consider that the “ buck “ is often passed to the Commonwealth when it should be carried by the States themselves. As far as I can see without close investigation, the remarks of Mr. Justice Cantor had to do with, a State law and a State industrial commission. It was a State matter, in regard to which he had jurisdiction. I shall look into the point; but that is how the matter appears to me on the surface.
Mb. GUY. - I have received letters from various municipalities in Tasmania with regard to the importation of strychnine for rabbit poisoning: One letter states -
Owing to the shortage of man-power the most effective means is poisoning, but sufficient quantities of reliable good- quality strychnine are not available. The strychnine obtainable is Indian brucine, which is only 43 per cent, as compared with the bisulphate strychnine 75 per cent. In addition, the price of brucine ie (is. 4d. per oz. compared with Hulle’s pure strychnine, which was sold at 2s. per oz. in 1939. The strychnine position in England has greatly improved, but the Division- ot Import Procurement refuse to sponsor orders on London and will allow only Indian brucine strychnine to come into Australia.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs take the matter up with his colleague with a view to having strychnine of the .better quality imported from Great Britain ?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture informs me that this matter has been receiving the attention of his department for some time,, and he states that the department has been unable to get any quality other than that of which the correspondent complains.
– That can hardly be correct, because I have seen cablegrams from England relating- to the matter:
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has mad© inquiries, but is unable to get any other quality. If the honorable member has any information that would assist in obtaining strychnine of the higher quality we shall endeavour to get it.
– As auction sales have been held by the War Disposals Commission in Sydney and Newcastle, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping have steps taken to arrange for some of the sales to be held in country towns, so that country people may have a fair opportunity to purchase huts, tents, blankets, and other equipment which is being auctioned?.
– I am sure that the honorable member will appreciate the fact that compliance with the request would involve a great deal of transport and extra handling of those goods. The best way to deal with the matter would be to have wide publicity given to the sales, so that people in country districts would he made aware of them. They could then send agents to the centres where the sales are conducted. The transfer of the materials to country towns would be too big a job.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House whether the restrictions which he introduced when in control of the Department of War Organization of Industry regarding the delivery of goods to householders are to be relaxed? If so, will the Government in considering such relaxation give first priority to expectant mothers and mothers with young children, so that women who are playing their part in increasing the much-needed population of this country may no longer be packhorses? In any relaxation of restrictions, will the Minister also give consideration to residents of country districts who lack rail, tram and other facilities available in city areas?
– The Government is considering some relaxation of the delivery of goods order, but has not yet arrived at any decision in the matter. It realizes that this order imposes some hardship, particularly on women and, especially, expectant mothers, who at times have to travel long distances and carry their own goods from the shops rather than not have them at all. There are some factors, however, which prevent the Government from doing all that it would like to do in the matter. If the order were relaxed to any considerable degree, there would immediately be a greater demand for vehicles for the distribution of goods at a time when petrol is scarce and rubber is more difficult to obtain than formerly. As far as horsedrawn vehicles are concerned, because of the shortage of fodder supplies it would, perhaps, be impossible to feed all of the horses that .would be required to ensure that deliveries were undertaken on a proper scale by horsedrawn vehicles. The whole matter is under consideration by the Government, and in due course a decision will be made.
– I understand that preference in the release of tractors for wheat-growing is being given to those farmers who are prepared to assist their fellow-farmers in sowing and harvesting this year’s wheat crop. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say how the arrangement is operating, and how many farmers have agreed to co-operate with their fellow-farmers?
– It is true that my department has- asked those farmers who have tractors to assist less fortunate farmers whose horses have died through drought and the absence of fodder. We are doing all we possibly can to speed up the importation and distribution of tractors, but we have not nearly met the demand, which has been excessive this season, owing to the death of many horses, or the fact that the animals have had to he removed from drought-stricken areas. The Government will continue to make an appeal to farmers to assist their neighbours. Already my department has been ad-vised of the unselfish action of many farmers who have readily assisted their less fortunate neighbours by making their tractors available to them. That spirit of co-operation will, I think, be maintained. It is almost impossible to say how many farmers are doing this, but in the circumstances we can well leave the matter to the goodwill of the farming community throughout Australia, and particularly the wheat-growers, who will be prepared to assist their neighbours.
Appointment of Mk. F. H. STUART
– Will the Acting Minister for External Affairs state whether he believes that, in approving the appointment of Mr. Francis Hamilton Stuart to the External Affairs Department as Second Secretary, Political Section, at a salary of £792 per annum, he observed the principle of preference to returned soldiers, which has been the subject of debate in this House during this session ? Is it a fact that one qualification for the job was an intimate knowledge of Middle East affairs? Why, then, was Captain J. S. Cumpston, a permanent officer with five years’ active war service, and as intimate a knowledge of Middle East affairs as could be gained f rom service in the desert with the Australian Imperial Force, passed over?
– I am not aware of the particulars; but I shall call for the relevant papers, and a reply will be made later.
– A fortnight ago I asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to arrange, if possible, for the issue of a permit for the extension of the Melbourne City Abattoirs. As I pointed out at the time, the work is both important and urgent. Can the Minister say whether the request has yet been considered, and when the permit will be issued?
– As I informed the honorable member when he asked his previous question, the matter is somewhat complicated. If I remember rightly, the Health Department in Victoria is opposed to the erection of the building, and my Department, as a general rule, does not wish to take action to override State instrumentalities. However, negotiations are still proceeding, and a decision will be reached soon.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen a report which was despatched recently from San Francisco by Mr. E. H. Cox, the Melbourne Herald representative attending the United Nations Conference on International Organization, in which the following passage occurs: -
Now proposals which have beon embodied in the working plan of trusteeship prepared by Britain and America will, if adopted, vitally curtail Australia’s sovereignty in her mandated territories and threaten continuance of her long-standing policies . . .
This means the economic sovereignty in relation to the Class C mandates, such as New Guinea, now enjoyed by the mandatory power, would be transferred from the mandatory Power to the Trusteeship Commission, which would have unlimited power to permit or refuse any form of economic restrictions or discriminations.
The practical effect to Australia would be that she would be unable to enforce such measures as migration restrictions, designed to sustain the “White Australia” policy, or discriminatory tariffs designed to assist the Empire, and even Australian home industries.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in quoting extensively from a newspaper.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noted that Dr. Evatt, and a United States spokesman, Commander Stassen, are conferring privately on thu matter? Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has been consulted regarding the policy which Dr. Evatt is putting forward at the conference and in consultation with the representatives of other countries regarding a trusteeship over Australian mandated territories? If not, will the Acting Prime Minister inform Dr. Evatt what is the policy of the Australian Government - if the Australian Government has any policy on the matter - or has the Government given Dr. Evatt a free hand to do what he likes at the conference?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall be able to answer it fully. The Deputy Prime Minister is at San Francisco with Dr. Evatt, and the Government has complete confidence in them as representatives of Australia.
– But have they confidence in each other ?
– I am sure that, as representatives of Australia, they can be relied upon to put before the conference, and to the representatives of other countries, what they understand to be the general policy of Australia, and to do it in such a way as to benefit Australia. A great deal of discussion took place about the control of mandated territories during the .conference between representatives of Australia and New Zealand some time ago, as a result of which what has come to be known as the Anzac Agreement was drawn up. Australia’s two representatives at San Francisco have a clear realization of the views of the Government on these matters. Having regard to that fact, and in the light of decisions which have been made, I have no doubt that they are qualified to present the views of the
Government. At a later date Parliament will have an opportunity to survey the wort which Australia’s representatives have done at the conference.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, two questions relating to land transactions. Thefirst arises out of the discussion which took place in this “House a week ago when the Acting Prime Minister informed the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that he would consider the appointment of an appeal board to consider values placed by treasury valuators on country lands. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will extend this provision to cover city properties, because representations have been made to me they should be included? The other question concerns the lodging of bonds as part payment for purchases. I have been advised that since the High Court ruled that the condition requiring the lodging of bonds was not valid, all applications for permission to purchase property have been flatly rejected, and that the delegate of the Treasury in Melbourne has been instructed from Canberra that such applications will be refused. It has been pointed out to me that many of the people concerned are willing to lodge bonds; but the effect of this recent ruling is to prevent any dealings whatever in investment properties.Can the Treasurer say what is the policy of the Government in regard to the first matter, and will he clarify the position in regard to the second?
– I do not remember making any promise that an appeal board would be set up. I did say that I would consider the representations of the honorable member forGippsland, who raised the matter, and I told him that if he would supply me with the names of those concerned in the particular cases which he cited, I would examine the matter. Of course, I am prepared to consider the points raised by the honorable member for Fawkner. An appeal board, if appointed, would be concerned only with valuations. I shall examine the matter. As for the lodging of bonds, I looked upon it as a con cession to investors that, on condition that bonds were lodged, permission to purchase would be given. Now that the provision has been declared invalid, the position is exactly the same as that which obtained before.
– In other words, there is a total prohibition of investments.
– I deny that. Every case is examined on its merits. Many of them are examined by me personally, when there is some doubt. I shall consider the point raised by the honorable member. It may be that there is some misunderstanding.
Debate resumed from the 17th May (vide page 1861), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fadden had moved by way of amendment -
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”.
– It is erroneously assumed that the bill before the House is one to provide for the repatriation of ex-service personnel, but as the title of the bill itself indicates, this is not so. It is true that the bill includes provisions for the reestablishment of ex-servicemen, but it also provides for the re-establishment of other sections of the community. Honorable members who desire that returned soldiers should be provided for in a special measure of their own, are not, for that reason, opposed to the granting of benefits to other sections of the community. We believe, however, that the servicemen, because of the low pay which they have received during the period of their service, because of the privations they have endured, and because they offered themselves for the protection of their country, are entitled to special consideration. Of course, other people also have worked to help the war effort, but they were able to go to bed at night, and to sleep between sheets with a pillow under their heads. They had the comfort of their homes, with holidays and free week-ends. Actually, this bill repeals the preference previsions which already apply to returned soldiers. They were recommended by a committee representative of all parties in the House, and preference was promised to the servicemen ;by the Prime Minister himself. Unfortunately, others had something to say about it. The reason for the withdrawal of preference is to he found in a resolution by a Labour organization. In March -of this year, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions decided that no section of the community was entitled to be given preference or privileges because of wartime service. The resolution added -
We believe that preference to ex-service personnel is not in the best interest of the nation, and should bc abolished.
No reason was advanced why preference to ex-servicemen should be abolished, but the trade unions adhere firmly to the principle of preference to unionists. They seek to dictate to the Government its policy regarding returned soldiers, and they maintain that preference to soldiers should be withdrawn, although until now preference has been provided by the laws of the country.
This bill does give a measure of preference to returned soldiers, and also to certain other persons. The period of preference is restricted to seven years after the cessation of hostilities or, as the hill now reads, the cessation of hostilities in Europe. We have been told that, for a considerable period after the war, there will be a serious shortage of labour; yet this is the period during which the servicemen are to be given preference. Honorable members must be disappointed that the bill does not provide any special benefits for returned service men and women, because tomorrow the Government can, under these provisions, give equal privileges to other sections of the community. Nor does the bill place upon the Government the full responsibility for providing employment for men and women after their discharge from the forces; the main responsibility for their employment will be thrown on private enterprise. In making appointments to jobs under their control, employers will have to consider many things, including the period and the nature of the service rendered by not only service applicants but also citizens who remained at home. Clause 32 extends the preference to be provided under this bill to persons other than service personnel. In other words, any person in the community -comes within this clause; it is not confined to workers in munitions factories or other war establishments, but includes workers - or strikers - on the wharfs, coal-miners and others who absent themselves from work when they feel inclined. Clause 32 (1) reads-
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.
On receipt of that registration he will be entitled to claim preference in employment. Clearly, therefore, the Government does not intend that preference shall be confined to those who have served with the fighting forces.
The bill contains provisions relating to pensions, medical care, dwellings, land, and vocational training. That is to say, those matters are mentioned in the bill, but there is nothing to indicate that anything will be done to provide them. For instance, the bill does not contain provisions for the acquisition of land; it merely states that an agreement may be entered into with the States. The Government has admitted that, so. far, no such agreement with the States has been made. Again, the only reference to housing in the bill is contained in clause 302 which reads - (1.) The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into an agreement with any State for the allocation of dwelling-houses amongst discharged members of the Forces, or classes of discharged members of the Forces, or other persons or classes of persons. (2.) In this section, “dwelling-house” -means any building or part of a building occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate dwelling’ and constructed or purchased in accordance with any agreement between the Commonwealth and the State relating to housing.
As in regard to medical care, vocational training and other matters to -which the bill refers, so in regard to dwellings, the bill contains no machinery to provide them.
During the discussion of this measure it has been claimed that there will be no need for preference to service men and women in the post-war years, because the Government’s policy will provide employment for all. If that he so, there will be no need to continue legislation providing for preference to unionists; nor will there be any ground for objecting to preference to returned service personnel. Legislation providing for preference to ex-members of the forces would be, however, in the nature of an insurance policy. A person who takes out a life assurance policy does not expect that his action will, hasten his death. A similar argument applies to the inclusion in legislation of provision for preference to service men and women. I fear that employment for all is being promised in an attempt to side-step many economic problems which otherwise would have to be faced.
In our plans for the future we must be careful to distinguish between spending money merely to provide wages, and expenditure on projects for the development of the country. Whilst work for all is a desirable objective, and absolutely necessary, it must not be the foundation on which our expenditure shall be based. I fear, however, that the expenditure of money merely to provide wages is what the Government has in mind. Work for all, has been placed high in the Government’s claims, but the expenditure of money, particularly loan money, merely to provide wages can, at best, be only a temporary palliative: it will not get at the root of our economic problems. Such a policy could easily lead to the destruction of those things on which our hopes for the future development of Austral] t should rest. We have seen evidence of this attitude in the frequent references to the heavy war expenditure of the Commonwealth, as though the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds each year was the true measure of a country’s war effort. The fact remains that war expenditure is not reproductive, and for the most part does not create assets which will he of permanent value to the country. We must take care that our post-war expenditure does not mean merely the providing of work in order to pay wages. We must aim rather at the establishment of successful industries which will provide constant employment, and, by creating wealth, will improve living standards. A policy which aims at creating real wealth by developing the country’s resources will in time be rewarded by increased revenue from taxes. A sound economic policy will be of more benefit to the nation than one which merely provides for paying wages. Australia’s development will come only .from thrift and enterprise on the part of the people which will create healthy and productive employment, and by the implementation of a policy to develop our latent wealth in the spheres of mining, manufacture, and pastoral and agricultural production. There must also be scientific development with a view to securing better returns from our efforts. In addition we must take steps to increase our trade and commerce, but neither this nor any other suggested bill contains provisions to that end. The Government proposes that service men and women, as well as civilians, may be placed on the land, but the bill does not include any provisions which indicate that steps will be taken to secure markets for our increased production. Unless markets can be found for what is produced, such efforts are doomed to failure.
– ‘Can markets be found before the commodities are produced?
– We must know where markets can be found before we set about producing more goods for export. Failure to find markets for our production has been the cause of many of our troubles in the past. For instance, Australia has grown more wheat and dairy produce than it could sell. We must proceed on a scientific basis. That does not mean borrowing money and spending it merely to provide wages. The development of this country must p proceed along sound lines.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I shall endeavour to do so, Mr. Speaker.
I do not believe that the methods proposed by the Government will bring about the re-establishment and employment of members of the forces. I am not convinced that the class of works the Government has in mind will be in the interests of either those employed thereon or the country. For instance, the proposed standardization of railway gauges at the cost of £200,000,000 will contribute nothing to Australia’s productive and earning capacity, and’, when the job has been done and the thousands of men engaged on it have lost their jobs, all that we shall have will be railways where we had railways before and another £200,000,000 of national debt requiring heavier taxes to meet the interest burden. It is that sort of non-reproductive work which this country must avoid in the interests of the re-establishment of ex-servicemen. It must abandon the policy of expending loan money on. jobs which have no other purpose than to fulfil the Government’s promise of “ work and wages for all “. I know that hundreds of millions of pounds of new capital is available to this country if those who possess it were assured that the Government would not nationalize their enterprises as soon as they were successful, as it proposes, for political purposes. In the wake of that new capital would come all the work and social security that this country needs. I commend to the consideration of the Government the example of encouragement given to private enterprise by the Government of the United States of America. It is to the enterprise of such men as that great American industrialist, Henry Kaiser, that the United States of America owes its dominant place in the world to-day. His enterprises do not require the expenditure of public funds and the expanding of the public debt with need for more and more taxes to pay the interest. On the contrary, he is a large contributor to the Revenue through income taxes. Mr. Kaiser lias announced a gigantic homebuilding project to meet the needs of the exservicemen of America. All that this bill does in the Way of providing for homes for the members of our forces is to set out in eight lines that the Government proposes to make agreements with the State governments for that and other purposes. Contrast this attitude with Mr. Kaiser’s proposal -
Mr. Henry Kaiser, the shipbuilding magnate, has announced the launching of a nation-wide homebuilding project, which is likely to provide millions of people with post-war jobs. Land for the construction of 10,000 homes on the Pacific coast has already been acquired, he said.
The Commonwealth Government and the State governments have not acquired 1 acre of land on which to build homes for soldiers -
Homes with two bedrooms and garage will at first cost $6,000 (fA.1,875), but it is hoped to reduce the price to less than $5,000 later. The houses will bc built on blocks with frontages varying from 52 to 70 feet, with depth from 100 to 150 feet, and will bp in groups of at least 200. There will be facilities for recreation, education and medical care in the centra of each group. Deposits on houses will be from $100 (£A.31) to $200, and subsequent payments, not to exceed $30 a month (£A.9), will include medical and hospitalization expenses, also insurance against loss of working time due to illness.
There is an assurance of work within a great scheme, but we are merely going to spend loan money on providing pickandshovel work -
Air conditioning and heating units will be standard, and a whole air-cleansing unit, eliminating the necessity for dusting, will be available for an extra $150. The houses, though built to a fundamental pattern, can be varied through differing positions of the garage and porches, and variations in shutter and roof styles, giving an individual appearance.
There is an illustration of what can and should be done. Another instance of how other countries encourage private enterprise is provided by the action last week of the Government of the United Kingdom in handing to the Standard car makers their great works at Coventry which have been since the war began diverted to the manufacture of armaments. “Work will be provided directly and indirectly for 5,000,000 people as the result. But here we are to be satisfied with expending £200,000,000 in providing men with the pick and shovel job of converting the railways to the standard gauge, which will be not worth tuppence to the economy of the country, because it will not provide with, railway services one district which does not already have them. It will mean the scrapping of all the State-owned railways in Victoria, South Australia, Queensdand and Western Australia - every bridge, every sleeper, every platform, every carriage and every engine - for not one worthwhile result. Money is plentiful throughout the world for reproductive purposes, but not for such wasteful projects as those which the Government has in mind. Provided confidence is inspired in the people, industry will flourish, and overseas capital will be invested in this country whose untapped resources provide great possibilities of future prosperity. Science must be harnessed to industry. If we safeguard our economic position there will be no need to worry about the employment aspect, because there will be plenty of work for all. Production and the sale of the products are the only means by which we can ensure work and wages for all. We must follow the example set by the United States of America, which has developed a population of 130,000,000. We, in fourteen years, have expanded our population by a mere 250,000. We must increase our population, both naturally and by immigration, in the national interests, and we must have the enterprises that will employ the people. I read that it was proposed that some of the munitions factories in this country will be kept in production after the war in order to provide work. They should be used for the manufacture of articles necessary for the development of or.r resources. With the immense possibilities of water conservation and hydro-electric schemes in this country, the development of which has been so energetically advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and pressed for by me, there will be plenty of opportunities for employment. Whilst honorable members of the Opposition agree with the objective of work for all, and are prepared to do whatever may be necessary to make such a policy possible, they believe also that preference in employment should be extended to servicemen who have made1 sacrifices in the defence of their country, and, in so doing, have handicapped themselves in civilian life. I commenced my speech by saying that this bill provided for civilians as well as for exservice personnel, and, therefore, could not be regarded as solely a repatriation measure. Clause 54 states -
In this Part, “ disabled person “ means a discharged member of the Forces, or a person included in any prescribed class of persons, who, by reason of injury, disease or deformity, is substantially handicapped in obtaining, or maintaining himself in, employment, or in undertaking work on his own account, of a kind which, but for that injury, disease or deformity, would, in the opinion of the Minister, bc suitable to his age, experience and qualifications, and “disablement” has a corresponding meaning.
That clause does not confer any benefit exclusively upon returned soldiers. There is to be no distinction between a man who may have stolen a motor car and lost a leg as a result of an accident, and a returned soldier who lost both his legs at the war. They both will qualify for the benefits of this clause. I have no objection to provision being made for the care of disabled persons, other than returned soldiers, but that is a matter which should be covered by our ordinary humanitarian social legislation. So, one finds that throughout the bill, whether in regard to land settlement or any other privileges which this measure contemplates, there is this dragnet provision that these benefits shall be available to anybody who can claim that his work during the war was in the interests of the war.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done with crippled civilians?
– I agree that provision should be made for them, but not in legislation which ostensibly has been introduced to assist returned soldiers. At the present time under the conditions imposed by the Government, a citizen may not get a limb. It is incorrect to describe this measure a3 a bill providing for the re-establishment in civil life of members of the forces and for facilitating their employment.
The bill provides that in land settlement schemes agreements may be made with the States. That has been advocated for the last two years. I hope that when such schemes are being inaugurated, the Government will seek the advice of land experts in choosing suitable areas. Care must be taken to ensure that land made available to a returned soldier shall constitute a reasonable living area, having duc regard to its productivity. In the past, we have seen some sorry spectacles. In Queensland, soldier settlement schemes were most disappointing. Of the hundreds of returned soldiers who took up land in that State many could not remain ou those properties. Not two years had elapsed before it became evident that the money invested by the returned soldiers and that provided by the Government bad been lost.
– “Who benefited?
– Nobody. Who could possibly have benefited?
– In many cases the land was sold at inflated values.
– The land to which I arn referring was Government lard, so the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is barking up the wrong tree.
– “Who was responsible for placing these men on the land?
– The Government of Queensland.
– Then apparently the honorable member is blaming that Government for having deceived them.
– Earlier in” this debate the Minister for Repatriation, by interjection, blamed the antiLabour Government of Victoria for the failure of soldier settlements in that State. To be consistent, he must blame the Labour Government of Queensland also. Following the failure of the original soldier settlement schemes at Beerburrum, in Queensland, an attempt was made, under a second settlementscheme, to grow tobacco on the same land, but that project also failed. “When land i<< being chosen for future soldier settlement schemes, advice should be obtained not only from Government experts, but also from private individuals who have had many years of experience in land matters and are able to gauge the productivity of land. No settler should have less than a living area and steps should be taken to ensure that the land which he is to occupy is suitable for growing the particular commodity which he intends to produce. We all desire to be generous to our returned soldiers, and to give to them the best land that is available, even if it means purchasing that land from private owners. Blocks should be made available on easy terms, and if necessary, interest should not be charged for the first five years.
– Does the honorable member suggest that land should be confiscated ?
– No. I say that the land should be bought from the present owners. In Queensland there is much suitable Crown land which could be made available for soldier settlement.
.- I had hoped that this bill which is so important to the future welfare of a great number of people, would have 1een debated in a non-party atmosphere. Every amendment proposed by the Opposition should not necessarily be regarded as undesirable merely because an Opposition member has sponsored it. I am sure that every member of this House has given much thought to this complex and difficult problem. Perhaps we view the matter from different standpoints, and therefore see different sides of the problem, but, with fair consideration, I have no doubt that many of our differences can be reconciled. I was disappointed, therefore, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) introduced party politics. After offering his criticism of the measure, the right honorable member ended his speech by saying, in his polished English, that the Government had introduced this measure only to pay off a dishonorable debt which it owed to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a report words which he alleged the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) had used when addressing an Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne. I have also read newspaper reports to the same effect. Whether they were true or false I cannot say, but the Leader of the Opposition has no right to challenge the sincerity and honesty of purpose of honorable members on this side of the chamber, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). On this difficult and complicated question, what was left undone by the Leader of the Opposition in turning the debate into party channels, the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) accomplished rapidly. Even the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), after protesting that he did not like party politics being introduced into the discussion, immediately adopted a partisan attitude by saying that the bill ^represented a compromise between those who believed in preference to returned soldiers, and those who believed in preference to unionists.
– Is that not so?
– No. Speaker after speaker from the Opposition side has charged Government members with not being interested in the welfare of service personnel. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) put it, are the servicemen a class apart, or are they drawn from the people at large? If they are drawn from the people at large, it cannot be denied that by far the great majority of them must be workers, because the working class is the most numerous in the community. Does any member of the Opposition honestly believe that we on this side of the chamber have no interest in the future welfare of our comrades who are fighting overseas? Farmers’ sons, too, form a section of the working class. Has this Government not shown more understanding of, and practical sympathy for, the working farmers, than any preceding administration? Is it not most illogical to assume that after having given so much practical assistance to farmers the Government has no interest in their sons? Such ideas are absurd. This war is different from the war of 1914-18. In that war, men volunteered to leave this country to fight overseas. .No man was forced to go, nor was any man or woman who remained at home forced to undertake any particular job. If my recollection be correct, work was not very plentiful during that period. Certainly there was no manpower problem. Our soldiers went overseas as volunteers, and when they returned, preference measures were introduced by various legislatures. On just how that legislation operated, I shall have more to say at a later stage. But what was the position when this war started? After taking things somewhat easily for the first year, it became evident that to meet an enemy who ruthlessly had regimented and enslaved his people, the democratic countries would have to forgo temporarily, many of the freedoms which they had enjoyed. Although the Australian people did not care very much for the idea, they cheerfully accepted rationing, and manpower and other controls, because they understood that they were necessary, in short, every man or woman became a soldier in or out of uniform. Every man of military age was called up, medically examined, and then directed to the job in which he could best serve the nation. Some remained in essential work, and others were sent to munitions factories or other vital employment. Quite a large number were drafted into various branches of the armed services. Whilst I have no hesitation in saying that the man who came into physical contact with the enemy on a battle front, should receive special consideration, I find it hard to differentiate between the soldier who wanted to go on active service, but instead was sent to Moora, in Western Australia, when an invasion of our western coast seemed likely, and the worker, who also desired to defend his country, but was directed to remain in his essential employment. The yardstick by which the Leader of the Opposition measured the matter of preference was whether a service man or woman had suffered any loss of skill which would become an economic handicap. He said thai servicemen had suffered a loss of skill and that therefore they should receive preference. If one followed that line of reasoning, a member of the forces who before the war had been a labourer with no special skill but who, by reason of his special aptitude, had been trained in the course of his service as a. skilled motor mechanic, should not be given preference, whilst a girl who had been a first-class dressmaker before the war and who had been directed into a canning factory, with a resultant loss of skill in her trade, should receive preference. But the Leader of the Opposition would advocate that preference be given to the soldier but not to the girl.
The least important part of this bill is the section relating to preference in employment. Re-establishment and rehabilitation are far more important. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that the Scullin Labour Government had. dismissed returned soldiers from employment in the Public Service. That statement was a half-truth typical of the misrepresentations practised by some honorable members opposite. “What are the facts of this matter? Australia, in common with most nations, was in the midst of an economic crisis at that time. Labour held the reins of government in this chamber, but was hampered by a hostile Senate. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Scullin, was refused credit by the banks, the loan market was closed to him, and the Senate refused to sanction increased taxation or an £18,000.000 fiduciary note issue. The Government’s income for June, 1931, amounted to £4,000,000 and its commitments totalled £7,000,000. “What could the right honorable member for Yarra do in those circumstances? The only course open to him was to retrench heavily. The blame for throwing out of employment thousands of men, including large numbers of returned soldiers, rests squarely on the party which the honorable member for Balaclava supported then and still supports. Had that £18,000,000 note issue been authorized, 50,000 men could have been put to work for twelve months. This would have created work for thousands more, and the fear and misery of those days would have been lessened to a great degree. In view of these facts, is it to be wondered at that honorable members on this side of the House doubt the sincerity of honorable members opposite when they talk about preference to ex-servicemen ? The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) stated that all that the Labour party would do for an ex-serviceman would be to put him on the end of a queue. My reply to that statement is that all that was done by the parties represented by the Opposition during the nineteen years in which they held office between the wars was to put the returned serviceman on the end of a pick in a sustenance camp. It is pertinent to ask these champions of vested interests what sort of preference their masters - the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce - gave to ex-servicemen. Why do they now object to this bill, which seeks to force them to give effect to their announced policy of preference? They are vocal about this policy, but they have shown little liking for it in practice. The honorable member for Moreton bad the effrontery to blame the Government for the defeat of the referendum proposals. He said that the first proposal, which asked for powers to deal with rehabilitation would have been granted if other powers had not been asked for at the same time. What a remarkable change of front. . I listened to the Leader of the Opposition when he addressed a meeting at the Northam Town Hall during the referendum campaign. He ridiculed the idea that further powers were needed to enable the Government to deal with preference. Apparently, his party believes that, for a lie to be believed, it must be a big one. The Labour party has always strongly favoured preference to unionists, not because it wants to exclude anybody from industry but because the workers must be organized if they are to deal successfully with onslaughts on their wages and conditions. Every section of the community realizes the value of organization. Even the Liberal party is doing its best to remarshal its scattered forces, and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is seeking shelter within its ranks. The employers are very highly organized, and the workers and farmers should not be denied the right to do likewise simply because honorable members opposite believe in the “ open shop “ principle. Honorable members opposite are well aware that the workers would be easy prey if they were not organized. Such a situation would suit the Opposition admirably. However, so long as preference to unionists prevails, a union can ensure that every man shall pull his weight and contribute his share towards the cost of securing and protecting industrial awards. What would be the attitude of the wool-growers if the legislation recently passed for the benefit of the whole industry were to be paid for only by the organizations, so that growers who did not belong to them would receive all the benefits of the legislation without contributing to the costs. Unionists feel as the wool-growers would feel in those circumstances. The fundamental difference between soldier preference and union preference is that not everybody can be a soldier, whereas every worker can and should be a unionist. The outcry raised by the Opposition is designed to create bad feeling between soldier worker and industrial worker. The Opposition’s tactics are to divide and rule, a policy which kept the working farmer divided from his friend and ally for many years and allowed both to be exploited by their common enemies - the traders and manufacturers who were ably represented by the United Australia party and the United Country party coalition in the past. Consideration of the rehabilitation of service personnel cannot be separated from the general economic situation of the nation. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction clearly indicated the true conception of the problem when he referred to the identity of the needs of service men and women with those of civilians. He particularly pointed out the impossibility of successfully re-absorbing service men and women into civilian life unless the postwar objectives of the Government were achieved. The rehabilitation of the nation is a prerequisite to effective rehabilitation of service men and women, and the objective of full employment must be fulfilled before this can be achieved. We must not tolerate a return to pre-war conditions under which Australia’s most valuable asset - human skill - was wasted. In the year 1938-39, about 250,000 men were unable to obtain employment. Many of these were exservicemen. It is obvious that the bestdevised preference legislation in the world cannot give security to exservicemen in a situation of insecurity and mass unemployment. The fact that our front-line fighting men realize this was proved by their “ Yes “ vote at the recent referendum. The objectives of national policy enunciated by the Minister in his speech are realistic and vital, and they will provide the incentive to the people to work for reconstruction as hard and as courageously as they have done for victory. Servicemen will return from the battlefronts and will expect their hopes to be realized. They do not want to save the nation from outside enemies only to return to .find it threatened by monopolies and vested interests, to whom the very term “full employment” is anathema. (We should set ourselves the objectives of full employment, a high and rising standard of living, comprehensive social security laws, and the continued development of our national resources. These form the minimum foundation upon which the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women can be securely based. These aims in themselves do not guarantee rehabilitation. Generally speaking, service .personnel and civilians have common interests, but service personnel also have special interests, special needs, and special problems. These special problems may be summarized as follows: (1) Reinstatement of those who are’ able and willing to return to their pre-war occupations; (2) re-training of those who are unable to do so; (3) the training and subsequent employment of those who are too young to have completed training before enlistment or to have established themselves in suitable careers ; (4) rehabilitation of disabled personnel, both psychological and economic; (5) treatment of the unsettling effects of war experience. Those are the main problems. Doubtless there are others, but they will be met and overcome as we proceed with the general scheme. This bill is a statesm’anlike measure, the broad principles of which must receive the support of all who have the rehabilitation of service men and women sincerely at heart. It shows how much better prepared we are to deal with the problems of rehabilitation than we were immediately after the war of 1914-18. This is important, in view of the dissatisfaction caused by the repatriation and rehabilitation schemes of earlier years. As the bill will be subject to further analysis in committee and has already been well discussed, I shall conclude by speaking briefly on the necessity for returned soldiers to administer its provisions when it becomes law. Many honorable members opposite have made special pleas that returned servicemen only should receive administrative positions in the new department. The administration of this measure will be so important that a great deal of care must be taken to find men of the right type for the job. The fact that a man has served with the armed forces does not automatically fit him for a position in which he will be called upon to deal with men who will need much sympathy and understanding. An exserviceman who has been through the mill should have a better understanding of the special needs of his comrades than an ordinary civilian, but we must remember that many complaints have been made against the administration of the Repatriation Department and its satellite bodies by returned soldiers. There is a general opinion that the Repatriation Department endeavours to protect the treasury funds, often to the detriment of ex-servicemen. Therefore, the selection of officers for the administration of this law must receive very careful attention. If necessary, men who- have special aptitude for the work should be taken from the services now. The kind of man needed is not the one with a parade-ground manner, but one who will inspire confidence and understanding. I commend the bill and compliment the Minister responsible for its preparation. I hope that, in the committee stages, political considerations will be laid aside so that every amendment moved will be examined on its merits.
.- The essence of the bill can be simply stated. It is conveyed, by the first two lines of its title. It is “ to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the forces “. “What task of this Parliament could be more important at this time? War has taken from their homes, their farms, their jobs, their businesses, their schools, their universities, their families, their pleasures and their privileges, nearly 1,000,000 young Australian men and women. Some of them were old enough to have given service in the war of 1914-18 and they have added years of service in this war to that splendid record. The highest national policy, no less than gratitude and justice, impel us to make the best provision of which we are capable for their successful and happy reabsorplion into our community life. Our task is not only important, but also urgent and pressing. About 300,000 men and women have already passed through the services during this war and have resumed civilian occupations. Thousands more are being discharged for routine reasons, and it is reasonable to expect an acceleration of- this process as the war in the Pacific draws to a climax, such as has already occurred with dramatic rapidity in Europe. The facility with which we have already re-absorbed so many ex-servicemen would be deceptive if we did not assume that the handling of the remainder would present much greater difficulties. Man-power requirements for a continually changing war programme have made absorption of ex-servicemen comparatively easy up to the present. Our real difficulties lie ahead. Nobody wi] shirk the task, but only a fool would be blind to its perplexities. Although 300,000 men and women . have already resumed their civilian occupations, we have been told that between 600.000 and 700,000 men and women remain to be dealt with. It is estimated by responsible officials that approximately one-half of this number will return to their former occupations, whilst about 100,000 will require full training for trades, professions, and agricultural pursuits. The training of these men and women in universities and colleges, or by means of apprenticeship, will absorb a considerable proportion of the remainder until their turn arrives to be taken into our economic life. We may expect that the unsettled condition of affairs in Europe, and the disturbance which is likely to continue for some time in the Pacific Area, will necessitate the maintenance of a substantial service nucleus for some years- after the war. The process of demobilization is likely to be gradual. I suppose that no one to-day can say with authority - certainly no one outside the Government - just what is in mind as a service nucleus that is to be retained. The position is complicated further by the fact that, in addition to service personnel, it is expected that within the next few years an estimated 700,000 civilians will require some special training or rehabilitation treatment under either this legislation or other Government measures. Having heard what has been said in this debate, the Government must recognize that the bill is open to criticism. Any criticism that I make will not have a party flavour. I accept the suggestion of the previous speaker in that regard. The Parliament could not have a more important task than that of making provision for the re-establishment of service personnel, and if we cloud our consideration of the issues involved by a blind party attitude, we shall do a great deal less than justice to those who should be engaging our thoughts. Anybody who is not able to make a constructive criticism of the bill has not studied it or given real thought to it.
My first criticism of the measure, as well as of ministerial policy as a whole, is that the Government has laid emphasis upon the people involved, as economic units rather than as human beings with the social and domestic problems which are common to them. I have failed to find in the speeches of Ministers and their supporters, or in the bill, the recognition that, in addition to the economic problems which our young men and women in the services will have to meet in the immediate post-war years, very grave social and domestic problems will call for imaginative treatment and the ready sympathy of State and Federal Governments. Those problems cannot be subdivided among a number of departments in charge of different Ministers. A man will not want to approach the Minister of Post-war Reconstruction in respect of some aspects of his problem, the Minister for Trade and Customs because he deals with quota restrictions which affect him in another way, the Minister for Labour and National Service because he i3 involved in certain respects, and the Minister for Repatriation for the consideration of matters relating to hospitalization. He would become embittered and frustrated in his attempts to obtain what he regarded as the satisfactory treatment of his case. The fundamental defect is, that the bill fails to provide for a single rehabilitation ministry, which should be one of the key portfolios in this or any other government, and be administered by a man with as much intelligence and ability as the Government can muster in its ranks. He should not be diverted from the consideration of these problems by being given other tasks.
– What would the honorable gentleman do with the other Ministers who are now concerned in the matter?
– The war effort of Great Britain, which evolved from the humiliation of almost utter defeat to the height of the grand victory achieved in the last few months, was under the central direction of Winston Churchill as Minister for Defence. He had under him, working to his instructions, not only the heads of the services but. also the Ministers in charge of the various service departments. He provided the central brain, direction and driving force which viewed the problem as a whole, and secured the successful integration of all activities. If the matter were handled expertly, energetically, and with intelligence and imagination, what has been done in the realm of defence in Great Britain could b: done equally successfully in the field of rehabilitation in this country. Lacking that, we shall reach a thoroughly chaotic state of affairs, with tens of thousands of frustrated, embittered men wandering round Australia within the next few years, all having personal, domestic and economic problems which cannot be met by the machinery the Government has established. Already, in a short space of time, we have had experience of the difficulty experienced by men who have wished to rt-establish themselves, when they have had to wander through the bureaucratic maze which has enfolded them. They have had to go from one department to another in order to start a small business activity, and have been frustrated at every turn. A central direction is needed for the full consideration of each man’s problem. A Minister or department, having decided what should be done to restore a man to a state of happiness in his work, his home, and his community life, should take whatever administrative action might be necessary, and issue instructions to other departments to do what was needed. In connexion with wartime production, a central authority decides that certain work shall be proceeded with expeditiously and thoroughly, and issues directions to all the departments involved, with the result that the work is put in hand and completed without delay. No such central direction is provided for in this measure. Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to sit in judgment on the Minister for Repatriation? Is the Minister for Labour and National Service to sit in judgment on the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction? Is the Minister for Trade and Customs to be supreme in matters within his jurisdiction? Or is the Treasurer to be in supreme control of all ? Those questions cannot be answered, because there is no over-all authority which will be able to give a central direction. The bill, as well as the policy of the Government, contains the fundamental defect that it fails to realize that the serviceman has sustained, not only an economic setback, but also an emotional disturbance which demands special consideration. I shall elaborate that with a medical illustration with which I was very greatly impressed when I came across it a few days ago. It was discovered in the course of the last war that many men classified as heart cases, and divided into the typical definitions of soldier’s heart, effort syndrome, and neurocirculatory asthenia, were pensioned off in thousands and became chronic heart disease cases. In the years that have since elapsed, and as the result of the experiences of the present war, medical science has developed tremendously. Spectacular results have been obtained in saving wounded men from death and disfigurement, and in the rather more delicate field of emotional and psychological disturbance great headway has been made. A new science has been developed, described as psycho-somatic medicine. The name sounds rather fearsome, but if its parts are taken separately its significance is realized. It is formed of the word “ psycho “, pertaining to the mind or soul, and “ soma “, pertaining to the stomach. It is a phase of medicine which deals with disorders which arise from the impact of emotional and mental disturbances upon the stomach and the cardiac system. It has been discovered that five-sixths of such cases treated in the last war were wrongly diagnosed as true heart disease cases. The patients were pensioned, and regarded themselves as chronic heart sufferers, probably for the remainder of their lives. In this war, men similarly affected have been accurately diagnosed as suffering from cardiac neurosis, a term which relates to heart trouble with an emotional rather than an organic cause. The significant feature of the article which I read waa the claim that from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of all the Army disability cases examined in the United States forces are of psycho-somatic origin. That brings me back to my real point, which is this : The emotional disturbances of this war are of such magnitude that one cannot hope to deal with the problem of rehabilitation without a proper assessment of and adequate provision for them. Consider the social and historical background of many of the participants in this war. Those who are in their thirties to-day have passed through two wars and a world-wide depression. As they have made their way in life, they have not been able to grasp those traditional certainties of view which were so marked a feature of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. They have passed through a period of uncertainty, revolution and scepticism, in which every standard has been challenged, and few standards have been able to retain the authority which they formerly possessed. In addition, they have been taken from their jobs and homes for perhaps five or six years. No one can say to-day how much longer the war with Japan will last. They have been living the artificial and abnormal existence of persons engaged in a war service. Therefore, we shall only nibble at the problem unless we recognize it as partly economic, but primarily one demanding reassimilation and the treatment of persons whose emotional reactions have become disturbed by the abnormal existence they have led. One concrete suggestion which I make to the Minister is wrapped up with my proposal for a single rehabilitation ministry, but does not necessarily stand or fall by the adoption of that proposal. There should be established a bureau of domestic relations, to deal with the domestic and social problems of service men and women. Let us examine that for a moment. The best part of 1,000,000 persons are involved directly by reason of their service. That means that 1,000,000 Australian families are directly affected fundamentally by the disruption that has occurred and the maladjustment of their lives. Hundreds of thousands of men will return to homes, wives and families, from whom, for lengthy periods, they have been parted under conditions imposing intense strain. A considerable proportion of them will find it difficult to settle down in their former occupations. ‘ They will have developed in some respects in ways which will have led them apart from their own domestic ties. These problems are myriad to-day, and they will be multiplied in the years immediately after the war. How can they be dealt with at present? The wife who becomes estranged from her husband who is in one of the services, and wants to get maintenance, pursues him through the courts. After his discharge she will have to do the same. A public scandal results and their private affairs arc exposed for all to see, in a manner which can be only humiliating and embarrassing to them all. Or perhaps their cleavage lias become even more intense than that, and they desire to break up a marriage which may have been only a war-time one, or a union of short duration. They must go through the divorce courts and again subject themselves to humiliation and embarrassment. Surely i t is not beyond the scope of sound statesmanship in this country to have available to people with domestic and social problems of this kind, a centre conducted preferably by men and women who have served in this war or the last, who could give sound advice based on their longer experience and greater knowledge.
I have seen a film entitled “ The Impatient Years “. It was an amusing picture in many respects, but it pointed a significant moral. The story briefly was of a young American soldier who met a girl only a few days before he sailed fo.an overseas destination. After a whirlwind courtship they were married, and he left to go on service. He came back after about eighteen months’ service, and his wife had had a baby in the meantime. They were trying to live in a home with the father of the girl, and the story then proceeds to reveal the friction which can develop. The story is taken to the point where the parties found themselves in the divorce court. I suppose that in real life in 99 cases out of 100 the story would have ended with the proceedings in the court and another piece of family wreckage in the social life of the community. But some of the persons concerned were wise. The old father and the judge were able to give some sound advice, which was put into practice in this case by order of the court and with happy results. Whilst that may be a light illustration of what I am putting to the House, such problems arising out of the war could be multiplied by the thousand in this community and others. If the Government fails to do something about the problem of domestic readjustment, it will condemn to wretchedness and unhappiness thousands of young Australian families who, with wise and humane treatment, could be led into much pleasanter paths.
The problem is complicated, too, by the present shortage of homes, which creates a social as well as economic problem of the greatest importance. Young married couples are compelled to live with their families for years beyond the time when it is considered wise to do so, if the tempers of all concerned are to be maintained in a happy state. This problem is depressing thousands of discharged men to-day, and will become accentuated as thousands more are released. The Government is dealing with the most explosive material imaginable, and it must face up to the position now. We can provide manpower and materials to meet a threat from an enemy that may attack us from without, but is the Government so blind to the implication of the problem as not to be anxious to provide the man-power and materials necessary to cope with a threat from within?
Consider the position in Europe after the last war. The embittered, frustrated servicemen were a fertile breedingground for nazi-ism and -fascism in European countries. After this war, men without homes Or happy domestic life, who are told that these will be provided by the Government seven or eight years hence, will not be satisfied with a promise of preference; they need the fundamentals of happiness. They must have homes and a happy domestic life. If they do not get those things there will be disorder of the worst imaginable kind, and the disorder will be between the servicemen and those who they think have thwarted them. I do not wish to enter into a political talk on this matter, but the way in which preference has been presented in the bill before us taints the whole measure with party politics. This is an issue which, unless wc can satisfy the people concerned in other directions, will inflame hatred. It will set group against group and class against class. The soldier has been drawn from civilian ranks, and will have to be reabsorbed in civilian ranks. It is fortunate that we are not a militaristic people, and do not encourage in days of peace the worship of martial prowess and achievement. The soldier is to be called upon to shed the paraphernalia of war, and get back amongst his fellows and share life with them. It would be tragic if one section were driven inexorably, by force of circumstances, into hostility against another.
It is true that preference should be founded on gratitude and justice, but can we find a logical basis for it which will steer us through the maze of complexities? Who should be eligible for preference? The matter is apt to become confused in our minds by questions of risk, disability, discomfort and other considerations of that kind. I do not think that it should, because, in other ways and in other measures, governments and the people can compensate for disadvantages of that description. If we look at the experiences of servicemen we shall find that there are many compensations which come to them for disabilities suffered. They may be intangible, but they are very real. They have the enduring compensation of comradeship, cemented in the stress mutually shared, which lasts them throughout their lives. There are others who, through promotion in the services, obtain a prestige and authority for which they would have waited in vain, had they spent a lifetime in the civilian sphere. Some members of the services acquire technical skill as a result of their war work. I could instance such men as wireless operators and the groundstaff of the Air Force. There are also men who can point proudly to decorations and honours obtained in the war.
We have to look at another basis for preference in order to find a logical way through the maze. I think we can find that logical way in these circumstances: A man is moved from his civilian employment and condition and placed in military service under the disciplinary code of the service, and in accordance with its requirements. A man so taken and denied the normal opportunity of advancement which would be available to him is, as a rule, denied opportunities to acquire increased skill and greater authority in his peace-time tasks. If we adopt as our basis the fact that, irrespective of the disabilities and risks to which he bas been subjected, he has been compelled to accept, or through his voluntary act has accepted, the disciplinary code and all that it involves, we have an intelligible and logical test. It excludes some groups which this bill apparently seeks to include, such as the merchant seamen, civilian air pilots, and munitions workers. In excluding them I do not say that they have not earned the gratitude of their country and should not be entitled to proper treatment, but they should not be covered by a preference provision which could be justified logically only on the basis which I have suggested.
The prime defect in the preference provision is the fact that it is limited to a seven-year term. That is a defect for two reasons. The first is that the real need for preference may not be so likely to arise in the early years after the war as in the years when the task of satisfying the present demands, as we now know them in respect of civilian needs, have been largely met. I do not anticipate that the period of greatest difficulty in placing men in work will be in the course of the next few years. It is likely to be when the first rush of demands has fallen off. The Government will then have to exercise its best wisdom in order to see that any slack which may remain from the work which private enterprise can provide is taken up by useful public works. So the real need for preference may arise at a time at which, under this bill, it will cease to take effect.
Another difficulty which arises is a psychological one. We tell a man who is now away, and who may be called upon to serve overseas for a much longer period, possibly running into years, that we are placing a time limit on the gratitude which we feel towards him.
Sitting suspended from IS. 45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I pass on from the matter of preference to the equally important one of reinstatement. One of the defects of the bill is that whilst it recognizes the need for reinstatement in the particular position occupied by a man before he enlisted, and while there is some provision for technical and professional training, there is no recognition of the fact that a man, by virtue of his war service, may upon his return be qualified to hold a much more important position than he held when he went away. Thus, the reinstatement provisions of the bill will prove to he quite inadequate to meet the needs of many thousands of ex-servicemen whose qualities and mental and physical attributes have been developed in the stress of war. I know one man who was a liftman before the war. To-day, he is a brigadier and, I have no doubt, a very good brigadier. Another man was, on his own admission, the worst clerk in the State Savings Bank of Victoria. To-day he is a successful colonel. Another was earning 36s. a week as a junior clerk, and he is now a commissioned officer in the Air Force, receiving, of course, very much higher pay. He is married, and has acquired a commensurate status. Those are typical instances, and no doubt every honorable member knows of others of the kind. Such men will not. he able to accommodate themselves satisfactorily to civilian life if they are merely to be reinstated in the positions which they held before the war. Their war service has brought out in them qualities of enterprise, alertness, leadership and executive capacity which might, perhaps, have remained latent for years, or even for a lifetime, under peace conditions. One of the most difficult social problems that will have to be faced is that the war has created an. officer class. Young men with commissions in the forces have acquired a certain prestige. They are able to maintain, during their leave periods, a standard of living much beyond what they were able to enjoy in peace-time. It would be unfair to require these men to go back to hak’ the rates of pay they are now receiving, to lower their prestige, and to ignore their capacity for executive command.
This brings me to what I believe to be the key defect, not so much in this bill, as in the Government’s whole political programme. Preference I believe to be important, and I have stated my reasons for believing that the measure of preference provided in this bill is inadequate. However, most returned men worthy of their salt are concerned, not so much with preference, as with opportunity. They want to return to a society in which the qualities which they have successfully demonstrated during the war can be put to the best use in time of peace. They want to embark on the training courses that have been promised them, and they want an assurance that, having completed the courses they will be able to join the particular union of their craft. What sort of conflict are we heading for if the craft unions are to close their doors against ex-servicemen who have qualified for admission?
– Does not the Stock Exchange limit its membership?
– The best information which I have obtained is to the effect that some of the craft unions have already refused to accept returned men as members. If the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction can assure me that no union has done so, I shall be happy to accept the correction. The Minister asked whether the Stock Exchange closed its doors against new members. I do not confine my remarks to trade unions. There is an equal obligation upon those who have great advantages and great interests in this country. If the Stock Exchange denies admittance to returned men it should be required to alter its policy - by Government action, if necessary. If the existence of vast landed properties is denying returned men the right to till the soil, then I endorse the policy of compulsory resumption for soldier land settlement. Preference is a useful thing, but what every decent, selfrespecting man wants is opportunity to make his way in the community.
In this connexion, the Government i? making it virtually impossible for the returned man to re-establish himself in the economic life of the country. Every bureaucratic control that remains in force is just another hurdle in his path. We have been threatened that many of these controls will remain. High rates of taxation which, we have been told, will continue, are a further impediment to the success of a man who risks his capital in a business enterprise. ‘Such conditions are unhealthy for the nation and unfair to the soldier, and contain the germs of serious social conflict. Over and above whatever obligations the Government may assume by virtue of this legislation, there rests upon it the obligation to apply an economic policy, and to preserve a political atmosphere, in which there will exist opportunities for young men to couch a lance against vested interests, whether it be the vested interest of craft unions or of great commercial corporations. Australia’s economy has been developed by young men who were prepared to take a risk with their capital in small businesses. When such businesses prove successful they grow into great ones, which provide employment and make for the general progress of the country.
The Government’s policy fails in four important respects. First, it treats the returned man as an economic unit rather than as a human being. No adequate provision is made to help him solve the social and domestic problems with which he will be confronted after the war. Secondly, the Government has failed to provide one central rehabilitation ministry, which can see the ex-serviceman’s problem as a whole, and treat it as such. Thirdly, the Government purports to give preference so that a returned man may re-establish himself in civil life, but the measure of preference is so inadequate and ungenerous that it should not be accepted by this Parliament. Fourthly, the Government’s proposals fail to provide any guarantee of those things which really make for rehabilitation, such as a home, suitable occupation and opportunity for development.
I invite the Government to remedy these defects. Those whom we seek to aid by the provisions of this bill do not come before us as mendicants seeking charity. They have kept secure the title deeds of our national wealth. They have guarded and maintained the integrity of our national existence, and they stand before us, therefore, as creditors whose just and acknowledged claims we can never fully discharge. In our dealings with them, generosity beyond the point of justice should be our guide. Let our actions give full scope to the gratitude which our hearts must feel. May the intelligence and devotion which we bring to the solution of their problems emulate the matchless bravery and selflessness which so many of them have displayed.
.- The rehabilitation of servicemen in civil life is a matter which must agitate the mind of every member of the community, as well as of members of this House. I, as a member of the community, have my own views on the subject; but, being a member of a party which supports the Government, I am compelled to accept the programme as laid down by that party for the re-establishment of ex-servicemen, including preference. Nevertheless, I am in some doubt as to whether what is proposed in this bill is legal under the Constitution. It will be remembered that employment and unemployment was one of the points put to the people during, the referendum when the Government sought enlarged powers. I am not a lawyer, but it does not seem to me that the Commonwealth can legally do what it is proposing to do in this bill unless the powers taken under the Defence Act and the National Security Act continue in force for a period longer than six months after the termination of the war. The Government’s sincerity in relation to preference to service -men and women has been questioned by honorable members opposite. Had those honorable members really desired to d.o something for returned members of the forces, they would have supported the Government’s proposals at the recent referendum. Instead, they argued that the Government had interlocked the subject of preference with other proposals,, and because of their opposition to those proposals they refused to provide for preference. The Government has faced the responsibility of providing full-time employment in times of peace for not only service men and women but also others who, through no fault of their own, could not join the fighting forces, but rendered service in their capacity as civilians. In submitting questions to the people for determination a government cannot discriminate between different sections of . the people. Accordingly, the electors were asked to say whether additional powers in respect of full-time employment should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Should private employers, such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or the coal-owners, approach the High Court on the question of the constitutionality of this legislation, I cannot say whether the court would rule that it was ultra vires the Constitution. At the conclusion of the war of 1914-1S and for some years thereafter, non-Labour governments were in office in the Commonwealth, but the only legislation which was passed to provide for preference to returned soldiers was the Commonwealth Public Service Act, No. 37 of 1915, which was assented to on the 1.3th September of; that year. The Parliament agreed to the insertion in the Commonwealth Pu’blic Service Act of a new section 26a -
In the making of appointments to the Public Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, preference shall be given to those persons who have served with satisfactory record in any expeditionary forces raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915.
I refer to that provision because never in the history ofl the Commonwealth Parliament has legislation been introduced to compel employers other than governments to give preference to service men and women. The onus of giving effect to preference has been thrown on the States. I do not know of any non-Labour government which took steps to implement a policy of preference to members of, the forces which would have general application throughout the Commonwealth. The difference between non-Labour governments and the present Government is that the present Administration recognizes that it has not the power to implement a policy of preference to service men and women should legislation providing for such preference be challenged in the High Court. The onus is thrown on employers to provide full-time employment for ex-members of the fighting forces, whether or not they had previously been in their employ. Any challenge as to the constitutionality of this legislation will have to come from private employers, and I am convinced that, because ofl the fear of political repercussions, the matter is not likely to be raised in the High Court. After the last war all the pratings about “ a world fit for heroes to live in “, all the promises of better conditions and higher standards of living, were forgotten. When the men returned to Australia, after fighting for the ideals of which they heard so much before they enlisted, they found that the things for which they had fought were no nearer realization than before they went away. I was then in a position to know what happened. I know only too well the tragedy which followed the failure to honour the promises made to the men when they were urged to enlist. For some years following the end of that war, boom conditions existed, but when the whips cracked, and the question of preference had to be decided because of the little employment that was then offering, no consideration was given to the men who had fought at Gallipoli, Amiens, and Mons and other places to save democracy. When they returned to Australia they found themselves forced to .accept lower standards than they had previously enjoyed. They found, too, that there was no discrimination between men who did not enlist and men who had risked their lives in the service of their country. The parties which were then in office were no longer concerned about them. Those conditions continued for many years. At the time of the depression I was a foreman in the Public Works Department of New South Wales, and had under me between 300 and 400 men. Among them were many who had been awarded decorations for valuable service in the war. They included architects, accountants, and men of almost every profession, trade and calling, yet the only jobs offered to them consisted of pick and shovel work, such as the construction of storm-water .channels, which at times necessitated working up to their knees in mud and slush. I saw hundreds of returned soldiers walking along the highways, byways and lanes of New South
Wales vainly seeking work. Those men were anxious to do the right thing ‘by their wives and families. Some of them were forced to beg alms in the street; others, by playing cornets and concertinas, sought to keep their wives and children from starvation. I was in a position to see more than most people saw at that time. “When a driver in the Transport Department of New South Wales, I had to rise at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to work. Frequently, I saw little children, cold and hungry, rummaging in garbage tins behind hotels and cafes and in the city markets, trying to get sufficient food to keep them alive. Many of them were the child rell of returned soldiers. The Commonwealth government of the day was responsible for those conditions.
– What political party did that government represent?
– The honorable member should know that for 25 years after the last war, with the exception of a short period when the Scullin Government was in office-
– The period to which the honorable member refers was that in which the Scullin Government was in office.
– The responsibility for these things rested with the Commonwealth governments of that time; they ignored their responsibility in regard to returned soldiers, and. were not concerned about them any more than about individuals who did not enlist. I have read a good deal about the Atlantic Charter, and the proceedings at various conferences held to prepare the way for a new world order, ‘but the fact remains that the workers in this and other countries have
Suffered much at the hands of those who control the affairs of the nations. The workers have never had an opportunity to enjoy their full rights to economic mid social security. Unfortunately, the section of the community which has suffered most is that section which creates the wealth of the world.
– It is the same section which fights the war.
– That is so; the workers produce everything that is produced, and they do all the fighting. How a man regards his obligations in time of war is a matter for himself, but it is also a matter for governments, as it may involve conscription. Honorable members opposite have used this debate as the means of further attacking industrial unions and have made their usual charge of disloyalty. No more loyal men exist than unionists. I have been a member of an industrial union ever since I have been able to reason, and I can say that but for unionism we should not have democracy in Australia to-day. In Queensland when I was a youth suppression was such that any one found in possession of the leaflets that were printed advocating unionism was gaoled for a minimum period of twelve months without the option of a fine. We have fought that down and lived through to freer days. At the time of which I am speaking, it was impossible for a known unionist to get a job in Queensland. To-day unionism is the life-blood of our democracy. At all times unionists abide by the laws of the land. Than they no one is more loyal, not to the vested interests in whose money-making cause they are sweated, but to the country in whose future they have abiding faith.
On the question of preference in employment, I confess that I do not know whether or not the Government will be able to compel private employers to obey the preference provisions of this measure which for the first time extend to them the preference law that has operated ever since the last war in the Commonwealth Public Service. I point out, however, that the bulk of the splendid men in our forces were industrial unionists before their enlistment. But whatever be the position, I take second place to no man in recognizing my responsibility to do my best to ensure that our obligations to the members of the forces shall .be met to the fullest degree possible. We also have responsibilities to the civilian population. The best way in which to meet our obligations to both sections of the community is by ensuring that there shall be jobs for everyone capable of and willing to work, for then the question of preference will not arise. It is the policy of this Government and of every member of the Labour party to do all possible to ensure work in plenty.
If, however, it should ever happen that the applicants for work outnumbered the jobs available, I am sure that no one would deny the right to preference of the men who saved this country from conquest by the Japanese, on the one hand, and the world from Axis domination, on the other. This Government will measure up to its responsibilities under the Atlantic Charter and institute a policy which will ensure work for ‘all.
The diversion of men and materials to war has accentuated to an acute stage the housing shortage which has always operated in Australia. This Government is endeavouring, within the limits of its ability, to meet the position, but blame cannot be placed on this Government because, as monuments to the unimaginable stupidity of the anti-Labour administrations that have held sway in both the Commonwealth and the States for the greatest part of the time for many generations, stand the squalid, diseasebreeding slums of the great cities of Australia. It is our intention that the home seekers of the future shall be provided for in housing estates with plenty of fresh air so that the children of future generations shall be raised under conditions most conducive to good health, because we know that healthy individuals mean a healthy nation. To that end, the Commonwealth Housing Commission has been set up. It is my hope that we shall have no repetition after this war of the scandalous building programmes undertaken after the last war. I was living in Sydney then and I know the poor class of houses erected at Earlwood and Canterbury and so3d at prices which amounted to absolute robbery. Many of the returned soldiers who bought those houses walked out of them in disgust. That was quite apart from the depression when people were kicked out of their homes. The master builders who imposed upon those that had loyally served this country in the war of 1914-18 must not be allowed to have a finger in the pie after this war. Another important aspect of the post-war housing of returned soldiers must be the provision of houses on an interest-free basis so that when the capital advanced has been repaid the homes shall become the absolute property of the purchasers. There must be no recurrence of the practice instituted by the war Services Homes Commission after the last war which has resulted in purchasers finding, after 25 years of repayment, that they have barely reduced the principal or, as in many cases, now owe even more than the original purchase price because, through no fault of their own, they were unable to maintain payments in their workless days during the depression and had to agree to their arrears being capitalized. I also advocate that the weekly repayment should include a premium for an assurance policy on the life of the purchaser to ensure that, in the event of his death, his widow without further payments, shall have full title to the home, regardless of whether he died a week or twenty years after having signed the agreement to purchase. That system operates in Queensland under the Workers’ Homes Act and, if it is reasonable there, it should also be reasonable throughout the Commonwealth.
Reverting to the question of preference in employment to returned soldiers, I point ORt that in the 1914-18 war Australians fought on an entirely voluntary basis. Men were not conscripted militarily or industrially. In thu war, however, the Government has constituted itself as an authority to direct men to whatever pursuit it thinks their capacities qualify them for, and, as the result of that policy, many thousands of young men, eager to fight, were compelled, on the ground that they would thereby better serve their country, to remain in industry. Will we be justified in penalizing the men who were not permitted to go to the war because they were engaged in essential industries? Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach. That is quite true; and an army also must have ammunition, guns, aeroplanes, ships and equipment of every type. Are we justified in arguing that the men who have served faithfully in war industries and produced these war requirements should stand aside for returned soldiers after the war. Take, for instance, the worker who has perhaps two sons at the war. Upon their return, are they to be given preference over their father who during the war years worked long hours in an essential undertaking?
– I thought there was to he full employment after the war.
– That is the policy of this Government, and one of the objectives of this bill. We must have guaranteed employment to safeguard the social and economic future of ex-service men and women; but there is no reason why we should penalize any member of the community who was not able or was not allowed to go to the war.
– What about the men who were able to go but did not ? Surely they are not entitled to preference.
– I remind the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that this has been a total war, and that men were not .given the choice of enlisting in the fighting forces or engaging in essential employment. I join issue with honorable members opposite who claim that we on this side of the chamber are merely using returned soldiers for our own political purposes. That is a hypocritical allegation. Parties to which honorable members opposite belong, and which represent in this House the interests of the large commercial and banking institutions, held office in this Parliament for almost the entire period between the two wars, and they gave the returned soldiers of the last war a shocking deal. The advocacy of preference to returned soldiers is an admission that honorable members opposite are satisfied that the country to which our service men and women will return will ‘be one in which there will not be jobs for all. This country is big enough and rich enough to produce any commodity, whether primary or secondary, that is necessary to secure the economic and social security of every citizen, provided our efforts are applied in a proper manner. We organized for a total war at a time when invasion of this country was threatened, and I see no reason why we should not be organized also for peace, so that we may stave off the damnable consequences of economic and social insecurity. The policy advocated by honorable members opposite will set returned soldier fathers against civilian sons, returned soldier sons against civilian fathers, and returned soldier brothers against civilian brothers who may not have been old enough, or permitted, to go to the war. This Government will not shirk its responsibility to make this part of the world at least, fit for its heroes, but every citizen of Australia has contributed his share to the war effort. Certain allegations have been made by honorable members opposite in regard to the activities of wharf labourers, coal-miners and so on. I shall not defend these people in the action they are taking to-day. I am too broadminded for that; but the Government’s war effort should not be discredited because of the actions of certain irresponsibles outside this Parliament. We are prepared to discharge our responsibilities to the nation by dealing with these men in a constitutional manner. I point out, however, that during the war wharf labourers have had to work extra hours - sometimes 24 hours without a break - to ensure the delivery of vital war materials. It was the responsibility of the Government to decide which citizens should, take up arms, and which should engage in essential employment, and I do not think that any member of the Opposition will deny that the Government has met all its. commitments to secondary and primary industries. Is it fair to suggest that those members of the community whom the Government decided should engage actively in the defence of this country, should have preference over other men who were equally willing to fight but were prevented from doing so because the Government decided, that their services were of more value in industry? What would be the effect of such a policy. No one admires the pluck, determination, and courage of our fighting forces more than I do. In Queensland alone, 20,000 members of the Australian Workers Union - an organization to which I belong - joined the fighting forces of this country. They enlisted to prevent the invasion of our shores, and to protect the very foundations of trade unionism. They retain their membership of the Australian Workers Union without payment until they return. Direct preference to returned soldiers may work out in this way : There may be three sons in a family; the youngest is too young to go to the war, the second son is engaged in essential industry, and the oldest son goes to the war. When the war is over and he comes back, he may have to compete for employment with his younger brother - or the civilian brothers of some of his mates who fought on the battle-front. In that way, brother will be set against brother.
– The honorable member is advocating preference to those who did not fight.
– No. My contention is that to live up to its obligations, a Government must ensure that every member of the community shall have the right to work. While this Government is in office, it is determined to ensure that the citizens of this country shall have equal rights in determining their destiny, and that every member of the community shall be given an opportunity to fill his rightful place in society by having the right to work.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There is one aspect of the speech of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) to which I should like to refer. I shall do that not only because the honorable member brought the matter up, but also because it has been freely used as an argument by other honorable members opposite. I refer to the widespread depression which occurred in this country about fifteen years ago. At that time, the honorable member for Lilley claimed, thousands of people were walking the streets of Sydney looking for work and children were eating out of garbage tins. Whether his story is correct or exaggerated is not the point. The inference is that at that time, there was in office in this Parliament an anti-Labour Government. That is not so. At the time of which the honorable member speaks, the Scullin Labour Government was in office in the Commonwealth Parliament, and in New South Wales, the Lang Labour Government was in occupation of the treasury bench. Also, I understand, Labour governments were in office in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. I remember something of those times, too.
I remember well the distress and difficulties with which every section of the people were faced. Any one who experienced those days could not forget them. The primary producer first felt the effects of the world depression. For many years he laboured on, receiving unfavorable prices for his products, and meeting high costs which did not decrease for a considerable time. I remember also a visit to Sydney during the depression. The shacks all round the borders ot Sydney Harbour reminded one of gunyahs in a blackfellows’ camp. I remember also the closing of the Savings Bank of New South Wales due to interference by Mr. Lang. Bankbooks were being sold in the streets for 7s. or 8s. for every £1 of their value. A mortgage bank bill was introduced in the Parliament of New South Wales, and if it had become effective it would have crushed the whole economy of Australia. It would have left even greater unemployment in its train. I have a very vivid recollection of the Lyons Government coming into office early in 1932. During that year the prices of primary products sank to even lower levels but, strange though it may seem, the ranks of the unemployed were greatly reduced and Australia’s credit overseas, which had been entirely smashed, .returned to its normal level. The unemployment statistics’ compiled by the trade unions during the depression years are interesting. When the Lyons Government came into office, the unemployment figure represented 31 per cent, of union enrolments. In the second quarter of 1932 it had fallen to 30 per cent., in the third to 29.6 per cent., and in the fourth to 28.1 per cent. The figures for 1933 were : First quarter, 26.5 per cent.; second quarter, 25.7 per cent.; third quarter, 25.1 per cent.; fourth quarter, 23 per cent. Two or three years later the unemployment position was back nearly to normal. I shall deal now with the credit position both at home and abroad at that time.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill. There is- no connexion between the credit situation and the bill.
– As this matter has been raised by previous speakers, I should have the right to reply. The following figures are of interest: -
Value - 28th September, 1031, £55 15s. December, 1932, £104 15s. December, 1933, .£107 18s. 9d.
Common-wealth 5 per cent. 1955 $100 Bonds - Value, 1931, $35.00. Value, 1932, $73.50.
I hope that we shall not hear much more talk about the depression years with the implication that an anti-Labour government was responsible for the country’s troubles. We have proved that the depression, and the despair and poverty which it caused, were largely the result of the inability of different Labour governments to face the facts and carry out the necessary reconstruction work.
I have heard most of the speeches on this bill, which deals with the reestablishment of members of the fighting forces and others. After listening to the speeches of honorable members opposite, one might imagine that the measure provides all the foundations necessary for the successful reestablishment of soldiers in civil life. The honorable member for Lilley suggested that full employment would result from the implementation of the bill. I saw something of full employment as it was known in Germany and Russia in 1935. That was not a pleasurable experience for me. People were regimented like slaves and given jobs from which, in 99 cases out of 100, they had very little chance of escaping. T saw full employment in the labour battalions of Germany in which men worked for 3d. a day and in. which they were given part of their military training, the hardening course for the war that came later. We know where that sort of full employment led Germany. Because of that, I am left cold by all this talk of full employment. We should be given more details of the Government’s intentions. I do not believe that this bill provides for the proper reestablishment of ex-servicemen in civil life or for full employment. The factors necessary to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen have very little relation to the provisions of this measure. The bill is analogous to the position of long-stop at a cricket match. If the batting is bad, the bowling erratic, and the wicket-keeper incompetent, the long-stop is called upon to play an important part in the game. But if the other three players are good, the long-stop might as well be sitting in the pavilion. This bill merely serves to provide safeguards against certain contingencies, and many of the safeguards mean little or nothing. We shall have to deal with two big problems after the war. One problem will be the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of men and women from the services. This will have to be a gradual process. Certain classes of men and women will have to be released first, in order to return to industries which we wish to resume normal peacetime operations as soon as possible. The second problem will be the placing back in civil life of about 500,000 people who are at present engaged in essential war work. What will our service men and women look for on their return to civil life? They will not merely ask for a job. They will ask also for a vigorous policy of industrial expansion which will enable them to have a choice of jobs. Many of them will want to return to their home districts to settle down. They will want conditions to be such as to enable them to resume employment or commence business activities in those areas. Australia will have to deal with a difficult financial problem. By the end of the present financial year we shall have incurred a war bill of £2,000,000,000. We have paid approximately half of that total. The other half has been obtained by means of loans and central bank credit, but it cannot be dismissed as being of no account when the war ends. The debt has been written on the, slate, and represents a mortgage on the future which is of direct concern to us and to the members of our fighting forces. It must be paid. During the war years, our domestic budget, apart from the war budget, has been more than doubled. Our commitments for social services have been trebled, and we have been told that they will increase to as much as £70,000,000, which would be more than twice the total of the Commonwealth budget for 1932. This structure of social services has been built on the shifting sands of income tax, and the programme has been so drawn up that, after the war, taxation will have to remain at a relatively high level. The demobilized soldier will return to a bureaucratic maze in which permits will have to be obtained for all sorts of purposes. Therefore, it will be very difficult for him to settle down. The Government in power when war ends will have to be very careful. The ability of returned soldiers to re-enter civil life satisfactorily will be dependent upon the ability of industry to employ them. If the change is to occur relatively smoothly, the Government must radically change its policies. We shall need a responsible economic policy which will enable business to expand and provide demobilized soldiers with a diversity of employment. The policies announced from time to time by this Government do not offer much hope to us. Only a few weeks ago, it was announced that, if home expenditure were to continue on the present scale, an additional burden of £28,000,000 would have to be placed on the taxpayers in the year 1947-48. No greater barrier could be raised against the satisfactory reabsorption of ex-servicemen. That is a foolish and stupid financial policy. It is idle for honorable members opposite to say that the 54 pages of legal verbosity contained in this bill will solve the problem of rehabilitating our servicemen, unless the Government’s policies relating to industrial ‘ and rural progress are changed so as to enable industry to reemploy these men. The solution to this problem will come primarily, as it did in the years following the depression, from private enterprise. Therefore, the energies of the Government should be directed towards enabling private enterprise to change oyer to the production of peacetime commodities as quickly and as easily as possible. Are the men who have already been discharged from the forces finding it easy to re-establish themselves in civil life? I shall deal with one or two cases which illustrate the difficulties which they are experiencing. One man was discharged from the Army and wanted to resume his civil occupation of hairdresser and tobacconist. I had a great deal of trouble to obtain an issue pf tobacco for his shop. Another man who purchased a cafe had great difficulty with his butter ration. As men are released from the services, they are hampered by red tape and restrictions. The economic situation of the nation is unfavorable to them. This is due partly to war conditions and partly to certain economic conditions brought about by the financial policies of the Government. If we are to allow these men to have free play in determining what they shall do in life, and if we want industrial enterprises to expand so that there will be an avenue of promotion for them, we must first set the stage for the progress of primary and secondary activities. If we do that, 90 per cent, of our problems will be resolved, and only a small residue of men will ask for action under this legislation.
The bill is late in being placed before this House. It contains a lot of political expediency, and its rigidity will not permit of any alteration, no matter how logically the need for it may be argued from this side of the House. I have no hesitation in forecasting that the Minister will adopt the role that he assumed on the Wool Use Promotion Bill, by declining to accept amendments. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has said that already approximately 300,000 men have been released from the services. Yet only now are we considering the bill. For about two years, the Government has had in its possession the draft of a rehabilitation measure prepared by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but there is no likeness to it in this measure. How different is the position in New Zealand, which has gradually and progressively dealt with the problem; for example, it has placed on the land 734 men released from the services, at a cost of £2,374,142. Those who wish to go on the land are allowed, by way of loan, between £5,000 and £6,000. In every respect, the legislation of that dominion, and, what is more important, its action on the subject, are infinitely in advance of ours. Delay has occurred while the Government gave consideration to party matters such as legislation in connexion with banking and interstate airlines, which are designed to give effect to the political philosophy of honorable gentlemen opposite. These have had precedence over matters of great moment to the servicemen who are returning to civil life. The Government can well be attacked for delay and lack of vigour in dealing with this subject “So fewer than seven different departments are to be concerned in the reestablish ment of ex-service personnel. I can visualize nothing more aggravating t» a man who has been away from normal life for five or six years than to find upon his release from one of the services that when he wants advice he has to go to departments located in different parts of a capital city. Men from the country, particularly, will be put to great inconvenience in this respect. [ agree with the honorable member for Fawkner that among these men there will be a lot of what one may describe as an explosive mixture. Many of them have not been happy at the way in which matters have been handled in their homeland during the war years, and their mood when they return to civil life will be to demand their rights and what they believe to be the justice that is due to them, as well as sympathetic consideration by those with whom they have to deal. The proposal that seven different departments shall be concerned in the matter of rehabilitation is one of the most grotesque features of the bill. Oan any one imagine a big department store in Sydney or Melbourne having its different sections split up in the various suburbs, in charge of managers who have no relation with a central control? Yet that is what is proposed in the bill. The suggestion by an honorable member on this side of the House that there should be a central ministry is worthy of earnest consideration by the Government. If possible, all the sections dealing with the re-establishment of service personnel should be in the one building, with the possible exception of land settlement, which could possibly be dealt with by the State departments that now handle it. The .remainder should be under a responsible Minister, or Ministers - because the future may disclose that more than one Minister will be needed to administer all the ramifications of this legislation. It may be found that a Minister for War Service Homes should be appointed. That section is distinct, and could be separated from the other sections. The granting of homes on reasonably easy terms to service personnel in the post-war period would be one of the best methods of repatriating them and enabling them more easily to resume their positions in civil life. So important do I regard the provision of homes that I would favour having the matter placed under the control of a Minister who would deal solely with the acceleration of building construction. If homes were available, men released from the services could resume family life and single men could marry and commence it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stressed that in very few cases coming before the departments will there be similarity of features, and said that each case will need to be considered individually and sympathetically. That is true. However, that is not what is happening to-day. I hope that the present treatment will not be the forerunner of that which will be meted out to service personnel in the post-war period, when the number to be dealt with will be considerably enlarged. Take the case of a man who, in anticipation of discharge, applied to the Repatriation Department for a loan to enable him to commence poultry-farming. He made his first request about February or March of last year, and was then told he would be eligible for such assistance. When he was discharged on the 1Sth July, 1944, he again made inquiries, and was again told that he was eligible for a loan. In the following December, after he had committed himself to certain expenditure in connexion with a poultry run, he was informed that he was ineligible for a loan. The Minister, in the course of his reply, said -
I have looked into the matter and find that the member is distinctly ineligible for that form of assistance on the grounds that -
be is not incapacitated to the extent of being unable to engage in the occupation which he followed immediately prior to enlistment; (!>) he was not, immediately prior to his enlistment, dependent for his living on a business owned and conducted by him, and disposed of that business in order to enlist, nor did he,
immediately prior to enlistment follow un occupation or have experience which fits him to conduct the business contemplated in his application . . .
The Minister added that delays were inevitable, because certain inquiries had to be made. I have received a further letter from this man, and, if this kind of treatment continues, serious trouble will arise. The letter is as follows: -
I am afraid the Minister missed the point of my letter. I was not doubting my ineligibility under the act. This was made clear by his department. The point I wished to make was: - (a.) On my first approaching the department, while still in the forces, I was assured that I would be eligible when discharged. I was not informed of any conditions.
On discharge, when filling in the required form of application (July, 1944), I was again assured that I was eligible, and, in spite of close questioning as to my occupation prior to enlistment and other matters, no doubts were expressed by the officer taking the application.
It was not until September, or later, that I was asked to produce evidence as to my ability to successfully conduct the proposed business. (<Z) It was not until December, 1944 (five months), that the decision of the Deputy Controller was conveyed to me.
On points (a) and (6) I ‘naturally gained the impression that I was eligible, and acting on that impression I proceeded to enter into contracts for delivery of stock in November and January, and to construct buildings, &c. J budgeted on an outlay of £1,000, having f 750 of my own and allowing for £250 from the department. This budget allowed for living expenses until I commenced producing, which I estimated as March, 1945. You, as ii primary producer, will know that one cannot just go along and buy a few hundred fowls and commence farming. Orders for stock were placed, deposits paid and contracts let as early sis August, 1944. If I had waited for a decision from, the department before making any move I would have lost a year’s production ii nd used most of my capital in living expenses. To catch the “ laying season “ I had to get moving in August or September, which I did in good faith, and confident that the assistii 1 IC3 would be available when wanted.
My correspondent entered into commitments in anticipation of a loan of £250, but five months later he was told that he was ineligible for it. Thousands of men returning from the war may have saved a few hundred pounds, and one can imagine the storm of trouble that will develop if they have to wait for about five months for replies to requests for financial assistance. Unless applications be dealt with expeditiously ex-servicemen will suffer severe loss. The intelligence of the officials concerned and the degree of supervision exercised by Ministers will be of paramount importance when problems of this kind have to be faced in hundreds and possibly thousands of cases.
When members of the Opposition heard that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had promised to introduce a bill providing for preference to ex-servicemen, they were somewhat surprised. For years this preference has been denied by the Labour party, although it has always upheld the principle of preference to trade unionists. The full story regarding the matter did not come to light until the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party this year. The representatives of the trade unions throughout Australia were anxious to know why that important principle known as political constancy had been abrogated. “The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction asked that the conference doors be closed and the press excluded, so that he might tell a story. The delegates, in their wisdom or otherwise, decided that if the Minister had a story to tell it should he told to the multitude. On the following day >a faithful account of the proceedings was published in the Melbourne Age. The Minister informed the conference that the Government had no intention to introduce preference, but that a motion providing for it was to be tabled by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), and that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) had waited on the Prime
Minister and informed him that if it were moved he would support it.
– It cannot be denied, because it was said in open conference, after a definite request by the Minister for his statement to be heard behind closed doors. Only after the honorable member for Henty had “ rocked “ the Government did the Prime Minister come forward with anything approaching a proposal for preference to servicemen. Such meagre and miserable preference as is proposed in the bill is purely the result of political expediency, and a desire on the part of the Government to save its political skin.
– The honorable member has a poor case when he bases it on surmise.
– It is based on the words of the Minister at the Easter conference.
Clause 27 contains the following provisions : - (3.) In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider -
That provision is so ambiguous that no employer could be expected to understand it. Clauses 27 and 28, far from giving any guidance to employers when engaging ex-servicemen, merely invite litigation. Is it any wonder that we object to the Government’s proposals? Our objection may be classified under four headings: first, that the granting of any preference at all was merely a matter of political expediency; secondly, preference is extended to others than service personnel; thirdly, the ambiguity of the clauses dealing with preference; and fourthly, the limitation of the period of preference to seven years.
Every one expects that the seven years followingthe termination of the war will be bountiful years. The economic structure of this country rests upon the success of primary industries. All those engaged in the main primary industries confidently believe, that during the immediate post-war years, there will be a sale at profitable prices for everything they can produce. If the country’s basic industries are prosperous, the whole country must be prosperous. However, after agriculture has been restored in Europe, an entirely different problem will face our primary producers. The following years are likely to be difficult. The Government proposes that ex-servicemen shall enjoy preference during the years when they will have no need of it, but would deny it to them in the period when it may be of some use. As this is a. Commonwealth measure it will override any provisions in State legislation dealing with preference. The bill will take away from servicemen preference in the Commonwealth Public Service, and substitute for it the degree of preference provided for in this measure. Thus, any talk of preference to servicemen is merely a sham, and the Government knows it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Conelan) adjourned.
Chevrons - Fodder - Indonesia n Seamen - Migration : Dictation Test - Speech by Mr. J. P. Abbott, M.P. : Newspaper Reports - Australian Army : Equipment - Housing - Country Mail and Telephone Services - Galvanized Piping - Department of External Affairs : Appointment ok Mr. F. H. Stuart.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have received advice from the United Kingdom Government that the following announcement is being made from Buckingham Palace to-day : -
The King has been graciously pleased in recognition of the great services of the armed forces and the merchant navy to institutesix new campaign stars, the Atlantic Star, the Air Crew Europe Star, the France and Germany Star, the Pacific Star and the Burma Star. His Majesty has also decided to create a Defence Medal for military non-operational service overseas from the country of residence and for specified service in the United Kingdom and other territories which have been subject to air attack or closely threatened.
The new scheme for the institution of campaign stars has been under discussion between the Dominion Governments and the United Kingdom Government. The Commonwealth Government has expressed its general agreement with the scheme but, on the recommendation of its service advisers, it has madea number of reservations on important questions of principle. These reservations are, briefly, as follows: -
These matters are still under discussion with the United Kingdom authorities. This, however, will not affect the award to eligible members of the Australian forces of the campaign stars and defence medal, under the conditions announced by the United Kingdom Government. These conditions are contained in a White Paper which is being tabled in the House of Commons to-day. A. summary of the paper has been cabled to the Commonwealth Government and I seek the authority of the House to have the summary incorporated in Hansard.
Leave granted (vide Appendix, page 1917).
.- As I pointed out last night, if any man is entitled to wear the 1939-45Star it is a man who won the Victoria Cross. There is a mystery associated with this matter.
I wish to know whether it is a fact that the Government decided to make this award to members of the Australian land forces, but that authority for its issue was countermanded on orders from some high authority. I anticipated that some consolation prize would be given to the men who have qualified for the 1939-45 Star but have not been allowed to wear it, notwithstanding that others, no more entitled to the honour, have been awarded the decoration. For reasons of which I am not aware, and of which the men themselves are not aware, they are to be denied that award. I ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to give an explanation of this decision to the men and their dependants. I ask him to tell the country why they should be denied an award which has been granted to others who fought side by side with them, and also to merchant seamen who served in the same area. I confess that I cannot understand the decision. The new decoration to which reference has been made by the Acting Prime Minister is similar to the award made by the United States of America, to which such people as Joe E. Brown, who entertained the troops in certain forward areas, is entitled. It is an award entirely unworthy of the services that these men have rendered. I do not know why a discrimination has been made against them.
Mr.Chifley. - I am informed that members of the 8th Division will be granted the 1939-45 Star.
– That only makes the position worse. The men to whom I have referred have been entitled to the decoration all along.
Another matter which needs clearing up is the denial to Australian war correspondents of an award issued by General MacArthur. I understand that the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces has denied certain war correspondents the right to wear the decoration. If that be so, it is a backhanded compliment to General MacArthur. These things are causing a good deal of concern to the people of this country, and in order to clear up the mystery I ask the Acting Prime Minister to make a statement to the House.
.- I direct attention to two matters affecting the rights of foreign seamen in this country. The first concerns Indonesian seamen who are at present employed by the Dutch authorities in Australia. These Indonesians are very much afraid of what may happen to them after the Japanese forces have been driven back and the Dutch regain possession of their own territories. It is admitted by them that prior to the war neither political nor trade union organization was permitted in Indonesia. But during the war, Indonesian seamen in Australia have, for the first time, gained some measure of freedom of expression and enjoyed reasonable standards of living. They now say that they have cause to fear that they will soon have to return to the extremely unsatisfactory conditions under which they existed prior to the war, and, moreover, that action will be taken against those who have shown any progressive political spirit during their stay in Australia. I, therefore, ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Beasley) to take such action as may be necessary to set at rest the fears of these Indonesian seamen who have performed useful service in the war effort while they have been in this country. I suggest that it may be possible for the Minister to interview the Dutch authorities and to obtain from them an assurance that on the return of these seamen to their own territory they will be given the benefit of. the conditions of life which are outlined in the Atlantic Charter, and that that assurance be passed on to the men. I am confident that the Dutch authorities will be ready to give such assurance, and to treat fairly those Indonesian seamen who have rendered useful service in the shipping industry and in administrative posts ia this country during the war. Nevertheless, the men themselves are in a state of great alarm. If it were possible for the Minister to obtain some such authoritative statement from the Dutch authorities, I am sure that it would be very valuable to the Indonesian seamen concerned.
Recently I brought before the House the application of the dictation test prescribed by our immigration laws to certain American seamen in Australia. I then asked that action be taken to ensure that the practice be discontinued.
– Who are these men ; are they stationed here?
– They are members of the American merchant marine who, for one reason or another, have missed their ships. On the occasion referred to, I gave to the House actual cases which had been dealt with in the courts - cases in which men were convicted for having failed to pass a dictation test in a foreign language, and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment amounting, in some instances, to several months. Since then, I have received from the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) a letter which leaves the position still most unsatisfactory. In it the Minister said - lt is not the rule to prosecute an Allied seaman under the Immigration Act .because he deserts or misses bis ship, unless he is a known undesirable nr the authorities concerned, such as United States War Shipping Administration, press for such action.
It is entirely wrong that the question as to whether such men are desirable or undesirable should be prejudged, and having been prejudged, that the dictation test provisions of the Immigration Act should be applied to them. The letter continues -
The practice is for seamen who desert or miss their ships to he placed under exemption for a limited period and warned that they must accept a berth on an overseas ship when offered them.
I brought before the House a case in which that procedure not only was not followed, but in which, without warning, men who missed a boat by their own folly but promptly reported to the authorities had the dictation test applied to them and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The Minister adds -
Recently the United States of America War Shipping Administration expressed concern at the growing number of American seamen who were either deserting or refusing to go to sea when offered berths. This caused unwarranted expense and unnecessarily delayed the movement of ships engaged in the transport of men and .material essential to the prosecution of the war. The United States of America War Shipping Administration asked for the co-operation of the department by taking punitive action against such seamen.
I have no doubt that action is necessary in those cases, but what I protest against is the taking of action which gives these men no right whatever, which applies to them the procedure which, at the inception of federation, was clearly never intended to apply to such cases. The Minister adds -
It has been found that some of these seamen were engaged in black-marketing and other undesirable activities, and that others, when funds ran out, became nuisances to Allied seamen and servicemen.
The Minister finally states -
You may rest assured that there has been no misuse of the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act, and that where action has been taken against an Allied seaman, it has been at the instance of the American or other authorities concerned, or that the man himself was an undesirable.
I cannot rest assured that there has been no misuse of the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act, because I believe it to be an entire misuse of those provisions to apply them to American seamen in these circumstances. Nor can I be assured that the judgment of the American officials or the officials of the Department of the Interior is always right in these eases, and that, therefore, a procedure should be adopted which gives the men no defence whatever.
– Would not a writ of habeas corpus enable them to be brought before the court?
– They are brought before the court on the charge of being prohibited immigrants, because they failed to pass a test in German, French or Dutch or some other language.
– In which many of us would fail.
– Kisch failed to pass the language test.
– Yes, and very strong protests were made by men with whom I am proud to have been associated against the use of the dictation test in such cases. I again ask that this matter be examined and that some other method more in accord with the principles of justice, as we know them, be used. I think it dangerous that provisions such as these should be used against any section of the workers.
. - I associate the Australian Country party and myself in the pleasure that must be felt by the Government at the information received from the Government of the United Kingdom regarding various campaign stars which members of the armed forces and merchant navy will receive. We all are pleased to congratulate those whose service has entitled them to these decorations. The Defence Department has announced that men of the 8th Division will be awarded the 1939-45 Star, but, should there be any doubt, I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), it should be resolved as quickly as possible. In the Army equipment debate, I referred to unfair and unwise discrimination in regard to bestowal of awards in respect of the Pacific campaign. I said -
The Government has decided that service in the campaign in the islands to the north shall not entitle a soldier to receive a service ribbon. This is in marked contrast to the recognition of .service by troops in the Middle East and that accorded Allied personnel who serve in the South-West Pacific Area. Australian soldiers who serve in the battle areas to the north are not entitled to receive the 1939-43 Star. Apparently, such discrimination reflects the Government’s real opinion of the importance of the campaign. For instance, a galley cook on a transport which has conveyed officers and men to Kew Guinea is entitled to wear the 1939?43 Star. But a member of the Australian Imperial Force on the same troopship may win the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, or the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal, but if he has not been in any other theatre of war, he will not be entitled to a service ribbon. This discrimination has . had a very bad psychological effect on the troops concerned.
This matter should be looked into, but more than an explanation is required. A star or a ribbon should be awarded. The Government should not lose a moment in instituting inquiries into this discrimination.
– Yesterday, in the course of his speech, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), in reply to certain interjections which I made on the merit of his submissions, indulged in one of his ill-natured outbursts and got outside himself with his vituperative abuse. Certain newspapers have to-day, reporting something of the incident, deliberately and maliciously misrepresented it to the public of this country. One section of the press, that controlled by Sir Keith. Murdoch, went so far as to say that what I regarded as the honorable gentleman’s baseless and stupid attack was applauded by soldiers in the gallery. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, which take their information from a syndicated source, said that his observations were applauded by twenty soldiers in the gallery. I just want to put the facts to the House as I have ascertained them. The constable in charge of the gallery at the time, has told me that three or four soldiers and one woman, carried away momentarily by-
– My eloquence-
– The misguided eloquence of the honorable gentleman, and not knowing the facts, did applaud his remarks. The newspapers did not say that there were 46 soldiers in the gallery at the time. The constable confirms that that was the number. What they also did not say was that 41 of these soldiers did not demonstrate in support of the honorable gentleman and were obviously supporters of the Labour party and the Labour party’s attitude. That fact, of course, was not reported by the agents of the capitalist press. I have a very high regard for many members of the press gallery, but, obviously, there are stooges of> capitalism in that gallery.
– There are stooges in this House.
– The honorable gentleman can speak for himself. He is one of the worst stooges of capitalism in this Parliament.
– Order! Honorable members must moderate their language.
– I repeat that I have a great regard for a number of the pressmen in the gallery, but, obviously, those stooges who have taken advantage of their occupation to avoid all war service in this way-
– I rise to order. I object to being called a “ stooge “ by the Minister for Information. It is most undignified to make statements of that character.
– I understood that the Minister was referring to some one who is not a member of the House.
– Yes, I said stooges in the gallery. The honorable member for New England, in the course of his remarks yesterday and to-day, has given plenty of evidence of his mental derangement. I return now to what I was saying about certain members of the press gallery : It is quite definite that the misreporting of proceedings yesterday was an abuse of privilege. It was deliberate and malicious, and was done by cowardly contemptible people. My loyalty and my attitude to the safety of this country is as good as that of any of my traducers, and better than that .of the honorable member for New England and others, who, in the course of their speeches on the preference legislation - this does not apply to all honorable members opposite, but; quite definitely applies to the honorable member for New England - demonstrated that they have no sound approach to any of the problems that have to be faced in this Parliament, but are concerned merely with an endeavour to hold their seats in this House by a spurious form of flag waving.
– I desire again to bring before the House the question of the equipment of Australian forces fighting in the islands to the north of this country. I shall preface my remarks- by quoting portion of the report made by the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) to the Prime Minister, and presented to this House on the 24th April. The Minister said - . . I am justified in reporting that there is no substance in the allegations that have been made in regard either to the quality or the quantity of the lighting equipment available to the troops in all the operational areas. . . .
I wish to read extracts from a letter which I received last Saturday morning from a lieutenant-colonel in command of an infantry battalion in the Aitape area of New Guinea. To show the genuineness -of the whole story, I am quite willing to give the name of this officer to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in confidence, but I am not prepared to make his name available to the Parliament, or to the military authorities so that he can .be mangled in the gestapolike machine used in cases of this kind.
These extracts show clearly what is going on in the Aitape area and in the Torricelli Ranges. He says - . . However, we are well in the wilds of New Guinea and last night the 7 o’clock news from Australia caine on. The Australian section report Senator Fraser and Curtin as saying in Parliament as a result of Fraser’s visit to forward areas, he was pleased to announce that the Australian Army had never been better equipped.
How any such statement could be made and the person making it get away with it is unbelievable. All the stories you heard probably underestimated the situation. 1 don’t know who Fraser saw, but he didn’t come near us. Nor do I know to how many fighting troops as opposed to base troops he spoke, but he certainly spilt a mouthful of lies on his return to Australia.
In my experience of this war, the only time we have ever been fully equipped is when we have been under British command. They treated us as soldiers and gave all they had, even though their stocks at that time were so meagre. We will only be properly equipped again for a campaign when we are once more under British command. These politicians like Fraser with no military experience will never get to the bottom of anything. The secret of the whole story probably lies in lack of transportation; i.e., ships and aircraft.
The type of bombing planes used here to support us were obsolescent in 1942.
Such things as shortages of clothing, boots and tobacco would never occur in the British Army. I haven’t mentioned such things as the shortage of weapons and ammunition, as they are too well known.
Do you think the Australian public is really interested. I don’t. The 7 o’clock Australian news mentions the fighting in Germany (which all of us are really interested in) and the bakers’ strike in Queensland or the horror of two people being killed in a motor accident - Troops killed in action is not news. . . .
That is the opinion of a distinguished soldier who has fought throughout the entire Middle East campaign and in New Guinea. He has been decorated for bravery in the field, and twice mentioned in despatches. Confirmation of what he has said can be found in Smith’s Weekly of the 19 th instant, which publishes extracts from a document signed by nine officers of the Australian Imperial Force who have been fighting with their units in the Torricelli Ranges. They state -
It is true, as stated by Mr. Abbott, at Canberra, that there was a shortage of boots and clothing in the Torricelli Mountains. In fact, hoots were exchanged to enable patrols to move out and do their job. It took weeks for this shortage to be remedied.
Shortage of ammunition, 3-in. mortar, in the Torricelli Mountains, forward companies were ordered to curtail expenditure of this ammunition, and, actually, not to fire, although targets were numerous and engagement of those targets would have lessened our future casualties.
Shortages of clothing still exist, and sup° plies cannot be obtained. One battalion has had to withdraw second-hand garments from its men in rest camp in order to send up clothing required by a special patrol. . . . . . For five days lack of petrol held up planes needed for urgent air-strikes in support of our forward troops in the Torricellis jeopardizing the lives of our men unnecessarily.
Supplies dropped to A.N.G.A.U. insufficient. A.N.G.A.TJ. had many native carriers assisting in the moving of supplies to forward troops and in the evacuation of wounded.
It is our considered opinion that shipping space used for the transport of beer could be better utilized for more important and urgently needed military supplies. . . .
These statements not only bear out what has been said by the lieutenantcolonel whose letter I have quoted, but also they support every allegation which I made in this House recently in the equipment debate. I should like to know whether the secret report which, according to the Prime Minister, was made to Cabinet by the Acting Minister for the Army upon his return from the northern areas, contained the truth about these shortages in New Guinea and, if so, what is the Government doing to remedy the shortages? The weight of evidence is far too strong for us to believe that shortages do not exist, and that there is not considerable trouble in regard to equipment, particularly lighter equipment, in the Aitape area. The Prime Minister, in his speech on the equipmentquestion, said that the difficulties in the Aitape sector were due in one case, to the heavy surf on the beach. The right honorable gentleman said that trade winds caused a heavy surf; but surely it is known that these trade winds always blow at certain times of the year. Another reason given by the Prime Minister was the fact that the rivers were flooded. If campaigns are launched in the monsoonal period, floods should be expected. The final reason was a shortage of shipping, with the result that equipment, food, ammunition and clothing could not be transported to the troops. In order to illustrate the importance of maintaining supplies, I refer to a passage from the Lees Knowles lectures given by Field Marshal Wavell, when he was a general, at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1939 on the subject of “ Generals and Generalship “. He said -
While I was trying to define to myself the essential qualifications of a higher commander I looked back in history to sec how these qualifications had been defined in the past. I read a number of expositions, by various writers, of the virtues, military or otherwise, that were considered necessary for a general. I found only one that seemed to me to go to the real root of the matter; it is attributed to a wise man named Socrates. It reads as follows: - “ The general must know how to get his men their rations and every other kind of stores needed for war. He must have imagination to originate plans, practical sense and energy to carry them through. He must be observant, untiring, shrewd; kindly and cruel; simple and crafty; a watchman and a robber; lavish and miserly; generous and stingy; rash and conservative. All these and many other qualities, natural and acquired, he must have. He should also, as a matter of course, know his tactics; for a disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house.”.
Now the first point that attracts me about that definition is the order in which it is arranged. It begins with the matter of Administration, which is the real crux of generalship, to my mind; and places tactics, the handling of troops in battle, at the end of his qualifications instead of at the beginning, where most people place it.
Last Sunday a Sydney newspaper published an article purporting to report an interview with Field-Marshal Montgomery on the subject of generalship. Field-Marshal Montgomery said that a general must first attend to the administrative planning of his Army and the maintenance of supplies of munitions of war. The Government should rectify equipment deficiencies in New Guinea, and further, if there has been a failure by any general, the culprit should be sacked, as Mr. Winston Churchill sacked certain generals.
.- The housing shortage in Australia has become so bad that I make no excuse for referring to it again, although it has often been discussed in this chamber. So little has been done by the Government to deal with the shortage that the position is getting worse. It appears from the Government’s inactivity that it does not realize the serious position in which many people are placed. A great deal of resentment has been caused not only amongst civilians but also amongst servicemen and their dependants and ex-servicemen. The situation requires direct and firm action by the Government without further delay. The causes of the housing shortage in Australia are different from those overseas. Australia has suffered no damage from enemy action, except to a minor degree at Darwin. The first cause is the shortage of labour and materials, which has restricted housing construction during the war. The second and less important cause is the displacement of labour from country areas to centres where war industries have been established. In many parts of the Commonwealth to-day, there are great congestions of people who are very badly accommodated, whereas, in many country districts, houses are empty because of the population drift to the industrial districts. The Government recently published figures which showed that over 1,000 newhouses were built in Australia three years ago. In the following year, the number was increased to 2,000, and I believe that last year 5,000 houses were built. During the last three years of war, therefore, approximately 8,000 houses have been erected. New Zealand has had the same difficulties as Australia regarding labour shortages, but 50,000 houses have been built in that country during the war. No fewer than half of that number have been allotted to soldiers or returned soldiers. Australia should at least be able to equal New Zealand’s effort. The same trouble has occurred in relation to war service homes. Only fifteen war service homes have been built in the last few years. The Government has again let the people down. I refer to two examples of bad housing. They are typical of the many cases which come to the notice of honorable members. The first example relates to a soldier serving not very far from Melbourne. He wrote to me -
I am at present renting a four-roomed house at a rental of 21s. per week. My eldest daughter is sixteen years of age, my eldest son going on for fifteen. Besides these we have another boy four and another girl not quite three years. You will agree that two bedrooms for all of us, including my wife and self, is far from satisfactory, but I cannot get another house anywhere. Meanwhile my two eldest children have to share one bedroom.
Tie second example discloses an even worse state of affairs. It refers to a woman living not very far from my own home. She has applied to numerous authorities for assistance, but has received no help. She wrote to me as follows : -
I will state my case to you, Colonel, then maybe you will be able to give me the necessary advice. I am the wife of a soldier (Second Australian Imperial Force for over four years) and mother of four children - ages four years, three years, nineteen months, and four months, respectively. We live in pari of a house which is rented by an elderly couple. At -present my husband is stationed near Melbourne. We have one bedroom containing a double bud and two cots, wardrobe and dressing table ( the two cots are my property); living room (two single beds (owned by me), dining table, four chairs, sideboard). Kitchen - when we arrived it contained an old dresser made from kerosene cases, a cupboard for food - made from threekerosene boxes nailed together and covered with cretonne - two chairs and a tabic. My husband has since made a kitchen cabinet and four chairs. The cupboard - or boxes - allotted us for a food-safe was dreadful and as the place is always overrun with mice, it was shocking to think of putting food in the cupboard. For this we pay fi ls. I forgot to mention that the kitchen docs not boast a sink or power-point. I have to carry endless buckets of water every day. When we came to this house, it was only temporary on our part. But owing to the scarcity of homes we have been unable to move. We only had one child then - since, three more have been born - we arc very overcrowded and uncomfortable, which is very unhealthy for my little children. The place is very old and tumble-down, being one of the first homes ever built in the district. Our rooms are damp and cold. The wind comes in through the floor-boards in the winter and the dampness and coldness in the winter is unbearable. I and my children have one cold upon another. Sharon, nineteen months, six weeks ago had laryngitis and bronchitis and was very ill. At the same time my other three children and myself also had influenza.
In conclusion she stated -
I simply drag myself around from morning to night not knowing what to do.
That is typical of the position of thousands of Australians to-day. I have heard from civilians living in tents, caravans, or broken down sheds. The time has come for the Government to put an end to this sort of thing. I have taken these matters up with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and I have received prompt and sympathetic replies to my representations in most cases. However, the few cases in which action has been taken should not be the exception to the general rule. Families requiring homes should be provided with them. This is the form of the usual reply I receive to my representations: -
We are unable to do anything in the matter simply because we have neither the labour nor the materials.
I know perfectly well, from inquiries that I have made and from what I have been told, that a large number of men could be released from the Army without any detriment to the combative strength of the different units. The same applies to the Royal Australian Air Force. Also, in a large number of factories engaged on government orders, men are not doing a full-day’s work.
– That is not fair.
– It is perfectly fair.
– It is neither fair nor accurate.
– I have made personal inquiries, and have first-hand knowledge of the fact that the output per working man is extremely small.
– If the honorable gentleman will furnish to me specific instances, I shall inquire into them. I have done so before, and on each occasion have found that there was no foundation for the statement that had been made. I cannot deal wi th a general statement such as the honorable gentleman is making.
– My reference is to a general state of affairs. Quite a large number of men could be released from industrial undertakings that are working for the Government. Materials are in the same category; a large quantity is being used on jobs which are not of the first order of priority. Quite a lot of material is available in army huts and service construction for which there is not a real need, and it might be diverted to civil construction. There are also other means by which the present state of affairs could be improved. I have not yet heard w’hether there is any order of priority in regard to building construction in this country for the Government, for private industry, or for housing purposes, but I know that there is a good deal of construction which is unnecessary. On the highest level is the construction on which the Government is engaged. Only a few days ago, we were told of the construction of two large stores at Tottenham and Broadmeadows, at a cost of £860,000 and involving the employment of a large number of men in the various categories of the building trade. I cannot believe that those stores are now necessary for the prosecution of the war. Other cases are well known to honorable members ; for example, the new Arbitration Court building in Melbourne. Although the Arbitration Court needs new quarters, the present building is in sufficiently good repair for further use for some time, and the new building could well be deferred until a later period. Other buildings under construction are the head-quarters of the Communist party in Sydney, and - in my district - the building of new railway stations and new police stations, although the existing buildings are perfectly adequate for occupation for a further three or four years. In connexion with private businesses, I have seen new stores being built and garages being extended. These may be regarded as necessary by the proprietors, but they are of a low order of priority in comparison with houses for the people. The Government should change the order of priority. By all means, give first priority to what is needed by the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, for the purpose of carrying on the war, but after those requirements have been met make the first order of priority the building of houses for the people who require them, in the first category ex-servicemen, and then other families which to-day are extremely badly housed and need decent housing conditions. The Government must, and I hope that it will, view the matter seriously. I ask it to regard what I have said as a statement of fact. Knowing as it should do, the war situation, what action does it propose to take in connexion with housing?
.- The desperate fodder position throughout Australia, and the question asked by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), together with the reply of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, compel me to place before the Parliament the complete history, in retrospect, and to place responsibility for the present fodder position where it lies, namely, in the non-co-operation of the States.
Upon my return to office as Minister for Commerce in October, 1940, 1 at once set to work to lay down a policy that would fit the circumstances of the war, and especially the shortage of shipping, as well as storage and production difficulties. The Sydney Morning Herald, in a leading article on the 21st May, 1941, headed “ Planned Agriculture “, made this comment: -
Sir Earle Page’s announcement of a policy to cover all phases of agricultural economy will be welcomed with enthusiasm and a deep sense of relief throughout Australia, especially as it is more than a mere local plan to organize and co-ordinate primary production.
In all the circumstances, Sir Earle Page’s announcement will restore a sense of security which in recent months had been ebbing among producers, and it will provide an added incentive to greater effort. Not only will the man on the land be protected from economic disaster, but the whole nation will benefit from the stabilization of our primary industries. It is evident from the comprehensiveness of the Minister’s statement that, with the British agreement as a bulwark, he lias developed his plan on two principles, complementary to each other and fundamental to Australia’s future. The first is to see that we are always in a position to send to Great Britain as much food as she can take from us; the second, to maintain our agricultural and pastoral industries intact throughout the period of the war, so that, when victory comes, we shall be able to step up production in double-quick time. There can be nothing more certain than that the greatest and most urgent need of the postwar world will be food; indeed, it may well be that the final reckoning will be brought about largely as a result of starvation in Europe, and that bread and meat for the stricken masses will be more decisive with them than guns and bombs. The increased place assured in the future to Australia in the Empire’s industrial and economic life, makes the maintenance of all forms of primary production here an absolute essential, and lays on the shoulders of the State governments a duty to test out more and more of the crops that hitherto have been ignored in our agricultural economy . . .
From appearances, the plan should resolve many problems that have been causing anxiety since the early days of the war. On a vast chequer-board, Sir Earle Page has moved our cattle and sheep, wheat and fruit, butter and eggs, with an adroitness that betokens both mental skill and optimism in a high degree. If he can now succeed in moving his “ pieces “ according to schedule, in limiting production on the one hand, and inducing Australians to eat more on the other; in finding new markets and building great stores for the temporarily unwanted surpluses; in converting overproduced wheat crops into fodder for stock, and a potential excess of butter into cheese and dried milk; if the Minister can put such a plan into operation within a reasonable period, he will earn Australia’s gratitude. That there are practical difficulties in the way should serve as a stimulus to the sweeping aside of impediments, with the National Security Regulations asa weapon of attack. Certainly there is a call for the use of imagination in handling such problems as he has tackled, and no one can accuse the Minister of being lacking in that quality.
My first step in this comprehensive plan was to use the Commonwealth’s wartime powers to stabilize the wheat industry. Stabilization of the wheat industry could be done only in combination with other great wheat exporting and consuming countries, through the International Wheat Agreement. That agreement necessitated, for its satisfactory working and the maintenance ofa reasonable price for producers and consumers, unanimity on the export allotment for each country. Australia’s export allotment of approximately 100,000,000 bushels meant a total Australian marketable crop of 140,000,000 bushels to provide for local needs of human and stock consumption. In addition, approximately 20,000,000 bushels was required for seed. Accordingly, I stabilized the industry on that basis, which proved to be a very close approximation of the average for the previous five years. We licensed farmers and registered farms on the basis of the activities of that period. However, weather is uncontrollable. Therefore, in order not to discourage production, the Government agreed to pay for all hay cut in excess of a marketable crop of 140,000,000 bushels. This safety-valve gave elasticity to the scheme. If wheat prices were high, due to a world wheat shortage, and Australia was fortunate enough to have a good season, more than 140,000,000 bushels could be cut for marketable grain. If, however, world prices were low and our season good, the excess could be cut for hay and stored for live-stock against bad years. This safeguard to prevent limitation of production necessitated a scheme for national fodder storage. Accordingly, I proposed a three-point national fodder scheme : -
Dealing with the first, point, the institutions which now finance the farmer on the security of his property and crops, agreed to make additional advances to cover the actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing and storing hay and ensilage. These institutions readily responded to that proposal because it assisted to protect the producer’s most valuable and most vulnerable asset - his live-stock. On the second point, the Fodder Conservation Board would buy the surplus fodder production over and above that necessary for the producers’ own requirements. For this purpose the board needed initial finance for the establishment of a revolving fund. Additional advances would be secured from the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. Arrangements to this end were made with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The Fodder Conservation Board was empowered to purchase equipment or arrange with contractors for cutting, baling and pressing the hay on a large scale, thus reducing production costs to a minimum. Some fodder would remain on the farms on which it was produced, and some could be moved to central depots. Rail transport in the off-season would be cheap, and it would be efficient to use the railways at such times instead of risking congestion during a drought. As to the third point, arrangements were made for butter factories, wool firms and stock agents to guarantee payment for fodder by users to whom it was sold. Thus, losses would be reduced to a minimum and the commercial houses would be forced to take mi added interest in the affairs of their clients.
These proposals were placed before the Australian Agricultural Council in January, 1941, when their principles were agreed to. In June, 1941, when the detailed scheme was approved, the Government agreed to finance the Central Fodder Reserve with a revolving fund of £250,000. It also agreed to provide a revolving fund of £250,000 for the States to use to encourage the initiative of individual farmers, first by education, secondly by the provision of financial assistance, which was limited to advanced for the provision of machinery and the erection of storage facilities such as silos, shed.s, &c, and thirdly, by advances against fodder suitably stored on the farms. The State Ministers for Agriculture thought that the State governments would be prepared to put £.1 for £1 against this loan by the Commonwealth Government for encouraging individual farmers. However, despite the fact that the State Ministers of Agriculture had agreed to and recommended this scheme to their governments, when the raising of the requisite capital by the Commonwealth and States was considered by the loan Council, the Premiers said that they would prefer to have the extra money for farmers’ debtrelief, and the item was therefore deleted.
Experience of the last four years has shown how short-sighted, was this view of the State Premiers. Failure to establish this fodder reserve has caused losses of many millions of pounds to the farmers and live-stock industry of Australia, and has greatly increased farmers’ debts. Its repercussions are being felt in the poultry and every other industry in which stock feed is required. Unfortunately, time, not money, was the most important factor in this project. In 1941 it was still possible to buy from America and Canada tractors, lorries and all classes of specialized machinery that would have facilitated the cutting and baling of hay, and materially lessened the man-power necessary both for the growing and harvesting of crops. Unfortunately, the last really good season that Australia had was in that year.
Despite this rebuff by the States, the Commonwealth Government brought into being the National Fodder Conservation Board to carry out the central reserve fodder portion of the scheme, and the board was constituted under National Security Regulations on the 14th August, 1941. Within a month, however, I had left Australia to represent the government before the British War Cabinet and the government with which 1 was associated went out of office a few weeks later. I .returned to Australia in August, 1942. To my amazement, I learned that no capital funds had yet been provided by the Government for the functioning of the national fodder conservation scheme, and that instead of cutting for hay the excess over 1-10,000,000 bushels of wheat, the excess crop had been allowed to go into grain. Regarding the payment for this excess there was some dispute. I at once took the matter up with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce and, as a result, the Government made another effort to induce the States to co-operate 100 per cent, with the national fodder scheme by offering a contribution of £1 for £1 to State schemes. Certain States have made some progress in this regard. New South Wales, for instance, has made a contribution by lending £100,000 to butter factories and farmers’ co-operative organizations to assist in the planting of fodder crops. Unfortunately, by 1943, when this action was taken, the United States of America was well into the war, and practically the whole of its agricultural machinery production had been switched over to the making of military machines. The result has been that a very limited number of agricultural machines is available.
With this tragic lesson staring us in the face, I still urge the Government to resuscitate the broad, comprehensive scheme which I instituted and take the fullest advantage of any favorable weather conditions that may be experienced, mtd the return of our servicemen, to lift up our fodder production and food reserves. These are certain to be needed again. The great value of a national scheme is that modern machinery, which saves much manual labour and time on farms, is so expensive that it should be used for the maximum number of hours and days each year. A national scheme would permit, for instance, all contractors starting to cut hay, say in the Darling Downs, and following climatic conditions right down into Victoria, or even Tasmania. This would permit of the use of machinery and skilled men for six months in each year. Similarly, in Western Australia, to run from the latitude of Geraldton to Albany would probably keep contractors busy for four
Or five months in each year. Localized schemes, limited to one or two districts, would obviously provide for the use of the machinery, so far as wheat and oats are concerned, for only a very short time in the year. In the making of lucerne hay, however, especially along the coastal rivers and those watering areas further inland, co-operative effort would permit the use of labour-saving machinery to a much greater degree than has ever obtained in Australia. My own experience has been that the two great disabilities in respect of fodder conservation have been the out-of-pocket expenses associated with the storage and holding of conserved fodder, and the labour associated with the process. A national fodder conservation scheme could largely overcome both of those difficulties.
.- When I was discussing the Income Tax Assessment Bill, I stated that it would be far preferable to increase the amenities of people in country districts than to bother about the zoning system for which the measure provided. I have had several letters recently from country districts informing me that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has threatened to reduce their mail deliveries from three or two to one a week. Periodically the department calls for fresh tenders for mail services,- and naturally the prices asked by tenderers have increased. Horses have frequently to be used in the transport of mails, and even if motor vehicles are utilized the costs of operating them have increased. Owing to the increased contract prices, the department seeks to penalize the people on the land, and even asks them to subsidize the department for services rendered. I doubt whether the Government is sincere in claiming that it, wishes to encourage people to settle on the land, when mail facilities are being seriously curtailed. In some instances, telephone exchanges have been closed because the person in charge has left the district, and some expense would be involved in transferring the exchange to the residence of some other person. The department boggles at any small expense to provide facilities for those living in the backblocks. I sometimes wonder whether it is the result of Government policy, or whether it is due to the officials who administer the department. In the course of my dealings with the department in Queensland I have always found the officials sympathetic and helpful, and I have concluded that the trouble lies in Government policy. For a brief period, during the regime of one PostmasterGeneral in the Bruce-Page Government, a very sympathetic policy was applied towards country districts, but the policy was later reversed, the department saying that the cost was too great. I suggest that this policy should be restored. If that were done, people would be more disposed to stay on the land.
The department should consider the provision of wireless-telephone services for isolated areas. I admit my lack of technical knowledge on the subject, but I believe that such a service would be possible. Now that the war situation is improving, an effort should be made to provide better facilities for those living in country districts. I have received letters from people who have lived for years in the country, but they now threaten to sell up at the first opportunity and get out, because they are disgusted at the failure of the authorities to provide facilities.
– The speech of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) raises once again the subject of Army equipment. All of us are meeting servicemen returning from the north, and it is evident that the position in regard to equipment, notwithstanding the Fraser report, is far from satisfactory. The Government will not be able to bottle up the discontent for very much longer. As the troops continue to come down, so information about equipment will become available. Actually, I have not met one person qualified to speak on the subject who believes that the Fraser report wa3 worth the paper it is written on, and that was my own summing up of the report when I first saw it.
– The honorable member’s leader does not think so.
– I do not worry about what my leader thinks. I speak for myself. The other matter to which I wish to refer is that which was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), namely, war decorations. If we are to accept the Statute of Westminster as our guide, it is clear that the Australian Government has direct approach to the King himself; but, it would appear that the Government, instead of- going to the right quarter, has communicated with certain authorities in this country in connexion with the correction of admitted anomalies. There is an uneasy feeling in the Army that the difficulties experienced in connexion with the 6th Division in New Guinea are due, not so much to anything which the King may have authorized, as to the well-known fact that there is hostility between one general and another, and that this has been responsible for the holding up of the decorations. This is a matter which needs probing.
We come now to the award of certain medals by General MacArthur to members of the Australian forces. There are well-known rules governing these things, one of which is that no British subject may accept a foreign award or decoration except with the consent of the King. When the armies of two allies are working in close association as we have been working with the troops of the United States of America since 1941, certain awards are made from time to time by the commander of one army to troops serving in the other. It appears that the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian forces has laid it down that no such decorations may be worn by members of the Australian forces. I maintain that the King, not the Commander-in-Chief, is the person who should mie on that point. We have witnessed a long succfusion of attempts by th’ Commander-in Chief < usurp auth’ -‘ and this i« not the first time that he has prevented members of the forces from receiving honours and awards. If specific instances are wanted, I can give them. The Government should intervene in this matter, instead of delegating its power to any service authority. The CommanderinChief should simply obey the instructions of the Government. In too many instances the Government has not concerned itself with these matters, but has left them to the happy-go-lucky, whims’ cai administration of those in authority. As a result, it has happened that men who went overseas in the same vessel have been treated differently in the matter of awards, simply because one was under naval control while the other was under army control. That is a ridiculous situation. A man, who served in a cruiser off Malaya in 1942, is entitled to the 1939-45 Star, but his brother, who served in the Sth Division in Malaya, is not. That is a Gilbertian situation, and the Government should not tolerate it.
– It would appear that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) have misunderstood the position in regard to the award of service stars. I assure the House that every Australian soldier - whether a member of the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia - who has served, or is serving, in an operational area, including Timor, Malaya, Ambon, New Guinea, New Britain, Bougainville, the Solomons, Java and Borneo, will be entitled to the 1939-45 Star and to the Pacific Star, subject to the completion of six months-‘ service. In regard to prisoners, time spent as a prisoner in consequence of capture in operations may be counted towards the qualifying period for the 1939-45 Star. That disposes of the’ points which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has raised. As to his claim on behalf of Australian war correspondent? who have received American wards and. allegedly. are not permitted year them. T shall make inquiries. I shall look into what the Leader of the Australian Country party has said on this matter.
I shall ascertain the position in regard to fodder conservation, to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) referred to certain matters affecting Indonesian seamen in this country. I am sure that the honorable member would not wish the Government to take any imprudent action in connexion with people under the jurisdiction of a friendly neighbour. It would be an extremely delicate matter to raise; indeed, any such action might be regarded as highly improper. The honorable member knows that the representatives of the Australian Government at the San Francisco Conference are endeavouring to secure endorsement of the principle of trusteeship in respect of dependent races. I am afraid that the Government cannot approach the Dutch authorities in regard to the treatment of its nationals in Dutch territory.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro also referred to the application of the dictation test to certain American seamen. If he would be good enough to let me have specific instances in which he believes that an injustice has been done, it may help when the matter is again brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings).
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to the equipment of Australian forces in the South-West Pacific Zone. I remind them that to certain leaders has been given authority in connexion with the operations which are taking place. These operations are part of an over-all organization. Unless we have confidence in those leaders we cannot expect success to attend their efforts. In view of the continued successes which have attended the operations in the .South-West Pacific Zone, there is no justification whatever for anything but the fullest confidence in them. Indeed, they are entitled to our warmest admiration. This matter has been raised on a number of occasions, both by way of questions and otherwise, and I claim that effective, indeed, smashing replies, to the allegations of a shortage of equipment have been given. The evidence which has come to hand reveals a complete absence of any justification for the complaints that have been brought forward in the House. The honorable member for New England may seek to bolster up a weak case, but he cannot destroy the effectiveness of the replies that the Government has received from General MacArthur, for whom we can have only the greatest admiration, as we have also for the Australian Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and those under him. Advices received by the Government show that there is no foundation whatever for the charges.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who spoke of the need for houses, will realize that this primarily is a .matter for the State governments, and that the Commonwealth Government has no desire to transfer that responsibility. The honorable gentleman will realize, moreover, that he and others who refused to give to the Commonwealth the powers necessary to deal with this problem must accept some responsibility in this matter, and are not in a position to chide the Government.
– The supply of labour and materials is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
– That is so. The Government is doing all that is possible to provide supplies of materials in preparation for the inauguration of a widespread housing programme. As the Minister who deals with some of the materials that will be required, I assure the honorable gentleman that every effort is being made to speed up various processes, with a view to providing a bank of materials, so that work in connexion with a housing scheme can be proceeded with at the earliest possible date.
On the 16th May the honorable member’ for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) referred to a statement made by the secretary of th? Master Plumbers Association regarding shortages of piping, in which it was said that the supply was 4,000,000 feet short of the quota. That is totally incorrect. Queensland, for the period up to the 31st January, 1945, received its full quota. For the three months to the 30th April 846 tons were delivered against the three months’ quota of 1,005 tons, . and at present 6S4 tons are awaiting shipment from Newcastle, covering the balance of the quota to the end of April, plus some of the May quota. Our representative in New South Wales is in close contact with shipping authorities in an endeavour to arrange shipments. Whilst some delay may be experienced because of shipping difficulties, Queensland will receive at least its full quota. In calculating length against weight, 1 ton is to equal 1,000 feet. Therefore, 1 lie short shipments to Queensland to the end of April would represent 159,000 feet. Apparently, the 4,000,000 feet referred to by the honorable member is the total outstanding order, but, as Queensland is receiving an equitable quota, we cannot divert additional supplies from other States which are also much in arrears.
To-day the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) mentioned the appointment of Mr. F. II. Stuart to the position of Second Secretary, Political Section, Department of External Affairs. The appointment was made in accordance with all the relevant provisions of the Public Service Act and with those relating to preference to ex-members of the forces. Applications for this position were invited last November in the Gazette and the metropolitan press. Two of the applicants were returned soldiers. One of them did not supply evidence, as requested, of his qualifications for the position. The other unsuccessful applicant was Mr. J. S. Cumpston. Full consideration was given to Mr. Cumpston’s application, hut it was considered that the special qualifications possessed by Mr. Stuart, who had been on loan to the department from the British Foreign Service for nearly three years, were outstanding for the particular duties of the position.
– I can see no indication in the white paper tabled by the Acting Prime Minister that Australian land forces will receive (he 1939-45 Star. Is the announcement contained in that statement or was it made outside?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the supplementary statement that I made is official and that he can take it as an interpretation of the provisions already expressed in the statement by the Acting Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister later indicate where it is made?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
In regard to 1, 2 and 3 above, neither the Minister nor the Acting Minister “has visited civil gaols in which servicemen or ex-servicemen arc confined. The inspection of such ganis is. of course, not a normal ministerial function. It would bo impossible for the Minister, particularly in war-time, to make personal visits to all military establishments or places to which it may be necessary to send servicemen. The supervision and inspection of such gaols is a matter for the relevant State Government, not for the Federal Government, although close liaison is maintained between the State Government, and the local military authorities. In every State, provision exists for the inspection of gaols by official visitors of repute and standing in the civil community.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
t asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The reason for control arises out of the necessity for stimulation of production of food generally and the arrangements necessary for the production of special food products, together with the distribution on a controlled basis of food amongst Australian services, Australian civilians, United States services, British Ministry of Food and British navy, and other services. The present position of the war with Japan does not justify any relaxation of the above stated activities.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It has been the practice of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from the inception of broadcasting to maintain an attitude of strict impartiality towards talks radiated from broadcasting stations, more particularly in respect of subjects where there may be some divergence of opinion.
It is agreed, however, that it would be a matter for great regret if a broadcasting station took advantage of the latitude permitted in the selection of material for broadcasting to omit reference to a statement ot such outstanding importance as that referre’d to by the honorable member.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– This matter has been receiving attention, and such limited action has been taken as has been possible in view of the shortage of supplies available for civilian use. An interval of uncertain duration is inevitable before supplies become fully available.
Interna tion al Y outh Com m ittee.
y. - On the 11th May, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 27th April, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked me a question in connexion with the claim of an exserviceman to be allotted a quota of superphosphate so that he might resume wheat-growing. I desire to inform the honorable member that there are unusual circumstances which affect this case. The matter has been referred to the Victorian Department of Agriculture, which is the authority responsible for the distribution of superphosphate within that State, and as soon as information is received from the department, I shall furnish full details.
CAMPAIGN STARS AND DEFENCE MEDAL.
summary of White Paper Issued by the United Kingdom Government on the 18th May, 1945.
Recommendations for the institution of the changes and extensions set out below have been the special subject of His Majesty’s attention overa long period during which the King has been advised by the Prime Minister on all matters likely to give rise to difference of opinion. The recommendations have now been duly submitted to the King and His Majesty has graciously approved them. Consideration of the manufacture and issue of the new stars themselves and the Defence Medal will be postponed. The ribbons which have been decided by His Majesty arc being made now on the highest priority and will be issued as soon as supplies are ready.
The following paragraphs should be. read in conjunction with paragraph 1.1, which indicates the operational service required before individuals can qualify or begin to qualify for one of the new stars and the manner in which service is to be reckoned. A principle of this scheme is that there should be complete equality of treatment as between the services with regard to the maximum number of stars and clasps in lieu of stars which may be earned by any individual. 1939-45 Star.
Air Crew Europe Star.
Pantellaria on the 11th June, 1943, and until the end of active hostilities in Europe. Operational service in the Mediterranean theatre, for instance in the Aegean and Dodecanese, Corsica, Greece, Sardinia and Yugoslavia after the, 11th June, 1943, would be a qualification. Elba would be regarded as part of Italy for this purpose. Service in Sicily after the 17th August, 1843, in Sardinia after the 19th September. 1943, and Corsica after the 4th October, 1943, would not he a qualification. Naval or merchant navy service at sea anywhere in the Mediterranean during this period would be a qualification, provided it was directly connected with active operations, including those in the Aegean and the South of France. Air-crew service in operations against the enemy within the Mediterranean theatre will be a qualification, including sorties from the Mediterranean area over Europe. For naval personnel on duty ashore and non-air crew personnel of the Royal Air Force, entry into the prescribed areas of land operations would be a qualification. The star would be awarded to those who have earned it whether other campaign stars may be granted in addition for services in the present war.
France and Germany Star.
For naval personnel ashore and non-air crew personnel of the Air Force, entry into the prescribed area of land operations would be a qualification. The star would not be awarded in addition to the Pacific Star. If a candidate should qualify for both, the star first earned would be awarded. If the Burma Star was awarded under these conditions a clasp would be awarded for service which would qualify for the Pacific Star. A silver rose emblem would denote the award of this clasp.
Navy or Merchant Navy (1939-45). - Atlantic (or France and Germany or Air Crew Europe), Africa. Pacific (or Burma), Italy, Defence Medals.
Army (1939-45). - Africa, Pacific (or Burma), Italy, France and Germany (or Atlantic or Air Crew Europe), Defence Medals.
Air .Force (1939-45).- Air Crew Europe (or Atlantic or France and Germany), Africa, Pacific (or Burma), Italy, Defence Medal.
No individual will bo awarded more than one clasp to any one campaign star and no one will he able to wear more than one emblem on any one of the star ribbons when the ribbon only is worn.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450518_reps_17_182/>.