17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Power of Veto
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the statement published in the press to-day,wherein Dr. Evatt is alleged to have said that he can swing enough votes in committee at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco to break down the veto power of the Big Five?Was the power of veto agreed to by the late President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and Mr. Churchill at the Yalta conference? “Was the matter also raised by the Australian delegates to the United NationsConference on International Organization at the preliminary meeting of representatives of the British Empire held in London? Is the policy in regard to the power of veto of the Big Five, which Dr. Evatt is enunciating at San Francisco, the policy of the Australian Government? If so, is Dr. Evatt acting under the instructions of the Government, and keeping it fully informed of the position?
– I have not seen the article referred to, and have no knowledge of any official pronouncements in relation to the decisions of the Yalta conference. I ask the honorable member to place his other questions on the notice-paper.
Day Labour Costs
. -by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question in connexion with a statement alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I have perused: in the Sydney
Morning Herald of the 22nd May, 1945, the article referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane, and have noted the statement by the honorable member for Parramatta that estimates given in evidence to the Public Works Committee recently showed that a building project would cost £115,000 if carried out by the Government, and £73,000 if completed by private contract. The honorable member for Parramatta has attempted to establish that if the work were carried out by the Government it would cost £115,000, but if carried out by private enterprise would cost £73,000. His statement infers that if the Government called tenders for the job the cost would be £115,000, whereas if private enterprise called tenders the cost would be £73,000. It is obvious from the evidence that no reference was made to work done by private enterprise. The amount of £73,000 was a revised estimate, prepared by the department after a full investigation of requirements.
– by leave - As the Minister for Works has suggested that my statement was not correct, I shall furnish confirmation of it by reading the relevant official evidence given by Mr. George Cook, Works Director, Allied Works Council, Department of the Interior, before the Public Works Committee. In answer to a question by the chairman of the committee, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), Mr. Cook said -
I am aware that the original estimate for this work was £115,000, while the latest estimate is £73,570. There is, admittedly,a considerable discrepancy,but I point out that the original estimate was made when it was believed that the work was to be part of the post-war reconstruction programme. The estimate was made on the cubic foot basis and in the belief that the work would bo done under Civil Constructional Corps conditions.
In answer to a question by me as a member of the committee, Mr.Cook said -
The original idea was that the building would be erected by the Civil Constructional Corps on the cost-plus system.
In a further answer to the chairman, Mr. Cook said -
The plan has not been altered since the original estimate was made, and there has been no reduction of the proposed accommodation. The tact is that the original estimate was too high.
I am prepared to leave it to the House to judge, on the statements presented by the Minister and by me,whether I attempted in any way to mislead honorable members or the Feminist Club of Sydney.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping arrange for a request to be made to the British Government to make available the liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth for the transport to this country of Australian prisoners of war repatriated from Germany, members of the Royal Australian Air Force who have served in Great Britain, and the wives of members of the fighting forces who so far have been unable to secure passages.
– With all due respect, that is a fairly tall order. I know that the honorable member’s intentions are good, and that undoubtedly shipping is required for the purpose mentioned. We shall do our best to comply with his request.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister beenadvised of the threatened extension of the ironworkers’ strike at Lysaghts Limited? Is he in a position to reply to the questions that I asked yesterday, seeking confirmation of union policy in regard to the reinstatement of ex-servicemen? Has he considered my suggestion that he warn dissenting unions that the Government will not countenance any departure from the re-instatement rights of servicemen, even though their re-instatement may mean a reduction of the status of other unionists displaced ?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I am not familiar with all the implications of this matter. I regret that I have not been able to have a full reply prepared to the other questions. I shall have it prepared as quickly as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and
Customs state whether the supplies of elastic released for purchase by the general public may be increased? According to representations that have been made to me from South Australia, some storekeepers impose the condition that other goods must be purchased in order to obtain elastic.
– Such a condition is contrary to the regulations which govern the matter. If the honorable member will furnish specific information as to where that is occurring, an investigation will be made. I shall consult the Minister for Trade and Customs in regard to increasing supplies of elastic for the use of the general public.
– I direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the fact that in the Sydney press to-day there is a full-page advertisement authorized by the New South Wales Minister for Health, in which persons are invited to use D.D.T. freely in their homes for the control of house flies. Can the Minister say whether this may be regarded as an indication that supplies of D.D.T. have been made available to civilians in New South Wales? If they have, will the Minister take steps to ensure that Queensland graziers and other food producers shall be given an equitable share of the available supplies, to enable them to control the spread of buffalo-fly among their herds?
– I have not read the advertisement to which the right honorable gentleman has referred. My recollection is that supplies of D.D.T. are very scarce, but I am also under the impression that there has been some reservation as to its use on a wide scale, because proof is lacking that harmful effects may not ensue from its general use. However I shall have inquiries made and let the right honorable member know the result.
Price - Supply
– Has the Acting Prime Minister yet received the report of Professor Giblin on his inquiry regarding milk costs, which was instituted at the request of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) and myself?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- In reply to a previous question I said I hoped that the report would be available this week. I had a brief note from Professor Giblin yesterday, or the previous day, informing me that as he had to make another visit to Sydney in connexion with the matter his report would not be available till next week. I think he said that it would be ready early next week, and as soon as it is available the honorable member will be informed.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Having regard to the detrimental effect on the public health of the recurring shortages of milk in the capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, will the Minister for Health negotiate with the State governmentsconcerned with a view to arranging a permanent correction of this serious deficiency?
– I shall certainly consult with the Minister for Health on this matter.
Withdrawal of Long-service Troops - Soldier’s Property: Dispossession - Absence without Leave: Private Neilson.
– Has the Acting Minister for Defence read the report of a speech by Brigadier Cremor, at a meeting of the Legacy Club in Melbourne, in which he said that men of the original 6th Division were very tired, and hoped that the Commonwealth Government and the people would recognize that these soldiers had served Australia well for nearly six years, and release them? Is the Government considering the release of those long-service men, if they so desire, or, if they are not to be released will it consider the adoption of a rotation system whereby they might be relieved by men who desire to serve in operational areas?
– I did not read the speech to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but the matter raised is giving the Government some concern because, like all honorable members, it believes that something should be done for men who have served for long periods. On Monday the War Cabinet discussed the matter at some length with General
Sir Thomas Blarney. A decision has not yet been reached as to the course to be followed, but the matter is under serious consideration.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consider the appointment of three members of this House to interview Mrs. Nora Solly, of Queensland, who is now visiting Canberra in connexion with the dispossession of her husband of his farm and their home, in his absence as a member of the Australian Military Forces, with a view to ensuring that justice shall be done in this case and that no similar case shall arise in future?
– If the honorable member will furnish particulars of the case I shall arrange for the appropriate Minister to make whatever inquiries are necessary. I do not think that the appointment of a committee of members of this House would assist in the matter.
– I direct the attention of the Acting Minister for Defence to the case of a young Australian, QX49114, Private Alex. Neilson, who has been court-martialed in Brisbane, because, in his anxiety to see active service, he was absent without leave and was later found serving with American troops in the Philippines. His service there was marked by brave deeds, and he was recommended for a decoration. Will the Minister give sympathetic consideration to this case, and see that Private Neilson is allowed to satisfy his desire to rejoin his unit, which is now in action?
– Personally. I should favour action along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether the Government has given consideration to the request of the Australian trade unions’ convention in Melbourne recently, for an overhaul of the industrial arbitration system, in order to provide for a greater concentration than in the past on conciliation and the prevention of industrial disputes? Will the Minister also give consideration to the sponsoring of joint production committees of labour and management, which have operated successfully inGreat Britain and the United States of America?
– For some time the Government has been discussing with representatives of other sections of the community the need for a conference, with a responsible person in charge, to overhaul the Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system generally, with a view to greater emphasis being placed on conciliation than it has received in the past. I think that the desirability of appointing production committees was discussed at the recent industrial conference of employers and employees, and that action is being taken along those lines without government intervention.
Employment of Women - Alleged Ministerial Interference with Judiciary.
– I draw the attention of the Acting Attorney-General to the issue of the Century, of the 10th May, which contains a short paragraph referring to the conference held in Melbourne recently between Commonwealth Ministers and representatives of the trade unions. The newspaper referred to the Minister for Labour and National Service in these terms -
He was a pathetic figure at the congress, but he tried to get the sympathy of the congress fay telling them he had been double-crossed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Having regard to the fact that two newspapers have been cited by the court for contempt, on statements arising out of the conference, is the Minister aware of any action which has been instituted by the court, against either that newspaper, assuming the report to be untrue, or against the Minister, assuming it to be correct ?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has had a long, honorable and creditable association with the trade unions of this country, and I firmly believe that he would not need to adopt any measures to win their sympathy in connexion with any problem with which he had to deal. I think that is a sufficient answer, in the minds of all trade unionists, to this scurrilous attack upon an honorable man in the Labour movement of this country.
The two newspapers which have been cited in connexion with the attack on the court are the Sydney Morning Herald and the Tribune. On a previous occasion I told the honorable member that the action was instituted by the court itself. It requested legal assistance in connexion with the presentation of thecase. Perhaps the Century has not a very wide circulation, and the court may not have read the article. The Solicitor-General may forward a copy of the article to the court, and if the court then decides to take action, the Attorney-General’s Department will make available the necessary legal aid.
– Members of the Militia, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, who have served exclusively in Australia, receive on their discharge no badge or other symbol to indicate that they have given such service. Will the Acting Prime Minister consider arranging for the issue of a badge to members of the forces who have not left Australia to indicate that they have served as members of the armed forces in Australia during the war?
– I shall have the honorable member’s proposal examined.
– Can the Acting Minister for Defence say when the ribbon for the new Pacific Star will be issued to men en titled to wear it?
– The Acting Prime Minister has referred to this matter twice in the House this week, and has said that negotiations are still proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom in regard to it. Until all outstanding points are adjusted the distribution of the various stars and ribbonswill be held up.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether it is true that Qantas Empire Airways are cutting out Roma as a stopping place for its aeroplanes because of the inadequacy of the runways? If he is not aware of it, will he have inquiries made into the matter ?
– I was not aware of it, but I shall have inquiries made.
Curtailment of Recruiting
– Having regard to the fact that recruiting for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force has been curtailed, will the Minister for Air see that the signs appealing for recruits are removed? Many young men and women who seek to enlist are disappointed when told that recruits are no longer being accepted.
– Recruiting for certain personnel has been suspended for the time being and the position is being examined in order to decide whether it will be resumed. In the meantime, recruiting signs are allowed to remain in position in case the need should arise to resume recruiting. I shall have consideration given to the advisability of removing the signs.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact, as reported in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald that reference was made by the Acting Prime Minister, in caucus, yesterday, to an interdepartmental committee established to examine war-time controls, and to recommend the abolition of those no longer required? If so, will he enlighten honorable members concerning the constitution of this committee, and will he arrange that a joint parliamentary committee be formed to confer with, and to stimulate, departments in their deliberations, and to make urgent recommendations to Parliament as soon as progress has been made?
– I stated in reply to a question yesterday that the Government was examining the matter of wartime controls.
– This report states that it is being done by a committee. Who are the members of the committee?
– The examination is being made by a sub-committee of Cabinet. It may be that, in conjunction with the sub-committee of Cabinet, representatives of the various departments are also going into the matter. I do not remember mentioning an inter-departmental committee, butI do not deny the report.
– During the war, there has been 100 per cent. censorship of outward mail from Australia. . Will the Minister for Information say whether this censorship is still operating now that hostilities in Europe have ceased ? If so, will he see that it is suspended wholly or in part so that the persons doing this work may be given more useful employment?
– The purpose of censorship is to protect the interests of the nation, and the authorities which have exercised, and are exercising, censorship powers are inspired by one purpose only - to protect the nation from possible saboteurs inside and from enemies outside. But there has never been 100 per cent. censorship of outgoing correspondence.
– There has been of mine.
– I do not propose to draw any deductions from that fact.
– No ; but I can - a very obvious one.
– The fact is that a great many other persons have not had the same experience.
– I do not know of any one who has not.
– I assure the honorable member that it is not 100 per cent. censorship. In any case, censorship of outgoing mail is not exercised by the same authority which censors matter published in the press or broadcast over the radio. The position is being watched continuously, and no surplus staff will be employed on censorship. As a matter of fact, the staff employed under the Postal Censorship Regulations is now being reduced in all capital cities.
– On the 22nd March I gave notice of a question to the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research relating to the extraction of an oil from the Geraldton wax plant which has all the attributes of penicillin without the disadvantages associated with that drug, but the question still remains on the notice-paper; it has appeared on 21 notice-papers.Can the Minister say when I may expect a reply?
– I shall look into the matter and provide the honorable member with a reply as soon as I can.
– I move -
That Notice of Motion, No. 1 - General Business - be postponed until Thursday, 14th June.
This motion, which relates to precedence involving the placing of Mr. Speaker, stands in the name of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who is agreeable to its postponement. I arranged for the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) who is chairman of theCabinet sub-committee, which was appointed to deal with this mutter, to discuss with the honorable member for Barker the progressthat had been made, and I understand that further consultations are to take place.
– Is it the intention of the Government during those consultations to obtain the views of the Opposition ?
– I have not given that point any consideration, but I shall do so.
– The Opposition is still here and interested.
– I have not seen anything of the report of the Cabinet subcommittee, nor do I know what its recommendations are likely to be, but when the report comes before me, I shall consider it. In the meantime, I thank the honorable member for Barker for having consented to the postponement of his motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That Notice of Motion, No. 2 - General Business - be postponed until Thursday, 14th June.
This motion, of which I gave notice yesterday, deals with the need for a revised and extended educational system in post-war reconstruction, but having regard to the Government’s desire to proceed with the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, I am agreeable to the suggestion of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that my motion be postponed.
Question resolved in the affrmative.
– I move -
That Orders of the Day, Nos. 1 and 2 - General Business - be postponed until Thursday, 14th June.
Order of the Day, No. 1. relates to a motion by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that an Appeal Board be established in connexion with house and land sales. I have discussed the matter with the honorable member, and although I do not claim that the points raised by him have been satisfactorily settled, the honorable member has consented to the postponement of the discussion of his motion in order that the Re-establishment and Employment Bill may be further proceeded with. I thank the honorable member for his assent to such postponement.
The second order of the day is a motion by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) relating to landlord and tenant regulations. I have arranged with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) to discuss with the honorable member for Fawkner the matters raised byhim.
– I understand that they are to discuss them with me.
– This morning further progress was made towards meeting the wishes of the honorable member for Fawkner, and I am grateful to him for his consent to the postponement of further debate on his motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1945 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be consideredan urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the timeallotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: - (1.) For the committee stage -
to the end of clause 33, until 11 p.m. this day;
to the end of clause 48, until midnight this day;
to the end of clause 53, until 1 a.m. on Friday, 25th May ;
to the end of clause 03, until 11.30 a.m. on Friday, 25th May;
to the end of clause 101, until 3.15 p.m. on Friday, 25th May;
remainder of committee stage, until 5.45 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th May. (2.) For the remaining stages, until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th May.
– The Opposition protests against this truncating of the debate on what has been described rather proudly by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is in charge of the measure as a most important bill and as the serviceman’s charter. The House went into committee on this bill yesterday and we sat until 2 o’clock this morning. The committee dealt with nineteen clauses, but, because a very great deal of discussion occurred on clause 4, those in charge of the bill became piqued and came to the conclusion that the debate should be curtailed : this motion is the result. All I desire to point out, if not to the House, then, at least, to the people, is that clause 4 represents the actual foundation of this bill, because it determines its scope and what persons are to come within it. Therefore, it merited full discussion. We have in front of us no less than 135 clauses, some of which are of farreaching importance. I could hardly imagine a more important business for the National Parliament to attend to. Yet we are told that the time for discussion of these clauses is to be limited to a few hours for each group. On top of that, we have had a notification from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that not only are we to sit until 2 a.m. each sitting day next week, but also are to commence each day, except the first day, at 10.30a.m. In other words, the Government, notwithstanding its majority, or perhaps, because of it, is telling us that the business of this country can be attended to with proper thought, study and debate in sittings of this House lasting fifteen or sixteen hours a day.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, if one is asleep for most of the time, but everything, if honorable members are expected to give proper consideration to the legislation before them. We saw yesterday time after time examples of the Minister being invited to explain important clauses and not knowing what they meant, and if’ those who have all the resources of the Government and the departments behind them still remain vague and uncertain in their minds as to the meaning of those provisions, how are private members of the Opposition to be expected’ to direct their minds clearly to them.
– The right honorable gentleman does not deny that the Opposition has been stone-walling?
– No one can honestly say that any speech which I made on this subject in committee was longwinded and not to the point. I take my duty in committee on a bill of this kind very seriously. The position is that from now on we shall reach points where, notwithstanding that there may be very grave matters left to be considered, the guillotine will come down and they will be voted on without consideration at all. However, the longer I speak now the less time there will be for discussion in committee, so I make my protest and resume my seat.
.- I entirely agree with the concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the longer we debate this motion the less time we shall have to consider the clauses of the bill in committee; but many of his supporters do not follow his example, because at least half a dozen of them rose immediately he sat down. So much for that aspect. The right honorable gentleman has always been concise and always good to listen to. I hope that that admission will not be used against me on some future occasion. That is also true of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), but it does not apply to quite a number of Opposition members who used every available opportunity to stone-wall this measure, and it is of no use for them to deny it. They rose at every opportunity and said nothing. They stretched the Standing Orders to the breaking point in their efforts to discuss anything but the matter that was ‘before the Chair in’ order to waste time and stone-wall, on the speci ous plea that they were trying to dosomething to benefit ‘ the servicemen* They claim to be the champions of the’ ex-servicemen for whom they would have the people believe on one else has any consideration. That cuts no ice with, us or the people.
– Does it not?
– No, as the honorable member will discover.
– The honorable member will discover that it does before we are finished.
Mi-. BARNARD. - We have heard that story before. The point I particularly want to make at this stage is that members of the Opposition have themselves, to blame for the introduction of the guillotine in order to expedite the passage of this urgent measure. It is very important that it should be speedily passed in order that the organization necessary to administer it may be completed in time to meet the needs of members of the forces who will soon be discharged in greater numbers. Over 100,000 persons have already been discharged from the services.
– That strengthensmy point. Had honorable members opposite f ollowed the example set by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leaderof the Australian Country party in the committee discussion, the Government would not need to apply the guillotine.
– I support the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in protesting against the limitation of debate on this important measure. Honorable members opposite, including the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is in charge of the bill, have emphasized that this is the most important legislation that we have been called upon to consider since the war began. One doesnot need to go into details to show the necessity for giving to it the fullest possible consideration. However, the bill as drafted is clouded in obscurity. Many of its more important provisions require careful .clarification. It is regrettable that the Government has decided to limit debate in this way. It has been forced to take that course solely because of its mishandling of the measure ; the Opposition .parties haTe been eager to cooperate with the Government in dealing with the bill. When the Minister circulated 34 proposed amendments after the completion of the second reading debate, it was impossible for us to proceed in committee without being given an opportunity to examine them. We asked that the committee stage be postponed to the following day, but that was entirely inadequate to ena’ble us to do our duty and thoroughly examine the proposed alterations. Indeed, on the second reading I moved an amendment for the purpose of having the bill withdrawn and redrafted. Whilst the Government refused to accept that amendment, the circulation of so many amendments means that the Government has practically redrafted the measure. I repeat that the Government is now forced to curtail the debate because of its earlier inaction and its failure to study its proposals thoroughly.
– I congratulate the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) upon his motion, because the patience of honorable members on this side of the chamber has been exhausted after listening for the last couple of days to unnecessary repetition and reiteration by honorable members opposite in a deliberate attempt to stonewall the measure. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) invariably made two speeches on every point raised in committee. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) repeatedly rose in mock indignation on points that had been thoroughly discussed, and made no attempt to offer constructive criticism, whilst the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) invariably repeated himself when he was on his feet. If the time proposed to be allotted for the remaining stages is not sufficient to enable honorable members opposite to debate the measure intelli-gently, it is time that they gave up debating. I am not impressed by the indignation assumed by honorable members opposite. Following the defeat of the Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), subsequent governments adopted “ standover “ tactics so far as the Opposi tion was concerned, and did not hesitate to force through important measures, regardless of protests against the limitation of debate. Now, when the boot is on the other foot, we hear squealsand cat-calls from honorable members opposite. Not only this measure, which i3 long overdue, but also other important legislation awaits our attention. Owing to tho obstructive tactics of honorable members opposite very little has yet been done this session. They continue to obstruct the Government in utter disregard of the interests of the people. I support the motion because it will ibviate unnecessary debating, and because I believe that the time proposed to be alloted for the remaining stages is quite sufficient to enable the measure to be considered thoroughly and intelligently.
– I protest against the application of the guillotine to this measure. This legislation affects the well-being and future of all members of the fighting services. I remind the House that hut for the efforts o£ the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) the committee would have passed a clause which would have made enemy aliens eligible for all benefits to be made available under the measure. The Opposition has saved the country from that indignity, and ex-servicemen from a grave injustice. That fact indicates that the Government itself has not given thorough consideration to the proposals embodied hi the measure. Furthermore, when the House went into committee the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) circulated 34 amendments which he proposed to move. It has already been made clear that the Minister himself did not fully understand the purport of those amendments. On several occasions last night, the Leader of the Opposition had to explain to him as well as honorable members the meaning of certain clauses. In my long experience in this Parliament I have not seen such bad handling of a measure by the Minister in charge of it. Although the bill consists of eleven parts, each with a number of divisions, we have not yet concluded consideration of Part I. We have yet to consider proposals under the headings of reinstatement in employment, preference in employment, apprenticeship, vocational training, disabled persons, demobilization, land settlement and housing. Any one of those subjects demands the fullest consideration. However, the Government is not showing an intelligent interest in those problems. Honorable members opposite have been dumb, and have made no attempt, to debate the measure constructively. I repeat that had it not been, for honorable members on this side the Government would have forced through a clause making enemy aliens eligible for all the benefits to be made available to ex-service personnel under the measure.
.- I have rarely witnessed a more amusing position in this House than at this juncture. I have been a member of the House for a long time, and when I and my colleagues were on the Opposition benches, we protested against the guillotine just as emphatically as honorable (members opposite now protest. Of course, honorable members opposite are acting within their rights as an opposition in adopting their present attitude. At the same time, however, the ‘Government has the responsibility of putting through its legislation. The motion .by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is more than justified, on this occasion because the Opposition is deliberately holding up this legislation. This obstruction has been carefully organized, not only in this chamber, but also from outside, in an attempt to embarrass the Government. In such circumstances, I commend the Acting Prime Minister for applying the guillotine.
– This is the first occasion on which this Government, the self-styled champion of free speech, has dared to apply the guillotine. Last night, right out of the blue, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) moved the “gag”. The actual facts in regard to the second-reading debate on this bill, are that more speakers rose from the Government side of the chamber than from the Opposition. The debate continued for a number of days, and the records of Hansard, even if they were examined under a microscope, will not reveal that any honorable member opposite made one critical comment on the bill. Government supporters were like a chorus of vocal rubber stamps. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) may shake his leonine head, but he showed no characteristics of the lion in the debate. Although he threatened freedom of action in committee, we have not seen any evidence of it.
Government supporters wasted time, and, in their eulogies of the bill, I repeat, reminded us of a chorus of vocal rubber stamps. When certain honorable members on this side of the chamber pointed out vital defects, one of which will go down in history as being without parallel in the introduction of legislation, a few Government supporters, including the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), who reminds me of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, discovered grave doubts as to whether this bill should be passed in its present form. Then there were goings to and fro. The Minister in charge of the bill quite obviously did not understand it, and became extremely annoyed when certain defects were pointed out to him. When the honorable mem!ber for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked for information, the Minister sat back like a sulky calf which would not take its milk. He declined to answer the questions. When he was effectively “ stymied he resorted to the time-honored method of escaping from the difficulty by applying the “gag”. To the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I say that application of the guillotine is a better method than the moving of the “ gag “ to expedite the discussion of the bill. The only time that the committee showed any signs of making progress yesterday was when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ungraciously retired from the chamber for quite a while, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) replaced him. If the Acting Prime Minister desires Government legislation to be delayed in future, all he will have to do will be to place the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in charge of it. If the
Minister will not prove the most effective barrier to movement that has ever been devised, I know nothing about parliamentary procedure.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction is a Scotsman, like the honorable member for Barker.
– I am a Highlander. I have not forgotten what Robert Burns said on that point, and I may quote it before the end of the day. One important requirement in committee is that the Minister in charge of the bill shall have an accurate and intimate knowledge of its contents. Last night, hour after hour, time after time, it was proved that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction knew no more about it than he does about the man in the moon ; and he has seen the man in the moon from a distance of a quarter of a million miles, and possibly has not studied him at all. Serious issues have yet to be decided. The committee could usefully employ a whole day in discussing clause 101, which relates to soldier settlement, and another day in dealing with clause 102, which is concerned with housing. That urgent matters like soldier settlement and housing shall be disposed of in two clauses is without parallel in the history of Australian legislation. The bill gives to the Government the biggest blank cheque that has ever been issued in the history of Australian politics.
.- After having listened to the Barker Filhrer—-
– I shall give the honorable member a lesson in the pronunciation of the German language.
– The honorable member should be the last person in this chamber to advocate freedom of. speech, because he is so conservative that, if he bad his way, he would not permit any freedom of expression. The Opposition has been staging a sham fight for the benefit of the gentlemen representing various ex-servicemen’s organizations. Those gentlemen have watched the antics of honorable members opposite, and know that they are not sincere in their endeavours to assist returned soldiers. “What ex-servicemen desire is action, not procrastination such as honorable members oppo site have displayed on this bill. This measure was introduced on the 23rd March, and any honorable member opposite who claims that he has not had sufficient time to study it should not he here.
– At the conclusion of. the second-reading debate, the Minister in charge of the bill circulated 34 amendments.
– Most of them are minor amendments.
– Has the honorable member examined them ?
– The Opposition’s legal luminary, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), is satisfied with the hill, because, after making his speech, he disappeared. In the secondreading debate, 24 honorable members out of 49 on this side of the chamber spoke; that is less than 50 per cent. At the last election, the people left hits and pieces to the number of 24 representatives of the anti-Labour parties, and 22 of them participated in the second-reading debate. The other two were absent.
– That is evidence of an efficient Opposition.
– Honorable members opposite accuse Government supporters of having wasted time, but almost 100 per cent, of their number spoke on the second-reading, whilst less than 50 per cent, of us participated in that debate. Therefore, it is easy to understand why the hill has been so long delayed. During the second-reading debate, members of the Opposition repeatedly asked for an extension of time, and even a second extension.
– But their requests were refused.
– At the beginning of the debate, their requests were granted. When they made a “ welter “ of. it, the Government declined to accede to any further requests for extensions of- time. Now, honorable members have had their “ side-show “ and I am pleased that the Government has applied the guillotine. The Government should proceed with other urgent legislation, expediting progress with the guillotine if the stonewalling tactics of. the Opposition render its use necessary. One of the most important bills, apart from the measure now under consideration, is the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Honorable members opposite do not desire it to become law. The Government has set it aside temporarily to enable the Re-establishment and Employment Bill to be dealt with, so that hundreds of thousands of men will not be unemployed after demobilization. The Opposition desires to see them unemployed. Honorable members opposite want a great reservoir of unemployed for the big vested interests. That is the reason why they are delaying the passing of this bill.
– The honorable member would be a great success on the stage as a comedian.
– The honorable member would not be a success as a comedian, even as the Barker Fuehrer. The time that has been allotted to this motion is one hour, and honorable members opposite will occupy the whole of it with their protests. They should not have started their delaying tactics, but having done so, they must suffer the consequences. Last night, even when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction agreed’ to accept certain amendments, the Opposition staged a sham fight and some spoke as many as four times on a paragraph and a proposed amendment to it. They were not satisfied when the Minister assured them that he would insert their amendments in the correct places, but continued to waste time. They do not want the Minister to agree to amendments. They want to waste time. I contend that so long as an amendment which they favoured was incorporated in the bill, they should not worry when it is done.
– Order ! The honororable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members opposite complain that we on this side of the chamber have been holding up the passage of this measure. It is true that the bill has been held up. It has been held up for two years by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other honorable members opposite, notwithstanding the assurance given to me and to the House by the Prime Minister two years ago that a preference bill would be introduced. When the AustralianSoldiers’ Repatria tion Bill was before the House in 1943, I moved an amendment providing for preference in employment to returned soldiers, but the amendment was defeated. After that, no action was taken until the 24th March of this year, when this bill was introduced. Therefore, the charge that this legislation has been delayed can be more fairly levelled at the Government. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) said that we have had an opportunity to examine this bill since the 24th March, and therefore should have been ready to go ahead with it. I remind the honorable member that although caucus has held many meetings to discuss this measure, honorable members opposite, like driven cattle, have not been prepared to contribute one constructive suggestion towards making the bill workable. The Minister himself was unaware that enemy aliens were to be given the same consideration under this measure as would be given to men who had shed their blood in New Guinea.
– Order ! The time allowed for the consideration of the motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2051 ) he agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in. the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2042).
Clause 20 - (1.)The Minister may appoint a Reinstatement Committee in each State and Territory of the Commonwealth. (2.) Each Reinstatement Committee shall consist of a chairman, one member to represent persons who have rendered war service and one member to represent employers. (5.) Panels of persons to represent persons who have rendered war service and employers respectively shall be selected in such manner as the Minister determines, and the members of a Reinstatement Committee, other than the chairman, shall be selected from the panels in such manner as the Minister determines. (6.) A person shall not act as a member of a Reinstatement Committee at any meeting which considers any matter in which that person has a direct interest as the applicant for reinstatement in employment or the employee, or as the employer or former employer, or as a member of the firm or company which is the employer or former employer. (8.) The Minister may determine the remuneration and allowances (if any) which shallbe paid to members of Reinstatement Committees.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “ and one member to represent employers “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “, one member to represent employers and one member to represent employees.”
This clause deals with the establishment of reinstatement committees, and there are two reasons for the appointment of a representative of the employees on each. The first reason is that the amendment will bring the committees into line with other reestablishment committees which will be set up under this bill to deal with training, employment services, disablement, and preference, on which the employees will be represented. It appears to me that the employees should be represented on any committee of this nature on which the employers are represented. The second reason is that many questions of industrial practice will arise in the determination of reinstatement problems, andit will be to the advantage of the committees to have the experience of representatives of the employees. The act in Great Britain provides for employees to be represented on similar committees.
– On a committee of four?
– Not necessarily on a committee of four, but the British act provides for the employees to be represented. Since the reinstatement committees will have to do very important work in connexion with industrial practices, regarding which employees’ representatives generally are very well versed, they will be strengthened by the inclusion of employees’ representatives.
– I hope that the Minister will not persist with this amendment, which is a sinister move to reproduce the unfortunate circumstances at Lysaght’s factory in New South “Wales, where 1,700 men are now on strike. The bill provides in the first place for each committee to consist of a chairman, a representative of the employees - because the soldier will be the representative of the employees - and a representative of the employers. In every industry in which a serviceman’s claim to reinstatement is challenged, he will be represented by an employee who is an ex-serviceman. If this amendment be carried, it is probable that the employers’ representative and the employees’ union representative will unite when they are opposed to the reinstatement of an ex-serviceman in order to push him out. That would be quite wrong. The constitution of the committees as proposed in the clause as it stands is adequate. “Who are chiefly concerned as to whether an ex-serviceman should return to his former employment or not ? Obviously, the man himself and his prospective employer. There is no issue affecting the unions which would entitle them to representation on the committees. I ask honorable members not to accept the Minister’s amendment, and I appeal to the Minister to re-examine it. We have an instance at Lysaghts to-day in which the unions object to the reinstatement of an ex-serviceman. They contend that he should not he given any consideration for promotion, preferment, or even maintenance of his former status in respect of the period during which he was overseas. They want to push him into a back room instead of allowing him to take up the position to which the employer wishes to appoint him. If the unions be represented on the reinstatement committees, they will do the same thing whenever it suits their purposes.
– I see no necessity for the amendment moved by the Minister, and I shall support the amendment which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) proposes to move later. If the Minister presses his amendment, he may aggravate the labour difficulties that have already arisen in Australia. When a soldier returns from service and seeks reinstatement in his former job, there is no need to bring in representatives of the unions to consider his case. The matter rests between the ex-serviceman and the employer, and penalties are already provided for the employer who does not do the right thing. If the amendment moved by the Minister be agreed to, I foresee an extension of the industrial trouble which unfortunately is already a shameful feature of our economy. Nearly 2,000 men have gone on strike at Lysaght’s factory because a soldier, after serving abroad, has returned to his former position, and the case must now go to the courts to be settled. Such industrial upsets would be aggravated if the wrong men were appointed to the reinstatement committees. Ministers and supporters of the Government, who are associated with trade unions, know that there are many men in the unions to-day whom they would be glad to be rid of. I refer to men such as Mr. Thornton, of the Federated Ironworkers Union, and Mr. Wells, of the coal-miners federation, both of whom are Communists. If one of these men were appointed to a reinstatement committee, as will be possible if the amend ment be agreed to, the soldiers would face many difficulties. Imagine their bitterness if, after honorable service abroad, some chap who has “ slept in his bed o’ nights “ while they have been fighting-
– Tommy White is talking tommy rot.
– The honorable member does not understand the position. He is ignoring the implications of the proposed amendment. It may lead to such disturbances as are occurring at Lysaght’s factory to-day. The Waterside Workers Federation has closed its books against new members. How, then, can we place a man in waterside work unless the federation co-operates? The only satisfactory answer to obstruction of this kind is for the soldiers to form their own unions, which they are perfectly entitled to do. They can register at the Arbitration Court and form a new organization if they are denied admission to an existing union. I hope that I have made clear to the Minister the difficulties that may arise and the reason why it is hot necessary to have another party interfering between the employer and the employee when every circumstance affecting pay, status, seniority and so forth is already covered in the bill. I ask the Minister to leave the clause as it stands.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That, at the end of sub-clause (2.). the following words be added: - “both of whom shall be servicemen “.
This will cover all the difficulties that honorable members have foreseen. The amendment does not require explanation or amplification, because it is obviously desirable in a measure dealing with servicemen.
– I cannot accept the amendment. But I give the assurance that all members of the reinstatement committee will be ex-servicemen, so far as that may be practicable. I do not want to make the rule inflexible, because in an exceptional case the most suitable representative of either the employers or the employees might be a non-serviceman.
.- I am sorry that the Minister cannot accept the amendment. His explanation is that a person most suitable for appointment may not be an ex-serviceman. There will not he the slightest difficulty in that respect. The number of committees will not be large. All the difficulties mentioned by the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Balaclava (Mr. White) would be removed by the insertion of the amendment. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision.
.- We are thankful to have the assurance of the Minister because, in every instance, it will be possible to appoint an exserviceman.
– If it is possible in every instance, an ex-serviceman will be appointed.
– It could he made possible .by obtaining a panel of the names of persons suitable for appointment from the federal executive or a State branch of. the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, from the Fathers Association, or from the Air Force Association. There need never be any deviation from the principle.
.- I move -
That, after sub-clause (2.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (2a.) Any organization representing discharged members of the Forces throughout the Commonwealth may, in respect of any Reinstatement Committee, submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not lees than three persons from which the organization recommends that a selection he made of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the Reinstatement Committee and the Minister may appoint a person selected from the list so submitted to be one of the members of the Reinstatement Committee.”.
This principle is extensively applied under other Commonwealth legislation. Sub-section 2 of section 8 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act contains almost an identical provision. It reads -
Any organization representing returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth may submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not less than three persons from which the organization recommends that * selection be made of a person to be appointed as one of the Commissioners, and the GovernorGeneral may appoint a person selected from any list so submitted to be one of the Commissioners.
That principle is applied also in respect of the entitlement and assessment tribunals. It has been in operation since 1920, and has proved most effective, for the reason that the executive officers of ex-servicemen’s organizations are themselves ex-servicemen who have served the organizations for a long term of years, in some instances for 25 and even 30 years. They are specially qualified to discharge work of this kind. All of them have had honorable war service, and have brought to the solution of problems affecting exservicemen the thorough knowledge of experts. Because of their knowledge and experience, and the fact that they are so well known, .any decision which they might give against an ex-serviceman is accepted as the result of a fair inquiry. The bill is full of loop-holes, irritations and annoyances. If the Minister accepts the amendment, ex-servicemen will have greater confidence in it. Recently, the Parliament passed the Wool Use Promotion Bil] which embodies this principle, in that under it the Australian Woolgrowers Council and the Australian Wool Producers Federation will each have the right to nominate three representatives for appointment to the Australian Wool Board. Those are the only organizations of consequence in the wool industry. Because of the vital need to establish confidence among ex-servicemen, I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
– I am notprepared to accept the amendment. I assure the honorable’ member that what he desires is being given effect.
– Then why not accept it?
– In this division, the bill merely replaces the existing regulations, which have been administered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who has followed the practice suggested by the honorable member. Therefore, it is not necessary to embody the amendment in the bill.
.- If the Minister has correctly stated the position, the acceptance of the amendment should not present any difficulty. He has described the bill as the servicemen’s charter. It is nothing of the kind, because it embodies provisions for the rehabilitation of civilians. That is not the position in other dominions. During the second-reading debate, I pointed out that in New Zealand, there is a rehabilitation board, the head of which is a colonel of the forces with a distinguished war record and academic qualifications, and every other member of which is an ex-serviceman. There is similar provision in South Africa. Yet in Australia, although a larger number of ex-service personnel will have to be dealt with, civilians who may have rehabilitation problems are to come within the scope of this legislation, notwithstanding the fact that already their needs are catered for by the Man Power Directorate, as well as by unemployment and sickness benefits. The whole of the administration in relation to the ex-serviceman should be in charge of persons who understand their problems by reason of the experience they have gained from the last war, the present war, or both. If the Minister adopted that principle, he would have no difficulty in accepting the amendment, so ensuring that in the initial contacts which the serviceman makes in the negotiations for his reestablishment in civil life, his problems shall be understood.
– I fail to understand why the Minister cannot accept the reasonable amendment submitted by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). Surely the Minister does not wish to retain absolute control in the administration of the act. That would introduce a new principle. There would be nothing unfair in permitting the servicemen’s organizations to submit a panel of three representatives, from whom one could be selected. Of course the Minister may claim that he is a superman, and will always appoint the right person as the representative of the servicemen, but he will not always occupy his present ministerial position. In practice such appointments are made, not by the Minister, but by the officers of his department. The bill should at least reflect the wishes of a majority of the members of this committee. The Minister should not refuse to grant a reasonable request made by a section of the committee on behalf of the servicemen. About 60 such amendments will be submitted, mostly at the request of servicemen’s organizations. The Minister himself has circulated 34 amendments to this bill, which contains 135 clauses, yet he has already curtailed consideration of the bill by the application of the closure. The small amendment now before the committee would not confer great benefit on anybody, but it would at least ensure representation of the servicemen which had been approved by their organizations. If the Minister does not accept the amendment he will show that he is still prepared to allow the officers of his department to have whom they like appointed to bodies of this kind, irrespective of the wishes of honorable members.
.- The Minister’s reply indicates that he spoke without thinking of what he was saying. He stated that the regulations in operation to-day have a certain effect, and that when this measure becomes law the regulations will be replaced by the act; but I urge the Minister to accept the safeguard for which my amendment provides. A similar provision is contained in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– Sub-clause 5 deals with the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– That has no bearing on my proposal.
– It deals with panels.
– Not where necessary. In order to give confidence with regard to an important provision in this measure, I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. Very few servicemen are satisfied with the bill, particularly the provisions regarding preference in employment. The Minister should show that he has an interest in the servicemen’s organizations, which understand rehabilitation problems better than the bureaucrats who advise the Government.
– I move -
That, after sub-clause (4.), the following now subclauses be inserted: - “(4a.) All questions before a Reinstatement Committee shall be decided by a majority of votes. “(4u. ) The chairman shall have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, shall also have a easting vote.”
The insertion of those sub-clauses is necessary because of the amendment which increases the personnel of the committees from three to four.
– That has never been done.
– It is an accomplished fact, and the consequential amendment now proposed should be made.
Amendment agreed to. Amendments (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (5.) the words “and employers respectively “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “to represent employers, and to represent employees, respectively “.
That, in sub-clause (C), the words, “ act as a member of a Reinstatement Committee at any meeting -which considers “, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “, at any meeting, act as a member of a Reinstatement Committee in relation to”.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That sub-clause (8.) he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause : - “ (8.) The members of Reinstatement Committees shall be paid remuneration and allowances a.t such rates (if any) as .the Minister determines.”
– Will the members of the Reinstatement Committees be .engaged on these duties full-time, and what fees will they be paid? I understand that the Minister may not be able to say just how much they will receive, but he can give some indication of the manner in which they are to be remunerated. Is it expected that some of thom will give their services in an honorary capacity?
Mr, DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and amendment provides that members of the Reinstatement Committees shall receive remuneration at rates to be determined by the Minister. That is the .answer to the honorable member’s question.
– But has not the Minister any idea of what the rates will be?
– The amount will depend upon the time they devote to the work, and that will depend on how much work is to he done. Some will be employed on a full-time basis, and some .on a part-time basis.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21 (Extension of periods within which application, &c, may be made).
– This provides one way of dealing with the matter which I mentioned when clause 10 was under discussion last night, namely, whether the period should he for one month or three months.
– I promised to examine the matter.
– I suggest that it might be dealt with either by extending the period from one month to three months, which I would have thought the better way, or by fitting clause 10 into the structure of clause 21.
Clause agreed to.
Division 2. - Preference in Employment.
Clause 22 (Repeal of section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act).
.- I rise to o’bject to the proposed repeal of section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The -Government has seen fit to reduce the period of preference to ex-servicemen to seven years. This is regrettable. I should like to be assured that, at the end of the seven years’ period, the preference which the ex-serviceman enjoys to-day will be preserved to him. I was amazed to learn that the Government proposed .to reduce the measure of preference provided in the Repatriation Act of 1943, which is the foundation .of this bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised, without any qualification, t<o extend preference in industry to soldiers fighting in this war. However, nothing was done about it until the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) moved in the matter. At that time, the honorable member represented the Government’s majority. I do not place the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) in the same category, because he followed the Government blindly on every occasion. Indeed, it was only in regard to preference to servicemen -that the honorable member for Henty did not also follow the Government blindly. The present measure of preference has been forced on the Government against the violent objection of the trade unions. I am afraid that when the seven years preference period expires ex-servicemen will be left high and dry. As it is, the Government is proposing to give only the bare minimum in the way of preference, and that because it has been forced to do so. At the Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), when he was being strafed by the trade unions in connexion with the Government’s preference proposal, made a statement by way of apology. He was reported as follows- in the Melbourne Age, of the 31st March -
The Federal Government’s bill made provision for both returned soldiers and civilians who had served in combat areas. It might be that in the selection of a man for a job a civilian who had served for a long period in a forward area would secure a job in preference to a returned soldier who had served for only a short period in New Guinea.
M’r. Dedman. - Can the honorable member vouch for the authenticity of that statement?
– Yes, because the honorable member for Henty has not denied it. The report continues - “ The Labour party has got itself into this position and, in my opinion, the very best thing it can do, if it wants to avoid disruption, is to endorse this bill.” Mr. Dedman said the history of the preference bill began in 1 043, when “the Labour Government without a majority and relying on the support of Mr. Coles, Independent, Victoria, for its continuance in office in the House of Representatives, was . amending the Repatriation Art in the Federal Parliament.
During the debate on that bill, the Opposition moved an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers, and Mr. Coles told the Government that unless it accepted that amendment or gave some undertaking to grant preference in a later bill, he could no longer support the Government. Mr. Dedman said: “ If the Prime Minister had not made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the last election.”.
The Minister has not denied the accuracy of the report, nor has he asked the honorable member for Henty to deny it. There has been no denial of the authenticity of the statement, or of the facts. I am not so concerned as to whether the statement was made as I am with th? facts. The honorable member for Henty undoubtedly did what the Minister said.
– Is the honorable member sure?
– I am certain of it, because the honorable member has not denied it. These proposals provide for a limited preference to servicemen; and at the end of seven years even that preference will disappear, and the legislation will not be worth a snap of the fingers. I ask the committee to preserve to service men and women the benefits conferred on them by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and other legislation. The Commonwealth Public Service Act provides for preference to service personnel in the Public Service and in contracts entered into by Commonwealth departments. That preference is complete and absolute, and is not subject to qualifications or limitations ; but it will disappear if this clause be agreed to. I ask the committee to save the existing preference so that when the seven years’ period expires ex-service men and women will at least have the preference that they have now.
Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) [4.33;. - This clause seeks to repeal section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation A.ct 1920-1943. The history of that section is interesting, Against the wishes of the present Government, an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service was made. I shall not relate all the circumstances, because honorable members know them, but it is significant that the action then taken by the Government to resist the granting of preference characterizes its actions to-day. The Government seeks the repeal of provisions which give complete preference to returned soldiers within the Public Service. While such an important subject is under discussion only two Ministers and six private members occupy the Government benches; the other 41 members of the Labour party are absent from the chamber. That indicates the interest that they have in matters affecting servicemen.Section 117 (1) of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act reads - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth, or in any award, order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement, preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been members of the forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a. combat area for the purpose of this act and who are competent for the work required.
Honorable members will observe that that section provides for absolute preference to returned soldiers within the Commonwealth Public Service. But it goes further, for sub-section 2 provides - (2.) All contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services shall be deemed to contain a clause whereby the contractor with the Commonwealthbinds himself, under a penalty . . to grant, in engaging employees for the purpose of executing the contract, preference to persons specified in sub-sections (1.) of this section.
That preference was worth having, and was valued by service men and women, but the Government now seeks to take it from them and to give to them an unspecified measure of preference. If the Minister in charge of the bill will cease conferring with his immature advisers in the corner–
– That is unfair.
– It is not unfair.
– The officers cannot defend themselves.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation to cease interjecting.
– If the Minister in charge of the bill does not know anything about the measure, I suggest that he get a returned soldier to tell him what it means.
– I know more about the bill than does the honorable member.
– The Minister is continuously seeking advice about the bill. I tell him that if section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is repealed, the preference now given to returned soldiers in the Public Service will disappear. It is possible that this legislation will be challenged in the High Court. During the last referendum campaign we on this side said that under the defence power of the Constitution the Government had power to introduce a bill to provide for the rehabilitation of returned service men and women, but the Government claimed that it had not that power. Now it has introduced a bill which it previously said would be unconstitutional. The Government should not introduce a bill of doubtful constitutionality which would take from servicemen their right to preference.
– Should this legislation be challenged, it will be challenged only by people whom the honorable member represents.
– If the honorable member were not one of a number of dumb-driven cattle, he would exercise his private opinion in this matter. The Minister and his satellites who sit behind him are prepared to repeal legislation which confers considerable benefits on service men and women. The history of this subject is well known. Honorable members know that on a previous occasion I moved for the inclusion of a provision to give preference to ex-service personnel, and that an assurance was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that legislation to give that preference would be introduced. That promise has not been honoured. Honorable members also know what was done in the Senate in connexion with this matter.
Mr. Frost interjecting ,
– If the Minister for Repatriation will concentrate on apples and not interfere in matters of which he knows nothing–
– Order ! I ask the honorable member toconfine his remarks to the clause.
– I am dealing with the clause, as you would know if you listened to me instead of roaring at me. In the existing legislation returned servicemen have something of value. It shouldbe preserved until replaced by something better, and nothing better is likely under this bill. On the contrary, their right to preference in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service will be shorn from them and they will have to share a general right to preference with munition workers and others brought within the scope of the bill by clause 32. The Minister, as a former soldier, should know that that is not a fair deal to the returned men. We have no power over the State services, but we have unchallengeable power to ensure preference to soldiers in the Commonwealth service. The Government, however, proposes that we should exchange the security that the soldiers enjoy under that preference for something of little value.
– I cannot accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis. He considers that section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act should be retained. One of the main reasons why the Government has introduced legislation relating to preference to returned soldiers is to ensure that preference shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. It should bc obvious that it is not possible for the Commonwealth to operate two preference laws at the same time. Section 117 provides that preference shall be granted to men who have served in the forces outside Australia or in any combat area, whereas this bill provides that preference shall be given to members of the forces, whether they have served outside Australia or not. If section 117 were not repealed, which law would operate? Are we to give preference in the Commonwealth Public Service, in the service of Commonwealth authorities, boards, &c, and in employment given by the Commonwealth through contractors or subcontractors, to members of the forces who have served outside Australia, and in> all other forms of employment to members of the forces regardless of where they have served? Obviously, the two cannot function concurrently. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), for his own purposes, adduced as an argument for the retention of section 117 that there was some doubt about the constitutionality of this measure. He said that this bill would be challenged. However, I am sure that when we reach the clause limiting the operation of preference to seven years he will say that there is no doubt about the validity of granting preference without limitation. It suits him now to say that there is a doubt. I put it to the committee that it is not possible for the two preference provisions to remain in operation at the same time. We want preference to be uniform in all occupations in every State of the Commonwealth. For that reason, the Government considers that it is essential that section 117 of the Repatriation. Act should be repealed.
.- The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that the Government must have uniform preference legislation and that it would be impossible to have preference operating under two acts at the one time. That is exactly what we are complaining about. No one on this side claims that the two should operate at the same time. Our complaint is against the withdrawal of the preference given in the one act and its non-restoration in this legislation, which restricts preference to seven years, whereas,, hitherto, there has been no time limit. Moreover, this bill will give preference, not only to returned soldiers, but to many others who have never served in the forces. The Minister has claimed that wo doubt the validity of this measure, and he seeks to impress upon the committee that it is valid. Recently, I asked him some questions. This was his reply -
Anything- that I wish to say in regard to preference to returned servicemen and the constitutional aspects of the legislation now before the House, I propose to say when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill is under consideration, particularly that portion of it relating to preference.
The legislation is under consideration now. Therefore, I repeat the questions. Was he correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as having told the trade union convention in Melbourne that preference to returned soldiers was constitutional because it came within the defence power of the Constitution?
– For seven years, yes.
– If so, can he explain “why, in its official case for “ Yes “ in the recent referendum, the Government said that there were grave doubts as to the legal power of the Commonwealth to grant preference to service men and women? What answer will he give to that?
– I shall supply it on another clause.
– Further, can he explain why, in an advertisement published in August, 1944, the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) stated that it was false to say that the Commonwealth already had. power to grant preferential treatment to service men and women and that was why full powers were sought. I know that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction cannot explain away that contradiction. Under this measure, the Government seeks to do away with the preference which, during the referendum campaign, it asked for power to extend. The Government proposes to abolish the old preference and to substitute a preference which, in fact, is not a preference to soldiers at all. I am not surprised when the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in his pamphlet, Rehabilitation of Servicemen) which sells at the modest price of 3d., declares “ preference has proved valueless “. That, however, is merely an excuse; the reason for the abolition of preference is that the unions have demanded .that there shall not be preference to servicemen. It is clear that that objective will be attained, because, under this provision, preference will be extended to all membets of the defence force whether they see active service or not. Obviously, in such circumstances, the principle of preference to unionists will prevail over that of preference to ex-service personnel, and, therefore, the latter form of preference, about which we hear so much from the Government, will be utterly useless. If the claim made by the Minister for Transport that preference is valueless be true, why do the great majority of returned soldiers to-day desire the Government to continue the preference conferred after the last war? Obviously, ex-soldiers of the war of 1914-18 do not think that the old preference has proved valueless. Only a few years ago,, after all postal officials had been released from the services, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department advertised for all soldiers whom it had previously employed to re-enter the department. To-day, the old preference applies to the appointment of unofficial postmasters, whilst preference is also given in this work to widows of ex-soldiers. That class of employment is ideally suited to soldiers who are getting on in years, and to the dependants of those who served in the war of 1914-18. The old preference has proved anything but valueless to the ex-soldiers of the last war so far as employment in the Public Service is concerned. Therefore, I oppose this clause, which wipes out the existing concession. I again protest against the conflicting statements which have been made in the name of the Government to the -trade unions, the press and this committee, concerning the reason why the Government now proposes to abolish the preference we have known in Australia since the war of 1914-18 and which has benefited so many ex-soldiers of that war. This measure, upon the expiration of a period of seven years, will wipe out all semblance of preference to ex-service personnel, including both the old form and the new and worthless form to be provided under this measure.
Mr. BOWDEN (Gippsland) [4.541.- I should like to move that the clause be deleted.
– That would not be in order. A vote in the negative would achieve the same result.
– In that case, I shall vote against the clause. This clause repeals section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I repeat what I said in my second-reading speech, that the provision in respect of preference under this measure does not mean what the Government would like us to believe it means. Every human being could be brought within the ambit of preference as provided under this measure. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that the preference provided under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and that proposed under this measure could not be operated concurrently because they are one and the same thing. “Mr. Dedman. - I did not say that they wore the same.
– The Minisi er said that ex-service personnel could not be given both forms of preference.
– If the preference provided under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is not the same as that to be provided under this measure, why repeal the old preference? I understood that the old form of preference was being repealed because the Government claimed that it was the same as that provided under this measure. However, the two are not, in fact, the same, because the old preference applied specifically in respect of ex-service personnel in the Public Service. That is provided under section 83 of the Commonwealth Public ‘ Service Act, which section also is to be repealed by this measure. Under this bill, any one who ha3 been engaged in war service of any kind can be brought within the ambit of preference, because, in total war, it can be claimed that every citizen is engaged in war service to some degree. That is the effect of clause 32. When this measure becomes law, no preference will be provided specifically in respect of ex-service personnel. The old soldier of the war of 1914-18 is now to lose the specific preference upon which he now depends, and at the end of seven years, under this measure, all semblance of preference of any kind will be abolished. I urge honorable members to reject the clause. 1 have no doubt that every honorable member who is sincere in his professed support of the principle of preference will oppose it.
.- I shall vote against clause 22, and, in particular, clause 23, for the simple reason that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) admitted the existence of a conflict of opinion regarding the constitutionality of a scheme of general preference. We know that the preference granted to ex-servicemen by section 7 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and section 117 of the Aus tralian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is legally sound. One of the major reasons which the Government advanced fox the referendum last year was that it wa3 not certain that under the Constitution, it possessed authority to grant general preference in employment to ex-servicemen. That opinion was not lightly held. For more than twenty years, previous governments had adhered to it. lt is quite possible that the wide preference, which is provided in this bill, may be declared unconstitutional. If clauses 22 and 23 be agreed to, no preference will operate in the Commonwealth Public Service to protect ex-servicemen. We should endeavour to retain the limited preference in government employment that already exists. I doubt whether the Minister was correct when he contended: that, with the passing of this bill, the two sections which now provide preference in government employment may not remain on the statute-book. Why should they not remain? The bill with which we are now dealing will supersede those sections if any conflict between them occurs. For that reason alone, the Government would bc unwise to repeal those sections.
.- I, too, intend to vote for the deletion of clause 22. This afternoon, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) accused the Minister (Mr. Dedman) of not knowing the contents of the bill, and the Minister strongly denied the charge. I ‘believe that the Minister was right, and that he does know the contents of the bill.
– Hear, hear !
– He knows the contents of the bill from A to Z; but what is concerning the Minister very greatly is that the people of Australia shall not be allowed to know the contents of the bill. The honorable gentleman told us that this bill will grant to ex-servicemen preference in employment for seven years, and that returned soldiers will not lose any of the existing benefits as a result of the repeal of section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and section 7 of the Commonwealth Public .Service Act When, addressing the Victorian branch of the Australian
Labour party, an organization to which be pays far mere respect than he does to this committee, the Minister is reported to have said -
Mr. Dedman said Victorians bad no choice whether they would have preference or not. There was already a preference to returned soldiers act on the Victorian Statute. So faina the workers wore concerned, it was a rotten net, but it could bc over-ridden by the Federal Act if the bill now before Parliament was agreed to … It might be that in the selection of a man for a job a civilian who had served for a long period in a forward area would secure a job in preference to a returned soldier who had served for only a short period in New Guinea.
In those words, the Minister let the cat out of the hag.
– Is the word “ New Guinea” mentioned in the report?
– Yes. Did the Minister use another word ?
– It is quite incorrect. I made no such statement.
– The Minister admitted, in his remarks to the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, that this bill is designed to take away from ex-servicemen benefits which they already possess. This afternoon, the honorable gentleman advanced an entirely different argument, and declared that the reason why the Government desires to repeal the preference provisions contained in the two Commonwealth acts is that two forms of preference may not operate at the same time in a community. But I contend that no argument can be adduced to prevent preference from operating in the specific field provided in those two acts even if .those benefits were better than the general preference that the Government is now offering over the total field of employment. Therefore, the Minister is again convicted, on his own words, of trying to deceive the people of Australia regarding the real intention of the bill.
– That is very bad.
– It is very true, unfortunately, and I hate to have to use such words. The whole measure is intended to take away from certain ex-servicemen rights which they already possess, and to offer them lesser rights which they will have to share with heaven knows how many other people in the community. Clause 33 reads -
Sections 24 to 32 (inclusive) of this act shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war.
Ex-servicemen will be definitely worse off, after the expiration of the sevenyear period, “ than they were before this legislation was introduced. The Minister referred to the service of men who offered their lives in order to safeguard Australia from invasion as “old history “. In the words of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), they interposed their bodiesbetween us, who stayed at home, and the vicious and violent enemy who attacked this Commonwealth early in 1942. This treatment of exservicemen is disgraceful. By cunning and deceptive methods the Minister is attempting to whittle down their preferential privileges. In the Minister’s speech to the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour party, we have the key to the riddle of this hill. He is alleged to have made an apology for the decision of the Government to introduce this legislation.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the bill. He must confine his remarks to the clause.
– The Minister told the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, in effect, “we have inserted clauses which will enable us to save you from what you are alleged to be suffering under the Victorian Preference Act, and which will abolish certain preferences now existing under Commonwealth legislation “. Government supporters should not be bound by caucus decisions on this bill. In the interests of ex-servicemen, they should vote for the deletion of clause 22. That is what the people of Australia expect them to do. To-day, they may be the kings of creation. To-morrow, when the electors are roused to fury by this treatment of the men who interposed their bodies between us and the enemy, they will assign honorable members opposite to the fate they deserve.
.- I also ask the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to agree to the deletion of this clause. I believe that he realizes, and that every honorable member realizes, that this is an attempt to take from ex-servicemen a benefit which they have enjoyed since 1918. It is a treacherous and cowardly attempt to deceive men who stood between Australia and its enemies, and who are responsible for our continued existence as a free people to-day. There have been two great betrayals in the history of this world. Judas Iscariot betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver, and had the decency to commit suicide. This Government is betraying the men who interposed their bodies between us and the enemy, and I am satisfied that, by so doing, it will commit political suicide at the next election.
.- The Opposition is engaged in a sham fight on this clause.
– The honorable member should give us credit for being sincere.
– I should like to be able to do so. But I remember that honorable members opposite have continually asked this Government to give a definite preference to ex-servicemen, although for years they themselves neglected to do so. This afternoon they are almost weeping because this bill will repeal section 7 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which gave preference to cx-servicemen in government employment. “We must question the sincerity of honorable members who are making such pleas. I know how little preference has meant to returned men over the years. I have said more than once that preference, as granted by successive governments since the last war, was merely a delusion. Preference was provided in the Repatriation Act and in Ibo Public Service Act.
– And the Government is deleting those provisions.
– Yes, it is being honest. Even if ‘every post in the Commonwealth Pu’blic Service had been filled by a returned soldier, preference under the act would still be only a small thing.
– But it is proposed to take that small thing away.
– If we are sincere we must tackle this problem in a different way. Under this bill,, it is proposed to give ex-servicemen a real measure of preference. It is not proposed to restrict preference to the Commonwealth Public Service. Under- such a provision, notonefiftieth of the ex-servicemen would benefit. We propose to provide a real opportunity for the rehabilitation of servicemen. It is absurd for honorable members opposite to continue this sham fight- about preference. Very little was done in the period between the two wars to give preference to returned soldiers, but in this measure something definite is proposed. ‘ So ineffective have the preference provisions proved in the past that the sooner the whole matter of preference is forgotten the better it will be for the servicemen and for the community.
Mi-. WHITE (Balaclava) ,[5.13].- This matter was discussed extensively during the second-reading debate. This is actually the most important clause in the bill. The Minister described this measure as the serviceman’s charter, but it is anything but that, and it ‘brings within its provisions many who are not servicemen. Moreover, it is proposed to repeal that section of the Public Service Act which gave preference to returned soldiers of the last war, and which was responsible for placing many thousands of men in the ‘Commonwealth Public Service. The only time in the period between the two wars when this principle of preference was threatened was in 19.30, when the Seullin Government was in office. On the 1st May, 1930, I asked in this Parliament whether preference to returned soldiers in’ the Public Service was to be withdrawn, and I was told that the policy of the Government in future would be preference to returned soldiers who were unionists, and, secondly, preference to unionists. The returned soldier who was not a member of a union was to be cast out. The men concerned at that time were linesmen in the employ of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and employees of the Department of Work* and Railways, , with whose union the honorable member for Bourke :(Mr. Bryson) has -been associated for so long. “We did not hear him protest in 1’930 ‘against the withdrawal of preference.
– Preference was not withdrawn.
– The ‘Scullin Government ‘gave instructions that it he withdrawn, but, as a result of the question which I asked, the -returned soldiers league, and members of the Opposition in this Parliament, raised such a protest that the proposal was withdrawn.
Mk Dedman - That is what the honora:Me member says.
– It is recorded in Ilansard, but the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) persists in chattering while I am trying to speak. I was absent from this Parliament on service for four years while the Minister was here talking. I am entitled to my say now, and I propose to have it. The Government, hinder cover of a lot of regulations which concern the civil population more than servicemen, is pretending to confer preference on returned soldiers. Actually. it is not providing for straightou’t preference, and such a provision being in the Public Service Act, the Government proposes to repeal it. It is proposed to limit the period of preference to seven years. Shall we place a measure on gratiatude? The Minister knows that preference to ex-servicemen has been granted in Victoria, where there is a board which manages the matter. The provision works efficiently there, and no time limit has been imposed. There is also preference to servicemen in Queensland and in another State. The Minister knows that “Commonwealth legislation overrides State legislation, and there is no reason why the sections which it is proposed to repeal should not remain in force. There are many men in the Commonwealth Public Service to-day who are indebted to the government which introduced the preference measure in 1920. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who introduced the repatriation legislation, said that preference to soldiers was introduced because the practice prevailed of granting preference to unionists. He said that if there was one thing which should be above preference to unionists, it was preference to returned soldiers. T challenge -honorable members opposite ‘to get up and say that they do not believe in preference to unionists. They put thai first. We should try to understand the serviceman’s problem, and help him to make up the leeway which he has lost during the period of his service. Preference to servicemen was not introduced in oth’er countries, ‘because there ‘preference to unionists was not so much in vogue. The Government will do a most -improper thing if it repeats the preference section j1 the Repatriation Act. Such ‘action will be resented by the ex-serviceman. Under the present proposal, the ex-serviceman must go ‘to the Repatriation Department for a pension and for medical treatment, to the Man Power Authorities f01 employment, to the Social Service Department for education, and to the Wai- Service Homes Department for a home. This is calculated to break the heart of any man who will have to spend his time going from office to office -filling in forms. In the end, he is likely to find himself socially redundant. I urge the Minister in all sincerity no’t to do this foolish thing. If this form of preference has been effective for years, why take it away now ? Why not let the preference provided in the Commonwealth law remain in line with State laws ?
– The State laws are different
– At least the States have imposed no time limit on preference. The Government proposes to hamstring the State legislation, which is on the right lines. It is disgraceful that at this time, with the country still at war, a Government whose members in the past opposed every measure foi- the promotion of th( nation’s defence and whose defence policy did not extend beyond the 3-mile limit, should have the power to legislate for the men who fought in the last war and in this war. It is conducting its campaign in a disgraceful fashion by curtailing discussion. Last night the “gag” was applied over and over again.
– Order! The honorable member will not be in Order in pursuing that line of argument.
– I suppose I am not in order in likening the House with so much yelling going on, to a football match.
– Order !
– This clause proposes to repeal a repatriation measure which has worked more or less satisfactorily over the years.
– Less rather than more.
– I point out to the honorable member that a previous Labour government was the only one that tried to destroy that section of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and now this Government intends to do so again. I suspect that the whole scheme of preference will go into the discard if this Government remains in power. It is no use appealing to the Minister’s reason or relying on the fact that he was a serviceman himself. He has behind him the Labour cohorts, who have an obsession about preference to unionists. It would have been amusing had it not been so tragic to read the report in the Melbourne Age of the meeting of the Labour forces at which the Minister made his confession about giving preference to servicemen only because the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) had insisted upon it when he was supporting the Government. He promised that such preference would, not last very long. “ We shall be taking it away soon “, was what he said, in effect, after unsuccessfully seeking to have the conference held in camera. One of the delegates at that conference said, “ I do not believe in this preference business. I am all against preference to soldiers; I believe only in preference to unionists.”
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Unlike the honorable member with the voice of a football barraacker, I have practised preference as well as preached it, and I shall continue to do so. In this Parliament, which is the debating house of our democracy, I shall ask for it at every opportunity. I will not bc bluffed by the shouting of honorable members opposite. If in their quiet moments-
– In their what ?
– If they think about it outside of caucus and in their homes, they will realize that they are doing a great injustice to a lot of men who, in their youth, have given very fine service and who, on their return, will suffer bitterness and frustration and whose lives may be warped because of that injustice. I appeal to honorable members opposite to throw off the domination of the militant unions and the insidious Communists, such as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy), and to give a full- measure of justice to the mea who fought for the Commonwealth in its time of danger - who were, in fact its strong, right arm. What is said in this Parliament matters very little. What those men have done is the important thing. The talking, and even the homefront effort, good though it may be, are secondary to the considerations that affect these men. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to be generous. If, in the past, these men have not been treated fairly, the Government now has the opportunity to make amends. I ask the Minister not to delete section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but to let it stand so that the men to whom our soldiers will report, in the multitudinous departments that ought to be amalgamated, as has been done in New Zealand, shall be of the right kind. There are plenty of suitable men among the 300,000 who are now available. Already, I have received letters from exservicemen who are unemployed, strange though it may seem. They have gone from one office to another. The manpower authorities thought that they were in employment, but they have lost their jobs and have been unable to find new ones. They have been disappointed, have lost confidence, and have become economic and social derelicts. I appeal to the Minister to think again about this matter. He has been wrongly advised. To leave the Commonwealth Public Service Act as it now stands may mean that 1,000 men may replace some of the men now employed in the Public Service or at least take positions that will be open to them when the Public Service is reorganized in the post-war era.
– Very little that is new can be said on this subject. Very few’ supporters of the Government have discussed section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but they have not hesitated to cast aspersions on its value. They apparently do not know that this section was inserted in the act by the Curtin Government. That was when the Prime Minister yielded to an ultimatum issued by the honorable member for Henty (Mr.Coles). In those days, on account of the strength of the parties represented in this chamber, the opinions of the honorable member mattered a great deal more than they do to-day. It is strange that the Government should now be so eager to dispense with this provision, which it had inserted in the Repatriation Act only two years ago. The Minister has said that it is essential to delete the section because, in contracts lot by the Commonwealth Government or by quasi-government instrumentalities, it would be impossible to provide for specific preference for combatant servicemen.
– The honorable member is peeved because the new legislation applied to contracts let by him.
– I differ from the Minister. I see no reason why men who actually fought in operational theatres should not receive preference in employment from the Commonwealth Government and its instrumentalities. I see no inconsistency in retaining the existing legislation. There isno reason why it and the new measure should not operate simultaneously. The Minister said that we could not have a Commonwealth law inconsistent with a State law. There are plenty of illustrations to contradict the honorable gentleman. The Minister has had sufficient experience in the industrial field to know that it is a common practice for litigants in the arbitration courts to have a foot in each camp - a Commonwealth award and a State award - so that they can pick the eyes out of each. I hope that the Government will not persist with its proposal to delete section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
.- I emphasize again that the effect of the repeal of these regulations will be to withdraw from ex-servicemen of the last war certain rights which, but for this legislation, they would continue to enjoy. No time limit was placed on the legislation granting those rights, and had it not been necessary to make provision for exservicemen of this war no parliament would have imposed any limitation on them. To deprive men of the last war of rights which, but for this legislation, they would have retained for a considerably longer period, is an extraordinary proposal by a government which claims that this measure is a serviceman’s charter of rights.
The amendments circulated by the Minister contain a very important provision. Under clause 59, the obligation is to be placed on employers to accept for employment a specified proportion of disabled persons. An important departure is to be made from past Commonwealth practice, in. that the Commonwealth has been included in the definition of employer. It would appear that ex-servicemen of this war will enjoy in that respect a right which has not been enjoyed by ex-servicemen of the last war. I ask the Minister to state whether or not that provision is to apply to disabled exservicemen of the 191448 war, equally with disabled ex-servicemen of the present war.
Question put -
That the clause he agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 23- (2.) Section eleven of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is amended by omitting sub-section (2.). (3.) Section eighty-three of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is repealed. (4.) Section eighty-four of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is a mended -
– I move -
That sub-clauses (2.), (3.) and (4.) beleft out.
Sub-clause 1 provides for the amendment of section 7 of the Public Service Act, by adding at the end of the definition of “ ReturnedSoldier “ thewords “ and also includes a discharged member of the Forces within the meaning of’ the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945 “. Section 7 of the Public Service Act is. the definition section. The only purpose of such a section is to indicate who are entitled to the preference rights which the act confers upon ex-servicemen. As the legislation we are now considering contemplates the removal of all those preference rights, there is no point in re taining that definition. An examination of the text of the sections in the Public Service Act, which it is proposed to repeal, is interesting. The first is section 11, which provides for the appointment of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, and the sub-section proposed to be deleted reads -
In the making of appointments under the provisions of this section, preference shall be given, other things being equal, to returned soldiers.
Servicemen, who for 25 years have had the benefit of that provision, will no longer enjoy it, if the Minister’s proposal be accepted. Those who fought in the last war, and will get no benefit under this bill, will be deprived of the preference granted in the past. Section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943, which is to be repealed under sub-clause 3, states - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier. (2.) Upon report from the Chief Officer that a returned soldier temporarily employed has satisfactorily performed his duties, the Board may extend his employment for such time as temporary assistance is still required. (3.) Where the employment of a returned soldier has been terminated owing to temporary assistance not being further required, he shall be eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous temporary employment.
Under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, men returned from the last war have had almost a monopoly of opportunity with regard to temporary appointments. Some of the men have been able by reason of application and competency to lift themselves from temporary to permanent jobs, and some to-day occupy high positions in the Service; but there will be no further opportunities of that kind if the clause under consideration be accepted. The next provision which will be deleted, if my amendment is not accepted, is section84, which reads as follows : - (1.) In the making of appointments to the Commonwealth Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the Board shall give preference to returned soldiers. (2.) In making any appointments under section thirty-eight, thirty-nine or forty-seven of this Act, preference shall, subject to competency, he given to returned soldiers. (3.) In notifying any proposed examination for admission to the Commonwealth Service, the Board may specify that any particular examination shall be restricted to returned soldiers.
We know, as a matter of history, that that provision has been implemented by the board, and that advertisements for applications for positions in the Public Service have indicated that the invitation is restricted to ex-servicemen. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned, had there been no further war, and therefore no proposal for new legislation of this kind, the preference provision which has been helpful to tens of thousands of veterans of the first world war would have operated indefinitely. I am surprised at the temerity of the Government in claiming that its present proposals provide for a wider preference, but there will be little consolation for the men who fought in the last war if the preference that they have enjoyed through the years and thought was permanent is now to have a limitation imposed on it. I hope that the committee will hesitate to agree to this clause.
.- What- ‘ ever arguments may be advanced in support of the deletion of clause 22, they apply even more forcibly with regard to this clause. Section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act is very definite, and there is no possibility of misunderstanding its import. “ It states inter <dia -
A returned soldier . . . shall, if competent for the work required, he considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier.
That shows that ex-servicemen must have priority in temporary appointments over all other applicants, but in the last year or so the Government has not observed the spirit of that provision, and has certainly not acted in accordance with it. Certain permanent employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly electrical engineers and mechanics employed in the Telephone Branch, have enlisted in the fighting forces, and their places have been filled temporarily by girls. Other men who have been discharged from the fighting forces have made application for temporary jobs as mechanics in telephone exchanges, but in every case, as far as I can tell from the information before me, their applications have been refused. I took the matter up with the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), and the reply received was that, whilst the department regretted that it could not employ them at present, it was in their own interests not to, as the jobs would be of only a temporary nature. It was pointed out that the positions would probably ,be resumed eventually by those who originally held them, and that in any case the girls were now doing the work well. That shows that the Government is not sincere when it claims that it desires to provide employment as soon as possible for men. being discharged from the fighting forces. If it were sincere, surely it would find means of replacing the girls, for whom other jobs could be provided without difficulty, by returned men now applying for temporary positions. The latter would thus have an opportunity to prepare themselves for further employment. If the Government wishes to give effect to the intention of the bill, it should ascertain whether all men being discharged from the fighting forces are .being given preference over women. I contend that the portions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act which this clause seeks to repeal should remain upon our statute-book. They do not contain anything that is inconsistent with this measure, and they provide a very strong safeguard for returned soldiers who are temporary employees of the Commonwealth.
.- This clause is much more important than it may seem. Apparently, some honorable members believe that it does not matter if the. preference is taken away from temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. During the reconstruction period after the last war, many thousands of public servants were temporarily employed.. Some of them are still only temporarily employed after all these years.. There was a provision that after two years of temporary employment, an employee could be made permanent, but hundreds of temporary public servants, particularly employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department, were employed for a little less than two years, and then put off to break the continuity of employment. Subsequently they were re-engaged, and so on. The withdrawal of preference to temporary public servants would do a very grave injustice to unskilled servicemen. The bill makes no provision for the training of men who were more than 21 years of age at the time of enlistment, although we had hoped that that limit would be raised to 30 years. Large numbers of men in the older age groups, who enlisted for war service, will be unskilled.
– I agree with what the honorable member is saying, but I think that a limit of 30 years would he somewhat high.
– These older men may have considerable difficulty in obtaining jobs on their return. They will be definitely handicapped if they have to compete in the industrial market with nien who were in constant employment during the war. I can see no reason why the Government should propose to withdraw these preference concessions, unless in its heart it is against preference. I trust that the Government will reconsider the matter. It is a most important issue affecting a considerable number of returned soldiers of this war and of the last war.
.- I wish to repeat a protest which I made in regard to a previous clause. The Public Service Act at present provides that preference in Commonwealth employment shall be given to members of the fighting forces of the last war. The Government proposes, by this measure, to repeal that provision. Clause 27 of the bill provides that the limited preference which this bill envisages shall apply for seven years. If that clause be carried, as unfortunately, is likely, owing to the Government’s persistent refusal to accept amendments from this side of the House, at the end of seven years all preference to ex-servicemen will be wiped out. I object strongly to that. There is another reason for my objection to the repeal of these preference provisions: The pro posal in this measure to extend preference to servicemen in private industry may possibly he held to be unconstitutional. If that were to occur nobody but the Government could be blamed, When the last referendum was held, the Government refused, in the face of repeated protests from this side of the chamber, to place the first of its seventeen powers before the people of this country as & separate question. That power provided for - the reinstatement and advancement of those who have been members of the fighting service? of the Commonwealth during any war, and the advancement of the dependants of those members who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war.
The granting of that power to the Commonwealth Parliament would have enabled the introduction of an all-round preference measure; but the Government was more interested in continuing the regimentation of the citizens of thi? country, and the socialization of industry, than in ensuring that returned soldiers would have preference in employment, and, accordingly, required the seventeen powers to be submitted as one proposal. Therefore, to-day there is some doubt about the constitutionality of the proposed extension of preference to private industry. Because I fear that that provision may be considered to be ultra vires the Constitution. I should like to see the existing preference provisions remain on our statute-book. In the Public Service of this country there are thousands of returned soldiers of the last war who have been in constant employment because of these provisions. Many disabled ex-servicemen also art’ employed in the Public Service, particularly in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and so are able to provide for themselves and their families. The Government by insisting upon this clause is proving that it has little interest in the rights of returned soldiers. One would think that having had an association of some years with the Repatriation Department, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost.) would have become somewhat softhearted towards ex-servicemen, but I am almost beginning to believe the hard things which have been said of him in Smith’s Weekly. I protest vigorously against the repeal of these preference provisions, and I trust that during the suspension of the sitting the Government will think better of this and will accept the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart).
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I take this opportunity to say some things which I need not repeat on later clauses. Clause 33 deals with the position of the Commonwealth Public Service in relation to preference. My colleague, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has moved that sub-clauses 2, 3 and 4 be deleted, and, therefore, the position of the Commonwealth Public Service in relation to this legislation is directly raised. My colleague read to the committee the relevant provisions, but as some honorable members were not present when he did so, I shall recall what the present position is in respect of the preference in the Commonwealth Public Service. Sub-section 3 of section 11 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which this clause proposes to omit, provides that in the appointment of members of the Board of Commissioners of the Commonwealth Public ‘Service, preference shall be given, other things being equal, to returned soldiers. Section S3 of the act provides that in relation to temporary employment, a returned soldier shall, if competent for the work required, “ be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier “. Finally, in regard to permanent appointments in the Commonwealth Public Service, section 84 provides that “ in the making of appointments to the Common-wealth Public Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the board shall give preference to returned soldiers “. Section 104 has similar provisions. The first point I wish to make is that those are permanent provisions; there is no time limit to their application; and I do not think that any honorable member will suggest that they have not been useful to many returned soldiers. Clause 23 does two things. In the first place it repeals those provisions. That does not mean that it leaves things in the air. It does not, because clause 26 then goes on to provide that “ the application of this division shall extend in relation to employment by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth “. In other words, the Commonweatlh Government is treated as >an employer for the purpose of this division of the bill. Therefore, in order to discover what preference will exist in future in relation to the Public Service of the Commonwealth we have to turn to clauses 27 and 33 and we find that instead of a permanent preference in the widest possible terms there will be a preference limited, in point of time, to seven years, and hedged about by all sorts of conditions which are set out in clause 27. That is the position put in the briefest, terms. If any honorable member will say that that does not adversely affect the position of those returned soldiers who intend to enter the Public Service of the Commonwealth, 1 shall be astonished. In time and in quality the preference extended will bp less than before this legislation becomes law.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the quality of the preference will be affected?
– Yes. Take the position of a returned soldier who seeks temporary employment in the Public Service to-day. If competent for the work required, he must be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier. If the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) will look at clause 27 and consider how curiously hedged about it is with conditions, he will see that the Commonwealth Government as an employer in the future, instead of being bound by the clear terms of section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, will have to look at the applicant, consider the length, locality and nature of his service, the qualifications that he possesses in comparison with a man who has had five years’ experience while the soldier applicant was at the Avar, and any other relevant matter before making the. appointment. If I were advising the soldier applicant, I should have no hesitation in saying that his chances of getting effective1 preference were, under clause 27, only a fraction of what they would have been, under section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Having sand that,, let me carry the matter a little further by citing a few examples of general application. In the course of this debate there have been references to what has happened in other countries. Ministers and Government supporters, with eagerness, have explained that preference is not given by law i’n. any country other than Australia. I do not fully appreciate the point of that remark. If it is designed to excuse the imperfect preference of this bill, it may have some point, but not otherwise. In the second place, hints have been given that the seven-years’ limit is associated with doubts about the power of the Commonwealth to legislate for preference. I am utterly mystified. It is plain, almost to the point of demonstration, that if the Commonwealth has no power to give preference generally, as some people say is the position, seven years is too long; this power will expire long before the end of seven years. If, on the other hand, the Commonwealth ha9 full power to give general preference then seven years is a purely arbitrary limit. I urge honorable members to disabuse their minds of the notion that a limit of seven years will make this legislation valid. That limit has nothing to do- with the validity of this legislation. If there is a conflict of legal opinion on this matter, I take it that it is a conflict between the capacity to do these things at all and the capacity to do them permanently. I shall not enter into a discussion on the legal position; the Parliament had whatever benefit may be derived from my views on this subject when I discussed the Government’s referendum proposals.
– Surely there is an intermediate view?
– In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government, can give preference to returned soldiers for all purposes, for an indefinite period of time, and for every section of the com munity. That may be wrong, but if it be- wrong,, it is an error that is shared by the draftsman of this bill, because no draftsman could say that this preference will last for seven years, for all purposes and for all sections of the community, unless he believed in the view that I have stated. The Government and its legal advisers can take their choice; either they believe the bill to be valid - and it must be valid on the ground of the law that I have- stated’ - or they are putting forward a bill the validity of which they doubt. If that is so, there is immense force in the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that to- repeal the existing permanent preference by legislation the validity of which is doubtful would ,be to do a shocking thing, for it would mean destroying something and not setting- up something else to take its place. However, in .connexion with clause 23 we can forget about lawyers, because, whatever doubts there may be about anything else, there is no doubt whatever that the Commonwealth has unqualified and exclusive power to make laws with respect to its own public service. We shall not find any lawyer who will say that there is a limit to the power of the Commonwealth to give permanent preference to servicemen in relation to the Commonwealth Public Service. Previous Parliaments have done that. This bill says two things which I shall emphasize. Let me take section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act by way of- example. Clause 23 seeks to- repeal that section. Then, in clause 27, the bill sets up this rather checkered piece of preference. Then, in clause 33’, it says something that I confess I do not fully understand. That clause provides -
Sections 24 to 32. (inclusive-) of this Act shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war.
It will be noticed that section 23 is not included. Therefore, clause 23, where it repeals certain provisions of the Commonwealth Publice Service Act, does so once .and for all. If the Minister wants to justify his early claim that this legislation will satisfy the people, he will need to demonstrate in what way he has given preference to the fighting men of this country in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth by abolishing their permanent preference, by adding qualifications to that preference, and by reducing it to a period of seven, years. If the Minister can explain that I shall be happier about the bill than I am now.
– In supporting the amendment movedby the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) I suggest that the Government is asking the Parliament to throw away the substance and grasp at the shadow. Various soldier organizations have made representations that the provisions of the existing act shall be retained, ‘but, instead of preferencebeing extended to servicemen for all time we have presented to us a grudging, miserable, preference which will expire in seven years. Let us consider the men of the 9th Division who have written one of the most glorious pages in the history of the Second Australian Imperial Force. When brought back to Australia these men were employed to load and unload ships which unionists refused to touch. In seven years’ time those men, if applicants for jobs, will not be given preference over the unionists who refused to load those vessels. Is that the kind of preference that we should embody in legislation? I am reminded of the words written many years ago -
When war is here and danger nigh,
God and the soldier is all the cry:
When war is off and wrongs are righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.
Governmentsupporters. - Exactly what happened after the last war!
– I thought when I recited those few words it would be sufficient to start a chorus. I said the other evening to the complete satisfaction of every logical person that Australian soldiers of the last war had had more done for them than soldiers in any other part of the world. I pointed out that successive Commonwealth governments had expended nearly £300,000,000 on them, and I am just about tired of hearing the tirade, initiated by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in trying to carry the referendum, that our soldiers were badly treated after the last war. I know thousands of returned men whose enjoyment of preference enabled them to rehabilitate themselves in civil life, and they have done an extremely good job.
– They had the preference of the swag.
– That did not apply only to the soldiers. The depression touched every man of the community. There were men dug in on the land before 1914 who lost everything in the depression. Not only the soldiersettler, but the land-settler generally, suffered from the depression, with the cause of which Australia had nothing to do, and from which it emerged faster than any other country. This proposal is not only a slight upon the men of the fighting forces. It is something more than that. It is something of which every member of this Parliament and the community will have reason to be ashamed if it is carried.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) worked himself into a frenzy of emotion about the gallant men of the 9th Division, and said that if the amendment were defeated and the clause agreed to we should take away a measure of preference from them. I remind the honorable gentleman that even if the provisions of the Public Service Act that this bill proposes to repeal remained in force there would be insufficient jobs in the Public Service for all the men of the 9th Division, to say nothing of the other divisions whose gallantry needs no stressing. We must get down to earth and take a realistic view of the position so far as preference in employment in the Public Service is concerned. Grant members of the forces full preference; sack every man in the Public Service who is not a returned soldier and give his position to a returned soldier, and you will still not have given to the returned soldiers of the last war a sufficiently great degree of preference. We must fix that in our minds at the beginning, and then we must consider the proposed deletion of the preference sections of the Commonwealth Public Act and the substitution therefor of the preference clauses of this bill. There is a great deal of difference between the two.
Opposition Members. - There certainly is.
– The preference in the Public Service that has been granted since the last war has been a mere shadow for the vast majority of returned soldiers. That must be remembered. How many thousands of returned soldiers have received preference in employment, even temporary employment, in the Public Service in the last 25 years-
– Many thousands !
– In comparison with the 300,000 who returned from the last war? The honorable member for Balaclava says “ many thousands but the thousands were very few. The preferonce was a mere shadow. It was like our holding ia carrot before the donkey’s mouth and saying, “ We promise you this, and if you catch up you shall get it”, but the donkey remains a yard behind all the time. Honorable gentlemen of the Opposition know that that is a fact. Under the present bill, however, we are providing a measure of preference, not only in the Public Service, but also in employment generally, and we are saying that every returned service man and woman will have the opportunity to enjoy that preference. We are also saying - and this is a point worth consideration - that all non-returned service men and women in all industries^ - the Public Service is an industry according to the Arbitration Act - will receive similar treatment. Up to now, many public servants who are not returned soldiers have been harshly treated in comparison with the rest of the population. They are worthy of consideration. Many of them have been most anxious to fight in this war and have endeavoured time after time to enlist in one or another of the fighting services, but, because of the nature of their employment, they have been refused permission. They have already suffered under the present system of preference, and, if it were continued, they would be required to continue to suffer. Some of those employees are men who, as civilians, have taken similar risks in this war to those taken by a very large number of members of the forces. They are worthy of consideration. All employees in the Public Service <are entitled to equal consideration with employees in private industry. Preference, as it has worked up to now has affected a very small section of returned soldiers and a very small section of the civil population. It has worked to the detriment not only of those who were in the Public Service during the last war, but also of many people who were unborn or were children during that period. I have seen many examples of men and women who were at school or unborn in the last war who have been injuriously affected by preference. If we are to give preference it must apply equally inside and outside the Public Service. Whatever preference is given in private employment must be given in the same way in the Public Service.
.- The committee is entitled to know whether the Government is genuine in its desire to give preference, whether it desires that preference to be effective and continuing, or whether it merely desires to include preference as a useful political expediency? We on this side of the committee resent most bitterly the claims that we have been attempting to stonewall the passage of this bill. Weeks ago both Opposition parties formed their own committees to study this measure clause bv clause.
– The honorable gentleman said earlier that the Opposition parties had not had time to study the measure.
– I was referring to the 34 amendments circulated by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The honorable gentleman should be the last one to interject because only yesterday he had to admit that he had not awakened to the fact, that enemy aliens were included in the definition of “war service”. We raise matters, not in an obstructive sense, but because we recognize that this is a bill on which will depend the shaping of the future of hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women, including a good number of those who served in the last war. Surely, this Parliament, which has wasted weeks on matters of no urgency, can be given adequate time to consider this all-important legislation. The banking legislation is not urgent because banking control can be carried on until the end of the war under National Security Regulations. But it has taken up much of the time of the Parliament. I recall that when the Govern-, ment of which I was a supporter brought down the National Health and Pensions [nsuran.ce legislation Parliament debated it for weeks and weeks. There was no attempt to curtail the debate until it had proceeded for months.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! The honorable member must discuss the clause. _ Mr. HOLT.- I shall do so. The Government is abolishing what safeguards exist in current legislation and giving the temporary and miserable degree of preference provided in tins measure. That is just burking the issue. Until the Government excludes from the definition of “ war service “ all those groups that it can bring in by proclamation, which the Minister has steadfastly refused to exclude, preference cannot be of real value to servicemen. Under it, preference can be made to cover any industrial group, and, as we Iki ve pointed out, until the Minister gives an assurance that those groups shall not be proclaimed under the definition of “war service”, the sword hanging over the heads of the men entitled to preference by their war service is that any number of industrial groups may be brought in to share preference with them. We have this extraordinary position as well : preference is not safeguarded because many craft unions, on evidence already put before the committee, are closing their books against returned men. What is the Government going to do about that? Is it going to take that lying down?
– They are closing their books to protect soldiers on service.
– The Minister for Information is the most unaptly named member ever to sit in this chamber. His interjection is a typical example of his reasoning and is typical of the information that, emerges from his department. He said in effect that the unions were closing their books against 600,000 or 700,000 men and women, who, but for their war service, may have been able to join the unions, because they are trying to protect their interests. What eyewash ! It means that the younger men and women who were not members of unions before the war are to have no opportunity at all, despite the training systems that the Government has set up, to enter the occupations that those unions cover. The Government is not claiming, I take it, that it has not the power to compel such organizations to admit a certain proportion of men and women, because, under the amendment in clause 59 circulated by the Minister, it appears that the Government will compel employers to take into their employ a certain proportion of disabled service personnel. It is a very desirable amendment. It is true that it does not go as far as we should like, because it excludes disabled personnel of the last war, but it, at least, takes power to compel employers to accept a. certain proportion of disabled returned men. If the Government claims the necessary constitutional power to do that, why then does it not also insist that all vested interests, whether they be employers organizations, such as the Stock Exchange and the British Medical Association, a craft union, or any other body that has or desires to have a closed membership, shall be compelled by law to admit to its membership a certain percentage of returned personnel of this war. If preference is to be of any value, anything more than a pick and shovel job on governmentally regimented public works, provisions of that kind will have to be inserted in this hill. We have had no satisfactory explanation from the Minister as to how he can brush aside the contention made by the AttorneyGeneral ‘ (Dr. Evatt), when sponsoring the Government’s referendum proposals, that the consent of the people to those proposals was necessary in order to enable the Government to grant preference. To-day, he seeks refuge in a preference which is to last for a period of only seven years and will destroy the old preference which so many exservicepersonnel of the war of 1914-18 enjoyed for the best part of their lives and would continue to enjoy but for the passage of* this measure. The preference proposed. under this bill is a sham and pretence, and will not carry weight with any intelligent person who studies the bill. I ash the Minister if he will give to the committee an assurance that the preference which the Government will provide will endure and be a preference not merely for pick-and-shovel jobs, or clerks’ jobs in the Public Service, but will enable exservice personnel to enter the doors of industry which otherwise will be closed against them.
.- I dealt with this clause in my secondreading speech and I should not again refer to it but for certain remarks made this evening. While the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was speaking, I made one or two interjections with the object of getting him to clarify some aspects of this matter. The right honorable gentleman, in his usual style, gave a very clear exposition of the legal aspects of the clause. However, while he was talking I wondered what arguments he would have used had he been speaking to a brief from this side of the chamber in support of the measure. I have no doubt that in that case he would have found some merits in the clause. But, at the moment, he holds a brief to oppose this legislation.
Preference has been the subject of keen debate for many years, and has given rise to sharp differences of opinion. It has been argued that the repeal of certain provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act under this clause will deprive ex-service personnel now employed by the Government of the preference benefits which they have enjoyed for many years. I do not believe that this measure will adversely affect their position in the slightest degree. Whatever may he said about the preference enjoyed previously, the bill takes cognizance of the fact that our circumstances to-day, after nearly six years of war, differ entirely from those existing after the war of 1914-18. We must approach this problem from a totally different viewpoint in order to give real protection to the ex-service personnel of this war. It is a matter of opinion as to whether this proposal falls short of the requirements of ex-service personnel. The Government has decided that ex-service personnel, and all associated with our part in the war must be re-established in civil life for a period of at least seven years. Whatever the Leader of the Opposition may say about the weaknesses of that proposal compared with the old form of preference, the fact remains that the Government, in view of the changed circumstances in which we now live, realizes the need to modernize preference as we have known it since the war of 1914-18. For that reason I support the clause. I believe that it will meet the needs of those whom it is designed to help for a period of seven years. At the end of that period, or, indeed, in the meantime, should these provisions be found to fall short of the actual requirements of those whom it is designed to benefit, steps can be taken, to amend the measure accordingly. I am sick and tired of listening to the arguments repeated over and over again by honorable members opposite with respect to preference, and their praise ad nauseam of what they say previous governments did for exsoldiers of the war of 1914-18. They know perfectly well that during the last depression many ex-soldiers of that war were given only a preference to carry their swag. The government of the day did little or nothing to help them. Certainly, some ex-soldiers had preference in sheltered positions in the Commonwealth Public Service. Some were given preference because governments had to accept their responsibility in the matter; and, in addition, returned soldier organizations did much to protect the interests of ex-servicemen in that respect. But governments in the past did not provide worthwhile preference in private employment. Private employers invariably selected the man who was able to increase their profits whether he was a returned soldier or not. Therefore, all the nonsense and humbug uttered by honorable members opposite about preference in the past means nothing whatever to me. I recall the occasion when a body of returned soldiers led by a son of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) marched to the doors of this Parliament pleading for a crust. The Government of the day did nothing for them. What ex-service personnel require in the future is a preference in the fullest sense of the word. They require full employment. The Government intends to achieve that objective, so that in the future there shall be no reservoir of unemployed in this country. It is our duty to rehabilitate all those who have played a part, however small, in this country’s share in the war, as well as those who actually interposed their bodies between us and the enemy. I do not say that this provision is perfect; but whatever might be its weaknesses, it is at least a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to provide for the rehabilitation of members of the fighting forces. I repeat that any weaknesses in the provision can be remedied when they are discovered, and at the end of the period of seven years the proposals as a whole can be reviewed in the light of existing circumstances.
.- The Government is now presented with a wonderful opportunity to provide definite and worthwhile preference for service personnel. It should abandon its proposal to limit the preference for a period of seven years. I remind honorable members that since 1920 definite preference has been provided on our statutebook. That preference will be cancelled under this clause, which repeals the relevant sections of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. It is useless for honorable members opposite to indulge in a misery campaign, talking of some persons who carried their swag, or were on the dole in the depression years. I, personally, have seen much more misery abroad than have honorable members opposite. Past governments provided definite preference within the Public Service. Even in peace, the government supplies 20 per cent, of total employment in the country. I’ could mention many men prominent in the Public Service to-day who served in the war of 1914-18, and whose advancement has been due to the fact that governments in the past recognized their obligation to provide preference for ex-service personnel. I admit that many more ex-service personnel of the last war should have enjoyed similar benefits. In many cases tie principle of preference was forgotten; but in the main it was honoured. What is the motive behind the Government’s proposal to cancel the old preference, and its refusal to give full preference for exservice personnel in employment in the future? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in his second-reading speech said -
After seven years there will be new generations of workers coining along, many of them the sons of servicemen, and these should not be handicapped by old history.
In cancelling this clause the Government is playing with combustible material. When ex-service personnel, after the very active existence which they have led in the forces, find that they are obliged to go from department to department - and six departments will be concerned in the administration of this measure - filling in forms and hanging around, they will soon be disillusioned and become embittered. The Government will let loose a flood of resentment that will submerge it. The Minister would not have dared to refer to “ old history “ in 194:2, when a good deal of alarm and despondency existed in this country. But now that the conflict in Europe has ceased and victory is looming against J apan, the Government is talking lightly qf what it proposes to do for the men who saved Australia from the enemy. That is what is .behind this bill. At present, ex-servicemen are entitled to preference in the Public Service. The only attempt to remove that privilege occurred during the regime of the Scullin Government, but the effort was successfully resisted, by the then Opposition and ex-servicemen’s organizations. If preference in employment in the Public Service is removed now, unionists will- be given unbridled preference. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) informed us in this chamber, when we asked him to explain why certain public servants were paid higher allowances than others, that they were members of the Public Service Association. Because they were members of an organization registered with the Arbitration Court, members of that ‘association received higher allowances than did nonmembers.
– Quite right.
– The honorable member for Bourke is in favour of preference, not to ex-servicemen, but to unionists. When these preference provisions are removed from the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, preference to unionists in the Public Service will prevail. According to the Age of the 31st March last, the Minister told the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour party that the preference provisions of the bill would have a seven-year tenure. Then the delegates to the conference, who are the masters of this Government, carried the following resolution as a direction, to the Government: -
Conference regards the Federal Government’s declared intention to introduce preference as a breach of faith with the trade unions and the Labour movement.
That is what is behind this proposal to limit the operation of preference to seven years, giving to ex-servicemen the shadow instead of the substance. The conference of the Australian Labour party regarded the Government’s intention to introduce preference as- - ii betrayal of thousands of workers who have voluntarily accepted industrial conscription and wage-pegging, and therefore directs its representatives to strongly oppose the implementation of preference to soldiers.
That i3 the motive behind this bill. The Government is not sincere. I,t has introduced a milk-and-water measure, which should be a serviceman’s charter but which has been so “ scrambled “ that it will .benefit the civilian >as much as itwill benefit the ex-serviceman. The Government is adhering strongly to the principle of preference, not to returned soldiers, hut to unionists.
– I do not propose to accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). Never in my experience as a member of this Parliament have I seen such ti demonstration of dialectical pettifoggery as the Opposition has indulged in on this measure. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is sometimes very clear in his arguments, has just about as good a case in this matter as he had when he said to the electors of Corio in 194.0, “The eyes of Hitler are on Corio “.
– If Hitler were alive, he would be looking at the Minister during the last few days with some admiration.
– The plain fact of the matter is that there is nothing intrinsically important about preference. It is important only insofar as it reestablishes the men and women of the fighting services into the civilian economy.
– Is not that important ?
– It is important. The honorable member for Wentworth has got preference on the brain.
– I wish that the Minister had preference on the brain.
– The honorable member has described this measure as a “preference” bill. It is not. It is a bill to re-establish the men and women of the fighting services in the civilian economy. Preference is important only insofar as it assists towards that end. The Leader of the Opposition, in his second-reading speech, agreed with that view. This evening, he said that he did not understand the significance that was being placed on the observations that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber and myself, to the effect that no other country in the world has made any provision for preference to ex-servicemen. The significance of that statement is this: Surely the people of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, -South Africa and the United States of America are just as alive to the importance of re-establishing the men and women of their fighting services in the civilian economy as are those soi-disant champions of returned soldiers in this House. But all of those countries place so little importance on preference as a measure towards rehabilitating the men and women of their fighting services that they have not included it in their re-establishment legislation. The whole of the division now under consideration relates to the measure of preference which this Government intends to give to the men and women of the fighting services.
– It is nothing. I think that the Minister will admit that.
– No. As honorable members are aware, this bill is based on legislation passed by the Parliament of Queensland. The Queensland branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has put it on record that it is an effective form of preference.
I return to my contention that preference is of importance only insofar as it succeeds in assisting the reestablishment of the men and wemen of the fighting services in the civilian economy. That is a task for which the Government of this country is responsible, and at present honorable members on this side of the chamber form that Government. We are shouldering that responsibility, and will continue to do so. We shall shoulder any blame that may be attachable for any omissions on the part of the Government in reestablishing the men and women of the fighting services, but I venture to say that after the next election, this Government will remain on the treasury bench. I make that prediction for the reason that, in spite of what members of the Opposition are saying about this issue, the plain fact is that the country generally is supporting the proposals put forward by the Government.
– The people do not yet know what form of preference the Government proposes to grant.
– I am one of those who, from time to time, has criticized the press of this country very severely. All will admit that the newspapers are generally ill-disposed towards this Government. But what do we find? The Melbourne Herald, in a leading article on the 27th February last, praised the Government for its decision to introduce this measure.
– Did the Minister read a subsequent article in the Melbourne Herald- entitled “Preference Sidestepped “ ?
– Yes. In the leading article on the 27th February, the Melbourne Herald published the following comments : -
It is reasonable enough to suppose that there will bc art end to the period when pre ference will continue to serve its purpose. A time will come when the returned soldier will, it is hoped, have been given all the opportunity he is capable of benefiting from to overcome the loss of time and training. He can then fairly be expected to take the place in civil life to which his abilities entitle him. The continuance of preference might become a premium on inefficiency which the community could not afford, and “would he a block in the way of the careers of a younger generation which had no opportunity of qualifying for it.
– Is Sir Keith Murdoch a returned soldier, and is he the mentor of the Minister?
– The honorable member for Bendigo should address to the Liberal party any questions relating to Sir Keith Murdoch. The Sydney Baily Telegraph, which has always been extremely critical of this Government, made the following comment on this legislation : -
There is common sense behind the Government’s reported decision to impose a timelimit on soldier preference.
Every returned man has a right to preference^ - “ redress “ is the more correct and honest word - in training and employment which will compensate him for occupational disadvantage through his war service.
He must be helped over lost ground to a position at least equal to the rest of the community who did not, or could not, make the same sacrifice.
But no one can reasonably claim that this preference, redress, or assistance should continue indefinitely while a new generation grows up, while “difficult” repatriation cases drift from job to job.
The task for our rehabilitation planners is to stop the drifting, to anchor the returned man, happily and successfully, in a job as soon as possible after demobilization.
If we still have that task on our hands live or seven years after the war we can write “ failure “ across all our brave rehabilitation blueprints.
I turn from that newspaper to another expression of public opinion contained in the Melbourne Herald of the 16th May last. In a Gallup poll, the following question was asked : -
What do you think of the plan to give servicemen first preference for jobs for seven years after the war?
The answers to that question when analysed, showed that only 27 per cent., or one person in every four, was opposed to the Government’s plans.
– They did not know then what the Government’s plans were.
– I think that the Minister should address himself to the clause under consideration.
– I am dealing with tha clause. The Leader of the Opposition did not confine his remarks to it.
– On the contrary I made a speech on preference in the Commonwealth Public Service, hut the Minister is taking us all round the world.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not deal with the clause under consideration.
– I am sorry to have to contradict the Minister, but I did deal with the clause under consideration.
– There is clear and distinct evidence that the public generally thoroughly approves the Government’s plans for the re-establishment of the men and women of the fighting services. As I said previously, the Government will stand or fall by those plans.
Regarding the proposal to delete the clauses repealing the preference provisions in the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Expatriation Act, honorable members who have been longer in this Parliament than I have, will recollect that the Lyons Government when Mr., later Sir John, Latham was the Attorney-General, amended the Commonwealth Public Service Act in 1933, in order to allow university graduates up to the age of 25 years to enter the Public Service. When that measure was before this House, the then Postmaster-General, Sir Archdale Parkhill, who was- in charge of the bill, said -
The Public Service Board has recently reported to the Government that the future efficiency of the service will be impaired by the cessation in recent years of the recruitment of youths of the desired class. . . .
What would happen if preference to returned soldiers were to operate in the Public Service for an indefinite period? We should find, that, over the years, an older class of men would enter the service than would be the case if the preference provision did not exist. In plain fact, what Sir Archdale Parkhill said was that because of the application of preference to the Public Service in the years after the last war, a large number of men in the older age groups entered that service and there were no young men coming along to take the place of the returned soldiers when they reached the retiring age and left the service. That would occur again if the preference provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act were continued indefinitely. That is- one reason why the Government holds the view that the portions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act relating to preference should be repealed, and replaced !by the general preference provision included in this measure; which will remain in operation for seven years only.
– The Minister knows that that could not apply because the age limit for training will mean that returned soldiers cannot quality.
– That is not the case. Honorable members opposite have been very good at picking holes in this legislation, but I shall show them that holes can be picked also in legislation passed by governments of which they were supporters. For instance, holes can be picked iri the legislation now on our statutebook which, this measure seeks to repeal - and replace. Although I served for seven years with the Imperial forces in the last war as well as in several campaigns after the war, I never have been eligible for preference under the act or regulations which we now intend to repeal. I do not complain about that, but I can cite other cases as well. I remind honorable members of the long discussion which took place in this chamber yesterday in regard to enemy aliens., I know of at least one case in which an enemy alien obtained preference under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which I could not obtain. I have another case in mind, and this shows how necessary it is to protect the efficiency of the Public Service. In 1938 an application was made by a returned soldier of the last war for appointment to the clerical division of the Public Service. It was hoped that he would be able to undertake certain tasks in the service. He had passed the required examination in four subjects, his marts being : geography, 51 per cent. ; mathematics, 65 per cent.; woodwork, 62 per cent. ; and metalwork, 68 per cent. Because he had passed in four subjects, and because, under the act, he was entitled to preference, he had to be appointed to the service, but he was of little use in the job which he was given, and finally he had to accept a caretaker’s position. How can the efficiency of the Public Service be retained if, for an unlimited period, there is to be a preference provision which compels the Public Service Board to give employment to an individual who has not the qualifications necessary to enable him to assist in the task which the service has to do for the people of this country? The general provisions of this measure relating to returned soldiers are quite adequate to ensure that men and women of the fighting services shall be completely and successfully re-established in our civilian economy. More than that is not required. We should not endeavour to retain on our statute-book legislation which provides a greater measure of preference to returned soldiers in the Public Service than we are prepared to enforce in outside industry and which, according to the statement of Sir Archdale Parkhill, had the effect of impairing the efficiency of the service.
Question put -
That the amendment (Sir Frederick (Stewart’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. j. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (4.), paragraph (b), after the words “ thirty-nine “, the following words be added: - “, and includes any other war in which His Majesty became engaged after the latter date and before the date of commencement of Division 2 of Part II. of the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945 “.
.- I move-
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (7.) The amendments made by sub-sections (2.), (3.), (4.) and (5.) of this section shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war “.
I move the amendment for the reasons advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in his remarks concerning clause 23. He pointed out that the implementation of this legislation will mean the repeal of the preference provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The reason for their repeal, given by the Minister, was that they overlap the provisions of this measure. In order that they may not cease to operate, I wish to secure their restoration to the Commonwealth Public Service Act at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities.
Clause, as amended, agreed to-.
Clause 24 - (1.) The provisions of this Division shall apply to the exclusion of any provisions, providing for preference in the engagement in employment of discharged members of the Forces . . . (2.) The provisions of this Division shall apply to the exclusion of any provisions, providing for preference in the engagement in employment of discharged members of the Forces . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (1.), thewords “the engagement in “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ any matter relating to the “.
Amendment (by Mr. Fadden) negatived -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “to the exclusion of “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ in addition to “.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “the engagement in “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “any matter relating to the”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 -
In this Division, unless the contrary intention appears - “person entitled to preference “ means -
a person registered under section thirty-two of this Act.
.- This is one of the most important clauses in the bill; it deals with preference to ex-servicemen. I therefore move -
That paragraph (b) be left out.
My aim is to ensure that preference shall be granted only to ex-servicemen. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in his second-reading speech, expressed the opinion - which is held by all the members of his party - that preference is not a reward or recognition, but purely a restoration to men who have given up years of their lives and occupations in order to engage in war service on behalf of their country. The Government has insisted upon the retention of the provision that “ war service “ shall mean “ the continuous full-time service of any person as a member of an organization or part thereofwhich is declared by procla mation to be an organization in relation to which those provisions apply.” The stubborn insistence upon that definition raises in the minds of honorable members on this side the doubt that preference is not to be confined to servicemen, but is to include also other persons in any organization which, from time to time, may be prescribed by the Minister.
– Also, persons who come under clause 32.
– I shall deal with that point later. This means that munitions workers, members of the Civil Constructional Corps, and, indeed, any other section of industrial workers, may receive preference, even though they had not had war service. That would destroy the benefit of any measure of preference to ex-servicemen. We have argued that from this side of the chamber ever since the bill was introduced, but repeatedly the Minister and Government supporters have stated that the clause was not designed for that purpose and that our interpretation of it is not correct. If that be so, let us place the matter beyond reasonable doubt. Even honorable members opposite may have some doubt. The acceptance of this amendment, and the exclusion of those who are not exservicemen, would make the matter perfectly clear in the minds of everybody. I have listened attentively to the arguments advanced from the other side of the chamber. All members of the Opposition are prepared to give complete preference to ex-servicemen. On the other hand, the proposals of honorable gentlemen opposite vary, some of them favouring a measure of preference to ex-servicemen, and others wishing to confine it to unionists. The Minister has claimed that we are not sincere. We are perfectly certain that he and those who sit behind him are not. We differ from them, in that we express the opinion of ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Minister has claimed that the bill provides for a preference for which ex-servicemen will be grateful. Who should decide whether or not the ex-serviceman is being given the measure of preference to which he is entitled? Is it the Opposition, the Government, or the ex-servicemen’s organizations - which know exactly what preference means?
From time to time, we may adapt legislation to meet existing circumstances, and to counteract unfavorable economic conditions. Surely, ex-servicemen’s organizations should be the best judges of whether or not this proposal is satisfactory! They have stated definitely that it, is not. because it does not give effect to the preference which, they desire, and is not what they understand to be preference, but is a thing of shreds and patches which does not mean what it says. The Minister claimed that it is preference, because it is based on a law of the State of Queensland which has been found to work well. He knows quite well that the law in Queensland is preference to unionists. Let us study the Queensland provisions which have been embodied in this measure. Subclause 3 of clause 27 provides -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employ ment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider - (rf) the procedure, (if any) provided by law for engaging persons in employment in the position :
In Queensland, the “ procedure provided by la.w “ is preference to unionists. That wipes out any preference which may otherwise be granted. It cannot be satisfactory to ex-servicemen; therefore, it should not be embodied in a Commonwealth statute. The Minister also stated that a Gallup poll had favoured the proposed restricted term of preference. He knows, the committee knows, and the country should know, that that Gallup poll was taken among persons who are not in the fighting services. There are 900,000 men and 70,000 women in those services. How would they vote in a Gallup poll? Apparently, the Government considers that its popularity with its supporters might be jeopardized if it legislated for unlimited preference to exservicemen. The Minister’s arguments have no substance, and are advanced in an endeavour to bolster what does not exist. “What is the history of preference from the viewpoint of the Government? The Minister chided me earlier with having preference on the brain. Had he paid attention to my second-reading speech, he would know the basis of my arguments. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has already pointed out that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), as Prime Minister, proposed to withdraw the provision for preference to exservicemen in the making of Commonwealth contracts, and to insist upon preference to unionists only. More recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) assured me, when I moved to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in the direction of granting preference to exservicemen, that he would bring down preference legislation. What has happened ? Such a measure has not yet been introduced, the reason being that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Workers Union told the Government that they would strongly oppose any proposal of that nature. Ministers and other honorable members opposite have said from time to time that they do not favour preference to servicemen, but believe in preference to trade unionists. On the staff of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction only one person in four is an exserviceman. Those who have charge of the establishment or re-establishment of exservice personnel in civil life will need to give individual attention to their claims and understand their problems. Clause 32 should be read in conjunction with the clause under consideration. It provides, in sub-clause 1 -
Where any person not otherwise entitled to the benefits of this Division considers that, having regard to the service performed by him in relation to the war, he is entitled to receive the .benefits of this Division, he may apply to the Central Preference Board for registration.
This seems to be nothing but a cunning evasion, for it cuts beneath the definition of “ war service “. A definition appears in clause 4 of “ member of the Forces “, and the bill provides that the privileges of preference are intended for not only members of the forces, as so defined, but also “ any persons”. Clause 9 makes it clear that some persons other than servicemen have taken a hand in the preparation of the measure. Sub-clause 1 of that clause states -
Where any person has applied for reinstatement in employment in accordance with the
National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations and has not been reinstated in employment in accordance with those Regulations, the provisions of this Division shall apply in like manner as they would apply in relation to an application made under this Division on the date of commencement of this Division.
In clause 12 we notice a similar reference to reinstatement in employment as that contained in sub-clause 1 of clause 9.
– Ord er ! The honorable member has exhausted his time. If no other honorable member wishes to speak at this juncture, the honorable member may take his second period now.
– I shall do so. Some time ago, this Parliament passed the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill in which full provision was made to assist civilians. When the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was last under review, it was pointed out that merchant seamen were covered by an act specifically relating to them. No civilians should be included within the ambit of this bill. Why should we clutter it up with preference in employment to civilians by making provision for the granting to the members of an unspecified number of organizations a preference which, under this measure, should be granted only to service men and women ? If the Minister were sincere in his desire to give preference to servicemen, he would, without hesitation, accept my amendment. Those who have received the benefit of war-time training in industry, and have not made the same sacrifices as servicemen - I recall that “ billy boys” employed by the Allied Works Council have earned £14 to £15 a week - should not receive the same preference as returned soldiers. It was revealed some time ago that, out of 40 men employed in a munitions factory, not one was receiving less than £14 a week. We should compare that with the pay and conditions of Australians fighting in New Guinea. When the Minister seeks to introduce into a bill purporting to give preference to servicemen clauses which rob them of that benefit, and give it to men in civilian employment, it shows that the Government is not sincere in claiming that it is giving to servicemen a bill of rights. That expression was coined by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but instead of being a bill of rights it is a bill of wrongs. One of the wrongs could be removed from the measure by accepting my amendment.
.- Members of the Opposition claim that preference should be reserved for servicemen, and, although the preference for which the bill provides is considerably diluted, the principle should be maintained. It is clear from the Government’s definition of “person entitled to preference “ that anybody could be included within the scope of the bill. Honorable members opposite do not sincerely believe that servicemen as such should have the right to preference. They have said frequently in this debate that preference rights should accrue to trade unionists, and they seek to excuse themselves by saying that trade unionists form a large proportion of the members of; the fighting services. One honorable member has stated that 80 per cent, of the members of the services are trade unionists, whilst other honorable members have claimed that a large majority of them are unionists. I challenge those statements. The trade unionists now serving in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force are certainly not in a majority. They are, in fact, in a minority. The Commonwealth Year-Book for 1941 shows that the number of trade unionists in Australia in 1940 was 955,862 out of a total of 1,955,800 employees. That gives the proportion of unionists as 48.9 per cent. In addition, there were among the working population 464,000 juniors under the age of twenty years. Even taking the number of servicemen from the ranks of unionists as being in the same proportion as from people in other walks of life, the total would not work out at more than 48.9 per cent. The vast majority of the discharged servicemen will not be trade unionists, and will have to be provided for by preference other than by preference to unionists. Therefore, I object to preference being granted to persons other than those who have served their country in the fighting forces.
– In discussing other parts of the bill, members of the Opposition have expressed dissatisfaction with the nature and tenure of the preference proposed to be given to certain persons, and this clause indicates the classes of persons who are to receive the benefit of preference. I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and shall support his amendment. The Minister, with selfflattering unction, has told the committee several times in the debate that this measure has received the considered and unanimous support of the public generally. His memory must he very short, because I have an idea that certain people in Victoria, with whom he is not unassociated, have made it clear to him that they are not in favour of the bill, and that the proposal to adopt even the principle of preference is not acceptable to them. I understand that the Minister himself, in common with his Victorian colleagues, has had a definite direction from the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party that he must oppose this measure. That does not sound as though that body is in perfect agreement with him. The Minister knows that for opposite reasons the organizations of the servicemen are strongly opposed to the measure. I do not know whether by that strange reasoning, which is a feature of his presentation of the bill to the committee, he accepts the dictum that those two protests offset each other, because they indicate diverse attitudes to the hill. It is evident that this measure has not obtained the unanimous approval of the public. Last night, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) said that the Australian Workers Union, which is the largest union in Australia, and is generally acclaimed as the most moderate, was opposed to the principle and purpose of the bill. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that preference should continue in force, and that its application should be limited to servicemen. Indeed, I would be disposed to go further, and specify the types of servicemen to whom it would apply. However, seeing that some have served continuously for a number of years in non-combatant areas, and have thus lost opportunities to advance themselves in civil life, I am prepared to accept the amendment as it stands.
.- This clause proposes to extend preference to an unknown number of unspecified civilians. Why is this? Is it because pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by certain groups ? Ministers have stated that the policy of the Government is full employment, and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said that, having regard to this policy, preference to ex-servicemen was not necessary. There is special legislation such as the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act to meet the needs of civilians, so that there is no need to include them in this legislation.
.- I am opposed to the amendment, and I hope that the clause will be agreed to as it stands. There has been a great deal of talk about preference to servicemen, but I point out that it may he desirable to give consideration to certain other persons who, while not members of the fighting forces1, have been employed in operational areas, and have faced the same risks as members of the forces. When I spoke on the second reading of the bill, I pointed out that in one part of New Guinea where I served civilians had been required to work at the loading and unloading of ships in an operational area. I cited two instances in which ships had been sunk by enemy action, thirteen civilians being killed on one occasion, and ten on the other. Other civilians were wounded. I do not believe that members of the lighting forces who will benefit under this bill will object’ to the preference provision being extended to civilians who were employed under such conditions. During the 69 air raids on Darwin, men who had been called up to serve in the Civil Constructional Corps were employed in the danger zone, and some of them paid the supreme sacrifice. I should like to take some of those who want this provision eliminated from the bill to the cemetery which has been arranged by the War Graves Commission in one part of the Northern Territory. On one side of it flies the American flag and on the other side the Australian flag. Among the hundreds buried in that cemetery are civilians who were killed in the air raids on Darwin while working as members of the Civil Constructional Corps. I cannot believe that any member of this committee is opposed to extending preference to people who had to work under such conditions. Therefore, I oppose the amendment. I hope that the clause will be retained in its present form so that the benefits of the bill may be extended to those who played an important part in ensuring the security of their country.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 (Application).
– This clause reads -
The application of this Division shall extend in relation to employment by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a Stateor by any authority constituted by or under any law of the Commonwealth or ofa State or Territory of the Commonwealth.
I draw particular attention to the words “ employment by the Crown “. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has stated that he knew an enemy alien who has been a member of the Commonwealth Public Service since 1938. I point out that we were not at war in 1938, and consequently there could not, at that time, be any enemy aliens. I also draw the attention of honorable members to a provision in the Commonwealth Public Service Act regarding entrance examinations for appointment to the Public Service. Section 31 contains the following passage : -
No person shall be admitted” to the Commonwealth Service unless he is a natural-born or naturalized British subject.
How, then, does it happen that an enemy alien has been a member of the Commonwealth Public Service since 1938? This matter should be cleared up at once and Parliament should be informed who was responsible for his appointment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27- (1.) An employer shall, in the engagement of any person for employment, engage, in preference to any other person, a person entitled to preference, unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so. (3.) In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider -
– I move -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in any Commonwealth or State legislation, statute, act, regulation, or measure or in any award or industrial agreement, every employer shall give first and complete preference in employment to any person defined in this Act as ‘ member of the forces’ and those who served in the 1914-18 war, including the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force”.
I do not propose to speak at length on this matter. I have spoken until I am sick and tired in an attempt to impress upon the Government the need to grant to servicemen preference in employment to the exclusion of all other sections of the community. If the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is sincere when he says that he desires to assist servicemen, he will accept my amendment, which really does provide for preference to servicemen, and which excludes civilians. This is a major amendment, and I ask the Minister whether he will accept it.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Harrison’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. W. Martens.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.-Clause 27 sets out the terms and conditions upon which preference is to be given. As in the course of my second-reading speech I dealt with this matter, I shall not now repeat what I said then, but I propose to submit an amendment which will test fairly pointedly what the clause is designed to do. Sub-clause 3 provides -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider -
the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in the position concerned ;
the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position ;
I move -
That paragraph (b) of sub-clause (3.) be left out.
So long as paragraph c stands, an applicant for employment will not be entitled to preference unless he has the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position. But if the employer is also entitled to say to him, “ Yes, you are qualified to perform the duties, but somebody else is better quali fied because he has had five years’ experience in the job while you were having an entirely different experience on war service “, the preference will be completely illusory. If a serviceman has qualifications which are better than those of other applicants for the position, he will not need preference; he will get the position without any preference. If, however, paragraph b be omitted, the employer will no longer be entitled to ask him if his comparative qualifications are better than those of other applicants. The questions will then be whether the serviceman is entitled to preference under the legislation; whether he has the qualifications required for the performance of the duties; and whether he is disqualified by any other set of circumstances mentioned in the clause. Although clause 27 cannot readily be made into a first-class clause, it can be made 100 per cent. more effective than it is by the omission of paragraph b.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be left out (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. W. Martens.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That, insub-clause (5.), paragraph (b), the words “ indictable offence “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ offence of such a nature that he is unsuitable for engagement in that employment “.
– This amendment substitutes for “ indictable offence “ the words “ offence of such a nature that he is unsuitable for engagement in that employment “. This amendment is introduced, I have no doubt, in response to the criticism I made in my second reading speech.
– That is so.
– That criticism was that many offences, which fall short of being indictable, might still reasonably disqualify a man from employment. I support the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 28 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 29 agreed to.
An employer shall not, without reasonable cause, terminate the employment of any person whom he has engaged in employment in accordance with the provisions of this Division.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) A person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this section or of section twenty-seven or section twenty-eight hereof shall be guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding £100 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.”.
I do so because the clause makes no provision for the infliction of a penalty on a person proved guilty of an offence against it. I contrast that position with clause 133 which, referring to Part X. of the bill, reads - “ A person who contravenes or fails to comply with, any provision of this Part shall be guilty of an offence punishable, on conviction, by a fine not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both.
That provisionapplies to certain offences defined in clause 117 and those that follow it. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, the present position is that a person who repossesses a wireless set from the wife of a returned soldier may be fined £100, imprisoned for six months, or both, for having contravened the conditions set out in clause 117. Yet, if an employer fails to comply with the so-called preference provisions outlined in clauses 27 and 28, no provision is made for the imposition of a penalty. Surely, the Minister will accept the amendment.
.- After hearing the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), I have had another look at this matter, and, although I can see some merit in his suggestion, at the moment I consider it to be unnecessary. Clause 28 provides for appeals to courts of summary jurisdiction and clause 29 for subsequent appeals to the Arbitration Court. That means that the law can be enforced through those appeals.
– Through what?
– Through those appeals to the courts of summary jurisdiction and the Arbitration Court.
– What will the Arbitration Court do?
– It can order some penalty.
– It can order an individual to employ a person.
– Suppose that he does not?
– I assume that there is legal machinery which will compel him. But what I have against the amendment is that we do not want to put any employer in the position of being able to buy immunity by the payment of a fine.
– So the Minister will let him off altogether?
– No, that is not the case.
– The Minister should give a better excuse than that.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) must know perfectly well that, if there is an appeal to the Arbitration Court and the employer continues to disobey that court, there must be some means by which it can compel compliance with its orders.
– I give the Minister this advice : there will be some provision in the law only if it is made.
– All I say at the moment is that we do not want employers to be able to buy immunity by paying fines.
– So the Minister will let them escape a penalty?
– I am only putting the position as I see it. The right honorable gentleman has just raised this matter.
– I raised it in my second reading speech.
– I promise that I shall examine the matter further and that if I consider an amendment necessary I shall have it made in the Senate.
– The reply given by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is completely hopeless. This is the first time in my life that I have heard it said that you must not impose a penalty because it may lead to the impression that the payment of a fine will give immunity, that you must not provide that an offender must go to gaol for six years because it may lead to the impression that he can do six years and get away with anything. It is a fantastic argument. The Leader of the Australian Country party has pointed out with complete accuracy that no penalty is provided, and it may be added that no penalty is provided by any other statute of the Commonwealth which bears on this matter. Accordingly, if an employer is to be proceeded against, it must be by some complicated system such as a prosecution or proceedings at common law for a misdemeanour, or some other antiquated procedure must be practised to deal with him. The simplest and most effective way of dealing with the matter is to provide for a penalty and state what the penalty is. The Minister has taken refuge in a world which just baffles me. He says there is appeal to the Arbitration Court. His faith in that court is such that he believes that, once an appeal gets to it, it is bound to be able to do something. I tell him, for his guidance, that the Arbitration Court has no powers of any description except those conferred upon it by statute. It is purely a statutory court. It has no inherent powers. You can take all the people concerned to court and fill the building, and it still will not be able to fine them or send them to gaol.
The next comment that I make is that the appeal to the Arbitration Court is an appeal from an order made under clause 28, because clause 29 says - (1.) The Commonwealth Court of Concilia tion and Arbitration may, if it thinks fit, grant special leave to appeal from any order under the last preceding section– which is clause 28, but, under clause 30 there is no appeal. It says -
An employer shall not, without reasonable cause, terminate the employment of any person whom he has engaged in employment in accordance with the provisions of this Division.
There is no appeal to the Arbitration Court. So, with no appeal and no penalty provided, the Minister says, “ Oh, well, this amendment comes from the wrong side and I think I would like the chance to chew it over “. I tell him what advice his experts will give if he does chew it over: “Obviously the amendment is good and should be agreed to “.
– I appeal to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who has said that he will examine the clause–
– Why appeal to him?
– I am making this speech in my own way and I am still on this side. I think this provision is a bit too loose in an otherwise good bill. We have to protect members of the forces from unscrupulous employers. I believe that the Minister realizes that there must be strength to do that and will come to the conclusion that this is one of the few flaws in a bill of tremendous strength. I suggest that the Minister examine it again at the right time.
– I cannot help feeling, and I am sure that many other ‘ honorable members share my feeling, that there is something very sinister behind the motives of the Government and the Minister. It is said that there is to be preference in employment for returned soldiers for seven years. Yet we find at the beginning of the bill the provision in clause 4, paragraph /, of the definition of “ war service “ under which all sorts of organizations are to be brought within the ambit of the bill. Then we come to clause 32 and find that people who have never had war service will be given all the rights to preference given to exservicemen. Then we come to a vital clause, clause 28, and, in clause 29, we find no provision laid down for enforcement of their rights and no penalty provided for failure to comply with the decision of a police court or the Arbitration Court. The Minister rises and most extraordinarily and curiously says, “ We will not fix any penalties because people may buy themselves out o£ the obligation to give preference by paying the penalty”. The Minister is convicted out of his own mouth. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that there should be a penalty of either a fine or imprisonment or both. If the Minister thinks that employers will buy themselves out of the obligation by spending six months in gaol for not having given preference, he has a queer, warped mind. He is playing false with this committee and making any statement he feels like making regardless of truth. He made a statement on a previous clause that a man employed in the Public Service was an enemy alien, but, when the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted the Commonwealth Public Service Act-
– What has that to do with the amendment or the clause?
– It has everything possible to do with both, because I say that behind all these clauses is a sinister motive. They are designed to water down preference so that it shall be utterly impossible to enforce. There is a pretence at giving preference. I believe that the Government and the Minister have given certain undertakings to their outside masters, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and various other Labour bodies, that, although this hill provides that preference shall be given to returned soldiers, it* will be ineffective. It is wicked that the soldiers should have it “ put across “ them in this way. The amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is simple, yet the Minister will not accept it. He crawls and cringes, and gets out of his difficulty by putting up a bogus story that he is afraid, that, if a penalty were provided, the employer would buy himself out of his obligations under the clause. The Minister should be ashamed of himself for putting up a story like that, and betraying the 900,000 members of the fighting services who have interposed their bodies between this country and the enemy. He should now say that he is willing to accept the amendment, and cease trying to humbug the people.
.- With the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) I support the suggestion put forward by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The suggestion seems to be reasonable, because I believe that there is no chance of an employer buying himself out of his obligation simply because a penalty is imposed. The penalty could be made so severe, with the alternative of a term of imprisonment,’ as to put the matter beyond doubt. The Minister should also consider providing for the reinstatement of any person penalized as the result of such a breach. The Minister should consider the aspects mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes and provide a penalty for breach of this provision, because it seems unreasonable to provide for something to be done, and, at the same time, fail to provide a penalty in respect of breaches of the provision.
– I have given an assurance that I will look into the matter.
– After listening to the debate on this clause and the response of the Minister to the suggestions of honorable members, including some honorable members opposite, to provide a penalty in respect of breaches under this provision, I am convinced more than ever that owing to the attitude adopted by the Minister that we are getting farther away from democratic procedure in considering legislation in this chamber. Indeed, we are drifting towards a position which we have been led to believe existed prior to the war in totalitarian countries in Europe. It is the duty of the committee to pass final judgment upon amendments that may he proposed but we find that when an amendment is proposer! and seems to be acceptable to the majority of the committee, the Minister does not meet the wishes of the committee, but merely tells us that he will consider the matter later, an<l should he himself deem it necessary, he will have the bill amended accordingly in the Senate. When a majority of the committee favour an amendment, the matter should bo finally decided by the committee. When the Minister cannot help accepting an amendment he takes it upon himself, regardless of the wishes of honorable members opposite, to decide the matter. Although he says that he will have a look at such matters later, the fact is. that he will be advised by officers outside this chamber. That is not democratic procedure. It is a disgrace that in respect of a matter of such vital importance as the bill now before us, amendments are to be decided, not by the vote of the committee, but by the Minister himself with outside assistance.
Clause agreed to.
For the purposes of this Division there shall be a Central Preference Board and one or more Regional Preference Boards, each of which shall be constituted as prescribed and shall exercise such powers and functions ae are prescribed.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause - “ (1.) The Minister may appoint a Central Preference Board and, in each State and Territory of the Commonwealth, one or more Regional Preference Boards. “ (2.) Each Preference Board shall consist of a chairman, one member to represent persons who have rendered war service, one member to represent employers and one member to represent employees. “ (3.) In the event of the illness or absence of the chairman of a Preference Board, any person appointed by the Minister to be a deputy chairman of the Board shall have, and may exercise, all the powers and functions of the chairman. “ (4.) Any act done by a deputy chairman shall not, in any proceedings, be questioned on the ground that the occasion for the exercise of his powers had not arisen or had ceased. “ (5.) All questions before a Preference Board shall he decided by a majority of votes. “ (6.) The chairman shall have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, shall also have a casting vote. “ (7.) Panels of persons to represent persons who have rendered war service, to represent employers, and to represent employees, respectively, shall be selected in such manner as the Minister determines, and the members of a Preference Board, other than the chairman, shall be selected from the panels in such a manner as the Minister determines. “ (8.) Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable, a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces. “ (9.) A person shall not, at any meeting, act as a member of a Preference Board in relation to any matter in which that person has an interest, whether personally or as a member of a firm or company. “ (10.) A Preference Board shall exercise such powers and functions as are prescribed. “ (11.) The members of Preference Boards shall be paid remuneration and allowances at such rates (if any) as the Minister determines.”.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “(12.) Any organization representing discharged members of the Forces throughout the Commonwealth may, in respect of the Central Preference Board or any Regional Preference Board, submit to the person em- powered by Hie regulations to appoint the members of the Board a list containing the names of not less than three persons from which the organization recommends that a selection be made of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the Board and the person empowered by the regulations to appoint the members of the Board may appoint a person selected from the list so submitted to be one of the members of the Board.”.
I remind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) of the arguments I advanced in respect of any amendment of clause 20. The same arguments apply in this case. I urge him to accept the amendment because it will enable the Government to procure the best men possible for appointment to the Preference Boards, including exservicemen who have had experience ever since the war of 1914-18 in dealing with problems of returned men.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32 (Registration of certain persons entitled to preference).
.- This is the clause which was referred to in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on a previous clause. It is the clause under which, apparently, persons other than those who have performed service in the armed forces may be brought into the preference scheme. One great disadvantage we are under here is that the Minister, (Mr. Dedman), so far as I know, has not told us what this clause is designed to achieve. When we raised the question on an earlier clause relating to a somewhat similar matter, he had recourse to the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army and other kindred bodies; and, perhaps, that is the reason for this clause. But in the absence of any explanation one can only go on the language of the clause. Indeed, one will go on the language of the clause in any event, because that is what the bill will mean - what it says, and not what any Minister says it means. Sub-clause 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 Reference Board for registration.
I point out that by virtue of the amendment just made at the instance of the Minister, each Preference Board is to consist of a chairman, one person to represent persons who have rendered war service, one to represent employers, and one to represent employees; so there is no guarantee that more than one member of the Preference Board will himself be an ex-serviceman.
– The Minister has given an assurance.
– There is no guarantee. Assurances mean little when we are passing a measure. When the measure goes on to the statute-book it is what it says that will matter. The Central Preference Board is in this fashion given power to admit civilians to the benefit of preference. That is the simple English of it. If they were soldiers, or came within any of the definitions of those deemed to have rendered war service, there would be no need for this clause. Therefore, it exists for the sole purpose of making civilians with civilian service in the course of the war entitled to preference to soldiers, to use the normal expression. That, on the face of it, is completely unjustifiable and, at the very least, we are entitled to say to the Minister at this stage, “What is this clause designed to do? What people have you in mind? If you cannot tell us we should vote against it. If you can tell us then the clause should be redrafted to cover those people, if we think they are a good case, and nobody else “.
– The case put up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should have some effect upon the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) because, when faced with a like request on an earlier clause, he mentioned the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army, the Australian Comforts Fund, and other kindred bodies, and when an amendment was moved to include those organizations he refused to accept it. Although he had named those organizations as the bodies covered by the clause,, he refused to accept an. amendment embodying them in the clause. Therefore, when we ask him to name those he has in mind under this, clause, we shall not be surprised if he remains dumb. Nobody else knows better than the Minister what this clause has been designed to achieve. It has been designed to give to civilians the whole of the benefits provided under the bill. There is no doubt about that. I remind the Minister that he would not establish a precedent if he would answer questions raised in committee as to what a clause is designed to accomplish. Every other Minister is prepared to adopt that course, if only as a matter of courtesy to honorable members and also the country, because the people are entitled to know exactly what is provided under the measure. If the Minister is capable of interpreting a provision for the committee he should be prepared to do so. However, he sits absolutely dumb, and refuses to answer a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition - not by a rank-and-file member of the Opposition, whom the Minister always treats with discourtesy. When the Leader of the Opposition asks for information on behalf of the Opposition and the country, he is entitled to an explanation. If the Minister is not prepared to give that information, the country can only place its own interpretation upon his action.
– This division deals with preference, and this clause provides that certain individuals, not organizations, may claim that because of the circumstances in which they, as civilians, rendered service, they are entitled to the same preference as are members of the forces.
– Who would they be?
– Those who would be entitled to preference under this clause will have to submit their claims to the Central Preference Board.
– But who will they be?
– Such a claim might be made by members of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association and the
Salvation Army who happen to be giving service, in a civilian capacity, in an operational or combat area. But, again, I emphasize’ that this clause will apply, not to. all members of those organizations,, but only to particular individuals who might claim that they were stationed at, say, Port Moresby or Lae, in a Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association or a Salvation Army centre. A claim might also be made by members of the mercantile marine, who served in combat areas, or by civil airline pilots who piloted aircraft in operational or combat areas. Those are the type of individuals, not organizations, who might place before the Central Preference Board their claims to be registered as persons entitled to preference.
.- I am vastly amused by the way in which’ honorable members “opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), talk about granting preference to ex-servicemen. Recently, the political organization to which they belong appointed to a position carrying a salary of £2,000 per annum, a man who was not an ex-serviceman. Some returned soldiers were also applicants for the office. In the opinion of the leaders of that organization, the efficiency of those exservicemen was not equal to that of the successful applicant; but I have obtained some information about this matter and I believe that the successful applicant was given the job because he was a better supporter of the Liberal party than they were.
.- I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to explain whether any machinery will be created to guide the Central Preference Board in determining what individuals shall be entitled to preference. In paragraph / of the definitions in clause 4, “war service” means - in relation to any of the provisions of this Act. the continuous full-time service of .any person as a member of an organization or part thereof which is declared by proclamation to be an organization in relation to which those provisions apply.
The Minister stated that no organization, as such, but only individuals, will be entitled to apply to the Central Preference Board for registration. So far as I am able to ascertain, the only provision to this bill, which prescribes who shall be eligible for preference, refers to members of an organization. Therefore, the explanation given by the Minister is not satisfactory.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. j.f. Riordan.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sections twenty-four to thirty-two (inclusive) of this Act shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the war.
– I move -
That the words “ in the war “be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “in all the wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the date of commencement of this Division “.
Ifthis clause, as amended, is agreed to, the provisions of this division relating to preference in employment will be the sole law on the subject for seven years after the cessation of hostilities. This time limit has been recommended by the inter-departmental committee reporting on preference, and the Government considers that the period is adequate and reasonable.
-Why did the Government select seven years?
– Because the Government considered that the period was adequate for re-establishing the men and women of the fighting services.
– I wondered whether there was any other reason.
– I am expressing my opinion; and the right honorable gentleman is entitled to express his opinion on the subject. Within the period of seven years, most ex-servicemen should be able to re-adjust themselves to civilian life, and when that has been accomplished, there will be no further necessity for this measure of preference. If, at the end of seven years, the Commonwealth Government or State governments desire to make further provision for preference, it will be quite possible for any of them to do so.
– As the Opposition has expressed its view very fully on this clause, all I desire to say is that honorable members on this side of the chamber propose to divide the committee on it, because we attach great importance to it. Whatever theories the Minister (Mr. Dedman) may put forward on the matter, neither he nor any other honorable member has attempted at any stage to answer the case which I put in my second-reading speech. I refer to the case of the man who is partially disabled as the result of war service, who will be partially disabled for the whole of his life, and who will need to have preference just so long as he needs a job. Parliament, through this clause, is saying to that man, “ You may have your preference for seven years, and after that, you can take your chance in the labour market “.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated that this clause deals with disabled persons. It does not. Disabled persons are dealt with in an entirely different part of the bill.
– For preference?
– Not for preference, but for re-establishment and employment.
– What about preference for disabled persons after seven years.
– I said earlier that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison.) has preference on the brain. What we are concerned with is the re-establishment in civil employment of the men and. women of the fighting forces. Provision is made in another division of this bill for the reestablishment in civil employment of any disabled persons without any relation to preference at all. The time limit is not applicable to them. The Leader of the Opposition is well aware of that, and is only endeavouring to make political capital out of this matter.
.- The Minister has misled the committee. In the portion of the bill which deals with disabled persons, provision is made for all classes of invalids including civilians. That provision is not only for servicemen.
– Order ! The time allowed for the committee stage up to and including clause 33 has expired.
Amendment agreed to.
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 34 to 37 agreed to.
Clause 38 (Revival of contracts of apprenticeship).
. This clause reads - (1.) An apprentice who has been absent from his usual employment by reason of his being engaged on war service may, within two months after he ceases to be so engaged, make application to an Apprenticeship Authority for the revival of the contract of apprenticeship.
I consider that two months is not sufficient. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who has had considerable industrial experience, whether the Government will consider extending the period to six months. When a young man is discharged from the forces at the end of his war service, he will have a thousand and one things to do. Probably he will want to have a short holiday. He may have to restock himself with clothing. Then, he will have to re-orientate himself in his new circumstances, and decide what he intends to do ; yet, within two months after his discharge he must make an application for the revival of his apprenticeship contract, otherwise he will lose it. I have some knowledge of demobilization following the last war. I know how difficult it was for me and for other servicemen to -become accustomed to the new conditions with which we were faced. This provision will affect mainly those of immature years who broke the continuity of their apprenticeship to enlist in the fighting forces. Six months would not be too long to allow them to adapt themselves to their new circumstances.
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I point out that there are still 15,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Great Britain. Are they to be excluded from this provision? Some of them will be demobilized in Great Britain, as I was after the last war. They will not know about this stipulation and may lose their apprenticeships because of the short notice. Are they to be denied the benefit of this clause? I suggest that the Minister (Mr. Holloway) should agree now to extend the period to six months.
– I think that honorable members opposite will find when they read the clause thoroughly that the contingency which they have mentioned is provided for. This does not mean that a discharged soldier will be prevented from resuming his apprenticeship if he fails to make application within the specified period. The apprenticeship authority will take the facts of each case into consideration and examine both the employer’s position and the position of the apprentice. In some- cases it may be necessary to find a new employer. An apprentice will not be tied to the two months.
– The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia does not agree with the Minister in that respect.
– The apprenticeship authority will review the situation from time to time. I can assure honorable members that if it is unreasonable for a discharged soldier to make application for the renewal of his apprenticeship contract within the two months specified, the period will be extended.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 39 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Modification of conditions of entry into employment).
– This clause causes me considerable uneasiness and I should like to put a view on it to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). The clause states - (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations modifying or suspending”, in relation to discharged members of the forces -
Finally, the clause provides - (3.) A regulation under this division shall have effect according to its tenor notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith in any other law.
Clearly under that clause the Commonwealth Government could direct that a man be treated as a qualified medical practitioner although he had not passed his examinations. It could admit somebody to the practice of law without that person having passed the examinations. It could direct that a man be regarded as a skilled tradesman for various purposes without first having served an apprenticeship or passed any trade tests. In short, the Government could make anybody qualified to carry on any occupation notwithstanding any State or Commonwealth law. I think that what the Government has in mind in making a provision of this kind is that some assistance has to be given to discharged members of the forces and that some technicality here or there might have to be waived, but I say very deliberately that the Government will not be doing a service to a discharged member of the forces by sending him out as allegedly qualified to carry on a certain occupation when in fact he is not. That would be imposing a real hardship on that man. If it became at all customary to. give some truncated qualification to men who came out of the forces, for the rest of their lives they would be marked as a group of individuals who had not completed all the normal tests of their occupation. They would be handicapped and not helped. I realize that every time a matter of this kind is raised, it is very easy to point to an affirmative case in which something should be done, but clause 45 as it stands entitles the Commonwealth Executive, in relation to any discharged member of the forces, to override any existing provision referring to any qualification for any occupation of any description. That means that a great army of “ quacks “ could be passed out into this country. That would not be good for the country nor for the people who were passed out in that manner. If there is one thing at which we must aim it is not the lowering of standards of skill, but the raising of these standards, That is more necessary now than ever. Anything that can be done in and under & bill of this kind to raise the level of skill of the man who has served his country for years, ought to have the support of all of us, whatever it may cost. We do not help either him or the country by lowering the standard of skill, by dispensing with the passing of tests and the granting of diplomas or degrees for occupations which require them. This clause, passed in its present form, and used as it could be used, might inflict very grave injury on the men it is designed to help.
.- There has been a good deal of hypocrisy in regard to this measure. The Government has been given a mandate to pass it, and should not brook delay. I am wholeheartedly in favour of preference to exservicemen. Those who fought in the last war have since been provided for, but provision has not yet been made for those who have fought in the present war.
– The committee has already dealt with the matter of pre ference, and is now dealing with the modification of conditions of entry into employment.
– I am dealing with the clause, which refers to persons who desire to engage in any profession, occupation or business. There are professional politicians. I am not one, and have never wanted to be. My aim is to be a representative of the working class, to which I belong. Should the opportunity arise I am prepared to test the sincerity of those who claim to be so greatly concerned about preference to ex-servicemen, by moving an amendment to the Electoral Act to provide that the nomination of a candidate for election to this Parliament shall not be accepted unless he has served in this war. I repeat, that the whole of the discussion on the bill savours of hypocrisy. It is a genuine attempt to do something for the ex-serviceman, yet the Opposition is delaying its passage. The. Opposition has protested against the application of the guillotine, as we did when we occupied the benches opposite. My only objection to the time allotted to the remaining stages of the bill is that it does not proride for the discussion of the measure to terminate to-night instead of next week.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) apprehends danger in the modification of educational and other courses. People could, as he has said, receive degrees prematurely. In my view, however, the danger lies in the other direction. At the moment, the Universities Commission controls entry to the university, under a quota system which excludes many desirable young men. Very often, it is difficult to say whether entrance should be permitted at a certain age, because some men mature later in life than others. I pointed out in my second-reading speech, that a very distinguished man of the House of Commons, who is also a King’s Counsellor and may be Lord Mayor of London very shortly, was an Australian private in the last war. Upon his return to Australia, had he not been given an accelerated course and been made a Rhodes Scholar, he would not have achieved such distinction. So I suggest that whoever frames the regulations in relation to these courses should be generous, and not run the risk of students being only “ halfbaked “ when they have completed their studies. There should be the largest quota possible of young men and women, who should be given the highest education obtainable. At the same time, there may be merit in what the Leader of the Opposition has said. If the Minister can say who is to be the adviser in this matter, our fears will be allayed. I am acquainted with the case of a young articled clerk who went away without having attended the university, and was refused entry to it upon his return. Yet he intends to be a solicitor. The courses must be modified to suit individual needs. Will the Minister state how that is to be done?
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) are entitled to every consideration, but there is no intention under this clause to break down educational standards. The object is to help servicemen who have lost years pf study to make up the leeway. Some of them have been taking correspondence courses, whilst others have attended classes for study since their return from the war. The university authorities are deeply interested in the scheme. They entertain no fears regarding it, because they will closely watch its operation. The persons in charge of the professional classes are associated with the universities and regard the scheme favorably. I have no fear that we shall run the risk of overloading the professions with half-baked recruits.
– I agree that everything depends on the advice taken and on the administration of the scheme.
– As the matter is in the hands of the university authorities, we may safely anticipate that the proposal will prove successful.
– After the last war, arrangements were made in Great Britain for shortened courses in medicine, law, and, I believe, also engineering, and many of these shortened courses will be necessary after the present war. There should be safe guards and also a time limit. Possibly a period of ten years would be a sufficient time in which to permit shortened courses to be undertaken. The Minister should provide for the appointment of an authoritative body to deal with those courses in order to prevent the professions from being manned by unqualified persons.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 (Functions of Commonwealth Employment Service).
– This clause states -
The functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service shall be to provide services and facilities in relation to employment for the benefit of persons seeking to become employed, to change employment or to engage labour, to provide facilities to assist in bringing about and maintaining a high and stable level of employment throughout the Commonwealth and, in particular, hut without limiting the generality of the foregoing - (a) to provide facilities to assist in the re-employment of discharged members of the Forces, including facilities relating to the operation of the preceding Divisions of this Part and to the operation of Part IV. of this Act;
to provide facilities to assist in the re-establishment of civilians who have been engaged in war work;
The Opposition claims that the bill should provide only for the establishment and re-establishment in civil life of ex-servicemen. The full title of the bill includes the words “ and for other purposes “, and the clause now under consideration shows what some of those other purposes are. This measure should be designed exclusively for the benefit of service personnel, and civilians should be provided for under a separate bill. The attempt by the Government to provide for the needs of servicemen and civilians in one measure must inevitably result in chaos. An ex-serviceman who attends the employment agency in order to find a job will find himself at the end of a queue of other persons who are out of employment, the other persons being civilians. If that is the way he is to be re-established in civil employment it will be a poor look-out for him. The Minister should explain why the proposed Commonwealth employment service is to be established, and what will happen to servicemen who seek employment. Will they be lumped together with civilians who are out of employment ? Among the functions of the Commonwealth employment service is the following : - (/) to provide means whereby any person in receipt of unemployment benefit under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944, or of a reemployment allowance under Division 2 of Part VI. of this Act, may obtain employment.
That further aggravates the position. The Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944 was passed for a specific purpose, and no doubt the Commonwealth employment service will be a vast clearing house for all of the people who will be unemployed when the Government’s scheme for full employment for all comes into operation.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Service) m.33]. - The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has erected a man of straw in order to knock him over. The Commonwealth employment service is not a temporary scheme. It is not intended to operate in connexion with demobilization, but it will be a permanent institution. It will have special offices and special officers. The latter will meet ex-servicemen as soon as they are demobilized and give to them special attention according to their needs. They will guide them to the right kinds of avocations, and if training be required the servicemen will receive it. Apart altogether from the re-employment of unemployed civilians, 100,000 or more persons have already been dealt with, and of that number only 211 required unemployment sustenance. The reestablishment of ex-servicemen is proceeding at present, but the Commonwealth employment service will continue indefinitely. There is no need for the fear3 expressed by the honorable member for Wentworth.
.- I was amazed to hear the statement which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has just made. The phrase “full employment” has been used glibly by honorable members opposite since this debate began. We have been told that there is no need to give ex-servicemen preference in employment because full employment will be assured to all. Now the Minister tells us that a huge organization, which is -to continue indefinitely, will be set up to find jobs It would appear that the inconveniences and restrictions associated with the manpower regulations are to be foisted on the public in perpetuity. This is not a serviceman’s reinstatement bill. It is, as a matter of fact, more concerned with the rehabilitation of civilians than servicemen. This clause, in particular, demonstrates effectively the Government’s lack of interest in the servicemen.
.- 1 suppose it is too much to expect the Government to delete from the clause all reference to employment of civilians. It has purposely placed the servicemen and the civilian together in this omnibus bill. If the Government desired to make of this a measure for the employment of ex-servicemen it should omit paragraphs b and /. I suggest that those officers with whom ex-servicemen will have to deal should be specially selected, and should be impressed with the need for dealing sympathetically with applicants. In addition, social service workers and medical officers should be attached to the depots, particularly for the benefit of ex-servicemen. In my second-reading speech I cited instances of discharged servicemen who had become discouraged because they had been sent to job after job without finding one that was suitable for them. I do not make a sweeping condemnation of man-power officials. Many are doing a good job, and I have heard .tributes to them, particularly those in the Melbourne Central Office. However, it is not enough to tell the serviceman that he will get a pension. The average soldier does not want a pension if -he can do without it. A pension should be regarded as compensation for a disability. The soldier wants to be restored to civil life, and to he given a chance to make his own way. I ask the Minister to ensure that those officers who will borne into contact with ex-servicemen will be men who have themselves seen service.
– Every officer in charge of a State office is a returned soldier selected because of bis knowledge of the job.
– It was recently pointed out that six new officers had been appointed to this department, none of whom was a serviceman. However, I understand that the appointments are temporary, until servicemen can be appointed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 48 - (Committees to advise Minister).
– In this clause it is proposed to appoint a number of committees to advise the Minister on matters of administration, but it is not provided that a majority of the members of each committee shall be ex-servicemen. I take it that the idea is that members of the committees should approach their work in a sympathetic spirit. They should be familiar with the needs of the servicemen, and the difficulties under which they had served.
– That is the Government’s policy.
– I suggest that the Minister accept an amendment to provide that the majority of the members of the committees shall have been members of the forces.
– They may all be exservicemen.
– Well, that is all to the good. If the Minister will give me his assurance that a majority of the members of each committee will be exservicemen I shall be satisfied. I am intrigued with the words “ if any “ after the word “ allowances “ which appear in parenthesis in sub-clause 2. What do the words “if any” mean? Members of these committees will probably work full time and some remuneration should be paid to them.
– We do not know yet what will be required of them.
– I could understand a provision that they should be paid an amount to be determined by the Minister, but Icannot understand the use of the words “ if any “, as that suggests that they may not be paid at all.
– It is not possible to fix any amount now.
,- Does the Minister intend to appoint medical men to some of these committees? Prom senior medical officers attached to the three services he could obtain much helpful advice.
– Officers associated with the Health and Social Services departments will work hand-in-hand with these committees.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49- (1.) The Minister may, on behalf of the
Commonwealth, establish a scheme, to be known as the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, for the vocational training (including training for a professional occupation or for an agricultural occupation) of such classes of discharged members of the Forces and of other persons as are prescribed. (2.) The Minister may,on behalf of the
Commonwealth, provide, or arrange for the provision of, facilities in connexion with any such scheme.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) The Minister may, on behalf of the
Commonwealth, make arrangements with any State for the use, for the purposes of this Part, of any services and facilities of the State in relation to vocational training (including training for a professional occupation or for an agricultural occupation).” “ (1b.) Any such arrangement may provide for the extension of any such services and facilities of the State and for the use of those services and facilities as extended in pursuance of the arrangement.”
– This clause provides -
The Minister may . . . establish a scheme . . for the vocational training … of such classes of discharged members of the Forces and of other persons as are prescribed.
The committee would be interested to know what the Minister has in mind with regard to “ other persons as are prescribed “. Is it intended that there shall be an age limit in connexion with the persons who will be given vocational training ?
– From time to time in the post-war period large numbers of men may be required in particular occupations. For example, in the building of homes it may be found that not sufficient discharged members of the forces will offer for training in the various trades to enable the Government’s building programme to be proceeded with and to utilize all the facilities available. Should sufficient discharged servicemen not offer for training, other persons will be trained.
– Will there he, any age limit?
– That will depend on the number of men available. Naturally, the Government would prefer to train younger men, but the action to be taken will depend upon the number of men available. No age limit has been decided on.
.- I move -
Thai the following proviso be added to sub-clause (2.) : - “ Provided that any such scheme shall include members of the Forces whose age on enlistment was 30 years o-r under.”
The addition of the proviso would define eligibility, particularly as to age. I dealt with this matter in my secondreading speech, when I said that in the absence of details it was reasonable to assume that it was intended to train only those servicemen who were under 21 years of age on enlistment. The Minister did not deny that, and so I take it that my assumption was correct. Those men would now be probably 25 years of age. An age limit of 21 years would do a grave injustice to a large number of men who had never had a chance, as it would give to them an opportunity, for the first time, to qualify for their chosen vocations in life. Unless provision be made for these men now, we shall perpetuate the disabilities from which they suffered before their enlistment. I have in mind the large number of young men who had no opportunities at all in the depression years, and I want them to have an opportunity, on their return from active service, to qualify in whatever calling they wish to be trained.
– What age does the honorable gentleman suggest?
– Thirty years and “under.
– At the date of discharge ?
– At the date of enlistment. They are the men that have never had a chance in life. We must not deny them a chance when they return. If this is limited to persons under 21 at the date of enlistment, youths who went through the depression will again be. denied their rights. Two reasons exist why they should he included; first, the justice to which they are entitled, and, secondly, their inclusion will give honorable members a long sought opportunity to prove by their actions their oftexpressed solicitude for that generation. I think the Minister will see the justice of the amendment and be as generous on this occasion as he has been on others and accept it.
– It is quite true, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has said, that I should like to be generous in this matter, but there are difficulties in the way of implementing his suggestion. His .amendment would mean that men up to 35 years of age would have the right to vocational training. Honorable .members must realize that at any given time only a percentage of the community can be undergoing training. The majority must work to provide the goods and services required for the community to carry on. For instance, we could not possibly have 100 per cent, of the working population engaged in training.
– That is no argument, for it equally applies to those under 21.
– Be patient and I shall explain the difficulties. No age limit is stated in the bill.
– It is in the regulations.
– I know that it is in the regulations. It has not been stated in the bill because it is left open and flexible. If I accepted the amendment, individuals of up to, at least, 35 and, perhaps, 36 years of age would be able to claim vocational training as a right.
– The Minister is taking extreme limits, when he refers to men of 36.
Air. DEDMAN. - The honorable member for Gippsland specified men of 30 on enlistment, which means that after five years’ service, they will be 35 when discharged.
– But that is an extreme case. Men may not serve five years.
– It may be an extreme case, but the average ago would perhaps be 33, or something like that. I have already said that the first limitation is that we cannot have more than a percentage of the total population undergoing training at any time. The second is the accommodation and teaching staff for vocational training.
– They would not all undergo vocational training.
– That is perfectly true, but I assure the honorable gentleman - and I think this is the only assurance he wants - that the Government will undertake to train the greatest possible number of men that it can with the limited accommodation and teaching staff available.
– The Government does not regard itself as tied to 21 years of age.
– No. That is the whole point. Up to the limit of the accommodation and teaching staff available, and the other limitation as to the proportion of the population that can be undergoing training at the same time-
– I would accept 30 years on discharge.
– Even that may be too high an age. We shall train all we can. I said at the outset that I wanted to be as generous as possible in this matter, and I think that the Government is doing all it can when it says that it will train the greatest number possible within the limits imposed by the factors I have mentioned. If that means that we can raise the age at enlistment to 22, 23, 24 or 25, it will be done, but we prefer not to fix an age in the bill. We prefer to leave it flexible so that we may alter it in accordance with the accommodation and teaching staff that we find available. This matter was brought forward by Sir Gilbert Dyett and theother members of the federal executiveof the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and’ Airmen’s Imperial League when they met the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and me in conference thismorning. We discussed it and I think they were satisfied with our assurance that it was the intention of the Government to train the greatest number possible.
Friday, 25 May 191/5.
.. - A word or two on this matter may assist the Minister. The Royal Australian Air Force has trained 30,000 technicians, including engineering fitters,, riggers and radio technicians, as well as many other technicians. It has a large technical staff, and huge engineering schools at which men could be trained. During the second-reading debate the Minister gave figures as to the number of ex-servicemen undergoing training. The Minister said that some 1,200 men were undergoing full-time training and 300 part-time training. I said that over 300,000 had already been demobilized, and only about one in 800 was receiving full-time training and one in 130 part-time training. The Minister is now condemning many thousands of men to lives as hewers of wood and drawers of water. They were victims of the depression, during which they carried the swag and drew the dole. In 1936 I put forward a scheme for training 35,000 of them. It was agreed to at a Premiers Conference, but unfortunately lapsed. The head of the Department of Labour and National Service, Mr. Rowe, assisted me very much in this matter. After having been at war for five years, servicemen will return to a life of labouring and remain labourers until they are old men. The Minister talks of preference! Surely this human problem is not something which cannot be solved. It is hopeless addressing the Minister because he will not listen. But this discussion will not be the end of the matter. The Government, will have to train these men. The number of men who were 21 years of age when they enlisted and are being trained now would he hard to find.
– Does the honorable member think that I can produce schools and. teachers out of a hat?
– It is all very well for the Minister to say, “ I will think about it. We shall do out best”. That is not good enough. Men who enlisted as privates and have risen to the rank of colonel will say when they return, “ I will not be a labourer. I want to be trained technically or clerically”. Many men who went to the last war in humble circumstances rose to high executive positions. They got their opportunities. The Minister has his opportunity, simply by lifting the age level and saying to his department, “ Give these men a chance “, and to the heads of technical education branches of the States, men like Mr. Eltham, “We will acquire the machinery and buildings of the Royal Australian Air Force for this purpose “. The Royal Australian Air Force engineering school at Ascot Vale, Melbourne, has accommodation for 6,000 pupils. It will be disbanded at any time. There is no reason why it should not be taken over as a training place. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) knows the position in that regard. I am sure that if he were consulted by his colleagues, he could convince them that they could do more than they are doing with respect to technical training. More opportunities should be provided for the black-coated worker, who may have been an office boy when he enlisted, to enable him to qualify for an executive position. To-day, the Minister for Munitions received a deputation on this subject from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and he knows what the view of the league is on the subject. In five years, the Royal Australian Air Force trained 35,000 technicians, many of whom commenced training at the age of 35, and, in view of that achievement, much more can be done by way of vocational training of ex-servicemen than is being done at present. Whereas the Royal Australian Air Force gives specialized training, only more or less elementary training will be required in these cases. However, some ex-service personnel are not getting an opportunity to undergo even elementary training.
Many apply for that opportunity, but, after being kept waiting, are told that they are unsuitable. Every man is entitled to a comfortable home, a good job and the chance to make a decent living. Any man who is disqualified from training because he is over 21 years of age is treated unjustly. Apparently, honorable members opposite are not aware that these opportunities are now given only to those who were between the ages of 18 and 21 years when they enlisted. So few of the 300,000 members of the fighting forces who so far have been discharged are being given the opportunity to undergo training. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction simply replies that he will be guided by existing circumstances. What is to prevent him from raising the age under this clause to 30 years? In the United States of America any man, up to the age of 25 years upon mobilization, can qualify for technical training. Yet the United States of America has a far greater proportion of technically trained people than we have in Australia.
– The honorable member should know that in the United States of America the man-power resources are not strained to anything like the degree they are in Australia.
– Apparently, the Minister is prepared to condemn a large proportion of the members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, to be unskilled workers, for the remainder of their lives. Ho gratuity, no pension and no free bottle of medicine will compensate a man for lack of skilled knowledge. These men want to be able to earn for themselves a decent niche in life.
– The honorable member is a humbug if ever there was one.
– The Minister is the biggest hypocrite I have ever known. I have had a lifetime in the services, and I speak from experience. I shall attack the Minister in his electorate, and elsewhere. I shall go after him at every opportunity in’ order to try to remove him from this Parliament because of the scandalous attitude he adopts towards returned men. I am speaking with greatearnestness on this matter, but the Minister sits at the table and laughs. He acts the buffoon one minute, and goes into hysterics in the next.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order!
– I resent the presence in a democratic Parliament of a Minister who sneers when honorable members point out the fact that members of the services are not being given the opportunities due to them to undergo technical training. I resent the Minister’s remark. I am sorry that he has refused to accept my suggestion. I commenced my remarks in a helpful way in order to give him information concerning technical training resources, of which he appears to be unaware; but he does not wish to be given that information. I repeat that under this clause the age should be raised to 30 years.
.I hope that the Minister for Post- war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will endeavour to raise the age at which members of the services will be eligible for training. I regard, this as one of the most important parts of the measure. I believe that under the clause as it stands, an undesirable restriction may ‘be placed upon ex-service personnel who on their discharge may desire to undergo vocational training. The remark made by the Minister concerning the present strain on our available man-power emphasizes the need for making such training available to as many ex-service personnel as possible. Should the demobilization of the fighting forces bc properly planned, it is probable that we shall not have a surplus of labour in the immediate post-war years, but rather a labour shortage. Should that prove to be so, many men who should have had the opportunity of a conversion course, or a course of vocational training, will certainly not be able to take advantage of such courses, because they will be obliged to return immediately to their former employment. In this respect, I instance the teaching profession. Teachers who have been serving with the forces for periods up to five years will be returned immediately to their profession in order to make up the present shortage. They have been out of touch with developments in their profession in the interim, and, being denied the advantage of a refresher course, will be unable to keep abreast of their profession. Therefore, even ex-service personnel who are obliged to return immediately to their former occupation or profession should have the right, later, when .the shortage of man-power is remedied, to elect to undergo vocational or conversion courses in order to enable them to make up the leeway incurred during their absence with the fighting forces. The Minister should provide tha* as far as possible all service personnel who can benefit by such training should be given the opportunity to undergo it. As the industrialization of the country proceeds we shall probably find men in many walks of life who may be redundant in the activity in which they were formerly engaged. It is a good investment in the interests of the nation and of the individuals themselves to retrain such men. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has pointed out that in the Air Force we have been able to train men in comparatively short periods to do intricate work. I have no doubt that we shall require to retrain many men in the immediate post-war period. However, I have in mind particularly men of the classes which I have indicated, namely, those who on their return are obliged to take up their former occupation or profession without being given the opportunity to get abreast of the developments in their callings during their absence in the services. Such cases should, be anet by providing that later,, when circumstances permit, they will be given the opportunity to undergo courses to bring themselves up to date in their former profession, or to engage in other trades or callings for which they believe they are more suited.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 50 - (1.) For the purposes of this Part there shall be a Central Reconstruction Training Committee.
– My colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), has circulated an amendment on this clause. It is similar to the amendment he submitted with respect to the personnel of the reinstatement committees and the preference boards, and, therefore, I shall not repeat his arguments. On his behalf, I move -
That, after sub-clause (3.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (3a.) Any organization representing discharged members of the Forces throughout the Commonwealth may submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not less than three persons from which the organization recommends that a selection be made of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the Committee and the Minister may appoint a person selected from the list so submitted to be one of the members of the Committee.”.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 51 - (1.) The Minister may, on the recommendation of the Central Reconstruction Training Committee, establish such Regional Training Committees, Industrial Committees and Professional Committees as he thinks fit.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), I move -
That, after sub-clause (3.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “(3a.) Any organization representing discharged members of the Forces throughout the Commonwealth may, in respect of any Regional Training Committee, Industrial Committee or Provisional Committee, submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not less than three persons from which the organization recommends that a selection be made of a person to be appointed as a member of the committee and the Minister may appoint a person selected from the list so submitted to be one of the members of the Committee.”.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 52 agreed to.
Clause 53 -
The regulations may prescribe matters providing for or in relation to -
the giving effect to any scheme for the training of persons under this Part agreed upon between the Commonwealth and any organization composed of or representative of employers and employees; and
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That, in paragraph (d), the word “and” first occurring, he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ or “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 54 -
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, be suitable to his age, experience and qualifications, and “disablement” has a corresponding meaning.
.I move -
That the words “ or a person included in any prescribed class of persons” be left out.
This clause appears to suffer from the same defects as many other clauses, because it “ lumps together “ ex-servicemen and civilians. It is most unfortunate that men and women who suffered serious injuries to body and mind while serving in operational areas, should now be classed with members of the civil population, who may have bad similar disabilities from birth. Certainly, they did not sustain them in the service of their country. Disabled civilians should be dealt with in other legislation, such as the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. Servicemen who were disabled while in the armed forces will be placed at a great disadvantage if they are put in the same category as disabled civilians. Doubtless the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will reply that the persons whom he has in mind are members of the Australian Comforts Fund or the Red Cross, but in point of fact, the provisions of this clause may be extended to cover other civilians. A definite decision should now bemade in order to ensure that only those persons who incurred disabilities when they were on active service shall be deemed to be “ disabled persons “ for the purposes of this clause.
– I am not prepared to ‘accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan).
– That is surprising!
– When I explain the reason, the Leader of the Australian
Country party (Mr. Fadden) will agree that I am justified in rejecting the amendment. The honorable member for Flinders stated that the phrase “ or a person included in any prescribed class of persons “ might include civilians. That interpretation is obviously incorrect, because, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Government has no power to legislate with relation to the employment of disabled persons, unless those persons were disabled in the defence of the Commonwealth, or in a service carried on by the Commonwealth, such as the posts and telegraph service. At any rate, the powers of the Commonwealth in this matter are restricted to a very limited class of person and cannot possibly apply to the whole population.
– Then whom has the Minister in mind?
– ‘Individuals of the mme class as I mentioned earlier.
– An officer of the Salvation Army?
– Yes: A member of the Young Women’s Christian Association, Young Men’s Christian Association or Salvation Army, disabled when rendering service in a combat area, should not be excluded from the benefits of this legislation.
– If the Commonwealth has power to legislate for sickness benefits, why can it not legislate for disabled persons?
– The Commonwealth, I think, can make grants of money to any individual in the community, but what the Government proposes to do in this division of the bill is to legislate for the employment of disabled persons. Employment is one of the powers which, generally, the Commonwealth does not possess under the Constitution. But it has power to legislate for the employment of disabled persons, provided they were disabled while performing some service relating to the existing powers of the Commonwealth. If they were disabled in the defence of the Commonwealth, whether they were members of the forces or the civilian population, I think that the Commonwealth would be entitled to legislate for their employment. That is all that is intended by the inclusion of the words “ or a person included in any prescribed class of persons “. I hope that my explanation will satisfy the honorable member for Flinders and that he will withdraw his amendment.
– 1 am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister (Mr. Dedman).
– The honorable member would not be satisfied with it.
– I believe that the Minister is telling the committee what he has in mind regarding those persons prescribed in this clause, but the honorable gentleman will not always be Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) was formerly Minister for Labour and National Service. One day he might become Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. If words mean anything, this clause gives power to a person who may become Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to interpret them literally. It would then lie within his power to prescribe persons whom the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction might not have in mind at present.
– What class of person?
– Anybody who works under Commonwealth control. Therefore, the point made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) was well taken. Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) declared that disabled persons would not enjoy preference after the expiration of the seven-year period, and the Minister replied that those persons were catered for in a special part of the bill. However, this clause caters not only for disabled persons but also for “ a person included in any prescribed class of persons “. The ‘ honorable member for Flinders gave his interpretation of those words. The Minister may have something else in mind: but Mr. Thornton, who represented the Commonwealth Government in London, or the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), might, in the fullness of time, become Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and neither has any sympathy for ex-servicemen and would place a literal interpretation on those words. The Minister should place the matterbeyond doubt and accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Flinders.
.I. am not entirely convinced by the argument advanced by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in relation to the constitutional aspect. He claimed that the Commonwealth was not constitutionally able to prescribe employment for all disabled persons, but I contend that as the Commonwealth has been able to pass a law dealing with sickness benefits, it should be able to legislate with regard to disabled persons. The whole question of the category of persons to be covered depends on the view of the Minister as to what class of persons is to be prescribed or is not to be prescribed. As it will be necessary to include, within the scope of this clause, certain classes of people who are not discharged service men and women - I refer, for instance, to officers of the Army Comforts Funds, the Australian Red Cross, &c. - why not specify the organizations in the clause and so remove the possibility of doubt.
– “We do not wish to specify the organizations because, in so doing, we might omit a particular organization which, at a later stage, we might wish to include. We may wish even to include a particular person who was not a member of any organization at all - for example, a civilian who, in an operational area, has been carrying on a service essential to the prosecution of the war. If that person became disabled as the result of his work in that area, he would be entitled to the benefit of this provision. The benefit which this portion of the measure prescribes is the benefit of obtaining employment. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has said, that we could pro vide a benefit in the form of a monetary contribution to these individuals, but we do not want to do that. Persons whose disablement is the result of their service with the fighting forces will obtain a pension from the Repatriation Commission, but so far as possible, we want these individuals to take their place in the community, and be useful workers to the degree that their disability will permit. We cannot do that unless we make provision for them in this bill or in some other measure. I do not think that there can be any objection to the inclusion of such persons in this clause, thus ensuring that they shall receive the benefits of this division.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 55 and 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 (Allowances to disabled persons) .
– Sub-clause 3 of this clause states -
An allowance under this section shall not be payable in respect of any period after the expiration of three months, or, in special circumstances, six months, from the date on which the name of that person was entered in the Register.
That means that disabled men must rehabilitate themselves within three months and that may present great difficulties to many of them. At the end of three months, the allowance payable under this clause will cease, and that may impose hardship upon these men. I suggest that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should examine this matter with a view to extending the period to, say, six months, or in special cases twelve months.
– I shall have the point that has been raised by the honorable member examined. So far as I can recollect, this provision has been made for an interim period, and at the end of the three, months, or six months, as the case may be, the beneficiary would be eligible for unemployment benefits.
In addition, of course, a person whose disablement was due to war service would obtain a pension from the Repatriation Department. I believe that these cases would be covered by a payment of some kind at the end of the expiration of the- three or six months period. However, I shall have the matter further examined.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 58 agreed to.
Clause 59 -
The regulations may provide for the employment by employers of any class specified in the regulations of -
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, at the end of the clause, the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) In this section, ‘employers’ includes the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or of a State and any authority constituted by or under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 60 - (1.) The Minister may appoint one or more committees consisting of a chairman and such number of persons (.being, in the opinion of the Minister, representative of Commonwealth or State authorities and other bodies concerned with the welfare of disabled persons and of employers and employees) as the Minister determines.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word determines “, the following words be inserted: - “provided that a majority of the members of such committee shall be members of the forces “.
Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) accept that amendment? If not, I shall move to insert a new sub-clause. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment, so that returned soldiers’ organizations in this country will have an opportunity to appoint to these committees highly qualified, well trained, and fully experienced nien who have served the organizations for the last 30 years and know the problems of returned soldiers. The Minister should state whether or not ex-servicemen are to be appointed to these committees.
– I cannot accept the amendment. This matter has been debated very fully in relation to other committees. I assure the honorable member that, as far as is practicable, all the members of the committees will be ex-servicemen.
– Why does the Minister want to avoid having ex-servicemen on the committees? He has .side-stepped the proposal every time it has been made, and has been most unreasonable. I cannot understand his attitude.
– The honorable member has no right to say that I am avoiding the appointment of ex-servicemen. I have said that, as far as may be practicable, all the members of the committees will be ex-servicemen.
– I have heard the Minister, and other honorable members opposite, say that the provision enacted by the Hughes Administration, for preference to be given to ex-servicemen wherever practicable, meant nothing. That argument has been used since 1917. Yet I am now asked to accept a similar proposal. I repeat, the Minister has been most ‘unreasonable. It will go down in history that on this bill he has not shown any appreciation of proposals advanced by the Opposition.
Amendment (by Mr. Francis) negatived -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “(1a.) Any organization representing dis charged members of the Forces throughout the Commonwealth may, in respect -of any such committee, submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not less than three “persons from which the organization recommends that a selection bo made of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the committee and the Minister may appoint a person selected from the list so submitted to be one of the members of the Committee.”
Clause agreed to.
Clause 61 agreed to.
A member of the Forces . . . shall, immediately prior to his discharge from the Defence Force, unless his discharge is other than an honorable discharge, be entitled to leave of absence (to be known as reestablishment leave) -
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, after the word “is”, the following words be inserted: - “in the opinion of the prescribed authority,”
– The Government having proclaimed its recognition of the value of the services rendered by members of the forces in keeping Australia free, one could have expected it to make the reestablishment leave of those men commensurate with the work that they have done. A man who has served for six or seven years is to have no greater reestablishment leave than one who has served for only six months. I suggest leave of one month for each complete year of service, with a maximum of three months. That is the procedure usually adopted in connexion with long-service leave. A man who has served overseas for six or seven years should have more leave than one who has served for only seven months, and certainly more than double that of a man who has served for less than seven months. The proposal of the Government does not make sense.
– I cannot adopt the suggestion of the honorable gentleman. Honorable members will be aware that clause 2 provides that each part and division of the bill shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. The provision in relation to re-establishment leave has been specially designed by the Government to come into operationduring the demobilization period. Clause 62 provides for a grant of re-establishment leave to members of the forces in the period prior to their discharge, at the rate of 30 days when a member has been engaged on war service for not less than six months, and in other cases fifteen days. The provision forms a part of the Government’s plans to meet the general demobilization problem. The leave is one of the measures designed to meet the circumstances which will arise when general demobilization occurs following the conclusion of hostilities with Japan. At this stage, when large numbers of members of the forces are being demobilized, the individual member will need time to look for suitable employment and to adjust himself to his civilian surroundings.
All members on discharge will receive their deferred pay entitlements, and leave or payment in lieu of it for their overseas service, as well as accumulated recreation leave. Overseas service leave is granted on the basis of seven and a half days for every six months of service overseas, and recreation leave is credited at the rate of two days for every month of service, all accumulations being preserved to the member. Members serving in the Pacific theatre outside Australia receive both recreation leave and overseas leave entitlement. The provision of reestablishment leave will give a further benefit to those members who are discharged following the termination of hostilities with Japan during the period when general demobilization operates, and is a part of the comprehensive range of provisions to meet the case of servicemen released on general demobilization. This leave is to be granted, not in recognition of the length of service of members, but in order that they shall have time to re-establish themselves in certain occupations.
.How does this proposal fit in with the ordinary leave which servicemen get prior to their discharge? They may have accumulated one or two months’ leave, but according to this clause the re-establishment leave is to be taken immediately prior to their discharge. I suggest that it should be taken immediately after discharge.
– It will be given in addition to the ordinary leave to which they are entitled.
– Then the leave will be extended in order to cover the period of re-establishment leave.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 63 agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Darwin, Northern Territory.
Geraldton, Western Australia.
Hornby Head, Watson’s Bay, New South Wales.
Telephonic purposes - Mount Lofty, South Australia.
National Security Act - National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Order - - Aliens (Queensland curfew) - Revocation.
House adjourned at 12.53 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated,: -
Rose Bay Flying-Boat Base.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What is the total monthly cost of the Volunteer Defence Corps for(a) pay, (b) rations, (c) transport and (d) other expenses?
Australian Army: Detention of Sapper Slade.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will lie place on the table of the House all papers relating to the application by or on hu half of Mrs. Tenison-Woods for travel priority to enable her to participate in discussions on child welfare at Montreal, Canada, under the auspices of the Internationa] Labour Office.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that land-line facilities are now being made available to commercial stations for the broadcasting of Melbourne race meetings .to South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales and, if Army traffic permits, to Queensland?
Mr.Calwell. - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
With reference to the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee appointed to examine questions relating to repatriation, which were contained in their report dated the 4th September, 1943, and included in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1943 and the regulations, what is the additional expenditure for the financial year 1943-44 consequent thereon in relation to the 1914-18 war and the present war under the following headings: (a) War Pensions, (b) Service Pensions, and (c) General Benefits - (i) medical sustenance, (ii) living allowances, and (iii) employment, &c. ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tobacco: Ration to Newcastle
y. - On the 23rd May, 1945, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked the following question: -
Has the Government yielded to the ultimatum of Newcastle waterfront workers that unless they were given a special ration of tobacco they will stay away from work on one day in each week?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
A conference was held regarding this matter with representatives of the men concerned, but the report of the conference has not yet been considered by the Minister and no decision has been given.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
Information in regard to the honorable member’s question is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In arriving at the price of each drug for use in dispensing, will the following factors be taken into consideration before passing on the “ mark up “ to the wholesale price : -
– The information requested is being obtained.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450524_reps_17_182/>.