17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., . and read prayers.
. -I regret to inform honorable members of the death of the Honorable David Robert Hall, a former member of this House, who passed away at Sydney on the 6th September, last.
The greater part of the publicservice rendered by the deceased gentleman was in the State political sphere. He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in 1901, for Gunnedah, which he represented until the expiration of the Parliament in July, 1904, when he stood for Liverpool Plains, but was defeated. He was elected to the House of Representatives for Werriwa, New South Wales, at the. general elections in 1906 and 1910, and he resigned in April, 1912, upon being appointed Minister of Justice, New South Wales, with a seat in the Legislative Council. He also acted as State Attorney-General from December, 1912, to June, 1913. In November, 1913, he resigned his seat in the Legislative Council and was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Enmore at the general election in December, 1913. He again held the posts of Attorney-General and Minister for Justice from November,1916, to July, 1919,. when he became Minister for Housing. He was appointed VicePresident of the Executive Council in August, 1919, but relinquished ministerial office in February, 1920.
The late Mr. Hall thus had a long and varied parliamentary career, and he has left behind an honoured record of public service. His widow and family will find consolation in the knowledge that he rendered valuable service to his country. I move -
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable David Robert Hall, a former member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Werriwa and a Minister of the Crown of the State of New South Wales, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion. The late Mr. D. R. Hall was a very well known man, particularly in New South Wales. He had a lively mind, and displayed very great activity in his public work. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, he leaves behind him not only a good name but also a long and honorable public record.
– The Australian Country party associates itself with the sentiments that are to be conveyed to those who have been left to mourn the death of Mr. Hall.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable’’ members standing in their places.
Report of Sir William; Webb - Overseas Publicity
Mr.MAKIN (Hindmarsh - Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production). - by leave - During the past week civilized people throughout the world have been shocked by the daily revelations of Japanese brutality to defenceless prisoners of war, unarmed natives, and civilian populations.
On the 6th September the United States State. Department issued a report revealing horrible Japanese atrocities against American airmen who had been taken prisoner. This report stated that there was evidence that the murder of Allied prisoners had actually been ordered by Japanese military authorities.
Early this week, on the advice of the Australian representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission, Lord Wright, it was decided to release a summary of the facts and findings of the Australian War Crimes Commissioner’s report on Japanese atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare in the neighbourhood of New Guinea and Papua. The summary was released simultaneously in London by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who also issued a statement presenting the views of the Commonwealth Government on this extremely grave matter.
The view which my colleague emphasized, and which I repeat to-day, is that it is our duty to future generations to ensure that all those responsible for those . crimes against humanity shall be brought to justice. The investigations carried out over the last two years by Sir William Webb have proved that the atrocious behaviour which has marked the Japanese forces in all battle areas is a part of a policy of systematic terrorism, in which both the private soldier and the Japanese Army commanders have participated. If we do not insist that those responsible for the initiation and execution of this system of terrorism are made to stand trial for their crimes, and that the system which made such horrors possible is entirely destroyed, we will surely leave the path open for the dark forces of fascist imperialism in Japan to launch their barbarities again upon the peoples of the Pacific in another generation.
The summary which I intend to lay before the House to-day, is based on the facts and findings of the investigations carried out by Sir William Webb under his first commission issued in June, 1943. The full report, which is a very detailed and lengthy document, comprising the evidence of 47.1 witnesses, was tendered to the Minister for External Affairs on the 21st March, 1944. And during January and February this year, at the instance of the. Minister for External Affairs, . Sir William Webb presented the report to the United Nations War Crimes Commission. On the basis of the findings embodied in the report all those listed as guilty or suspected of war crimes will be brought to trial.
At this stage it may be useful to toll the House of the present position concerning the investigation and apprehension of war criminals and preparations for bringing themto justice.
On the basis of procedures agreed upon by governments represented on the United Nations War Crimes Commission there are three classes of war criminals known as “major” criminals, “lesser” or “ordinary” criminals, and those intermediate between these two groups.
In his statement released on Monday concerning the Webb Report my colleague the Minister for External Affairs made it plain that the Australian Government endorses certain procedures recommended by the War Crimes Commission for the apprehension and trial of suspected Japanese war criminals. The Australian Government is ‘ determined that agreement concerning these proposals should be reached without delay and that the apprehension and bringing to trial of all classes of Japanese war criminals should commence forthwith. I emphasize again that the Australian Government will hold guilty not only those whose atrocious crimes are recorded in the summary of theWebbReport but all those, whatever their authority in Japan and whether of military or civilian status, who have participated in the preparation and launching of Japan’s criminal war of aggression.
In the meantime we are proceeding with our own further investigations of Japanese war crimes. Two additional commissioners have recently been appointed to assist Sir William Webb in compiling the masses of new evidence now available. A member of the Australian War Crimes Commission is at present visiting forward reception camps for released Australian prisoners of war and civilian internees in order to obtain first-hand accounts of Japanese war crimes. Arrangements have been made with the Australian Army commanders for the interrogation of released prisoners of war and civilian internees and members of the forces who have actual knowledge of Japanese atrocities and war crimes.
I have been advised that an instruction has gone to Army commanders in charge of concentrations of Japanese troops to detain all those whose names appear on the list of war criminals or who are suspected of war crimes. The Supreme Commander in the Pacific and the Supreme Allied Commander in SouthEast Asia and the ‘ Chinese military authorities have been requested to obtain all available evidence concerning Japanese crimes against Australian prisoners of war or civilian internees in the areas under their respective commands and to apprehend all suspected criminals.
The summary of Sir William Webb’s Report is in itself a terrible indictment of Japanese fascism and imperialism. The pages speak only too plainly for themselves, and I am confident that they will spur every honorable member of this House to join with the Government in the unrelenting determination to bring to stern justice all those responsible for these crimes, no matter what their rank or station. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Summary of facts and findings from the’ report on Japanese atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare in the neighbourhood of the Territory of New Guinea and Papua - Prepared by Sir William Webb, Chairman, Australian War Crimes Commission. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– In view of the findings of Sir William Webb regarding atrocities committed by the Japanese, will the Prime Minister, following the precedent set by the Government of the United Kingdom following the cessation of hostilities in Europe and the inspection of Nazi concentration camps, consider immediately sending a representative delegation consisting of honorable senators and honorable members, and representatives of the press, to see at first hand the conditions under which Australian prisoners of war existed, and to witness the Japanese reaction to peace?
– No official representations have been made to me on this matter, although newspaper reporters have mentioned that a suggestion has been made that certain people, or representatives of bodies outside the Parliament, as well as members of the Parliament, should visit Japanese prison camps. All transport services are greatly overtaxed at present in an endeavour to meet the needs of the services and to carry supplies to prisoners of war and bring the released men back to Australia.
– One Liberator could take a party to the prison camp areas and bring prisoners back.
– My reaction to the suggestion is that no good purpose would be served by its adoption.
– Such action would allay the anxieties of our people and show that we were interested in the subject.
– The people who need confirmation of the unspeakable brutalities of the Japanese which are described in the report of Sir William Webb would be very hard to convince. In any case, prisoners of war and representative people who are now returning to Australia from prison-camp areas will be able to tell fully the true story of the happenings in the camps. I do not think that any good purpose would be served in sending individuals, whoever they might be, to the areas concerned for they would necessarily occupy a great deal of the time of officials who are now working at top pressure in an endeavour to discharge their duties. Any visitors would have to move about to make investigations and that would involve occupying a great deal of official time. My reaction to the unofficial representations that have been made is that the proposed action should not be taken.
– I ask the Minister for Information what steps the Government has taken to inform the United Nations of the shocking revelations of atrocities committed by the Japanese that are contained in Sir William Webb’s report if
– The full details of the report by Sir William Webb were released in London yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and, according to my advices, they have received world-wide publicity. The Acting Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Makin) laid the report on the table of the House to-day, and moved that it bf printed, in order to ensure that it will have the widest publicity in Australia, in addition to that already given to it by the press. Certain sections of the press have suggested that something further can be done. I do not know of anything else that can be done to enlighten the peoples of democratic countries regarding the horrors of Japanese sadism. There is no reluctance on the part of Ministers, either individually or collectively, to give the fullest publicity to what has happened to many unfortunate people who were in the hands of the Japanese “ butchers “ in New Guinea.
– by leave - This matter of handling prisoners of war recovered from the Japanese resolves itself into two major aspects - the collection of the information and its dissemination. The problems of dissemination are largely matters within our own control, but those of collection involve aspects which are obviously not appreciated by the press and the public.
The areas of direct Australian interest, so far as our own prisoners of war are concerned, are under the respective commands of General MacArthur and Admiral Lord Mountbatten. The responsibilities of those commanders include the liberation of all allied prisoners of war within their particular theatres. To facilitate the collection, concentration and movement to Australia of our own personnel, it has been arranged with those two commanders that Australia will provide prisoner of war recovery groups, the organization of which includes facilities for both medical and material comfort and care, and for communication by radio to Australia.
These groups are. in being and ready to operate at Manila and Singapore, the latter group having just arrived by sea and air. Their actual location within the particular theatres “was decided on by the theatre commanders, having regard to the transportation facilities available and the need for co-ordination of the commitments in respect of all recovered personnel. In addition to these reception groups, the theatre commanders have approved of the attachment to their forces of Australian “ contact teams “, usually consisting of one officer and one other rank, to operate with the forward occupying forces and to do everything possible to facilitate the collection and movement of Australian personnel back to the recovery groups. It is stressed, however, that the activities of these contact teams and the transportation and communication resources available to them are under the direct control of the allied force commander in the particular area who, in the early stages of the occupation, has a great responsibility to discharge with very limited resources. As the occupation develops, the resources improve; but the fact must not be overlooked that such resources as do exist are required to handle the traffic of all nationals, of which the Australian component is not a major part. There are approximately 60 of these contact teams in action.
At present, we are passing through the very worst stage, and the passage of information from the troops effecting the release, to the recovery unit, for transmission to Australia, is through channels already loaded to the maximum and outside our direct control. By random contact in the forward areas with individual recovered personnel, it is possible for lists of perhaps ten or so names to be forwarded to Australia, but this can only be done to the detriment of the main task of the contact teams, which is to ensure the well-being and earliest possible movement to Australian control of the personnel recovered. Even if it were practicable for the size of the contact teams to be enlarged to permit the collection of the data as a specific task, the facilities for transmission of this information do not exist, nor can they, within the time between actual recovery and movement to a place of concentration, be brought into being.
The problem is not peculiar to Australia. The American forces are meeting the same difficulty and have placed a 24-hour delay on correspondents sending information to the United States of America concerning American-recovered personnel, on the grounds that such information is necessarily confined to a few named individuals, is unofficial, and embarrasses the task of compiling and making public the full lists. No such delay is imposed by Australian authorities on correspondents in their reports to Australia. The fact that a correspondent is able to compile a list of names of personnel and transmit that information to Australia does not mean that the Army is falling down on its job. “What can be done for a few individuals cannot be done for a large number, and the recovered personnel are and will continue to be moved to the maximum extent that facilities permit to the recovery groups, whence full and detailed information will be transmitted.
Once the information is received in Australia, the only delay before the- information is passed to next-of-kin and to the press is that necessary for checking of particulars, and the organization respon-s: b le for this will work shifts over 24 hours a day to cope with the task. Personnel and equipment for a high-speed wireless link was flown from Melbourne to Singapore some days ago, and I have just been advised that direct communication with Singapore has been in operation since one o’clock to-day. In addition, an alternative link, SingaporeMorotaiMelbourne, is in course of installation. The actual radio links existing between Australia and the overseas theatres are - Manila to Melbourne, via Morotai; Borneo to Melbourne, via Morotai; Singapore to Melbourne, Delhi and Kandy to Melbourne. With the exception of Delhi and Kandy, at which places the stations are operated by British personnel, the other links are completely Australian.
It has already been announced that over 4,000 names were contained in rolls flown to Australia, and there has been criticism of the fact that the names were flown and not sent by wireless. The circumstances are that the rolls are not of recovered personnel at all. They are the names of Australian personnel known to be in Siam, and therefore in areas not yet occupied, and were brought out by aircraft which, at the instance of the theatre commander, took food and medical stores for all prisoners in the area, including the Australians. The instructions issued to the reception groups provide for signals to be sent uncoded and on highest priority, and it is also provided that the information is to be passed to Australia by the quickest possible means. The recovery groups have full authority to employ any and every means available if it will hasten the transmission of information.
– I desire to move -
That the paper be printed.
– Order! The Minister did not lay a paper on the table of the House.
– I. obtained leave to make a statement.
– Does the honorable member for Balaclava ask for leave to make a statement?
– by leave - On the 6th September, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) directed my attention, as acting Minister for External Affairs, to a press complaint from Chungking which alleged some degree of inactivity on the part of the Australian Legation in China in dealing with our Australian prisoners of war in that theatre. The position in China and Japan is that prisoner of war recovery is being handled by General Mac Arthur, whose forces are evacuating to Manila all those Allied prisoners of war and internees who have been liberated in the American zone of operations. On reaching Manila, Australians at once come under the care of an Australian Army reception group, which was sent forward some time ago under a War Cabinet decision whereby this responsibility was placed upon the Australian Military Forces.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that it has not been given the primary responsibility, the Australian Legation in Chungking has been extremely active in obtaining all possible information in regard to the names and whereabouts of Australian prisoners of war and internees, and tribute should be paid to the energy of the Australian Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Keith Officer.
In co-operation with theRed Cross and Allied embassies in Chungking, the Australian Charge d’Affaires, in the face of great transport and communications difficulties within the territories just liberated, is doing all within his power to ensure that the best possible provision is made for the Australians within his area. One important step which the Legation took was to dispatch a special Australian representative to Shanghai where there is a large concentration of Australians. Lists of names are being secured from various sources and are being sent immedately to the Department of External Affairs. The information so far received from the Legation has enabled the Department of External Affairs to notify to the Army the names of Australians recovered in the Mukden prisoner of war
– I have just received an urgent telegram from a Warwick resident, stating that he has not had a. reply to his request to the Minister for the Army for information concerning his prisoner of war son, and pointing out that, according to the Brisbane Courier Mail, Warwick BaseRecords is not ready to release names of prisoners of war who have been recovered from the Japanese? Will the Minister state whether ArmyRecords at Warwick is in possession of the names of prisoners of war who have been liberated from the Japanese? If so, why are the names being withheld from the public? Will the Minister direct that the names of liberated prisoners of war shall be released immediately they are received?.
– This request has not come before me personally. I am nor aware that Warwick BaseRecordshas a list of the names of prisoners of war who have been recovered from the Japanese. Such lists pass through ArmyRecords, Melbourne, and are distributed in each of the capital cities by, I understand. Army PublicRelations. I appreciate the natural anxiety of the right honorable gentleman’s constituent and will gladly do anything that I can to allay it.
– Will the Minister for Defence ensure that ex-Australian prisoners of war who may have suffered torture and conducted themselves heroically while in captivity will not be overlooked in the matter of recommendations for awards? Will the Minister also ensure that the regulations which debar such men from wearing certain service ribbons will be adjusted so as to remove this anomaly?
– The honorable member was good enough to furnish me recently with his views on these matters. They are laudable, and in line with representations on the subject which the Australian Government ha.been making for some time to the Government of the United Kingdom. The honorable member is aware of the stumbling block that we have encountered. I agree that action along the lines suggested should be taken. We are pressing very hard for a final decision. I shall also lake up the matter of awards for gallant conduct.
– I lay upon the table the following paper : -
Australia First Movement Inquiry - Report of Commissioner (Mr. Justice Clyne), appointed under the National Security Regulations. and move -
That the paper be printed.
I inform the House that the Government will accept the recommendations of the Commissioner.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Publicity; Posts and Telegraphs: Discontinuance
– by leave - Immediately the Japanese Government sued for peace I announced that censorship of material for publication internally by the Australian press would be lifted as soon as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced that the Japanese Government had accepted the terms proposed by the Allied Nations. This was done on the loth August last. At that time I also stated that censorship of broadcast material and outgoing press cables had to be temporarily maintained to meet the security requirements of Australian and Allied services, and that the question of removing those forms of censorship was being discussed with the appropriate authorities with a view to their removal when security requirements allowed. I now inform the House that arrangements have been made for the cessation, as from midnight tomorrow, of publicity censorship of cablegrams and radio broadcasts. This means the total cessation of all forms of publicity censorship. For some time past there has been a progressive reduction of publicity censorship staffs, which will now be entirely dispersed.
At the request of my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), I also desire to make a statement regarding the postal and telegraph censorship, which is under the control of his department. On VE-Day the censorship of all communications between Australia, the United Kingdom, other British countries and the United States of America was discontinued. Since then the censorship of communications has been progressively and steadily discontinued until today postal and telegraph communications between Australia, China, Rumania, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden only remain. These controls are likely to be discontinued at a very early date, and have only been retained at the request of the United Kingdom. All communications of enemy prisoners of war and civilian internees held in Australia are also being examined for the time being in security interests. More than 93 per cent. of the staffs engaged in the postal and telegraph censorship have been progressively dispensed with, and office space has been proportionately vacated.
Requirements of Local Governing Authorities
– As contracts and pending contracts in Australia for British and Dutch authorities, involving millions of pounds, have been cancelled since the terminationof the war in the Pacific, releasing quantities of large mechanized plant and also manpower, will the Government ensure that the urgent requirements of road-making machines and man-power shall be made available without delay to local governing authorities?
– I shall have the matter examined, in order to determine whether releases can be expedited.
Treatment of Soldier Awaiting Court- martial - Leave - Long-service Personnel - Continuation of Service : Duress.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been directed to the statement in to-day’s press, signed “ The Mother of One “, the mother of a soldier awaiting court-martial at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, that she was present at the barracks yesterday when a soldier escaped ; that when brought back by provosts, about five minutes later, he was bleeding from the nose, mouth and forehead, and could hardly stand up; that he was handcuffed, and collapsed and fell to the floor in an alley way; that while on the floor, he was kicked and punched by two provosts; and that, when she protested, she was told to mind her own business? If the facts are as stated, will the Minister order the immediate arrest of these provosts, and their court-martial for their brutal attack upon the soldier concerned ? Will he also have an investigation made in regard to the other incidents related, in connexion with the removal of another eight men in the detention room who smashed their way through a plaster wall and went to the assistance of the soldier who was beingso brutally treated by the provosts? Will the Minister further indicate when the Provost Corps is likely to be disbanded?
– I have decided to ask Mr. Justice Reed and his committee to make an immediate investigation of these charges. Their report will be made available to honorable members at. an early date. If the statements are found to be true, suitable disciplinary action will be promptly taken against the offenders.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether Army personnel, serving in south Pacific areas such as Bougainville, Hollandia, Morotai, Borneo, and other places outside the Australian Mandated Territory, are entitled to and are granted seven and a half days’ leave for each six months’ service, with a maximum of 60 days. Is it correct that this concession does not apply to soldiers who have served atMilne Bay,Kokoda, Buna, Sanananda, Wewak, Finschafen, Moresby, and numerous other places within the Mandated Territory?If so, what is the reason for the discrimination?
Mr.FORDE.- All members of the Australian Military Forces serving in the Pacific outside the Australian mainland areeligible for war service leave in the proportion of seven and a half days for every six months service. Service in the mandated areas and in Australia entitles a member to this leave. This decision was given by the Government some time ago, and evidently the honorable member is quoting from a copy of Genera] Routine Orders that have not. been amended to give effect to the Government’s direction.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the undertaking given by the Government that the members of the Australian forces with five years’ service, and more than two years’ service overseas, would be brought back to Australia forthwith is being ignored by some officers in command ? Is he aware that some men with five years and three months’ service, and with almost four years’ service overseas have recently been told that they cannot expect to be returned to Australia for another three months?
– No, I was not aware of that, but I shall have immediate inquiries made. Some of the shipping that was available to bring men back on leave had to be diverted in order to take 1,500 persons to Singapore, including prisoner of war reception groups, and this shipping will not he available for other purposes for probably six to eight weeks. The Government’s decision still stands that men with long service who are entitled to discharge will be brought back to Australia at the earliest possible date.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that air crews of operations squadrons based on the Australian mainland, such as Liberator squadrons, Catalina squadrons, Mitchell squadrons and Spitfire squadrons at Darwin, are not eligible, as the order stands at the moment, for war service leave? Will the Minister give favorable consideration to having the order amended so that they shall receive the same leave as is given to men who merely went to Canada for training and returned to this country without going into action?
– I am not aware that air crews that have served in the north and north-west of Australia are not eligible for the leave mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I understand that they will be dealt with on the basis laid down for service ribbons and awards. If that is the case, air-crew personnel from those places should receive treatment similar to that given to air crews that have served in other operational areas. However, I undertake to have inquiries made with the object of ascertaining the facts, and to give the matter sympathetic consideration.
– A few days ago, I was privileged to read a communication from a young man whom I know very well. The letter was written to his father, who lives in my electorate, and dealt with the treatment meted out to Australian soldiers in the islands when they are asked to volunteer for certain service. If they refuse and say that they prefer their discharge, they are accused by the officer in charge of “ dingoing “ on their mates. Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a part of Government policy to have duress used for the purpose of inducing men to offer for service in Japan or in any position where forces are needed by the Army for any other purpose? If not, will the Minister issue instructions that this method must be discontinued?
– No duress whatever should he used, and if the honorable member will supply details such as the names of the unit and of the persons concerned, suitable action will be taken.
– by leave: - A number of important matters affecting the building industry, including, particularly, control of building materials and the issue of building permits, was discussed at the recent Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. So that honorable members may be fully informed on these matters, the following details are furnished:- At the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at Canberra from the 20th to the 23rd August, 1945, the following decisions were made concerning controls over building permits and building materials. Until the States take over these powers, the Commonwealth will continue to exercise them, as at present -
Building Materials -
The Commonwealth Government indicated to the States at the conference its belief that the exercise of these controls for the time being was still necessary. When National Security Regulations lapsed, the Commonwealth would not have the power to undertake such control, but could do so if the States referred the powers to it. The Commonwealth would do this if the States were unanimous in their request. The States decided, however, that the controls should not be exercised by the Commonwealth except as to materials in short supply and manufactured in one State or two States only.
The Commonwealth Government recently decided that building permits would no longer be necessary under the National Security (Building Operations) Regulations in respect of houses where the completed cost, excluding land but including all other costs, did not exceed £1,200, and further, permits would not be necessary in regard to repairs, alterations or additions to residential buildings, other than hotels, which do not exceed £150 in any one financial year, including painting. National Security (Building Operations) Regulations have been amended accordingly. These relaxations apply only to residences. Permits are still neeessary for factories and other buildings in respect of which they were formerly required.
The Directorate of Housing, within the Department of Works and Housing, is now responsible for the administration of the National Security (Building Operations) Regulations. Applications for permits, &c, under the regulations should be addressed to the Deputy Director of Housing in the State concerned. The addresses in each State are - New South Wales, 18 Martin-place, Sydney; Victoria, 187 Collins-street, Melbourne; Queensland, 307 Queen-street, Brisbane; South Australia, State Bank Buildings, Pirie-street, Adelaide; Western Australia, Treasury Buildings, Barrack-street, Perth; Tasmania, Police Building. Franklin Wharf, Hobart.
-Is the Minister for Works and Housing aware that a large number of brickworks are idle in New South Wales, particularly in the metropolitan area, and that some of them were deliberately closed by the brick combine before the war? In view of the urgent need for building materials to cope with the housing shortage, will the honorable gentleman make a survey of the situation, in conjunction wilh the State authorities, with a view to ensuring the full use of those works?
– I do know that some brickworks were closed and that the shareholders therein are still drawing dividends from other brickworks kept in operation.
– What has that to do with the question?
– A lot. I am prepared to make a survey of the position with any State authority prepared to co-operate.The only authority that can open the idle brickworks as a State undertaking is the State Government, because the Commonwealth Government has no power to do so.
– Will the Prime
Minister make a. statement to the House at an early date setting out the position of Victoria under the uniform income tax legislation, the measures needed to be taken by the Government of Victoria to secure a greater annual payment by the Commonwealth, the reasons justifying the present allocation, and such comparative figures of expenditure on social service* by the various States as will fully expose the hollowness and hypocrisy of the Victorian Premier’s anti-Australian propaganda and narrow-minded parochialism? Mr. CHIFLEY.- I was under the impression that Mr. Dunstan had made so many statements on this subject that it was not necessary for me to add anything to what I said on the occasions when the matter was raised officially. However. I shall have detailed information compiled for the benefit of the honorable member.
– Now that the war is over, will the Postmaster-General favorably consider the issue of a set of special postage stamps to mark thp occasion ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion to the attention of the Postmaster-General. ] remind honorable members that the Postmaster-General has under consideration at this moment suggestions for the issue of a number of commemorative stamps. The honorable member for Swan suggested that a stamp he issued to commemorate the Prime Ministership of the late Mr. John Curtin. The honorablemember for Kennedy suggested thatI should ask the Postmaster-General to issue a Mitchell commemorative stampnext year in honour of the explorations in three States of the great explorer, Sir Thomas Mitchell. “These various suggestions are now receiving consideration, and I shall ask the Postmaster-General to give an early decision on them.
-In view of the heavy deruand for increased telephone facilities by business people and private citizens, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral make a statement regarding telephone installations in the Sydney metropolitan area? In the course of his statement will he outline to honorable members the prospects of an early lifting of the restrictions on the installation of telephones, and will he set forth the department’s programme regarding the erection of new telephone exchanges to meet the increased demand ?
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to give the information sought by the honorable member. It is a fact that there is a very heavy demand for the installation of telephones in Sydney, and in other parts of Australia, also. It is also a fact that there is a. grave shortage of material from which telephone equipment is manufactured, and thousands of postal employees are still in the forces awaiting discharge. Until more man-power can be obtained, and until material becomes available, it will not be possible to meet the demand for telephone installations. I shall not encourage honorable members to entertain high hopes that the shortage will be overcome at an early date, but the Post Office is a very efficient institution, and. a splendid example of the success of state ownership–
-Order ! The Minister is not in order in debating state ownership.
– When more telephones can be installed, they will be installed.
Invitation to Australia
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there have been any developments regarding the invitation to Mr. Churchill to visitAustralia? In reply to a question asked by me some time ago, the Prime Minister said ‘“tat the invitation had been extended to Mr. Churchill by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and that he did not propose to take any further action. Does he not consider that it would be proper to send a new invitation to Mr. Churchill now that he has given up the post of Prime Minister of Great Britain?
– I did say that when the late Mr. Curtin was in England he extended an invitation to Mr. Churchill to visit Australia. Mr. Churchill intimated that it would not be possible for him to do so at that time. According to my impression, it was understood that when he was able to visit Australia he would accept the invitation. The invitation still holds. The Government has not given consideration to extending a further invitation.
– Will the right honorable gentleman not consider it?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Can the Treasurer tell me when the twelfth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will be made available to honorable members? Will it be distributed in time for honorable members to study it before being called upon to consider legislation providing for the making of grants to the claimant States ?
– I am sorry that it has not yet been possible to table the report. The report was received late, and the shortage of staff at the Government Printing Office makes it difficult for the Government Printer to meet all the demands made on him when Parliament is sitting. I shall endeavour to ensure the circulation of the report as early as possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered p lacing before the Economic and Social C ouncil of the United Nations the economic dislocation that has occurred in many countries as the result of the termination of the lend-lease arrangements? . Is this not the sort of problem that the council was established to deal with? Will the Prime Minister indicate whether there have been any recent developments regarding lend-lease between the United States of America and Great Britain, Australia, and other countries? In particular, can he give the House any information as to the importance placed by the Government on the maintenance of food supplies to Great Britain?
– The Economic and Social Council has of course not yet been established. Some time will elapse after the Charter of the United Nations has been approved by the participating countries before it will be possible to get that council in operation. It may be, as the honorable gentleman has said, that the termination of the lend-lease arrangements is a subject to which some consideration ought to be given by the Economic and Social Council, but I am afraid that it will have to have very close consideration long before that machinery is working. I am not able to make any lengthy statement at the moment about lend-lease. Negotiations are in progress, as honorable members know, in the United States of America between the representatives of that country and the representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom, Lord Halifax and Lord Keynes. We are co-operating with the Government of the United Kingdom, and on our behalf Sir Frederic Eggleston and the Director of Import Procurement, Mr. A. C. Moore, are associated with the negotiations. As far as Australian supplies are concerned, arrangements have been made to meet the position. Supplies already on the wharfs or flowing to the wharfs for shipment to Australia are being dealt with satisfactorily I think. The Government has made it perfectly clear that orders are to be closely screened to ensure that nothing but essential minimum requirements shall be forwarded during this period. Those goods will flow forward. Pending final arrangements the Australian Government has undertaken to pay cash, if necessary, for the goods coming forward. Final arrangements will have to be determined when negotiations have been completed.
Pegging of Wages - Rhonda Colliery
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact that National Security Regulations promulgated in 1942 not only pegged wages but also provided that working conditions should not be varied ? Is it also a fact that from time to time, workers have unsuccessfully made application for the removal of the wage-pegging regulations?
Will the Minister say whether employers, particularly the coal-owners, have frequently varied working conditions, thereby contravening the regulations, and that no legal proceedings have been instituted against them? Has the Minister been informed of the recent variation of conditions at Rhonda Colliery? The position is that on Friday the miners were informed that the machines would probably be taken out in the course of time, but when they presented themselves for work they discovered that the machines had been removed and the men had to go on to a system of “grunching” coal. As the result of that action, the colliery is idle.
– The problem of changed conditions in the coal-mining industry has been with us for about four years, and arises from all kinds of factors associated particularly with this industry. I am aware of the trouble at Rhonda Colliery, and the Coal Commissioner hai advised me as follows : -
Ah far as it is known at present, the manager of the colliery would determine the question of any removal of machinery. Some months ago, the Coal Commissioner gave permission to alter the method of production at this mine by installing scraper loaders. The coal-cutting machine which was removed this week, was so removed to permit the whole of the electrical power available in the mine being used for the scraper loader work. Surplus mcn previously used to fill the coal which had been cut by this machine, are now employed on the winning of coal by hand.
That communication indicates that this matter has a history, and that the Coal Commissioner himself gave permission for some particular changes to be made. Because of those changes, it appears that there is surplus labour in the mine, and in order that it may be continuously engaged, it had been put on to winning coal by other methods.
– On several occasions, I have urged the Prime Minister to lay upon the table of the House the report of Mr. Justice Lowe, who inquired into the circumstances of the bombing of Darwin in 1942. So far as T am aware, no security reasons exist to prevent the publication of the report, and I ask the right honorable gentleman to inform me when the document will be tabled.
– After the honorable member had raised this matter last week, I made inquiries and ascertained that Mr. Justice Lowe’s report had been presented to the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, but no copies had been made. The document is now in Melbourne, but the Minister for Defence is arranging for it to be sent to Canberra. A summary of the contents of the report will be made, and I shall then ask Cabinet to consider the advisability of laying it on the table of the House.
– by leave - Much publicity has been given during the last couple of weeks to the views of Australian citizens who urge that Australia should send more food to England. To some people, the belief that Australia should be playing a larger part in feeding the people of England is expressed by the plea that a “food “ ship should be sent to England with suitable supplies of food. The Government shares the anxiety of these Australian citizens that England should have adequate supplies. Throughout its term of office it has kept the food position under constant review, and has, where appropriate and possible, imposed limitations on the food supplies of the Australian people so that we may fulfil our just and reasonable obligations to the fighting services and to the people of the United Kingdom.
However, it is wrong to approach the subject of Australia’s food supplies to the United Kingdom in the belief that a “ food ship “ can solve the problem. The truth is that scores of ships leave Australia each year carrying food to the United Kingdom, and to other countries nominated by the British Ministry of Food. It is also wrong to judge the position on the basis of the fact that, at a given time, ships are leaving Australia with empty space or with space suitable for food but occupied by other cargoes because food is not available. At the present time, forexample,when, apparently, some ships are leaving for England with somespacesuitable for food otherwise occupied, large quantities of food are in store in Australia awaiting shipment overseas to the order of the United Kingdom Government, and will be shipped to the appropriate destinations, as and when that Government requires.
The London Food Council is the authority which considers the overall food problems of the Empire; and the Combined Food. Board, which is representative of the United States of America and the British Empire, considers the supply problems of foodstuffs which are in short supply throughout the world. Whilst Australia’s first obligations are to its own civilians and fighting services, we recognize the strong claims of the United Kingdom upon us, because its people are our kin. It is generally recognized that, outside the United Kingdom, Australia has been and is, in regard to food, the most closely rationed English-speaking country in the world. We have limited our own consumption of several classes of essential foods during the war in order to fulfil, to the utmost of our capacity, our obligations to others. The extent to which we have reduced our food consumption in several directions is shown by joint studies which have been made on food consumption levels in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
In peace-times Australia is one of the world’s largest consumers of butter. Our annual consumption just before the outbreak of the war was atthe rate of nearly 100.000 tons a year. This has been reduced to about 70.000 tons, due to butter rationing. We have a relatively low consumption of cheese and our consumption of liquid milk, supplemented by condensed and dried milk, has always been somewhat on the low side. At the present time, the Australian butter ration is 6 oz. per head per week: and the individual ration of British civilians is 2 oz. of butter and 4 oz. of vitaminized margarine, making up 6 oz. of both these fats, per bead per week. The pre-war consumption of all other milk and milk-products in terms of milk solids was 38.3 lb. per bend per annum in the United Kingdom and 39.8 lb. per head per annum in Australia.In 1944. the United Kingdom consumption had in- creased to 49.1 lb. per bead per annum, an increase of 28 per cent. on the pre-war consumption, and Australian consumption had increased to 43 lb. per head, an increase of 8 per cent, over the prewar consumption. In respect of these classes of milk foods, the Australian consumption per head is only S8 per cent, of the supplies available to. each United Kingdom citizen. It would seem, therefore, that there is no scope for any further reduction of the dairy produce rations of the Australian people in order to increase the supplies available to British civilians. However, there are prospects of our being able to increase butter supplies to the United Kingdom because of the prospective reduction of supplies to the services and because we are now experiencing a much more favorable season than those of the past, couple of years. Our pre-war export of butter to the United Kingdom was about 90,000 tons per annum. During the war, because of unfavorable seasons and the needs of the fighting services, ex-ports to Britain greatly declined, reaching their lowest level of 37,300 tons in the season 1944-45. During the calendar year 1945, we expect to send more than 40,000 tons of butter to the United Kingdom, and next year the figure should be above 50,000 tons - perhaps much above that figure if seasons remain favorable and service requirements scale off rapidly.
In regard to meat, the pre-war consumption in the United Kingdom was 132.9 lb. per head per annum and in Australia it was 248.1 lb. per head. In 1944, the consumption in the United Kingdom was 113.2 lb. per head, or 85 per cent, of the pre-war consumption and in Australia it had declined to 208.8 lb. per head, or 84 per cent, of pre-war consumption. The reduction in the meat ration of British civilians was aggravated by the cutting off of fish supplies, which was an important item of their pre-war diet. It is anticipated that fish production and consumption in the United Kingdom will now rapidly revive, and thus compensate to sonic extent for the distressing reduction of the meat supplies. Turning to actual quantities, we find that the pre-war meat, production in Australia, excluding edible offals, was 967,000 tons, of which 232.000 tons was exported, chiefly to the United Kingdom, In 1944 we had a record meat production of 1,036,000 tons, of which 163,000 tons was exported, including 154,000 tons to the. United Kingdom. A total of 254,000 tons was supplied to the services, including 23,000 tons to British services. This year, meat production is estimated at only 875,000 tons, but we expect to bcable to supply to United Kingdom orders, for consumption by British services and civilians, the same quantity as was supplied in 1944, namely, 177,000 tons. Arrangements will be made to send to the Uni ted Kingdom all meat saved this year through reduction of consumption by the services.
It is true that, in regard to sugar consumption, Australia, is more fortunate than any other English-speaking country. We produce large quantities pf sugar and for a number of years have participated in the world’s export trade. The pre-war production of sugar in Australia amounted to about 800,000 tons. During the war production declined very seriously because of shortages of labour and fertilizers. The lowest production during the war was 507,000 tons, in 1943-44. Production is again being expanded, and during the year 1945-46 is expected to total 650,000 tons. The increase of production will enable us to increase our shipments of sugar to the United Kingdom. Prom time to time, the Government has considered whether a further reduction of the sugar ration of Australian civilians should be made in order to increase the supplies available for export, but has hitherto felt that, having regard to the relative severity of the other food rations in this country, no further reductions should be made in the sugar ration. . This is a commodity in respect of which individual tastes vary greatly. Many people do not use the whole of their sugar ration. Such people should destroytheir surplus coupons and the sugar thud saved will increase the surplus available for export to Britain and other destinations.
As to eggs, Australia was advised by the United Kingdom, in 1941, that no further eggs in shell could be taken in refrigerated space. It was necessary therefore to establish egg-drying plants and convert fresh eggs into powder. An outlet was found for this powder amongst the services. Wc are now ready to resume our egg export trade to the United Kingdom and are doing so on a limited scale. The obstacles to a full scale resumption are timber supplies for cases, labour for packing, &c. It is considered that, commencing with the 1946 season, there will be a full resumption of the export of fresh eggs to the United Kingdom.
During the war dried fruits have been sent to the United Kingdom, although on a reduced level for civilian purposes. It is hoped that supplies of these fruits can be sent in 1946 in approximately their normal peace-time quantities. Similar conditions should exist in regard to canned fruits, but in respect of fresh apples, in which we did a very large export trade to Britain before the war, it is unlikely, according to advices we have recently received from the Ministry of Food, thatrefrigerated shipping space will be available for exports from the coming season’s crop in anything like the proportions of the pre-war trade. Furthermore, because of the tremendous demand on timber for a great variety of needs there will not be sufficient cases to handle a large export trade in 1946.
During the latter half of this war, the United Kingdom has depended on northern hemisphere sources for grain and flour imports. Whilst there are bountiful crops in the other grain exporting countries, there are also very heavy demands throughout the world. In the supply of wheat and flour for human needs, Australia will play its part with the other countries which produce surpluses and, in this way, it is hoped that the essential grain and flour needs of Britain will be met.
It will be seen from this brief survey of the position that scores of “ food ships “ leave Australia each year for the United Kingdom or other countries nominated by the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. Australia has severely rationed its civilians, and will continue to do so. as long as it is necessary, in order to help to. meet the essential needs of Great Britain and other countries. Those Australian citizens who feel that the. rations of any class of food made available to them are more than they personally need, should destroy the unwanted coupons in the sure knowledge that, as long as the existing Australian rations are not increased, all savings will be available for export for the essential needs of British civilians or the hungry people of other countries.
– Will the Minister move that the statement be printed?
-Yes. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Food Supplies to United Kingdom - Ministerial Statement, 12th September, 1945. and move- -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The statement just made by the Minister for the Army misrepresents the matter.
– Order! The honorable member may not debate the statement.
– Well, it misrepresents me personally.
– If that is so the honorable member may proceed.
– The right honorable gentleman said that a proposition had been made by many people to send a “ food ship “ to Britain. I suggest that that is not so, and that it is misrepresentation.
– Order ! There is no ground for a personal explanation.
– I submit that there is, because I asked the question on the matter.
– Very well, then I shall speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– No. I would sooner be put out.
– Very well. I name the honorable gentleman.
– I am not going to be bludgeoned into my seat by you or anybody else.
– I appeal to the honorable member to avoid a scene. If there has been a misunderstanding I hope that it can be adjusted by means other than the suspension of the honorable member.
– The Chair has to be considered in the matter. Whilst it may be very well for the Prime Minister to appeal to the better sense of the honorable member for Balaclava in order to avoid further action, I draw the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that, subsequent to the offence for which I named him, the honorable member proceeded to say that I was bludgeoning him.
– Yes; you would not let me make my statement.
– A statement was made by the Minister for the Army, and at the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Minister agreed to table it, and moved, “ that the paper be printed “. The debate on the motion was then adjourned. The honorable member for Balaclava wished to make a statement claiming that he had been personally misrepresented.
– So I was, because I asked the question to which the Minister replied. You did not let me say that.
– There was no reference to the honorable member in the Minister’s statement.
– He deliberately avoided it, and misrepresented me.
– I now ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary action. The honorable member is determined that the House shall deal with him.
– No; you are determined not to play the game.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the honorable member for Balaclava be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
FIVE-day Working WEEK.
Mr.CONELAN.- In view of the reinstitution this week of a five-day working week in the Commonwealth Public Service, will the Minister for Information take appropriate steps to inform the public of what Commonwealth departments will be open for business on Saturdays?
– The matter does not come within the purview of my department. I shall ask the Minister for Defence, under whose control the Public Service Board operates, to accede to the honorable gentleman’s request.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether there is any Commonwealth obstacle or inaction that is impeding progress in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Can such settlement proceed or must Commonwealth legislation first be passed? Have the States the necessary power to deal with the matter?
– Negotiations between the Commonwealth and State Governments have been proceeding for about twelve months. The bases of agreements was reached, and they were indicated in a paper that I presented to the House recently. The (final agreements have not been ratified. I hope to introduce during this week or early next week a bill to make arrangements for their ratification. Meanwhile, there is nothing to prevent the State governments from proceeding with the acquisition of the necessary land, and plans for its subdivision. Those States which are acting as principals may accept applications for land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. The acquisition of land is not being held up by the non-ratification of the agreements.
Operations at Newnes.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping able to make a statement of the developments up to date and the prospects of the operations of the National Oil Proprietary Limited at Newnes ?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to furnish the information.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Hospital Benefits Bill now before the House represents a further major step in developing the Government’s health and social services policy. The proposals have been subject to much discussion and investigation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security, in its Seventh Interim Report of February, 1944, discussed in detail proposals for hospital benefits, and made a number of recommendations. In
August, 1944, at the Premiers Conference, unanimous agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and State Ministers on the main principles of the Commonwealth plan for hospital benefits.
Public hospitals may be broadly defined as those which receive State grants for maintenance. As honorable members know, these hospitals are either fully, or in some measure, subject to the control of StateGovernment authorities. The maintenance income comes mainly from three sources - patients’ payments, charitable donations, and State grants. The proportion varies from State to State, but, on an average, in respect of public wards, in-patients’ payments provide, roughly, 35 per cent., donations 5 per cent., and the balance of maintenance income is provided by State Government grants.
The Commonwealth proposals involve the State foregoing revenue from public ward patients’ payments, and this revenue will be made up to the State by means of Commonwealth grants. In these circumstances, it is appropriate that the Commonwealth proposals regarding hospital benefits should take the form of an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. The proposed heads of such an agreement form a schedule to the bill.
Section 3 of the bill authorizes the Commonwealth to execute agreements with the States in terms of the schedule. It is hoped that the agreement will be completed and ratified by the State Parliaments in time to enable the scheme to commence on the 1st January, 1946. Under the heading of public hospitals to which the scheme applies are included the general medical and surgical, maternity, children’s and existing tuberculosis hospitals, together with the hospital wards of State benevolent institutions. Another part of the scheme is concerned with private hospitals. I shall deal with the public hospitals part of the proposals first.
In order to ensure free treatment in . the public wards of public hospitals, the proposed agreement provides for the States to abolish the means test for admission into public wards, and to cease charging fees to patients admitted, and for the Commonwealth to pay to the
States a rate of benefit for each bed occupied each day to cover the revenue thus forgone from these patients. This benefit rate is 6s., and when multiplied by the number of daily occupied beds in any year, will give the total sum to be paid by the Commonwealth to the State in that year in respect of public ward patients.
Out of the yearly amount so paid, the proposed agreement provides for the State to distribute to public hospitals for maintenance an amount to be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and State, based on the average of what was actually received by way of fees from public ward patients in the base .years 1942-43 and 1943-44; and for the State to recover out of the balance a sum equivalent to any loss of charitable donations in the year as compared with the total amount of charitable donations received on the average in the base years just mentioned. Any balance remaining after such recoupment will be held in trust by the State for public hospital construction as approved by the Commonwealth.
If, on the other hand, the total amount of benefit paid under the method just outlined is inadequate to meet both the amount representing the public ward fees forgone, and any loss of charitable donations, the Commonwealth will make up the deficiency. A balance paid into the trust account for capital construction in one year will not be set off against any deficiency occurring in the next year, but each year will be regarded separately. Taken together, these arrangements ensure that the State will not suffer any loss after the advent of the Commonwealth Hospital Benefits Scheme in respect of public wards of public hospitals.
In respect of intermediate and private ward patients in public hospitals the proposed agreement provides for the Commonwealth to pay to the Stares a benefit rate of 6s. per occupied bed per day as a contribution towards the cost of hospital treatment of these patients; and for the State to reduce the hospital fees by the equivalent of the benefit rate, thus relieving the patients of fees to this extent.
Section 4 of the bill provides that a benefit rate may be paid in respect of patients in private hospitals as. defined by the regulations. The rate envisaged b the same as for the non-public patients in public hospitals, i.e., 6s. per occupied bed day. The payment of the benefit both in respect of public and private hospitals is subject to the approval of the hospitals by the Commonwealth Miniate? for Health.
Another object of the scheme is t<» encourage the raising of standards of service in hospitals. The provision that payment of benefit in respect of any hospital i3 subject to the approval of th<hospital by the Minister will assist to wards this end.
Moreover, the proposed agreement provides for the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, to form a national hospitals council of Commonwealth and State representatives, the functions oi which would include defining standard)* of construction and service for hospitals. The council would meet at regular intervals to discuss questions of standards and service, and would make recommendations to the Ministers for Health of th,Commonwealth and the States. Such advice would be valuable in enabling the Minister to determine criteria of approval in respect of payments of Commonwealth benefit. Any questions of policy arising out of the discussions of the council would, it is envisaged, be taken up by the conference of State and Commonwealth Ministers for Health which meet? periodically.
For the purposes of advising the Minister as to approval of individual private hospitals, it is envisaged that a joint committee of Commonwealth and State health authorities will be set up in each State. The committee’s functions will be to inquire into, and make recommendations as to, whether any particular private hospital should be approved for the purposes of the hospital benefits scheme. In coming to a decision the committee would take into consideration local standards established for private hospitals, and the recommendations made by the national hospitals council.
Certain patients will be excluded from the operation of the scheme - those for whose hospital treatment the legal liability now lies on the Commonwealth or an employer. For example, repatriation patients, who are already provided for by the Commonwealth, and workers’ compensation cases are excluded.
The proposed agreement is for five years initially, but will be renewable from time to time. Provision is made for the review and adjustment by the Minister of the rates payable in the light of current hospital costs.
The teaching practices of the States in public wards of public hospitals will not be disturbedby the advent of the Commonwealth scheme.It is estimated that the annual cost of this benefitin a full year will be about £5,000,000, which will be met from the National Welfare Fund. The proposals are directed to removing one of the financial uncertainties arising from ill ‘health. In this scheme, together with widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, maternity, pharmaceutical, and the proposed tuberculosis benefits, the Government is framing a comprehensive and balanced system to safeguard the people against some of the hazards of daily life.
Debate (on motionby Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given tobring in a bill for anact to amend the Sales Tux (Exemptions sand Classifications) Act 1935-1944.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It has already been explained that, although hostilities have ceased, the Government is still in need of very substantial revenue to enable it to carry out the heavy tasks which lie ahead. For that reason it is not yet possible to grant any relief from salestax by way of general reduction of the rate. It is proposed, however, to grant a limited measure of relief by reduction of the rate of tax in respect of certain goods which have been subject to the maximum rate of 25 per cent., but which are clearly goods of a utilitarian character. Further relief is proposed in the form of certain additional exemptions. AsI indicated in the budget speech, these proposalsinvolve loss of revenue at the rate of £2,800,000 per annum, or approximately £1,900,000 in the current financial year. The proposals are incorporated in the bill, which contains a provision tothe effect that the new concessions shall apply to sales made on and from to-morrow, the 13th September, 1945. Arrangements have been made for circulation among honorable members of a statement showing particulars of the goods affected by the proposed new exemptions, and of the goods upon which the rate of tax is being reduced f rom 25 per cent. to 121/2 per cent-
The most important item is the proposed exemption of plant and machinery for use in the manufacture of goods. Ever since the inception of sales tax, manufacturers have complained of having to bear tax on machinery, plant, and other goods used by them in the manufacture of goods. The general contention has been that where tax is payable on the manufactured goods, double taxation is unjustifiably imposed if tax has also to be paid on goods which may be conveniently described as aids to manufacture. In 1936, the Government of the day made provision for an exemption of consumable aids to manufacture, that is. to say, materials of a kind consumed in manufacturing processes. Tax continued to be payable in respect of plant and machinery for use in manufacture, the view apparently being taken that the allowance of exemption of such goods would involve substantial administrative difficulties. The Government is anxious to do everything possible to encourage the development of industry so as to create the maximum employment, and, in these circumstances, it is considered desirable to reduce the cost of manufacturing plant and machinery by removing the sales tax therefrom. The exemption will apply to machinery, implements and apparatus for use exclusively, or primarily and principally, in the manufacture of goods. It will not apply to machinery, implements, and apparatus for use exclusively or primarily and principally for repairs, or for other purposes not involving the manufacture of goods. Manufacturers who are registered as such, for the purposes of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts, will quote their certificates of registration upon the importation or purchase of the goods in question, in the same manner as they do when importing or purchasing raw materials or aids to manufacture in the form of consumable materials.
Another item of general interest is the proposed new exemption of goods for the use of local governing bodies and authorities carrying on functions ordinarily performed by local governing bodies. This exemption will apply also to goods for the use of fire brigades, including bush fire brigades. The exemption will apply to goods for use and not for sale by the bodies specified in the bill.
In accordance with the Government’s policy of facilitating the progress of the housing programme, it is proposed to extend the existing exemption of building materials so as to cover the further materials specified in the bill. It has not been found practicable to provide for exemption of all the materials used in the construction of houses, but it can safely be said that, with this extension, the tax on those materials which now remain ouside the scope of the exemption is so small as to have no appreciable effect upon the cost of home-building.
The law is also being amended in regard to the specification, in the Second Schedule to the Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act, of the rationed clothing and household drapery, which is subject to tax at the special rate of 7i per cent. These goods are specified in the existing law as goods included in the definition of coupon goods in Rationing Order No. 27 as amended from time to time. The effect of the existing law is that whenever Rationing Order No. 27 is amended to make any goods free of coupons, the rate of tax on those goods automatically rises from 7i per cent, to 12^ per cent. As the clothing situation improves, the time will come when freedom from coupons will be granted in respect of wide ranges of goods. If these goods were thus to become taxable at the higher rate of 12£ per cent., it might lead to an increase in the cost of living index, an event which the Government wishes to avoid. It is proposed, therefore, to amend the law to cause the special rate of 7£ per cent, to apply to goods which are coupon goods under Rationing Order No. 27 as it now stands. Thus, the rate of tax on these goods will remain unaffected if, and when, the goods subsequently become coupon-free.
The opportunity is also being taken to seek certain minor amendments of the law which have been under consideration for some time. These amendments include slight extensions of the existing exemption of goods for the use of the Governor-General, the State Governors, diplomatic representatives and other representatives of other countries. In this regard, the sales tax law is being brought into line with the current position in regard to customs duty on these goods. The concessions are similar to those allowed by the governments of other countries to Australian representatives in those countries. Certain further amendments are designed to ensure, retrospectively, that goods for members of the British armed forces in Australia shall receive the same measure of exemption from sales tax as was previously provided for in regard to goods for members of the United States and other Allied forces. These amendments will have no appreciable effect on the revenue.
I shall be glad, at a later stage, to give honorable members such explanations as they may require of the detailed provisions. The bill is confined to the allowance of relief from tax and, therefore, it will no doubt meet with the approval of all honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. HARRISON’ adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a social services contribution.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is one of several designed to give effect to the Government’s taxation proposals as outlined in my budget speech last week. In that speech, I indicated to honorable members the intention of the Government to effect a reduction of the present weight of income tax on individual taxpayers, and at the same time, to introduce a measure to assist in financing the social services of this country. This course follows the lines of the recommendation of the Social Security Committee, which expressed the view that social services should be financed by the imposition of graduated rates of tax on every income earner in the community, except those on the lowest scale. The action now proposed, therefore, is to separate the present income tax into two separate levies, one of which will be a social services contribution. The amount obtained from this levy will be used exclusively for the purposes of financing social services. Because the social service contribution will be based upon incomes received, machinery provisions similar to those in the Income Tax Assessment Act will be employed for the purposes of the assessment and collection of the social services contribution. By this method, duplication of returns and assessments will be avoided, and payments of income tax and social services contribution will not impose any additional obligation on the general public. The introduction of the social services contribution will not cause any person at present free from income tax to become a contributor while his income remains at the present level. A single person will not be required to contribute unless his annual income exceeds £104, and a person with dependent wife or child or mother will be free from the contribution so long as his annual income does not exceed £156. The level of income at which a person will commence to contribute will be higher than £156 if the income-earner has two or more dependants. The plan will be brought into operation as from the 1st January next, so that in the current financial year the contribution will be for one half year only. Contributors will be required to pay only one-half of the annual contribution in this year. Special provision is being made to ensure that no person shall be required to pay as social services contribution an amount, greater than he would have paid in income tax at present rates after receiving the income tax reduction that has already been announced.
As social services are available to individuals only, companies are not required to make a social services contribution, except as regards the undistributed profits to private companies. Private companies will be obliged to pay the social services contribution that their shareholder? would pay if the undistributed profits were released to the shareholders by way of dividend. Similar considerations do not apply in the case of public companies, which at present are required to pay income tax at a rate that does not have regard to the individual assessments of shareholders.
The method proposed for the collection of the contribution is that the contribution shall be assessed and notified together with the notification of the amount of income tax payable. It is regarded as the simplest method to notify each person of his liability for both social services contribution and income tax by way of a single notice, which will show in the case of a person liable for social services contribution, the amount of the contribution, and in the case of a person liable for both income tax and social services contribution the separate amounts payable. Similarly, returns lodged for the purposes of income tax will be used for the purposes of social services contribution. Instalment deductions, which are made at present from salaries and wages for income tax purposes, will be made as from the 1st January next for the dual purposes of social services contribution and income tax. This arrangement will not impose any further duties or responsibilities on either employers or employees.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave bo given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 11)311-1044, as amended by the Income Tax Assessment Act l!)4.ri.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is also a part of the plan for the establishment of the system of social services contributions. As already indicated, it is proposed that the present income tax shall be separated into two levies, one of which will be a social services contribution. This proposal has necessitated some amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act and those alterations are embodied in this bill.
Social services contribution will not be paid unless the income exceeds, in the case of a -
It is important that I should mention that rebates of income tax allowable in respect of dependants, life assurance preiniums, medical expenses, &c., will be preserved. At present, these rebates are calculated at the personal exertion rate appropriate to the taxable income of the taxpayer. It is proposed that the rate at which the rebate is to be calculated shall be increased by the social service contribution rate. In effect, the combined rates of income tax and social service contribution shall be used in determining the rebates of income tax to which taxpayers are entitled.
– Would it be possible to let us know as soon as possible how much income tax for the financial year 1944-45 is unassessed or uncollected?’
– I shall try to get that information for the right honorable gentleman.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I. move -
Division A. - Rate of Contribution in Respect of the Contributable Income of a Contributor other than a Trustee.
For every pound of contributable income the rate of contribution shall be the lesser of the following: -
The rate obtained by dividing by thea mount of the contributable income an amount equal to the amount of income tax for which the contributor would be liable to be assessed; for the year of contribution if -
the rate of eighteen pence.
Division B. - Rate of Contribution Payableby a Trustee.
For every pound of the contributable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, pursuant to either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income Tax Assessment Act, as applied by’ the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945, to be assessed and to pay contribution, the rate of contribution shall be the rate which would be payable if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay contribution on that contributable income.
Division C. - Contribution Payable on Certain Incomes of Less than £200.
Where, apart from this Division, the amount of social services contribution payable under -.
Division A or B would be greater than fifty per centum of the amount by which the contributable income exceeds -
Division D. - Contribution Payable where Amount Would Otherwise be Less than Ten Shillings.
Where, apart from this Division, the contribution which a person would be liable to pay under Division A, B or C is less than Ten shillings, the amount of contribution payable by that person shall be Ten shillings.
Division E. - Contribution Payable Where Amount Would Otherwise Include Odd Pence.
Where, apart from this Division, the contribution which a person would be liable to pay under the preceding Divisions leaves an amount of pence remaining when expressed tin pounds and shillings -
if the remaining pence exceed six - the contribution payable by that person shall be the amountso expressed in pounds and shillings plus One shilling.
This resolution is introduced for the purpose of imposing the rate at which social services contribution shall be paid. The rate is graduated to a maximum of1s. 6d. in the £1. The graduation of the rate depends upon the income of the taxpayer and such factors as the number of his dependants. The following table indicates the graduation of the scale: -
The amounts to be collected from contributors on different ranges of income with varying family responsibilities, are shown on tables that have already been circulated to honorable members. It will be noted that when the plan becomes fully operative for the next financial year, the social services contribution will not be greater than 871/2 per cent. of the income tax payable at current rates. Accordingly social services contributors will not be deprived of any of the benefit of the proposed 121/2 per cent. reduction in income tax. In the current year, the contribution will be for a half year, so that only half rates of contribution will apply. In this year, income tax at half of the present rates and half of the reduced rates will be payable. As I stated earlier, instalment deductions will he reduced as from the 1st January next. Correspondingly, adjustments will be made to the amounts of provisional contributions payable on business and professional incomes and incomes from investments. It is estimated that for a full year the social services contribution will yield approximately £51,000,000 and for the current year £20,000,000.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Division A. -Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
The rate of tax be half the sum of the rate of tax imposed by the Income Tax Act 1945 and the rate of tax ascertained in accordance with the following scale: -
If the taxable income does not exceed £200, the rate of tax shall be nil.
If the taxable income exceeds £200 but does not exceed £300, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £200 shall be 3 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £200 shall be 36.15 pence increasing uniformly by . 15 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £201.
If the taxable income exceeds £300 but does not exceed £1,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £300 shall be 19 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £300 shall be 66.01 pence increasing uniformly by . 01 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £301.
If the taxable income exceeds £1,000 but does not exceed £2,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £1,000 shall be 56.8 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £1,000 shall be 80.03 pence increasing uniformly by . 03 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £1,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,000 but does not exceed £3,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,000 shall be 83.4 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £2,000 shall be 140.013 pence increasing uniformly by 013 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £3,000 but does not. exceed £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £3,000 shall be 106.6 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £3,000 shall be 106.004 pence increasing uniformly by 004 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £3,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £5,000 shall be 133.56 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £5,000 shall be 182 pence.
Division B. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Property.
The rate of tax be half the sum of the rate of tax imposed by the Income Tax Act 1945 and the rate of tax ascertained in accordance with the following scale: -
If the taxable income docs not exceed £200, the rate of tax shall be nil.
If the taxable income exceeds £200 but does not exceed £300 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £200 shall be 3 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £200 shall be 48.21 pence increasing uniformly by . 21 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £201.
If the taxable income exceeds £300 but does not exceed £1,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £300 shall be 25 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £300 shall be 90.01 pence increasing uniformly by . 01 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £301.
If the taxable income exceeds £1,000 but does not exceed £2,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £1,000 shall be 75.4 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £1,000 shall be 104.03075 pence increasing uniformly by 03075 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £1,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,000 but does not exceed £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,000 shall be 105.075 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £2,000 shall be 165.50275 pence increasing uniformly by . 00275 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £5,000 shall be 146.28 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £5,000 shall be 182 pence.
Division C. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
Division D. -Rates of Tax byreference to an Average Income.
Division E. -Rate of Tax by Reference to a Notional Income.
Division F. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, pursuant to either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income lax Assessment Act 1936-1945, to be assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A, B, C, D or E, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division G. - Tax Payable on Certain Incomes of Less than £200.
Where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax payable under Division A, B, C, D, E or F would, after deducting all rebates to which a taxpayer is entitled inhisassess- merit, be greater than fifty per centum of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds -
Division H. - Tax Payable Where Amount Would Otherwise be Less than Five Shillings.
Where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax which a person would be liable to pay under Division A, B, C, D, E, F or G, after deducting all rebates to which he is entitled in his assessment, is less than Five shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Five shillings.
Division I. - Tax Payable Where Amount Would Otherwise Include Odd Pence.
Where, apart from this Division, the income tax which a person would be liable to pay under the preceding Divisions, before deducting any rebate to which he is entitled in hie assessment, leaves an amount of pence remaining when expressed in pounds and shillings -
if the remaining pence exceed six - the income tax payable by that person shall be the amount so expressed in pounds and shillings plus One shilling.
any reference to Division B shall be read as a reference to the scale in Division B.
Earlier this year, the Parliament enacted income tax rates for application in the current financial year. The enactment of rates of income tax prior to the commencement of the financial year is essential for the purposes of determining the instalment deductions to be made from salary and wages under the payasyouearn system of taxation. Because of the cessation of hostilities, a review of the financial position has been made and, as I indicated by my budget speech, the Government proposes that a reduction of the rates of income tax shall be made. This resolution is introduced for the purpose of effecting that reduction.
In considering any reduction of taxation it must be recognized that war-time taxation has fallen heaviest in the income tax field, particularly on individual taxpayers, and these taxpayers have the strongest case for the reduction of taxation.
It is accordingly proposed that the individual rates of tax should be reduced. After payment of the social services contribution, the proposed reduction of the liability of individuals will be approximately 121/2 per cent. for a full year. There will beno alteration of the taxation of companies, although private companies will receive the benefit of the reduced individual rates in their assessments upon undistributed profits. The reduced rates will result in a remission of £10,000,000 in revenue for the current year and £20,000,000 for the next financial year.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of an automatic exchange and postal building in Russellstreet, Melbourne, and the establishment of the Russell automatic telephone exchange.
The proposal is for the erection of a building on a site which has been acquired on the north-east corner of Russell and Little Collins streets, Melbourne, and for the establishment of. an automatic telephone exchange to be known as the Russell automatic telephone exchange. The building will also accommodate a post office, public telephones, &c, and administrative staffs of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
The work is required for the reason that the manual exchange which now serves the city east area, Melbourne, and which was placed in service in 1911, is worn out. A new building to accommodate automatic telephone exchange equipment is urgently needed to provide for increased telephone facilities to the city east area. Provision for postal facilities in the area is necessary to relieve to some extent the main post office in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. Accommodation for administrative staffs of the Postmaster-General’s Department now in rented premises is also required.
The projected building will be a steel framed structure with reinforced concrete floors. The elevations to Russell and Little Collins-streets and Melbourne-place will be faced with cream tone brick and will be treated with dressedstone or architectural terra cotta at columns, doors, window sills, &c. It will contain a basement and nine floors. The building is designed for construction in two stages.
The estimated cost is - building and associated engineering services, first stage £125,985; second stage, £140,315 ;. total building and engineering services, £266,300; automatic exchange equipment, junction lines to and from the Russell exchange, apparatus in subscribers’ premises, cable reticulation and contingencies £721,000; a total of £987,300.
It is the intention to install the complete exchange subsequent to the completion of the initial stage of the building. I lay on the table of the House the plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 29th August (vide page 4963), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed: - (Demobilization of the Australian Defence Forces. [Quorum formed.]
. -It was with mixed feelings that I read the White Paper on the demobilization of the Australian Defence Forces which the Government presented to the House. If I had been asked to summarize my views of the plan, I would have described it as a reasonably good basis for an adequate demobilization plan. But if the House and the country are expected to accept these proposals as the Government’s complete’ plan, the Opposition must criticize it strongly. An analysis reveals that the plan has many weaknesses and shortcomings. And how could we expect it to be otherwise? The end of the war found the Government completely unprepared for demobilization. It is well known that plans had been made on the assumption that the war would terminate either about the end of this year or in the middle of next year. The abrupt cessation of hostilities took the Government completely by surprise. However, the fact that the war concluded earlier than the Government had estimated does not excuse its failure to prepare well in advance for the demobilization of the forces. The Opposition re peatedly warned the Government that it should be prepared for any eventuality. Honorable members on this side of the chamber drew attention to the fact that four years ago New Zealand introduced legislation, and prepared for such an emergency as the abrupt termination of the war. The result is that New Zealand legislation is far in advance of the Commonwealth’s plans for demobilization and rehabilitation. In what position is the Commonwealth Government placed?It has no land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen which has yet been approved by the States. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) made that position perfectly clear when, in replying to a statement, he said, “ although the scheme has not been approved by the States, there is nothing to prevent them from going ahead, receiving applications from intending settlers, and planning subdivisions “. But the facts are that, on discharge, former members of the forces are not able to secure farms, because no plan has yet been approved by the States for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Therefore, in that matter, the government has been caught unprepared.
My second point is that the Reestablishment and Employment Bill was passed only a few months ago, and the necessary machinery to give effect to its provisions is still in the process of being assembled. Again, the Government was taken unawares by the sudden end of the war, and is not prepared to undertake the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Indeed, that may be one reason why demobilization has been deferred until the 1st October. Classes for the training of ex-servicemen have only just commenced. Only 50 per cent. of the soldiers who have applied for admission to those classes have been accepted, and the obvious explanation is that facilities are not yet available for their training. When demobilization is accelerated, the percentage of men accepted for training will be considerably lower than it is at present. In this matter, as in the other matters which I have mentioned, the Government was caught unprepared. For the erection of demobilization centres, I understand, War Cabinet allotted £250,000, but approval to proceed with the work was given only last month. With the dilatoriness usually associated with such works, demobilization will be well under way before the centres have been constructed.
The Government must also face criticism for its failure to release from the services key men for the industries that supply building materials. Because of the shortage of building materials homes cannot be provided for exservicemen. The Opposition has repeatedly directed the attention of the Government to the urgent need to release from the services experienced men to establish reserves of building materials. On the 22nd August last, the Sydney Daily Telegraph interviewed the executives of various trades associated with the building industry and published their comments. The acting secretary of the Council of Brick Manufacturers stated that of the 38 brickyards in New South Wales, only ten were operating. Some 370 men were employed in the industry, but before the industry could supply bricks for a substantial housing programme, 2,200 men would be required. Mr. Hand, -of the Timber Merchants Association, said -
We need 1,000 skilled timber- workers in -order that sufficient timber will be available to build 15,000 homes within the next twelve months.
That building programme is distinct from the Government’s proposed housing scheme. Another important factor is -chat in the erection of new homes, green timber will, in the main, be used. The President of the Fibro Plaster Manufacturers Association, Mr. Mitcheson said -
The fibro industry must step up production -from 700,000 square yards to 3,000,000 square yards in the coming year to meet the housing programme. Manufacturers employ 789 men hut they need 2,700.
The Government knew that the housing problem was acute, and that essential reserves of building materials should be -established. Therefore, the Government should have taken action to ensure, as the .first essential step in its housing programme, the creation of such reserves, and for that purpose, released key men from the Army and encouraged builders to apply for the release of their ex- perienced employees. That should have formed an integral part of a plan for the absorption of ex-servicemen. But the Government has failed to do that. Although applications have been repeatedly made the Army has refused to grant them. Surely it is apparent to all thinking men that if plans are to be made to absorb scores and hundreds of men in industry it is necessary to release, without delay, men who are capable of making the plans. That would be a common-sense procedure. Men possessing this ability should be released at once so that plans can be made to absorb other men as soon as they become available for work. There can be no argument whatever against the immediate release of men who are not essential in their units but who would be key men in industry, particularly the building industry. Yet the Government is refusing to allow these men to be demobilized.
I bring to the notice of the Minister the case of a leading aircraftman whose name I can give if it is desired. He i« the son of a master builder. I made an application to the Minister for Air for hip demobilization, so that he could assist hie father in his business, but I was informed on the 31st August by the Minister thai the Deputy Director of Man Power, Sydney, did not recommend the release of this man, and that no further consideration could be given to his release at this juncture.
Another case relates to a member of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed at Townsville. This man wrote to me on the 4th September as follows : -
It does not appear to us that the Government realizes the war is over. If what we hear is correct, only a very small percentage of certain musterings are needed in New Guinea, yet more and more men keep arriving here from the south daily - 400 are due in on Thursday. Many of us have a high score on the points system, and a job waiting as soon as we are released. There is a feeling here that we are being put out of the way until it suits the Government to release us.
Surely it must be apparent to everybody that in the circumstances outlined that man should be released. The fact that he cannot secure release will support a charge that I intend to make presently that the Government is engaged in on* of the greatest rackets in the history of this country. Another young fellow, who has been appointed to a position as manager of a firm in Victoria, writes in these terms -
I have been appointed Victorian manager for- . I do not want to mUs out, as our whole future happiness and security is wrapped up in it. I applied for discharge approximately six weeks ago on compassionate and business grounds, and although my wife received a very sympathetic interview by the Army investigation officer, no more lias been heard by me about their decision. The firm applied for my release, but were recently informed that my release could not be granted. This has left me very confused as I am not it “ key “ man, as was clearly stated by my superior officers, when my application went forward to the New South Wales Lines of Communication. It was stated that if approved, no protest would be entered from this end.
Time marches on, and I am rather worried for /ear the opportunity be lost, surely I can now be spared. I am thirty-seven (37) years of age, with 42 months’ service to my credit, and have a wife and two kiddies, and if released will be making no claim whatsoever on the Army regarding rehabilitation, which should surely be considered. In short, sir, I want the position badly, and any assistance you can give mc will be forever greatly appreciated.
El is extraordinary to me that a young man who would be able to plan to reabsorb men should be denied his release.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman was an anti-planner.
– ~The trouble is that the Minister is being advised by longhaired crystal-gazers who are planning in the wrong way. If the honorable gentleman had a few practical men assisting instead of theoretical and academic individuals he might get somewhere. Men who are not holding executive or key positions in their units and who could go to responsible positions in industry at once and plan for re-absorption of demobilized personnel should be released without delay. Why are they not being released ?
I turn from the manufacturing industries for a moment to consider the position in relation to primary producing industries. Earlier this afternoon the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) made a statement, on the important subject of food production. I bring to notice a request that has been made by a limbless “ digger “ of the last war who is endeavouring to keep in production a dairy farm at Kellyville. He was denied the release of his son, whosehelp he badly needed in order to enable him to maintain production on his farm. The following is a copy of the letter this man wrote to the Deputy Director of” Man Power : -
I was surprised to receive yours (enclosed) as I had expected you would have favorably- considered my case. iou see I am a limbless “-Digger” and 1. applied because my stump was giving trouble, t got Dr. Whiting out from Parramatta and. he said my trouble was due to excessive pressure. I have not had a day off for two and. a half years. Now my stump has broken down completely and I am on crutches, but even, so I still have to milk the cows twice a day and do many other jobs. I don’t know how long I will be on crutches - it may be months. I’m getting over 40 gallons of milk a day at present, but, of course, I should be producing” double that amount, but what chance have 1 on crutches of working the farm to advantage! 1 suggest that, in view of the circumstances, you could recommend my son’s release without fear of being accused of misplaced sympathy.
Could anything be more unreasonable than to deny to a limbless “ digger “ of” the last war, whose wound had re-opened because of the excessive work which he has been called upon to do in order tomaintain production, the release from the forces of his son who would be able torelieve him of the inordinately hard work which he has felt obliged to do during the last few yean in order to maintain food production? Why has the release of this man been refused?
Some factors in relation to the refusal to release men require, in my opinion, the most earnest consideration of honorable members. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said in the statement that he made to the House that lack of shipping was a retardingfactor in demobilization. Yet the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) elicited in the House recently the information that of a total of 554,700- servicemen still in the forces 310,600- were on the mainland of Australia. Thi* is a large reservoir from which men could l>e obtained to place in jobs in key industries, and shipping would not be a factor. Many of these men are qualified to plan for the re-absorption of their fellows, and there should be no difficulty in securing their release. The Minister observed’ in his statement -
The only alternative suggested to a point*system. as a basis of demobilization, was a. proposal that discharge should depend solely on the availability or otherwise of employment in each particular case. In the opinion of the Government, this method would be unfair to those members of the forces who did not have assured employment to go to at once, and were not in a position to arrange it before discharge.
– That is the attitude which was adopted by Mr. Churchill.
– I am dealing with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The Government has had a great deal to say about its desire to rehabilitate service personnel. I understand that it proposes to distribute 2,000,000 pamphlets to servicemen. These are still in the hands of the Government Printer, but I am quite certain that when they become available we shall find one important and significant omission. That omission is the ground of the charge that I make against the Government which, in my opinion, constitutes one of the greatest ramps ever perpetrated in this country. I ask the Ministerto listen to whatI am saying, for he ought to be deeply concerned about it.
– I have not been concerned about much that the honorable gentleman has said so far.
– The Government is deferring demobilization of servicemen until the 1st October. In the meantime hundreds of men are being dismissed from what were essential industries in Australia.
– Thousands of them, rather.
– That is so. Many of these men will thus be in a position from which they can obtain preferential treatment over servicement who have not yet been demobilized. I was informed recently by the staff superintendent of an essential undertaking in Sydney that he could find positions for 2,000men and that those who were appointed would enjoy the security of practically life-time tenure of employment. I understand also that 400 men were dismissed from the Chullora Aircraft Works. These men were classed as indispensable during the war. They were prevented from joining the fighting forces and they enjoyed, in effect, all the facilities of a peace-time avocation. Such men, of course, are in a position to lodge applications immediately for employment in the essential industry to which I have just referred, whereas men who are still in the services cannot do so. That is not an isolated instance. On the 5th September the Sydney Morning Herald published the following news item : -
2,000 this Month.
Melbourne, Tuesday. - About 500 employees will be dismissed weekly during September from the Commonwealth munition factories at Footscray and Maribyrnong.
Other retrenchments are likely in October and November, an official of the Department of Munitions said to-day. Most employees received a fortnight’s notice, but in some cases it might be only one week. The Man Power Directorate was provided with a list of names of men and women dismissed in the hope that other employment might be found for them.
On the 7th July the Allied Works Council advertised for 51 architects and 41 engineers. Some of these men, according to the advertisement, were to be sent to the Northern Territory. I recall that the Auditor-General was severely critical of the top-heavy organization of the Allied Works Council, especially in the Northern Territory. Since then it has been announced that between 15,000 and 20,000 men are to be released from the Allied Works Council and that most of them will be directed to work in the building of homes. I ask the Minister what chance servicemen, whose demobilization will not begin before October, will have of applying for positions in the essential industry to which I have referred? It seems to me that the men who will be dismissed from the Chullora Aircraft Works and the many hundreds of other men who are being dismissed from the munitions industries will be able to pick the eyes out of the jobs that will become available in the near future. I have in mind, particularly, such job? as are being offered by the Allied Works Council. Surely the men who have served so faithfully in the forces throughout the war years are entitled to a fair opportunity to apply for such positions, but in order to do so they must be given their release from the forces at the earliest possible moment.
Sydney Morning Herald and to some personal letters.
– I know, as a fact, that 400 men are being dismissed from the Chullora Aircraft Works and that it has been announced that between 15,000 and 20,000 men are to be released by the Allied Works Council. I do not think that the Minister will deny those statements. These men will be in a preferential position when it comes to employment in peace-time industries, and I do not. think that they should be more favorably placed than men who are entitled to their release from the forces. It would be deplorable if, because of retarded demobilization, servicemen were denied opportunities to apply for positions and that the great majority of the good jobs that will become available in the near future were filled by supporters of this Government who were not in the armed forces. Such a situation would deserve to be described as the greatest ramp in our history. I have shown clearly that delay in demobilization will undoubtedly enable men who were employed by the Allied Works Council and others who were regarded as “ indispensable “ in other industries during the war to pick the eyes out of the jobs that will become available in industry in the near future, to the serious detriment of servicemen who cannot secure their discharge promptly. On the 7th August, the Sydney Sun published this paragraph -
The secretary of the Builders Labourers Union confirmed that Army authorities were not co-operating in releasing building workers. Mr. Thomas stated that not 1 per cent. of releases recommended by the Army Releases Committee was being granted.
Yet men can be released from what in wartime has been regarded as an essential industry, and are obtaining positions that should be reserved for the servicemen who fought to maintain them in peace-time avocations. The Minister has to prove the fairness of his approach to the problem. Men who were considered industrially indispensable in time of war should now be trained as the Army of Occupation for territories that have to be garrisoned, thus allowing the servicemen who have borne the brunt of the fighting to obtain a fair share of the jobs that are offering. Alternatively, the
Minister should say that no jobs shall be filled other than casually during the next twelve months, so that eventually the provisions of theRe-establishment and Employment Act may be invoked in determining which of the applicants should receive prior consideration. The Minister has said that members of units which have been disbanded will be granted leave until the time for their discharge arrives. That is good, so far as it goes. But it may be that the time for a member’s discharge will arrive before he can be suitably placed in employment. I assume that he would receive the payment provided for by the unemployment and sickness benefits legislation. Because of the high cost of living, this would not enable him to maintain himself fully, consequently he would have to use his deferred pay until he had obtained a job. unless the Government were prepared to retain his services in the meantime.
– Retain him in the service ?
– Yes, until he had found employment. A man who cannot obtain employment because all the jobs have been filled by those regarded as industrially indispensable during the war. should receive more consideration than merely unemployment sustenance. When jobs were available, servicemen should be demobilized to fill them. Men who had jobs to go to should not be penalized by being obliged to forfeit them because the employers would not wait for them to be demobilized; they should be released immediately. It seems fundamental to a scheme of this character that any man who has a jobwaiting for him should be given the opportunity to fill it. Such a practice would assist the Government’s scheme, because it would narrow down rehabilitation to those who had no positions. That would be a common-sense approach, and I commend it to the Government.
If the points system mentioned in the White Paper is to be regarded as equitable, the Minister will have to explain many apparently unjust features. I am concerned about the men with five years’ service whom the Minister promised to release if they had had certain service overseas. While the Minister was answering a question this afternoon, I interjected that if the releases of the men with five years’ service were to be effective, application for release would have to be made not later than the 30th September next. The Minister shook his head in answer to that contention. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th August -
Men eligible may elect to be discharged under the five-year release plan up to the end of September. . . . Up to the 30th June, 19,000 had elected to bc discharged under the five-year release scheme.
Under the points system, additional points are not to be gained for active service overseas. Therefore, men who have had service overseas will not re?ceive from the Government consideration greater than is to be given to men who have served only in Australia. Thus, a man with five years’ service who does not take advantage of the opportunity to obtain his release before the 30th September will be prejudiced compared with a “ Base Wallah “, the whole of whose period of service has been at headquarters in one of the States. It may well be that a man younger in years than the other whose service has been at the base, not having a wife or other dependants, will be prejudiced, despite his overseas service, by being kept in the service, the man with an equivalent period of service at the base being the first to receive his discharge. These inequalities in connexion with the points system will have to be explained, otherwise they will rankle in the minds of the servicemen overseas.
Summing up, I claim that first priority is to be given to the essential war-time worker, by his being discharged from industry and taking up jobs which demobilized servicemen should have equal opportunity to obtain. Second priority is to be given to tho base servicemen with equal length of service. [Extension of time granted.] A very fair exposition of the difficulties that beset the United States of America in the repatriation of the war veteran is contained in the work Veteran Comes Back, by Willard Waller. It deals exhaustively with the case of the war veteran, and shows the pitfalls into which a government may easily fall.
– Has the honorable member read what Winston Churchill has said in connexion with this problem?
– I have not. This work that I have mentioned seems to pinpoint some of the matters I have been discussing. For example, Waller says this -
Ideally, the demobilization of soldiers should v be geared in to post-war economic planning. Soldiers should be released in accordance with industrial needs and only when jobs are waiting for them. This means that the timehonoured practice of discharging soldiers by military units should be abandoned. The imperatives of politics being what they are, it seems hardly probable that the demobilization will actually take place in this ideal manner.
Already I have drawn attention to the fact that the industrial worker whom the Government claims to represent is being given preference over the serviceman. The exigencies of politics make it impossible for the ideal scheme of demobilization to be followed, because, if men who had jobs to go to were released, some of the industrial supporters of the Government might be adversely affected. A further quotation from this work reads -
The veterans are already beginning to return. They will constitute about one-tenth of the population - a very dynamic and dangerous tenth. They are the one-tenth that the other nine-tenths of -the nation has used to fight a war, the tenth whose lives, limbs, eyes, health, and sanity we have used up recklessly in attaining the ends of national policy. They are the principal social problems of the coming years. Like no other group, the veterans command our minds and hearts to-day. The kind man pities them. The just man feels guilty toward them. The informed man fears them*.
I commend that to the Minister. If the Government is not aware of the rumblings of protest that have been caused by the proposed demobilization scheme, it should put its ear to the ground. The Government is dealing with most combustible human material. If. these men are denied a fair deal, if they get the idea that preference is to be given to industrial workers who took full advantage of peace-time conditions in industry, if the Government refuses them an opportunity to come back to the jobs to which they are entitled, they will take the necessary steps to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they receive from the country which they helped to defend the consideration which is their due.
.- A system of points has been worked out to govern the release of men from the services, and factors affecting the allotment of points are stated to be length of service, age and family responsibilities. Those factors should, of course, be taken into consideration, but a man might qualify for demobilization in respect of all of them, and yet not have an essential job to go to on his release. Nevertheless, I do not oppose the granting of priority for release to men possessing the stated qualifications. My submission is that those who have seen service, and for whom jobs are now waiting, should be given equal priority, or at least discharged as quickly as possible.
The authorities in New Zealand have worked out a formula for demobilization which is different from ours in Australia. There, the factors taken into consideration are length of service and the requirements of essential industries, which are defined as those which employ farmers, shearers, musterers, dairy-farm hands, electricians, painters, plumbers, carpenters, sawmill workers and coal-miners.
It would appear that the Australian Government has deliberately refused to give any priority in demobilization to those associated with the primary industries. This is borne out by the fact that members of Parliament are still receiving from the man-power authorities the stereotyped reply that no provision has been made by the Government for the release of men associated with the primary industries. If the Government has changed its policy in this regard it has evidently not notified the man-power authorities. Only yesterday, I received a letter couched in the terms which I have indicated. Thus, it would appear that the Government is deliberately refraining from releasing men who might assist in the production of food.
– That is not so. The honorable member will recall that only last week I made a statement that an additional 3,000 men were being discharged to rural industry.
– If the man-power authorities have been told not to recommend the release of rural workers, even the 3.000 men mentioned by the Minister will not be released.
– I have been told by the Director-General of Man Power that the position is not as stated by the honorable member. However, if he will give me the letter which, he said, he received recently from the man-power authorities I shall have the matter investigated.
– It has been decided by the Government of New Zealand that demobilization will proceed at the fastest possible rate in the following order of preference: (1) those with four years’ service; (2) married men with children; (3) youths under 201/2 years, and men over 35 years. According to the Current Affairs Bulletin, a special priority system for demobilization has been evolved in Australia to cover the following cases: -
Men whose services are required on occupational grounds in the national interest, e.g., building. Employers seeking the release of men on occupational grounds will apply to the Man Power Directorate for their discharge. Servicemen will not apply through Army channels.
Men and women who are approved for full time courses under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Application form? for training will be available in units.
Men and women whose application for discharge on compassionate grounds is approved.
Other cases where the circumstances would normally justify discharge.
It will be noted that there is no reference to the needs of the primary industries, nor has any provision been made to release men to those industries. I appreciate that the problem will not be easy of solution, but the effect upon Australia’s economy must necessarily be harmful if nothing is done to provide necessary labour for Australia’s most essential industries. The war has ended at a most opportune time to enable us to increase food production if advantage of the situation be taken immediately. This is the sowing time for summer crops. It is the time when ploughing and tilling of the soil should he undertaken with a view to sowing, but if the next vital month is wasted we shall lose the chance of increased production for another twelve months. We know that a great many dairy herds have gone out of production, the cows being allowed to rear their calves. The dairying season is now beginning, and farmers must decide very soon whether cows are to be used for dairying or turned out with their calves. I suggest that every encouragement should he given to farmers to get back into dairying so that more butter may be produced, lt was stated only to-day on behalf of the Government that it was hoped to increase the export of butter to Great Britain to 50,000 tons. That is not a very ambitious proposal. Last year, only 45,000 tons of butter was exported - a most deplorable fact. Had more men been released to the dairying industry at an earlier stage butter production would not have declined to the record low level of 131,000 tons last year. Dairy farmers want their own sons released from the Army so that they may return to help them. The season for deciduous fruits will soon be upon us, and there is need for the release of men to assist in harvesting the crop. Some fruit farmers have been using prisoners of war, but it is probable that the prisoners will soon be returning to their own countries. In Queensland, wheat fanners are becoming anxious about the harvest next month because labour is not available for the work. They want to know whether practical, experienced men will be released from the forces in time to assist in the harvesting. Most of the servicemen stationed on the mainland of Australia are now idle and merely waiting for demobilization. Experienced rural workers with jobs to go to, or with properties of their own, should be released. Therefore, I urge the Government to act immediately. Ministers may accept my assurance that now is the time to release the men if their release is to have the greatest effect in increasing the production of food.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- lt is clear that the substantial majority of members of the forces are eager for the day when they can put off their uniforms and return to civilian “life. The aim should be to enable them to do that as quickly as possible. Every endeavour should be made to cut through red tape and to eliminate the delays of official procedure. But it is clear that even when those things have been done substantial practical difficulties will still stand in the way of rapid demobilization of our forces. There is not only a shortage of shipping to; bring .back the 167,000 men, exclusive of prisoners of war, still serving outside Australia. There is also the need to feed and guard the hundreds of thousands of Japanese now surrendering to the Australian forces, a task that will have to be carried on probably for a considerable time until shipping can be made available to take them back to their homeland. There is also the need to maintain lines of communication in Australia for our forces in the islands. There are other substantial practical difficulties in the way of a speedy demobilization. It is therefore obvious that some system of priority in discharges must operate. As to what the system should be, there are apparently two main schools of thought. One school of thought is that the system should be based on eon siderations of fairness as between man and man in the forces, and that the system should not only be fair but, equally important, should also be capable of being demonstrated to the men themselves as being fair as between man and man. The other school of thought .seemingly holds that the dominant consideration in arranging the order of discharge should be the needs of civil industry. Both of course are important considerations. No plan of demobilization would be satisfactory if it were based entirely on either consideration. But on the question of which of those two considerations should be dominant there can surely be only one answer. The overwhelming consideration in arranging demobilization must be to deal justly with the servicemen themselves and, in deciding the order of discharge, to give first consideration to length of service, age and family responsibilities. That must obviously be the dominant consideration although, of course, there must be some exceptions to it. To set aside what I have stated as the dominant consideration, which is the basis of the Government’s policy, and instead to give first discharge, irrespective of other considerations, to men with employment to go to would clearly bt extremely unfair. It is largely a matter of fortune whether a serviceman has a pre-war job to which to return or whether he is in a position to arrange with some employer at home to make a job available to him in advance of his discharge. The plan of. the Government provides that consideration of the length of service, age and family responsibilities shall be taken into account first, but it also provides for releases in advance of this priority where they are advisable in the national interest; for example, the Government’s plan makes provision for the release of key men required to restart industries in readiness for general demobilization.
The assurance given by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in the House recently in reply fo a question I asked about the provision of special discharges to meet the urgent needs of rural industries, is particularly satisfactory. It is also satisfactory to see the pains that are now being taken to ensure the swiftest possible return to Australia of men whose discharge is justified because of extreme compassionate circumstances in . their families. I have not always felt that compassionate cases have been regarded by the Army with the consideration that they deserve, and I am glad now to see that compassionate cases are being dealt with in an apparently very fair and expeditious manner. It is also important, in considering the Government’s proposals, to realize that they do not take away the existing occupational release plan. This plan, which was operating before the fighting ceased, will still operate and will not be affected by the present demobilization plan, and it will still be possible to obtain the discharge of men to return to industry on special occupational grounds. A good deal of evidence exists that to base discharges from the Army primarily on the needs of industry and not on considerations of fair treatment of the fighting men has proved unsatisfactory. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) quoted this afternoon from the writings of some American authority whose name 1 did not catch, but against that there is on record a statement by Mr. Winston Churchill, whose views, I know, will be given great consideration by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In his book The World Crisis Mr. Churchill deals with the position that prevailed in Great Britain after the 1914-18 world war, when the system of demobilization adopted was based primarily on occupational con siderations and the needs of civil industry in England. Mr. Churchill says -
According to the logic of this scheme the first men to be released were what were called “ key men “, i.e.,. men who were asked for byemployers at home to restart the industries.. These “ key men “ were therefore being picked;, out by scores of thousands from all the unitsof the Army and hurried back across the Channel. But these “ key men “ who wereto be the first to come home had been in many cases the last to go out. The important part* they played in war industry had retained them nt home until the needs of the Army became desperate after 21st March, 1918. In practice also the system lent itself to inevitable abuse. Those who were so fortunate as to be able to present letters and telegrams from employers at home offering them employment and claiming their services were immediately released. Influence was not slow to procure such credentials. Several thousands while on leave at home were actually excused from returning to the Army.
The ordinary soldier without these advantages saw his lately joined comrade hurrying home to take his job, or somebody’s job, in England, while he, after years of perils and privations on a soldier’s pay, wounded and sent back to the carnage three or sometimes four times, was to be left until all the plums at home had been picked up and every vacancy filled. The fighting man nas a grim sense of justice, which it is dangerous to affront. As the result the discipline of every single separate unit throughout the whole of our Army in all the theatres of war was swiftly and simultaneously rotted and undermined. For nearly two months this process had continued, and it had become intolerable to the fighting troops . .’ . I propounded forthwith the following policy: -
First: Soldiers should as a general rule only be released from the front in accordance with their length of service and age . . .
The result of the new policy and of its explanation to the troops was almost instantaneous. A very few days sufficed to set back the evil currents which had begun to flow. The unfair trial to which our Army had been subjected was at an end. A system of demobilization had now been instituted, the justice of which carried conviction to the soldier’s mind.
The plan commended by Mr. Churchill was based on the consideration that thi* Government has made primary in its present demobilization plans. But the Government’s plan still provides that in special circumstances men required to restaff industries, men required cn special occupational grounds, and men whose special family circumstances are such as to require their presence at home, may be released ahead of the general priority plan. For those reasons, the contentions advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are unimpressive. This is, of course, a matter on which there should be no attempt to make political party capital. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that if servicemen got the idea into their minds that the Government was giving preference in employment to industrial workers, they would be very angry indeed with the Government. It appeared to me that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was doing his very best to create that incorrect impression in their minds. Hope springs eternal in the breasts of Opposition members, and it is probably as well that they have hope left to them when all other forms of political support appear to have been withdrawn from them.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition put forward several propositions, some of which appear to be contradictory of others he advanced. For example, if I heard him correctly, he urged that men who did not have in advance a job to go back to should be retained in the Army until employment was found for them. At the same time he advocated that men coming out of munition works should not be allowed to take other employment as it became available.
– Not permanently, but as a temporary measure.
– Meanwhile, the members of the forces who might wish to apply for their discharge in order to have the opportunity to take employment as it becomes available would, under the brilliant plan of the honorable member for Wentworth, be retained in the Army while the munition workers temporarily would continue to fill the other occupations. On previous occasions the honorable member demanded that munition workers should be dismissed the instant their services were no longer required in the manufacture of munitions. Now, he says that they should be prevented from taking other permanent jobs. My first impression was that he was going to compel them to exist on the dole, or sustenance. However, that is not his plan. Instead, he proposes that all munition workers, having been dismissed from munition factories and prohibited from taking other employment, should be forced into a conscript peacetime army. I doubt whether he would find much support for that proposal among any section of the Australian people, be they servicemen, munition workers or any others. The honorable member spoke in a very confused manner. Possibly the explanation for his confusion is the dreadful shock he received from the announcement of the servicemen’s vote in the recent Fremantle by-election. I am very pleased with the announcement of theo Minister that proposals and suggestions for the improvement of this plan will be considered, that the plan will not be regarded as a hard and fast plan, and that should experience disclose the need for variations, such variations will be made.
.- Every one will agree that the member* of our fighting forces have done a splendid job for Australia, the Empire and the world at large. I do not intend at this juncture to deal with the many major engagements in which our troops took a brilliant part. The world as a whole is outspoken in its appreciation of the wonderful service rendered by members of Australia’s fighting forces. Every one will agree that they deserve the very best that this country can give to them; and, now that peace has come, they should be given that best as quickly as possible. All red tape should be cut away, and all unnecessary restrictions now being placed in their way should be removed in order to enable them, after their terrible experiences, to rejoin their wives and families and spend the rest of their lives as happily as they can. But the Government- has not made adequate provision in that, direction. Unfortunately, it has fallen down on the job of effectively planning the demobilization of our fighting services.
Honorable members on this side repeatedly warned the Government that it would be caught unprepared for this task. I recall speech after speech made by honorable members on this side when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was before the House. We then pointed out that the Government was not preparing for demobilization, that it had nothing more than a handful of blueprints drafted by visionaries. That fact is being clearly proved to-day. The Government stubbornly refused to take our advice. In contrast with thi3 Government’s efforts, the Government of New Zealand anticipated this problem, and planned to meet it with the result that it is ready to undertake the task. Indeed, it commenced planning for demobilization nearly four years ago. Many men in the fighting services, because of their earlier life on the land or because they have been living for four or five years under gum trees, in the desert wastes of North Africa, in the snows of Syria and Greece, or under the coco-nut palms on islands in the Pacific, desire to settle down to an open-air life on their return to this country. Let us see how the Government has prepared to deal with this task. I challenge the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to name one soldier who has been settled on the land. Speaking on the debate on the Reestablishment aud Employment Bill, I said -
I regret that the problem of their rehabilitation has not been the subject of legislation until to-day, five and a half years after the outbreak of war, and after 300,000 persons have been discharged from the fighting forces. The Government has not yet introduced any proposal with respect to the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. I remind honorable members that from 1940 to 1944 only fifteen war service homes have been built by this Government, and fourteen of those were for ex-servicemen of the last war, leaving one house constructed for ex-service personnel in this war, that is, for over 300,000 persons who have already been discharged. Let us contrast the record of this Government with that of the Government of New Zealand. Thu dominion has already settled on the land 734 ex-servicemen of this war at a cost of £2,374,142. Under that Government’s scheme, an advance of £5,000 is made available to exservicemen who propose to engage in the dairying industry, and an advance of £6,500 to those who wish to settle on sheep properties.
The best that this Government can do is to offer £1,200, which is entirely inadequate to settle one soldier on the land. [ continued -
That is the record of the Government of New Zealand, whereas the Commonwealth Government has achieved nothing. It has noi settled one ex-serviceman on the land, and it has not expended one penny in that direction.
That is the warning I voiced five months ag°, yet to-day the position is not altered. In a recent public address the New Zealand Minister for Rehabilitation stated that under the New Zealand Government’s rehabilitation scheme 2,200 ex-servicemen had purchased homes, 1,100 had purchased businesses, and 650 had settled on farms. That is a record which should make this Government aware of its failure in this matter, because its task is much greater than that which confronts the Government of New Zealand. It will have to do better in the future, because ex-servicemen will not tolerate continuing neglect of their interests. Not one soldier has yet been settled on a farm, or been given an advance for the purpose of purchasing cattle or farm machinery. The Government now finds itself in trouble before it has done anything practical in the matter. It has erred in its approach to the problem insofar as the points system is concerned. Length of service, age at enlistment and family responsibilities are of vital importance in determining priorities for discharge; but in this matter our primary consideration should be to ensure that those soldiers who have borne the heat and burden of the day. and have actually done the fighting, should have special consideration. The Government is not giving that. It has accepted the principle of actual war service in respect of the payment of gratuity on the basis recommended by an all-party committee. It fixed the gratuity at the rate of 2s. 6d. a day for overseas service and 6d. a day for service inside Australia, giving five times greater reward for overseas service. However, under this measure no distinction is made in respect of soldiers who have served overseas. I urge the Government to include in its points system the principle which it has adopted in determining war gratuity. Because of its failure to do so its demobilization plans are inadequate, and do not do justice to the men who are most entitled to our consideration. It is proposed that men with five years’ service, including two years’ service overseas, are to be released immediately provided they apply for their discharge on, or before, the 30th of this month. I contend- that all men with long service, say, from three years to five years, who have a job to go to should be released immediately. But the Government is merely toying with the problem. If we do not enable men in these categories to go to jobs which, are awaiting them we shall only cause confusion.
I can cite many cases of men with long service and whose employers are anxious to re-employ them in basic industries. In one case, I applied for the release of four men who are skilled in brick-making, tile-making and pipemaking, but my request was refused. The Government should give special consideration to the release of longservice men who are skilled in basic industries. In that way we shall give an impetus to the production of raw materials required for house construction. One of the first objectives of the Government should be to build up adequate stocks of building materials, such as, bricks, tiles, timber and nails, for home construction, and when that is done, men who are skilled in the building trade could be released in greater numbers. The firm to which I referred earlier was Hudsons Proprietary Limited. I can cite other instances. Bayards Proprietary Limited of Ipswich wrote -
I am taking the liberty of asking you to bring before the Government the matter of immediately releasing men from the Army and Air Force who have jobs to go to.
As my firm lost the services of nine out of a staff of fourteen senior males we are wanting these badly. Some three members of my staff are over 65 years of age and the strain of carrying on is having a bad effect on their health.
While the war was on I did not complain, but now it is over I think these men could be released at once and it would save the Government a lot of unnecessary expense.
If releases from the Army will expand industry the Government should not hesitate to discharge men who have served for a long period. They would create new work. The demand for various materials is so great throughout Australia that private industry will require years to satisfy it. The only way in which the Government can overcome the difficulty is to alter its present ill-conceived policy for demobilization. Its proposals will cause chaos, but, unfortunately, the Government stubbornly adheres to them.
Regarding the settlement of exservicemen on the land-
– The White Paper does not mention land settlement.
– Unfortunately, the White Paper is deficient in many respects. That is one of the reasons why I object to it. However, I inform the Minister that the White Paper does refer to land settlement. Evidently, the honorable gentleman does not know the contents of the document that he laid upon the table of the House. In all my parliamentary experience, I have never known of any other Minister who was so ill-informed on the subject with which he was dealing. The Minister has left his problems to his crystal-gazers and bureaucrats, and they have let him down.
Two of the biggest problems confronting the Government are to increase the production of food, and to grant relief to private producers who have been working early and late, in season and out of season, during the last five years. I could cite many instances of aged mothers and fathers who have been operating dairyfarms, in the main, and mixed farms under the most difficult conditions. Vear after year, they have carried on, hoping that their sons would be released from the services in due course and relieve them of their burden. But when I ask for the release of those sons, many of my applications are rejected. This afternoon, the honorable member for Wentworth mentioned that a soldier of the last war, who had a leg amputated and is in ill health, sought the release of his son to assist him, but his application was refused. I could cite many similar examples.
Many applications have also been made for the release from the services of butchers and bakers in order to relieve the civilian tradesmen who have carried on, short of staff, for five years. Since the outbreak of war many of their employees have been men aged 65 years and over, and their health is now breaking down. In Southport, and other holiday resorts on the south coast of Queensland, the population increases by 500 per cent, or 600 per cent, in the summer months, and the local butchers and bakers are practically exhausted. How can they be expected to increase production, with their limited staffs, to satisfy the demands of holiday-makers? But when I make application on their behalf for the release from the services of butchers and bakers, my requests are rejected. The whole system of demobilization is foolish, and should be reviewed.
– The honorable member does not believe in the “ points “ system.
– I do, but I believe in. a better “ points “ system than the Government has devised. An increase of food production is vital ; and a “ points “ system which does not take into account length of service overseas, the conditions under which our tradesmen and primary producers are carrying on and occupational grounds, is wrong. Primary producers urgently require barbed wire, wire netting, fencing wire, piping and irrigation plant in order to enable them to increase their output of foodstuffs and repair their properties, but they are unable to obtain those materials. Why cannot the Government indicate to the men, who have had long service, that employment is available in those industries ?
– The honorable member is opposed to the direction of labour?
– The Government will not get men back into employment unless it adopts a plan embodying cooperation, assistance, direction and leadership.
– Does the honorable member believe in the direction of labour?
– I believe in leadership. Big undertakings such as Stewarts and Lloyds and Lysaghts Proprietary Limited complain that they require the services of thousands of men, but the Government stubbornly refuses to release them from the Army. The Government is hopeless. It is not doing anything to assist the proper and effective demobilization of service personnel. Knowing that the war has ended, servicemen will eat out their hearts in some foreign land, or in camps under the gum trees in Australia, because they will be impatient to go to the jobs that are awaiting them. The policy of the Government will bring a hornet’s nest about its head. I appeal for more flexibility in giving effect to these proposals. If a more sensible and practical approach to the problem is not made - rejecting the advice of the theorists - the Government will deserve the fate that will overtake it. Year after year, Ministers have informed us that certain works could not be undertaken, or goods provided, because of the shortage of man-power. To-day, the position has changed. We have a surfeit of manpower, but the Government will not release it from the forces. If it persists in its present policy, it will get a rude shock. I ask it to reconsider its policy before conditions in Australia become more dislocated than they are to-day. The problem of demobilization is not easy. It has many phases. Some men will desire to remain in the forces. They will be able to serve in units that will occupy various territories until the defeated Japanese are disciplined. However, the Government does not appear to have the will to tackle the problem in a businesslike manner. I urge the Minister to take into consideration the representations which have been made by the Opposition and many organizations outside this Parliament.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) condemned the Government’s policy for releasing members of the services. He described the whole system as foolish, and encumbered with red tape, and he urged that the red tape should be cut without delay. He also claimed that the Opposition had, from time to time, made constructive suggestions for solving the whole problem, and that the Government had consistently ignored them. Despite those criticisms, the servicemen themselves have expressed in definite terms their complete confidence in the Government whenever they have been given an opportunity to do so.
– The Government will get a rude shock.
– To date it has not received that shock. Servicemen have expressed their complete confidence in the Government, and if I may don the mantle of prophet for a moment, I predict that they will continue to do so. Honorable members opposite have declared that the Government has not produced a plan for the smooth demobilization of members of the forces, and has been caught “ flat-footed “ by the abrupt cessation of hostilities. Evidently they have not read thoroughly the White Paper on the demobilization of members of the Australian defence forces, because the introduction includes the following paragraph -
Since the success of demobilization depends on the careful preparation of detailed plans and the gradual building up of the organization and facilities for their execution, the Government, in 1043, established service and civil authorities to advise on demobilization - the Inter-Service Demobilization Committee, representing Navy, Army and Air Force, and the inter-departmental Demobilization Committee, composed of the Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction (Chairman), the Deputy Chairman, Repatriation Commission, Director-General of Man Power, and the members of the Inter-Service Committee.
That is a formidable body, representing all shades of thought. Honorable members opposite were evidently not aware that it was appointed in 1943. Yet the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) claimed that the Government had been caught napping by the sudden termination of the war and had not made plans for demobilization. What is the honorable member’s answer to that statement ? The introduction continues -
As plans for demobilization were of primary concern to the services, it has fallen to the Inter-service Committee to prepare the first planning submissions. These were then considered by the inter-departmental Demobilization Committee so as to ensure that service proposals for demobilization and plans for reestablishment and reconstruction generally were mutually adjusted. Proposals so prepared were submitted to the Government, and, as approved constitute the outline plan for demobilization of the Australian defence forces. On this foundation, the services and civil departments have built their detailed plans for demobilization.
In spite of that, a responsible member of the Opposition to-day-
– Irresponsible !
– He is responsible to this degree : He represents a constituency in this House, and has been honoured by his colleagues by his election as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House. The honorable member said that no plans had been made for demobilization ; yet the very document which he was discussing states that in 1943 a committee was established and has since presented its report to Parliament. That is the answer to the honorable member’s criticism. The hon orable member said also that there were many weaknesses in the Government proposals. Of course there are weaknesses. The plan has been prepared in anticipation of events which will occur at some time in the future. There are weaknesses in every plan. I have weaknesses, and 1 have no doubt that even the monorable member for Barker has weaknesses, although possibly we are not so conscious of them as we should be. I am sure that the Minister for the Army does not claim that the Government plan is perfect. No plan ever is; but only by being forthright and courageous enough to make and execute plans can we achieve anything. The man who makes no mistakes does not make anything.
– What about the Government’s social services plans f Are they not perfect?
– I do not suggest for a moment that our social service plans, of which I am - I think justly - proud, are perfect, because as one plan is implemented anomalies may be created in another. I know from investigations that I have been privileged to make that the Government’s demobilization plan has considerable merit. Earlier this evening the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) told the House something about happenings in Great Britain after the last war. The honorable member referred to Mr. Winston Churchill’s criticism of the demobilization plans made on that occasion and to the manner in which those plans broke down. Young men with very little service were released before others with longer and more valuable service. It was a case of “last in, first out “, and it is common knowledge that riots occurred because of that system. Mr. Churchill’s statement on that occasion has been a guide to the authorities responsible for preparing plans for discharges from the fighting services to-day.
Frequently, the release of men whose cases I have placed before the various service Ministers has been refused. I believed those cases to be excellent, but I realized that I did not have access to all the facts. In some instances the manpower authorities declined to recommend releases, and in other cases man-power recommendations - strong recommendations sometimes - were not accepted by the service authorities. We must realize that we cannot be the judges in these matters. Only a few minutes ago 1 had handed to me a telegram from a man who has had six and a half years’ service in two branches of the fighting forces, and whose release has been refused. The release of men from the armed forces must be carried out in an orderly manner, otherwise chaos will result. The desire of every member of this Parliament, Ministers and private members alike, is to get our sailors, soldiers, and airmen back into civil life as rapidly as possible. We all have relatives and friends as well as constituents in the armed forces, and we all earnestly wish to have these people returned to their homes; but it is not for us to decide upon the best means of achieving thi.« objective. There are all kinds of physical difficulties, of which transport is probably the greatest. Garrison troops have to be provided for the island.? which are under the control of this country. We do not know how many Japanese remain in those islands, and therefore we cannot determine the number of Australian troops that will be required for garrison duty. The only way to deal with this problem in an orderly fashion is to adopt a system providing for releases on the basis of length of service. I shall not take second place to anybody in my desire to get men back into civil life. To say that the Government is not anxious to do this, and is not tackling the problem courageously is so much hocus-pocus. This Government has had the courage to do many things during its term of office; it has not merely talked about things, as honorable members opposite did when they were in occupation of the treasury-bench, and in fact still do.
– That is the honorable member’s impression.
– It is also the impression of the people of this country. That is why there are so few members on the Opposition side of the House today, and so many on this side; and it is the reason why there will be still fewer members on the Opposition benches after the next elections. A few will be left, 1 have no doubt, to represent the Liberal party’s “blue ribbon “ seats.
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the demobilization of servicemen, not the demobilization of the Opposition.
– Two aspects of this matter to which reference has been made by honorable members opposite are housing and the release of rural workers. Much has been said by Opposition speakers about the provision of homes for ex-servicemen and for civilians; but I am entirely unimpressed, because I recall only too well what happened in years gone by when honorable members opposite were in occupation of the treasury bench, and there was an ample supply of building materials and labour.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss housing on thi? motion.
– In regard to the release of rural workers, I wish to draw attention to what has already been accomplished. Luring the war, enemy prisoners have been used extensively in rural work; but in addition, from the 1st October, 1943. to the 30th January, 1945, provision was made for the release of 65,000 men from the armed forces on occupational grounds. Of that number, 26,675, or 41 per cent., were released .for rural industries. During approximately the same period, routine discharges due to normal wastage included 12,568 rural workers, which brings the total released to primary production to 39,24’3.
– That is only about 500 for each electorate.
– I” am afraid that my electorate did not get even 500; but the fact remains that during the period which I have mentioned, applications for the discharge of rural workers received favorable consideration by the authorities. I point out also that in 1943, recruiting in rural areas was suspended. It can be seen, therefore, that because of the urgent need for the production of foodstuffs in this country, not only for our own people, but also for other peoples who expected us to make provision for them and for members of their fighting services, the Government has given sympathetic consideration to rural industries. It is nonsense to talk of injustices to rural industries, and of a lack of plans, now, or in the past, for the release of servicemen for these industries. In some branches of primary production, record output has been established during the last year or two.
– The honorable member is talking in generalities. I ask him to give the figures.
– Order ! Primary production figures are not relevant to the demobilization of the armed forces.
– The Commonwealth Government has been charged with having failed to make provision for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, but not a. word has been said about the part which the States must play in the matter. Has any State passed legislation for the land settlement of ex-servicemen? One or two of the States may have given some consideration to the matter, but there has been no legislation giving effect to any plan for the re-establishment of exservicemen in this regard.
– Order! I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that Order of the Day No. 7 relates to a scheme of land settlement for exservicemen. He may not anticipate the debate on that matter.
– I have no desire to transgress your ruling, Mr. Speaker. My remarks were more in the nature of a passing reference to the subject. The demobilization plan has much to commend it. I have not heard any member of the Opposition suggest means whereby it could be improved. There is no doubt that industry generally is short of manpower, and that it is desirable to release men from the services, particularly key personnel who will enable supplies of raw materials to be built up and thus promote additional employment. The basic principle underlying any plan of demobilization must be even-handed justice for the men who are to be demobilized. I shall accept the plan put forward by the Government, which is the best that I have seen, unless I am told of something that will be more practical and realistic in its approach to the problem.
– The demobilization of the troops of this and all other nations will be a colossal task. Our servicemen are scattered on many islands, and provision for their discharge cannot be made in a few days. No member of the Opposition will deny that there are difficulties that will have to be surmounted. But there are other issues which present themselves to us. There does not appear to be a desire and determination to expedite releases from the forces where they can be made. The greatest half of the forces is not in the islands, but in Australia, including the capital cities. For reasons that have not been specified, they are still to be retained in the Army. That, however, is not our greatest concern at the moment.
The Government, anticipating the demobilization of workers in war industries, is expediting the transfer of great establishments to peace time products, and the commencement of operations for the manufacture of other than war materials. Thus, workers in munitions establishments will be given the opportunity to obtain the selected jobs that the Commonwealth will be able to offer, but an equal opportunity will not be given to the servicemen. I agree that every provision must be made for all sections of the community. It cannot be said that the servicemen will have an opportunity to step into these permanent good jobs that will provide continuous work at the highest rates of pay in the Commonwealth. No arrangements have been made for the tuition of those who desire to engage in a new calling, or for their transfer to it. The Commonwealth land settlement scheme is not ready, and the States have not- even surveyed the land, and this Parliament has not passed the necessary legislation to enable land settlement to take place. The lack of housing, also, is a big obstacle to the release of thousands of men who would wish to establish themselves in homes of their own. No one suggests that we should cause turmoil by discharging a swarm of men without giving to them the opportunity to find the lucrative employment they were promised. No jobs could be too good for servicemen, and a. number must be set aside for them on their return. Many servicemen who could obtain jobs immediately if they were discharged, cannot secure their release. Under the points scheme, approval has been given to the commencement of general demobilization not later than the 1st October, next. The plans in relation to demobilization provide’ that priority in connexion with releases shall be based on age, length of service and family responsibilities. In the main, these factors are all right as a basis. Many servicemen desire to remain with the forces, having no immediate need to return, to civil life. On the other hand, many fathers have taken the places of their sons in primary industries, as well as in commercial and professional spheres, and because of their age it is impossible for them to continue any longer. Those young men who have applied for release either personally or through a parent, and whom the Man Power Directorate has stated should be returned to civil life, ought to be discharged immediately especially if work awaits them and they are in Australia. In the cases that have come under my notice, there is work in the development of primary and secondary industries, as well as in the conduct of different businesses. These men should have first priority if transport can be provided for them. The Government claims to have made provision for accelerating the discharges of personnel nominated for release by the Man Power Directorate. That authority has recommended the discbarge of thousands of soldiers, airmen and seamen whom the services have rejected, yet these men are still in the forces. Their claims have been examined by authorities established by the Government. I have received from the Minister a letter in which he said -
It is regretted that, in the absence of favorable recommendations from the Deputy Director of Man Power, Queensland, no further action can be taken at present by my department In regard to the release of this person. £ received to-day from the Deputy Director of Man Power in Queensland a letter which stated -
I desire to advise you that there has been no change in the determination under which men are to be released from the services, or the recommendations of this directorate under this determination. The industries for which men are to be released have been specifically stated, and the number of men to be released for such industries has also been officially fixed by the Government. I can therefore recommend the release of men for those particular industries only, and as this particular service man is a fisherman, and fishermen do not come within the range of those releases, 1 regret that a recommendation for this release cannot be made.
Thus the points scheme which the Government claims to be implementing does not go further than the paper on which it is written. There is evidence that consideration in regard to releases is to be based, not on a points basis, but on the industries to which releases can he made. It would appear that the primary producer in the fishing and timber industries does not come within the scope of the releases that are to be made. On no section of industry was a greater draw made for recruiting, both voluntary and compulsory, than on primary production. The fathers and mothers. who to-day are carrying the burden of many farms are in a desperate plight, with no release of manpower to assist them; yet this country desperately needs additional production. Until the desires and intentions of the Government have been conveyed definitely to the Ma-n Power Directorate and the Army, including the commanding officers, it will be useless for us to expect any moderation of the hard policy which denies releases to certain industries, including the timber and fishing industries. Man-power is urgently required in secondary production, and as the war-time industries are no longer required, large numbers of men will become available. The man-power authorities have already recommended releases, and many young men who have been rejected by the Army authorities are already available in the capital cities. Steps should be taken immediately to alter the present unsatisfactory position, so that the men for whom jobs are waiting may be set to work without further delay.
.- Any government confronted with the colossal task of demobilizing the armed forces and bringing about a peace-time economy would have my sympathy. One might well say to the Government “ Go ahead, and do what you think is right, well knowing that, whatever you do, you will be. unable to please everybody “. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has announced that variations of the demobilization plan may become necessary, and that if experience shows that variations are desirable they will be made. 1 consider that to be a wise reservation. Approximately half of the armed forces of Australia are now on the mainland and the other half are in operational areas abroad. Desirable as it is to bring back our long-servicemen from overseas, the call of industry is so imperative at present that the men now in Australia should be demobilized as quickly as possible, if they are not required for service overseas. The work of reconstruction is of such an urgent nature that we cannot afford to delay it. Large numbers of men in the services are now doing practically nothing.
All branches of industry, including the agricultural and pastoral industries, are in urgent need of men for the resumption of operations on the pre-war scale. The agriculturists of this country have done a remarkably good job under the extremely difficult conditions imposed by the war. On the farms throughout Australia, the work has been done .mostly by the older men, the women and the juveniles. As has already been mentioned, elderly people have almost worn themselves out in their efforts to carry on primary production. I have every sympathy with those who claim that our longservice men should be brought back to this country as soon as possible, and I am gla’d that provision has been made for that to be done. But the transport difficulties are great, and it will be generally admitted that prisoners of war should have first priority. Volunteers should be called for to constitute the armies of occupation, and, if sufficient numbers are not available after a call of that nature, the deficiency could be made up by draftees from Australia. Then we could bring back the servicemen who have been absent from their homes and families for years.
In operating the plan for demobilization, regard should be had to the special needs of certain industries. Information has reached me from primary producers and others regarding the urgent demand for machinery for the coming harvest. The machinery firms state that they have not sufficient man-power to enable them to guarantee an adequate supply of the machinery required this year to take off what is expected to prove a record harvest. I have had an assurance from the Minister with regard to the release of men for that work, and I hope that he will ensure that they shall be made available without delay. It is important that men should be released for the staffs of local governing authorities. Shire councils and similar bodies have arrears of maintenance work to overtake. Roads, channels and bridges are in a bad state of repair, and staff is urgently required so that maintenance work may be promptly put in hand. Shire engineers are required for this purpose. The services of most shire engineers were accepted by the defence authorities for service in various battle areas, but for many months local governing bodies have been urging the release of their engineers. I hope that the Government will give special attention to the release of men in that class. Country districts throughout Australia have been particularly short also of medical men and dentists. Even prior to the war this shortage was acute, and these men should be released as soon as possible.
The statement has been made that no “ proper plan has been prepared for the demobilization of the members of the services, but I recall that in 1943 such a plan was drawn up. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures were consulted with regard to it, and so were the Australasian Council of Trades Unions and the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Those three bodies signified their approval of the plan, but the farmers’ organizations were not consulted as to what their requirements might be, and for that reason I claim that special consideration should now be given to the needs of primary producers. For years the representatives of country constituencies have been practically inundated with letters demanding the release of farmers, their sons, or their former employees. As large quantities of food are required, the release of men required for primary production should receive special consideration.
The plan for the demobilization of the armed forces was based, I believe, on principles adopted by the dominions of Canada and South Africa and the points system was copied from the United States of America. We should be careful not to go to extreme limits in disbanding the members of the armed forces. We have established throughout Australia many excellent air-training centres, and consideration should be given to retaining some of them at strategic points and converting them into establishments for both commercial and defence purposes. The idea might be extended to embrace an empire air training scheme, with training depots in Australia on the lines of those established in other dominions during the war. It has been stated by a Government spokesman that the Navy is to be maintained at considerable strength. I am gratified to hear that, because, if we are to become an important part of the Empire, we must have a strong naval background. It was against such a background that the greatness of the British Empire was developed.
Although the war is now over, wo should, I believe, retain in our permanent forces a considerable number of women as auxiliaries. During the war, women in the services have done a magnificent job. Of course, a great many of them will be anxious to leave the services now, and return to their peace-time occupations. Others will want to marry and begin their new domestic lives, but others will be willing to remain in the forces, and the Government should afford them an opportunity to do so.
Tt must be a source of satisfaction to every one’ that at last the war is over, and we can consider the demobilization of our armed forces. I hope that demobilization will be carried out as quickly as possible, and that the needs of the community will be considered in conjunction with what is fair to the members of the forces themselves.
.- In its’ task of demobilizing 600,000 men and women now in the services, the Government is confronted with problems, some of which are difficult of solution. The Government has a right to expect from all sections of the Parliament encouragement and assistance in this work. I believe that this huge undertaking will test the capacity of the Government and its wisdom, and also the wisdom, and sense of responsibility of the Parliament as a whole. This is the ‘first discussion which wo have had on this specific sub ject, but I have no doubt that the experience of the next few weeks will lead to further discussions. I hope that we shall approach the problem with a determination to do the best we can for those who deserve so well of us.
I do not feel justified in indulging in strong criticism of what has been already done. I do not believe that any plan presented by the Government could be perfect. It is only necessary to read in the statement before us of the factors which had to be eliminated from consideration when the points scheme was being worked out in order to realize the difficulty of the task with which the Government was confronted. It was found that if a practicable scheme was to beintroduced at all, certain factors which the people in the services felt should be taken into consideration had to be ignored. For example, such factors as individual wishes, physical condition, method of enlistment, nature and location of service, eligibility for training, availability of employment, and other occupational and compassionate grounds, were all eliminated, and the three factors retained in the finish were length of service, age and family responsibilities. Any points system which eliminates the various factors which I have enumerated must necessarily cause some dissatisfaction. It will be hard to convince a man who has served in the Middle East, and has also suffered the rigours of jungle warfare for a number of years, that his length of service should count for no more than the service of the man in uniform who never left his own capital city during the war. In the working out of a scheme it will have to be decided what modifications are necessary, but I believe that it has about it a rigidity which will cause dissatisfaction, and make it unworkable in practice. While it is true that a scheme under which immediate release is given to those with jobs available might create a sense of injustice, the capacity of the community to absorb the persons demobilized may depend in some measure upon the speed with which essential workers are put back into industry. For this reason, I think it will be necessary for the Government to modify the present points system.
It must be remembered that all those in the services are not- located in the one place. Almost two-thirds of the total number are located on the mainland. Of 551,700 males, 310,600 were, at the beginning of August, located on the mainland, while 224,000 were overseas. Of a total of 43,600 females in the services, -about 41,000 are on the mainland. The rate at which overseas servicemen can be demobilized will depend on the amount of shipping available. It is natural to assume that those on the mainland could be demobilized much more rapidly, and in much greater numbers, than those who are overseas. Against that must be set the fact that, while we have a large number of men overseas, it is necessary to retain others in Australia on lines of communication so that food and other supplies may be sent forward. However, giving all that in, there would still seem to bo a considerable margin, in terms of numbers, of persons located on the mainland who are known to have jobs available for them, and who would gladly go to those jobs if they could. It has been suggested that release of such persons would not be fair to those with a longer period of service. This is a factor which should be given great weight, but should it be given undue weight if shipping is not available to bring back those who are located overseas? Are we to retain in the forces for an unnecessarily long period those on the mainland who are not reasonably required for the purpose of supplying the troops still overseas? In one sense, of course, the question of unfairness does arise when the long service man is kept in the forces while others who have served for a shorter period are released so that they may go out and take the available jobs. However, the scheme cannot be perfectly fair when length of service is regarded as the prime consideration, while location and rigour of service are not taken into account at all.
Therefore, we must have regard to what is best in the national interest, bearing in mind that what is best and fairest in the national interest may prove to be best and fairest in the interest of the serviceman himself. According to that line of reasoning, . it follows that if we can get back into industry of all kinds men who will assist in its rapid development, we shall probably create opportunities of employment for other servicemen to be discharged later. At the present time, certain industries are seriously handicapped by the shortage of labour. We know that our own requirements in foodstuffs are not being met.
The Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) referred to-day to the desperate food shortage in Great Britain. We know that larders in Europe will have to be replenished if disease and famine on a serious scale are to be avoided. Therefore, we must get back into food production those men who can be released, and who are anxious to return. There are other sections of industry, too, which must be considered, including transport and coal-mining. Coal is a key commodity upon which production in a great many other industries depends. One could continue almost endlessly with lists of this kind. If the Government puts into operation a scheme which is not entirely satisfactory it will do a great disservice not merely to Australia but also to the individuals whom it sets out to benefit. We are told by departmental officers that approximately 50 per cent, of the men and women now in the services have positions awaiting them, and also that about 300,000 men and women have already been absorbed in industry. Consequently, I do not accept the pessimistic view that our absorptive capacity will prove a hindrance to speedy demobilization. I make that comment subject to the qualification that we have a tired and sagging economy. That is so for two reasons, the first of which is that we have had a strenuous and difficult period of war, and the people are feeling the strain. In secondary industries men and women have had to work long periods each day under - arduous conditions, whilst those engaged in primary production have had added burdens caused, by drought conditions. Secondly, we have a situation in which the Australian economy, because of the government’s financial policy, is virtually bereft of incentive. I do not wish to go into that matter in detail now - an opportunity to deal with it will come when the budget is under discussion - but it has a bearing on this problem, because it relates to the absorptive capacity of industry for demobilization purposes. A stimulus to industry requires something more than the concessions in respect of taxes that are indicated in the budget. It is a matter not of generosity to individuals but of national advantage, to get industry back into optimum production. As I have said, the Australian economy is tired and sagging because of the situation arising out of the war and the absence of any direct incentive. Probably the present budget contains only the Government’s tentative programme, but as early as possible the Government should indicate to industries, particularly secondary industries which have .more complex problems to face than have primary industries, the encouragement and relief that it proposes to give to them. That is being done in other countries, notably Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada. A great deal more has to be done here if industry is to be given the incentive which will make possible tho satisfactory absorption of the vast body of mom and women awaiting demobilization. About 90 per cent, of the women members of the services are still located in Australia, and I suggest that their demobilization should be possible at a speedier ra’te than in the case of the men. There is an urgent need for their services in the community. It is reasonable to expect that as men and. women are discharged from the services many married women will want to establish homes. Consequently, we are likely to find not merely opportunities for th employment of male labour but also that the present acute shortage of female labour is likely to continue.
I wish now’ to comment on some criticism made, particularly from this side of the House, regarding the transfer of workers now employed in munitions factories to other work. I appreciate the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), who used as a specific illustration what was happening at the Australian Gaslight Company, where 400 applications for what were virtually life tenure positions had been received from persons who had been, dismissed from a government factory. He contended that permanent appointments should not be made while people still in the services had no opportunity to apply for the positions. My reply to his comment .is that we can rely on ‘ the good sense of Australian employers and large employing organizations to see that reasonable opportunities will be provided for men and women still in the services to obtain employment in industry. I do not think that we need be unduly fearful in this connexion. On the other hand, it would be folly to criticize a government for desiring to make the speediest possible transfer of people from munitions production, which is no longer required, when we have so many urgent needs in other directions. If I had a criticism to offer on this point, it would be that the Government has been somewhat dilatory in making transfers. I have thought that political considerations have influenced the policy of the Administration in respect of the cessation of munitions production. I do not think that the Government should be dissuaded from making transfers from munitions establishments to other industries. Cases which have come to my notice seem to indicate that there is a gap between transfers from one job to another. I know of instances of workers in certain industries, including ex-servicemen who fought in the present war, who have been notified of the termination of their employment without any liaison between the organization which they are leaving and the manpower authorities who are supposed to be making other employment available for them. There’ is usually a rather curt notice of the termination of employment, and the employees concerned are then left to their own devices in obtaining work elsewhere. It would seem to be both desirable and practicable to have, in a munitions establishment, where the authorities know that the work is drawing to a close, a direct liaison with the manpower authorities, so that before the factory is closed down people working there would be given some definite information as to opportunities for employment elsewhere. I do not claim to have covered this problem; indeed it would be difficult to do so at the present time. But I believe that all who have views on the subject should assist the
Government in a solution of this problem. There is an obligation on us to do so. Whatever our criticisms may be. the Government can be assured of our goodwill and assistance. The Government has the opportunity to help to build the “ new order “ of which so much has been said to increase national production and thereby increase our national prosperity. Failure to do so may lead to a sense of bitterness and frustration which could poison the years immediately ahead. I hope that the Government will succeed. We on this side are prepared to help it to do so.
.The House is indebted to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) for his able and constructive contribution to this debate. At times there has been a tendency on the part of honorable members on both sides of the chamber to claim that a particular political party is the serviceman’s friend. Such a claim would be untrue, and could only be advanced for political purposes. Servicemen will judge a political party on its record., and on the way it faces the great task which now confronts the country. I confess that [ am unable to see the point of some of the criticism advanced by other Opposition members, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for More ton (Mr. Francis). The Government’s demobilization plan embodies four principles - length of service; age; family responsibility; and release on occupational grounds. The first three are measurable. The honorable member for Fawkner was correct in pointing out that the ability to measure those factors may give to them a dangerous importance in the eyes of those who will administer this scheme, because they have the attraction of being definite. The fourth principle - occupational releases - to which honorable members opposite have referred, alsohas its dangers. The speech of the honorable member for Moreton would give one the impression that proof that a serviceman had a job to go to was a sufficient ground for release.
– I mentioned long service as well.
– During the byelection campaign in the Fremantle electorate, Sapper Miller, who returned from Bougainville too late to contest the seat, stated that most of the men in the Pacific Islands feared that demobilization would take place before they left for home and that when they returned they would find that the best positions in the community had been filled. That is a very real fear of those men. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) referred to a statement by Mr. Churchill that demobilization in England after the last war when troops that had seen hard service, were still in France bad led to rioting, particularly at Calais. It resulted from dissatisfaction. I believe that the Government, with its four principles of length of service, age, family responsibility and release on occupational grounds, has already taken steps to obviate a repetition of such discontent. Nobody disagrees with “ length of service “. I realize from the interjection of the honorable member for Moreton that he agrees with it too.
– And I said so.
– But there are indications that several honorable gentlemen consider that “ length of service “ should be modified with some consideration for overseas service. I agree with that entirely, but we ought not to forget that we can make it an academic and unreal point in this debate, because if a man has been in the Army for five years, usually he has also had overseas service. It is no use pretending that long service and overseas service are divorced when, in practice, in the Australian Army,they are not. “ Occupational release “, not being measurable and definite, could easily become a “ racket “. The tendency in this debate has been to say that if an employer asks for a man he should be released. An employer would ask for the man in reach and would not tend to ask for a man up in the islands. So if honorable members wish to give consideration to the men in the islands, occupational releases should not be determined just on the application of an employer who knows a man in the Army. It should be determined, as the Commonwealth Government has stipulated, on its judgment of essential work - essential services that will enable the economy to get back to its peace-time gear. Statements have been made by honorable members opposite to the effect that they believe in leadership, that they believe in the power of the Commonwealth Government to direct men into employment. Power over employment and unemployment was one of the items of the referendum most objected to by honorable gentlemen opposite and, in the United Nations Conference on International Organization debate, the full employment stipulation of the Charter of the United Nations was considered by them to be a backdoor method by which the Commonwealth Government could gain power to direct labour. I sincerely hope that it will be found that the Commonwealth Government has power to direct private employers to give preference in employment to returned soldiers, but no one can dogmatize as to how the High Court would rule should such power be challenged.
The honorable member for Moreton supported the points system and pointed out that demobilization would be complicated by the occupation of Japan and the problem of transporting troops back from the islands. I particularly direct attention to the problem of transport. After all, Australia has not a great many ships. Such as it has should be used to the full in bringing back prisoners of war and with long servicemen from the islands. We have not many ships. Even Great Britain, a maritime nation, is being reduced to using warships to transport prisoners of war and servicemen back from the Pacific zone. The problem of transport will make it difficult to bring back men from the islands. Any of us, from time to time, will be able to stand up in this House and utter criticism. Every case that honorable gentlemen opposite can cite of a person with a job to go to being denied release can be equally cited on this side. Nobody has a monopoly of that knowledge. I have been in Parliament only two weeks, but have had at least twenty letters about the release of servicemen. I do not think any point is served by destructive criticism of what has been done so far. Statements have been made that there is no soldier land settlement policy in connexion with demobilization. In my State of Western Australia, returned soldiers have been organized by the State Government, which is supported by the Commonwealth Government, to go round and put farms in the good dairying areas in the southwest that were abandoned in the depth of the depression back in order. They go round in a group. When they have restored sufficient farms for them all, they occupy them. No man starts behind scratch. The farm is ready for im-mediate use. That constructive approach results from State and Federal cooperation. It is said that there is no provision for technical or professional training. Prior to entering Parliament it was my job to lecture in the University and the Teachers Training College in Western Australia. Men were there whose careers had been interrupted by the outbreak of war. If they are married, they receive £5 5s. a week to support them through their courses. In addition, they receive a grant of £10 for books, or, if on the technical side, a loan of £40 for tools. Intended expansion of the numbers of these men - and it was taking place continually - has presented the University authorities with a problem of staffing, but the fact remains that the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme is definite, and it is unfair to get up here and say that no assistance has .been given’ by the Commonwealth Government to men already demobilized. There are certain other aspects of this matter that I should like to draw attention to. It has been said that skilled key-men should be released. We have to recognize that practical conflict arises even here. The man most desired by civil industry is also most desired by the Army. The skilled key-man .needed by industry is usually a skilled key-man in the Army, and resistance is being offered by the military authorities to releasing him first, especially as military activities are still being conducted in the islands. The last point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Government is the question of prisoners of war. I have no doubt that the Government is concerned with rehabilitating them in civil “ife, but the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme is limited so far to men whose actual professional or technical courses were interrupted by the outbreak of war.
X should like to see no such limits on the demobilization of former prisoners of war. Nothing can make good to them the years of imprisonment and ill treatment that they have suffered. I am sure that the Government is conscious of this matter, and I hope every member of the House will be vigilant in seeing that the demobilization of those men shall be particularly well attended to. They will be » minority. We all know that this House will respond to the early demobilization of soldiers. It has to. Every honorable member is being bombarded with letters concerning this matter, but minority groupings such as prisoners of war might well be given special consideration. I hope that all honorable members will be vigilant, should an impersonal Civil Service forget these men. I cannot see how the Government could have put forward principles other than length of service, 3ge, family responsibilities and occupational considerations in order to determine discharge priorities, provided that the importance of the occupation is judged by the Government and not as the result of collusion between an employer and a man who happens to be within reach and not in the islands. I commend the Government for its White Paper on demobilization and the speed with which it has tabled the document. In view of the brief period of peace we have yet experienced, criticisms based on peacetime conditions are out of place; but in view of the opinion of the Bougainville men whom I mentioned at the outset of my remarks, I believe that this programme will commend itself to service personnel themselves, and particularly to servicemen still in the islands. After all, if they consider it to be fair, and the occupational release principle is applied primarily in the interests of the national economy, we can say that we have the Ideal system of demobilization.
.- 1 cannot see the need for any controversy upon this subject, because every honorable member has at heart the interests of the members of the fighting services, and is concerned with their early demobilization and rehabilitation. There is no need, therefore, to introduce party politics into this debate. It is simply a matter as to whether the particular scheme put forward by the Government has merit. I am not very much enamoured of the points scheme. I understand that the points scheme was prepared while we were still at war. Under such conditions it was fair and reasonable as between members of the fighting services, but now that the war has finished there is no necessity to proceed along such lines.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that he is prepared to accept any suggestions that will improve the Government’s plan. He invited honorable members to put forward proposals designed for that purpose. About two or three years ago I was rather concerned at the time and trouble involved in obtaining the release of members of the fighting services on grounds specified to warrant release. I made a special visit to Victoria Barracks, where I interviewed the general in charge of Lines of Communications and discussed this matter with him. He then said to me. “ I can assure you that we have complete plans for demobilization. Various depots will be set up enabling demobilization to be completed within a matter of weeks “. I should now like to know what has become of those plans, and what necessity has arisen to call for any complicated scheme for demobilization. No doubt, as the Minister has emphasized, the aspect of fairness to members of the fighting service enters into the picture to some degree; but our overriding consideration should be to restore the national economy on a sound basis. After all, the interests of members of the fighting services is wrapped up in that consideration, because if our national economy is not replaced on a sound basis their prospects of future employment and security will be very poor indeed. We must realize that of all the united nations Australia, to-day, is probably in the worst position because of the strain that has been placed upon our national economy, particularly on the home front, due to the relatively large numbers of our people who were enrolled in our fighting services and war indus-. tries. In fact, one out of every eight of our people were engaged in the fighting services, and that is the highest ratio of any of the United Nations. At the same time, we find that other United Nations are getting back to their peace-time economy much quicker than we are. For instance, Canada, which intended to place only 30,000 troops in the Pacific zone, does not intend to send any troops at all to Japan. New Zealand also has its post-war plans and demobilization plans under way; and South Africa and the United States of America have their plans well advanced. .Some honorable members have stressed the statement made by Mr. Churchill pointing out the injustice shown to members of the fighting services in Great Britain after the war of 1914-18, and the way in which some of those men were adversely affected. But we are not thereby justified in going to the other extreme, and laying down proposals which will retard demobilization. Cabled news in to-day’s press informs us that the British scheme will -unduly hold up demobilization and rehabilitation. It is estimated that only 1,500,000 service personnel will be demobilized in Great Britain in twelve months, whereas in the same period 8,000,000 service personnel will be demobilized in the United States of America. We need to consider this scheme, which seems to be based on the British scheme, in the light of the situation which has arisen since the ending -of the war. I cannot see any reason why members of the fighting services should be kept penned up in Army camps to await their turn for discharge under the points system. Under such conditions -their morale will be adversely affected. It would be much preferable to release service personnel on full pay, as is done in South Africa, where they are kept on the Army service list until such time as employment is found for them. That would be far better than keeping them in Army camps where their only employment is to feed themselves. Such a system must have a bad effect on their morale, whereas if they were allowed to go home and mix with their relatives, they would soon look round for employment and automatically help to rehabilitate themselves.
Various obstacles in the way of speedy demobilization have been pointed out. Reference has been made to the shortage of. shipping. However, sufficient ships could be found to get our troops into the firing line. Where there is a will there is a way. We should not become obsessed with the difficulties which will confront us in this matter. I have no doubt that should we lack shipping, our Allies, particularly Great Britain and the United States of America, would come to our assistance in the same way as they supplied shipping to enable us to get our troops into tho. firing line. In addition, we can utilize aeroplanes for the transport of our men from the islands. Now that the war is over, Australia, like all of the other United Nations, has aeroplanes “ to burn “, and we have sufficient pilots to man them. These aeroplanes should be made available for the purpose of returning our servicemen from the islands as quickly as possible. The basis on which personnel is to be released is set out in this plan.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), in a letter dated the 12th September, referred to the conditions under which servicemen will be released. He stated -
I now wish to advise that general demobilization will commence on 1st October, 1945. Releases will be effected in accordance with individual priorities based on age, length of service and family responsibilities. Provision has been made, however, for accelerated demobilization for personnel who are required in essential occupations, to prepare the way for those remaining in the forces, and for those whose early release is justified on compassionate grounds.
What test will be prescribed in order to determine what industries are essential? Australia is not now on a war-time footing, when certain key industries were regarded as essential to the conduct of the war effort. Our policy is now one of full employment, and every industry which can provide employment is essential to our post-war plans. Every exserviceman who returns to a job will, in turn, help to provide work for others. He will require food, clothing and accommodation, and meeting those requirements will automatically create employment for other ex-servicemen. The Minister proceeded -
If accelerated demobilization for any member of the forces is desired on occupational grounds, the prospective employer (or the member of the forces if self employed) should submit his application to either the local National Service Officer (for employment outside capital cities) or the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in the relevant State (for employment within capital cities).
I Lope that the Government, when considering the operation of these plans, will not continue the policy of requiring each application for release on occupational grounds to be submitted through National Service Officers. That procedure will cause a bottleneck, and unduly retard demobilization. A few days ago, I heard of a transport driver who had applied for his discharge from the forces, at the request of his previous employer, a firm of timber merchants. He had served in the Army for a considerable time, and as the Government’s policy is to give first priority to labour for the building trade, particularly the supply of raw materials, [ expected that the man would be automatically released. But I received from the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales a letter stating that because of the policy laid down by the Government some months ago, he could not recommend the release of the applicant. A submission was made by the Timber Controller that it was not essential to the particular industry to obtain the release from the Army of a man to drive a lorry. I do not understand the basis on which the man-power authorities work. If it is contended that only those who cut the timber are essential to the industry, and that lorry-drivers are not essential, does it mean that the authorities are prepared to leave urgently required timber in the yards? Something appears to be radically wrong in carrying out this policy. I understand that a Co-ordinator of Demobilization will be appointed by the Government. He should be an official with sufficient ability and driving force to break through bottlenecks of that nature. The Minister’s letter continued -
Applications for accelerated discharge on compassionate grounds should be made by the member of the forces to his commanding officer.
I heard to-day that an application by a serviceman for discharge on compassionate grounds had been refused. Yet the war ended several weeks ago I The letter concluded -
It should be realized that demobilization will extend over a lengthy period and there will be a natural desire for members to be released as early as possible. In order that the basic principles of priority for demobilization which are fair and equitable as between individuals, should not be disrupted more than is necessary, the number of cases approved for accelerated demobilization will be kept to a minimum.
Why is that ? It leaves the way open for national service officers to say that, in accordance with the policy laid down by the Government some months ago, they are not in a position to recommend the release of certain servicemen on occupational grounds. Even one individual, when employed or unemployed, affects other members of the community. During the depression the dismissal of employees by one firm caused the dismissal of employees in other firms. As one industry closed, it caused other industries to cease to function. The process had a snowball effect, and hundreds of thousands of persons became unemployed. In the demobilization of servicemen, each man returning to industry will create work for other members of the community in fulfilling his requirements. But I fail to see how the plan will operate smoothly if men are released from the forces only on the grounds prescribed in the “ points “ system. A few days ago, I heard that a particular industry planned to increase the number of its employees until in the course of time it would engage several hundred ex-servicemen. But in. the initial stages of this expansion, it urgently required the services of a draftsman who happened to be a member of the forces. Unfortunately, his length of service and family obligations did not entitle him to the requisite number of points which would enable him to secure his early release. Yet the industry needed his services in order ultimately to provide employment for several hundred men.
Before the cessation of hostilities, it was only fair that men with long periods of service in the forces should not be obliged to take battle risks any longer, but those dangers have now passed, and many of those men, particularly those who were unemployed or unskilled at the time of their enlistment, may not now be so desirous of leaving the Army. They will require vocational training and rehabilitation before they will be able to obtain a reasonable civil occupation. It would be infinitely better to release those who were formerly key men in industry, because they will create employment for many other men. Apprentices whose training was postponed, and university students whose studies were interrupted by the war, should be permitted to finish their courses. Three factors are involved in this matter. If men for whom jobs are waiting are released without delay, they will be automatically rehabilitated without putting the country to any expense. After their discharge, their pay -and allowances will cease, and as taxpayers they will contribute to Consolidated Revenue. In addition, they will help to create work for other exservicemen, and enable the Government to concentrate its efforts on the men who require special assistance or training.
Regarding the forces required to occupy islands in the Pacific, and for garrison duties, I agree with the submission of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that service should be definitely on a voluntary basis. Demobilization should not be a complicated process, if we adopt a common-sense attitude. In fact, demobilization should be comparatively simple. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that a survey would probably disclose that many men are anxious to remain in the Army, particularly those who desire to belong to the permanent defence force of the Commonwealth. The Government, at an early date, should announce its decision regarding the strength of that force. Probably more men will desire to remain in the Army than the number who want to be discharged. Men with family obligations, and those for whom jobs are waiting, should be discharged in order to enable the country to return to a normal peace-time basis. If that were done, every body would be satisfied with the situation. Men who remain in Army camps should be granted leave, with or without pay according to whether they have a job awaiting them. I hope also that the Co-ordinator of Demobilization, whether or not he is a high Army official, will possess the requisite capabilities and be in sympathy with the Government’s policy of demobilization and plans for the post-war period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Northern Territory: Mining Lease - Sugar-cane Wax.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to raise a matter in connexion with the disposal of a goldmining lease at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. I am deeply indebted to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) for the manner in which he has approached this matter, and I am sure that he will not mind me raising it now, because it involves certain principles in regard to the administration of the law, and certain matters which must be decided under the Government’s rehabilitation legislation. The facts are these: Two men, named Traylen and Standley. held a prospecting lease known as “ The Pinnacles “. The term of the lease was from the 17th August, 1941, to the 17th August, 1942. Traylen and Standley were called up for military service in May, 1942 - before their lease expired - and they are still in the Army. The Army area officer who called them up, when questioned as to the effect upon the prospecting lease held by these two men, told them that the Army would protect their rights whilst they were in the forces. The men joined the Army and, as is customary, they did not remain together, but were separated. The prospecting lease held by Traylen and Standley was cancelled as from the 23rd May, 1943. On the 10th June - only a few days afterwards - an Army officer, Captain J. M. Thompson, applied for the lease. The Warden’s Court sat, but Captain Thompson did not appear. I understand that there is a long standing Army general routine order preventing Army personnel from engaging in activities of this description, especially in the Northern Territory. AsI have said, Captain Thompson did not appear at the Warden’s Court, but he was represented by a solicitor, who, I understand, was also in uniform, and was a member of the Army Legal Department. I should like to know why that gentleman was able to appear in this case. A registered mining agent, R. J. Cosgrove, of Tennant Creek, appeared for Traylen and Standley. In answer to
Cosgrove, the solicitor who appeared for Captain Thompson said that he had no instructions, and could not answer certain questions addressed to him. The mining agent had endeavoured to get in touch with Traylen and Standley to have certain papers signed, but because the men had been separated it was not possible to get the papers back from them in time. Nevertheless, certain matters remained to be determined by the Warden’s Court.
The first was the application by Captain Thompson for the allotment of the gold-mining lease known as 108e or “ The Pinnacles “. Secondly, there was an objection to the granting of that lease by the agent representing Traylen and Standley. Further, there was an application by Traylen and Standley, through their agent, for the granting of the lease to them, and an objection by Captain Thompson to the granting of the lease to Traylen and Standley. The warden’s decision was that the lease should be granted to Captain Thompson, and the lease was granted on the 14th September, 1943, Captain Thompson must have known the conditions of the lease, and further, the mining warden must have known that Captain Thompson could not fulfil the conditions of the lease, which involved the employment of labour and the expenditure of certain sums of money. In addition, the matter is still further complicated by the existence of a Northern Territory Mining Ordinance 85a, which makes certain provisions in regard to the safeguarding of the rights of mining lessees whilst they are on active service. It would appear that Mining Ordinance 85a was completely ignored in the granting of this lease. As 1 have said, the lease was granted on the 14:h September. Twenty-eight days later, Captain Thompson applied to the warden for exemption from the labour conditions. The application was dismissed, and, I think, quite rightly so, on the 16th November, 1943. On the 19th January, 1944, a further application through the Adelaide legal firm Lempriere, Abbott and Cornish was also dismissed. A third application by another Adelaide solicitor, Mr. T. S. Wilson, on the 16th April, 1945, was also rejected. In the meantime, late in January, Captain Thomson saw me in Parliament House, Adelaide, in regard to the granting of labour for the working of this lease. I asked certain questions as to how the lease came to be allotted. The explanation given was reasonable, and I made certain representations to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and the Minister decided against the application, quite rightly, as I now realize. Later, Traylen saw me in Adelaide, and in August I wrote to Captain Thompson, who had gone to Bougainville, and told him what I thought of the whole transaction. Yesterday, after I had discussed the matter with the Minister and we were progressing quite well towards a solution, I found out that Traylen had entered a certain objection to the mining warden at Alice Springs, and had lodged £10.. He was informed a couple of days ago that his objection was invalid because hehad named the wrong owner and that the lease had been transferred from Captain. Thompson to the Viking Gold Mining Company on the 8th August, 1945. I was informed when I was in Adelaide during the winter that an endeavour was being made to turn the concern into a company,, and I have no doubt that certain peoplewould have got a fair rake-off from that. I submit the Wowing matters for the consideration of the Minister: First, thewarden was wrong in allotting the leaseto Captain Thompson at any time after Traylen and Standley had left. Secondly,, the warden knew perfectly well that it was contrary to the policy of the Commonwealth Government to encouragegoldmining in Australia during the war.. The warden also knew quite well that Thompson could not comply with labour conditions. As a matter of fact, evidencewhich I have in my possession, over the signature of the previous Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), shows that the total expenditure claimed by these people on this lease during the whole of the time they had it, was £6 5s.r of which 50s. was for a windlass and £3 5s. paid to a couple of aborigines who worked for a few days. Next, I submit the warden knew that Army officers could not trade in gold-mining leases in the Northern Territory, and, further, that the transfer to the Viking Gold Mining Company is something that weeds investigation. The warden must have known from correspondence which had passed between the Minister for the Interior and myself, acting on behalf of Traylen and Standley, in April, that the whole question of the future of this lease was under discussion. I contend the transfer of the lease from Captain Thompson to the Viking Gold Mining Company shows that Captain Thompson was not a genuine gold-mining lessee, and that his interest in the concern was mere speculation.
The next matter I put to the Minister is that under the Government’s rehabilitation legislation this should be a test case. The whole purpose and the very spirit of that legislation is to ensure that servicemen shall be returned to the positions which they occupied prior to their call-up for military service. I understand that these two prospectors were not the most youthful men in the Northern Territory, and that in certain circumstances they need not have been required for active service at all. However, I suggest to the Minister that common justice demands and the law provides, that these men shall return to the lease which they held upon their call-up for military service. Furthermore, they have made their statement, which was submitted to the Minister’s predecessor, that when called up for military duty they inquired as to what would be thefate of their leases, and were told that the mere fact that they had been called up for military duty would protect their rights while they were serving. That is the very least that could be accorded to them. I am perfectly sure that the Minister will give the matter thorough attention. I put it to him, in all friendliness, that there ought to be a most searching inquiry into the transactions in connexion with The Pinnacles lease known as 108e. The only fair action is to go back to the dateon which Traylen and Standley were called up for military service, and place them in possession of their lease. The Warramunga goldfield will be a big gold producer in the not distant future. I believe that the gold bearing country in the area is considerable; that has been proved, because some very heavy yields have been taken out of different places there. It absolutely unthinkable that a trans action like this should be allowed to stand. The most unsavoury feature is that one man in uniform was prepared to take advantage of the absence of two other men in uniform. I have mentioned only Captain Thompson. Other men are named on the file. So far as I am concerned, the file can be made public at any time. I should like to know, among other things, why a medical officer in charge of the hospital at Tennant Creek was interesting himself in The Pinnacles leases, and whether an officer in uniform appeared in the Mining “Warden’s court on this matter ; if so, his authority for appearing. A committee should be appointed, with authority to go into the matter and make a recommendation. I shall not mind discussing that aspect of the matter with the Minister later, if he is prepared to meet me. I am perfectly sure that he is imbued with the sole idea of arriving at a just solution. It is not fair that men should be placed in the position in which these two men found themselves after they had been called up for military service - to find three year? later that the whole thing had been “ jockeyed “ out of their control while they had been doing the war-time job which the Government had directed them to do. This is the first test case on the meaning of the Re-establishment and Employment Act that has come before me.
– Already, as a result of representations that were made to me by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) I have instituted inquiries into some of his allegations concerning the transactions in connexion with this lease. I have only to add that I give to him the very definite undertaking that a full and searching inquiry will be made. I have called for the file,but have not yet had an opportunity to decide what form the inquiry shall take.
. - I bring to the notice of the Government the production of cane wax at Nambour, which occupied a valued place during the war period, although only in its infancy. The production of sugar-cane wax as a substitute for imported carnauba wax presents a valued commodity to Australia. It has aroused the interest of a large section of the Australian people, including manufacturers. Now that the war is over, I appeal to the Government to make available the necessary assistance which could not be provided during the war period. This includes technical help for the improvement of the final product, so that it will be more acceptable to the manufacturers of polishes of all types, carbon paper, and other industries in which wax is used. There should also be provision for the marketing of sugar-cane’ wax before arrangements have been made for the importation of carnauba wax. The Government has given permission for the establishment of the industry and the purchase of the materials that are required to carry on the venture. It is hoped that the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman), for instance, will lend some necessary technical help, which would be the means of extending the benefits of the enterprise and the value of the commodity to Australian users. I appeal to him to consider this request without delay. I am advised that a little assistance in the direction of technical research at the present time would be the means of extending the use of cane wax to many avenues. The Nambour industry has done more with cane wax production than has been done in any other country in the world. Nevertheless, national assistance is necessary in order properly to cover research into all the problems of a commodity, the production of which is valuable to the manufacturers of emulsions, carbon paper, insulation wires, sealing detonators, chromium plating, &c.So far, the Queensland Wax Company Limited, Nambour, has done all the investigation and research. If Australia wants a complete wax industry, the opportunity is here presented. Help is possible only through the channels I have mentioned. There is a market in Australia for hundreds of tons of this product. It is necessary to produce wax that will be varied in colour and character, and to this end technical assistance and co-operation by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is urged. Australia’s past proud policy of protecting new industries must be applied in this instance.
Many industries which required wax closed down during the war. Let us maintain this new industry to meet any emergency that may arise in the future. I appeal to the Government to make available the assistance requested, and 1 offer to the Minister a full statement of the project, for his consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twenty-second Annual Report for year 1.044-45.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945-
No. 44 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 45 - Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
No. 46 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 30th June, 1945; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Rydalmere (near), New South Wales.
Villawood, New South Wales.
Wentworth Falls, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of -
Cleaning agents (No. 3).
Liquor (No. 4).
Fishing gear (Estimates and returns) - Revocation.
Manufacture of baby carriages - Revocation.
Refrigerator service - Revocation.
Restriction of cherry packing - Revocation.
National Security (Man Power) Regulation s -O rde rs -
Control of pharmaceutical chemists - Revocation. (Dental profession control - Revocation.
Employment in rural industries - Revocation.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 134, 135, 136.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 138.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1945 - No. 2 (Co-operative Trading Societies Ordinance).
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
What amount of money has been spent in each of the six States, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Papua, New Guinea and elsewhere, by the Allied Works Council ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
In view of the urgent need for preventing further deterioration of wooden buildings, including those on rural properties, what steps are being taken to increase the production and supply of paint?
– This is a matter that concerns my department. The answer to the right honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Up to date the limiting factor in the supply of paint has been the difficulty in securing sufficient numbers of suitable labour for the paint manufacturers and the producers of zinc oxide and white lead. The control of manufacture and distribution has now been relaxed and with the reduction of service requirements it is expected additional quantities will be available for civilian use and that as more suitable man-power is obtained the position will show a further progressive improvement.
The supply of high gloss paint for internal use is more difficult at present. There is a world shortage of a necessary ingredient, rosin, and although Australia is receiving a quota, increased quantities of these paints will only be possible as the shortage of rosin is overcome.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) No. (b) Yes. (c) No.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it proposed to abolish the half- penny war postage tax? If so, when?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
The matter of the abolition of the war postage surcharge of a half-penny will be brought up for consideration when the financial conditions permit.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
To avoid many misunderstandings, and so that dependent parents of members of the forces killed on active service will not be placed on a basis equivalent to charitable relief, will he bring before Cabinet (a) the abolition of the means test to such parents, and (b) the need for the placing of dependent parents’ pensions on a non-variable basis similar to war widows’ pension?
– This matter has received the consideration of Ministers for Repatriation of this Government and previous Governments and also of the Joint Parliamentary Committee which inquired into repatriation legislation in 1942-43, but no change of the present system of dealing with the payment of pensions to the dependants concerned was recommended. It is not proposed, therefore, to take action on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
Real Estate Transactions : Purchases by Aliens.
n asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4.. In order to furnish the information asked for by the honorable member, it would be necessary to search each application made under the National Security (Land Transfer) Regulations since those regulations came into operation (i.e., since the 24th July, 1940). These applications are numbered consecutively according to date of receipt and a search of the files to obtain the information asked for would occupy the time of the whole staff of the Land Transfer Branch for several days and would not, I think, be justified. Generally, it may be stated that, during the past three years, the applications granted to persons of enemy origin in the Shepparton district were very few in number. During the honorable member’s absence overseas, questions were asked by the honorable members for Balaclava and Richmond regarding alien farmers and 1 would invite his attention to the answers given to those questions on the 5th July, 1945, and the 13th August, 1945, respectively..
Armed Forces: Para troop Battalion; Service Awards.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Servicemen with operational; service in Malaya, and adjacent islands are eligible for the award of the 1939-45 Star and if their operational service exceeds six months., or two months for aircrew, they are also eligible for the award of the Pacific Star as well as the Stars appropriate to any other theatres in which they may have served. The Campaign Stars are Empire awards, common to all British forces.
One of the principal reservations made by the Commonwealth Government to acceptance of the United Kingdom conditions for the award of the Campaign Stars and the Defence Medal is directed towards the eliminationof the qualifying period for campaign stars and negotiations to this end are still proceeding. In the meantime, awards to those eligible under existing approvals have been authorized.
In view of the foregoing, consideration is not being given to any additional award to members of the Australian Forces for service in Malaya and adjacent islands. surrender of j apan : occupation of Hong Kong.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tractors: Release to Primary Producers.
y. - On the 6th September, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) directed a question to me concerning the release of tractors.
I am now able to advise the honorable member that constant contact has been maintained between the Allied Works Council, the Division of Import Procurement and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in an effort to ensure that any tractors not required by the services or the Allied Works Council should be released for use in food production. Since the cessation of hostilities, the Allied Works Council has taken stock of its tractor position with a view to the release of surplus tractors to approved agricultural users through normal commercial channels. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is following the matter through.
t asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : - 1.14 oz.
Clothes Rationing: Woollen Goods.
e. - On the 31st August and the 5th September, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked questions concerning rationing of woollen goods. The right honorable member suggested that the rationing of t hese goods should be discontinued forthwith to enable people to purchase from existing stocks before the winter ends.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
On the 3rd June, 1945, coupon reductions were made in piece-goods ratings, and on the 9th July, 1945, a further reduction was made in woollen piece-goods and garment rating. In the opinion of the Rationing Commission there is ample coupon purchasing power in the hands of the public to absorb all the woollen clothing they desire to purchase. The reductions referred to represent approximately an additional 100,000,000 coupons available for use by the public.
y.- On the 25th July, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Whatis the total value of subsidies granted during the financial year 1944-45 on raw materials by the Division of Import Procurement and the Department of Supply and Shipping?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Textiles have been allocated cither to the retail trade for sale to civilians as piece-goods or to manufacturers for making up into garments. Separate figures of the cost of subsidy under each of these headings are not available from the statistics.
Figures showing the cost of. subsidy on lendleasegoods for the latter half of the year are not available because of a lag in the preparationof these statistics, due to man-power difficulties. The extraction of the desired information specially would entail considerable and costly work for which the necessary experienced staff is not available. Moreover, it is difficult to make any forecast until the figures have been dissected.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450912_reps_17_184/>.