17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Releases - Prisoners in Civilian Gaols - Accounts: Auditor-General’s Report.
– by leave - I make a progress statement on the recommendations of the Advisory War Council which were approved by the Government and announced, to the House on the 1st J une. I wish to clarify certain aspects of these decisions. In my statement, I said that the special release of 50,000 men by the end of 1945 was to provide for the discharge of mcn urgently required in the civil economy and to enable certain members of the forces with long service, or who have been prisoners of war for extended periods, to be granted the option of discharge. I also said that the special releases would be arranged in a graduated manner, to avoid disorganization of units and interference with operational plans.
The first point 1 emphasize is that the releases are to be made in a graduated manner. It is obviously impossible to release men with operational experience immediately on the attainment of nva years’ service, without regard to the organization of units and the effect on operational plans. The recommendation of the Advisory War Council, to which the Government intends to adhere and on which it has given the necessary instructions to the Army and’ the Royal Australian Air Force, is that at least 50,000 men are to be released by the end of 1945. lt is hoped that the number may be greater. The total number of releases, and the monthly rate, cannot be determined at this stage, because they are dependent on the fulfilment of operational commitments into which the Commonwealth Government has entered for the use of its forces in the war against Japan. In his speech to the House on the 24th April, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) explained the arrangement with General MacArthur, made in 1944, under which the advance to the Philippines necessitated a redistribution of forces and combat missions in the South-West Pacific Area, in order to make available forces with which to continue the offensive. The Australian forces relieved the American forces, and took over from them in Australian and British territory, and mandates in the SouthWest Pacific Area. In addition, two divisions were to be made available for the advance to the Philippines. The reasons for non-participation in the Philippines campaign have been explained by the Prime Minister, but alternative and equally important tasks have been allotted - to these forces in Borneo and elsewhere. These operations are a part of the total plan of the combined Chiefs of Staff for the defeat of Japan. There can be no question of Australia withdrawing from its assigned task and disrupting the entire strategic plan, of which General MacArthur is carrying out a vital part in the South-West Pacific Area.
The recommendations of the Advisory War Council on the strengths of the forces which should constitute the Australian war .effort for the remainder of the war have been communicated to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), who has had consultations in Washington with President Truman and the United States Chiefs of Staff. The Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, is also having consultations in London with the British Government and its Chiefs of Staff. The Australian Government is also in consultation with General MacArthur.
It will, therefore, be seen that the governing factor in the total releases and the rate of releases is the progress of operations and the speed with which the units can be re-organized and the strength reduced to the ultimate objectives. I cannot state these publicly at present, because of the consultations to which I have referred and the fact that they would be of use to the enemy. All I can say is that they will, permit of a scheme for the option of discharge being given to all men with operational service overseas and five years’ war service. I understand from the Army authorities that the forces are well satisfied with this decision and realize that its implementation must be’ fitted into the fulfilment of the operational plans. The decision to release long-service personnel was reached after the fullest consideration of all aspects involved. The Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), in a report to the Prime Minister after his recent visit to operational areas, said -
There is no doubt in my mind that some action should be taken immediately to relieve members of the fighting services with over four Or fire years operational service. Some difficulty stands in the way of giving effect to this, such as, for example, the withdrawal of troops from the 7th and !)th Divisions with such service at the present juncture.
Before making a decision, War Cabinet consulted the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the General Staff and it was advised that the releases were feasible but dependent on the progress of operations.
The option of discharge to be granted to prisoners, in accordance with my statement of the 1st June, 1945, applies equally to prisoners of war who have already returned and been posted to units, as well as to those who have returned and not yet been posted to units and those who may return in the future.
In view of my inability to state the contemplated future strengths -of the forces, I make one general statement in order to avoid misunderstanding. It is the view of the Government and the Advisory War Council that a war effort of these dimensions will be worthy of the Commonwealth, and, with our past record/ should guarantee us an effective voice in the peace settlement.
The apportionment of the reduction between the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force and the definition of operational service, were referred to the Defence Committee, and the conditions of release to the War Commitments Committee. The reports of these committees will be considered by War Cabinet next week. I shall then make a further and more detailed statement to the House.
– On the 1st June, the Acting Prime Minister stated that all members of the Army and Air Force Wit more than five years’ operational service would be given the opportunity to take their discharge. Can he now say whether those men have yet been given that opportunity? In view of the fact that Senator Fraser recommended their immediate discharge, and- in view ‘of the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that discharges would be graduated, and that it would be impossible to say what would be the rate of discharge, does not the right honorable gentleman think it only fair to take immediate steps to ensure that men thus entitled to discharge shall not be sent forward to operational areas? Does he not think that immediate steps should be taken to draft them out of the services? The casualty rate in the services is reported as not being very heavy, and if any of these men should be killed or wounded reinforcements will be sent up.
– As I have said, all relevant points are being examined, and the men will be released gradually. It must be realized that if men with five years’ service are engaged in forward operations their unit should not be disorganized by their immediate release.
– But that ought not to prevent them from being released gradually, even if they are in forward units.
– Of course, we could discontinue the war altogether.
– In the armies of other countries long service men are ‘being released. This is a burning question.
– I made a statement on this subject to-day, and I propose to amplify it next week. The matter is being examined by those who are responsible for preparing military plans for the Government. The immediate release of these men would create great disorganization, but the honorable member may rest assured that as soon as they can be released without causing disorganization it will be done.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consider the release of men who have had over five years military service, but who are now serving detention sentences?
– That point has not previously been brought to my notice, but I shall ask the Minister for the Army for information about it.
– .Some time ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister fo-r the Army, on notice, how many soldiers or ex-soldiers were serving sentences in civilian gaols in respect of offences for which they had been tried hy field court-martial, and last week I was informed that the number was about 500. Will the Minister have examined the oases of all men serving sentences in military gaols for purely military offences, with a view to removing them to military prisons, instead of leaving them in the company of some of the worst criminals in Australia?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Acting Minister for the Army for reply.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen the Auditor-General’s statement regarding discrepancies and shortages in ordnance stock-taking, and the alleged unsatisfactory methods of accountancy at unit stores? Has he seen the further comment that large losses of stores and supplies, particularly of rationed goods of an attractive nature, had occurred from consignments to New Guinea and Darwin, and that, notwithstanding the safeguards which the Army claims to have applied, the losses continue to occur on a considerable scale? In view of the fact that the Australian public is taxed very heavily to meet the cost of the war, will the Minister say what action he proposes to take to remedy the highly unsatisfactory state of affairs disclosed in the report of’ the AuditorGeneral, so that the interests of taxpayers will he adequately protected?
– I have not seen the Auditor-General’s report. I am quite certain that, in the past, the reports of Auditor-Generals have contained criticism of a much more severe nature about Army stores, especially when we take into consideration the vast amount of goods involved, and the great distances over which they have to be transported. However, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Acting Minister for the Army for reply.
– Was the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction correctly reported in the. Sydney Morning Herald as having told the annual conference of the Australian Labour party in Sydney that, while labour controls would end after the war, and every man would have a choice of occupation, his choice must be beneficial to the nation? Did the Minister say, further, that every one would not get the job he wanted? If so, was the Minister stating the Government’s policy regarding manpower direction, and is the public to assume that, regardless of the overwhelming defeat of its referendum proposals, the Government intends directing manpower when the war ends? Will the Minister make a statement to clarify the position so that the public may know where it will stand in the post-war years?
– The report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the statement which I made at the Australian Labour party conference in Sydney was very condensed and,- to the extent tha-t it did not report me fully, it was incorrect. I stated definitely at the conference and I say so again now, that there will be no direction of labour in the post-war period, but I do say that in any system of society there are natural limitations to the number of persons who can enter any occupation.- For example, yon cannot have more than a certain percentage of the population undertaking primary production. There will have to be people engaged in other occupations. But, under the system of society that honorable gentlemen opposite supported when they were in office, there were not only those natural limitations on the number that could take up particular occupations but, also artificial limitations imposed by them. Under Che system of society that they supported, when a man could not find a job in a particular direction, he could not find a job at all, for there was no other employment for him. In the post-war period’, while it will be true, as in the past and as it must be under any system of society, that there will be certain limitations on the numbers that can take up particular occupations, there will at least be a job available for every one.
Emergency Home: Converted Army Hut
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction yet seen the Commonwealth Disposals Commission’s model emergency home built at Sunshine, Victoria, or had a report upon this type df temporary building to relieve the housing shortage? As it is reported that this home has been erected by the commission fo show what can be done with these buildings in providing temporary accommodation, can he indicate whether such an experiment could be undertaken in other States, where similar disused Army material is being disposed of, with the view to encouraging State housing or municipal authorities to undertake the conversion of such buildings- to meet, in, a measure, the pressing housing needs?
– I have not seen the house referred to by the honorable member or read any report on the matter, but I do understand that one of the war hut? disposed of by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission has been reconstructed to provide a home for a person at Sunshine, Victoria. It has been done in order- to prove what can be done with Army huts disposed of by the commission. I am not certain whether the hut was reconstructed by the commission itself or by the Victorian Housing Commission. I understand thai the Disposals Commission, in disposing of surplus Army huts, gives first preference to ‘State governments wishing to buy them and thereafter to State instrumentalities and municipalities. If there are any surplus Army huts in any of the other States, it is ^possible for the State governments concerned to buy them from the Disposals Commission and do what they can with them to provide more homes for the people. I shall ascertain whether the Disposals Commission or the Victorian Housing Commission undertook the conversion at Sunshine, and, perhaps, recommend to the other States that they follow the example set by Victoria in this matter.
Northern Coal-fields - South Maitland Colliery Dispute.
– Last week the Acting Prime Minister assured me that he would make a report on the South Maitland Colliery dispute. In view of (lie further development since the Government has taken over the mine that is the seat of the trouble, is he in a position now to make that statement?
– I did hope to have ready an up-to-date statement covering all the facts of the Maitland dispute, but last night a further development occurred. The Minister for Supply and Shipping, who, up to last .Sunday, has been concerned in conferences about the dispute, had not arrived when I came into the House this afternoon. There have been further developments, and, I regret to say; further stoppages. This is despite the fact that an agreement for resumption of work was reached between the representatives of the deputies and those concerned in the trouble. I shall have the statement brought up to date, and I shall try to supply the information to the honorable member to-day.
Special Coupons tor Uniforms.
– In order to encourage women to take up employment on the domestic staffs of private hospitals, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to a suggestion, which has been made by the Private Hospitals Association of South Australia, that coupons be issued to such hospitals to enable them to obtain suitable uniforms for their domestic servants?
– I shall refer the question to the Rationing Commission and ask it to make a report.
Fencing Materialfor Victims
– Is the Minister for Munitions able to say how much material, such as fencing wire, has been made available to the victims of the flood disaster in northern New South Wales? The subsidence of the waters has disclosed that the damage done to fences is much more extensive than was at first thought. Many miles of fencing has been destroyed, and victims would appreciate the granting to them of first priority for the supply of any available materials.
– The highest priority for the supply of such equipment has been given to flood victims, and they will receive the full benefit of such stocks as are available.
– Is it a fact that the sole responsibility for the welfare, training, and rehabilitation of New South Wales ex-servicemen who have been totally blinded in this war rests with the New South Wales Blinded Welfare Committee, which is under the control of the Repatriation Commission? As the com mittee, is reported to have less than£100 in the bank at the present time and to be seeking donations from municipal councils, will the Minister for Repatriation investigate the situationin order to see whether the care of blinded exservicemen canbe made a Commonwealth responsibility with a much biggermoney grant?
– The care of blinded exservicemen is the responsiblity of the Repatriation Commission, which makes every effort to train them. After the war of 1914-18,many Australian soldiers who. were blinded in Europe were trained at St. Dunstan’s, in England, but the Repatriation Commission now- undertakes full responsibility for the training ofblinded ex-servicemen in Australia.
-Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what expenses were intended to be covered by the recent increase by 2d. a gallon of the subsidy on milk paid to dairyfarmers? Is the increase intended to compensate farmers for the increased consumption of fodder due to drought conditions, and the increased cost of hay and chaff as from last September, or both? Is the Minister aware that, even with the increased subsidy, many producers in Victoria are still operating at a financial loss? Is consideration being given to increasing the subsidy further in order to offset the extra cost of hay and chaff?
– The new rate of subsidy was fixed to offset an unusual set of circumstances. The subsidy will be payable at this rate over the specific period that has been mentioned.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been directed to articles published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 2nd June and in some New South Wales daily newspapers within the last few days, dealing with pay-as-you-earn taxation? The article in the Courier-Mail stated -
The change-over to “ pay-as-you-earn “ income taxation has been of benefit to the civilians, but not to the discharged soldier, says a discharged soldier who is a member of the legal profession.
Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to the article, and, if so, has he any comment to make upon it?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable member has referred; but I have noticed some press reports to the effect that exservicemen who have resumed their civil occupations have had tax deductions made immediately from their salaries in compliance with the pay-as-you-earn procedure. That this would happen was foreseen, of course, when the system was introduced. The principle underlying pay-as-you-earn taxation is that deductions shall be made regularly from wages and salaries to meet the approximate tax on such income, instead of permitting a big deficit of tax to accumulate. Persons who receive income from property are required to pay a provisional tax based on their income of the previous year. If, at the end of the financial year, it is found that the amount paid in provisional tax more than meets the taxation assessment, a refund is made, whereas if the amount is insufficient to meet the assessment, an additional demand is made on the taxpayer. I discussed this matter fully with the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who assisted to prepare information for the special committee of honorable members which inquired into the subject. I have no comment to make other than that departure from the procedure that has been adopted, as has been suggested by one newspaper, would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme.
– Has the Minister for Air seen a report which appears in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, headed “ Australian Pilots begin British Fleet Course”, which states -
The men were received by Commander D. M. Russell,R.N., training commander, Naval Air Stations, on behalf ofRear-Admiral Portal, the chief of the naval air stations of the British Pacific Fleet. Commander Russell said in an address to the recruits : “ This is a great day for the Fleet Air Arm, and marks the conclusion of a long battle to gain the use of Australian pilots “.
I ask the Minister for Air to what Commander Russell referred in that remark? Was the Australian Government reluctant to make Australian pilots available to the British Fleet Air Arm? If so, why?
– I read the report in the Sydney Morning Herald on this subject. Many articles which have appeared in the press with reference to the Royal Australian Air Force recently considerably misrepresent the facts. Whether Commander Russell’s statement was deliberately made and accurately reported elsewhere I am not aware. The Australian Government has made a number of pilots available for training by the British Fleet Air Arm. When the matter first came under notice we were informed that only twelve pilots could be taken for training at present. Approximately 90 men volunteered for this training. The training facilities available at present are strictly limited in the British Fleet, and Australia hasno fleet air arm vessels on which to train men for deck flights and the like. There has been no reluctance on the part of the Australian Government to make pilots available for this training. The Government recognizes,however, that, as the result of the cessation of the war in Europe, the British Government moist have trained pilots of the Fleet Air Army available if it desires to use them. There is no conflict, so far as I know, between representatives of. the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. I do not desire to say anything now or at any time, which might cause friction between the two services.
Purchases by Aliens.
– In view of the serious allegations by municipalities and branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Victoria in regard to the purchase by aliens of portions of the best farm lands in that State, will the Acting Prime Minister have an immediate investigation made so as to ascertain the facts ?
– This matter has had consideration. The Acting AttorneyGeneral discussed it with me some weeks ago. Prior to that there had been some correspondence from branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and State Premiers, in which reference was made to general complaints and the Government was asked to take action. I am not aware of the particular allegations to which the honorable member has referred.
– Why does not the State take action?
– I shall obtain the facts in detail, including the decisions that have been made, and advise the honorable member. If he can cite a specific case I shall be glad to investigate it.
– I have received from a constituent a letter stating that when his nephew arrived in Australia recently with a unit of the British Navy, he sent to his sister, the boy’s mother, in England, a cable reading, “ Happy to say Ron is with us. Love from all to all “. The cable was accepted for transmission at the General PostOffice. Subsequently, however, the writer was sent for, and informed that the message could not be despatched as it was considered that it might divulge information of use to the enemy. Apparently, the £1 3s. that he paid for the sending of the cable was forfeit, because the amount has not been refunded. He states : “ Surely it would be more ethical for the censor to censor cables first, before the money is accepted”. As probably many other persons have suffered a similar loss, and as the cable was lodged in good faith, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General have an urgent investigation made with a view to the charge for the cable being refunded and, if necessary, the regulations being amended? Is there any necessity to forfeit such money and so punish one who, bona fide, lodges a cable message?
– I shall ask the Postmaster-General to have an inquiry made immediately and to issue an instruction that a refund shall be made to the person who met the charge in good faith.
Prima facie, I accept as correct the statements in the letter received by the honorable member. If the story is true, some one has blundered rather badly, and a refund should be made in this and all similar cases. The regulations in relation to the post and telegraph censorship are being overhauled, and the censorship is being gradually lifted. The area in regard to which we need to be concerned has been contracted until it now embraces only that portion of the Pacific Ocean that is within approximately 1,000 miles of Japan. It does not seem reasonable that censorship should be exercised to a greater degree than is absolutely necessary. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for the Army will co-operate in having refunds made of moneys that have been paid in the circumstances mentioned and in ensuring that there shall be a reasonable exercise of censorship powers.
Gympie sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airaien’s Imperial League of Australia has been informed by the War Service Homes Commission of its inability to make advances for the erection of war service homes on miners’ homestead leases. In view of the fact that, under the laws of Queensland, only perpetual miners’ homestead leases may be held in Gympie and other mining areas throughout that State, will the Minister in charge of war service homes investigate the anomaly under which the commission is debarred from dealing with applications by other than ex-servicemen who wish to have homes erected on land that is held under freehold tenure, particularlyas so many building societies and trading banks have always made, and still make, advances on this class of tenure in mining areas?
– If the honorable gentleman can cite specific cases, I shall have an inquiry made and reply to him as early as possible.
– Has the Acting
Prime Minister read in the press the statement by the Associated Chambers of
Commerce that exports from Australia are being neglected and ruinedbecause of a feud between the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture and Post-war Reconstruction? Is there any truth in the statement?
– I have not read the statement. A considerable time ago, Cabinet appointed a special exports committee, of which the Minister for Trade and Customs is the chairman. That committee was designed to survey the possibility of exports, particularly to countries from which Australia imports goods, being allowed to continue so far as man-power and materials will permit. The only purpose of giving reconsideration to exports would be to ensurethe utilization of man-power and materials where they were badly needed in Australia for the war effort or other essential needs. The Government is anxious to encourage exports.
– Definitely, there has not been friction between the Department of Commerce and any other department.
– I have no knowledge of the slightest friction having occurred between the many departments that are represented on the Exports Committee.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware of the magnitude of the losses that have been sustained by graziers and flock-owners because of drought conditions during the last two or three years? Will the Government consider the provision of a substantial sum to assist these people to reconstruct their lost fortunes and restock their properties, as it has assisted other primary producers?
– As I said the other day, seasonal crop failures and drought relief have always been regarded by the Government, except in very special circumstances, as coming within the province of the State governments, and this applies particularly in the case of State governments which are in a very sound financial position, as at least three of the States are now. I am prepared to examine the matter but, seeing that the State Governments are, in a general way, responsible for the control and guidance of primary producers, I presume that they will attend to the matter unless there are circumstances which warrant Commonwealth action.
– Some months ago I drew the attention of the Minister for Munitions to the acute shortage of galvanized iron sheeting and galvanized piping in Queensland. The position is even worse now, and I ask the Minister whether he will inquire into it with a view to effecting an improvement.
Mr.MAKIN. - I shall do so. When the honorable member asked his previous question I said that there was a consignment of these materials awaiting despatch from Newcastle to Brisbane, but that difficulty was being experienced in transporting it. I shall inquire into the position regarding transport, and also regarding stocks at present held in Brisbane.
Debate resumed from the 12thJune (vide page 2857). on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
– The Opposition is agreeable to the passage of this bill. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has intimated that there is insufficient money in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund to meet obligations after the 30th June next. This is a routine measure to replenish the trust fund, and, as has been stated, the amount proposed to be appropriated is greater this year than ever before. The practice of paying money into trust funds was adopted many years ago by the Commonwealth Government in order to evade certain constitutional obligations regarding the payment of surplus revenues to the States. The adoption of the practice, whilst it is open to criticism, and has been the subject of criticism, but in this case it made possible, in the earlier days of federation, the introduction of pensions earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Frankly, I am opposed to the principle of trust funds because of the abuses to which they may give rise. Whilst such a device may be necessary, in the absence of a suitable financial agreement with theStates, the principle of trust funds, if carried to extremes, could result in the major part of the Consolidated Revenue being appropriated to a trust fund, leaving very little in the Consolidated Revenue with which to meet the rest of the Commonwealth’s obligations. Therefore, in my opinion, such commitments as pensions should be met from Consolidated Revenue and not from trust funds. I am perfectly aware that trust funds were established during the regime of the Government of which I was a member. I know that the purpose for which they are designed is to avoid payment of surplus revenues to the States, as provided for in the Constitution, but I firmly believe that the principle is wrong and that the sooner a new financial agreement is made with the States to overcome the necessity for their establishment the better, because, in effect, trust funds are only a means of evading the Constitution and I do not believe that that practice should be encouraged for one day longer than is necessary.
This is not the appropriate measure on which to debate the rates and conditions of the invalid and old-age pensions. Opportunity for that debate will present itself later when the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Bill comes before the House, but I direct attention to the extraordinary increase of appropriations for invalid and old-age pensions since the war began. This is open to the gravest criticism. The country is straining every financial sinew to finance the war. Loans are colossal and taxation is ruinous, especially to industry. Yet appropriations for invalid and old-age pensions have increased alarmingly. In 1939, £15,000,000 was appropriated; in 1940, £17,000,000; in 1941. £19,000,000; in 1942, £22,000,000; in 1943, £23,000,000 ; in 1944, £23,000,000; and this latest appropriation is to the amount of £27,000,000. Since the invalid and old-age pensions were established, the Commonwealth Parliament has appropriated £350,000,000 for that one social service. That is a staggering total. The commitment must increase alarmingly as greater numbers of people enter the older age groups. It appears to me that any government alive to its responsibilities and not imbued with an idea of fantastic financial nostrums must be concerned, not only with finding means to increase liberal social services, but also, at the same time, to preserve the financial structure of the country. These matters should give the House the greatest concern, because, when I parallel the invalid and old-age pensions with other social services, as I hope to do in a subsequent debate, I feel sure that the House will be alarmed at the growing increase of appropriations of Consolidated Revenue for social services.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 13th June (vide page 2951), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.HARRISON (Wentworth) [3.54]. - The Minister representing the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) has promised that, ata later date, a bill to consolidate social services will be introduced. I have no doubt that that bill will also consolidate the trust funds or establish a new trust fund. Therefore, at this juncture, I shall limit myself to criticism of this measure. The purpose of this bill is to increase the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions by 5s. 6d. a week to £1 12s. 6d. a week, at a total extra cost of £4,510,500. The Minister said that the new rate will be the highest that has been paid in Australia and will accord with the rate payable in New Zealand.
– I accept the truth of the statement, but the New Zealand pension is paid from a national contribution scheme fund - to which every wageearner contributes at the rate of1s. in the £1. Therefore, there cannot be a fair comparison between the New Zealand pension and the Australian pension, which is paid out of Consolidated Revenue. The parallel drawn, by the Minister loses much of its force. The Opposition does not object to pensioners receiving the highest rate of pension that the nation can afford, but the proposed increase raises important problems which must be considered very carefully. As I have pointed out previously ‘ in this chamber, invalid and old-age pension appropriations have increased from £15,000,000 in 1939 to £27,000,000 for the current financial year, an amount of £12,000,000, or 80 per cent, over six years of war, when the country is straining every financial resource for the purpose of defeating the enemy. In a later speech, I shall make some interesting comparisons between the costs of pensions and other social services and the revenue which will be available for carrying out the Government’s postwar commitments. The Minister stated that there were 310,501 invalid and oldage pensioners in Australia. The increase of the number of pensioners in recent years is symptomatic of the development of a young country. More people are entering the advanced age groups every year, and they represent a growing liability on the Commonwealth. This trend should be of grave concern to the Government. Australians now have a greater _ expectation of life than in former years. The present death rate is 9.6 persons for every 1,000 of the population, which is the lowest rate in the world with the exception of New Zealand.
It is interesting to note the way in which the highest age group has increased in size in recent years. During the twelve-year period from 1921 to 1933 in the age groups from 10 years to 20 years, and from 20 years to 65 years, the increase wa3 25 per cent in each case, whereas the increase in the age group of 65 years and over was 78 per cent., from 240,000 to 428,000. That is an alarming figure. As the highest age group increases, the responsibility on the Commonwealth Government increases proportionately although the nation’s population is not showing a proportionate increase. In the seven years from the 30th June, 1935, the under 10 years of age group decreased from 1.148.000 to 1.. 142.000. a decrease of 1.5 per cent. The age group from 10 years to 20 years decreased in the same period from 366,000 to 346,000. The age group from 20 years to 65 years increased by 10.8 per cent, from 3,752,000 to 4,156,000, and the age group from 65 years upwards increased by 15.2 per cent., from 458,000 to 530,000. I now direct attention to the Commission’s increased commitments in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. In the financial year 1919-20, we had 134,000 pensioners, representing a charge on Consolidated Revenue of £4,500,000. In 1939-40 we had 332,000 pensioners, representing a charge of £16,500,000. In the current financial year we have 315,500 pensioners. The decrease since 1939 is due to the fact that many old-age pensioners have engaged in war work, and the application of the means test has disqualified them from eligibility for the pension. Our commitment for the current financial year is £21,650,000. That makes no allowance for the proposed increase of £4,500,000 provided for in this hill, which relates to only one section of our social services. I should not be surprised to learn that, when the Government’s new schemes are put into operation, the total annual expenditure on social services, including war pensions, will amount to £111,000,000. That is a conservative estimate. We have read in the newspapers that the Treasurer informed a recent conference of the Australian Labour party that the Government’s commitments for social services in the current financial year would be nearly £69,000,000, and that for the year 1947-48 they would be approximately £81,000,000. Those figures did not include the £20,000,000 set aside for reestablishment, training, and repatriation benefits and war pensions. It is serious that £81,000,000 is to be paid out of Consolidated Revenue for social services, apart from war pensions, which might be considered to be a legitimate charge on Consolidated Revenue. Later I shall deal with this aspect of the matter on another occasion, when I shall discuss a contributory scheme of national insurance.
Obviously, when the Treasurer made the statement to which I have referred he did not have in mind the possibility of the payment of unemployment benefits under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. The Government’s policy is one of full employment, and therefore the Treasurer makes no allowance for unemployment benefit payments. When the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act was introduced in this House, the Treasurer stated that it was expected that unemployment payments would cost £2,000,000 for every 1 per cent, of unemployment in the community. Seasonal unemployment alone approximates 4 per cent, of our population, and this is a form of unemployment that cannot be eliminated. Also we must assume that, in a community of 7,000,000 people, there will always be a certain number who are unemployable. For the sake of comparison, 1 shall assume that there will :be the ridiculously low figure of 2 per cent, of unemployable people in our population. E suggest, therefore, that we must accept (5 per cent, as representing the proportion of the people who, at some time or other, will have to be helped financially because of unemployment. On the figure that the Treasurer used, the amount involved in paying unemployment pensions to 6 per cent, of the people for a year would bc £12,000,000, which, added to the £69,000,000 that the right honorable gentleman mentioned, would give us a total of £81,000,000. War pensions payable in respect of the last war must also bc taken into account. An inquiry that [ made on this subject some time ago indicated that £10,000,000 per annum was being disbursed in these pensions and other repatriation payments. For the purposes of my calculation I propose to accept the figures which the Treasurer used, though I have no doubt that a close investigation of our probable liability in respect of child endowment, invalid and old-age pensions, the nationalization of medical services, and the like, would justify much higher figures than those which he gave us. However, I add to the amount of £69,000,000 mentioned by the right honorable gentleman £20,000,000 in respect of pensions and reestablishment payments rising out of this war - and that, too, is his estimate - and £10,000,000 representing corresponding payments which we still have - to meet as the result of the last war. I add £12,000,000, which I estimate will be needed to provide for pensions to unemployable persons and persons out of work in consequence of seasonal conditions, and
I have an aggregate of £111,000,000. The same set of figures applied to the £81,000,000, stated by the Treasurer, would represent the Government commitment for 1947-48 - an aggregate total of £123,000,000. That total is staggering, but it must be considered as a reasonable estimate.
Let me now turn for a moment to probable receipts from income tax. In the light of the Treasurer’s remarks to the Labour conference in Sydney on Sunday, we may assume that an endeavour will be made to reduce taxation on incomes not exceeding £400. We must calculate, therefore, on the probable income tax yield from incomes in excess of that figure. I find that the Governmentexpects a yield of £90,000,000 from them. Under the uniform income tax agreement with the States the Commonwealth Government will be required to pay £20,000,000 of that sum to the State governments, so that it will have left only £70,000,000 from income tax to meet the cost of social services estimated to cost, in 1947-48, not less than £111,000,000.
I ask honorable members, therefore, to consider how the nation can be expected to meet the stresses and strains that will be placed upon its financial structure in the days to come, unless some source of revenue for social services other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund can be provided ? In my opinion, adherence to noncontributory schemes for providing social services must ultimately bring the nation to a financial crash. I cannot see how the extraordinary hurden of these social services can be met even under the existing rates of taxation.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that he favoured the provision of social services.
– So I do, but I say that the Government must alter its method of raising funds for such purposes. Unless it does so, financial disaster may occur. Even at the prevailing high rates of income tax it is not practicable to finance social services on the scale visualized by the Government. Persistence in the present policy of the Government must lead to complete breakdown. The Government’s declarations in regard to the financing of social services remind mo of the story of the dog which chased its tail for so long that it finally went mad. The Government’s policy must result in a a increasing cost of living and that, in turn, must lead to financial chaos. The people of Australia long for a. return to post-war rates of taxation, but so far as I am able to judge, relief from the present heavy tax burdens is not likely so long as the Government continues to apply its present policy. Do honorable members realize that in 193S-39 the yield from Commonwealth income tax was £7,000,000, whereas in the last financial year it was £145,000,000? Of the lastmentioned amount, 20 per cent, must be returned to the States.
The Opposition believes in a liberal policy of social services, as is shown by the fact that a government supported by honorable members now on this side of the chamber introduced the original child endowment scheme, and in, the earlier days of federation a government which held similar views to those of honorable members now sitting in opposition introduced the original invalid and oldage pension scheme. We believe, however, that social services should be provided on a contributory basis. That is Che only sane and just method of finance for such purposes. The social services of the nation should be made available to all citizens as a right and not as a charity. If all the people were required to contribute for social services, such as old-age pensions or incapacity benefits, they would consider whatever payments they received as their right and that is as it should be. We also believe in the abolition of the “ means test “ and we have always advocated its abolition. However, I cannot see much likelihood of the means test being abolished so long as social service payments continue to be provided out of Consolidated Revenue. The adoption of a contributory scheme is the only way that I can see of rendering the means test unnecessary. We regard the Government’s noncontributory scheme of social services as a. direct penalty on thrift and thrift is, in my opinion, one of the greatest of human virtues. Under the present system persons who are profligate in their expenditure have no check upon them, because they know that, in their old age or in- firmity, they will be- helped out of their difficulties by a. beneficent Government. A person who,, by the practice of thrift, has saved £400, becomes disentitled to an old-age pension. Honorable members will agree that one who-, on an average wage, is able to save £3,400 in his working years, while raising a family, has done very well. Should such a person permit his patriotic instincts to induce him to invest that amount at 2 per cent., in a war loan, his return would be only 32s. 6d. a week, which is no greater than the old-age pension which another worker who had been profligate throughout his life will be entitled to receive under this legislation. The irony of the position would bp that the income of the thrifty person, because he would not be entitled to a pension, would be no greater than that of the person who had expended all his earnings, apart from his living expenses, on dog races or horse races. I warn the Government and the people that the day of reckoning must come, and that it will be heavy for those who have been responsible for a vote-catching policy that has all the elements of financial chaos. The Government aims to nationalize medicine, and to provide unemployment relief and sickness benefits. Before long, the stage will be reached when the cost of all our social services will amount to £150,000,000 a year.. When one considers that the revenue derived from income tax on incomes of £400 and over is now approximately £75,000,000 a year, one wonders where the additional funds that will be needed, are to be raised. It is time the Government sought another method of financing social services. It should study closely the New Zealand scheme. I blush when I think of .the national insurance legislation which had to be abandoned in this country because £2,000,000 could not be provided for its inauguration. My leader (Mr. Menzies) resigned from Cabinet on that issue, and the House is aware of the attitude that I adopted in regard to it. We were not the conservative element in that Cabinet. Until the Government uses modern methods, and adopts the contributory principle that other countries have followed, Australia will be on the edge of a financial abyss. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the matters that I have raised when he is introducing a consolidation measure. He will find in them ample food for thought.
.- This measure, and the other bills that are to be brought down, illustrate the interest of the Government in the less fortunate section of the community, particularly at a time when its financial responsibility on account of the war is exceedingly heavy. The granting of this proposed increase will mean that the appropriation for invalid and old-age pensions will have been raised by approximately £10,000,000 since the commencement of the war. Before it assumed office, the Labour party exerted its strength to secure from the government in 1940 a promise that pensions would be increased. Subsequently, there was a further rise to 27s. a week, and it is now’ proposed that in future the rate shall be 32s. 6d. a week. The “cost of this and other social services, which shortly will have to be defrayed, will amount to approximately £70,000,000 a year, which is about double the amount that had to be met at the outbreak of the war, and is approaching close to the record peace-time budget of £100,000,000 a year” for all purposes. Increased provision for social services during a time of war completely disposes of the old bogy that money for this purpose cannot be found. I have no doubt that similar arguments will be adduced by Opposition members when other social services are proposed, as they were when the invalid and old-age pensions and like benefits were originally introduced. The proposed pension is little enough for the old pioneers, who have given of their best in bygone days. Allowing 10s. a week for rent - which would not provide accommodation of much account nowadays - and ls. for each of the 21 meals in a week, there would be left only ls. 6d. for clothing, transport, tobacco and other odds and ends to which old people are entitled if they are to eke out even a mere existence. I look forward to the payment of a much more adequate sum. Having the interests of the old people at heart, the Government will grant a further increase when circumstances permit. It proposes that full employment shall be guaranteed to every worker in industry. That is not sufficient. All workers are entitled to be guaranteed that when they reach the retiring age they will not bv thrown on the industrial scrapheap, as occurred in days gone by. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison ; has suggested ways in which a pension or retiring allowance might be provided. He did not mention all of them. A proportion of the profits made by industry should be set aside for the purpose of making an allowance iv workers who become displaced. A perusal of the profits and dividends that have been made during the war shows thai great monopolies and cartels in this country have increased their profits and have paid dividends of np to 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, per annum. That is unearned, increment which the shareholders, who contribute nothing to production, receive as the result of the labours of the workers. Every crisis has the effect of entrenching big concerns more strongly, and they will emerge, from the present war in a much more favorable position than they formerly occupied. Surely it is fair that something should be set aside to provide for the security in their old age of the workers who have helped to make the profits! Such a policy would increase the efficiency of the workers, because their minds would be free from a feeling of insecurity and anxiety. Something along the lines of the universal superannuation scheme in New Zealand should be considered. If a proportion of profits were set aside, it would continue to accrue throughout the working period of a man’s life, and it should he payable either at retirement or in the event of dismissal from his employment. If he obtained employment elsewhere, subsequently, he should carry his accrued rights with him.
I trust that the Government will consider the provision of other benefits, particularly in relation to permissible income. At the present time, an old-age pensioner may earn 12s. 6d. a. week without having his pension reduced. That amount was fixed more than 30 years ago, and its value has been considerably depreciated. I urge the Government to consider such an increase as will enable a pensioner to have an income at least equal to the basic wage. There are many workers who, although retired from their employment, consider that they still lui ve some industrial capacity and would like to work on one day or two days a week in order to provide for themselves a fair measure of comfort.
– Under this bill, a married couple will be entitled to have an income of up to £4 10s. a week. The amount could not be made much higher than that; otherwise, there would be a disinclination to work.
– Although this is a big step forward, a pensioner is not yet able to have an income equal to the basic wage. The concession would not be very great if he were allowed to earn sufficient to bring him up to that amount.
Travelling facilities have been provided for invalid and old-age pensioners by the Labour Government of New South Wales. I look forward to the time when these old people will be able to enjoy the pleasures of many of our tourist resorts, instead of having to sit on their doorsteps. Hostels could be established in the Australian Alps, and on the Blue Mountains, so that they could have an annual holiday of three or four- weeks in. the evening of their lives. The buildings in military camps also should be converted for use as hostels for the benefit of these old people.
.- Everybody will be in agreement with the proposal to increase invalid and old-age pensions from £1 7s. a week to £1 12s. 6d. We all know that it is very hard to live on £1 7s. a week, taking into consideration present prices and conditions, and no one can say that an income of £3 12s. 6d. a week constitutes riches. What astounds me, however, is the lighthearted way in which honorable members opposite commit the country to increased expenditure on social services without any regard to the financial basis upon which those services should rest. I know that they are fully alive to the importance of an effective and comprehensive scheme of social services which will meet the needs of the people, but they ought also to note that no such scheme can be successful unless it is soundly financed - and it is in this respect that the Government’s social service schemes fail. The first Commonwealth social service legislation enacted was that providing for the payment cf invalid and old-age pensions, and to-day I looked up the debate on the measure which took place in 1908. The Government of that day was in a position occupied by very few since - it had a comfortable surplus to dispose of. Apparently, it believed that such a condition of affairs would continue forever, and embarked upon an old-age and invalid pensions scheme without any regard to the fact that the cost must steadily amount with the years. During the first year it cost only £1,500,000, but the cost in this coming year will be nearly £28,000,000, and it is likely to increase in the future. The number of persons becoming eligible to draw pensions is increasing every year and it is not unlikely that, twenty years hence, one-quarter of the income of every income-earning person will go towards paying pensions to other people.
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself discussed the matter in a memorandum which, I understand, he read to the Labour caucus. I have not seen it, but parts of it have been published in the press - although how the press got it I do not know. The contents of that memorandum should cause every one to think seriously. It stated that the annual Commonwealth expenditure after the war would be not less than £297,000,000, whereas before the war it was only £72,000,000. Of this huge post-war expenditure, social services will account for £73,000,000, or £1,000,000 more than the entire pre-war budget, and £56,000,000 more than the pre-war cost of social services. The Treasurer also stated in his memorandum that post-war charges arising out of the war would amount to £96,000,000 a year which, taken with the estimated increase of £56,000,000 for social services, will require £152,000,000 additional taxation. The Treasurer estimated post-war. expenditure on defence at £60,000,000, but I believe that it may be considerably greater than that if we are to do after the war what is required of us. These items together make up over £200,000,000, and in addition, there will be the cost of administration which must increase considerably after the war. The Public Service has been enlarged and salaries will be higher because of the increased cost of living. It is obvious that great difficulty will be experienced in making ends meet. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said that we had succeeded in meeting all charges during the war, so why should we not be able to pay for our peace requirements ? Has he thought seriously at what cost to ourselves we are meeting war charges - at what cost to the morale of our people, at what loss of liberty and of initiative? Those are intangible considerations, perhaps, but they are very important. It is certain that we cannot go on gaily after the war as we have done during the war.
The Treasurer put the cost of social services after the war at £73,000,000, but I think he was very moderate, if not conservative, in his estimate. He did not take into consideration the provision of free medical services for the people, including hospital accommodation, the estimated cost of which is about £20,000,000 a year. It is also probable thai the Commonwealth will have to embark on a scheme to subsidize education in the States, and this will cost money. I am all in favour of education, but how is the necessary financial provision to be made? It is probable that the Commonwealth will have to subsidize rents for houses occupied by the lowerpaid wage-earner. The cost of building has increased and wages are going up, so that the rent subsidy will probably be a steadily mounting charge. I estimate that the total cost of social services will be nearer £103,000,000 than £73,000,000.
Perhaps the majority of people do not worry about these things. Those who receive the hand-outs say, if they think about it at all, that the money has always been forthcoming, and will continue to come. Others who give more thought to the matter say, “ The rich will pay. They can afford to contribute to the cost of social services as in the past “. That is a wrong attitude to take. To-day, there are in Australia no rich in the true sense of the word. No one can afford, out of his excess income, to contribute much to the cost of social services. Of a total of 1,500,000 wage-earners in Australia, only 48,000, or 3 per cent., have incomes of £20 a week or more, and out of their incomes they pay very heavy taxes. Even the large amount collected in direct taxation now will not be sufficient to meet all post-war charges, and there remains indirect taxation, which provides a very large amount of revenue each year. Who pays most of the indirect taxation? The poor - those in the tower wage-earning groups. They do not realize that they are paying these taxes, which have the effect of increasing the prices of the goods they buy, and of reducing their real incomes to a corresponding degree. The honorable member for Reid mentioned company taxation. Companies already pay very heavy taxes; so heavy, indeed, that, in many instances, their assets are wasting, because they cannot put money into reserves, or make provision for repairs or for future extension of business.
– If the Japanese had conquered Australia the companies would not have had any business.
– The Japanese did not get here, and were never likely to get here. The money which is being taken from the companies in taxation is helping to keep them away. However, the companies cannot go on indefinitely if their assets are wasting. Most companies are becoming weaker instead of stronger.
These continual demands for money for social services will, in the end, result in the failure of our social service schemes unless they are put on a sound financial basis. Every one, even honorable members opposite, must admit that high taxation is destroying initiative in all sections of the population, including coal miners, wharf labourers, business executives and farmers. People say, “ What is the good of working when every ‘ bob ‘ we make is taken from us in taxes? “
– Yet every one is working.
– Most of them are, thank God. Unless some encouragement be given to people in the form of assurance that if they make a bit more money through working harder it will not he taken from them as tax, production will not increase to the degree necessary to enable the national income to cope with all of the commitments of the country. It is useless for honorable gentlemen opposite to shake their heads. It is only human nature that people lose their initiative if it is unrewarded. The sooner we return 10 a proper ‘financial basis the better it will be for social services generally. I do not intend to canvass now the merits of the various contributory systems, but I believe that no social security measure can be successful which has a means test, the most iniquitous of all things. Only when social security systems are on a contributory basis can the means test be done away with.
– The same old story I
– The honorable member is one of those who want something for nothing. I think everybody would willingly dig his hand into his own pockets to contribute towards the cost of social security for himself.
– The honorable member would make the workers pay for their own old-age pensions?
– Yes, by whatever contributions are within their means. In every form of social security there must be some contribution by the Government out of the Consolidated Revenue.
– New Zealand is doing. it; of course.
– Yes. It is extraordinary that Australia is the only country trying to finance social security measures without making the people contribute in some degree or other to the pool from which they will ultimately derive benefit. If honorable gentlemen opposite give serious thought to the problem they will realize that unless something be done to place the social security system on a proper foundation, the people whom it is designed to benefit will be worse off even than they would be without the system.
– I congratulate the Government on increasing the invalid and old-age pension. What seems to have nonplussed the Opposition is that the Government finds itself able to do so even in war-time. It is an indication of the attitude of Labour towards the aged and infirm, that since we went to war for the preservation of humanities wo have been able to preserve those humanities in civilian life. It is natural that we should look after the aged and infirm. For the first time in the history of the invalid and old-age pensions the recipients will derive the full benefit of the increase.
Previously the racketeering landlords who let rooms to pensioners increased the rentimmediately the pension was increased. Now, however, the pegging of rents ensures that the pensioners shall be able to use the full amount of the increase on the purchase of small comforts for themselves. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), as usual, when he spoke, had his eyes on every other country but Australia, saying, “ They do it better over there “. I am tired of the comparison of Australia with New Zealand in respect of social security. New Zealand has a population of a little more than 1,000,000, and what it would plan for the needs of its people would not encompass the needs of the inhabitants of the city of Sydney. We have about 7,500,000 people in our continent and the population is growing. Our social security system, in operation or projected, is comparable with the best in the world. It is easy to say, “Distant hills are green but this country is doing as much in relation to social security as New Zealand is doing. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) gave his usual warning that we must consider where the money for social security is to come from, but the Labour party is dedicated to the proposition that the aged and infirm must be cared for by the community in whose service they have grown old or worn themselves out. Honorable gentlemen opposite make a fetish of a flat rate of ls: in the £1 to be contributed by every earner in Australia from his income in order to provide” the social services that this Government says should be paid for out of taxes levied proportionately on all incomes. It is iniquitous to suggest that the basic wage earner and the millionaire should make the same fiat rate contribution. There must be a better formula than that. As a member of the Social Security Committee, the honorable member should know (better than to suggest that the basic wage worker should contribute a high percentage of his income and the wealthy man a mere bagatelle of his for social security. That is exploitation. The increase of the rate of pension is not so great as we should have liked in terms of money but in terms of spiritual values it indicates that the aged and infirm have not been forgotten.
Mr.ABBOTT (New England)[4.56]. -It is ahappy nation which can increase the invalidand old-age pension and guarantee thefullbenefit of it to the recipients. I do not, know whether the Government has given consideration to certain aspects of our population problem, but Australia is steadily increasingthe ratioof people in the older age groups.
– Does the honorable member think the people are living too long?
– I : am mot expressing anyviews. I am simply stating facts. The pension paidtothe aged represents work done by the morevirile younger members of the community.If the majority of our people are in the aged group , and the numbers of the more virile younger people arediminishing progressively, Australia will have a very difficult problem to solve inhow to pay an ever-increasingpensionsbill from the output of an ever-reducing group of young men and women.
Mr.Calwell - Invalid and old-age pensionerscould notsquander much out of 32s. 6d. a week.
– I am not saying that invalidandold-agepensionersshouldnot get 32s. 6d. a week. What I am pointing out as that those who produce the wealth fromwhich pensions are paid are becoming fewer, whilst those to whom pensions arepaidarebecomingmore.In1921, thenumberofpersons in Australia under five yearsof age was 600,000 and in 1939thenumber was 560,000, a ‘decrease of 40,000. In 1921, therewere 410,000 people aged 60, but in 1939, the number was 750,000, an increase of 340,000.
– Hear, hear !
– It is all very well for the honorablemember to say “ Hear, hear!”,but it is not a cheerful prospect for the people of 60, 70 or 80 to know that, whereas their numbers are increasing, the numbers of the more virile younger people on whose production they lean for their pensions are diminishing. The number of people in Australia under fifteen years of age in 1933, was 1,822,000 and, in 1939, 1,722,000, a decrease of 100,000. In 1933, there were 1,672,000 people of over 45 years of age in Australia, compared with 1,922,000 in 1939, an increase of 250,000.
– The honorable member is six years out of date.
– I admit that in the war periodthe rateof reproduction has increased in Australia, but experience is that war-time increases do not continue whenthe war ends.
– They will under the Labour Government.
– According to the honorable member, the LabourGovernment is greater than the Almighty. He thinks that because Labouris in office the whole trend ofpopulations throughout thecivilized world will be reversed in Australia. The political beliefs of whatever government may be in power have no effect on these facts. History shows that, althoughthere is a slight increase of the birth-rate in time of war, the reproductive rate falls to normal with the return of peace. The problemof providing funds for the payment of pensions will not be solved by supporters of the Government who indulge in cheap and trite remarks. Somehow, we must increase the birth-rate in Australia and we must also increase our population by means of a scheme of migration. Unless the Government takes appropriate action now, it will have great difficulty in maintainingthe rate of pension provided in Shis bill and it may even have to revertto the existing rate. Thefacts which I have stated must be faced. The Government has not done so yet, but it will be forced to take steps to increase the population through the cradle and the migrant ship.
.-I rise to answer some of the statements madeby the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Thehonorable gentleman seemed to be concerned mainly with increasing the population and finding a means to finance invalid andoldage pensions at the new rate. It brings a broad smile to my face to hear honorable members opposite ask what this Government proposes to do to increase our birth-rate. The policy ofevery Labour Government has been to improve social services, and most of our existing social legislation was enacted by Labour governments. Had the Governments of which the honorable member for New England was a supporter seen fit to provide greater security for our young people, we should not now have cause for concern about our low birth-rate. When I was working in industry, I met many young people who were in employment for the first time only because the country was at war. When asked if they intended to help the birth-rate, many of these young married people asked, “ Why should we bring children into the world to suffer as we have suffered ? “ Economic insecurity has been the greatest factor in retarding the birth-rate. Now that this Government has decided to establish the Commonwealth Bank in the position which it was originally intended to occupy, it will operate in the interests of the people instead of in the interests of a few financiers who manipulated its business for their own benefit. Consequently, the Government will be able to offer to the young people of Australia a degree of economic independence which will enable them to build homes and establish family life, upon which the stability of the nation depends. I am pleased to be associated with a government which has Had the courage to increase the rate of the invalid and oldage pension. Australian social services, which have been inaugurated by Labour governments, and which would never have been inaugurated by anti-Labour governments, stand supreme throughout the world. After attending the Empire Parliamentary Conference and studying the white paper dealing with British social services, I was impressed with the great difference between Great Britain’s plans and Australia’s plans. The Government of Australia has brought many social services into existence during the most dangerous years of our history, whereas the British Government has merely made plans which will be introduced after the war. This Government has moved ahead of all other governments in the development of social services, and I pay tribute to those members of the Labour party who had the courage and initiative to proceed with the party’s programme during a time of war. Only people who come from the people and who know the needs of the people will act in the interests of the people.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) [‘5.6 j. - I support the bill. I regret that, the proposed increase was not made earlier, because it would have saved a great deal of suffering during the war. I disagree with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), who said that, most of our social service legislation had been implemented by Labour governments. The invalid and old-age pension was inaugurated by a non-Labour Government, and the rate of pension was considerably increased by subsequent nonLabour governments. The parties now represented in Opposition have always endeavoured to increase social benefits. Therefore, we are pleased that the “invalid and old-age pension, rate is now to be increased to 32s. 6d. a week. I do not agree with the honorable member for Boothby, who said that Australia’s social service legislation was greatly superior to the legislation of other countries. Australia could with advantage copy some of the statutes of other countries. By studying the schemes of other nations, we may be able to find a means of helping to provide our rising generations with economic security of such a standard as will make it unnecessary for them ever to claim the invalid and old-age pension. This pension is received by our aged and infirm people as a right and with a feeling of pride, as being something which has been earned by long and good citizenship. I hope that that will always be so. I hope that the increase will lighten the heavy burden on our pioneers, to whom the pension should be a gracious expression of the nation’s gratitude for their services as good Australians.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill. This is the first occasion on which any government has seen fit to increase the pension rate by 5s. 6d. a week at one stroke. Most increases in the past have been of not more than ls. a week. It is to the credit of the Labour party in this House that, when it was in opposition in 3940, it forced the Menzies Government to increase the invalid and old-age pension by ls. a week to 21s. a week. When the Labour party came into office after the elections in 1940, it further increased the pension until in April, 1942, the rate was raised to 25s. a week, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign. It has increased the pension by 50 per cent, from 21s. a week to 32s. 6d. a week during less’ than four years of office. No other government has done so much for our aged and sick, who will always be grateful to this Government. The increase proposed in this bill will afford relief to many deserving people. I contrast the humanity and wisdom of the Labour Government of* 1945 with the actions of the anti-Labour Government of 1932, which reduced old-age pensions from 17 s. 6d. a week to 15s. a week, and also deprived many thousands of people of the pension because they had sons and daughters who were earning small incomes. That anti-Labour Government also placed other restrictions on social services which made it extremely difficult during the years of depression for many deserving people to qualify for benefits, ft also pauperized many old-age pensioners and forced them to draw dole payments from State governments, and, at the same time, remitted millions of pounds of taxation to its wealthy supporters. The federal land tax on big estates was reduced at a time when savings of a few million pounds a year were being made at the expense of the pensioners, although those estates included some of the most productive land in Australia. This Government supports not only social justice but also economic security for all. It has forced the wealthy to make a fair contribution towards our war-time expenses, and at the same time it has improved the lot of the aged and invalid members of the community and has liberalized conditions of eligibility so that more people now receive the pension than were able to qualify in former years. [ wholeheartedly support the bill.
.- I. rise to speak because the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) said that anti-Labour governments had consistently treated invalid and old-age pensioners badly. The reverse is true. A nonLabour government introduced the first pension bill.
– It was forced to do so, as the right honorable gentleman knows.
– I shall tell the truth about our pensions legislation. It was the Scullin Government which reduced the invalid and old-age pension to 17s. 6d. in 1931. The first invalid and old-age pension was fixed at 10s. a week, and had relation to the index figure of that time. Subsequently a Labour government assumed office, but during the early stages of the war, when price levels were rising quickly, it took no steps to vary the rate of pension. Only shortly before the general election it raised the rate by 2s. 6d. a week. A further increase of 2s. 6d. was made during the war, and when I assumed office as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, in 1923, the pension still stood at 15s. a week. I found that that rate was below the figure which would have been necessary to give the pension the purchasing power it had when it was fixed originally at 10s. a week.. While I was in office the rate was increased to £1 a week, at which rate it had a higher purchasing power than ever before. It remained at £1 a week during the ‘thirties until it was reduced, in 1931, by the Scullin Government, to 17s. 6d. a week. It was reduced again to 15s. a week, but honorable members who were in the Parliament at that time will recollect that the Country party fought strenuously against that proposed reduction, and maintained its opposition throughout an all-night sitting, as the records of Hansard will show. Subsequently, we were able to secure from the Lyons Government an alteration of the conditions applicable to the pension, and the rate payable was fixed in relation to the cost of living, with provision for fluctuations. That system remained in operation until 1940. The honorable member for Hume has stated that the rate was increased in that year because the government of the day was forced to act by the Labour party. I was not a member of the government at that time, but, as an observer on the floor of the House, I would say that the increase was made in conformity with the wishes of honorable members of all parties. I express the hope that the fixing of a rate of pension for the invalid and aged people of this country will never be considered on party lines. Our invalid and aged citizens deserve more consideration from the Parliament than that.
Tie history that I have related does not alter the fact that very many people in Australia strongly object to attaching to pensions a means test, which is part and parcel of the present system, and they would much prefer a contributory basis, with all citizens eligible for a pension. I have always regretted that the Labour party refused to accept thecontributory basis for (pensions, and I have in mind, of course, in this regard not invalid and old-age pensions, but pensions to which citizens would become entitled as a right on their retirement from active work. The national health and pensions scheme introduced by the Lyons Government was to have been administered to a considerable degree by the friendly societies of the country. I believe that nothing .so conduces to advance the prestige and standing of people as responsibility for the efficient handling of substantial sums of money. I hope that some day we shall have in operation in this country a national insurance scheme on a contributory basis, apart altogether from the invalid’ and old-age pensions scheme, which is provided out of Consolidated Revenue. I hope, also, that any such scheme will be administered to a considerable degree by such organizations as friendly societies, which have done wonderful work in Australia. Such organizations do much to maintain and increase the morale and discipline of a nation. I hope that a pensions scheme on a contributory basis will he adopted also because I nave an uncomfortable feeling that at some time in the future, notwithstanding the banking legislation of this Government, we may find it impossible to provide invalid and old-age pensions at the present rate for every one in the community. If, however, we put into operation a wellfounded national insurance scheme we shall be able to avert the kind of smash that occurred some years ago.
– Unlike other honorable members, I do not rise to speak because of something some other honorable gentleman has said. I intended to participate in the debate irrespective of the remarks of other honorable gentlemen. The statement was made earlier this afternoon by an honorable gentleman opposite that under the social security payments which this Government has guaranteed - not merely promised, I remind honorable members - we may expect an increase of the birth-rate. That has. never followed the provision of social benefits. I hear the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) laugh. The honorable gentleman’s head is made from a dry limb of the tree of knowledge. History indicates clearly that the provision of better living conditions and of social services of various kinds results in a decline of the death-rate but also a decline of the birth-rate, though the death-rate usually declines more than does the birth-rate. Under these conditions, we arrive at the state of affairs referred to by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), namely, that the population of the country is continually ageing. In other words, people live longer than formerly. That has been true in every country where social security measures have been applied, and in spite of the airy assump-tion of’ honorable gentlemen opposite, the fact cannot be denied. It should not be assumed that because a Labour government happens to be in office - I do not know how long ‘it will remain in office-
– For a long time yet.
– That remains to be seen, but in any case it should not be assumed that because an Australian government of a particular political complexion happens to be in office, human nature will be changed.
An honorable gentleman also observed that the social services of this country were better than those of any other country in the world. Had he studied the social service legislation of some other countries he would not have made such a statement. Possibly, the best social services of any country in the world, even judging by ‘standards which honorable gentlemen opposite would apply, operate in Sweden.
-‘ - Only in certain respects.
– That is a matter of opinion. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I may he expected to differ in our opinions.
The social services of Sweden are somewhat complicated, but they are probably better than those of Australia, yet they have not resulted in an increase of the population, for the population of Sweden is static.
-Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the social services of Sweden would suit conditions in this country ?
– I do not say so. I merely remark that honorable gentlemen opposite are stating, for purely political reasons, that we have the best system of social services in the world, whereas in fact we have not. At any rate, I do not believe that we have.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) made the statement that the United Kingdom Government intended to apply, after the war, a policy of social service benefits which Australia is applying during the war. I point out to the honorable gentleman, in the first place, that the crisis through which Australia has passed was nothing like as tense or as critical as the crisis through which the United Kingdom has passed. Furthermore, I remind him that there was placed on the statute-book of this country, in 1938, certain national health and pensions measures founded On a contributory basis which could have been put into effect and which, I believe, would, have been supported, by the people had they been submitted to them at a general flection. The system which this Government is seeking to put into operation is top heavy and ill-balanced, and I do not think that it can be carried on the economic shoulders of Australia. In this regard I say nothing about certain schemes which we understand are to be introduced in the Senate in the notfardistant future. Any such schemes must have an important impact on the economic life of the country. These schemes have been devised during a time of internal stress and crisis, for there can be no denial of the fact that, the Curtin Labour Government has used its majority, in a time of war,’ to place on the statute-book, and even to. enforce by regulations, measures which have never been submitted to the people for their approval.
I rose merely to state a few points in regard to what I believe to ba the top- heavy and unwarranted system of social services to which the Government is giving effect, without any regard to the capacity of the Australian economic set-up to meet the consequences.
– in reply - There are two phases of this legislation which should be examined. The first phase deals with the humane side of the life’ of our people. But fundamentally it can be debated on a purely economic basis. The old arguments about reckless expenditure and inability to make ends meet if it be continued, are based on theories and beliefs which have long since been discarded. It can be said with the greatest truth that legislation of this kind, although it involves public expenditure on behalf of one section of the community, indirectly benefits the whole of the community. I do not know of any economic student in the world who would deny that every section of the community is benefited by raising the social status of those who are on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Surely that is more true in this than in any other instance, because every penny expended on invalid and old-age pensions must be spent immediately it is received. There are two reasons for that. One is that the pensioner does not receive more than is sufficient to meet legitimate needs. The other, and the more effective reason, is that saving a portion of it would ultimately lead to the pensioner becoming disentitled to the pension. The whole of the money circulates within Australia ; not a fraction of it goes outside this coun- try. The economic effect must be to increase demands and thus uplift every other section of the Australian public. Thus the expenditure is not nearly so reckless or wasteful as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr.-Ryan) has contended. The Government is not dealing with the matter carelessly, but has in mind the examination of all other systems.
– That is a valuable admission which I am glad to hear.
– When war-time problems will permit, the examination will go deeper than it has yet gone, in order to determine whether our social legislation may be improved. Already the world’s literature in connexion with such legislation has been searched, and the discovery has been made that nowhere in the world, are the administrative costs of social legislation so low as they are in Australia. In some countries they are from seven to ten times greater, and in Great Britain five or six times greater. That means that a far larger proportion of the amount appropriated is distributed in benefits in this country. All students of economics agree that expenditure of this kind is sound. If the theory of thrift were carried to an extreme degree, as it was during the depression, when drastic economies were urged in every direction, the result would be disastrous. The depression was made wider and deeper by such means, and a revolution was narrowly diverted in this and every other country. Nobody argues in that way to-day. Real prosperity can be achieved by having a soundly based and managed financial system which maintains an even flow of currency in the community, with proper safeguards to indicate when the limit of safety is being approached. Expenditure on social services of this kind is not wasteful or reckless. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), who stated frankly that this is not a charity or a “ hand-out “. That view has been expressed by him previously, as well as by other honorable members on both sides of the House. I was sorry to hear the remark of the honorable member for Flinders about money being handed out recklessly. Invalid and old-age pensions are a right, and they cannot be obtained by any man or woman who has not had at least twenty years’ service and a clean moral record. An applicant for an invalid pension must have been smashed on the industrial wheel before becoming entitled to it. That is not a “ hand-out “, but a right which has been earned by service.
– It is not true to say that all applicants for the invalid pension have been smashed on the industrial wheel.
– A microscope would be needed to draw the line of demarcation. During my fairly lengthy administration of the Department of
Health and Social Services, I examined the matter very carefully. There may be more than one interpretation of “ smashed on the industrial wheel “. Only those persons who have become invalids because of malnutrition or some other disability can obtain that pension; therefore they do not receive it without reason.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) raised a point, which was elaborated by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Government has not shut its eyes - nobody could - to the danger of the low birth-rate and the increase in the old-age group. That tendency is not confined to this country; it is international. How could
Ave shut our eyes to it when dealing with legislation of this character? It is not the result of bad or good government. But there is another side to the picture. Careful examination by persons who have been trained to make investigations and to interpret statistics have proved that the number of applications for pensions has dropped during periods when there has been more permanent employment and income. I have always held the opinion that that would be the effect in such circumstances. The matter is largely economic. The number of applicants for pensions naturally increased during the depression, because many of our people had no other means of subsistence. At the outbreak of the war, when work became plentiful, men came to my office and said : “ If I give up my pension now that I can get a job, will there be any difficulty in getting it back if a slump occurs and I cannot keep my employment?” The Government gave the definite assurance that those who relinquished pensions would have no difficulty in regaining them should they not be able to continue in employment. Full employment has continued, with the result that the number of pensions has dropped. If pensions were not given as a right the recipients of them would have to rely on charity. Those who could not. obtain relief from benevolent institutions would have to be maintained by relatives and friends. Whenever one helps one’s neighbour or a struggling member of one’s family, one’s income is depressed correspondingly; the tendency is wholly towards deflation. Therefore, costs of this nature cannot be avoided. Every thinking person will say : “ Let the basis be that of right, and the amount sufficient to enable the recipient to stand on his or her own feet “.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) suggested other means whereby invalids and old people might be assisted. I do not think there is any possibility of the amount of the pension being further increased for some time. The aged would be best helped by providing them with attractive cottages in healthy surroundings at a reasonable rent, whereever that was possible, and I am hoping that that will be done.
I appeal to the House to accept the bill in its present form.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
New clause 2a.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted’: - “2a. After section fifteen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 15a. - Wherean unmarried daughter has the sole responsibility of caring for a parentpensioner she shall receive, so long as her parent’s pension continues, an allowance equal to the pension to which her deceased parent would have been entitled. ‘ “.
The Ministerwill agree that that is a humane proposal, which should have received attention earlier. Girls who have remained with their parents throughout their lives, forsaking marriage, make many sacrifices. Upon the death of the mother, only one pension is received into the home, and this is the sole means for the support of the father and daughter. A wife who looks after her husband may be entitled to an allowance under the act if she is not old enough to receive a pension. A daughter is not entitled to anything. This is unjust, because she cannot leave her parents. In such circumstances she cannot take up any other occupation, and it is not too much to ask the Government to make the concession I have proposed.
– Those cases which the honorable member has in mind will be fairly well provided for in the unemploy ment bill which will shortly be brought before Parliament. In the meantime, I cannot accept his amendment, but I shall sympathetically put his case to the Minister for Social Services. Existing legislation provides for the payment of an allowance to the wife of an invalid pensioner, and legislation yet tobe brought down will contain a special provision for the payment of a pension to a daughter remaining at home in the circumstances described by the honorable member.Some of the persons concerned would be invalid pensioners, or could elect to become invalid pensioners, in which case an allowance would be payable. This, however, does not exactly meet the honorable member’s point, but the provision in the unemployment bill will do so. The Minister will have a further discussion with other members of the Cabinet with a view to correcting anomalies, and honorable members will have an opportunity to take part in a full-dress debate when the bill for the consolidation of social services is before the House a week or two hence.
New clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th June (vide page 2858), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill. We recognize that it is necessary to introduce appropriation bills from time to time for as long as the war lasts. Commitments mustbe met, even though in some instances the expenditure may have been wasted. It is the duty of Parliament to finance the war, but the Government cannot be exonerated on various charges of having bungled war administration. I refer to such matters as the tank manufacturing project upon which £7,500,000 has been expended, although it never got beyond the experimental stage. Thereis also the project for the manufacture in Australia of revolvers for the services. Already, £250,000 hasbeen expended on this, although only a few hundred Webley revolvers have been produced.
– Then there is the bungle about the Lancaster bombers.
– Yes, one could go on and cite others also, but we shall have an opportunity to discuss them when debating the Supply Bill. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), when introducing this bill, said that some items of revenue would exceed the budget estimate. Income tax, for instance, would exceed the estimate by £15,000,000. Speaking to the Australian Labour party conference, the Treasurersaid that while it was proposed to review the incidence of income tax, the man with a wife and family could not expect the relief which might normally be afforded him, and it might be preferable to give him benefits by way of family endowment. If the Treasurer wishes industry in Australia to be in a position to meet outside competition after the war, he must realize that some revision of taxation is necessary. The Treasurer said that sales tax would exceed the estimate by £2,000,000. This is another field of taxation which is due for review. Salestax should be removed from essential commodities, particularly, those needed for building. The Government should plan now for progressive development in the future. The Treasurer also forecast that customs and excise revenue, as well as postal revenue, would be buoyant. It is only to be expected that customs revenue will increase from now on. With the war in Europe ended, European countries willbe ina position to export commodities in increasing quantities, and our imports will increase correspondingly. This is a point which should be taken into consideration when direct taxation is under review. I was interested to hear the Treasurer make the following announcement : -
It is necessary that an additional appropriation, whatever the amount might be, should be provided to enable this increased revenue to be utilized to meet war expenditure.
We agree that there must be appropriations in order to meet war commitments while the war lasts, but it is a novel theory that increased revenue must necessarily, and in all circumstances, be devoted to war purposes. I do not believe that sound arguments can be advanced in support of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 12th June (vide page 2859) on the motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill authorizes the appropriation of £55,557,000 fromthe Consolidated Revenue for the first three months of next financial year. Naturally the bulk is allocated to the service departments. Whilst we should like to know the amounts of the variousallocations to those departments, we realize that, for security reasons, it is not desirable to disclose the details. That is unfortunate because it is in those departments that the greatest misuse of public funds occurs. Consider, for instance, the Munitions Department. We have heard very little in this House about the project for the manufacture of tanks. I understand that that project, which was finally abandoned, cost the Australian taxpayers about £7,500,000. That money was just poured down the drain and finally the project was scrapped. We should like some explanation as to how that waste occurred. How many tanks were built? Did any go into action and, if so, with what results ? The taxpayers know nothing about that project beyond the fact that it cost them £7,500,000. We know nothing about what the tanks were to accomplish. I believe that when the history of the project is published it will prove to have been the most scandalous waste of public money that any Australian government in war-time has perpetrated. The sum of £7,500,000 is a pretty big sum to expend on an experiment. But, of course, most of the Government’s projects have been purely experimental and the taxpayer has had to suffer. We had the classic attempt to produce revolvers in Australia. The cost of 354 revolvers was about £250,000. That works out at about £700 apiece. Those revolvers should be placed in the museum, suitably inscribed, in order that the public may have no misunderstanding as to what they cost. I direct the attention of honorable mem”bers to paragraph 124 of the report of the Auditor-‘General -
A matter which attracted attention lias arisen from the reduction in the volume of munitions produced. The reduced demand required fewer operatives but there were manpower difficulties in transferring the surplus to other employment. Production of stocks, of components was therefore continued in excess of service requirements and the cost was charged to production as for service orders.
That is a most interesting statement. On the tank and the revolvers £7,500,000 and £250,000 respectively were poured down the drain. That is bungling at its worst. I take this opportunity to say that the Auditor-General has said the things that we have been saying about the Government’s activities for a long time. But whenever we have raised matters in this House, honorable gentlemen opposite have said, “ Who is your informant? What is his name?” By such intimidation they have precluded the possibility of persons ‘being named lest they should be subject to disciplinary action. Here we have the Auditor-General making the same comments. Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot say to the Auditor-General, “ Where did you get that information? “ I hope that his strictures will be an encouragement to others who know how money has been wasted to come forward with their stories without restriction on the use of their names. The AuditorGeneral said -
The reduced demand required fewer operatives but there were man-power difficulties in transferring the surplus to other employment.
We have repeatedly said that the munitions factories are overstaffed. We have also said repeatedly that they are working on a go-slow policy. The AuditorGeneral complains that the factories are overstaffed and that for no other purpose than to keep them employed the employees were put on to excessive pro duction. Yet the primary industries are screaming for men. The dairying industry has been depleted of man-power to an extraordinary degree. It has been set back perhaps a quarter of a century. Yet men in munitions works who could be released for essential work are kept there to produce excessively. On page 128 the Auditor-General, again commenting on the Munitions Department, said -
Outstanding sundry debtors at 30th June, 1944, amounted to £3.458,872. This figure is £751,248 less than last year’s. Whilst an improvement has been noted a disquieting feature in these accounts is the large discrepancy (£fi0,2-fi8) disclosed .between the control account and the sundry debtors ledgers at 30th June, 1943.
That is a very grave charge. It proves conclusively that the Munitions Department has no respect whatever for the taxpayers’ money, for proper accounting, or for checking incomings and outgoings of material, &c. It proves conclusively that this department deserves all of the ‘criticism directed- against it from this side. There is need for a close inquiry into its operations, not by the War Expenditure Committee, but by a royal commission to find where those funds have gone, why there has been no proper accountancy, and why there has been such waste when our financial sinews are stretched to the utmost. This is an indictment to which the Government must stand up. It is a great pity that the Auditor-General’s report has not been made available to private members, but I understand from the newspaper reports that it reveals a very sorry story which cannot make for public confidence in government finance. Take, for example, the £50,500,000 expended on capital works by the Allied Works Council. All honorable members know that the Allied Works Council has been under most severe stricture from this side with regard to waste. We have’ described it as an open drain through which millions of pounds of public money has been poured to waste. It is nothing short of criminal. The la’bour return shows an efficiency rate of less than 40 per cent. There have been extraordinary delays in obtaining material, insufficient details in planning rush jobs, and too many changes of plans. It is interesting to quote what the Auditor-General said in regard to that matter. Under tie heading “ Civil Constructional Corps “ he said -
It was noted in the Northern Territory that though the volume of work fell off, and the number of employees naturally decreased, the administrative staff expanded. The position in April, 1944, and in January, 1945, was as follows: -
April, 1944. - Wage employees, Civil Constructional Corps, aliens and free labour,6,216; staff, 637.
January, 1945. - Wage employees, Civil Constructional Corps, aliens and free labour, 3,616; staff, 837.
Whilst there was a decrease of approximately 2,600 in the number of wage employees, there was an increase of 200 in the staff. Those are the things that we have been saying. This country has some knowledge of them, but the facts arebecoming clearer now since the Auditor-General’s report has appeared. The Auditor-General has access to all the books and accounts of the Allied Works Council.We find that government instrumentality, although it has cut down its constructional work, and the employees engaged thereon, has increased the administrative staff. That is something which requires the utmost consideration of the Government, because, unless it is checked the Allied Works Council will be like a South American army - all generals and no privates. That is characteristic of all departments in war-time. Staffs expand and expand. Give a new departmental officer a table and he will soon surround it with a staff in order to create the impression that he is doing good work. Let us look at the graving dock. Originally its cost was estimated at £3,000,000, but it cost £9,000,000. That is another example of wilful waste bythis Government. All honorable gentlemen who have visited the dock know how the overtime system has been juggled. They know the changes of plans that have occurred and the countless delays owing to shortage of materials. They know the failure of those in charge to get a decent day’s work out of the men that would have been got by a contractor. In these circumstances we cannot wonder that, the cost of the graving dock rose from an estimate of £3,000,000 to an actual cost of £9,000,000.
I turn now to the cost of the wooden ships which the Government has been building. I have referred to this subject previously, and. have pointed out that timber was taken from one area right through another timber-producing area to the place where the wooden ships were being constructed. On this point I quote the following passage from the report in the Sydney Morning Herald, following the publication of the AuditorGeneral’s report. I am unable to quote direct from the Auditor-General’s report, because it is not yet available to honorable members. The Sydney Morning Herald stated -
The report says the Commonwealth was paying an exceptionally heavy price for 300- ton wooden vessels. The cost per ton was much greater than for the standard 9,000- ton steel ships.
The secretary to the Department of Munitions advised the Army Department on the 6th March that an estimate of the total cost of the 32ships was £2,000,000, an average of £62,500.
Accounts kept by theTasmanian Wooden Shipbuilding Board were insufficient to provide any reliable information of assets and liabilities at 30th June, 1944. It seemed that the Commonwealth had to bear excessive costs arising from various forms of inefficiency in the undertaking. Under the new management, improved accounting methods had been introduced.
I direct attention to the passage in the Auditor-Genenal’s report which criticized the accountancy methods of the Munitions Department in the following terms : -
It has not been possible to ascertain whether contractors engaged on production have been debited with the cost of materials delivered to them and whether excess materials supplied have been satisfactorily accounted for.
The 300-ton small wooden ships built by the Government -cost on an average £256 a ton, compared with steel cargo vessels built in Australia for £63 a ton, and similar vessels built in the United Kingdom for £28 a ton. This is another illustration of how this Government has wasted public money. Whether it has been the graving dock, manufacture of revolvers, ship-building, or any one of a number of other projects, a serious waste of public money has been permitted by the Government. It is time that the whole subject was referred to an independent authority for investigation and report. Because there has been such profligacy and such a complete lack of administrative control, this Government. must be held culpable. To meet its huge and unwarranted expenditure, the Government will have to turn again to . the loan market.
Another illustration of improper methods of finance was cited by the Auditor-General when he referred to the payment of the “ Yes “ referendum campaign expenses to an amount of £5,226 from the post-war education vote. In this connexion I quote the following passage from the Sydney Morning Herald’s report : -
The report says that an expenditure of £5.25(i was charged to post-war educational campaign, and from information available was incurred in informing thu electors of the affirmative case in the ‘referendum. Correspondence had taken place with the Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, on this expenditure and also the expenditure of £43,050 to the cud of January in the present financial year.
I ask the Treasurer whether he intends to seek parliamentary approval of the appropriation of that amount of £5,256. The Auditor-General has pointed out that the mere fact that this subject was discussed in Parliament does not mean that Parliament agreed to an appropriation of this character. The public will not bo satisfied until this whole subject has been thoroughly investigated.
– The honorable member lias referred to an instance in which the lawyers are on my side.
– The general public will not be satisfied with that statement. The Auditor-General is a public servant of very high standing, and it is incumbent upon the Treasurer to treat his criticisms seriously. I do not know whether the “ Yes “ campaign expenditure is, or is not, provided for in this bill. Perhaps the Treasurer will make that point clear. In view of his record, the right honorable gentleman should do everything possible to restore public confidence in the parliamentary control of finance.
I refer now to the Auditor-General’s criticism of certain transport expenditure incurred by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). In this regard the report of the Sydney Morning Herald states -
The report says that claims for £1,233 in 1043-44 were made against the Department of Supply and Shipping for transport expenditure for the Speaker, Mr. Rosevear, from the 1st July, 1043 to the 19th March, 1944; and for £1,229 from the 20th March to the 31st December, 1944. Mr. Rosevear is Controller of Leather and Footwear. Though the Department of Supply and Shipping met the accounts for £1,233 from 1943-44 votes, payment of the subsequent charge for £1,229 was refused, for the reason that “ the mileage represented by these accounts cannot lie regarded as transport undertaken by Mr. Rosevear in the course of his duties as Controller of Footwear, and the acceptance by this department of debits from the Department of the Interior would result in our appropriation being debited with amounts which were not incurred on the business of this department “.
The claim for £1,229 has since been met from the item relating to the conveyance of members of Parliament and others.
Regarding the account for £.1,233, Mr. Abercrombie says lie has expressed the opinion that his debit in’ 1.943-44 to the votes for Supply and Shipping was incorrect. In the circumstances, the vote in question was not available and applicable to meet the claim accepted by the department in 1943-44 for expenditure on transport for the Speaker. No advice has been received of any action proposed to correct the position.
This is a matter which closely affects every honorable member. It is most unfair to us all for the parliamentary vote to be charged with transport expenses for which no other department will accept responsibility, and the position should be clarified. The expenditure amounts to. about £40 a week. The Treasurer should make some explanation on this matter.
– What about the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) ?
– That honorable gentleman is well able to fight his own battles. The revelations of the AuditorGeneral must seriously undermine public confidence in the administration of the Government. These disclosures deserve the closest attention. The allegations that have been made concerning the wasteful use of man-power in the manufacture of pencil sharpeners and the like also demand searching inquiry. The Government cannot expect to continue to hoodwink the public as it, has been doing, and it should be forced to take seriously the disclosures of the Auditor-General.
The unjustifiable expenditure to which I have referred in detail is characteristic of the expenditure of many government departments under the present administration. The Government has been guilty also of allowing man-power to remain idle in certain places when it should have been diverted to essential food-producing and other primary industries. Many of the war service departments, for example, are known to be grossly overstaffed. The Acting Prime Minister at last agreed to an inquiry into this matter, but investigations should have been commenced long ago. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly referred to “ dug-outs “ at Victoria Barracks in both Melbourne and Sydney which are occupied by military personnel who have been doing no useful work for a long while, but the Government has taken practically no notice of their representations. This gross mis-management of : man-power has contributed to many difficulties in the operation of our primary industries.
I shall refer in particular to the dairying industry, which has been starved of man-power for years. This subject has been discussed time after time in the House not only by honorable members of the Australian Country party, but also by members of the Liberal and Labour parties. It is well known that many daily farmers have dried off their herds and sent valuable stock to the abattoirs to be slaughtered, because they have not been able to obtain sufficient man-power to carry on their industry. The result has been such a serious shortage of milk and butter that we have not been able to supply the needs of our own people or to meet our commitments to the United Kingdom and our American allies. One effect of the Government’s maladministration in this regard has been to throw back the development of the dairying industry by almost half a century. The one excuse “ trotted out “ again and again is that drought conditions have prevailed over a considerable part of the continent, but the difficulties could have been mitigated by effective administrative action. Government inefficiency, rather than the drought, has had the greatest effect on industries. The tragic feature is that this is happening while war-stricken Europe is crying out for food, the people of the United Kingdom are tightening their belts still further because of the reduction of their rations, and Australia is committed to supply through Unrra foodstuffs for a famished world.
In secondary industries, strikes, absenteeism, and the Government’s failure to enforce the law have resulted in the lowest production, on the basis of man-power, that Australia has ever known. Control of industrial unions by the Communist party has repeatedly been responsible for industrial anarchy, against which the Government has been “powerless. Even to-day, essential services in Sydney and all other capital cities are threatened by the shortage of coal. A strike is in progress on the South Maitland coal-field, affecting 23 collieries. The Government took over and controlled one of .the mines, and came to an arrangement with the mine deputies for the re-instatement of the deputy, the dismissal of whom had given rise to the trouble. Yet that agreement has been disregarded, and the authority of the Government has been flouted. The 23 mines are still idle, and the Government does nothing except call a conference. We have seen miners’ delegates travelling to Canberra in Government motor cars. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) say in this House that he would abdicate his position if he could not get more coal. Prosecutions have been launched, and subsequently the summons have been withdrawn. All this has had a seriously detrimental effect upon secondary industries, and conferences are to be held in Sydney for the purpose of instituting the rationing of gas, electric light and other essential services. The effect is not felt by those services alone ; foundry coke not being available, castings cannot be made, and production that is vital to the war effort is being interrupted. The Government has sought to overcome the trouble, but so far has not succeeded in doing so. Troubles on the waterfront also have had a detrimental effect on the war effort. Warships have been diverted, from Sydney because they could not be repaired in that port. Other vessels used for the carriage of food and supplies have been held up for months. Soldiers are being employed in the loading and unloading of ships. Some ships have left port half loaded, and others insufficiently loaded, because of industrial anarchy on the waterfront and in other major unions that are controlled by the Communist party. The Government seems powerless to resist. A record dated the 24th April sets out that four vessels of 3,000 tons or more were held up from the 13th March; five were held up from the 16th to the 24th April; and two of His Majesty’s vessels needing essential repairs were held up since the 16th and 18th April respectively, and1 the repairs are now being carried out :by Navy personnel instead of by the engineers who should do the work. A large interstate passenger liner, running in charter to the Royal Australian Navy, arrived in Sydney from New Guinea on the 12th April, with one passenger and no cargo. It departed from Sydney five days later, for New Guinea via Brisbane, having loaded approximately 250 tons of cargo and taken on board 300 personnel. It could have been utilized for the carriage of at least 4,500 tons of cargo that was urgently required in Queensland ports and New Guinea. For several days, interstate representatives at Sydney requested information from the Navy as to whether it could be so utilized, but could get no satisfaction. When such vessels are held up, and essential cargo is not loaded, there must be some foundation for the charges that were made in this House during the debate on the shortage of Army equipment.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) addressed the conference of the Australian Labour party on troubles on the waterfront. I hope that he has been correctly reported; if not, a great disservice has been done to jim. The newspaper report of what he said reads -
Labour’s political opponents were watching to see whether the Government failed to give the same measure of support to the British forces that they had given to the American forces. If they failed they would be immediately branded as disloyal elements. This was the trap laid by their political opponents.
Later, the honorable gentleman said - (Sometimes great naval forces would be involved and it was terribly embarrassing if, like a bolt from the blue, a situation developed which really need never have happened if the proper contacts had been made.
I remind the honorable gentleman that the “ terribly embarrassing “ situation of ‘which he spoke would not have developed had the Government realized that its responsibility was to the people and not to the unions. He must realize this, because he said -
You must not think that because you have a Labour Government you can do as yon damn well like.
Those are strong words, and if they were used by the honorable gentleman he had good reason for using them, because that is exactly what the unions believe. Unfortunately, the Government does not undeceive them, but is prepared to bow whenever the militant unions “ apply the boot”; and it will continue to how until it has bowed itself completely out of the administrative arena - which will happen, I hope, when it goes before the people at the next elections. I remind the House of what Mr. E. Thornton was reported to have said to -Sir Walter Citrine. These utterances by various Labour men form a perfect piece of mosaic. Mr. Thornton said -
The unions are not responsible to governments, but governments are responsible to the unions.
The Vice-President o£ the Executive Council is reported to have quoted Mr. Thornton in these words -
A prominent ironworkers’ delegate, Mr. Thornton, had said that if the Government did not look out the workers would withdraw their support.
That is very interesting, because it bears out the other statement attributed to Mr. Thornton. Honorable members should not overlook the fact that he has been chosen to represent the Australian trade union movement at the next world conference of trade unions. The unions say to the Government: “You must give us the freedom to shackle industry and to break the law, or else- ! “ The
Government recognizes the intimidation that lies in the words “ or else “, and capitulates. Government supporters know that the greatest menace to the Labour party is the Communist within its ranks. If it is to retain its individuality, it will have to purge its ranks of that undesirable element; otherwise, Labour men will find themselves changing their political affiliations, or being “ purged “. The Government may appeal, warn, or threaten; the unions know that finally it will capitulate.
It has adopted a spineless attitude to industrial stoppages. The very life of secondary industries is challenged by industrial anarchy. Addressing the conference ofl the Australian Labour party in regard to taxation - 4 The Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, announced yesterday that there would be a complete review of taxation before the end of the year and said he was hopeful that the present heavy burden would be eased. Any reductions or concessions, he said, would be introduced into Parliament early next year to take effect in the 1940-47 taxation year.
That is very interesting. I should like to know how tax reductions are to ‘be made. In the debate on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill this afternoon, 1 discussed financial commitments for social services. I pointed out that according to the Treasurer, there is to he a commitment for unemployment benefits on the basis of an unemployment rate of 6 per cent., 4 per cent, representing seasonal unemployment and 2 per cent, representing those who are unemployable. The commitments on account of war pensions arising out of the last war and this war total £20,000,000 a year. The aggregate commitment on account of social services will amount to £123,000,000 a year. I went on to show that the yield from income tax on incomes over £400 a year amounts to approximately £90,000,000, of which £20,000,000 has to be returned to the States. The Treasurer subsequently stated that any tax reduction would apply to the lower ranges of incomes, and would not be felt immediately by the man with a large family. If we are to be committed to the amount I have mentioned, and the yield from income tax is much less, how can. income tax be reduced ? This is another sorry story of the Government’s inefficiency in administration. Time will not permit me to give further examples of its bungling. There was bungling regarding aircraft production and war service homes, and there have been abuses in regard to the rationing of goods, and the preferment of some people over others. The Prices Branch has strangled industry. All these considerations lead us to the conclusion that the Government has been inefficient. The Treasurer concluded his speech by saying that no (provision had been made for any new expenditure except for defence and war services, and he added, “ There is no departure from existing policy “. I heard that statement with mixed feelings. In spite of all the bungling, in spite of the revelations of the Auditor-Generalthe Treasurer naively informs us that there will be no departure from existing policy. I regard with horror the prospect of such a state of affairs continuing for another twelve or fifteen months, and yet it is some satisfaction to me to realize that, if the Government does persist in this policy, it will inevitably be defeated at the next general election.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has made one of his characteristic speeches, filled with reckless statements. It is a speech which does not deserve consideration by those who appreciate sound reason and accuracy. As a. matter of fact, most of the charges which he made against the present Government more properly lie against the Government of which he was a supporter. It is easy to say that there has been extravagance and misuse of man-power, that there are people working in war factories who ought to be employed elsewhere, and that these faults are calculated to lay a heavier burden on the taxpayers. Until about a fortnight ago, the production of munitions was under the direction of a man who is probably the greatest leader of industry in Australia and one of the foremost in the world, namely, Mr. Essington Lewis. The department has had’ the benefit of his great organizing ability and unflagging zeal, and the executive which worked with him was chosen from among the most capable business men in the country. Irrespective of what may be said by leader writers on the Sydney Morning Herald, or of the comments of the Auditor-General, or even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I very much prefer, on matters relating to production generally, and production in the engineering industries particularly, to accept the advice of a man of the calibre of Mr. Essington Lewis. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition does less than justice to his own cause, and to the executive heads of the Munitions
Department, when he makes loose statements of the kind that we heard from him to-night. Indeed, he has, b,*’ implication, been -condemning a man who is associated very closely with him politically. The business adviser of the Munitions Department in New South “Wales was no less a person than Mr. T. Malcolm Ritchie, who is now the president of the Liberal Federation, and I had every confidence in his ability and integrity. The executive head of tha Department of Munitions, Mr. Essington Lewis, was appointed, net by this Government, but by the Menzies Government. Only last week, he was received by His Royal Highness the Governor-General, and no doubt thanked by him for the magnificent services which he rendered to Australia as Director- ( General of Munitions and Aircraft Production. This is the same organization of which I am the political head. It is a remarkable thing that while the executive head of a department is congratulated for the services which that department has rendered to the nation, the political head should be loaded with reproaches. Surely, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition must see that it is illogical to praise the technical head of the department for the very same state of affairs for which he condemns the political head. Those who sit at desks and write newspaper articles, or who make .speeches for political purposes, in condemnation of the Munitions Department, are not responsible for the equipment of the members of our forces. Honorable members opposite find it easy to criticize, but when they were in power the sorry story, time after time, was, “too little, too late”. Our men were sent to the various battlefronts ill equipped to meet the odds ranged against them. However, since this” Government has been in power, our fighting men have been equipped with everything necessary for the work they have been called upon to do. Although honorable members opposite have belittled the achievements of the Munitions Department, the fighting men themselves :ire the first to admit that a magnificent job has been done by the war factories in providing them with equipment. Not only has this equipment come forward in sufficient quantities-, but it has also been of a quality equal to that produced anywhere else in the world. I express my appreciation of the work of those who have produced this equipment. They are deserving of the warmest praise.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned two specific projects, and in doing so walked right into a trap. He mentioned the project for the manufacture of revolvers. This was originated twelve months before the present Government came into office. It was, in fact, a legacy left to me as Minister by the Menzies Government. The undertaking was personally supervised by the late Sir Philip Goldfinch, an estimable and -capable gentleman, who was chairman of the Area Board of Management. The project also received the attention of one of the outstanding engineers in this country, Mr. L. Hartnet, of General Motors (Holdens) Limited, who was director of Ordnance Production. I refuse to believe that either of those men failed in any respect in the direction of that undertaking. I believe that they indeed gave to it the best supervision they could. Despite all the criticism we had the most capable men in private enterprise to assist in the development of that project. The work was not done in a government factory. It was done exclusively by private enterprise. And that is what the honorable member cites as a classic example of mismanagement! He also referred to the tank project. Australia led the world in producing the first tank with an all-cast body. The armour plating did not splinter, thereby giving greater security to the crews. It had the first full-circuit turret. It was the first tank armed with a 25-pounder gun, which proved to be capable of doing the job. The first tests were made about three months after I took office as Minister for Munitions. Subsequently America was able to supply in great numbers the tanks that this country so urgently needed. The major part of the money expended on the tank project was expended during the Menzies regime. That is shown by the fact that the first trials were made in January, 1942, about three months after Labour took office. As regards both the revolvers and the tanks, if any charge of inefficiency can be levelled, it must be levelled, not at the Labour Government, but at the Menzies Government. So the honorable member, does not come out of this so well. Any other question that honorable gentlemen opposite care to ask can be answered adequately. Either we have not been responsible for what has been done or we can more than justify wha tever actions we have taken. Malicious statements have appeared in some journals designed to destroy me politically, but the story that will be told, when I am free to tell it, will not reflect very much credit on those concerned. I allow that to await another occasion. When honorable gentlemen opposite, however, criticize my administration, I will give then i in return full measure with compound interest. For no other man with whom I have worked in public administration have I a greater admiration than I have for Mr. Essington Lewis. I pay tribute to the work that he and those associated with him have done. I am justified in pointing out to honorable members opposite, however, that they cannot express their admiration for the work of such nien and at the same time condemn the magnificent efforts of the men and women in the workshops who have worked long and late in an earnest effort to give to our forces every possible assistance. No words of mine could state the diversity and extent of our manufacturing enterprise during this- war so concisely as Paul Maguire has done in the following extract from his book, Westward the Course : -
A country which hud never before built its own automobile engines was building lighters, bombers, reconnaissance and training planes, with every item of their equipment: guns, instruments, engines and Hie tools to make them. . Tt had created u National Standards Laboratory, the fifth only in the world; an optical industry producing its own optical glass for gun-sights, predictors: an instrument industry for radio compasses, direction-finders, altimeters and indicators; an aluminium industry. Tt was making uniforms, steel helmets, gas masks, transports, wheeled workshops, medical supplies, roller mills, steel presses, stamping machines, mines, depth charges, shells, howitzers, field guns, naval guns, machine guns, rifles and ammunition, anti-aircraft guns, parachutes, searchlights, pontoons, boots, tanks, gun-carriers, cotton cord, abrasives, stainless steel and ships. A little town in South Australia, which had perhaps 3,000 people three years before, was building 15.000-ton steamers. The Royal Australian Navy began the war with five cruisers and a handful of destroyers and escort vessels, and some converted auxiliary cruisers. In two years it built six or seven times us many ships. Ships laid down since the war begun have already met the enemy from East Africa to the Western Ocean.
That sets out the splendid records of this country, but, instead of trying to build up Australia’s reputation by citing the great services it has rendered in this war, not only in its own defence but also as a major contribution to the common defence of the Tinted Nations, honorable gentlemen opposite decry what we have done. When Great, Britain was urgently needing 25-pounder gun ammunition in order to accelerate the final onslaught on Germany it asked Australia for all it could spare, and our “response was so great that a big part of the 25-pounder gun ammunition made in our factories and by our workers was used on the Western Front. When the Auditor-General or anybody elses criticizes the part that the Department of Munitions has played in this war, T reply that it lias a splendid record. By calculations and comparisons of costs, critics may suggest that money was wasted here or there. That may have been due to a shortage of material. Possibly trained artisans were not available to build ships. We had to train men because, in the interests of the fighting forces, ships had to be got regardless of cost. While I am Minister for Munitions I will not be hindered in my work by the AuditorGeneral or any one else. I will ensure (hat the fighting forces shall be provided with everything that they need for the success of their operations. Honorable gentlemen opposite may say as often as they like that there has been inefficiency, but they can never prove that we ‘have failed the fighting nien by not supplying them with the things they need to beat tho enemy. No matter how you look at it, in war - and this country is at war, although, to hear some honorable members talk, one would not think so - nien need the weapons with which to fight. My mission is to ensure that they shall get those weapons. I say to the taxpayers, “ You have been well repaid for the money that you have expended on armaments, because with those armaments the fighting forces have made secure the Australian way of life “.
SiT EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [9.13].- The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has tried, as Ministers have frequently tried, to prove an alibi on (he subject of defence preparation and expenditure. Their attitude is that what, was wrong before they took office was the fault of its predecessors and that what is wrong to-day is the fault of the administrators, the men whom they highly praise in one breath and condemn in another. The truth is that the reason for the defenceless state of Australia when war broke out was the opposition of the Labour party for twenty years to any defence policy. In 1939, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), moved a vote of censure on our Government for deciding to send the Australian Imperial Force overseas and, on the 28th May, 1940, he attacked the building of the Sydney graving clock, urging that it, could not possibly be of any use in this war. The Labour party put chocks under the wheels of defence all the time. Now it is trying to make out that it alone saved the country. In one breath, the Minister for Munitions alleged that we did nothing at all while we were in power, and, in the next, he blamed us for (building tanks and revolvers. Everything this country has done was made possible by our preparations. In 1937, we brought Mr. Wimperis out to this country to establish an aeronautical school in Sydney. “We established in Melbourne an institution to test aeronautical apparatus. We started all the shadow factories and annexes and all the things that matter in the conduct of our part in this war. How was it possible for us to engage in optical instrument making and in the hundred and one other activities which previously were new to us? It was because previous governments, like the Bruce-Page Government, had established the Standards Laboratory in connexion with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Even during the depression years we had managed to make about £750,000 available out of previous surpluses in order to keep the Standards Laboratory in operation while maintain ing our general research activities. For that reason, scientific men were available when the war occurred to do the work that had to be done. But what happened after the Curtin Government assumed office? The report by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., concerning the suspension of civil administration in Papua, shows that in the first half of 1942 inexcusable bungling occurred in the efforts of the. Government to provide for the defence of Papua. Vessels were wrongly loaded with arms and ammunition, and very many other activities were bungled. Who provided the rifles with which the British soldiers were re-armed in 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation? The weapons were taken from Australian soldiers by our governments and sent to England because Great Britain’s need was more urgent, than ours at that’ moment.
However, I do not desire to deal further with the wade that has occurred in the past. I wish to indicate ways in which Australian defence and development may be linked in the future in order to eliminate waste and reduce taxation. I believe that we shall have a marvellous opportunity in the process of demobilization to do a great deal to improve our domestic conditions, and also to profit to some degree at least by our war expenditure. The demobilization and rehabilitation of our fighting forces is a problem of immediate urgency. The continuing of! huge appropriations of public money for the prosecution of the war and for domestic administration make the elimination of all waste the most urgent problem in Australia. Faulty demobilization will waste not only public money, but, what is more important, irreplaceable years of om1 fighting men’s lives. By linking defence, development policy, and administration we may largely avert this waste. Such linking can also ensure more rapid and more reproductive results from moneys spent on defence and development and may also assist to attract migrants to Australia. Only thus can Australia stand up to its commitments, and yet reduce taxation to the degree necessary to stimulate recovery.
A long-range objective of national security should include a continuous programme of the progressive conservation and development of our water and power resources. A continuous programme will show tremendous savings in the turnover of personnel engaged in these works, in the full use of equipment, and in the acceleration of the time when reproductive returns will flow from the capital expended. The use of the personnel and organizationof the fighting services to collect and tabulate data necessaryfor thiscomprehensive programme can make our defence expenditure, to a largedegree, ultimately reproductive. The knowledge andexperience gained in this war by our trained and disciplined youthcan be capitalized. Permanent careers can be offered many soldiers and airmen who would otherwise be thrown into the general employment pool. The difficulties, the cost, and the period of demobilizationcan thus be greatly lessened.
The extent of our demobilization will bedependent on the proposed size and useof ourarmed forces after the war. Future international commitments of our armed forces are still vague, but the national uses to which they might be di- vertedcanbedefinednow.Thesepro- vide a base forour ultimate contribution to the international police force. The linking of defence and development can effectstill further savings by indicating clearly how and where the development necessary for security can be controlled on the spot. The order, importance, and priority ofvarious developments canalso be determined. I shall illustrate briefly the savings which can be made under these three headings of a continuous programme of public works, the full reproductive use of the defence forces in regard to them, and control on the spotof the work done. I shall also compare what is being done in America along these lines with what has been done in the pasthere.
American projects for theconservation of water and the development of power have been handled in acontinuous programme, under direct executive control on the spot, such as in the case of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Columbia River Power Development. On the Tennessee it was found that whilst the first dam took four years to build and cost roughly £4,000,000 sterling, the tenthdam in that programme was completed in ten months at one-third of the cost. Continuousexperience by the same engineers,andeventhegeneralworkmen, enabled the authorities to find many short cuts and to use theirequipmentcontinuously and to the full from one project to the next. The consequent savings in equipment, labour, and in earlier reproductive returns from completed work, easily paid interest and sinking fund commitmentson the works until they were fully reproductive.
In Australia, however, though all of our State governments have programmes of works, estimated to cost many millions of pounds, plotted out in large but still needing to be worked out in detail, our construction programme has been very spasmodic. In 40 years we have built three big dams in New South Wales - Burrinjuck, started in 1906; the Hume Dam started in 1917, and the Wyangala Dam started in the late ‘twenties. This hiatus did not permit of the continuous transfer of personneland equipment from one job to the other. As a result, all over Australia firstrateconstructional engineers are to be found doing shire engineering and other works. In America, however, for the last twenty years, the United States Government has deliberatelyused its military organizations in multiple-purpose surveys of the rivers of the country to secure data for regional development.
Though human and economic development ranks in equal importance, it is recognized in the United States that land and water resources are fundamental. They are looked on as the underlying supports for a secure and enduring human occupancy of tie region and for social and economic progress. These basic resources must be conserved, developed and widely used. The river and stream system is looked on as the skeleton of the physical plan. This skeleton determines the pattern of the use of the land and of its auxiliary resourees. Accurate knowledge of this pattern must be available to plan wisely. Accordingly, the Army Corps of Engineers has been given a blanket direction to examine all the rivers of the United States of America in a carefully selected order as to their power and navigation opportunities from the point of view of national security. It is obvious from the point of view of decentralizing industry and population, and especially of establishing essential war industries in protected localities, that, quite apart from its general national aspects, this survey should be made. At the same time, the United States Federal Bureau of Reclamation was establishedandstaffedwithengineers who simultaneously examined the opportunities, possibilities, and needs of these rivers from the point of view of irrigation and flood control. These factors are essential also inrespect of national security, asthey also determine the location of population and essential industries.
Br. Gaha. - How did they overcome the constitutional difficulties?
– By linking defence and development to national security. Most of the work was undertaken on the ground that it was necessary forsecurity reasons. Our basic physical development programme andour power programme must be considered on a co-ordinated basis. Power transmission and inter-connecting lines constitute a particularly vital, unifying factor, as well as one ofthe major means of making a multiple-purpose programme economically feasible and bringing its benefits to, and distributing them in, any region. Through the transmission net, electrical energy can readily be interchanged so that projects may further support and strengthen one another when necessary. The power programme should seek to include new projects to develop latent resources of land and water and to enhance and spread opportunity to distribute essential benefits and not merely to develop the largest and cheapest power resources.
In Australia, demobilizationwill provide a unique opportunity to follow America’s example and establish this policy of giving the fighting services reproductive work in peace-time. Many hundreds of our airmen would welcome the opportunity of a permanent career that would enable them to use their Air Force training. A topographical survey of that portion of Australia that lends itself to water conservation, with the permanent record that aerial photography gives, would employ many of these menrepro- ductively on a life-time job. The results of their work would be of permanent value to Australia, not only for water conservation, but also in the laying out. of roads, rail routes, aerodromes, power stations, and the like. Similarly, permanent careers would be available for ourtrainedengineersandtechnicalmen and for the assistance of their rank and file in accompanying jobs in carrying out this indispensable work which must be done before we have a basis for national planning.
In America, the result of the pooling of the surveys and researches of, bodies of highly competent engineers has been to give a flying start in the carrying out of great undertakings, such as the Boulder Dam on the Colorado, the Grand, Coulee Dam on the Columbia and, various dams on the Tennessee and many other places.This information also has been of essential value in determining the appropriateboundaries for regional divisions into which the United States of America has been divided for physical and economic development. As each of these regional divisions is distinguished by various identities of interest, either as a whole or in adjoining sections, a comprehensive perspective of the problem of each particular region can thus be taken.
What has been done in America with regard to the tabulation of the resources of the country, which has approximately the same area as Australia, is of great interest in this regard. The whole of that great country has been divided into nine approximately equal regional areas, each embracing parts or the whole of several States. The boundaries of these regional areas are determined by physical and geographical considerations, and not by chance State boundaries. In each of these regions, intensive research is being continually undertaken as to the location and extent of the resources and the wisest methods of rapidly developing these resources. The development plan for these extensive areas involves a broad range of objectives and a number of phases. A combination of this perspective of each regional area enables a national perspective of industry to be obtained readily. The data obtained in this way, the researches consequent upon its availability, the publicity given to the proximity of constituent parts of different manufactures, and the availability of electric power are very largely responsible for the extraordinary rapidity with which industrial and agricultural development has taken place in various parts of the United States of America during the last fifteen years. The tremendous spurt in the American war production effort was largely dependent on this data. Several areas in Australia stand out as physical, economic and geographical units. They are peculiarly fitted for regional development, and in them immediate reproductive use could he made of our service personnel. One is the Murray Valley, and others are in southern, central and northern Queensland, and northern and central New South Wales. Those areas will not be developed unless all the resources that they contain are first tabulated.
I shall deal first with the area that I know best, which embraces northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. There is a definite identity of interest in the whole of that area. A coastal belt runs from Gympie, in the north, to Newcastle, in the south. It has coastal rivers which would present identical problems in relation to the establishment of industries. A man who was competent to deal with farming problems on the Murray River would be of equal value on the Hunter, Manning, Macleay and other rivers along the coast, and it would be worth-while to keep him fully occupied along that coastal belt. The tableland, . embracing the Darling Downs in Queensland and the New England district in New South Wales, has identical pastoral, fruit, farm and vegetable production interests. Behind that tableland is the western country, which includes two areas that canbe developed only by means of a common plan. One area embraces the whole of the northern tributaries of the Darling River from the Macquarie River. The intake of the artesian water in the area is in Queensland, and the outflow is largely in New South Wales. It would be useless to try to control the flow of artesian water in northern New South Wales without the simultaneous operation of a common policy in Queensland. The whole of that area is fortunate in having not only a physical identity of interests, but also the capacity to be electrically unified, because at both ends of it there is a big coal-field with power stations, and in the middle there is scope for the development of water power. The development should be by means of two main transmission lines, linking the northern and southern coal power stations of Brisbane and Newcastle. One high-power electric transmission line already is on the point of completion, linking along the coast the coal power station at Newcastle with the Clarence water power development at Nymboida and the reticulation of southern Queensland. A second highpower transmission line should traverse the New Englandtableland, swing through a large hydro-electric power station at the Clarence Gorge, and then join the Brisbane power station. This would permit points established on the eastern coast for power purposes to be joined by electrical transmission lines with dams being constructed in the west for irrigation purposes. The lines joining power development points would make a complete grid of the whole area, and no community would be more than 15 or 20 miles from a main transmission line. The reticulation of the whole area would be a cheap proposition. Along the eastern coast is grown nearly all the special-price vegetable crops. Because of theabsence of frost alongside the sea, these crops can be marketed in Sydney and Melbourne when vegetables from other areas are not available. This has been rendered possible by the use of relatively cheap power for the pumping of water for irrigation purposes from coastal creeks and fresh-water rivers. Much more could be done if weirs could be substituted for bridges on creeks and rivers, so as to ensure a constant supply of fresh water. On the Namibucca, Bellingen, Hastings, Manning, Macleay, Camden Haven, Wallamba and Richmond rivers, and Deep Creek, there are innumerable points at which water could be held. On all the rivers there is an immense quantity of minerals and timber, which so far have not been properly exploited because of the difficulty of access and the lack of cheap power.
With the coming of plastics, there is no part of Australia except, possibly, some areas in. Tasmania, which could compete with this district in the development of new secondary industries. It would appear as though it is bound to “ have a place in the sun “ after the war. Such hig installations as have been outlined at the Gorge dam, would have a tremendous influence in preventing the disastrous floods that have occurred during the last few weeks in parts of Now South Wales. Thus, hundreds of thousands of pounds, instead of being wasted, could be used in providing profitable employment. But a necessary preliminary to the development of the area is an accurate survey and inventory of its resources. As the fighting services are steadily demobilized, a corps of Army engineers should, be established. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force who have had flying experience should be used for aerial surveys, and the engineers for detailed investigations on the ground. The data obtained would enable a continuous programme to be carried out along the lines I have indicated. The money thus saved would be sufficient to defray the cost of a competent technical staff of exservicemen, employed in the manner I have suggested. The accessibility of all the facts would be a stimulus to production every year. The development would attract population, and gradually the nation would be put in a position to pay interest and sinking fund on the national debt incurred. A great advantage in connexion with many Australian proposals up to the present has been the substantial body of data that has been collected by State departments. But much detailed examination is still necessary. Blue prints must be prepared. Engineers are needed for the final surveys The northern area is fortunate in that it is much farther ahead than other areas in regard to final surveys in connexion with many of its projects. There is not the same argument as to what should be done with the waters of the Clarence River as there is as to whether the waters of the Snowy River should be utilized for electricity or irrigation purposes. That latter proposal illustrates the necessity for obtaining the fullest information which the public may avail themselves of to form judgments. We should simultaneously proceed with other developments. I am sure that there are possibilities in Tasmania which would well repay investigation. There is no constitutional bar to immediate action, if appropriate steps were taken prior to the demobilization of the forces to implement my suggestion, tremendous waste of time and money would be avoided in developmental expenditure. The fighting services could be made largely reproductive as quickly as possible, and permanent data furnished on which future progress could be based.
.- The Government is fully justified in expecting the speedy passage’ of this measure. I was pleased to hear the effective reply which the Minister foY Munitions (Mr. Makin) made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) in reference to the activities of his department, which has done so much for our war services. I applaud the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in regard to water conservation schemes and engineering surveys to link up the different projects throughout New South Wales. This matter should occupy the minds of all thinking persons, and the works suggested should be the first to be constructed. Honorable members should study the speech of the right honorable gentleman with a view to determining whether the engineering surveys proposed could be made during a time of war. The Government is asking the Parliament to appropriate £55,557,000, of which £40,000,000 is to go to the services. A note states that, for security reasons, it is not desirable to disclose details of this expenditure. I understand the reason for that. But there is one section of the services which I desire to criticize. The Commonwealth War Disposals Commission has been functioning for nearly twelve months, yet it has not presented a balance-sheet or any itemization of releases or sales of materials. The time has arrived when it should present an account of its activities. There is something wrong with a department that has been operating for twelve months, yet has released only a small quantity of used materials. Large quantities are awaiting release. Camps that are not now in use should be completely dismantled, and the whole of the materials that they contain should he sold to the public by the commission. - Many valuable transport vehicles are lying idle. If they are in out-of-the-way places, and it is not convenient to bring them to the southern States, they should be sold where they stand. The people have every, right to these materials, and the commission should proceed to dispose- of them, so that they may be put to use at a time when there is such a desperate shortage of man-power that new manufacture is not possible. The Department of Health is being allotted £53,000 for a period of three months, which seems to be in. proportion to the £202,000 which was voted for this department last year. In my opinion, a larger amount should ba voted to permit of the inauguration of a Commonwealth-wide tuberculosis prevention scheme, the establishment of sanatoriums for the treatment of tuberculosis cases, and the medical examination of children with a view to wiping out this terrible scourge. The Government should make available to the public the results of the latest medical research.
An amount of £124,000 is to he allotted to cover expenditure on the administration of social services. This department is doing excellent work, and covers a wide field of activity. There have been complaints about the declining, birth-rate which, taken in conjunction with the increasing longevity of the people, is tending to place upon the community an unduly heavy burden for social services. T suggest that one contribution towards the solution of the problem would be the reduction of the adult age from 21 to nineteen years. Young men are required at the age of eighteen to fight for their country. Therefore, I maintain, at the age of nineteen, at any rate, they are entitled to the franchise and to the basic wage. The school leaving age should be fifteen, after which there would be an apprenticeship period of four years. There may be various difficulties in the way of putting this suggestion into effect, and these could be examined and reported upon by the Parliamentary Committee on Social Security. Only the other day, a young man of twenty years of age, who had served in the Navy for three and a half years, was denied the right to marry without his parent’s consent. I believe that every young woman should bc married at the age of nineteen, and every man at the age of 23 or 24.
An amount of £5,800,000 is, to be voted for the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is one of the most valuable assetsin the possession of tha Commonwealth, but has always been the Cinderella among. Commonwealth departments. In practically every post office in Australia the staff is working at high speed-, in dingy and cramped rooms, and in little comfort. Compare the past office in any town with the branch of the Commonwealth Bank,; and note the difference. There are carpets cn the floor in. the bank, but only bare boards in the post office. The bank has a beautiful polished counter, whereas the counter in most post offices is dirty and ink-stained. I admit, that a considerable amount of business is done in branches of the Commonwealth Bank, but the work there, cannot be compared in intensity with that in most post offices. I believe that the post office, should receive a more generous vote so as to enable improved facilities to be provided. As a matter of fact, I want two or three new post offices in my own electorate, and the department should,, I maintain, embark upon a general policy of post office reconstruction. The telephone branch also should be overhauled. Improved telephone facilities will have to be provided after the war if business in Australia is to be in a position to compete on equal terms with its overseas competitors. Moreover, it would mean a great deal to people who, after the war, will move out into homes in new suburbs, if a continuous telephone service were available to them.
I direct the attention of the Government to a grave anomaly in regard to the penalties imposed on big business firms- for black-marketing offences. Indeed, some of the penalties represent a travesty of justice, a bad joke against the community. One large firm convicted of an offence of this kind was merely required to return to the public, indirectly, the money which it had illegally extracted by overcharging to the amount of many thousands of pounds.
This actually placed it in. a, favorable trade position as compared with, its: competitors. I.t advertised over the air men’s suits f on £& Ss.. 8d. when, the price charged by other firms was. £5. 12s. 6d., and it represented itself as a public benefactor, saying that, id was trying to. keep down, prices, when, in point of fact, it had been scientifically and systematically robbing the public. We are mats supposed to’ criticize the courts, but. we ought to let it b* known that we do. not approve of conferring trade advantages on lawbreakers.
About a fortnight ago, I referred to men now serving sentences of various terms in civil gaols f or military offences. They have not committed any civil offence, merely military ones, for which they were convicted, sentenced, and discharged’ from the Army. Prior to their entry into, the Army they had. led’ unblemished lives. Some of them were not fitted to be soldiers. Some were great soldiers, who,, after three or more years’ service, were burnt out. Probably,, they w&re more in need of medical attention than of; disciplinary action. Others were dragged into the forces at the age of eighteen years. They all were supposed to conform to the same pattern, but some men are not fitted for military life. They arc now in gaol, and the allotments to their wives, and. children have been stopped. They are not doing anything useful for the community although there is such a shortage of man-power. They should be released on parole so that they might have a chance of re-establishing themselves in civil life.
Some time ago, the Australian Division of the Empire Parliamentary Association recommended that a chair, similar to the Speaker’s chair in this chamber, should be presented to the British House of Commons to replace that which was destroyed by enemy bombing. Our own Speaker’s chair is a replica of that which was destroyed; we received it as a gift from, the United Kingdom, branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association, and [ believe that it would be a graceful act for us to reciprocate the generosity of our fellow members of the Imperial Parliament by now presenting to the House of Commons a chair for its projected new building.
Mr.. ABBOTT (New England) [9.59 j. - Without any apology, I once again draw attention to the position of men in the Australian Imperial Force who have had five years’ service, including overseas service in operational areas. That also applies to men in the Boya! Australian Air Force with long service overseas who’ have had no leave and are not getting, their discharges. I submit that the number of soldiers concerned cannot be very great. Knowing something about the wastage of war in the war of 1914-18 and the casualties that have taken place in this war in both our own forces and those of our Allies, I believe I am perfectly safe in saying that not more than 10,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force are involved. Many of them are in Australia, and are not at battle stations in the islands to the north. It is utterly wrong for the Acting Prime Minister to say, as he said this afternoon, that it is impossible to draw those men from battle areas because the units of which they are members are fighting at Tarakan and Labuan and Borneo. It is ridiculous to say that gradual withdrawals could not start immediately and continue with increasing volume as the, situation permits. No reason exists why withdrawals could not start to-morrow morning if the Government would demand that the High Command shall carry out the orders of the War Cabinet. I understand that in the operational areas there are plenty of reinforcements. From all parts of Australia I have received tremendous numbers of letters, from which I intend to read extracts, in support of the action that I have taken ever since the issue of the release of the men arose. Nineteen days have elapsed since the Acting Prime Minister announced that these men were to be released. We were told last week that we should have a statement to-day, but to-day we were told that a fuller statement- would be made next week. No doubt next week we shall hear the same thing. Time is passing, and time is precious to men whose lives are in danger. It is wicked that these men should be deprived of the right of saying that they wish to be “ released a f tor having spent five or six years in the forces in the Pacific, Greece, Crete and Libya. A private in a South Australian battalion whoso SX number is well under 2,000 says -
I remember listening to :i statement by our
G i! iki nil Officer Commanding Blainey, that for every man in the lino, it takes another 25 men tn keep thom going, and that the 25 men are fully trained ready to take their place in the line. As a soldier and a civilian please ask Mr. Chifley where in the “hell are they?”
Where in the hell are they?
– Order !
– It is all right for you to say “ Order Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is not a pleasant order for men who have had no chance of saying that they desire their discharge.
– Put him out!
– It is a pity the Government will not put some of the men out. I have a considerable number of letters in a somewhat similar strain.
– Have you them there?
– Most of them- To read the lot would take up all the rest of the night. The letter from which I have already quoted continues -
Why should they be asked to carry on, all thu time. Surely not to collect “ honour and glory “ for a body of men at Canberra who are not fit to call themselves Labour men.
He then says that he had a letter from his brother-in-law -
Why is it that the Government talks about releases when the 0th and 9th are away and probably the 7th are mighty close. Mr. Chifley cannot deny this, no doubt he would have some plausible tale to tell, ‘but believe me, if he only knew how sadly disillusioned many of the chaps are, he’d never sleep.
So he goes on. In a particularly pathetic passage this man, who has spent almost six years at the front, says -
The men who are and should be given release are serving once again and believe me, as an old infantry man, you cannot dodge it every time. Sooner or later it must catch up with you.
That is what many of them feel. They fear that sooner or later the death that they have managed to avoid so far will overtake them, and that they will suffer the fate from which they would be preserved if the Government would only carry out its undertaking to them. A man with an NX number says -
Read your article in the last night’s paper concerning service discharges for men with five years’ service. 1 have applied for discharge on several -occasions owing to my mother’s health and hardship.
His latest application was not approved four weeks ago. He goes on -
I thought you may be able to help my application.
I hope what I am going to put to the House now will be heeded by the Government. The man in this case is not in the forward zone. He is middle aged. He enlisted on the 3rd June, 1940, and has been in the forces for more than five years. He is classed as medically B2, and is fighting on the Sydney front in a clerical job. I do not know what honesty there is in the expressed intention of the Government to release these men. They and the people of Australia have been badly misled. Here is a letter from a lady in Sydney -
Hearty congratulations on your move to show the Army up for the unfair treatment that has been meted out to our gallant lads of the Australian Imperial Force in returning them to active service once again. They have, given all for the past five years and surely now should be given a chance, without delay, to re-establish themselves in civil life. I would also recommend to your attention the leave position of the ground staff of the Royal Australian Air Force and unite of tinAustralian Imperial Force serving in the Pacific. Our papers tell us that all members are given leave at the end of twelve or fifteen months’ tropical service. My husband has been island-hopping for the past twenty months with no hope of leave in sight.
That is a common phrase in these letters. Letter after letter claims that men have had no leave for fourteen or fifteen months. Rarely do you find men- having leave once in twelve months. Some have had only two “ home leaves “ in four or five years. The writer goes on - .
I have worked in a protected government industry for the past four years, and have seen fit young men come hiding in jobs, jobs which could bc more capably handled by women.
Now I come to a letter from a man at Kalinga, Queensland -
I have been reading with interest the articles published recently with reference to the release from the Army of men with five years’ service and as one of the old soldiers in this camp I would like to say that we very much appreciate your strenuous efforts on our behalf. At this camp some of us are on draft to leave Australia for the fourth time and will be gone before the Army General Routine Order is issued, but the burning question in our minds is whether we will be returned for release or will we have t<> weather a sixth or seventh campaign.
He adds -
He was severely wounded in New Guinea and medically down-graded, tout is now classed Al and about to go abroad. Hehas repeatedly tried for release but without success.
Does that indicate much sincerity on the part of the Government in regard. to the release of these men? Here is a letter from the mother of a soldier in South Australia -
My sonis married and has two little girls - it is on account of his wife that I am so anxious for him to come home. Her nerves are in a bad state and, unfortunately for her, she is a good wife and mother.
A man at Gawler, South Australia, writes -
Is it not possible for immediate notice to be sent tothese stations of war, requesting that these men should be taken out of the front line in operational areas and given the one great chance of life, which they have so bitterly earned.
Here is another letter from Queensland. Speaking of her husband, the writer says -
My husband is one of those who have already been sent awaysince the 24th May. 1945,after having joined up in April, 1940. Spent eighteen months in the MiddleEast, two years in New Guinea and had his last leave in April and May of last year, 1944.
Twelve months have elapsed since he has had leave.She goes on -
Has been up in Atherton since then and now has been sent away from Australia without any pre-embarkation leave. He is a sergeant in the . . . Battalion, . . . Division, and there are quite a few other of his mates with just as long a service as he has, who also have not had a chance to say if they are willing or not to keep on fighting.
They have never had a chance to say that they want to get out of the Army. Here is another letter from a mother at Brunswick -
I am a widowed mother and lost my younger son, killed in action in New Guinea, 1942, and now I think I am justified in wanting the release of my elder son. My sole surviving male relative. My elder son has had five years’ service with the Australian Imperial Force, over three years having been spent in the Middle East and New Guinea, and now I have received word that he has again been sent to a Pacific island.
She says she applied for the release of her son some months ago and was told that he would not be released. That strain is continued throughout these letters. Here is a letter from a woman at Ashfield -
My husband has been in the Army for five years, and my greatest wish is that he get a release very soon. He has been in the Middle East and New Guinea and has been sent away again just recently. The home leave he had was over twelve months ago.
– What is his name?
– It ill becomes the honorable member to criticize him seeing that at his age he is not in uniform.
– He is in my electorate.
– I do not care what electorate he is in. He is in the Army and has no chance of getting out. Another woman writes -
As the wife of a soldier of almost six years’ service, and who has now only two weeks ago been sent once again to face hell–
She does not express herself too harshly when she says that. She hopes - that stepswill be taken to remedy this rotten atrocity . . . My husband joined the Army in October, 1939, went to England, saw service in the Middle East and New Guinea and because the military consider him still Al in health, think that it is very “ human “ to take the last ounce of a man’s resistance. As one man of military authority told my husband last year thatwith a number like his he ought to have been shot long ago, and I wonder now if that is not the general attitude of quite a few in authority.
That is the sort of thing that is going on in the country. This letter is from a woman at Petersham -
Iam very interested in your fight for the soldiers who have served five years and over, as I am the wife of a gunner who has served five years and two months in the Army, with two and a half years’ Middle East service, and . is now at Tarakan, in action again. I feel that we have not been treated fairly, as my husband has served his country well, and we both desire his release more than anything.
He has never had an opportunity to get out. The husband of the writer of the following letter joined the 7th Division from Kensington when he was seventeen years of age : -
What seems so unjust is to see a number of fine healthy young men in protected industries, walking the streets of Sydney who, surely, could replace a few of these boys who have donefive years of service. It appears to me that the Government has played a confidence trick on these boys by sending them away to a new battlefront, at the same time telling the public that they will give them the option of a release.
The extracts that I have read show that the people of Australia are grievously worried about the failure to carry out the promise made by the Acting Prime Minister on the 1st June. No reason exists other than the passive resistance of the
Army why those men caniiQt.be gradually released at a quickened tempo. Despite all the stories, that we have heard about talks, with the CommanderinChief in the Sou.th-W-est Pacific, General Macarthur, the Joint Committee for Defence in Washington and the Army, chiefs in London, every possible obstacle is being- put in the way of releases. The Government should realize the tremendous bitterness that is. being created in the minds of the people, and take action to ensure the making of the releases. It could not be said, that the releases would imperil the war effort, because there are many trained reinforcements in Australia that, could be sent forward.
– -Does the honor able member know h.ow many men are involved?
Mr-, ABBOTT.- I made that point clear earlier when I said that, not more than 10,000: men of the Australian Imperial Force would be involved.
– The honorable member is completely out in his. estimate.
-I challenge the Minister to. give the exact figures, since there is no question of security involved.,
I wish now to refer to the growth of communism in Australia. According to a report which appeared in the Sydney. Morning Herald on the 18th June, the. Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) referred to this subject in an address in Sydney and complained bitterly about remarks that Mr. Thornton, of the Federated Ironworkers Union, had made about our White Australia policy. I believe that it is absolutely essential for us to adhere to our White Australia policy if we are to preserve this country for the white race and preserve our living standard. In making that statement I do not suggest that the coloured peoples of the world are inferior to the white peoples, or that we are a race set apart. If Asiatics and other coloured peoples were allowed to flow into this country in unrestricted numbers, Australia would soon cease to be white, for our population is too small to stand against unrestricted coloured migration. I am glad that the VicePresident of the Executive Council condemned communism and expressed his firm belief in the necessity to maintain a white Australia. But if the honorable gentleman considered it necessary tocriticize Mr., Thornton, why did he not see. fi,t to criticize the leader pf the South, Australian Branch o.f the Labour party, Mr. Richards, M.P.,. fcu? the statements, he made on the, 5th January 1944?, In referring to vital statistics in England,. Mr. Richards, said tha.t it would be impossible for Great Britain to send many migrants to, Australia,, and that we therefore had seriously, to consider our White Australia policy. He stated -
The problem raised the question,: Would the British Commonwealth ‘agree that any dominion should rest content with a standard of living and an adequate defence system while other dominions had teeming millions of starving citizens who were ready aud eager to populate and defend it?.
He was referring, at the time, to. the situation in Bengal and to the appointment of Mr. R. G. Casey to the Governorship of the Province. Why also did npt ‘the Vice-President of the Executive Council criticize the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) for having made the following remarks in this House an the 19th July, 1944:–
I am forced now, however, to. make some remarks which may be severely criticize’! because of their possible effect Upon the White Australia policy which I always advocated.
– This is the second time that the. honorable member for New England has quoted those remarks.
– I may quote them for the twenty-second time before I have finished with. them. The honorable gentleman also said on that occasion -
When people do mc a good turn I consider that I ought to do them a service in return. I.u connexion with the problem that is in my mind now it may be said, “ You accepted, black brown, yellow, and brindle races into Australia when it was necessary to defend this country, yet you say now that because of the White Australia policy such people cannot remain here and live with you. ‘ They may shod their Wood for you, tout they may not live with you “. I feel rather inclined to reject the idea of any people of a different colour (joining to defend mc, unless I am prepared to say afterwards, “ Welcome, .brothers . We have to ask ourselves some questions about our White Australia policy.
As the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not criticize either Mr. Richards or the honorable member for Hunter he must expect to be charged with inconsistency, to ray the least of it. T do not know what reason the honorable member for Hunter had for making lii: remarks,andIdonotknowwhathisview is on the White Australia policy, but apparently he favoured , the withdrawal of the existing restrictions.
– Only a biased mind could put that interpretation on what I said.
– I think that is the meaningoftheplainEnglishwhichthe honorable member used. It seems to me that the Government is terrified of the Communists, for it realizes that the Communist party is infiltrating the trade union movement of Australia. This infiltration began in 1933, when Mr.Orr, a Communist, was elected president of the miners’ federation. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Nelson, also a Communist, was elected to one of the executive offices of the union. In 1936, Mr, Tom Wright, a Communist, was elected secretary of the Sheetmetal Workers Union. Later he became president of the organization. Not long after that, Mr. Healy was elected tooffice in the Waterside Workers Federation, and then Mr. Wells was elected: federal president of the miners’ federation.
– Will the honorable member repeat outside the statement he has made about Mr. Nelson?
– We know very well that the Communists are making great strides in their effort to capture the whole trade union movement in New South Wales.
-What has the Government to do with all this?
– If the honorable memberhadbeen amember of this Parliament in 1940 he would know that the Government of the day declared the Communist party an illegal organization, hut when the Labour Government assumed office it withdrew the embargo on the Communists. Since then Communists have popped up everywhere. In order to show how the unions are being overrun, I direct attention to the following passage from Communismin Australia, by J. T. Lang: -
So although the Communist party only has a membership variously admitted by its own loaders as between 20,000 and 40,000 it has captured control of somewhere in the vicinity of500,000 Australian trades unionists and has access to trade union income of somewhere in the vicinity of £1,000,000 a year.
Mr. Lang then gave a list of the unions in New South Wales which are controlled byCommunists ; it included the following organizations : -
Carpenters and Joiners.
Engine Drivers and Firemen.
Sheet Metal Workers.
Hotel, Club and Restaurant Employees.
Wool and Basil Workers.
We know, also, that the Australian Workers Union is engaged in a most strenuous fight to save itself from being captured by the Communists. In this connexion the general secretary of the union, Mr. T. Dougherty, has issued a manifesto. In a report published on the 30th May, 1945, the following passage appeared : -
Charges that Communists and other disgruntled members are secretly organizing shearing strikes are suggested by the general secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, Mr. T. Dougherty, in a manifesto to members of his union.
In June, 1943, a determined effort was made by the Communists to cause the head-quarters of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to be moved from Melbourne to Sydney, and this was successful. It was indicated clearly at the conference of that organization in Sydney this year that the Communists are achieving a considerable degree ofsuccess in their efforts to secure the appointment of their nominees to the leading positions in the council. Mr. Lang describes in his book Communism in Australia how theCommunists work. I invite the attention of honorable members to the following extract: -
An example of Communist methods in the Ironworkers Union was, furnished by the fantastic proceedings at PortKembla in July, 1944. A dispute occurred regarding a number of men to be retrenched. The union held a conference with the manpowerauthorities, and the union officials agreed to decidewhich employees must go, and which would remain. On July 26, the Communist delegates of the Ironworkers Union notified 31 men that their services had been terminated and that they must obtain a clearance from the office of the Ironworkers Union and then report to the man-power office at Wollongong. The men refused to accept these noticesof dismissal. The employing company declared it knew nothing of the union’s arrangements. So the men reported for work as usual. The Communists held a meeting on the job, andagaininstructedthementhattheymust resign their jobs. Againtheyrefused.So the Communists staged a stop-work meeting in a Port Kembla theatre, attended by 400 out of the 1,200 in that particular works. A microphone was erected on the stage in readiness for the trial of the “ victims “.
Let me remind honorable members that the events I am reading about occurred in Australia and not in Russia, or Germany or Italy. The extract continues -
Communist after Communist spoke over the load-speakersystem exhorting the men to go quietly. They assured them that they would be making a real contribution to the class struggle. Then the chairman called the victims to the microphone. One by one - like the accused at the Moscow trials - they were led forward. Some said they would carry out the union directive. Others defiantly said that they would notbe sacked by the union. It was then decided that any one returning to the job would have to pass through a picket line as a “scab”. The Communist cell manned the picket line. Those that agreed to go quietly were told that they must report toman-power. that their fellowworkers had refused to work with them. Yes, that happened in an Australian town.
In spite of all this, the Government recently issued an emergency National Security Regulation to protect certain individuals who bad been threatened with legal proceedings for taking part in a Communist-inspired illegal stoppage at Port Kembla. The men concerned attempted to organize a strike which was purely Communist in its essence, and was designed to assist the cause of revolution in this country.
We know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council bates communism. He has fought Communists for many years, and you. Mr. Speaker, were a member of the anti-Communist Labour party in this House at one time. But, despite this hatred, the Minister has appointed Mr. Healy, the Communist secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, to a position on the Stevedoring Commission, where he sits in company with Sir Thomas Gordon. He has also appointed Mr. T. V. Elliott, the Communist national secretary of the Seamen’s Union, to the Maritime Commission, and Mr. Orr, the Commiunist ex-secretary of the Miners Federation, to the Coal Commission. This is the
Minister who, at the conference of the Australian Labour party severely criticized the Communists. I draw the atten- tion of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to the appointment of Mr. Norman Jeffery to the war loans office in the Department of the Treasury. That gentleman has a long history as a Communist agitator in the industrial life of Australia. He first appeared in the role of a “ Ham and Eggs “ striker on one of the shipping lines running to New Zealand. He played havoc with inter-dominion shipping services because, in his opinion, the seamen on the vessel did not have sufficient ham and eggs, for their breakfast. His next appearance was in the pastoral industry, in which he greatly injured the Australian Workers Union. For his sins or his merits, he has been rewarded with a position in the Department of the Treasury. The Mein Kampf of the Communist party in Australia is the publication The Trade Unions, by L. Sharkey. In it we find this passage -
The general run of strikes in Australia have been of an economic character, or confined to economic demands, by the reformists.
The Communist party believes in political strikes, because -
Political strikes are a higher form of struggle than economic strikes. Such strikes challenge the Government, the State, the rule of the capitalist class. One of our chief trade union tasks is the politicalization of strikes.
That is the class of strike which occurred at Port Kembla last May Day. The Government is doing nothing to try to crush Communism, that insidious curse which is reaching right to the heart of the trade unions and is strangling them. It is allowed to develop week after week. It was permitted to take part in the referendum campaign, of which it had almost complete charge. Yet the Government wonders why the referendum was lost ! The sole representative of Australian trade unions at conferences abroad, not once, but thrice, has been the most notorious Communist in Australia - Mr. Thornton, of the Ironworkers Federation. Another plank in the programme of the Communist party is the destruction of craft unions in Australia. Mr. Sharkey says-
One of the bigger tasks in the trade union movement of the country is that of replacing the existing craft form of organization witu organization “ by shop i.e., by the establishment of industrial unions.
Some years ago, I sat with you, Mr. Speaker, upon a man-power committee which was composed of members of this Parliament. In a tour of Australia, we met representatives of many trade unions, employers, and other workers. In ‘Sydney, we met representatives of the Ship Joiners Union, which consists of master craftsmen who are engaged in joinery work on ships. Mr. Thornton, Mr. Sharkey, and other Communist leaders are doing their level best (to. destroy that society, yet the ‘Government does nothing to prevent them. Before long the Communists will destroy the Government. If the Government wishes to continue in office, it should cease to flirt with them and should wage a genuine war against them, instead of making insincere attacks like that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), while at the same time co-operating cheek by jowl with them on trade unions and other bodies.
We have heard a good deal about what has been done and left undone by the Australian delegation at San Francisco. The piece de resistance was the statement published in the press yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), that Australia was known at the conference as “ the leader of the small nations “. What a motley band of nations Australia has been leading - Cuba, Liberia, Haiti, Bolivia, Panania, and other South American republics. Leading them in what? In opposition to the British Commonwealth of Nations, of which we are a part, and upon which we depend largely for our protection and our trade. It would be very much better if Australia were recognized in the comity of nations as one of the leaders in the British Empire, instead of attempting to lead a band of disgruntled nations, some of which have fascist administrations. The Government of Argentina, for instance, was described by the late President Roosevelt and Mr. Sumner Wells as Fascist in character. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) staged a fight in connexion with the veto provisions that were agreed to at the Yalta conference by the late President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and Mr. Churchill. We have been told all sorts of things in the Australian press to indicate the importance of what the Attorney-General has been doing. It was said that he had secured the adoption of a provision which would protect the White Australia policy. The veto power which Britain has in common with (he other four major powers on the council, is the greatest safeguard the White Australia policy could have; because it is inconceivable that Britain would desert a dominion in connexion with its interna] and domestic policy. The Empire is too closely knit for that to occur. The crimson threads of kinship that bind the Empire are real and strong. I do not believe that the United Kingdom, the land from which we sprang, knowing what the White Australia policy means to us, would be a party to the flooding of this” country with coloured migrants. The Attorney-General’s arguments and actions at the conference might have driven Russia from it. That was a grave danger. The reason for the failure of the League of Nations after the last war was, largely, that the late President Wilson was not able to secure the endorsement of the covenant by the American Senate, with the result that the United States of America was not one of the nations that composed the league. The present peace organization also will be doomed to failure if all the great nations are not members of it. We all hope that God will not allow it to fail. The hopes and aspirations of millions of people throughout the world are bound up in the success or failure of the new body. It will never succeed if any of the major powers becomes detached from it. Because of this the Attorney-General did no good service to Australia, however much he might have elevated himself in the opinion of the other delegates. Whatever his personal ambitions may have been, he assisted neither Australia nor the British Commonwealth of Nations by taking a line which was most detrimental, not only to the White Australia policy, but also to the success of the whole conference. Had he succeeded, Russia might have been driven from the conference, and the peace of the world as well as the future of humanity might have been imperilled.
.- -Th honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), in characteristic style, has made a disgruntled speech. Hie mail.tioned releases from the services, about which lie lias been talking in .this House for some weeks; the efforts of the Communists to destroy the Labour party - as though he was -concerned about that! - and the actions of Labour Ministers at the conference :at San Francisco. Big crocodile tears welled up in bis eyes. Not one word of commendation did he utter for the work which the Government had done during its tenure of office: He is so biased that he cannot see the timber for the trees. Tn regard to releases from the forces, he has become a first-class scaremonger, who delights in playing on the feelings of the mothers, wives and sweethearts of the men who are in the services. Had he continued to occupy a ministerial position, many more of our servicemen would have been prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese in Burma and elsewhere, and there would have been no opportunity for their release. It is all very -well to talk about what the Government is not doing to expedite the release of men with long service. T believe it to be perfectly true that there is reluctance on the part of some officers to have the services reduced. There are reasons for that. But anybody who charges the Government with insincerity, is himself insincere. Destructive criticism and a sufficient play on the fears of the people, will always gain commendation in some quarters. When I criticized certain aspects of the Army Administration some time ago, I received telegrams and letters of commendation from all parts of Australia, although I had not spoken with that purpose, but only in expression of what I believed to be true. The honorable member for New England has referred to letters he has received from every State except Tasmania. Nobody is more anxious than the Government and its supporters to have the plan for the release of men with long service given effect as early as possible, in order that, having rendered excellent service to their country, those nien may be returned to their homes.
The bogy about the Labour party’s association with Communism has been raised time and .again, despite repeated denials by leading men in the Labour movement. The Labour party has never supported Communism, which has always had a damaging effect on the Labour movement. This bogy has been raised merely for cheap party political propaganda. It is all humbug for honorable members opposite to pretend that they are concerned lest Communism should destroy the Labour Government. That is what they desire.
– The criticism is not intended that way.
– J give the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) credit for frankness, but some members of the Opposition would destroy die Government by any means, fair or foul. Criticism has been directed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) against the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), but the Minister has answered him most effectively.
The bill under consideration provides supply for all government services, but I shall refer particularly to social services. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) refer to the work of the Social Security Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman. Tt would be well to examine the points raised by him as to methods by which the birth-rate could be increased. In my opinion men should marry before reaching the age of ^3 years. I was married long before attaining that age, and I do not consider that I am any worse for it. In paragraph 29 of its first report the Social Security Committee made the following recommendation -
That a Commonwealth Social Security Act, to be administered toy the Department of Social Services, be passed by the Federal Parliament, the scope of the Act to be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all Commonwealth social legislation, including those measures now in existence and those to be enacted from time to time as part of a Social Security Plan in Australia.
That is one of the important aspects of the social security programme envisaged by the committee, much of which has already been implemented piecemeal. Australia is passing through the greatest crisis in its history, and it has done very well up to the present in putting a progressive social security programme into operation ; but I should like the Government to introduce a measure for the purpose of placing on the statute.book a social security act embracing all of the social legislation which has been passed and into which the whole of our future . social legislation might fit. All democratic countries have been talking about the grand new world which we are to have after the war. Phrases have been coined and books have been written about it, but, after all, we should be realistic in our attitude to the matter. There will be no new order, unless we deal with the problems confronting us in such a manner that the people, irrespective of their social status, shall enjoy an adequate standard of comfort. I am glad to know that in New Zealand the problem is viewed from this aspect, and [ hope that provision will soon be made in Commonwealth legislation so that a man with a wife and one child shall not have to accept less than a certain standard of comfort. The late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. “William Temple, in a booklet entitled Christianity and the Social Order, said -
The approach to the problem in our own time is to be made along four distinct lines: (1) the claims of sympathy for those who suffer; (2) the educational influence of the social and economic system; (3) the challenge offered to our existing system in the name of justice; (4) the duty of conformity to the “Natural Order” in which is to be found the purpose of God.
The suffering caused by existing evils makes si claim upon our sympathy which the Christian heart and conscience cannot ignore. Before the outbreak of war there were three main causes of widespread suffering - bad housing, malnutrition, and unemployment.
The bad conditions in slum quarters are not chiefly duo to the people living there. When they “are moved to new housing estates, more than half of them rise fully to the fresh opportunity, and three-quarters of them make a reasonable use of it. The toleration of bad housing is a wanton and callous cruelty.
The late Dr. Temple proceeded to speak of what should be done for the mothers of families and for the people generally in the new world to which reference is frequently made. His statements recall to my mind an article which I wrote for a monthly publication, and in which I dealt with social security legislation from ‘ this particular aspect, because of the knowledge which l had gained from several years’ association with the Social Security Committee. In the course of the article I wrote -
Equally important we must see to it that mothers in the home are not simply the drudges of the family; the kindergarten idea needs development. We have this model system in miniature in the capital cities, in the Lady Gowrie Child Welfare Centre. To have these model systems is not enough, we need such institutions in all the suburbs where mother can be relieved of the responsibility of the young children until midday when the hardest part of her work has been completed.
The appointment of a Ministry for Motherhood might well be considered in this new post-war world. The qualifications for motherhood to-day go far beyond being a female. ‘Hie success of to-morrow’s world depends on the mothers. It is no good merely to say that we have got to provide means whereby the horror, shame, drudgery and misery are taken away and security happiness and dignity replace them. Should we not train our mothers to fit them for the responsibility of their task.
We should broaden our approach to the problem of the social and living conditions of the people. First, we require a Social Security Department whose ministerial head has a sympathetic and realistic outlook and is also determined to tackle the problem. I am satisfied that people who live in slums are not, in the main, slum-dwellers by choice, but because of their lack of opportunity to enjoy decent housing conditions. In slum areas in Australia, I have seen houses with well polished door handles and brass name-plates. In other cases I have noticed white-washed window sills and well-tended flower gardens, showing that the occupants are doing their best to make their homes attractive. It is not easy to accomplish the reforms that are desirable, but a start should be made.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to the cost of our social services, but it is not true that they are provided free. Under the Commonwealth plan now in operation everybody who pays income tax contributes to the National Welfare Fund which was established as the result of legislation introduced by the present Government a year or two ago. It seems to me that a certain percentage of the taxes levied on the people should be ear-marked in order to show how much is contributed for social services and how much for general taxation purposes.
An announcement was broadcast to-day that the coupon scale in respect of certain woollen textiles had been reduced. Special reference was made to men’s halfhose. I consider that the reduction was not great enough, and I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) will further investigate the matter. Woollen textiles are no longer in short supply. If it be possible to make a further reduction of the coupon scale, that should be done as soon as possible. The heavy expenditure provided for in this bill will continue until the war situation is so improved that production of munitions can be considerably reduced and more men released from the services. T support the bill.
Debate (no motion by Mr. Bernard Corser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 27th April, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said in this House that my department was attempting to evict a widower and his three children from their home at Alice Springs. I replied on the 12th June, to the effect that that statement was not correct and that the children were not living with their father and, in fact, had returned to Adelaide. The honorable member then suggested that there was an overabundance of houses at Alice Springs - which he had seen - and that protests were made against people having to vacate their houses to make way for senior officers. Those statements are not founded on fact. The housing position in Alice Springs, as I said previously, is acute. At present there are at least 21 government employees and a long list of private persons awaiting housing accommodation in Alice Springs. In view of this situation, it is not reasonable that men whose families are not with them should occupy houses. However, I understand that the officer in question has since re-married and is bringing his family back to Alice Springs. If he resides in the house with his wife and family his tenancy will not be disturbed. He has been assured that if he brings his wife and children to Alice Springs and they occupy the house he may remain in possession. As for the honorable gentleman’s other sta tennent that there is no shortage of houses at Alice Springs, officers of my department assure me that there is an acute shortage. If the honorable gentleman contests that statement I shall have a further investigation made.
.- The Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) made an interesting statement. I did not say that the man had his children at Alice Springs. If the Minister looks at the Hansard report of my speech, he will see that I said that the gentleman could not get anybody to look after his children at Alice Springs and had been forced to send them to Adelaide. I also said that he had made arrangements to re-marry on the 9th June, and that his prospective wife had undertaken to look after his children at Alice Springs. Therefore he wanted his house.
– He has it.
– The honorable gentleman also misquoted me when he said that I had implied that there was a surplus of houses at Alice Springs. I said nothing of the sort.
– Hansard records the honorable member as saying that there were houses “ to burn “ at Alice Springs.
– So there are. 1 have informed the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that three married constables with their wives and families are living in one fourroomed house. When I placed that information before the Minister, they were “ third-degreed “ in order to find out which of them had spoken to me. None of them had, but residents of Alice Springs, not government servants, interested in these things asked me to visit the dwelling. The Government commandeered the Australian Inland Mission Home for expectant mothers three or four years ago. It has not yet been handed back. I have communicated wilh the Minister for the Interior asking the Government to provide the mission with another building erected at Alice Springs for the Allied Works Council, or vacate the building belonging to the Australian Inland Mission. That could very well be clone.
– I will look into that.
– Not one of those things has been done yet. I also asked the Minister for the Interior to have another home built for the expectant mothers. He said that he could not because it would cost £850 to build a five-roomed iron house! I asked the Minister to inspect the accommodation provided for the warders of the gaol. I have done so. One of them lives in a shack which is a standing disgrace to the Commonwealth Government. I ask the Minister to go and have a look at it.
– I will.
– He will have something to look at. If a high-ranking official goes to Alice Springs, the poor devil on a lower rate of pay has to get out. This Government cannot justify that.
– I do not stand for that.
– Last week the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, was in Canberra. Why did the Minister not give me the opportunity to talk these things over with him? Three or four years ago, money was put on the Estimates for the erection of a building for half-castes to live in instead of their ghastly hovels, but nothing has been done. I put it to the Minister that the Allied Works Council substantially reduced its staff at Alice Springs last October, and that the Army has got out, but I do not know whether the Army has yet handed over the children’s playground, which was one of the first places taken over by the Army. It was nicely fenced in for the children to play in, but, notwithstanding the empty spaces around Alice Springs, the Army had to have it for a camp. [ have included a few of the things the Minister could look at if he went to Alice Springs. I should like to be with him.
– I should like the honorable member to be with me, because the acid test could be applied to the honorable member’s charges and they would be found to be lacking in substance as have the other charges.
– I am not afraid of the acid test. I have seen these places. It is time that some Commonwealth Minister visited Alice Springs and looked at these things for himself. There are two geographical features at Alice Springs which aptly describe the Government’s attitude. One is Billy Goat Hill and the other is Mount Blatherskite.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 -
No. 33 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association and Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 34 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
No. 35 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 36 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 37 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 38 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health - J. J. Doyle.
Customs Act -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 87.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Prohibited places.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1 945 - No. 3 - Co-operative Trading Societies.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1945 - No. 7 - Trustee.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
Australian Prisoners of War : Discharge.
n asked the Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Fadden asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Did he, on the 1st July, 1942, appoint a committee to investigate the dairying industry?
In the letter appointing the committee, did he emphasize the urgency of the matter?
When did the committee submit its interim report?
In that report, did the committee recommend that immediate steps be taken with the object of securing a minimum return to dairyfarmers of not less than1s.5½d. per lb., commercial butter, and that to ensure such a return, prices on the Commonwealth market be increased by 3d. per lb. in the case of butter, and 2d. per lb. in the case of cheese?
Did the committee, in a second report, dated August, 1942, state that examination of further evidence available to it confirmed the recommendations made in its interim report, referred to in paragraph 4?
Did the committee, in that report, inform the Minister that witnesses had confirmed its expressed views in that they were unanimous in their emphatic belief that a price increase was the only means of quickly lifting production to desired levels?
Did the Government reject the recommendations referred to in paragraphs 4 and 5?
What delay occurred between the submission of the committee’s interim report and the introduction into Parliament of the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill?
Did that legislation provide for the payment of a subsidy of £ 2,000,000?
When were the first subsidy payments made under that legislation?
On how many pounds of butter was (a) the subsidy paid during the financialyear ended the 30th June, 1943, and what wasthe total amount of subsidy paid during that period; and (b) the £2,000,000 subsidy paid?
y. - The answers tothe honorable member’s questions areas follows : -
t asked the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– It is not desirable to publish information as to the numbers of aircraft ordered by the Government, or of the authorizations of funds and expenditure which are included in the secret estimates of expenditure for defence and war services. However, the information will shortly be furnished privately to the honorable member.
Royal Australian Air Force: Leave for Rehabilitation Courses.
d. - On the 16th May the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding the grant of long leave to members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed in Britain and to ex-prisoners of war who are members of the Australian Army to enable them to take advantage of rehabilitation and educational courses in Britain if they so desire.
I now inform the honorable member that a scheme of training and employment in the United Kingdom for repatriated prisoners of war, disabled personnel and other serving personnel while awaiting return to Australia, has been approved by War Cabinet and is in operation.
The main features of this scheme are as follows: -
Member without dependants - £4 weekly.
Member with one adult dependant - £4, plus £111s. weekly, plus living away from home allowance of15s. weekly.
Member with adult dependant and children - £4. plus £2 weekly, plus living away from home allowance of 30s. weekly.
The payment of £4 for the member will be paid in sterling.
Price of Tractors.
y. - On the5th June the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked whether, in view of the recent increase of 10 per cent. in the price of tractors, favorable consideration could.be given to bringing tractor prices into conformity with the Government’s price stabilization scheme by subsidizing the price of these machines to farmers.
I now confirm what I then stated in reply to the honorable member, namely, that one of the main principles governing the operation of the Price Stabilization Plan is that capital goods are not eligible for subsidy but shall be allowed to rise in price according to increased costs. Capital goods may be broadly defined as those which are used in the production of income, and the principle of classing them as ineligible for subsidy is based on the view that such goods are slowly used up in manufacturing and trading operations and that the proper proportion of increased costs is met by allowing replacement provisions as part of the operating costs of the goods produced. These goods have a long life and the true cost to the user is the depreciation and current running expenses which occur over the operating life of the machine. There have been certain exceptions to the general rule of permitting price increases on capital goods. These have been confined to some units of minor capital equipment such as internal combustion engines for milking machines and similar uses and cream separators, but the fact that these goods have been subsidized does not affect the general principle laid down at the inception of the Price Stabilization Plan regarding capital goods. This has been consistently pursued over the past two years. Regarding the particular tractors which have been mentioned by the honorable member, tie increased price which has been charged is mainly due to a rise in the f.o.b. American price of these machines. This home price has received approval of the Office of Price Administration in the United States of America, and the increases have been passed on by the Division of Import Procurement. Primary producers, therefore, are receiving tractors on the basis of the normal commercial landed cost. However action has now been taken by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to review tractor distributing costs, and this will probably have the effect of considerably reducing the increase already allowed. It will not be possible to make any such adjustments retrospective. The Division of Import Procurement and the Prices Commissioner have for some time considered the position of the importation of tractors and, in addition to the review of distributing costs already mentioned, basic costs for sale by the division have now been determined. These measures should succeed in stabilizing tractor prices and should minimize any future increases of the price charged to primary producers.
y. - On the 16th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked a question concerning the supply of machinery to discharged servicemen who wished to engage again in rural pursuits. I now inform the honorable member that provided these men have the necessary finance, they are at liberty to purchase equipment direct from the machinery firms. Both tractors and agricultural machinery are now becoming available in increasing quantities and it is considered that the discharged service men concerned will, in the main, be able to obtain their requirements. Where the distribution of certain equipment such as tractors is still subject to control, provided the necessary evidence is forthcoming that ex-servicemen can put the equipment into effective use, their claims will receive sympathetic consideration. Cases have occurred already in which discharged servicemen have decided to take advantage of Government schemes for obtaining agricultural machinery for use on a co-operative basis. In these cases, the first consideration is that the applicants must show that they are in a position to make a contribution to food production. If this prerequisite is com plied with, the application is approved and the machinery supplied expeditiously. With the possible exception of the year 193S, tractors have never before been supplied to the farming community in the large numbers which are being made available at the present time. During the year 1943-44, 2,830 new wheel tractors went into use in food production. Prom the 1st July, 1944, to the 30th April, 1945, this number was increased to 6,365. Substantial shipments of tractors continue to be received from overseas and are being distributed quickly to the farming community. While the agricultural machinery position in Australia still calls for improvement, production during 1943-44 reached nearly £4,000,000 despite other important demands on the country’s resources of man-power, materials and production capacity. It is estimated that for 1944-45 the level of agricultural machinery production should reach £5,500,000 and that this rate of improvement should be maintained in 1945-4C. If the honorable member will furnish the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with the names of farmers who have experienced difficulties in obtaining tractors or other agricultural implements, the cases will be investigated. The particulars in this connexion should show the types of equipment which it is desired to purchase, the dates on which the orders were placed, and the names of the firms to which application was made.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– I have not seen the newspaper report referred to, but I shall have inquiries made and provide the honorable member with information when they are completed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450619_reps_17_183/>.