17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Right Honorable Lord Winster, -United Kingdom Minister for Civil Aviation, and Lord Knollys, K.C.M.G., M.B.E., D.F.C., members of the House of Lords, are within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite them to take seats on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
HONORABLE Members. - Hear, hear !
Lord Winster and Lord Knollys thereupon entered the chamber and were seated accordingly.
Debate resumed from the 6th March (vide page 49), on motion, by Mr. Menzies -
That the Gove rumen t .does not possess the confidence of this House.
– I wish briefly to support the contention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that the Commonwealth Government has done all that has been humanly possible to fulfil the whole of its obligations to the United Kingdom in respect of the supply of food. Not from any cause over which the Government has had control has it deviated from its- contractual obligations to the Motherland. It is generally conceded that the heart of the Labour party beats just as loyally and ‘ sympathetically as the heart of any other party. It has been heartening to me, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to receive from time to time acknowledgments from the former Minister for Food in Great Britain, as well as the present Minister, Sir Benjamin Smith, of the contributions of food that have been made by Australia for the relief of the people of the United Kingdom. All the members of the Government appreciate the unselfish attitude that has been adopted by the Government of the United Kingdom to- the food problems of a devastated world. The whole of the food that we contribute is distributed by the Combined Foods Board. The British Government has intimated to the Australian Government that it can best assist by forwarding wheat and flour to places to which the board directs that they shall be sent. Practically the whole of our exports of wheat and flour has -been distributed in those countries that are closest to the Australian market and are most sorely in need. I shall give a factual picture of the food position, and of the contribution that we have made from time to time. This season’s wheat crop, the (greater part of which will be sold in 1946, is estimated at 144,000,000 bushels. There were no restrictions on production, and the rising prices provided every incentive to growers to sow to their full capacity. A greater crop was not secured, however, because of the drought, which persisted in many wheat areas until well past the normal sowing period. The drought continued almost throughout the season in areas in South Australia and Victoria; and there was a lack of sufficient fertilizers throughout all wheat areas. Other factors, such as inadequate machinery and lack of man-power, also served to reduce the total crop.
Because of record crops two years in succession in the United States of America and heavy harvests in Canada, expert and general opinion up till eight or nine months ago was that there would be no world shortage of wheat. As late a§ October, no great anxiety was displayed regarding possible deficiencies, and the allocation to importing countries of a proportion only of their requirements was not considered necessary. Failure of crops in southern Europe and northern Africa and lower returns than had been anticipated in other parts of Europe led to unexpectedly high demands from those countries. Lower production of other foodstuffs increased the demand for cereal products, and, in India, bad seasons stimulated demands in that country to an inordinate degree. Altogether, it is esti mated that the net import demand for wheat, and for flour in terms of wheat, for the year July, 1945, to June, 1946, - reaches 1,200,000,000 bushels. The net annual import demand before the war was less than 550,000,000 bushels. When it became evident at the end of 1945 that there would be a serious world shortage, all wheat-growing countries were apprised and asked to do everything they could to increase exports. Australia, as a southern hemisphere producer, was, with Argentina, asked to ship everything possible in the first half of this year, so that the gap would be narrowed as much as possible in the months before the 1946 crops in the northern hemisphere became available.
The Government acted promptly and. after a rapid survey, laid down that all wheat thai could be brought to the seaboard up to the 30th June should be made available, together with all flour that could be milled and transported. In conjunction with the Australian Wheat Board, the Government has taken every precaution to ensure that all flour mills throughout Australia shall be kept working to their full capacity. Immediately prior to the last harvest, the mills had, owing to the drought, reduced operations to one shift a day; but at present, with rare exceptions, they are being employed to their full capacity. To provide the extra wheat needed to do this, 5,000,000 bushels of wheat allocated for feed for stock was made available. This was later increased to 7,000,000 bushels. If anything further were required to make full use of all transport available, it wa’s arranged that the risk be taken of calling upon stocks - already below normal - earmarked for carry-over to the 1946-47 season. We have done everything possible. A total of 30,000,000” bushels of wheat was set aside this year for stock feed in Australia, but, as the result of representations made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain to the Prime Minister of Australia, we reduced this allocation by 5,000,000 bushels, and it has been arranged that this quantity shall be. despatched to destinations nominated by the United Kingdom. Even after this we received further representations from the Prime Minister of Great Britain asking us to make still more wheat available, even if it meant jeopardizing the position here in regard to stock feed. The wheat was to be used chiefly for feeding pigs and poultry, and the Government of the United Kingdom, even though it recognized how urgently supplies of eggs and bacon were needed in that country, urged us to reduce still further our allocation of wheat for stock feed. We have now cut the allocation for stock feed to 23,000,000 bushels, and there have been reactions from stock-owners in Australia; but we believe that we must take a risk. VII the flour mills in Australia are working three shifts a day, and this will make available increased quantities of bran and pollard. This will make up the leeway to some extent, but it will not completely meet the demand for feed for pigs and poultry.
– Will the Government compensate producers who are involved in loss?
– That point will be considered. Whenever a contract has beenentered into by the Government as a result of which primary producers have suffered ‘loss we have compensated them wherever possible. Our efforts to export as much wheat as possible before the 30th June have placed a tremendous strain upon the railway systems of some of the States, particularly that of Western Australia. My assistant in that State, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), has done an. excellent job in co-operation with the Government of Western Australia,, arrangements having been made for the transport for 13,000 tons a week. Difficulties have arisen in some of the other States, also, but the railway departments have risen to the occasion because they realize how urgently necessary it is to export as much food as possible for the relief of.starving people overseas. Information, has been received from the Government of the United Kingdom that the present food shortage is likely to continue for a longer . time than was originally expected, and a period of eighteen months has now been’ mentioned.
Seasonal prospects are at present exceedingly good, and the Government is urging farmers to produce as much as possible. It is expected that, with the demobilization of servicemen, the position in regard to labour will improve. There will still be, however, a shortage of fertilizers, and that is to be deplored. The Government of the United Kingdom, through the Fertilizers Board, is assisting in the distribution of superphosphate. Some States - or portion of States are practically dependent upon fertilizers to obtain satisfactory crops. Recognizing the importance of fertilizers, the Government has sent abroad expert officers with instructions to do their best to increase the quantity of superphosphates to be allocated to Australia.
The honorable member for Kew England (Mr. Abbott) also referred to the shortage of tractor parts. It is true, a3 ho said, that there is a shortage of supplies of farming machinery throughout the Commonwealth. The Government ment’ has done all in its power to relieve the situation, but the shortage is hot peculiar to Australia; it is world-wide, because most of the huge plants which in times of peace produced agricultural machinery switched over to war production. Later in the debate the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) will give to the House full information on this subject.
– Permits to import agricultural machinery were not granted.
– That is not so. On a number of occasions the Government has sent officers to the United Kingdom and the United States of America with a view t.-> obtaining additional tractors, but despite all that has been done the demand still exceeds the supply.
Reverting again to the wheat position, I point out that allocations of wheat and flour are dealt with by the Cereals Committee of the Combined Food Board. Australia has direct representation on the committee. The general practice is for exporting countries to send supplies to the nearest importing .countries. Accordingly, the United Kingdom obtains most of its wheat from Canada, whilst the bulk of -the wheat exported from Australia is sent to British countries relatively close to Australia, such as India,. Ceylon and Malaya.
Dealing now with the situation in respect of meat, I point out that shipments of all meat, including canned meat, in terms of carcasses, totalled 237,000 tons in 193S-39. For the three years from 1936-37 to 193S-39, the average annual export total was 259,000 tons. These prewar figures give an indication of the present position. Last year, the southern, half of Australia experienced the most devastating drought in our history. It struck with full force in our major primary producing areas, which hitherto had been regarded as virtually immune from drought. So far. honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, have made no reference at all to the effects of that drought. Apparently they are trying to make the people believe that I, as Minister, am responsible for the production loss caused by the drought. ^Notwithstanding this setback, the estimated export surplus for the calendar year 1946 is 300,000 tons. Every incentive is offered to producers to increase their output. The United Kingdom Government has contracted to take all of our surplus production, whatever the total may be, until 1948, at prices higher than have been offered under any other meat contract. In that respect, the Government of the United’ Kingdom is playing a very important part in the stabilization of the Australian meatindustry.
– Does that mean an increase of existing prices?
– .There has been a slight increase. The contract is based on prices approximately equivalent to those now ruling, and it will apply to the entire surplus production until 1948. In the circumstances, the allocation of 300,000 tons for 1946 must be considered satisfactory. Although- the increase is due in part to the effect of meat rationing, our exportable surplus would be greater still if black marketing could be entirely eliminated. The Prime Minister has made a statement on this subject, and energetic measures have been taken already to ensure that Australians shall not consume excessive quantities of meat which are urgently needed for export.
Surplus meat products returned to the Australian Government by the American armed forces have been offered to the British Government, as also have been stocks declared surplus by Australian forces. The British Government has accepted some of these packs, but has rejected others because of the difficulty of handling them efficiently under its meat rationing system. It suggested that these stocks should be offered to Unrra, and the Australian Government complied with the suggestion. Consequently, a total of 7,500 tons, canned weight, has been offered to Unrra, but up to the present the Government has received no intimation that the offer will he accepted. The stocks consist of high-class canned meats packed to service specifications, and the quantity which the British Government was unable to accept should be of great assistance to Unrra in the humane work of feeding the peoples of devastated countries. Since 1942 highly successful efforts have been made to stimulate the canning of meat. A greatly increased canning programme was necessary to meet “the demands of the services and the British Ministry of Food. From a pre-war total production of 15,000 tons of canned meat we increased to the record production of 90,000 tons, canned .weight, in 1945. These facte indicate the problems which the meat industry met and dealt with successfully during the war. Present seasonal conditions in Australia lead us to expect that production during 1946 will total 947,000 tons. That is the over-all figure, and it approximates our pre-war production. Exports should total about 300,000 tons. I am also informed that sufficient insulated shipping space will be made Available by the United Kingdom Government to handle that quantity. Thus, we do not anticipate that we shall be unable to obtain sufficient insulated shipping space to handle the quantities of meat and butter which we shall have available for export.
– And there never has been any difficulty in that respect.
– The honorable member knows everything. On an over-all basis we have met our target so far as the export of meat is concerned. We are thankful to the British Ministry of Transport for its co-operation, but I emphasize that on a number of occasions we had to-carry over huge quantities of meat and shift large quantities between stores while awaiting shipping. Last December we would have sent from 8,000 to 10,000 tons more meat to the United Kingdom than was actually transported had sufficient shipping been made available before the end of that month. We had to carry over that quantity, and it was shipped late in January or early in February. Therefore, it is merely glib talk to say that sufficient shipping space has always - been available for the carriage of all the meat we might wish to send to Great Britain.
We contracted to supply to the British Ministry of Food “2,000,000 bushels of apples. After we received that order, I instructed the Chairman of the Apple and Pear Board, Mr. Mills, to visit the different fruit-growing centres and to organize the industry to meet that contract. This involved special packing for export. As we did not have sufficient cases, we obtained 1,500,000 cases, or their equivalent in shooks, from the United States of America. However, we were informed recently by the British Ministry of Transport that no shipping could be made available for the transport of apples. As the result of a conference which I had a few days ago with representatives qf the Apple and Pear Board, T instructed Mr. Mills and Mr. Baker to do all they possibly could to have these apples dried and processed with a view, to exporting them later to the United Kingdom.
– Britain asked for meat and Australia offered them -apples.
– The honorable gentleman should have more sense. I have in my hand a copy of the official report of a debate on the world food shortage which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the 14th February last, in the course of which the British Minister of Food, Sir Ben Smith, said -
I intend to take every opportunity to augment our supplies of vegetables anil fruit by imports as far as this is consistent with undertakings to home producers, although the tight position of refrigerated tonnage is very difficult. If I could have another ten refrigerator ships, I could make a good deal of change very quickly in this country, but, unfortunately, I have not got them.
Those remarks corroborate what I have just said with respect to the shortage of refrigerated shipping space. We do not 1blame Britain, because I suppose that it entered into the contract in good faith. We. all- know, however, what fresh fruit means to people who have suffered as the people of the United Kingdom have in these terrible years. Australia is anxious to rise to the occasion and supply the British with the food they need. Whereever Mr. Mills went, the orchardists were more than anxious to work long hours and under difficulties to ensure a pack of apples of export standard.
It is estimated that 115,000 tons of dairy produce, butter, cheese and processed milk will be shipped this year, as against the average annual shipments for the three years before the war of 112,000 tons. Owing to the good seasonal prospects, this estimated figure for 1946 is better than the export in the war years. ‘ The Government, by the payment of heavy direct subsidies - the estimated amount for 1945-46 is £5,250,000- by preferment in service releases, by concessional prices for cereal feed, has clone everything possible to stimulate the dairying industry, and the figures this year show that, with a good season, the results are very much better. Another aspect is that the war-time stimulation of other industries such as eggs, green vegetables, and potatoes has taken to a certain extent from dairying output. Also the dairying industry is very dependent on labour and suffered severely through lack of man-power during the war years. Butter is rationed locally to 6 oz. a person a week. In the absence of other fats such as margarine, this is recognized as exceedingly low. During the war, a,ll table margarine was taken by the services of the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia, and none was made, available for civilians in Australia. With the close of the war, there were, surpluses and these were offered to the United Kingdom. They were declined, however. Recently, they were again offered and a reply is awaited. The surplus of butter and cheese has been sold to the United Kingdom until June. 194S. Assurances have been received that insulated ships will be provided for all butter made available for export.
Estimated shipments of eggs this year show a tremendous increase over pre-war years. The estimates for 1946 are 1,000,000 cases of eggs in shell, plus egg pulp equivalent to 500,000 cases of shell eggs. The average for the three years immediately before the war was 400,000 cases. The Ministry of Food has indicated it will take the lot and expects to find the shipping. There is much uneasiness at this end, however, as to whether this large quantity of eggs will be got away. Full volume of output is not reached until August, and, in order that the eggs may arrive in sound condition, the last shipment packed in December should be made by January. This will involve, from August to December, approximately a ship a week from Sydney and Melbourne, and at least two or three a month from other main ports. These facts have been pointed out to the Ministry of Food, but definite assurances that the ships will be forthcoming have not yet been received. No doubt the details are being examined and replies to the questions raised will be forthcoming shortly. This great expansion of the egg industry was brought about by the government policy of guaranteeing prices and providing feed at concession prices.
A long-term contract has been made for the disposal of dried fruits, and growers will now have the advantage of a reasonable price for a considerable time. With the recent rains, the dried vine crop suffered a reverse and the output for the season will not be known for about another fortnight: A review will then take place with the object of considering whether the allocation to the United Kingdom can be increased beyond the normal figure. This will involve some curtailment of supplies for the local market, and of the requirements of other purchasers.
During the war years, Australia’s total output of rice was distributed amongst the Allied services, particularly those employing native labour in the Pacific areas. Issues were also made to hospitals and other institutions in Australia, but none was made available to Australian civilians. This year, with the heavy reduction of Army demands, it was proposed to make rice available to the civilian market. Now, in view of the position in the United Kingdom, this has not been done. The surplus of about 20,000 tons, after service requirements and other priority demands are met, has been offered for sale to the British Ministry of Food. The Ministry has accepted the offer.
Australian production of sugar declined during the war. The average annual prewar production was about800,000 tons. The 1945-46 crop yielded about 660,000 tons. Pre-war exports to the United Kingdom totalled 364,000 tons. This year, they should reach 200,000 tons. Manpower difficulties and shortages of fertilizers during the war were primarily responsible for the reduction of output, and, in order to maintain exports, the rationing of sugar within Australia was instituted and is being continued.
The general food position is all that could be desired.
– That is not so.
– Yes, the general position is all that could be desired.
– Desired by whom ?
– By those recognizing the circumstances. Before I became Minister for Commerceand Agriculture, production had notbeen planned, and members of the Australian Country party are guilty of arrant hypocrisy when they say that my predecessors formulated longterm plans, or plans for increased production. We began from ““bare boards “, as it were. What planning did the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) do? He was always planning the overthrow of his political rivals, and devoted most of his time to that purpose. But he was left “ almost standing” when the “ outsider “, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), romped home into the leadership of his party, leaving two very disgruntled persons in the positions which they now occupy.
The response which primary producers have made throughout the Commonwealth has been marvellous, despite the croakings of some people who, for political purposes, have endeavoured at all times to dampen their ardour and enthusiasm. The primary producers have co-operated wholeheartedly with the Government. Of our political opponents, only the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party have shown willingness to cooperate with the Government in its endeavour to increase primary production.
– Order ! The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- I shall make no comment whatever upon the extraordinary statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). I propose to leave the honorable gentleman to the tender mercies of my colleagues in the Australian Country party, who, I have no doubt, will deal with him most effectively as this debate proceeds. If there was ever a time in tho history of this Commonwealth when a. motion of want of confidence in the Government was warranted, this is the moment. Never before in the history of this Commonwealth has there’ been on the treasury bench a government so inept as is the present one. Honorable members may wonder why we have not set out in detail, as is the custom when a motion of want of confidence is moved, the various subjects on which we propose to challenge the Government. For good and sufficient reasons, we have not done so on this occasion; in fact, we could not find a pen capable of writing the corrosive criticism which can be levelled against this Government’s policy of bungling, waste, mal-administration and cowardly retreat from all problems associated with production and arising out of the industrial anarchy that prevails in Australia to-day. On any one of the matters which have been mentioned during the debate by speakers on this side of the chamber, the Governnent deserves censure. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) nor any other Minister has been able to refute the charges levelled against the Government. Let us examine the puerile answer made by the Prime Minister to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition about the Netherlands East Indies turmoil. The Government should blush with shame to think that a body of wharf labourers has been allowed to formulate the foreign policy of this country, and to challenge one of our allies whose fleet stood between us and theenemy not very many months ago. To permit these individuals to write into the history of this country a policy such as they have enunciated- they have even refused to allow mercy ships to be loaded at Australian ports with supplies for the Stricken people of the Netherlands East Indies - is to place a blot upon the escutcheon of the Labour party which cannever be erased. I come, now to another matter which is of great moment to Australia’s future. It is astounding that a Government sworn to uphold the laws of this democratic country can pass so lightly over the practised form of industrial anarchy that is common in Australia to-day. I for one shall not be silent on this matter-.
– The honorable member has driven our distinguished visitors out of the chamber.
– The honorable member’s interjection is quite in keeping with the manner in which honorable members opposite approach their public duties. This is not a matter of little moment; it is a matter of vital importance to Australia - vital to the security and indeed to the development of this country in the post-war period. There can be no return to normality, no expansion of industry, no fulfilment of the responsibility of private enterprise, no adequate rehabilitation of ex-servicemen or other members of the community who have been displaced due to war-time conditions, and we cannot take advantage of. the opportunities that are offered to us b the establishment of war-time -industries in this country, until the Government decides to honour its obligations to our democratic way of life, and to govern this country in accordance with its laws. I shall not he fobbed off by statements such as those made by the Prime Minister yesterday in an endeavour to answer the charges levelled at his Government by the Leader of the Opposition. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman’s reply seemed only to establish more securely the policy that has been pursued by the Labour Government in regard to all the industrial unrest that we have suffered in this country. Referring to the Indonesian problem, and to the waterfront dispute in Sydney which has prevented the manning and loading of mercy ships destined for the Netherlands East Indies, the Prime Minister said he would not interfere lest all work on the waterfront be held up. I ask honorable members to endeavour to grasp the full significance of that statement. Here we have a handful of industrialists who have taken the government of this country into their own hands, and are shaping Australia’s policy towards our neighbours in the East; yet no less a person that the Prime Minister says in this chamber that the reason for the Government’s failure to exert its authority, and to ensure the sending of aid to those who came to our assistance in our time of peril, was that such action might lead to a hold-up on the entire waterfront. That is characteristic of the cowardly retreats of the Government whenever the big stick of militant unionism has been waved over its head. We have seen similar happenings on the coal-fields, and in the metal trades unions. There is also the classic example of the Port Kembla strike and all that resulted from it. All this has occurred because the Government has not had courage enough to enforce the law, and say where it stands in regard to industrial matters. In every instance, it has capitulated, eventually falling back on excuses such as that offered by the Prime ‘ Minister in this chamber yesterday. Compare that excuse with the brave statement of a former Prime Minister, who referred to such incidents as sabotage and anarchy, which would detrimentally affect many of those who were placing their bodies between the Japs and ourselves. The present Prime Minister says, “ Well, boys, the real facts are these: They are too strong for us. If we do this, they will hold up everything. So the best thing to do, lads, is to appease them, give way to them, and let them have their own way “. If that is Labour’s idea of government, then preserve me from Labour. I have mentioned the strike at Port Kembla. I regard that as the foulest blot upon the industrial escutcheon of the Labour party of Australia. We are in a pitiable position when every Minister, from the Prime Minister down, is -acting as a mere cipher. What we now have is not government by the elected representatives of the people, but government by trade unionists-cum-Communists. That is the method of government under which this country is functioning to-day. The Government is submitting to the pressure of the Communist-controlled trade unions of Australia. The Prime Minister says, “ I dare not interfere, or they will take other action Therefore”, every Minister has beat a cowardly retreat before the threats of these Communist agitators. The Government must not imagine that this policy of masterly inactivity will provide a solution of our industrial problems. On the contrary ; because the more you appease, the more likely will the unions be to take advantage of such appeasement, and the more you retreat the further will they advance into your stronghold.
I share the wonder of the people of Australia as to whether that is actually the policy of the Government, or whether its aim is to encourage industrial anarchy in order to bring about unrest in the major industries of Australia. I ask honorable members to note the reaction of the coal-miners whenever there is industrial unrest in their industry. Immediately the cry is raised: “ Nationalize the industry, and you will have peace “. I put it to the House that there may be something sinister behind the Government’s cowardly retreat from industrial problems. Indeed, the intention may be to encourage industrial unrest in order to establish circumstances that would be conducive to the imple-mentation of that plank of the platform of the party which provides for’ the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. We have just passed through a big strike, about which I propose to say something. Are the circumstances .to-day different from those that existed a few months ago? Of course they are not. At page 11 of one” of the Sydney newspapers of yesterday is to be found a damning example of the present industrial recalcitrance. In three columns there are reports of no fewer than four different industrial disturbances in Sydney, and another has been reported to-day. The four are: the brewery strike; the closing down pf the Crown Crystal Glass works, which will result in the dismissal of from 600 to 700 employees; an inter-union dispute among 100 men employed at the Royal Australian Navy ammunition depot, Homebush Bay; and a strike by 200 employees of Enoch Taylor Limited, which has caused a stop-work meeting of 5,000 boot and shoe workers. To-day, the employees of Lysaght’s Newcastle works are again on strike, with the result that 700 men are being thrown out of employment. A close analysis will reveal that whenever industrial stoppages occur similar factors prevail. That can lead to’ only one conclusion. In every instance, Communist-controlled unions are involved, and the strike takes place in complete defiance of the law of the land. There is no justification. No principle is involved, and there is no question of victimization. There is nothing but a desire to upset the existing industrial conditions on any pretext. The Government has abrogated its responsibility to the electors by failing to uphold the principle of a duly constituted legal authority, and by aiding and abetting the strikers in their attitude of anarchy.
The notorious forerunner of a shameful period of industrial chaos was the strike of ironworkers at Port Kembla. I believe that that was. the culmination of a premeditated plan. by Communist-controlled unions, and that it was a test strike to determine the effect on and the reaction of the general community, and above all the reaction of the Government. There- fore, it is advisable to place on record the whole of its shameful history. The strike occurred at Port .Kembla on the 23rd September last. Within a .week, it had involved 7,000 men, the members of fifteen unions. The strike spread to Lysaghts and the Commonwealth Rolling Mills. On the 30th October, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had to lay off a number of men at Newcastle because of the shortage of coal, due to a series of stoppages on the coal-fields. A week later, a further 7,000 men were either on strike or out -of employment. On the 18th November Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited announced that a resumption of work was then possible. By that time, however, the men had increased their demands. The first stage had been passed, and the second stage in the plan to cause industrial anarchy had been reached. On the 3rd December, the miners’ federation and the Seamen’s Union held stop-work meetings, and called on their members to strike in support of the steel workers. By the end of December, it was estimated that the strike had caused this great wastage to Australia’s national economy : Loss of employment by approximately 500,000 workers; loss of wages, approximately £15,000,000; registration for unemployment relief by- 42,500 applicants in Sydney alone ; loss of export trade through ships being held up; and loss of at least 500,000 tons of coal. Honorable members are aware of the restrictions that were imposed upon householders in Sydney, and the reaction of those unfortunate people to the extraordinary- circumstances that then existed. It will be noted that the unions involved were Communistcontrolled. To those unions the Prime Minister applies the same tactics that he revealed last night when he said that he would not take action because it might precipitate further trouble, which he would not be capable of handling. That is the only inference that can be drawn from what he said. The right honorable gentleman announced that he did not want a general strike, and for that reason refused . to intervene. The Communists, in certain of their statements, have expressed the same opinion. They consider that the time is not ripe for a general strike. As boys, our description of parties to a dispute who acted in that manner was ” one is cocktail, and the other is not game “. I apply that description to the Government. In the Sydney Domain on the 2nd December, while the strike was proceeding, and the people were suffering untold miseries for which the striking recalcitrants were responsible, the- president of the Communist party said -
The Communist view is that a general strike should only be called when there is a revolutionary situation and the workers are ready to take part. I have been working all my life to prepare them for that, but the time is uncertain. It is not now.
That statement was made during one of the greatest industrial upheavals Australia has ever experienced. A general strike, we are told, is not to be called by the Communists yet, because the time is not propitious. The Prime Minister, in admitting that he was afraid to take action in circumstances where threats were being applied, was guilty of a cowardly retreat. Common Cause published the following statement on the 10th January: -
Let’s keep the powder dry and see that there is plenty of it ready.
There will be no industrial peace, no increased production, no post-war reconstruction until there are substantial and. farreaching increases in living standards, reductions in hours, and real economic security. 1 pause at this juncture to inform honorable members opposite that in Great Britain at present there is a Prime Minister who has emphasized the great need’ for increased production in order to provide increased living standards for the workers, and he has made it clear that those conditions can be obtained only by increased production. But do we find members of the present Commonwealth Government making a statement that cuts across the ‘Communist-controlled trade unions? Ministers remain silent, although they realize that ‘ as long as strikes are allowed to continue the productive capacity of the country must be seriously reduced. There can be no harmony in industry until a lead is given by those who profess to be leaders in it. In handing leadership over to the Communists, as the Government has done, it has sacrificed the respect of all decent people in Australia. According to the lip-service given in this chamber from time to time by members of the Government, they are concerned about the Communist interference, but they are not prepared to challenge the Communists. The quotation from Common Cause concludes -
Profits will have to be disgorged for workers’ betterment, accumulated funds spent on modernizing, control broadened for wider democracy.
The zero hour approaches foi- the fulfilment of our economic demands. Nothing has been gained in the coal-mining industry without intense campaigning, agitation, and struggle.
Honorable members opposite are not so much concerned about national security as they are about retaining their seats in this Parliament ; otherwise they would challenge the statements of the men who control the trade unions.
In a joint statement made in January last, the secretary of the miners federation, Mr. “Wells, the acting national secretary of the ironworkers federation, Mr. McPhillips, and the general secretary of the Seamens Union, Mr. Elliott, declared that important principles had been won in the course of the coal and steel strikes, which should set a firm foundation for the struggle which the trade union and labour movements must wage against the employing class in the next few months, and in the next few years. What were the important principles? Those officials made .that statement following the formation of the alliance between the three Communist-controlled unions. - That triple alliance said, “ We will combine to see that these things are done in the newyear “, leading up to the stage where they could precipitate a general strike under revolutionary conditions.
There is a great deal of irony in the matter to which 1 am now about to refer. Probably I should give to the coal-miners some credit for humour in their makeup. The official organ of the miners federation, Common Cause, pointed out towards the end of last month that the miners who had played a big part in accomplishing victory deserved recognition, and that the nation should recognize the debt it owed to them by issuing a special stamp. Can anybody imagine a more farcical statement than that a special stamp should ‘be struck to commemorate the great job which the coa.miners. did during the war? I could design a stamp of a very telling nature to commemorate their action. I would strike a stamp depicting a miner rampant on ia field of industrial unrest, with a sickle and hammer prominently displayed in his hand. He should be shown standing astride an unfortunate civilian victim of his maltreatment.
The spirit of industrial lawlessness ii such that the trade unionists have become a law unto themselves. Men who had been discharged for thieving precipitated a strike at. the State abattoirs in New South Wales, and Until they were replaced no stock was slaughtered. When men are dismissed because of their failure to observe the common decencies of the industrial code, stop-work meetings are immediately held, and a strike is staged until dismissed men are placed back in their jobs. Even when the national security regulations with regard to breadzoning were withdrawn, the trade unionists were not concerned with the fact that pre-war conditions were to be reverted to, but they declared that they would not deliver bread in areas other than the zones .prescribed under war conditions. Apparently no action oan be taken by a government -to enable the ‘ country to revert to conditions that formerly operated. As long as the Government carries out the policy of appeasement enunciated by the Prime Minister last night, it will fail to restore the rule of law in this country. . The Government deserves the censure of this House. I believe that it will be suitably censured by the people when it next appears before them, and I am in favour of helping the people by hastening the demise of the Government. Therefore I urge honorable members to support the motion before the ‘House.
Any one of the charges levelled against the Government from the Opposition side is sufficient to warrant the carrying of the motion. We have heard from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) about the bungling that has occurred in the rehabilitation of exservice men and women, but he did not tell us that a monster protest meeting sponsored by the Queensland exservicemen’s organizations was held in the Brisbane City Hall on the 6th February at which over 3,000 people were present. This meeting condemned the Government’s bungling and ineptitude in dealing with the problems of ex-service men and women, and carried with applause the following motion : -
That the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Mr. Dedman, be requested to como to Brisbane immediately and meet the representatives of ex-servicemen’s associations present at to-night’s meeting for the purpose of dealing with matters relating to problems of ex-service personnel, and that Mr. Dedman be given a (leadline date of fourteen days - i.e. 12th March, 1046 - to come to Brisbane, and that all federal members and senators ‘be written to, urging them to prevail upon Mr. Dedman, to accede to our request within the time specified in this resolution.
Do honorable members opposite think that there are no grievances in regard to rehabilitation which would warrant a branch of the returned soldiers league passing a resolution of that kind? The mere fact that there is so much unemployment among servicemen would be sufficient to move any responsible organization to protest. In January, more than 35,000 discharged persons were out of employment - 33,239 men and 1,875 women. This is the position which exists even after the passing of the act which the Government described as the returned soldiers’ “ Bill of Rights “. The Government’s attempts at rehabilitation are farcical. It should be remembered that in the case of ex-servicemen we are dealing with the most combustible of human material. Those men will take further action against the Government if they are denied their rights. Yesterday, in answer to an interjection, the Prime Minister said that there were no manpower controls now, and that he did not blame demobilized men who had some money and wanted a spell. His suggestion was that discharged men were not trying to obtain employment, that they were seeking to have a holiday, that they were, using their deferred pay and their gratuity money, if they could get it, to spend .on a holiday. Everybody knows that the unfortunate returned men are seeking to obtain employment, but are being denied work by the bungling of this Government. Of a total of 19j456 applications received for full-time rehabilitation training only 9,247 had been accepted up to the 31st January last, according to the DirectorGeneral of Rehabilitation. Is that how the Government proposes to find jobs for returned men? I have here particulars of a man who, before he entered the Navy, had served his time as a refrigeration engineer, and had studied at,a technical college. When he applied for a job after his discharge bc was told that he would have to join the union, but when he applied for admittance to the union, he was told that the union books were closed, [f that is how the Government proposes to treat returned soldiers it will not find them so easy to manage as were the returned soldiers of the last war. It will be forced to give the men the conditions for which they fought.
The, Government has also failed to discharge its obligations in regard to exservicemen’s wives who are still overseas. I have before me a list of applications, and it makes heart-rending reading. In some instances,, men have had to use their war gratuities in order to purchase sterling, for the support of their wives overseas, because the payment of allotments had been Stopped. They had been promised that their wives would obtain passages in December last, but now there is no hope of their getting out of England within six or, perhaps, nine months. Some wives and children are being evicted from their homes in England because they have no money with which to pay rent, and no help is forthcoming from Australia House. Here are a few typical cases -
The Minister for Immigration met representatives of the servicemen in a deputation, and told them that sustenance would be paid to their dependants, but nothing has yet been done in that way. Some time later he repeated the promise, but still nothing has been done. The problem is quite easy of solution. The Government can charter ships, and bring these people to Australia.
– Alice in “Wonderland !
– The Minister is so immersed in his housing blue-prints that he merely smiles when a really practical proposal is placed before him. It must be evident to every honorable member that this Government is not worthy of the confidence of the House.
– When an Opposition in Parliament moves a censure motion against the Government we can only assume that it is putting itself forward as an alternative to the Government in office. Therefore, although the Opposition has quite recently changed its name once again, I think it must be generally recognized that it is really the same old gang of tories under a different name. I think it was the office boy of the Opposition party, the honorable member for Falkiner (Mr. Holt), who, in one of his franker moments admitted in Western Australia that the new Liberal organization was made up of the members of the old United Australia party under a new name. Now that we have listened to the bombast of that embryo dictator, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), let us consider how the present Government came into office. It came, not as the result of a general election, but because in October of 1941, during the most critical days of the war, the then Government, the present Opposition, proved its utter incapacity to govern the country. The Labour party was the only political organization capable of forming a stable government. Members of the Opposition are now seeking to parade their patriotism, but it may be well to recall events at the time when this government came into office. Listening to honorable members opposite one might imagine that the present Government had failed to organize the nation for its defence. A few years ago, I made certain charges in this House and elsewhere against the governments which preceded the Labour Government, and as a result there were demands from the Opposition that the charges should be inquired into. I had charged the Opposition, when in office, with having actually contemplated plans for the handing over to the enemy of large sections of Australian territory. I remember the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), after the abortive royal commission which had been appointed to inquire into only a minor phase of the matter, demanding that I should be kept under suspension because ho was not satisfied to let the matter rest where it was. When the report of the royal commission was tabled, and the time came for a debate on the subject, I naturally assumed that the Leader of the Opposition would demand that a parliamentary committee be appointed to examine the charges I had made. As a matter of fact, I have never withdrawn any of those charges. However, the evening before the matter was due to come on for debate, I was amazed to hear that the Leader of the Opposition had caught the train for Melbourne. And the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender), who had been very . outspoken . in his condemnation of our Government, had also left for other parts. They were not in their places when the subject was debated, and when they would have had an opportunity to express their views, if they had had any to express. It is evident that the Leader of the Opposition did not really want the matter to be inquired into, just as he did not want an inquiry into the Malayan campaign, although, in a speech delivered inthe Parliament of the United Kingdom, aspersions had been cast on Australian troops in that theatre of war. I can understand the right honorable gentleman not wanting an investigation of what took place in this country when anti-Labour, governments were in power. He was frank enough to tell us yesterday that he was making a pre-election speech, but if his effort was the best of which he is capable the Labour Government has no need to worry. However, I shall not be too hard on the right honorable gentleman, because were I to criticize him too strongly the Opposition might appoint another leader, and that would not be in the interest of the Labour movement. So long as the right honorable gentleman remains Leader of the Opposition Australians can rest assured that Labour governments will be in office. The Leader of the Opposition seized upon the Indonesian trouble as a weapon with which to attack the Government. In a published statement he referred to Australian waterside workers as skunks. I am not prepared to allow any member of the Opposition to refer to honest working men, such as the members of the “Waterside Workers Federation. as skunks. Let ns see whether there is any justification for such a term being used in respect of that body of men. The Leader of the Opposition said that a number of Dutch ships .had been held up since September, 1945. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told us that the trouble arose out of the refusal of Dutch nationals to load the ships, and that Australian workers became involved in the dispute only after the Dutch authorities were unable to get their own nationals to do their bidding. No member of the Government has ever said that there was any justification for holding up “ mercy “ ships containing food and urgently needed medical supplies, but a strong body of public opinion supported the stand of the waterside workers in refusing to load into a Dutch vessel cases suspected of containing arms for use against the Indonesian nationalist movement. There is also ground for suspicion that certain of the Dutch officers were not carrying out to the letter agreements that had been entered into from time to time. The Leader of the Opposition said that the trouble was due to the activities of a few Communist agitators. Tt may be true that among the officials of the waterside workers union there are members of other political organizations, but do we not claim that Australia is a democracy? Has any one ever condemned an official of an organization because he happened to be a member of another body opposed to the Labour movement? If Labour organizations adopted a similar attitude, the Opposition would accuse thom of intolerance. We on this side say that the election of trade union officials is a matter for the members of the unions. They have the right to determine who shall be their officers. The waterside workers of Australia, who are overwhelmingly supporters of the Labour movement, are not fools and are not so easily led by an alleged small band of Communist agitators as the right honorable gentleman would have us believe. Unless the arguments placed- before them have merit these men are not so simple as to be influenced to refuse to work. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour Government had hindered the Dutch authorities. He referred to “ our Dutch allies “. The right honorable gentleman changes his allies as frequently as he changes his friends. I well recollect when he was condemned for assisting Japan which at that time was a potential enemy. He may refer to the leaders of the waterside workers as Communists agitators, but I do not recall any occasion on which an official of the Waterside Workers Federation was commended over the short-wave radio from Japan for assistance given to that country. The Leader of the Opposition alone has that questionable distinction. I have here a record of what was said in a Japanese shortwave broadcast after the right honorable gentleman had made a memorable speech at a summer political school -
There are clear-sighted men in the enemy camp in Australia, and in Britain and America. Such a clear-sighted man is Robert Gordon Meggies, a former Prime Minister of Australia. He showed his clear-sightedness by declaring that a prosperous Germany and Japan are necessary for the stabilization of the post-war world. Menzies and his counterparts, in England and America are by their clearsightedness marked as the future negotiators for world prosperity.
It is clear that the Japanese authorities regarded the right honorable gentleman as one who had assisted them.
Let us now examine the situation in regard to the Indonesians. It is true, as the Prime Minister pointed out, that there is a strong body of opinion in this country which ‘believes that all the merits are not on one side. I mention this because members of the Opposition have attacked a movement in Indonesia which they describe as a terrorist organization. Evidently the Dutch authorities do not share that opinion. I have here a report of a speech made by Dr. E. van Kleffens the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs, in reply to the Ukranian representative at the United Nations Conference held in London recently. Dr. van Kleffens said -
Far be it from me to identify the national movement in Java with these atrocities.
The Dutch authorities do not associate the nationalist movement in Java with the atrocities which have occurred. Evidently they were due to the activities of persons outside the nationalist movement. The Leader of the Opposition referred- to some of the leaders of the movement as collaborators with the Japanese. I do not know whether or not they collaborated with the Japanese, and I am not here to defend them, but I know that there has been a good deal of confusion and doubt created in the minds of .large numbers of people who found that soon after the cessation of hostilities Japanese troops were being used in Indonesia to support the action of the Dutch and the
British authorities. Referring to this matter Dr. van Kleffens said -
Owing to fortuitous circumstances Japanese troops had to be used at one brief stage, and to a limited extent.
His remarks scarcely support the contention that members- of the nationalist movement were collaborators with- the Japanese. In case there should be any doubt as to the accuracy of the statement that the Dutch are not altogether blameless in respect of the present situation, I invite the honorable member for “Warringah, when he speaks, to repeat the references he made to the activities of the Dutch at. a meeting of the War Advisory Council held some little. time ago. In my opinion, the Prime Minister took the correct stand’ when he said that Australia should not be involved in a nation-wide upheaval and dislocation of industry because of a dispute among the nationals of another empire. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government ought to have ordered the waterside workers to load the Dutch ships regardless of the consequences. The Leader of the Opposition referred to a previous happening in this country when waterside workers refused to load pig-iron for Japan which was then known to be a potential enemy of this country. The right honorable gentleman has said that he is proud of the distinction which he earned in that affair as the result of which he is known from one end of the country to the other by the name of “Pig-iron Bob’”. Members of the Labour party were not the only ones to condemn his attitude on that occasion. Sir Isaac Isaacs, a former Governor-General of Australia, whom even the Leader of the Opposition would scarcely describe as a Communist or a supporter of the Labour party, referred to the action of the then Government in the following terms : -
The Port Kembla coercion was an act of the Commonwealth in its corporate capacity and was an unequivocal mixing ‘of itself up in the quarrel on the side of Japan. It ,was as I view it a direct aid to that _ country. . . I conclude my consideration of this most unpleasant incident with unbounded admiration for the struggle for humanity and for freedom of conscience.
I am very pleased to know that the right honorable member accepts the title that has been conferred upon him. He must have very vivid recollections of a reminder of that dispute which was given to him when he last addressed a ‘meeting in my electorate. I hope that he will honour me with a return visit, for on that occasion he helped to increase my majority at the subsequent elections.
The honorable member for Wentworth had nothing to say about, the methods employed by the Government with which he was associated in maintaining industrial peace. I have a clear recollection of Mr. Justice Halse Rogers being appointed as a royal commission to investigate what is usually referred to now as “ the slush “ fund “. The “ strong “ anti-Labour government which., according to the Leader of the Opposition, did not ‘believe in « policy of appeasement, had formed a secret Commonwealth fund out of which it proposed to bribe union officials m order to preserve industrial peace. It wanted to pay the officials to act as traitors to their own unions. The Leader of the Opposition was then absent on one of his frequent oversea journeys as Prime Minister of the day, but everybody recollects well that when the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) were called before the commission their evidence was so conflicting that even the commissioner could not accept it,- and adjourned the inquiry for a week so that they could go away, talk it over, and come back with evidence that could be accepted. That indicates the capacity of the Opposition parties for preserving industrial peace. Was there strong action by the present Leader of the Opposition when, as Prime Minister of the day, he went to the coalfields during the big strike to appeal to the miners to go back to work? This big, strong man who was going to tell the miners exactly where they “ got off “ almost went down on his knees to them. Not long ago, when Australia was in a desperate situation during the. war, the Opposition submitted another motion of want of confidence in the Labour Government on the ground of its alleged failure to handle industrial troubles satisfactorily. That nit-wit who represents the electorate of. Wentworth could think of no other solution to our problems than to have a general strike in industry. He said, “ What does it matter if we have a general strike? Let everything stop for four or five weeks and bring the matter to a head “. At that time such a stoppage could have caused the defeat of the United Nations in the’ Pacific theatre of war. However, the Government adopted the proper stand and refused to be stampeded by the antiLabour press, which was crying for strong action “. To-day the antiLabour forces refer to 1942 as the year of record coal production. In no other year in the history of the Australian coal industry have we had greater production. If we could return to the 1942 scale of coal production to-day, everybody would be happy because we should have ample supplies to meet our requirements. The Government’s enemies have never been satisfied; they have always sought to foment industrial trouble. History tells the truth about industrial disturbances. There have been innumerably more strikes and of longer duration in periods when antiLabour governments have been in control ti) an when the Labour party has held the reins of office. It may be asked, “ Why are there any strikes at all when a Labour government is in power”? The answer is that strikes frequently occur simply because a- Labour government has to contend with a section of unscrupulous and vindictive employers who seek’ to embarrass it by deliberately fomenting industrial unrest. They want Labour governments to be destroyed before they can give effect to their legislative programmes.
The honorable member for Wentworth made another threat against the Government. He said that, unless the Government did more to assist the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen than.it had already done, those men would take matters into their own hands. He is an inciter of industrial unrest and political turmoil who does not care to what lengths he goes in order that his party may have supremacy in the political field. I well recollect the time when he was a member of the New Guard. He has since denied membership of that organization, but for years he was publicly accused of it in this Parliament and elsewhere and did not deny it until dictators fell into disrepute and it became unwise to be associated with such political movements. This gentleman and his fellow members of the New Guard accumulated stores of weapons because they were afraid that the people would not by their votes change the government, and therefore they planned to overthrow the elected representatives of the people by force of arms. Now the honorable gentleman Wants once again to play upon the feelings of the returned soldiers and inflame them against this Government. Returned soldiers have long memories, and they recall that in Melbourne returned soldiers on food relief built the Shrine of Remembrance when anti-Labour governments were in power. They also remember that thousands of ex-servicemen of the 1914-1? war had to tramp the country roads, “ humping the bluey “ in search of work under any conditions and at any rates of pay. They also know that the Labour party intends to apply a policy of full employment so that there will be a chance for everybody and so that they, as exmembers of the fighting services, will be decently and fairly treated. Because the Labour party’s policy has not been implemented overnight with a wave of a wand, the Opposition parties pick out individual cases and say, “Here is a complaint’ that I have received from a constituent”. The honorable member for “Wentworth himself writes half of the letters of complaint that he produces in an attempt to prove that there is a wave of dissatisfaction against this Government. Although I am not a returned soldier I am closely associated with what is probably the biggest sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The members of that sub-branch are fully aware of what the Government aims to do to rehabilitate them. Honorable members opposite are’ afraid that our plans for rehabilitation include certain courses of action which they regard as socialistic. The Government set out to improve railways communications. Members of the Opposition criticized this scheme on the grounds that the country could not afford to spare the necessary man-power and resources. Now they have the audacity to rise in this House and say to the Go vernment, What are you doing to provide employment for - the workers?” The workers will not be gulled so easily in this matter.
I turn now to the subject of food production. Let me examine the charges made by honorable members opposite on that subject. I am glad to note that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is present in the chamber, because when the Prime Minister referred to the fact that ample man-power was available to rural industries, that honorable gentleman interjected, “ We might have the man-power now, but it is too late; the cattle are gone”. I have received advice that some time ago ‘the honorable member bought a farming property complete with dairy herd at Bangalow, and that he sold the dairy cattle and established a banana plantation on the property at a time when we urgently needed to increase the production of butter for home consumption and export.
– That is a complete lie.
– When these gentlemen stand up in this Parliament and urge, increased production, they ‘ are not sincere. And if the honorable member for Richmond does not keep quiet, I shall tell him one or two other things. For instance, he might be able to explain why he had a new refrigerator installed in his luxurious flat at Kirra Beach when other people with large families could not buy refrigerators. When this Government assumed office in 1941, rural industry had already been largely drained of man-power. Our predecessors did nothing to conserve manpower in primary industry. It was in May, 1942, that the Labour Government put the “ stopper “ on the drainage of further man-power from rural industry. Does any one imagine that the wheat-growers are not aware of what this Government has done in the interests of their industry? Previous governments were not prepared to stabilize the wheat industry, or to guarantee markets or. prices to growers. It is on record that the members of the Australian- Country party to a man voted in this Parliament to shelve a proposal to guarantee a price - of 3s. 6d. a bushel in respect of wheat acquired by the No. 2. pool. Here is what the Wheatgrower of Western Australia, which is not a Communist or Labour newspaper, said on the 27th November, 1941, about members of the Australian Country party -
What traitors those Federal Country party representatives have proved themselves to be to the people they claim to represent.
It is clear that the wheat-growers are fully aware that only a Labour government has taken constructive steps to increase production in this country and to organize the industry. Honorable members opposite criticize the Government because there is a lack of shipping to transport food to Great Britain. Surely they are not unmindful of the fact that an anti-Labour government of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a leading member sacrificed the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. But for that action we would have in Australia to-day an Australian mercantile marine upon which we could depend in the present circumstances. I think that it was in 1922 that a previous Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, referred to the right honorable member for Cowper as “ this paralysed mentality “. That was nearly a quarter of a. century ago. If the right honorable member had a paralysed mentality so long ago, honorable members can well imagine his condition to-day. These are the men who offer themselves as leaders in place of the present Government.
I turn now to the subject of housing. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), when he wasa member of the Menzies Government, was an advocate of great housing programmes. 1 do not want to express the opinion of a labour man about that honorable gentleman; but Mr. Archdale Parkhill, a former Minister in an anti-Labour government, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 12th August, 1939, as saying- -
I am extremely anxious to expose the posing that Sir Frederick Stewart has indulged in for so long. No man in politics has talked more and done less.
That is an apt description of the honorable member for Parramatta by an erstwhile colleague.. As a supporter of previous governments he certainly talked. He said that he would not remain a member of the Government unless it constructed houses. He said that the Government must sweep all constitutional difficulties aside. We have heard something from honorable members opposite about the existence of slums in our capital cities. But are those slums the creation of the war years? For year after year the workers in industrial centres have been compelled to live in hovels. The dimensions of some of their homes were such that the milkman found it easier to pass the milk over the balcony rather than stoop to place it on the front doorstep. Such were the housing conditions which previous governments thought adequate for the workers.
The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), before he became Leader of the Opposition, formed a national service group of sixteen members. What did the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) say about him at that time? I mention these things, because the Leader of the Opposition sets himself up as the alternative to the present Prime Minister. On that occasion the right honorable member for North Sydney referred to the right honorable member for Kooyong in these terms -
He passionately urges the need for unity, but is himself the great self-seeker, the man behind the scenes in every intrigue, the fountainhead of every whispering campaign, the destroyer of unity.
This is the man who wants to lead the Government of this country. The right honorable member for Cowper once referred to the right honorable member for Kooyong in the following terms : -
The national leader must have courage, loyalty and judgment. Mr. Menzies does not possess these qualities.
I am reminded of a meeting which the Leader of the Opposition addressed recently. It was a meeting of the Australian Womens National League, a very militant body. A friend of mine attended the meeting, because I was anxious to learn the plans of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman was introduced to the meeting as “ TheRight Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies, K.C.” In the audience an old, deaf lady turned to her daughter and asked, “ What does K.C. stand for ? “, and her daughter informed her that Mr. Menzies was a King’s Counsel. Thereupon, the old lady replied, “ Oh ! Now I know why they sing “ God Save the King”. The Leader of the Australian Country party, the right honorable member for Darling Downs, in the 1943 election campaign, referred to the present Leader of the Opposition, when the latter criticized certain of his financial proposals, in the following terms : -
This stab in the back at this juncture makes another betrayal in the series for which Mr. Menzies has become notorious.
These are the members of the united Opposition, the parties which have joined in launching this attack upon the Government. The Government’s record will bear the closest examination and comparison with the records of previous governments in this country. It is true that during the war years we have not had full opportunity to apply our policy as we should like, but the people of Australia have complete confidence in this Government and will retain it. They are not prepared to accept the puerile charges which have been made against the Government. The Leader of the Opposition himself had no enthusiasm in launching the motion, because immediately after making his speech he departed from the chamber, and at various stages of the debate not more than three or four honorable members opposite remained in the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition did not even stay to listen to the New England “ bull “ making his attack upon the Government, showing that he lacks in,terest entirely in this matter. He has probably been pushed into moving this motion. Probably, he was told that he must do something because this Government is in too strong a position in the estimation of the public, and the general elections are approaching.
Before concluding, I should like to refer to the attitude of the press towards the present Government. The press is joining in this campaign of abuse and vituperation. We have only to read the reports of the speeches already made in this’ debate to see how the press is giving prominence to what it regards as the strong points made by the Opposition, whilst, at the same time, ignoring the effective replies made by supporters of the Government. To show what the press is capable of I produce to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraphy an old friend of my colleague, the Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). It is the policy of the Daily Telegraph, to “ knock “ the plans of the Government. Last night the national broadcasting stations were to have broadcast a discussion in “The Forum of the Air “ session on the standardization of railway gauges. On one side the speakers were Dr. Louat and Mr. P. E. T. Wills, the Queensland Commissioner for Railways. On. the other side the speakers were Mr. Shea, of the Commonwealth Department of Transport, and another gentleman. The Australian Broadcasting Commission had to make time available for the broadcasting of a speech by Mr. Churchill. So the “Forum of the Air “ had to be put off. There was no broadcast of the “ Forum of the Air “. But that did not prevent the Daily Telegraph from publishing a report, under the heading “ Rail Gauge Unification Senseless “, of what had been said by Dr. Louat and Mr. Wills in a broadcast that did not take place. So we see what reliance can be placed on the newspapers just as we can see what reliance can be placed on the utterances of honorable members of the Opposition.- I do not think need exists for me to say more now. .The Opposition is such a rabble that even the honorable member for Parramatta is deserting it. He is not prepared to face the barrier at the next general elections. The right honorable member for North Sydney was able to win selection as a candidate for that seat because he said, “What this Liberal party wants is new blood “.
– Order ! The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- Listening to the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) making the speech that he customarily makes to the electors of East
Sydney, I” felt that there was some hope for humanity after all, because there was a time when he used to nauseate us, whereas to-day he merely entertained us,’ like a sort of local “ Lord .Haw Haw “. I should be wasting valuable time if I attempted to reply “to the series of personalities that he indulged in. . I have never yet heard him make in this House a constructive speech directed to his own constituents that would carry some implication or possibility of his personal unpopularity, but would give a useful lead to them in the interests of Australia. One of his closest associates, Mr. Ernest Thornton, described him as a “cheer-chaser”, and any one who has listened to him over the last few years, as our parliamentary duties have compelled us to do, will, I believe, subscribe to that judgment. I do not intend to waste further time on him.
It is interesting to note that the Ministry, which started off by saying that the censure motion lacked strength and effectiveness, has put up senior Minister after senior Minister” to meet our challenge to it. I wonder what the rank and file of the Parliamentary Labour party think of this Government. I wonder what they thought when they heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) fail in his speech to make a vigorous forthright statement on where the Government stood in relation to the Indonesian problem. Did they take seriously the right honorable gentleman’s elegant reference to “ stinking fish “ in answering our accusation that the pro=ductive capacity of this country is steadily declining instead of. rising as it should with the war over and as we were led to believe it would? Did they, as they listened to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), get the impression that the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women and the conduct of army affairs are proceeding as satisfactorily as they should under a well-conducted government? Did they approve of the “ Manilla girl “ situation created by the autocratic, dictatorial, overbearing boorishness of the. Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) ? As they listened to the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), did they gather the impression that the production problems of this country are being tackled in the way most likely to promote efficiency and expansion.? All those questions are relevant to the inquiry whether the Government is deserving of the censure of this House. As they listened to the rather carefully prepared statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), did they sense that we are doing all that gratitude and our own conscience demand that we should do to provide food for the people of Great Britain? On every one of those counts this Government is deserving of the censure of this House. The most impressive speech made on the Government side since I have been listening to this debate, and. the only speech that represented anything like a proper approach in terms of logic and good sense to the problems raised in the debate, was that of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). He, at least, did attempt a relevant answer to our charges. Therefore, I propose to devote the time I have left to an examination of what he said. I do so because he is one of the senior Ministers; certainly he is playing an important, role on the planning side of what the Government is doing. So, if he expresses a view on economic matters, I think we can take it as the view of the Government. His answer to our charge that production is declining instead of increasing was interesting.
– It was effective.
– It was graphic. He lives on graphs. He produces them frequently, with lines rising and falling, End convinces himself that the best is happening if the graph is in the direction he wishes. He produced a- graph on the production problem. He obtained official statistics from the best quarters and discovered that, in terms of money values, production in this’ country last financial year was greater than in 1938-39, the last financial year before the outbreak of war. Therefore, he claimed that the Government had made an effective productive effort.
– It shows an increase of 100 per cent.
– Yes, an increase of practically 100 per cent over 1938-39. Of course, he would have us believe that Australia, in fact, produced almost double the quantity and variety of goods, and doubled the usefulness of servicescompared with the pre-war year. That is typical of the fallacious, muddled, stupid thinking that goes on in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Does any sensible man, with the evidence of his own daily experiences, imagine that production is even “ within cooee “ of what it was in 193S-30? Of course not! He has only to consider his own elementary problems concerning food, clothing and shelter to know that what the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said is fallacious. Has there ever been a period, even during the war, when food has been scarcer or dearer? Never in the history of this country, except in the pioneering days, have the ordinary clothing requirements of men and women, such basic needs as boots, shirts and suits, been in such short supply. Never before has there been a time when it has been more difficult for people with the means to pay to get shelter for themselves and their families. Those are the tests which should be applied to the productive capacity of a nation in time of peace.
If we were to take the line of reasoning adopted by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, we could imagine some optimistic chancellor in Germany just after (he war of 1914-18 replying to people who protested to him because there was a scarcity of goods and prices were soaring, “ My dear friends, be calm, for all is well. We are producing in .terms of money values ten times what we were producing before the war “. If we ignore what money can buy, the purchasing power of the £1, the true index to the production of a nation, and think merely in terms of money irrespective of its purchasing power, then we shall get an utterly false picture. And that is the false picture which the Minister presented tq ihe House. I would be less concerned if I thought that the honorable” gentleman was wilfully and deliberately presenting a false picture to the House, but I seriously believe that he and those who work with him in the Department of Post War Reconstruction have convinced themselves by examining these figures that all is well and that production is increasing in this country. I assure him that that is not so.
We have an extraordinary paradox in Australia to-day. More men and women are available for peace-time production than at any period during the last five years. They are returning to industry. Yet we know that the output per person employed is steadily declining, and absenteeism, instead of diminishing, is growing worse. We know that efficiency per unit, by contrast with pre-war experience, is very much inferior to-day.
– What evidence has the honorable member to prove that state ment?
– I could mention some honorable members opposite to prove my statement if I desired to do so. One member of the Labour party informed the union to which he belongs that a worker’s output to-day is only one-third of the production that he gave before the outbreak of war in 1939. Various trade union leaders have told me unofficially that that story is correct. I do not say that the Minister is seriously under a misapprehension regarding this matter. I am sure that he knows the facts, and that the situation is worrying the Government. But when we state facts of this kind, we are accused of attacking and demeaning, the Australian worker. Yesterday, the Prime Minister levelled that accusation_ against us. We were also accused of crying “stinking fish”, to repeat the elegant phrase which came from the first Minister of this Commonwealth when speaking in this chamber. But that is far from being the case. We are not atacking the Australian worker. We know his quality, capacity and initiative under normal conditions. If we bay that the output per worker - I include the professional man - is much less than what he is capable of giving, that is an attack, not upon our fellow Australians, but upon the Government of the day. The effort is there to be obtained if the Government has the capacity, ability and spirit to evoke that effort from the .Australian* people.
All this proceeds from- a policy which the Government has deliberately pursued, of maintaining a controlled economy. I believe that in maintaining a controlled economy in time of peace, tha Government is creating a vicious circle of rising prices, high costs and declining production ; and so long as the Government pursues that policy in peace-time, it will reap the inevitable harvest. I shall give a homely illustration. We all know what has happened during the war regarding fruit and vegetables. They are not difficult commodities to produce. Before the war, the market often was glutted. Producers had difficulty in selling their produce. During the wai’, the Government set up elaborate machinery to deal with such commodities as fruit and vegetables. Boards were created to deal with the marketing of this produce; officers who were appointed to the Prices Branch endeavoured to fix what they regarded as reasonable prices for fruit and vegetables ; and a host of inspectors was engaged to see that people did not violate the prices regulations. But despite all this complex machinery, the fruit and vegetables available to the people had never been in shorter supply than _ they were during the last year of the war and the first year of peace. And they have never been dearer than they are at present. That is a direct consequence’ of this attempt to apply a controlled economy to the Australian situation. We get high prices; and high prices themselves are a reflex of decreased production. Decreased production occurs, not merely because of a lack of man-power, but also because of a lack of incentive to workers to give the maximum performance of which they are capable. The Government has put. itself in that .position. It becomes a vicious circle for the reason that high taxation is an inevitable accompaniment of a. large and expanding bureaucracy. If we have a host of officials and large establishments, we must have high taxation in order to enable them to function. If we have high taxation so as to provide for those things, we place a damper on the incentive which would otherwise operate in the community. Instead of expenditure declining as the result of the conclusion of the war, we find, in point of fact, that for the first seven months of this financial year expenditure is £9,000,000 more than it was during the corresponding period of last year. Let me give one or two other illustrations. The War Expenditure Committee recently investigated the problem of accommodation in Melbourne. We knew that governments during the war years had expanded their holdings of office space in the capital cities, particularly in Melbourne, but all of us were astonished to find that in the heart of Melbourne - I am referring now not to stores or garages in suburban areas, but to the city proper - the Commonwealth Government holds office space totalling almost 1,000,000 square feet, for which it pays rent exceeding £250,000 a year. That happened during the war, and naturally we assumed that when peacetime conditions returned, governmental activities would be rapidly curtailed, departments would return to something like their normal activities, and much of the office space held by the Commonwealth would be released. But we found that of the 991,000 square feet of office space which had been occupied, only 12,800 square feet had been returned to the owners since ‘the end of the war. An additional 14,000 square feet, which had been vacated, principally by the Munitions Department, had been promptly transferred to “other departments. The Property Officer of the Commonwealth informed us that instead of our accommodation problems being eased, payments of rent being reduced and departments being retrenched, he had commitments now to find an additional 80,000 square feet of space in the heart of Melbourne.
– For what purpose?
– For Commonwealth departments.
– The Government is going to co-ordinate the co-ordinators.
– We were told that the Department of War Organization of Industry had disappeared, but lo, phoenix1ike out of the ashes of the dead past rises the Department of Post-war Reconstruction i. It has proved a very fertile bird. lt requires greater accommodation to house its young.
We are discovering that Commonwealth expenditures, which we assumed were war-time expenditures, have an extraordinary pertinacity. They are persisting into the years of peace. All of us can remember the time when, for some, special reasons attaching to their occupation, seamen on merchant vessels were paid a special war bonus when they went into hazardous areas. The scale of those payments was carefully calculated so as to tate into account the degree of risk which the seamen would undergo. Some members of this chamber may not be aware that Australian merchant seamen, who unquestionably did an excellent job during the war years, are still enjoying the payment of war risk bonuses. One can. imagine that the Government might have said to them, “ Boys, a fair thing is a fair thing. You may want an increase of rates, but let us prune the allowance down a bit and have it uniform However, despite the fact that the armistice was. signed six months ago, and to the best of my knowledge there has not been any action on the part of Japan or any other enemy in the vicinity of this country which would suggest any undue hazard in travelling through these waters, we find that the current order of the Maritime Industry Commission provides -
Twenty-five per cent, bonus on interstate and intranstate ships trading south of Townsville and Port Hedland (15 per cent, for interSt. Vincent Gulfs) ; 33i per cent. -for interstate and intra-state ships north of these points; and 50 per cent, for overseas ships going north of Townsville and Port Hedland from last Australian port on the outward voyage to first Australian port on the homeward voyage. “War conditions die hard, and this Government, by allowing conditions of that kind to persist, is enmeshing itself in its own toils. It finds itself now following a vicious circle. High costs are persisting, and so long as high costs persist heavy taxation will remain; and so long as we have the deadening effect of high taxation upon the Australian economy, we shall have a nation “ going slow “ instead of a nation reaping the reward of its victory.
The second point I wish to make relates te the observance of the law, because that matter is wrapped up with the general problem of production. In the past few years the people of Australia have learned that a community can be inflamed, inspired, or spurred into breaches of industrial law: Far from the facts being as the Minister for Transport would have us believe, namely, that industrial disputes were very much greater during the regime of governments with which I was associated, they have steadily increased since that time. If statistics were available, I am sure they would indicate that in the past year the proportion of man-days lost has been the heaviest on record. AH this has had a most unsatisfactory effect upon the Australian community at large. When normal, lawabiding citizens see that a large section of the community is able to disobey the law with impunity, and be treated with deference by various Ministers who from time to time have darted hither and thither by aeroplane or Chrysler, as the circumstances have demanded, there is likely to develop in the community a most unhealthy spirit for Australia. During the past few years, there has been in this country an intensification of black marketing activities, a development which we on this side of the chamber predicted during the referendum discussions. We told the Government that if it attempted to maintain in time of peace a controlled economy with restrictions upon industry and upon individuals, whatever evils were experienced during the war as the result would be intensified tenfold. In wartime, in order not to harm the war effort, people will do things which appear to them to be against their personal interest and advantage; but if the inspiration of patriotism be removed, people, especially those who consider that they are merely doing something that is “’ ag’in the Government “, will not show the same spirit of law- observance as they showed in time of war. They are incited to that attitude when they find that other sections of the community are breaking the law, unchecked by the Government. We have found, therefore, a somewhat casual attitude developing in this country towards the observance of the law.
It may be argued, perhaps, that my criticism so far has been rather, on the destructive plane: but the solution, I believe, is clear. The Government must make up its mind now and forever that as a matter of practical government mechanics it cannot maintain in time of peace stringent economic controls over free-thinking and free-living people. The system will break down eventually. The only countries in which it has not broken down are those in which freedom has been suppressed, and governments have become the supreme authority. If a government wants to get from its people the maximum effort of which they are capable, it must guarantee an expanded freedom. We are informed that restrictions are being removed daily. Tinfortunately, the restriction habit appears to be infectious or contagious. Many restrictions that the Commonwealth Government claims to have abandoned have been re-imposed by State governments, and, in consequence, industry as a whole is finding very little relief. I may be told by ‘ the Minister that to remove re- strictions would be to invite chaos in this country. I do not believe that it is humanly possible to pass through a period of transition from war to peace without some considerable degree of confusion and dislocation. The Minister believes that the transition can best b<i effected by maintaining controls; I believe that it could be effected better by evoking the enterprise and initiative of the Australian people and by giving to, them the freest possible play to tackle the problems that confront them. A certain degree of confusion is unavoidable, but by adopting the course I have suggested a maximum effort could be made, and. that is not possible to-day. I say in conclusion, therefore^ that because the Government is pursuing its present policy, it is squandering the peace and denying to the Australian people the just reward of the victory they have won. It does not govern; it will not govern; it cannot govern. It drifts where it is blown; it will wreck itself or it will surely wreck Austraia, regimented numbers in this House may save it from a motion of want of confidence, but they cannot save it from certain condemnation by the Australian people.
.- I shall not speak at length on this motion, because effective replies to the Opposition’s charges have already been given by speakers on this side of the House. When we review the working of our democratic system, we cease to wonder that people sometimes are disgusted, with us. Yesterday, we came into this chamber, said the Lord’s Prayer, and sympathized with the relatives of former members of this
Parliament who had died. Then followed a debate on a censure motion, in the course of which accusations of all kinds were made, and this chamber resembled a bear-garden. The debate was adjourned to permit us to attend a party at which we were one big happy family - all good fellows. I often, wonder what are the reactions of people who . sit in the galleries of this House, or read. of these happenings in the press.
The main charge that lias been made by the Opposition is that the Government is under, the domination of Communistcontrolled unions. I deny that absolutely. The Government has done a great job. Had those who are now in opposition composed the Government, I am perfectly certain that they would have antagonized the unions, as they did in the early part of the war, to such a degree thai there were general strikes. This Government did not have a general cessation of production during the war, but was able to keep the workers engaged constantly in production. The - honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), unlike other speakers on his side who preceded him, did not accuse the Government of being Communist-controlled, but on the contrary praised a nian whom I claim to be the leader of the Communist party in Australia - Mr. Thornton - who directed a cheap sneer at the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) by describing him as “ Cheer-chasing Eddie “. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. The Communist is either bad or good. Does the honorable member for Fawkner regard him as good because he makes a cheap sneer at the Minister for Transport, or does he endorse the view of his leader and deputy leader, who have said that all Communists are bad? An ex-Prime Minister said in 1931, in this Parliament, that he was proud that the New Guard had assisted him on one occasion when he was addressing a meeting in Sydney. Those who now sit in opposition hand-fed that organization, and supported it, even when some of its members entered a home and- assaulted the owner. When the culprits were taken before the police court, the organization boasted that the prisoners would be taken out of the. hands of the police, causing the then Metropolitan Superintendent, who is now Commissioner, Mr. Mackay, to issue the instruction that violent measures should he taken against the offenders outside the court if they attempted to release the accused from custody. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has never refused to accept a fee to defend one of those individuals. Even the leader of the organization, Mr. Erie Campbell, has sat “ cheek by jowl “ with Hitler. What other man has had freedom equal to that which has been accorded to that man? He has been able to strut about this country, and has claimed that he has kept the organization intact in order that it may again raise its head should any attempt be made by a Labour government to enforce the socialization of industry. There has been a lot of praise for De Groot, who, when a constitutional government had made arrangements for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, took control out of the hands of those who had organized the ceremony and himself cut the ribbon with a sword. Honorable members opposite were then in power and gloated over the State Government being made to look ridiculous by the.:e acts of violence.
There is one matter that has not been sufficiently dealt with by those who have first-hand information. I refer to the food position in Great Britain. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) mentioned that one of his friends had told him that while walking along a street in London he wondered why the people were walking so slowly. Even though he himself was not walking at a fast pace, he yet outdistanced them. The inference to be drawn from the recital of that incident is that the people were suffering so greatly from malnutrition that they were unable to maintain an ordinary walking pace. That- is an extreme exaggeration. I have just returned from Great Britain. I admit that the people there have had to revert to the war-time food rationing. ‘ What is the reason for that? It is that Great Britain is. responsible for feeding the inhabitants of the British occupied zone in Germany. I had the privilege of visiting Germany and inspecting the devastation that has been wrought in that country. It is indescribable. Production has not yet made any progress, and the people have to be fed. The Tory party in Great Britain, in order to inflame the minds of the people against £he British Government, which happens to be a Labour Government, published a cartoon in the press depicting wharf labourers at British docks loading food for Germany, the caption on top of the cartoon being, “ We won the war; Germany is winning the food “. If the contention be that we should leave the people of Germany to starve to death, we may as well release those who are being tried for war crimes. Either the Germans must be fed, or- they should be put out of their misery quickly. No man can visit Germany without feeling somewhat sympathetic towards the people of that country. The state of the German children certainly evoked my sympathy. At Essen, which prior to the war was probably one of the largest industrial cities in the world, practically nothing has .been left standing except chimney stacks. There I saw young children foraging for some black substance, which I daresay was sugar that had been discolored by the rains and the fallen masonry. Having secured a handful, they would pass on and again take their place in the queue in the hope of obtaining more. I “ take off my hat “ to Great. Britain, which is prepared to share the little it has in order to try to succour these people, who ‘ were misled. The Germans are definitely stunned. In boxing language, they are “ punch drunk “ with the hammering which undoubtedly they have had. It was necessary to give them that hammering.’ Although I do not excuse the German people, I cannot fail to be sympathetic tohungry kiddies. Hitler claimed that Great Britain, because of its humanitarian instincts, would get nowhere, and he played upon that national characteristic. Thank God for the sentiment and justice that we have in us ! When I went to Britain and saw thehammering which my mother’s country had “taken, I felt sad at heart. My second feeling was one of pride that the people of that country could take such a hammering, and for twelve months without assistance. Bitterness enters one’s heart. in proceeding to Germany and one is inclined to believe that no suffering is too great for the people of that country, but 1 found that the misery there was indescribable. “We claim to be Christians, but.it makes my heart sick to think that so-called civilized people can do these things to one another. Let us try to build a new world through the United Nations organization, and hasten the day when, in the words of Burns, “ man to man the world o’er, shall brothers be for a’ that “.
No attempt is made by some governments to redeem their promises, but when the Labour party gets into power it tries to give effect to its policy. The programme submitted to the people by the Labour party in J943 has been carried out in fair measure despite, huge war commitments. My object in visiting Germany was not only to observe the distress among the people of that country; I was also entrusted with a mission to make inquiries regarding the recovery of fuel oil from coal. In addition to my investigation of the hydrogenation process at Billingham-on-Tees, I examined the Fischer-Tropsch and Bergins processes. When Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister in 1934 the policy of his Government was to encourage the production of oil from coal, but all. he did at that time was to have a report prepared on the matter. When visiting Cessnock, he promised this but referred the matter to Sir John Cadman, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, who presented a report to the effect that the recovery of oil from coal was not an economic proposition. The company with which he was associated was supplying Australia with flow oil, and I ask whether it would be possible for him to retain the position of chairman of that company if he submitted a recommendation which would encourage competition with it. I do not wish to anticipate my report to the Government on this matter, but I am satisfied that it will redeem a promise made by the Labour party at about the time of the general elections in 1940. The- war has prevented the implementation of the party’s policy in respect of the recovery of oil from coal. Labour seems to secure office at times of great national crisis, as a result of the intrigue of its political opponents.
During my eighteen years’ parliamentary experience I have witnessed many bitter fights between the anti-Labour parties. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had led them to victory in 1922 ; but through the intrigue of the right honorable member f or Cowper (.Sir Earle Page), Mr. Bruce was made Prime Minister and the right honorable member for North Sydney was railroaded out of office. The latter remarked that the right honorable member for Cowper was such a snide individual that he gave one the impression that he had been on earth before. “What was he?” asked the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the right honorable member for North Sydney replied - “ An ulcer on a unicorn’s bottom “.
– There is nothing more irritating than that.
Australia could at least send more food to Britain by greater sacrifice on the part of our people, but there is a definite shortage of shipping .for the transport of food overseas. Thousands of war brides in Great Britain are awaiting passages to Australia. When I was in London I saw a stream of them at Australia House, and some of the wives of Australian servicemen had children three years of age who had never seen their fathers. Who are deserving of more consideration than those servicemen who, as the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said, “ put their bodies between us and the enemy “, and cannot now be reunited with those whom they love? The right honorable member for North Sydney, when in power during the First World War, bought some vessels known as the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was actually given away by the Bruce-Page Government. It .’. … supposed to have been sold for £9,000,000. I believe that a deposit of £1,400,000 was paid, but the purchaser, Lord Kylsant, of the White Star Line, got into trouble and was imprisoned, with the result that Australiareceived no further payment, for the vessels. The Opposition now talks of a shortage of shipping, but it must accept responsibility for the disposal of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers which was strongly criticized in this Parliament at the time. Bulk stores in Australia are full of wool which has been purchased by the Government of Great Britain, but it cannot be sent to Britain owing to the shortage of shipping. We should not exaggerate the seriousness of the plight of the people of the Mother Country, as the Leader of the Opposition has done. Fish and vegetables are plentiful in Britain, but there are shortages of meat, eggs, butter and fruit, which are strictly rationed. Whatever Australia can do to help the people of Great Britain should be done, but I am sure that the Government is already doing everything possible to assist them.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he takes pride in his title of “ Pigiron Bob Many mothers who have lost their husbands and sons in the war just concluded probably believe that their loved ones were killed by bombs and guns made from Australian pig iron which the right honorable gentleman forced to be sent to Japan. When the waterside workers at Wollongong and Port Kembla struck in protest against the export of scrap iron to Japan, the Leader of the Opposition threatened them with prosecution and dire penalties. But let us go farther back still. In 1931, the Japanese attempted to take a lease of the iron ore deposits in Yampi Sound. At that time Labour was in opposition, and it took a strong stand against what was being done. Because of the protests which were made the lease was cancelled, and the deposits were leased to a British firm known as Brassarts Limited, which was to work the deposits and sell the product to the Japanese. Et is evident, therefore, that a large proportion of the Japanese munitions of war had their origin in Australia.
– That lease was signed by the Labour Government of Western Australia.
– I do not know who signed it, but the proposal was criticized in this House. In any case, the ore was exported from Australia, and the Government of Western Australia was noi responsible for that. Moreover, the fact still remains that iron for Japan was loaded at Port Kembla at the directionof the present Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) went to his assistance.
– I was not in office at that time.
– Well, the government of the day could not have remained in office without the support of the party which the right honorable member led. It was a temporary combination between members of a mutinous crew.
– The honorable member is thinking of the Lang party in this Parliament.
– No matter what may have been the troubles of the Labour party in the past, it has achieved a record for unity since it has been in office. This is in marked contrast with the record of the parties opposite. We have changed only two Cabinet positions in ‘ four years. Some time ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party politically assassinated the present Leader of the Opposition, who, in turn, has assassinated the right honorable member for Cowper. As for the honorable member for Warringah, he has been in and out of the party several times. It is evident that the parties opposite will never agree. Their trouble is that there are too many kings and too few king’doms. They all want to be boss. At the beginning of the war the Opposition, then the Government, could have carried on, but its members could not agree among themselves.
Honorable members opposite have spoken of the housing problem and of the nationalization of industry. The honorable member for Wentworth, who raised the second issue, is capable of saying anything for the purpose of misleading, but he knows perfectly well that no Commonwealth Government has power under the Constitution to nationalize industry. It even lacks power to enter the housing field in competition with private enterprise or the States, and it can help only by co-operating with them. If it were not for party bitterness it would be possible to induce the people to grant to the Commonwealth Parliament increased powers under the Constitution. The Opposition parties, when in power in 1925, put forward certain proposals for increased Commonwealth powers, and we opposed them. A few years ago, we put forward similar proposals, and the Opposition opposed them; Nevertheless, we all . know perfectly well that we cannot function effectively as’ a national parliament unless greater powers are conferred. It is a pity that we cannot go as> a united body to the people and ask for the powers which we all admit are necessary.
We know that an election is approaching, and this accounts for much of the electioneering propaganda to which we have listened in this debate. Members of the Opposition have to convey the impression that we in this Parliament are all fighting like Kilkenny cats. Regarding food for Britain, I repeat that the position is not so bad as the Leader of the Opposition makes out. It is bad enough, admittedly, but we should face the situation squarely. Australia has the produce, but there are not enough ships. As soon as we can get the ships we shall do everything, possible to supply food to Great Britain which has done so much for us.
.- Listening to the two previous speakers from the Government side of the House, one realizes that they find it necessary to -distort the facts in order to vindicate the Government’s administration. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who now has no transport to administer, and must therefore be merely a cipher in the Cabinet, made an abusive speech which was loudly cheered from the Government back benches, because it contained charges and innuendoes directed against honorable members on this side df the House. I do not propose to take his charges seriously, except the particular charge which he made against me when he said that I had sold cows off a farm which I had bought. His charge amounts to a distortion of the facts. From that farm [ am now producing more butter than was produced the previous summer. The farm then was overstocked and, by reducing the size of the herd, it has been possible to feed the cows properly and to increase The yield. Moreover, even if I do grow bananas on a part of the land, it should be remembered that bananas constitute a most valuable food. Indeed, a banana plantation produces more food per acre than it is possible to produce with, any other crop.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in order to bolster up his case for the Government, and in an attempt to discredit the Opposition, stated that the Opposition, when in power some years ago, had sold iron ore from Yampi Sound to the Japanese. Evidently his memory is so short that he has forgotten that it was a Labour government in Western Australia which signed the contract, whilst it was the Lyons Government which cancelled it. That is a fact which ought to be placed on record.
I am now going to say something which cannot be refuted. I make a charge which the Government must answer immediately, in regard to the Government’s condoning the despatch of the “ hell ship-“ which recently left from Sydney Harbour. The statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) last night was a disgrace to this Parliament. He told us that this ship was sent out on the instructions of some high American authority, and that the Australian authorities had complied with the conditions decided on by that authority. That defence is the same as was put up ,by Kramer when charged with having committed atrocities at Belsen. Japanese war criminals, too, have claimed to have acted on instructions from “ some one higher up.”. According to a statement issued by the Chinese Minister to Australia .the Formosans who have been placed on this ship ..were never pro-Japanese, although some of them had been forced to fight for the Japanese. The Minister for the Army told us that they are going back happily. An official statement made in Sydnev by the Army Relations officer was as follows : -
The internees were addressed by the Chinese Consul-General, who explained that they would disembark at Formosa, and on this assumption they were quite happy to continue the voyage.
I have in my hand some newspaper photographs showing these “ quite happy “ people being pushed aboard the ship. They show women crying, babies in distress, little girls weeping and wailing, and one man who had endeavoured to jump overboard and commit suicide rather than travel on the vessel. Yet, according to the Army spokesman, these people are happy to continue the voyage!
– Did his statement relate to the time that the photographs were taken or to some other time?
– If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) wants to defend the action that has been taken in regard to these unfortunate people, he may do so at the proper time.
– Do not put words into : my mouth. What the honorable member is saying would not be accepted in any court.
– This matter transcends all party considerations. I do not want to make a party matter of it, and have raised it only because the statement of the Minister for the Army last night virtually condoned what had been done. As the right honorable gentleman said that the responsibility rested with the American authorities, I hold it to be my duty, as a member of the Opposition, to expose the callous treat- ment of these unfortunate people and to bring the facts to light. We have read a lot of what happened at the notorious Belsen camp in Germany, and of how allied prisoners of war were treated on the Altmark. We have also heard of the treatment of prisoners of war by the Japanese on the “ death march “ to Bataan and we know something of the stinking conditions under which Australians were herded on the Monte Video Maru. Are- we to do to others what our enemies did to those who were unfortunate enough to come into their hands? Shall we not stand convicted in our own consciences for sending that ship out of Sydney Harbour in the state reported in our newspapers? It is reported thata great percentage of the persons on board that vessel were nationals favorable to the allied cause.
– After we had won the war.
– I do not care whether or not they were our enemies. Whatever their nationality, and whatever their previous actions may have been, they are human beings; and among them are women and children. Even our enemies are entitled to decent treatment at our hands’. I greatly deplore the statement made last night by the Minister for the Army, and I hope that before the ship gets very far - before it reaches Brisbane - it will be ordered to put into an Australian port. It has been said that the vessel may call at an island port to discharge some of its passengers, but that will not be good enough. Before the vessel leaves Australian waters it should be diverted to an Australian port and examined. Newspaper reporters who descended to the lower decks to examine the ship said that the stench was such that they could not stay there. If that was the state of affairs before the vessel left Sydney, I ask honorable members to imagine what the conditions are likely to be after the vessel has been some days at sea in tropical waters. I ask them to imagine the condition of the little girls shown in these photographs. They are beautiful children of whom any parent might well be proud. They are just as dear to their parents as our children are to us. How would we feel if our children were subjected to the conditions which these children will have to endure? In this matter a grave responsibility rests on the Australian Government. That responsibility cannot be shifted to General MacArthur or some other American authority. We in Australia know the conditions under which the ship left Sydney; we know that it was overcrowded; we know that when the vessel came here it carried cargo in its holds, and it appears that men, women and children have been placed where the cargo previously was stored. We know, too, how many passengers the vessel ought to be allowed to carry. That number ought not to be exceeded.
– We can compel the vessel to call at Brisbane.
– In the name of common humanity I call upon the Government to divert the ship to the nearest port, and not to allow Australia to be coupled with those nations which we have reviled for the inhuman treatment of persons in their power. I urge the Government to act immediately, because I fear that if something be not done soon many deaths will occur on board. Should that happen, I would not like to be in the position of the persons responsible for letting the ship leave Sydney.
For several years I have pointed out to the Government the position towards which the country was heading in respect of food supplies, and therefore I stood aghast when I heard the concluding remarks of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). He told us that the food situation left nothing to be desired. That is the Minister’s view despite the continuance of rationing of many foodstuffs, a declining production of foodstuffs in Australia, and the fact that millions of people in the world are starving. I am not being wise after the event, because on four or five occasions during the last five years I have moved the adjournment of the House in order to direct attention to what was necessary if our primary industries were to hold their own, and if at the conclusion of the war we were to be in a position to meet our obligations to the Mother Country, starving Europe and ourselves. The Minister cited a lot of figures. In September, 1942,I pointed out all the factors that he has mentioned with respect to man-power, profitable prices for dairy products - without which the farmers cannot continue - and other matters which had to be attended to if production were to be increased. Finally I nailed the then Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) down to the fact that we had failed in our obligations to Great Britain. When I did so, the Minister asked -
Does the honorable member know that there is a war on?
I answered -
Yes, and the people of Great Britain know it. too. They are blockaded, and they have been rationed to10d. worth of beef a week, which is just about one chop. What is the Commonwealth Government doing about it?
Mr. Beasley said ;
We are looking after the people of Australia.
– Is that all he said?
– That is all he said then. I shall complete the quotation for the satisfaction of the honorable member. I continued -
I am glad to have that admission from the Minister. That is the very answer I have been waiting for.
There is no doubt that Mr. Beasley hasbeen looking after, not only the people of Australia as a whole, but also Mr. Beasley in particular. He has done so very handsomely, and there are a few questions on that point which I shall ask the Government. The country is entitled to have an answer to them. The following statement appeared in the Brisbane. Courier-Mail on the 24th January: -
Australia’s first resident Minister in London. (Mr. J. A. Beasley), wearing an “Anthony Eden “ hat and twirling a silver-crested umbrella–
Gone are the days of the “ bowyangs “ - waved a cheerful greeting to a tender packed with the Australian reception party as the ship, Australia Star, pulled into Tilbury Docks to-day.
– Is that a truthful report?
– That is exactly what I want to find out.
While wharfies unloaded mountains of luggage prominently marked “Rt. Hon. J. A. Beasley “, including special cases containing a shiny silk topper and a cutaway morning suit, Mr. Beasley, Mrs. Beasley, and their four children posed on the decks for photographs.
Mr. Beasley was looking remarkably fit;
I should say that he would be - “ It was warm in the tropics,” said Mr. Beasley, shivering in the rawness of the Thames fog.
However, the Beasleys are unlikely to suffer from the prevailing food and fuel stringencies in Britain.
They have brought -
Several cases of powdered milk, 109 cases (3 tons) of tinned fruit,
Seven bags of sugar each containing 70 lb. of sugar,
A 100 lb. case of tea,
Four cases of turkeys.
So this is our austere Minister ! I ask the Government - and I shall place the question on the notice-paper if I do not get an answer now - how Mr. Beasley obtained the coupons for 490 lb. of sugar at a time when the sugar ration for the people of Australia had been halved? Also, who issued the coupons for 100 lb. of tea, representing approximately800 coupons? I am led to believe that the Rationing Commission “ jacked up “ on issuing those supplies, but was ordered to do so either by Cabinet or by a ministerial direction. We are entitled to know whether this practice is common to all Ministers who go abroad. When the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) next goes overseas does he propose to exercise the same privilege as Mr. Beasley, and take with him a large quantity of turkey, tea and sugar in order to sustain him in his energetic exertions on behalf of Australia ? Does the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) intend to do likewise when he. goes to Washington ? These are very pertinent questions. If the King and Queen submit to the ration scale which is applied in Great Britain, why cannot Mr. Beasley and his family do so too? We know that the King and Queen receive the same rations as the very humblest individual in ther domain.
– The honorable member must believe in Eather Christmas.
– Honorable members opposite may laugh, but do they consider that a housewife in King’s Cross, Collingwood or Coburg should not be entitled to the same food ration as this privileged individual, the Australian Resident Minister in London? I ask the Government to .answer my questions. If I do not get an answer now, I shall place the question on the notice-paper and see that it remains there until a reply is given.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction produced figures in an endeavour to prove that, during the last year or two, the food position in Australia had been better than ever before. To-day I went to the Commonwealth Statistician, the foremost authority on statistics in Australia, and secured the figures of our exports of butter to Great Britain for the last six years. They are as follows: -
If the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction obtains any satisfaction from drawing graphs, he will see that a graph based oh those figures shows a descending curve from 1939 to the present time. The story is similar with respect to other pro ducts. While we were restricting acreage? for the growing of wheat, and paying individual farmers not to grow wheat, our export percentages to the United Kingdom during the last six financial years were as follows : - 1940, 61 per cent. ; 1941, 51 per cent.; 1942, 31 per cent.; 1943, 40 per cent.; 1944, 1 -per cent; 1945, nil; whilst no wheat was exported to the United Kingdom during the latter six months of 1945. That is our record with respect, to wheat. Let us see now our record with respect to sugar. We are told that sugar is rationed in this country in order to make greater supplies available to the people of Great Britain; but during the last six financial years the export percentages to the United Kingdom were as follows : - 1940, 68 per cent.; 1941, 49 per cent.; 1942, 47 per cent.; 1943, 21 per cent.; 1944, nil ; 1945, nil ; whilst the percentage exported during the latter six months’ of 1945 was 1 per cent. For the last two and a half years; despite the fact that sugar has been rationed in this country, and the reason given for that rationing is that the sugar is being exported to the people of Great Britain, no sugar at all has been exported to the United Kingdom - of course, excepting the seven bags of sugar which the Beasley family took with them to London. Those are the facts; and I warn the Government that we shall not increase our production of sugar unless it takes a more practicable and sympathetic view of the needs of the man on the land. I emphasize, for example, the need to make available adequate supplies of barbed wire”. One who has not had experience in farming will not readily see the connexion between food production and the provision of adequate supplies of barbed wire. However, if a farmer cannot subdivide paddocks and fence off cultivated areas he will be unable to undertake the necessary ploughing in order to increase food production. In the areas which I represent the farmers are starving for barbed wire. To-day, a farmer can buy only the rusted black wire which is being released by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, but that wire is practically useless. It is hot worth the cost pf the labour of putting it up. I have used some of that wire when I have been compelled to fence certain areas for a couple of months. It is rusted and rotten. However, for that wire the farmer is being charged ?18 a ton. In ordinary circumstances, when supplies of other wire are obtainable, it would not be possible to give the black” wire away. The selling of such wire at ?18 a ton is black marketing at its worst; and I lay that charge against the Government. When the tick commission in North Australia required 500 tons of good, solid, galvanized barbed wire it was able to obtain that quantity from the Army authorities. But the Army authorities will not make available one coil of good-quality wire to unfortunate farmers whose needs in this respect must be met if they are to increase food production. A well-founded suspicion exists that the Army authorities have stored away thousands of tons of good-quality barbed wire which they will not need, if at all, for a very long time. If the Government were really sympathetic towards the problems of the farmers,- it would make available necessary supplies of wire from those, stores without delay.
I again direct attention to a problem which will vitally affect the production of butter. About eighteen months ago I visited the electorates of Herbert and Kennedy, in north Queensland, in order to investigate the buffalo-fly pest. When the fly enters an area and commences to attack dairy herds, the production of milk in that area drops almost immediately by 50 per cent. The flies attack the beast in millions, making its life so unbearable that it fails away quickly to skin and bone, and .by rubbing in an effort to get rid of the fly develops huge sores over its body, making it worthless as a milk producer. On my return from that visit, I joined a. deputation which waited upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Munitions, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The deputation, which included representatives of the Government party, among them the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), urged the Government to take prompt action to deal with the buffalo fly menace. I extracted a promise from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that he would visit the infested areas in order to size up the situation for himself. Originally, I asked that the Government
Mr. Anthony; appoint a commission to investigate the problem and to recommend the best, measures to combat the pest. That request was refused. However, the Minister, despite the promise he gave nearly two years ago, has not yet visited those areas. In the meantime the fly has descended from the Bowen area to Eidsvold, a distance of 500 miles. Within the next few months it will enter the rich milkproducing areas in the South Bowen and Gympie districts. The latter district is one of the largest butter and milk: producing areas in Queensland; and,, later, the fly will reach the Richmond,, the Tweed, and the Clarence rivers, which districts supply half of the butter produced in New South Wales.
– Is not DDT effectivein combatting the flies?
– It is believed that DDT may help to arrest the advance of the pest’. That is something that might be done, but the Government has not done one single thing.
– That is not true.
– The Minister has not carried out his promise to visit theaffected areas. Can the interjector answer that?
– I heard the honorablegentleman tell the Minister that heknew that he could not do- much about it, but that he had to make a noise for the sake of his constituents.
– That is a lie! F have given the Government every opportunity to do something, not by bringingthe matter up in the House but by going: to the Ministers and pleading with them to investigate the situation for themselves.. I say, as a practical farmer, that if the buffalo-fly comes down through thosedistricts as far south as the dairying: districts of northern New South Wales,, thousands of farmers will be lookingfor timber supplies, wire netting, gauze, and such things, but their needs will not be met because the goods will not beavailable.
– On a point of order,. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I ask that the honorabe member for Richmond beasked to withdraw his statement that theremark that I passed was a- lie.
– I think the honorable member should withdraw.
– I withdraw. I realise that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) lets slip from his mouth things he does not mean.
– I ask for an unqualified withdrawal.
– I withdraw anything that the honorable member regards as objectionable to him. If the Government does not soon do something about this buffalo-fly problem, the reduction of dairy exports will be much greater than would be the case if drought reduced production.
– Order! The honorable member’s time lias expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate but I must reply to two statements which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made this afternoon, because his allegations should be refuted immediately with all possible emphasis. In the course of his speech, the honorable member referred to the J apanese destroyer Yoizuki which arrived at Sydney to transport to Formosa and “Korea certain prisoners of war and internees who had been held in this country. The honorable member sought to place upon the Commonwealth Government the responsibility for the conditions which prevailed upon the ship. Although he declared that the matter should be discussed on a non-political basis, it seems remarkable that he should raise the subject on a motion of want of confidence in the Government. His action in doing so proved that he had no desire to treat the subject as a non-party and non-political matter. Obviously, he desired to exploit it for political purposes.
I cannot regard his explanation that his sole desire was to serve the best interests of these people as being evidence of his altruism. His purpose in referring to the subject was to arouse in the public mind resentment against this Government, because of the existence of these conditions which, he considered, called for public condemnation. In my opinion, the honorable member does this country an enormous disservice by alleging that the Commonwealth Government or any other Australian institution had any part in determining the nature of the transport that should be provided for those Formosans and Koreans. It is unfortunate that Australia should secure a bad advertisement from one of its own public men. He has sought to besmirch the reputation of this fair land in order to serve some mean and miserable political end. I wish that the honorable member was in his place now so that he could hear the things which I must say about him, and others like him, who seek to use this debate for the purpose of furthering their own political fortunes.
The Australian press also is trying to create a feeling of alarm in the minds of the people regarding the transport of the Formosans and Koreans aboard the destroyer; but again, it is remarkable that as late as yesterday or Tuesday one of the newspapers, which to-day is making the loudest noise, published photographs of the vessel and of the accommodation which had been provided, and the worst that it said about the conditions was that “ there was an uncomfortable journey ahead “. Those who have protested most loudly in this matter waited until the Yoizuke left port before they attempted to rouse public opinion about the conditions aboard the vessel. The Australian community has a wonderfully humane spirit. It is a feature of the Australian character to feel concern at the transport of human beings under any conditions which are less favorable than those which we would desire for ourselves. But I direct attention to the fact that the standards of some other nations in the world do not approach the standards which we. regard as being proper for human beings. And well may Australians take note of the possible fate from which they have been saved by the defeat of Japan. The standards which, in Australia, we enjoy are infinitely superior to the standard.’ which many other nations enjoy, particularly some who are not very far distant geographically from our shores. Australians may certainly feel gravely concerned at conditions which, they believe, will impose hardship upon the passengers aboard the destroyer, but their anxiety i& no deeper than that of the Government. I desire it to be understood that Australia is not responsible for the existence of the conditions upon Yoizuki or any other ship under the control of those in charge of arangements for the transportation of prisoners of- war and internees.
– Was not the Commonwealth Government responsible for the embarkation of those persons?
– The Minister will assist the Chair by not replying to the interjection. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has already spoken.
– I have no intention of trying to satisfy the honorable member for Wentworth. I tried to’ do so for many years, but found that the task was impossible.
The honorable member for Richmond may point an accusing finger at the Government, and, incidentally, at Australia in regard - to this particular matter, but our position is perfectly clear, and I am sure that the intelligent section of the Australian community will completely exonerate the Government from any responsibility. The position is this: We received a signal from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces “in Japan that a Japanese destroyer, Yoizuki. was departing from Kure on the 13th February and would proceed via Rabaul to Sydney for the purpose of embarking a certain number of Formosans and Koreans. The Commonwealth was asked to provide at Sydney canned food for 1,200 persons for 20 days, vegetables. for 1,200 persons for fourteen days and 1 ton of meat. There were other instructions, regarding the fuelling of the Yoizuki. The number of Koreans and Formosans placed aboard the vessel was actually less than that figure, in consideration no doubt of the number of the crew already aboard. I emphasize that in this matter the Australian authorities have acted in accordance with the specific instructions of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan. The prisoners of war and internees now on board Yoizuki were not held by this country as its own prisoners of war or internees. They were held by us for safe custody on behalf of other Allied powers. That being so, it was our imperative duty to conform to whatever instructions were issued by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in regard to them. The responsibility of determining the complement of the vessel and the accommodation to be provided did not rest with us.
Another matter that I should like to clarify is this: The impression has been created that a number of Koreans and Formosans have been herded on the vessel with J apanese prisoners of war. That is entirely incorrect. The fact is that all the internees and prisoners of war embarked on the ship are Koreans or Formosans. The idea that the destroyer is also carrying prisoners of war to the mainland of Japan is quite erroneous.
Much of the agitation amongst the persons placed on board the ship was due, undoubtedly, to their belief that they were to be transported to Japan. When the Vice-Consul of China made it clear that they would be taken to a port in either Formosa or Korea their attitude towards sailing on the vessel changed entirely. The Government of Australia has not been indifferent to the comfort of these people. It has endeavoured to do everything possible to assist them. I am assured that there is a doctor aboard the vessel, and I shall have that confirmed as soon as possible. I understand also that there are other persons on board who in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention are qualified to deal with any sickness which may occur on board. Furthermore, I have had a signal sent by the Australian naval authorities to the ship to-day, inquiring as to the conditions on board the vessel. Further reports will be obtained whilst the ship is in Australian waters and I have given instructions that upon the arrival of the destroyer at its first port of call, a representative of the Australian naval authorities shall proceed on board, carry out a thorough inspection, and make a report upon the conditions. That shows the desire of the Government to take every precaution ; but I remind the House that the ultimate responsibility rests exclusively upon the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan.
– “ Passing the buck.”
– No. No attempt is being made to pass the responsibility on to anybody else. It is a question of determining and assessing the responsibility and the facts relating to the matter. If honorable members opposite really desired to protect the good name and interests of Australia, they would not seek to create a false impression of a situation such as this, and to besmirch the reputation of this country. I consider it essential that I should state clearly Australia’s part in this incident. Lest it be thought that honorable members on this side of the chamber are over-anxious to protect themselves from criticism in regard to this matter, I should like to read to the House a statement issued to-day by Dr. Cheng, the Chinese Charge d’Affaires in this country. I understand that the great Republic of China feels some concern for the people involved in this incident. Although they are treated as enemy subjects, many of them no doubt are really Chinese nationals. Dr. Cheng’s statement completely exonerates the Australian Government from the responsibility which members of the Opposition seek to foist upon it. Dr. Cheng said -
The immediate destination of the Formosan internees in Australia was determined by the Supreme Commander, General MacArthur. He decided that they should go to Formosa and not to Japan. This was at first not understood by all Formosans some of whom feared that the ship would be going to Japan and were naturally very distressed. However, the Chinese Vice-Consul in Sydney was able to reassure them and reports indicated that they were satisfied.
In the absence of any advance knowledge of the size of the ship (which was sent by the Supreme Allied Commander in Tokyo) the reported condition on the ship was known to the Legation only after the. ship had sailed. The Legation accepts the statement made in the House of Parliament by the Minister for the Army that the ship is to be brought to an island port for inspection -and for any necessary action. The Chinese Legation is confident that the Australian Government will induce General MacArthur to take any relief action that is necessary to protect the safety and health of the Formosans concerned.
That clearly indicates the confidence which a great power and its representative in this country have in the good faith of this Government, in endeavouring to ensure that any of its nationals shall be protected. I have received this message from Sir Louis Hamilton, the First Naval Member -
Navy’s responsibility is to berth the ship and provide gangways for embarkation. In normal circumstances the officer commanding troops takes charge on board. On this occasion the responsibility was with the Commanding Officer appointed by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. In the absence of any national authority to handle this ship she was attended by the Australian Sea Transport Organization in the normal manner insofar as docking arrangements storing and fuelling were concerned. Conditions on board had been accepted by General MacArthur, who nominated Yoizuki for the carriage of this number of Formosans and Koreans.
That message indicates the degree to which the Australian Government authorities were brought into thi? matter. Therefore, any efforts by honorable members opposite to charge the Government with additional responsibility must surely fail. The facts, which can be fully substantiated, clearly show that Australia cannot be held culpable in respect of any arrangements that were made by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers for the transport of these people by this vessel. Therefore, I urge the House and the country not to accept the protestations of the honorable member for Richmond. Whilst, all of us must express concern at any condition which constitutes a violation of true humanitarian principles, it must be realized that in this instance we have endeavoured to do everything possible by making contact with the ship as to its progress and also by arranging for an inspection at the first port of call. These people were held in custody by the Australia-n Government as internees and prisoners of war on behalf of the Allied Powers.
The honorable member for Richmond also made reference to my colleague and distinguished friend who is now Resident Minister in London, the right honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). . The remarks of the honorable gentleman were , not unrelated to certain incidents in this Parliament during the last sessional period. There is still in the mind of the honorable gentleman a certain degree of vindictiveness towards the right honorable member for “West Sydney, and he would not spare any effort to visit humiliation upon that gentleman. I am not aware as to whether or not the Resident Minister in London took supplies of foodstuffs from Australia to the -United Kingdom. I merely say that, if, he did, there surely was gome justification for that fiction. Probably there is not a family which lives a more ordinary life than that of the right honorable member for West Sydney.” He has never encouraged extravagance of any description. Having visited him while I was in London, I was able to make a close approach to his new heme life in that city. I am positive that he will share with those who are less fortunate than himself any advantage that !k may have gained; Australia requires of its representative in such a capacity that he shall undertake the reception of certain people. In the transaction of his official duties he must have the means that will enable him to ensure the success of his representations. As was the case with his predecessor, the Right Honorable t>. M. Bruce, he will be required to make certain social contacts. Therefore, it was wise to make such provision as as would enable him satisfactorily to meet the additional claims that will bc made upon him. It was far better to make that, provision before leaving this country than to draw upon thé meage supplies which to-day are available in London. Therefore, I strongly repudiate the statements of the honorable u -ember for Richmond, in which he sought to discredit and destroy the prestige of the man who to-day is the representative of Australia in the United Kingdom. The right honorable member for West Sydney will do great honour to this country. In spite of anything that may lie said by honorable members opposite. I am certain that . he will more than justify the confidence and good-will which this country showed in- regard to him when he was appointed to his present high and responsible office.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) has treated the House to an exposition of the phenomena that present themselves to the people of this country in a way that will excite amazement.
Ministers themselves should know the facts. The first phrase of the honorable gentleman which attracted my attention was that there was a comfortable area in the destroyer Yoizuki.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I do not know whether the Minister has ever travelled on a destroyer.
– I remarked that the newspapers had said that “ there was an uncomfortable journey ahead “.
– Whether the vessel is ‘ comfortable or uncomfortable, theMinister has gone to great pains to wash his hands of all responsibility in connexion with the vessel. He says “ MacArthur has done this thing. Our hands are clean “. Is a Minister of the Crown to take orders from General MacArthur or anybody else? Does he say that, that is a justification for herding 1,200 men, women and children, together with tie crew, on a destroyer whose normal complement is about 200? The worst criminals could not merit such cruel treatment as that meted out to these unfortunate people. In the dark, narrow and fetid accommodation on this destroyer, stifled by the vile stench, and huddled so closely together that even during the voyage from Sydney to Brisbane they must needs be covered with their own and their neighbours’ vomit. The ship has sanitary facilities for only’ one-sixth of the ship’s complement. The Minister said that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) did this country a disservice by ventilating this matter. As to that. I am content that the country should judge between us. The Government stood between the despatch, to Indonesia of the Dutch ships which carried medical and hospital equipment to the unfortunate citizens of Indonesia - whites. Indonesians and Eurasians - but it permitted this hell ship, Yoizuki, to go free, despite the angry protest of Australians and the prayers and tears of the unfortunate people who were forced to go aboard. I say that it is a scandal, and the Government cannot disclaim its responsibility. The ship is now at sea, but the Government is in a position to have it brought into Brisbane, and I ask it to do that.
We have heard the “penny plain and twopenny coloured “ version of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) oh the Government’s policy towards Indonesia. He is, of course, an authority on these matters. He posed this afternoon as a man “who had done yoeman service in the war now so happily terminated. What is his record? He gave an example this afternoon reminiscent of his immortal ancestor, Artemus Ward, who delivered a lecture on “ The Horse “, and brought the house down, but he never mentioned the horse. The Minister did not- say one word about matters covered by the motion of want of confidence in the Government, except to repudiate the suggestion that he or the Government could have- done anything wrong. I remind the honorable gentleman of what he said two months after the war broke out. He declared then that he would not fight for this country, and because of that he would not ask anybody else to fight for it. As for New Guinea, he said that he was willing to throw away that territory without a fight, despite the fact that, had it not been for our mandate, the Japanese would have flocked there in hundreds of thousands. In 1938 the Minister said-
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To those people I would, say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated territories they should defend themselves.
In November, 1939, two months after the war had started, the Minister declared himself in favour of virtual surrender to Hitler. He remarked -
Instead of carrying on this stupid conflict, a,ii effort should bc made at the earliest moment to summons a conference of the major nations for the purpose of ending it.
He further said - - I believe Australia would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend itself against aggression.
This is the Ajax who has now put Achilles out of his tent. He now poses as the man who has helped to save Australia.
The Minister this afternoon revived his story about “the Brisbane line”. Asevery one knows, this was referred to a judge. I will read what His Honour said about it. It is difficult for the Minister to realize that justice - and the judiciary - still exist in this country. The judge in his finding reported as a result of precise inquiries from the custodians of secret files, that no document was missing; that no person having access to the files had given any information to Mr. Ward; and, further, that their only knowledge of the existence of such ‘an expression as “ the Brisbane line “ was derived from press reports of the Minister’s own statement.
Returning to Indonesia, it has been edifying to the citizens of this country to note the affected concern of certain sections of the community for the well-being of the people of that country and their passionate desire for self-government. The Minister for Transport, of course, has been in a position to recommend to his Government the granting of selfgovernment to the natives of New Guinea, but he has been silent on. that. About the things he can do, he does nothing;- about the things he cannot do he waxes eloquent. This matter of Indonesia concerns us very closely. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, these islands to the north are bastions of Australia. They are as much bastions of Australia as is New Guinea itself. Those who hold J ava and Sumatra occupy a position which reduces, the free people of Australia to existence on sufferance. Now- we are asked to hand over the control of these vital outposts of our country to the natives who, without training, experience, or aptitude for self-government, are demanding the right to govern themselves. They have a right to govern themselves, but they have no greater right to govern themselves than have the aborigines of Australia. The cry now is Indonesia for the Indonesians, and down with the Dutch, although the Dutch have been. in Indonesia for 350 years. They were there for 200 -years before Captain Cook came to Australia. We are here, but where are the real Australians? Where are the aborigines now? One has to go to the far-distant parts of Australia even, to see one. We have settled them and their pretensions to self-government. We are nice people to talk to the Dutch about the rights of native peoples to selfgovernment! We are, of course, concerned about Indonesia. We shall rejoice if its people are able to obtain that measure of freedom which their stage of development - and their capacity for self-government warrant.
Honorable members opposite have tried to make it appear that this motion has been launched for some party political purpose. That would be a novel thing in this House! If, by any chance, the Opposition had failed to launch a motion of want of confidence we should have earned the contempt of the people. Great problems confront the people of Australia, but all of them are conditioned by the maintenance of world peace. It is upon that rock that we must build our temple. Nothing has been said about it during this debate, and yet it is the very, foundation upon which depends the future development, prosperity and safety of Australia, and, indeed, of the world. Peace is vital to our very existence. How is world peace to be assured? In the long and checkered history qf mankind there has never been a durable peace. Now, we are assured there is to be a peace that will endure. The United Nations Organization, to which 50 nations have .subscribed their names and pledged themselves to abjure war and to settle their disputes by peaceful means, is the old League of Nations under a new name. The old League failed. But its failure was not the fault of the League but of the nations that composed it. I have stood for the League since its establishment, but I never believed that peace could be preserved without adequate armed forces to deter aggression. To substitute the rule of law for the appeal to force, the United Nations Organization must have at its disposal adequate forces to overawe or, if needs be, to overwhelm those who seek to disturb the world’s peace. If that had been done - and it could have been done - by the League of Nations, the recent war would never have occurred. The Minister for the Navy has just returned from the first meeting of the United Nations Organization, and he will be able to correct me if I am mistaken. World peace depends upon -the forces that these 50 nations make avail- able to keep the peace? M. Molotov made it abundantly clear in San Francisco that although the peace of the world depended on the 50 nations comprising the United Nations Organization, and all of them were prepared to play their part, the main responsibility for peace rested on the Big Three - on Russia, the United States of America and Great Britain. So long as these three stand together, and are as resolute in maintaining peace as they were in waging war, the peace of the world was assured. Peace is vital, not only to us, but to the very existence of world civilization. The coming of the atomic bomb has changed everything. Peace is life, and war is death.. There is no escape from that - no alternative. There will be no time to prepare; no second chance.. That is the position which confronts us and all the world. We won the 1914-18 war, and we were assured then that victory had ended war, made the world safe for democracy, and ensured the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. The attempt to achieve thi? failed because the nations did not accept their responsibility. M. Molotov has put the position crisply. He said that the responsibility for world peace rests upon the Big Three. I ask now who threatens the world’s peace? Who can threaten it? Outside these three nations, the recognized guardians of peace, none can threaten the world’s peace. There may be disturbances of the kind that, in the internal life of a nation, would amount to a riot, but there can be no world war unless it is made by one of these three nations. Every nation, whether big or small, has the right to security. Russia has that right, but it has not the right to use its power to encroach upon the rights of others, or to impose its will upon them. Who threatens the security of Russia? The only nations which could possibly do so are Britain and the United States of America. No other nation is in a position to do so. Russia’s greatest enemy, Germany, is down and out, and to-day Russian troops patrol the northern parts of Germany which border on Soviet territory. In Europe, Russia’s position is impregnable. In Asia Russia is more securely established than ever in her history. Japan, like Germany, is down and out. And so I repeat that the only nations which at this moment can threaten the peace of the world are the nations known as the Big Three. Upon them depends the peace of the world ; they are the guardians of peace, yet in every country the agents of Russia are busy fomenting disturbances and stirring- up strife. The Minister for the Navy knows well that Russia is aiming to disrupt the British Empire, because he heard Mr. Ernest Bevin, whose forthright utterances were greeted with applause in every part of the British Empire. We must make up our minds under which banner we shall serve. And so I come to the position in Australia. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and other speakers have reminded us that for years the economic and social life of this country has been dislocated by industrial disturbances. The position of the Labour party in relation to those disturbances merits some comments.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman invest his money in concerns which employ black labour so that high dividends could be paid?
– One more toot and you’re oot
– Is it not a fact that the right honorable gentleman invested in Malayan tin, the £25,000 paid to him after the war of 1914-1918?
– Order !
– Members of - the Labour party affect to regard communism as an excrescence on the fair body of Labour. The argument used, this afternoon that “ we must let everybody in “ is all nonsense. Unlike some honorable members opposite, I served a long apprenticeship to trade unionism. I was notone who jumped on the band wagon; I helped to make the wagon on which others now sit. To-day, the Labour party is controlled to a great degree by the trade unions, and they, in their turn, are controlled by the Communist executive, which takes its orders from Moscow.
– Rot !
– All this parade of independence, all the pretence of slamming the door in the face of the Communists is unconvincing, because the
Communist merely goes round to the back door and gets into the unions in that way. Let us consider for a moment the unions which have been responsible for the major disputes which have taken place in this country during recent months. They are the Miners Federation, the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation. At the head of each of those unions there is an avowed Communist. It may be said that the Communists are few in number, but I remind the Ho’use that they carry their unions along with them. Their methods are insidious and successful. Whether Labour likes it or not, the Communists must be put out, or Labour itself must get out. The world has indulged in an orgy of destruction for more than six years, and as a result of war Australia is impoverished, and has piled up a huge mountain of debt. Peace can be assured only by paying the price of victory; it is a heavy price. It involves working more efficiently, although not necessarily more strenously because modern methods have increased productivity so enormously that a man can now produce for more with .less effort than was possible even a few decades ago. There is no danger whatever of Labour being oppressed by men having to work harder. Recently, Mr. Attlee appealed to the people of Britain .to work harder. The people to whom he directed his appeal have really suffered during recent years. We in Australia have not suffered as they have suffered. At all times there has been an abundance of food in this country, and although food has been rationed, the rationing merely cut into the superfluities and did not touch the essentials. But the people of this country have to bear a crushing burden of taxation because of the Government’s prodigality in the spending of money. We must endeavour to lighten that burden. And, in part, this is the result of not only the war but also the cancer of communism on the fair body of Labour in this country.
There is a great cry now of “ Food for Britain “, and we have been told that we are doing great things for Britain. We must do more for Britain, because our fate is bound with that of Britain so intimately that with Britain’s downfall there would be an end to all our dreams of future greatness. Unless Britain is able to recapture its export trade and to produce more than it ever produced before, and dispose of its goods in the markets of the world; it will lose its place among the great powers; and if Britain falls, the Empire falls and Australia along with it. Britain, to-day, is the greatest force in the’ world standing for peace and liberty; and if we are going to have world peace, Britain must be strong. It cannot be strong unless it is prosperous. Australia must pull its weight in this matter. We have come out of this great struggle at a price - a heavy price in money and effort, perhaps - but we have suffered very little, but now there is before us a task sterner and more prolonged than that which has occupied us for the last six and a half years. We have to help to maintain Britain without whom there would have been no victory for either Russia, the United States of America or ourselves. We must help Britain to maintain its place in the world. So,- I make this appeal to every Australian of every party - “Put forth your utmost effort. Your country needs you; to help Britain is to help Australia “. If we are to have peace and to live in Australia as a free people, we must let Russia understand that it must cease from that plotting and propaganda aimed at the heart of Britain and designed to destroy the British Empire.
– I rise not for the purpose of defending the Government, but for the purpose of attacking the Opposition. The Government needs no defence from the attacks which have been ‘ made to-day by. members of the Opposition parties. We have just been treated to a political evangelical address upon- the dangers of communism which we have heard for the last 25 years, and, generally, when an election is approaching. We have heard about housing, demobilization, food for Britain, and many other matters; but honorable members opposite have not cited one specific instance of failure on the part of this Government to govern in the best interests of the Australian community. In recent months there has been acon.centrated campaign of abuse against the Government. Everything which Ministers have done has been perverted and distorted in an attempt to make political propaganda against the Government. We have seen a so-called political revival of Liberalism. ‘ We have been hearing about the new Liberals, and new blood in the Liberal party. But the best performance which has been put up on behalf of the Liberals in this debate has come from the SO-year-old right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ; and that shows just how bad the worst was. The right honorable gentleman was the only Opposition member who infused any fire, or vigour, into the debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), as a lawyer, spoke from a brief. He had no real interest in the discussion. And the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) followed him in the role of Man Friday. I have never heard the right honorable gentleman in worse form, whilst all of his colleagues who have spoken had little or nothing to say of moment. They proved once more that they are a strange assortment of political hucksters and bargainers who are looking for possible positions in the event of a change of government. As’ a well-known Western Australian said some years ago, they are still the Bulgarians of Australian politics.
The Leader of the Opposition opened his speech on the subject of Indonesia. He said that the Government had performed one overt act, adding, “ Through one of its Ministers, it has committed the unspeakable folly of sending back to Indonesia at’ the most critical period of the negotiations now proceeding hundreds of Indonesian natives who had been in Australia for months “. I was the Minister who arranged for the return of those Indonesians to Indonesia.- They travelled in two ships, ^Esperance Bay and Manoora. They consisted of people who were brought to this country by the Dutch authorities to work for the Dutch Government during the war period, and of seamen who were employed on K.P.M. ships trading between Australia and other countries during the war. “When the Indonesian republican movement gained strength, after the defeat of Japan, all of these (people left the employ of the Dutch Government. They had no employment in Australia, and there was nobody in Australia who was prepared to maintain them. The Dutch Government said that it would no longer maintain them; and their maintenance was certainly not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. They had to go back to their own country sooner or later, and it seemed to be in their interest, and in the interests of the Dutch and the Australian Governments, that they should he sent back as quickly as possible. Every movement that was made to take those Indonesians back to their own country was taken in concert with the Dutch authorities and the South-East Asia Command. Agreement was reached between all the authorities concerned before one man was moved out of this country. Therefore, it is wicked to say that to return these people to their own country in these circumstances was an act of unspeakable folly. It was the right and proper thing to do. Every Indonesian who left these shores left voluntarily. I did not have to issue a deportation order against one of them. And when they landed in Indonesia they were handed over to their own people. They were not delivered” into the hands of any persons who might exact some revenge upon them because of their political opinions. “When Esperance Bay left Brisbane, the right honorable’ member for Darling Downs - no doubt he was wrongly advised,” as so often happens - said that the vessel was in a state of latent mutiny. He said that there were arms on board, and that the ship had to be escorted because of incipient mutiny which was expected to break out at any moment. The answer to the right honorable gentleman’s allegation was provided when members of the British Secret Service searched the ship at Batavia and did not find a single revolver among the 1,400 Indonesians on board. I fail to see how -these people could have started a mutiny when they did not possess even one revolver.
– Was the boat escorted from Darwin?
– ‘Yes; at the request cf its captain.
– He heard that there would be a mutiny.
– It was a precautionary measure very often taken when there is a large number of people on a boat speaking a language other than the language of the British crew and officers. All those people were landed in Batavia. They sent a message of thanks to the Australian Government for what it had done, and the officers of the ship were high in their praise of the manner in which the Indonesians had comported themselves. The Manoora is going away in similar circumstances. As Minister for Immigration, I have had to arrange for the return to their native lands of a lot of other people. More than .1,500 Chinese have gone back to their country, and they were entitled to go. About 580 Portuguese-Timorese subjects have been returned to their country. Everything this Government could do in a humane and proper way to return to their homeland natives of other countries who were temporarily seeking asylum in Australia ‘ has been done. .
The Leader of the Opposition revived a subject that I thought in his own best interests he would haveallowed to die in the public - memory. He talked again about the incident years ago when as AttorneyGeneral he forced the wharf labourers at Port Kembla to load pig-iron for Japan. He says, “ I am known as ‘ Pig-iron ‘. I wear, my title with some pride “. I wonder why he remembers it with pride. Did he have a guilty conscience when he raised the issue against himself, because he could not have raised it against any one else? The truth is that the despatch of pig-iron to Japan from this country by an anti-Labour government was a direct aid to the Japanese in their war against this country. The right honorable gentleman said that our attitude towards the Dutch was one of hostility, ir fact that we were pro-Indonesian and anti-Dutch. I deny that we are either Indonesian or anti-Dutch. We have no desire to be involved in the struggle in Indonesia, and we certainly did nothing inhuman towards the Indonesians, who, after all, had been our allies in the war just ended. I think I should add that we were not requested by the Dutch authorities to do anything that was wrong or that we should be ashamed of. I endorse the tribute paid by the Prime Minister to the Netherlands Minister to Australia, Baron Van Aerssen. He has been co-operative and helpful in every way, and we have tried to ‘reciprocate to the greatest possible degree. The right honorable gentleman, who said that we were anti-Dutch and pro-Indonesian, could, on the logic of that statement, be very properly described, because of his attitude over the pig-iron incident, as pro-Japanese and antiChinese. There is no escaping the fact that the shipments of iron and steel scrap and pig-iron to which I have referred were neither small nor insignificant in value, as the following tables show : -
Until the very moment the parties opposite ceased to be the Government, they were still sending pig-iron and iron and steel scrap to Japan. That, of course, came back in the form of bullets to Australian servicemen later. It was shot as bullets into the bodies of Chinese soldiers in all the years when they were maintaining their fight against Japanese aggression before we were involved. And, in 1934-35, . these newly found champions of democracy, these people who talk about the liberty of the subject, these people who are getting worked up with simulated indignation about the incident on the Sydney waterfront, were the very people who permitted the sale to Japan of not only scrap iron but also Australian steamships.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) sheds crocodile tears ever the plight of Australian servicemen who cannot bring their wives from England. Yet he was a supporter of the Government that sold Barunga, Mataram, Oonah, Ulimaroa, and Loongana to Japan. Those ships sailed to Japan from Australian waters loaded to the Plimsoll line with scrap iron and steel. Prior to the sale they were owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Burns Philp and Company Limited, Huddart Parker Limited and Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited. Practically all those big companies have shares in , Australian National Airways Limited, which is helping to finance the Liberal party’s campaign against this Government, and to pay for those big advertisements that appear in the press of this country telling us about the advantage of “ new blood “ in the Liberal party.
– And they subscribed generously to the testimonial given to the right honorable member for- North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he “ ratted “.
-Yes, of course, they helped to contribute the £25,000, or was it £37,000? Whatever it was, the right honorable member for North Sydney got it from the very people who, during the war years, were selling ships and scrap iron to the Japanese. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies)., who said that he was proud of having forced the waterside workers to- load the scrap iron because his Government was in charge of the foreign policy of this country was, in the opinion of a much more distinguished jurist than himself, the Right Honorable Sir Isaac Isaacs, guilty of an act of tyranny. In a book entitled Australian Democracy and our Constitutional System, the first Australianborn Governor-General of this” country said on page 22 -
The Port Kembla coercion was an Act of the Commonwealth in “ its corporate capacity “ and was unequivocally mixing itself up in the quarrel on the side of Japan. It was us I view it a direct aid to that country.
On page 25 of the same book he said -
I conclude my consideration of this most unpleasant incident with unbounded admiration for the struggle for humanity and for freedom of conscience. I believe that Port Kembla with the sturdy but peaceful and altogether disinterested attitude of the men concerned, will find a place in our history beside the Eureka Stockade, with its more violent resistance of a less settled time, as a noble stand against executive dictatorship and against an attack on Australian democracy. 1 think the democrats of this country will accept the opinion of Sir Isaac Isaacs, who has never been a member of the Labour party-
– Which of course he has.
– Who has never been a propagandist for the Labour party and could never be called partisan or factional in anything he has done in the political or judicial life of this country. The Australian public will accept his opinion before that of the Leader of the Opposition, in his attempts to prove that the waterside workers, in resisting the attempts of his Government to force them to load pig iron for shipment to Japan, were doing something against the best interests of this country. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was very much concerned about the sale of those commodities ; it was also very much involved in the manoeuvres of those days. It is also very much interested in the manoeuvres at the present time of those who constitute the forces of liberalism. Mr. Cecil Hoskins, who is a director of and large shareholder in Australian Iron and Steel Limited at Port Kembla, and a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the Australian Mutual Provident Society is numbered among . a certain section of employers in this country who are attempting to stir up industrial strife in Australia. Honorable members opposite have condemned the trade unionists at Port Kembla for having become involved in a strike, or, as they said, for having caused a strike before last Christmas: My criticism of the trade unionists for their action at that time is confined entirely to their failure to realize that a bait was being thrown out to them, and they rose to it. The man who was manoeuvring behind the scenes all the time was Hoskins. He was in no doubt as to what he wanted once the war ended. He said to a leading officer of the Munitions Department -
The day the war is over, we will put off 5,000 men.
That is true. The man to whom he made that statement was a candidate at the last State election in New South Wales, and that is rather significant in the light of what happened subsequently. Mr. Hoskins manoeuvred the position so that hp could cause a strike at the particular time it occurred.
– Oh !
– Of course he did! He is the man who, through the Australian Mutual Provident .Society, is’ helping the active political propaganda against this Government, although the Australian Mutual Provident Society is supposed to be a mutual concern.
– He is the President of the South Coast Branch of the Liberal party.
– Mr. Hoskins is very much involved in the Liberal party, and until recently his brother was a member of the executive of the Liberal party in New South Wales. He resigned only last week. Mr. D. Fell, the manager of The Shell Company of Australia Limited is also prominent in Liberal political circles in New South Wales. Mr. Hoskins and Mr. Fell are members of the executive of the Institute of Public Affairs, and the finance committee of the Liberal party. So honorable members will see the association between big business and the Liberal party ; and big business and the so-called Australian Constitutional League and the Institute of Public Affairs. Fortunately for the Labour party, this liaison between the Institute of Public Affairs and the Liberal party is one of the reasons for the public apathy towards liberalism. The public realizes that though it may be named the “ Liberal “ party, the same old crowd is in control. When the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who is about to retire from the political life of this country, saw the list of Liberal candidates seeking endorsement for Parramatta he declared that there was not much hope for liberalism. He said that he had had a look at the new blood, and that it was not worth 2d. a gallon. The honorable member for Parramatta is certainly in a position to know. The only addition which I should like to make to his statement is that the old blood is not worth much more, either.
The Liberals, the Institute of Public Affairs, and the Australian Constitutional League were- very active against the Labour party at the last referendum. Plenty of money was made available to them, . Big business, as usual, provided large sums. The Institute of Public Affairs guaranteed the Australian Constitutional League up to the amount of £52,000. The league itself collected £10,000. The Bank of New South Wales gave £1,000 of that sum; the associated life insurance- offices gave a similar amount.
– The Labour Government took £50,000 of the taxpayer’s money for propaganda purposes.
– -This Government expended £50,000 of the taxpayers’ money in putting to the people proposals for constitutional reform to which a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers had unanimously agreed. The motion which embodied those proposals to be put to the people was seconded by the right honorable member for North Sydney.
Mr. Cecil Hoskins, managing director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, a subsidiary of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is chairman of the Institute of Public Affairs, by virtue of the fact that his company and its associates have donated over £10,000 per annum for political purposes. From that organization, the political party opposed to the Labour party obtains its funds. A few months ago this arrangement provoked an outcry, . and there was a breakaway from the Liberal party in New South Wales because of it. But the funds are still coming from that organization. Recently, an amount of £5,000 was allocated for publicity purposes for the Liberal party campaign, and,, consequently, full-page advertisements are now appearing in every daily newspaper throughout Australia, and the staff of the Liberal party .Secretariat at
Canberra has been augmented to fake propaganda against the Labour party. But the most sinister occurrence during the referendum campaign was the action of Mr. E. C. Somerlad, M.L.C., who is a member of the Country party in New South Wales. He made contact with Mr. A. C. Paddison, who is associated with the Century newspaper - it is published in the interests of the Lang party - and M.r. Paddison received £3,000 from the Australian Constitutional League, and £400 was paid for extra copies of the Century during the last two weeks of the referendum campaign.
– Where did the Minister get that information?
– It is quite correct, and very disconcerting for the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and his friends. How all this money was spent is not known, but that it did go through the usual channels is proved by the fact that it was the treasurer of the Lang, party who appealed to the Australian Constitutional League for funds. Of the amount of £3,000 which was handed over, not much was expended on propaganda at the time. But a lot of it is being expended to-day in an attempt to discredit this Government in order that some of the so-called “ doubtful “ seats in New South Wales may be won back to Liberalism. What I have said about those transactions, I know to be a fact. Like the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) . when he referred to the disclosure’s made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) of proceedings of the Advisory War Council, I have moral certitude, and that is as good as legal evidence.
This so-called Liberal party has nothing to offer to the youth of Australia but another economic depression. The Liberal party wants to return to office, if it can ever return to office, for the purpose of destroying wages, cutting social services and worsening the lot of the masses. Honorable members opposite do not believe in full employment, a higher basic wage, or the worker sharing in the increasing productivity of his own labour. They want a continuation of a social system where a very few people at one end of the social scale own or control most of the wealth of the community, whilst at the other end of the social scale the great mass of the people live in undeserved destitution and poverty.
– Oh !
– The right honorable member for North .Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knew all this when he wrote his book entitled The Case for Labour and before “he deserted to the side of big business. That I am not the only one who thinks that another economic depression may occur is proved by the fact that Rydge’s Magazine, which circulates amongst the business community of Australia, published the following opinion in its February issue : -
At some stage in the future - maybe in ten veins’” time (who can say?) - production will once again have been built up to the point where it will exceed the demand, and the corrective of a depression may once more visit us. Can this possibility be avoided? I am asking the question, not answering it.
Big business is already preparing for another depression. Depressions have followed all wars. Only the implementation of the policy of the Labour party - a different policy from that of its political opponents - can arrest or avoid a depression. It is because we took control through the Treasury of the creditmaking facilities of this nation by means of the banking legislation, passed by this Parliament last year, that we shall be able to avoid the rigours of a depression should one ever again hit this country. Our political opponents cannot offer anything new. We hear from them the same old platitudes, sophistries and nostrums, and a repetition of all the old threadbare arguments against progress and democracy that have been advanced by their ancestors and prototypes ever since the Labour party came into existence at the beginning of the last decade of the last century.
– The Government of which the Minister. is a member is “ robbing” children’s money-boxes in order to obtain money for its next loan.
– The interjection by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) indicates the puerile level of his own mind. We are using the credit facilities of this nation in the interests of the nation, and we are not allowing the banks to misuse them and make profits out of them. That is why we are being opposed and attacked.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) attacked the right honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) because that gentleman is alleged to have taken a quantity of food to Great Britain. I do not know how much food the right honorable member did take. I do not know whether he took my; but I do know that had the honorable member for Warringah or the honorable member for Richmond been appointed Resident Minister in London, they would not have taken with them the quantity of food that the right honorable member for West Sydney is alleged to have taken. Ships such as Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth would have been needed to -carry all that they would have taken to meet their requirements whilst in Great Britain. Instead of living in a twenty-roomed house, as the right honorable member for West Sydney is doing - a house, incidentally, which I understand is very dank and is a rather useless building - they would have- been looking for a 40-roomed castle, complete with a ghost. The former High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, left that big building because he thought he could live very much better, and in a more healthy fashion, in a small flat somewhere else in London.
Our demobilization plans are, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has so ably stated, well ahead of schedule. They are further ahead than those of any other nation. The second stage of demobilization, instead of being completed at the end of June, will be completed in May, or perhaps even April. Everything that the Government can do to bring the men who fought for Australia back to their homes is being done. Everything is being done also, to bring to this country from the United Kingdom, the wives and finances of ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made all kinds of wild grotesque statements and as usual he is wrong. -He has been as regardless of the truth on this issue as he is on most other issues, and all his statements can be, and, in fact, have been, categorically refuted. In a cablegram received to-day the Australian
Resident Minister in London states that the Agents-General of all. the Australian States accompanied him to meet the Dominions Secretary, Lord Addison, and the British Minister for Transport, Mr. Barnes, yesterday. The British Government, .as a ‘result of. that discussion, has placed two additional ships at our disposal. The number of servicemen’s wives sailing to Australia this month is 650, and every effort is being made to increase that number in April. The honorable member for Wentworth’ apparently fails to realize that Great Britain itself has problems to face as has every, other . country. Shipping is in short supply throughout the world. Before the war, there were eight vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited plying between Australia and the United Kingdom, and they were very good ships. To-day, four of them are at the bottom of the sea. The first replacement of these vessels will not come out of the British shipyards before August or October of next year. The problem of replacing passenger ships destroyed in six years of war cannot be solved, in six months. No matter how much the honorable members for Wentworth and Balaclava (Mr. White) may try for political purposes to exacerbate the feelings of men who are waiting here for their wives, and try to exploit that very human sentiment which desires the reunion of families. Their charges of any failure on the part of the Government cannot be substantiated-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Conelan) negatived -
That the honorable mein’, ir for Melbourne have leave to continue his speech.
– As one who can claim so far not to be saturated with party bias, and who sits in this part of the chamber naturally, as a representative of a great rural constituency, I rise to support the motion. I have been advised that it may not be in keeping with the best parliamentary tradition for me to speak so early in my parliamentary career, but as the motion now before the chamber provides an opportunity to deal with many measures that are causing concern, dissatisfaction and embarrassment to many of my constituents, and as the constituency of Wimmera has been without representation for some months, the urgency of the occasion induced me to take this action. Whenever I speak in this chamber my endeavour will be not to be a carping critic, but to give helpful co-operation.
First, I shall deal with ex-servicemen, because for a long time I have been closely associated with one of the services. I secured my discharge from the Australian Imperial Force last week after 2,059 days of service, so I am in a position to speak with some knowledge of the problems of ex-servicemen. At Singapore, where I was a prisoner for three and a half years, we had ample time to talk’ over the problems which would confront ex-servicemen upon their return to this country. It mattered not whether the conversation was about the Congo, ‘America, or some far-flung spot on the earth, it eventually came back to Australia. We did not speak much of the past, and of course the present in that camp was not pleasant to contemplate. All thought was for the future - what we . would do when we came back to this country, what a great opportunity men would have to improve their position, and all those things dear to the heart of man. I have had the opportunity of meeting many of those men once again since my return to Australia. What have I found ? There is one man who, perhaps, above all others was anxious to leave the East. He hated it. He had the idea of starting on a dairy farm in this country. Now, he has enlisted with the occupation force that is to go to Japan. That is only one case. I could cite many other cases of dissatisfaction. I do not blame the repatriation authorities or the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), because, perhaps, their actions are genuinely directed towards getting the men back into employment, but I do believe that the present chaotic state of industries generally in Australia can be attributed to this Government. Because of the restrictions that have been placed on the production of wheat,. other primary commodities, and many other things, servicemen cannot get back into civil life. It matters not what kind of organization there may be to give advice to these men. I went through all that last week. I received all kinds of advice in respect of this, that, and the other thing. When the serviceman attempts to give practical effect to the advice he has received, he finds himself up against a brick wall, as would any other man who hoped to start in private enterprise to-day. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction mentioned yesterday the small number of men who are unemployed. He based his argument on the number that had applied for unemployment relief after discharge. That does not give any criterion of the true position. Why are there so few men who are taking advantage of the Government’s offer of some assistance when they are unemployed? The first reason was supplied by the Prime Minister (Mr, Chifley), when he said that many servicemen considered that they should have a holiday before they began work. All honorable members will agree with that. Those who are having a holiday have not come up against the realities of the position. When they do, many of them will have to go on the unemployed list. The second reason is that long-service leave has been given to many servicemen. Take my case. My leave started on Tuesday of last week, and it amounts to 332 days; therefore, it will expire about June or July next. If I were not employed, would it be fair to apply to any government to grant me some relief ? During the period of leave, we receive the full amount of our military pay, plus a subsistence of 3s. a day. Therefore, the men who are on leave today do not come into the question. Those on leave include all the released prisoners of war from the Malayan Peninsula, Japan, and Singapore, because they arrived in Australia only about last October, many of them later. On the average, their leave did not start until about Christmas. All of them had 132 days’ leave, because all of them had been prisoners of war for three and a half years. Therefore, they do not come into the question. Thousands of these men will have to be put back into employment. Then there is the man of initiative and in dependence, who is so necessary to this country. Like the pioneers, he hopes to establish a heritage for himself. He has the independent spirit which some Australians still possess, and he trusts that something will turn up which will enable him to fend for himself. He does not want to turn to the Government or to any of the different departments set up by it. He must be counted among those who will apply for relief when he finds that he cannot do anything on his own account. In the last category are those who have returned to their previous occupations, but have found that they are not welcome and must move out very shortly. Although employers are giving work to those whom they employed before the war, ‘ sometimes the work is not pleasant; consequently, these men will go on the labour market. Before long, the whole position will change. It is not, as yet, at the flood, but is only a trickle. To judge the position, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction did, on the basis of the number of men who have already applied for unemployment relief, is ridiculous, to put it mildly. Exservicemen who have spoken to me pin some faith in my ability to state their case without party or other prejudice, in the hope that some measure will be brought forward to meet their needs in the near future. I know that war hampers any government. A lady once asked the Duke of Wellington, “ What is a great victory like ? “ The Iron Duke replied, “ The greatest calamity in the world, madam, apart from a great defeat “. The Government must overcome this calamity, and set this country on a firm keel if it is to prosper and make the progress that it has made in the past. There is one matter to which the Government has not given attention. Perhaps it is unmindful of it, or has not been told about it. It should have been vigilant enough to make the offer to the servicemen, especially those who were prisoners of war in Malaya. Those men claim that the Government should give them subsistence at the rate of 3s. a day for the three and a half years that they spent in the Japanese “ hell “ prison camps. Their claim can be justified on many grounds. Some persons contend that while we were prisoners of war we did not do much for this country. That we were prisoners was not our fault. Some one had to hold up the Japanese on the Malayan Peninsula so that others might have a chance- to- protect themselves. Those who did so had to pay the penalty of three and a half years’ imprisonment. Those who made the supreme sacrifice can never be repaid. The claim is made only on behalf of the men who came back. Prisoners of war believe that they have a right to this subsistence, and they ask for nothing more. So far, they have received nothing except their pay. During the period of their imprisonment they were without sufficient food for quite a long time. In Changi camp the ration was 8 oz. of boiled rice a day. Those doing hard work out on the aerodrome, or digging tunnels into which the Japs hoped to- crawl when the invasion came - thank God the invasion did not come, because the intention was to- kill every prisoner should that occur - received 8 oz. a day. Those who were doing light duty received 6-J oz. of boiled rice a day. Those who had malaria, or were too ill to work, and needed food to build them up, received only 5- oz. Consequently, the health of many men was impaired. I have gained 4 stone in weight since I returned to this country, and there is not much of me yet. These men believe that had they had food to the value of 3s. a day during the period of their imprisonment they would not have suffered from malnutrition, which has sapped their strength, and vigour and taken, from them some chance of proving successful in. civil life. I do not believe, that, the Government will deny that if this subsistence were made, available to prisoners of war at, this stage it- would give them a chance to enjoy necessary foods and amenities of life.. The Government has done nothing about this matter, but I hope that it will take action speedily, because nobody in Australia would oppose it. It would be in accordance with public opinion.
After nearly six years’ absence from Australia, I have had an opportunity to compare present conditions in this country with those prevailing before the war. I have noticed that homes that were formerly substantial structures are now sadly put of repair. Machinery sheds- throughout the country are falling to pieces, and fences have deteriorated. This unsatisfactory state of affairs is detrimental to our great wheat industry. Even if the Government is not mindful of the position of individual producers, it must view the general position with alarm and realize that a national emergency has arisen. When the equipment- . which the wheat farmer uses is out of repair, it is impossible to put the wheat industry on a sound basis and produce the foodstuffs that are sorely needed throughout the world. This deplorable position is due to the instability of the wheat market and to the years of drought, that have been experienced. I agree entirely with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that Australia has recently passed through the most- devastating droughts on record. As there are now better markets for wheat and live-stock than have been experienced for some years, it is regrettable that the best price the Government can offer the wheat farmers is 5s. 2d. a .bushel f .o.b., or 4s. 3d. a bushel at the average country railway siding. Many city people are under the false impression that 5s. 2d. a bushel goes into the wheat-grower’s pocket. When producers1 are urged to grow more wheat it is necessary for the Government to grant a higher minimum price than is provided for under the wheat stabilization scheme. The wheat harvest just completed should not be . included in. the scheme. One of my constituents has sent to me a copy .of the Kerang Free Press, containing a report of a large gathering of wheat-growers held at Ultimo. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was invited to be present, but he was represented by Sir Louis Bussau. At that gathering the following motion was carried : -
That this District Council, while strongly supporting an equitable wheat stabilization scheme for the Commonwealth:, is opposed to the proposals now under consideration by the Commonwealth and State Governments, unless they are amended to provide for a minimum price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, plus 10 per cent, at country railway sidings or mills; also that no contribution be- made to the stabilization fund this season, and, further, that a certificate be issued to each wheat-grower showing the amount deducted from his return for wheat each season.
– Was not Sir Louis Bussau a member of the Australian Country party?
– Certainly he was, but I remarked earlier that I was speaking without party bias. I desire to put the case clearly for .the wheat-grower, for the serviceman and for Australia generally. I do not propose, in a maiden speech, to introduce any matter for the purpose of embarrassing the Government unnecessarily, but Sir Louis Bussau represented the Government at the gathering at Ultimo, and his view of the position generally was not acceptable to the vast majority of the wheat-growers present. It is urgently necessary for the Government to give further consideration to the problem of the wheat industry along the lines of the motion adopted at Ultimo. Throughout the Wimmera electorate, at least, every farmer, with perhaps a few exceptions of which I have no cognizance, is not favorable to the scheme. They say that the price proposed to be paid for wheat should be higher. Surely’ the grower is entitled to the cost of production, plus a fair margin of profit. Those engaged in all other industries get that return and why should not the wheat-growers? The farmers believe that owing to the years- of drought, last year being one of the worst of all, it is necessary that where the crop was a complete failure the grower should get at least £1 an acre to give him a chance to continue in the industry.
At Newmarket on Tuesday, one of the largest and most representative gatherings of stockmen took place, and protests were made against the inefficient government services provided. The admittedly high prices ruling at Newmarket were only sufficiently high to give the growers a chance to recoup themselves after years of drought, during which they had to accept very low prices. The ruling price for fat stock at the Melbourne market was too high to enable the butchers to sell the meat to the public at the fixed price.- Therefore, a black market developed. In an effort to stamp out the black market, the Government ordered its officials to enter the houses of butchers and carry away money and documents. Shakespeare made one of his characters remark that “the means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done “. The butchers could not get a fair price for their meat, having regard to the price they had. to pay for stock, and so they resorted to black marketing. One man who was fined had to place a notice outside his house to the effect that he had been convicted of black marketing. The law provides that the notice should be exhibited in the shop of the convicted person, but as this man had sold the meat from a truck the notice was exhibited outside his house. The butchers declared that they could not sell at the fixed prices, and so a dead-lock occurred. What is to happen now? Those who have fat stock to sell are standing firm in their refusal to send it to market. The Newmarket sales are of great importance because they, virtually fix the prices for Victoria, the Southern Riverina and the south-eastern districts of South Australia.. Therefore, it is essential that the Melbourne market bc reopened as soon as possible. What does the Government propose to do? Is it going to pay a subsidy to the butchers so that they can pay the market price for fat stock? The inactivity of the Government in this matter alone is worthy of censure. The people are waiting for it to make an early decision.
I do not propose to discuss at length the Japanese “ hell ship “, hut I ask whether it is possible for the Government to have the ship brought into Brisbane or some other Australian port. We believe that the conditions on board the ship are such that women and children, of whatever nationality, should not be subjected to them. The general opinion seems to be that the conditions on the ship are not up to British standards, and if that is so then the ship should be taken into - the nearest port. I believe that the conditions are deplorable, and that it is possible to stop the ship proceeding further. As an exprisoner of war who suffered much in Japanese hands, I say that women and children, even if they be Japanese, are deserving of better treatment than is being accorded to those on this ship. In common with .the other Allied nations, we have fought for the maintenance of decent standards, and we should not lower those standards. Let us keep them high. It is important to us that English-speaking people should show leniency even to those who treated them badly.
I do not propose to join in a fight between the city and the country, but it must be admitted that this Government has given economic stability to the workers, but not to the primary producers. As Dr. Wood said, I have found much money in the cities but not in the country. Like the shrew who filletted the sausage, I found meat in ‘the city, but when I went, into the country I found much skin. It is necessary that the man on the land should be given a chance. It is more than ever necessary now because we want him to produce more than ever before. Great Britain is calling for our products. Australia can prosper only by production. Prosperity is the product, not of law, but of labour. Any one who is acquainted with the resources of Australia knows that, given sound government, Australia must progress. In conclusion, I urge the Government to consider the points which I have made, namely, the position of servicemen, the need for providing sustenance for exprisoners of war, and the need for fair treatment for wheat-growers and meat producers. Only by giving attention to these matters can we make the country prosperous and give to servicemen and others what is their due.
.- T congratulate the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) on his maiden speech. It was a sincere effort. The only mistake he has made is a most unfortunate one for a man to make so early in his political life. I refer to his decision to take his seat on the- other side of the House. As this debate has progressed it has become more and more disgusting, and it reached the depths of bad taste this afternoon and evening with certain of the speeches delivered by members of the Opposition. A Japanese warship was in an Australian port ‘before the launching of this motion, and the authorities and the newspapers were fully aware of the purpose for which it had come. They knew that it had been sent by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, to take away approximately 1.200 Formosan prisoners of war and internees, but until this motion was launched not one word of complaint was published in the press or spoken by any member of the Opposition. Then suddenly the newspapers throughout Australia, by a strange coincidence, discovered that it was a “ hell ship “ and a disgrace to those responsible for its despatch from this country.
– Does the honorable member claim that it is not a disgrace?
– I know little about the matter, but I know as much as do most members of the Opposition. I have read the press reports, and I have seen the photographs which have been published in the newspapers. If the position is as has been represented I do not condone what has been done, but I point out that not one of the published photographs conveys the impression that any of the passengers on this ship are being ill treated, or that the accommodation is not sufficient. I challenge members of the Opposition to say that the photographs indicate anything to the contrary. lt is coincidental that while a motion of no confidence is in progress the people of Australia are told that the Government is acting in an inhuman way towards the nationals of other countries. But the most disgusting aspect is that only a few months ago, when an atomic bomb killed thousands of Japanese men, women, and children, there was no complaint by Opposition members. On the contrary, they were pleased to see those people murdered.
– Were they not fighting us?
– Of course they were. At the time of Japan’s entry into the war men, women and children from various Pacific islands were crowded into vessels and brought to Australia, but there were no complaints by the Opposition of their ill treatment. Honorable members opposite did not care then how many were crowded into vessels; to-day they use the incident of the destroyer Yoizuki for party political purposes. Early in his speech yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) admitted that he was firing the first shot in the election campaign.
To-night the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to the natives of Australia and New Guinea. Members of anti-Labour parties have a lot to answer for in connexion -with those unfortunate people. During the years when non-Labour governments were in office the natives of both the mainland of Australia and our external territories were neglected. Only when Ministers in the present Labour Government showed genuine concern for the welfare of the natives under their control did honorable members opposite show any interest in them.
During this debate there has been criticism of the Government’s demobilization plan, but various Ministers have shown that Australia’s record in this connexion compares more than favorably with any other of the allied nations. Had not a previous anti-Labour government sacrificed the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers ships would have been available to speed up the demobilization process, and to bring to Australia the wives of servicemen now awaiting transport. The honorable member for Wimmera told us to-night that he has come here to watch the interests of the returned soldiers. The honorable member is entitled to do so, but I remind him that many honorable members on this side of the house have a special interest in ex-servicemen, and that the Government is determined to safeguard their interests. It was most pleasing to hear the honorable member indicate early in his maiden speech the views of servicemen about their return to Australia. He admitted that the onlyreal complaint which he had. to make was in , respect of a payment of 3s. a day to men for the time that they had spent in enemy prison camps. The honorable member for Wimmera also said that some returned servicemen now in employment were not satisfied with their jobs and may soon be on the labour market. These and other aspects of the rehabilitation of service men .and women have not been overlooked. If the matters to which the honorable member for Wimmera referred are the only complaints that the Opposition has to make regarding the reestablishment of ex-servicemen in civil life, there is not much wrong. The service men themselves do not complain. Conditions to-day are a great improvement on those which existed after the end ot the war of 1914-18. The honorable member for Wimmera will know that at that time servicemen were placed on land which would not sustain rabbits, and that after a few years many of them were forced to leave their holdings broken in spirit and impoverished financially. Others were given pick-and-shovel jobs.
– Or the dole.
– That is so. Those men were heroes when they enlisted, and before their departure for service overseas most of them marched through the streets of our capital cities, headed by bands and acclaimed by the people. After their return many of them walked the streets again, not however_to the acclamation of the crowds, but as members of the unemployed army. From time to time photographs of returned servicemen searching garbage tins for food to sustain them were published in our newspapers.
– The honorable member is talking drivel.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is prepared to accept as genuine photographs showing the conditions which are said to exist on Yoizuki, but he is not prepared to accept photographs showing men who fought in the last war looking for food in garbage tins.
Honorable members opposite have had much to say about housing. I remind them that returned men of the war of 1914-18, when anti-Labour governments were in office in South Australia and in this Parliament, were obliged to live in bag humpies on the banks of the river Torrens.
– That was during the term of office of the Hill Labour Government.
– At that time an anti-Labour government was in office in this Parliament and for the greater part of that period, an anti-Labour government was in office in that State; but, during the whole of that period, an antiLabour majority was in control of the Legislative Council in South Australia. Only recently, the present anti-Labour Premier of South Australia introduced a measure to enable the State to take over electricity undertakings in Adelaide, but the measure was thrown out by the antiLabour majority in the Legislative Council. Honorable members opposite do not like to.be reminded of these facts. The Opposition parties have not co-operated with this. Government since it took office in 1941. The honorable member for Wimmera expressed the hope that the Opposition parties- would give to- the Government the ‘ fullest co-operation in dealing with post-war problems. The Government needs such co-operation, but it has never, received it. The Government organized ‘ the nation’s war effort without, support from the Opposition parties, and it is determined by its own effort to make adequate provision for ex-service personnel and our people as a whole in the- post-war period. I say now, with confidence, that the Government will not receive co-operation in such work from, the Opposition parties. I have just been handed a newspaper, the Clarion, which contains an article headed, “ This is Prosperity”. That article describes vividly the circumstances existing in this country during the depression, particularly as they affected returned soldiers. It points out that at that period returned soldiers of World War I. were living in filth. Yet honorable members opposite talk about filth’ on the vessel on which Formosans are being returned to their native country. Worse conditions existed for ex-servicemen in Australia after World War I., but this Government is determined to see that such conditions will- not be repeated in this country. If we experience any hold-up in the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel the blame will be on the head of anti-Labour parties in the State Parliaments. Owing to opposition from such quarters some State governments have not yet obtained land for soldier land settlement. The Commonwealth Government was prepared to take- full responsibility for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, in industry, but the people declined to grant that power at the last referendum. Consequently, the Government must now rely upon private enterprise to effect the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. I believe that the people of Australia should be given another opportunity to say whether they will grant such power to the
Commonwealth in order to enable this job to be done properly. I believe that every ex-service man and woman will support another request along those lines. The Government has proved not only in war but also -in peace that it can govern this country in the best interests of the community as a whole. I remind honorable members opposite that in every Federal and State by-election held since this Government assumed office the candidate supported by this Government has been successful. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) declares that the Government has not the confidence of the people; but as lata as last Saturday, the electors in the State electorate of East Toowoomba, which is in the heart of the electorate represented in this House by the right honorable gentleman himself decided for the second time in favour of the Labour candidate. That is a clear indication that this Government retains the complete confidence of the people ‘of Australia.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) complimented the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) upon his maiden speech, which I believe will go down in the history of this. Parliament as one of the finest maiden speeches made in this chamber. After listening to the new member, I was reminded of the statement made by Frederick of Prussia in reference to Lord Chatham - “ England has at last produced a man “. I believe that a majority of honorable members will agree with me when I say -that Wimmera has at last found a man. The honorable member has a great career before him; and there can be no doubt that he will keep prominently before Parliament the claims of the great primary-producing electorate of Wimmera.
The honorable member for Adelaide referred to the sailing of the “ hell ship “ which left Sydney yesterday for Formosa, but he uttered no word of sympathy for those who, unfortunately, are on that vessel. He gave no evidence of being shocked, or pained, by the fact that the Government should so lower the dignity of the nation as to allow a ship to depart from these shores in the circumstances surrounding the sailing of that vessel.
His failure to express sentiments along l-hose lines, reveals that he is sadly out of touch with public feeling in this country. He likened the conditions on this Alt-mark of the Pacific to the devastation caused by atomic bombs in Japan. I remind him that Japan was bombed when we were at war with that nation. After all, who was mainly responsible for the modern conception of total warfare? Was it Great Britain, the United States of America or any of the United Nations, or our enemies, notably Germany and Japan? If we retaliated in kind we had good reason to do so. At least it can be said that the dropping of atomic bombs on certain Japanese cities shortened the war and lessened destruction of life and property. Australia, in two world wars, has earned for itself a high place in history. Our soldiers have been heroic in battle and magnanimous in victory. In the past-war world we are embarking on, it has unfortunately fallen to Australia to commit the first unchivalrous act by descending almost, if not entirely, to the level of bestiality shown to the world by our enemies. The sailing of the ship and the conditions on board must come back to the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Even if it can be said that the Government was not aware last night of the conditions on board, as the ship is in Australian waters, there need, be no appeal for its return to an Australian port made to General MacArthur whose name I regret has been dragged into this discussion. The ship oan be recalled to. the nearest Australian port. I trust that we shall hear before the House rises to-night that that has been done, by the Government.
I do not intend to waste much time replying to the honorable member for Adelaide, but I must correct what he had to say about the depression of the early thirties. The honorable member . insinuated that blame for the hardships suffered in- those days could be placed fairly on the shoulders of the political philosophy that I represent, but the plain fact, which has been stated time after time but is worth stating again, is that in the Commonwealth and in nearly every State Labour was in power. It was not until the Lyons Government took office that a new era of confidence in Australia was born, and the depression started to become a matter of history. Australia’s progress out of the depression, which was world-wide, was unexcelled by any other nation. I leave it at that.
The Opposition did not move this motion of want of confidence on the Government merely for the purposes of a debate that would provide us with latitude to talk’ about many different subjects. The motion was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) because of our conviction that there exists, in Australia to-day an atmosphere similar to that of the last depression. An atmosphere of no confidence in the present Administration is being manifested in many different ways. We find an undeniable slowing up of all forms of national activity and production. No remarks of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) giving us figures in pounds, shillings and pence can alter the fact that now that the war is over there are fewer consumable goods and higher prices than when the war was on. We have to face the fact that unemployment is beginning to rear its ugly head. It seems that a depression is again around the corner. We find on all hands misuse and waste of public money. The war led to. a great deal of inflation in Australia, and possibly it was necessary in the financing of the war, but, unless the administration takes a firm grip of the reins, before long, I have no doubt, we shall be heading towards a financial and industrial catastrophe that will shake the foundations of our democracy. That, nothwithstanding that Australia in many respects has the ball at its feet! With a wise government endowed with a sense of discipline and a sense of public responsibility, we have a future brighter than at any time in our history. But before we shall be able to enter that brighter era, we must have a change of government. I believe the good, sense of those words will be realized by the people of this country before the impending general elections.
I propose to deal now with the two specific subjects that occupy my immediate attention. The first arises from the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his reply to the Leader of the Opposition and concerns political leadership and industrial control in Australia to-day. The second, which is completely divorced from anything said by the Prime Minister, concerns the chaotic conditions in the meat industry in. Victoria. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) pertinently interjected when the Prime Minister, in relation to the Indonesian affair, was dealing with the trouble on the waterfront that has held up the “ mercy “ ships loaded with cargoes needed to succour Dutch civilians in Java. The honorable gentleman asked the Prime Minister, “ What did you do about it?”. The Prime Minister, possibly, had the opportunity then to turn the debate to his own favour, but he failed lamentably, because he had no answer. He had none because he did nothing. He did exactly what he did about the great strike that, just before last Christmas, threw hundreds of thousands out of work, absolutely nothing! The right honorable gentleman took up the honorable member for Warringah, however, in this fashion : He said, “ What would the honorable member have me do?”, adding, “You would not have me take action that would lead to a complete industrial tie-up in this country ? “, or words to. that effect. He did poor justice to the Australian people when he implied that Australian workers generally - tramway men, railway men, textile workers, and so on - would strike in sympathy with the avowed Communists who are holding up the sailing of those “ mercy “ ships. If that is the way his thoughts run, he ha3 a very poor idea of the people who make up the Australian working class. But this matter has more significance than that. It is significant that the men who are holding up the sailing of those ships are mainly Communists. They have been described as “ irresponsible? “, but I do not altogether agree with that description. It may apply to certain participants in the strike, because we know that the great bulk of the Australian Communists >are “suckers “ in the hands of hirelings of a foreign power. We know sufficient about the methods of Communists throughout the world to be fully aware of how they work. Any one who is watching world events know? that wherever the British flag flies or wherever Great Britain has interests, there is to-day a series of Communist activities which are creating strife. was there anything strange in what occurred at the United Nations Organization a few weeks ago when Soviet Russia used the old art of attack in an attempt to cloak certain activities that were taking place elsewhere? Behind this industrial strife in Australia are people who were born not in this country but in a country far removed from here. I should like to know what our friend “ Ernie “ Thornton did when he arrived at Moscow, what school he attended, whether he obtained any instructions, and whether he received any remuneration.
– The honorable member did not tell us where he went when he visited Moscow.
– I shall tell the Minister, if he wants to know, but when I was in Russia I was accompanied by two members of the present Government,, both of whom, I am sure, are as aware of the machinations of this body as I am. The real Communist, the intelligent Communist, in Australia has not an Australian outlook. He has no sympathy whatever for Australian ideals. That has often been proved. He has a foreign philosophy, and carries out instructions. The people who rally to his court are the mere “ suckers “ of the movement. On a previous occasion, the Prime Minister declared that communism in Australia was a mere bogy. I wonder whether he believes that that statement is true to-day. He did not make that assertion, immediately-prior to last Christmas, when he made a call to Australian workers to throw out the Communists. If communism is to disappear in this country, it will not be overthrown by the Prime Minister failing to act when humanity and the good name of Australia are at stake. The reply which the Prime Minister gave to the interjection of the honorable member for Warringah showed weakness and incapacity to lead not only Australia but also the working-class movement.
Where does the Communist work? First, he operates in the trade unions. If he can get control of the trade unions, all L- well. His principal enemy is the trade- union which is not under his control. If a trade union is strong and financially independent,’ the Communist is never satisfied until that independence has been destroyed, and he is in control of the organization. The Communist feeds on class consciousness. That is introduced by socialist bodies in various countries, and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) provided an example of it this evening.
– How many bogymen has the honorable member got, apart from Thornton?
– Does the Minister regard communism in Australia as a bogy? Is he so insensible to world events, and to happenings in Australia that he believes that communism is a bogy here? If he does, I should like to hear him say so. It may be interesting for me to recall a few remarks by the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin, at the United Nations Organization in London recently. He said - lt is a strange thing that whenever we receive any diplomatic request from Russia through diplomatic channels, we receive almost identical requests from shop stewards in Great Britain, the majority of whom are Communists.
Mr. Ernest Bevin has told the world, in the plainest language, that there is a definite link between Communists working in Great Britain and the Comintern at Moscow. Otherwise, how can the text of diplomatic communications from Russia be known to shop stewards in Great Britain? If the Prime Minister has at heart the welfare of Australia and the working class movement, he must do more than stand idly by when Communist activity begins. If he is not prepared to adopt a firm attitude, he cannot be considered fit and worthy to lead this country.
I now desire to refer at some length to the meat situation in “Victoria. From to-morrow, there will be no fresh meat in butchers’ shops. The Newmarket saleyards are empty, and we are told that black-marketing is rife. The Prices Branch has its gestapo agents operating in butchers’ homes, and the situation is far from satisfactory. I desire to say a few words from the standpoint of the farmer and grazier, whose case is little known in the cities, and possibly even to many honorable members. The position in Victoria to-day has arisen largely as the result of the muddling and meddling of this Government in the meat industry, and its complete failure to recognize certain inescapable facts during the last twelve months. Three main reasons exist for the scarcity of meat in Victoria. The first is the drought. For periods of from two to five years, drought conditions have prevailed in most parts of Australia - a drought unparalleled in the annals of our history. How many sheep have died is a matter of conjecture, but estimates place the number at between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000. In .other words, there are between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 fewer . sheep in Australia to meet domestic and export requirements. From my own knowledge of the losses of lambs throughout Victoria and in parts of New South Wales, I believe that the figure approaches 30,000,000. That means that with the advent of a favorable autumn, there is a scarcity of stock on most grazing properties. Therefore, the grazier is operating in the saleyards for the purpose of re-stocking his property. First, he went, as is his custom, into the store yards and purchased store sheep. The price of store sheep quickly rose above the values prevailing in the fat stock market. He then turned his attention to the fat stock market, and soon prices in that section exceeded the ceiling prices. The next aspect to be considered- is the experience of winter prices a year ago. At that time, because of drought conditions, fat stock realized high prices at the Melbourne saleyards. In purchasing stock for re-stocking, graziers and farmers of course had the example of the previous year’s prices before them, and took them as an indication of what might happen again, with the result that values rose 1o some degree. This problem of prices on the hoof being much greater than whole-sale prices is not new. It was experienced last winter, but the Government did not take any steps to tackle it. or to bring the market down to fixed wholesale prices. Is it any wonder there- . fore, that in preparing for winter markets this year, farmers and graziers believed that the last year’s conditions would again apply? The situation was allowed to drift last year, but now, after the full effects of the drought have been made known, the Government steps in to bring the price levels back to wholesale prices. The third reason was the anticipation in the minds of most graziers of higher wool prices in the coming year, particularly for cross-bred and fine come-back wools. Whether or not higher prices will be realized when the open market is resumed next year is a matter for judgment, but as the stock held is mainly of the lower grade types of wool, and as the demand in peace-time is concentrated mainly on the finer and better qualities, the graziers’ expectations may yet prove correct. All these factors were known to the Government. Some of them I drew to the attention of the Government in the concluding months of last year when there was a rumoured intention on the part of the Government to acquire lamb at fixed prices. That would have entailed, as I pointed out then, an enormous burden on the small number of primary producers who would provide meat for Great Britain - a burden that should be shared by the community. All these things must have been known to the Government, but what has been done? In September of last year, some bright person in the Prices Branch suddenly realized that spring had arrived and decided that on a certain date the ceiling prices of meat would be reduced, and prices were reduced. The price of mutton for example was reduced by1/2d.per lb. In September, lamb prices also were reduced, and in October a further reduction was effected. The process was repeated again in November, yet with the knowledge that the ordinary quality lamb would be absent from the market because of drought losses. The secretary of the Retail Meat Employees Association in Melbourne, Mr. Sherman, presented figures to the press recently which he obtained from Victorian sources, showing that whereas normally appproximately 4,000.000 lambs were killed in the Melbourne abattoirs, this year only between 500,000 and 1,000,000 lambs were killed.
As I have said, all these factors were known, yet. with a shortage of supplies, the Government commenced to scale down prices. With smaller numbers of sheep going to the markets, and a wider demand by farmers and graziers for stock for re-stocking, only one thing could happen. Prices in the markets rose rapidly, and the only way in which butchers could get out of the debacle was, unfortunately, to offer meat to the public at prices in advance of ceiling; prices. I am not condoning any black marketing that has taken place in Melbourne, but I do say that if ever a stage was set to encourage black marketing, it was set by the stupidity of this Government. It is the Government that is primarilyresponsible for what is taking place in Melbourne to-day. The present ceiling price for wether mutton is 61/4d. per lb. and the price of beef runs from 43s. to 58s. per 100 lb. I emphasize that these are prices above which the butcher should not bid. From this basis is deducted expenses incidental to the killing of the stock. Let us. see what would be the position of the producer. If the Government attempted to bring prices in the Melbourne market back to export levels; the loss to the producer would be calamitous. As I have said, the price of wether mutton is 61/4d. per lb. As a basis of comparison we can only take the prices paid to graziers over the hook which are fixed by the Prices Commissioner. On that basis, mutton would return to the producer 35/8d. per lb. That would mean that fat wethers that have been selling in the store yards at from 32s. to 33s. would be subject to a ceiling price of 16s. Even if the market was forced down to present ceiling prices, losses would occur. The best way to damage food production in this country is to make it unprofitable. In view of what has happened, if the butchers observe the ceiling price and if rationing can be enforced - I trust that it can - unless the producers are to be forced to carry the burden, prices must be increased or alternatively, the Government must subsidize the industry to avoid increased charges being passed on to the consumer. Is there anything remarkable in this?
– It is remarkablethat the whole thing has been “ engineered “ at Newmarket.
– No. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) knows well that the demand for sheep to-day Ls far in excess of the supply. The reason for that of course is that millions of sheep and lambs are dead due to the drought. The honorable member knows also that if the price of mutton to the producers is to be forced back to ceiling prices they will lose thousands of pounds. The ceiling prices at the 30th May, which I obtained from the Prices Commissioner, were 7¼d. for hogget, 6-Jd. for wether, and 5d. for ewe mutton. If those prices are to be enforced, the growers must suffer the loss of thousands of pounds, after a period of years tha”t has been the most disastrous in the history of this country. These facts have to be realized by the Government. There can be no escape from the law of supply and demand,- if it works strongly enough; and it certainly is doing that to-day. I was proceeding to refer to a subsidy.
– The honorablemember’s time has expired.
Debate (on- motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
The Parliament: Canberra Allowance for Mem bers - Wives of Exservicemen in England - Fruit-picking at Mildura - Wheat Industry : Seed for. South Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday, ‘he Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made to the House a statement with regard to a proposed scheme for dealing with the expenses of members of Parliament. It is proper that I should say a word about it, because the members of my party have now had an opportunity of considering it. I think it, will be agreed by all the members of all parties that there is a very strong case indeed for making some change in the present position. A great number of people in Australia, I have found, are under the impression that while member.? of this Parliament are at Canberra, either their expenses are paid or they receive a particular allowance in relation to them. I believe that very few people realize that this maintaining of himself by a member at Canberra, at the same time as he maintains his home in his own State, is a burden that is borne at his own cost. Consequently, we agree that there is a very strong case for making a change. The particular change proposed, however, is one that would have the effect of making some net addition to the existing parliamentary allowance, and we consider that it is undesirable that that should be done at a time when there is a general wage-pegging law, and efforts are being made to maintain certain rules of that kind in the community at large. I therefore suggest to the PrimeMinister, on behalf of the members of my own party, that he should give some further consideration to an alternative method of dealing with this matter, not by raising the total emolument at this stage but by examining afresh the possibility of giving some more realistic deduction to members in relation to their expenses. It may very well be that technically, as a matter of income-tax law, what a member of Parliament pays for his accommodation, maintenance and so on at Canberra, is not an allowable deduction. But there is no reason whatever why it should not become one. There is no reason whatever why the multitude of expenses which must be incurred by a member of Parliament in the performance of his duties should not be made deductible from his parliamentary allowance in order to arrive at the true income which he, in fact, enjoys and on which he should, in fact, pay tax. That is an alternative method of dealing with the problem. I have risen merely to say that we all agree that there is a real problem. There is an anomalous position which deserves to be very much better known than it is by the public. But the choice being between raising the total allowance in the circumstances that now exist in this country, and leaving the allowance as it stands but dealing with the matter by a more effective deduction, the members of my party consider that the Prime Minister might well examine the second course with a view to determining whether it cannot be adopted.
– I bring before the House a matter which I regard as of somewhat serious moment. It arose out of a deputation which waited on me in Sydney. The deputation consisted of the ex-servicemen husbands of a number of women in England who are awaiting transport to Australia. It appears that there are something like 2,600 wives still in England.
– “Wives and children.
– There are also something like 500 fiancees. A number of deputations has waited on the appointee of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), whom I believe to be the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). Also, a number of deputations of the wives in England has waited upon the responsible authorities there, in an endeavour to have action taken relative to their transport to Australia. I understand that the Minister for Immigration listened with a great deal of attention to what was said, and told the deputation that there was no possibility of Australia doing other than make . representations to England, whose responsibility it was to get the wives out to Australia. There appears to have been lethargy on the part of the authorities either here or in England in connexion with the transport of these women to Australia. “We know that a number of refugees has arrived in Australia. .
– That is not true.
– That has been published.
– It is not true. There has been a good lot of filthy propaganda.
– I shall place a question on the notice-paper, with a view to eliciting information. I -hope that what the Minister says is correct. The answer of the honorable gentleman, if he can give ohe, may cut across the information that I have received. The Minister said to-day, in the course of another debate, that he had sent a number of nationals of other countries back to their own countries. Probably, these number some thousands. If he can do that, surely some action that would be commensurate with the services that have been rendered to Australia by these ex-servicemen should be taken for the transport of their women from England. The state of affairs is a sorry one. Some of these husbands have not seen their wives for three or four years. They are forced to purchase sterling at the existing high rate of exchange, in an endeavour to keep their wives supplied with the hinds that they need to continue living in decent circumstances in the Old Country while still awaiting transport to Australia. They cannot continue that course indefinitely. Many of them are not employed, and are using their deferred pay in the purchase of the necessary sterling to keep their wives alive in England. Some of the wives have been evicted from their homes because they have not had sufficient finance to pay the rent and also purchase the necessaries of life.
– They still get their allot: ment.
– They do not. That complaint was made to the Minister for Immigration, and his reply was that he would recommend to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that an allotment should be paid to them. I hope that the honorable gentleman has made that recommendation.
– I never fail.
– I am glad to know that. “When these men were demobilized, the allotment to their wives ceased. Due to no fault of their own, their wives have been kept in England, and the deferred pay which they accumulated while fighting on their country’s behalf has been used to purchase sterling at a high rate of exchange. The Government has the obligation of ensuring that an allotment shall be paid to the wives while they are still awaiting transport to Australia. I have particulars before me of a number of cases, which I am prepared to hand over to the Prime Minister, or his deputy giving the names and addresses of the wives in England, the number of children, the date of marriage, the date when the husband left the United Kingdom, the date of his arrival in Australia, and the date of his discharge. In the first case a footnote has been appended by the husband as follows: -
Wife had nervous breakdown. Canadian girl with no parents in England. Being evicted from house 12th March. 1946.
There is a specific case, and the husband is powerless to assist his wife. In another instance the husband’s footnote is as follows : -
On leaving England, wife one month pregnant. Repatriation officials promised she would be in Australia within two months of my arrival. Nothing was done about getting her out. Resultant worry caused loss of baby at birth, and wife very nearly died. Imagine the money it is costing in medical expenses, besides the pain of losing a son through the incompetence of the Australian Government.
That man and his wife are suffering. The wife is receiving attention which the husband may not consider satisfactory, and she is suffering unduly because she is not being repatriated. In another case the” husband says -
Separated over four years. Wife still not told when leaving.
In another instance the footnote states -
Wife has nowhere permanent to live. Promised sailing January. Resigned from work. Has since had to change abode four times.
Officials at Australia House tell these people that they must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Therefore they resign their positions, and give notice to their landlady, but then have to wait month after month.
– That is not the fault of the Commonwealth Government
– The Government must bear the responsibility if the officials at Australia House do not supply correct, information. In another case the husband remarked -
Wife had been bombed out. resulting in bad nervous state. Given passport January, promised berth by end of January. Still waiting. No means of support. Additional mental strain caused by anxious waiting.
Another footnote states -
Parted three years. Originally applied for passage at Australia House 1942, still trying, still no results.
In a further case, the footnote reads -
Because of ill health, representations made by CO. of Yaralla hospital, by Australian lied Cross, and by R.S.L. for immediate priority passage, but wife has heard absolutely nothing from Australia House after one month.
In the last case, this footnote appears -
Ex-prisoner of war. No pay. Awaiting allowance under reconstruction training scheme, which anyway will be insufficient to maintain two homes.
Honorable members know that this manwill be waiting a long time for his allowances under the reconstruction training scheme. “We know that the pressure brought to bear on the Government has resulted in some action being taken. It is rather significant that when a deputation waits on the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) some brides make the grade. I understand that after the last, deputation, 500 brides obtained passages to Australia. This matter cannot be left to a junior Minister. It may be that the Government desires the repatriation of the 2,600 people who are awaiting passages to be delayed owing to the shortage of houses in Australia, but some action should be taken to charter a vessel and prevent such occurrences as, for example, the placing of the Queen Elizabeth on the slips to be refitted. If the Minister for Immigration can send the nationals of foreign countries back in their thousands, and the American authorities can transport brides to the United States of America, the Commonwealth Government should provide passages for Australian brides in Britain with the utmost despatch.
.- This is not a new matter, but it seems to have largely escaped the serious attention of the Government. It is well known that about 2,000 brides of Australian servicemen are still on the other .side of the world, and God alone knows when they will be brought here.
– They will be brought out as fast as we can bring .them here.
– The Government should do something to expedite their repatriation. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) interjected that the wives are receiving an allotment.
– There are not 2,000 people whose allotments have been stopped.
– I draw the Minister’s attention to the following letter which I received from an ex-serviceman in my electorate : -
Australian servicemen were promised while in England that, if they married, their English brides would bc transported to Australia within two or three months of the war ending. Many acted on this promise, myself included. Wc married and looked forward to a swift and- happy reunion in Australia, as the war in Europe had ended a few weeks previously, but the promise was not fulfilled. This has left my wife and myself and many others in. a serious position, for my wife was dismissed from her work as soon as her superiors had the knowledge that she would be leaving England in a month or two (the promise again). Slip has been unable to obtain another temporary job, even though she tried through the Labour
Exchange, and many other organizations. I have since been discharged and so stopping my allotment.
This really makes keeping two families on the one income, and I don’t think anybody knows better than yourself how one loses through the exchange rate, not mentioning the cost of the transference of money between the two countries. In fact it would be impossible to live this way for many months on the average man’s salary.
The Minister has said that he is doing his best to bring these people back. I have been told on good authority that recently numbers of refugees have been brought to Australia from abroad.
– That is an absolute lie.
– I accept the Minister’s word for that. I do know this : There are some people arriving in this country, people whom I, personally, have met, who have no connexion with the services at all, and who have no right to any priority in travel. Before such people should be allowed to come here, priority should be given to the wives of ex-servicemen.
– I agree, but are those people aliens?
– No, they are Australians, but I say that they should have a lower priority than the wives of Australian servicemen. I accept the word of the Minister for Information that refugees are not being brought here, but I should like to know whether it is really a fact.
– If the honorable member accepts my word, he must accept it without qualification.
– The Minister may not he fully informed. It is good to hear that 600 wives are to be brought here next month, but how many months will elapse before the remaining 1,200 or 1,500 arrive? The man whose case I have cited must support his wife in London, and as he is now a civilian he receives no Allotment for her. He has to remit money for her support, and pay exchange on it. I ask the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, who at times has a sympathetic heart, ‘ to take action to remedy the grievance.
.- I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to give this matter his personal attention. I have received representations from exfoldiers who have waited a long time for their wives and children to be brought to Australia. Some of them are paying £4 or £5 a week out of their income for the support of their wives and families overseas. There should be some kind of financial assistance where husband and wife are separated and are required to meet extra expenses. I have received many urgent requests from such men, and I have transmitted them to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). I pointed out that, in some instances, when the men left Great Britain their wives had been pregnant for some time. They were assured that the wives would be given passages on the next ship sailing for Australia, and that they would be here long before their children were born.
– A ship was chartered specially to bring to Australia a number of pregnant women, and it arrived here a month or so ago.
– It did not bring the women of whom I am speaking. They have found it difficult to obtain the special food, hospital accommodation or treatment which is necessary for them in their condition, and this knowledge has added greatly to the mental anguish of their husbands in Australia. Recently, the Australian Agents-General in London published a statement in the press to the effect that if the Commonwealth Government had made a more earnest endeavour it could have obtained shipping accommodation to bring to Australia the wives of Australian servicemen. The AgentsGeneral themselves were being bombarded with requests from the wives, and they met in conference to discuss the matter. Afterwards, they stated for publication that if the Government had made an earnest attemptit could have arranged for the women to have been brought to Australia.
– That is plain nonsense. They said nothing of the sort.
– It was published in the press, and I saw it. When statements of that kind are made in Great Britain, the husbands in Australia have every right to demand that the Government should exert itself. I appeal to the Prime Minister to do what he can to ensure that the wives and families of servicemen are brought to Australia without delay.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Government a matter of great importance to fruit-growers in the district of Mildura, who are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining labour for fruit picking. It appears that the pickers had arrived in the district ready to begin work, but when the rain came, they were unable to go on with the job. The weather is now suitable, but the workers have gone. I have received a telegram from the growers setting forth the urgency of the situation, and suggesting that Air Force personnel stationed in the district should be made available for picking grapes so that the people of Australia and of Great Britain may not be without supplies.
– That is already being done.
– It has not been done yet, because I received a telegram from the growers urging that it be done. The telegram was handed to the Minister concerned.
– I have not received it.
.- What the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has said about the situation in Mildura is true. It is also true, as the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has said, that the difficulty has been overcome. The fact is that, although the Commonwealth Government no longer has any control over . labour, my department organized, through its employment branches, the engagement of workers to pick fruit in the Mildura district. The labour was on the spot when the spell of extraordinarily wet weather developed. The people dispersed, and when it became necessary to harvest the crop quickly in order to prevent loss from mould, the labour was not there. It was learned that an Air Force unit was stationed in the district, and the Minister for Air sent a signal calling for volunteers from the unit to engage in the work of picking fruit. The last message we have received is to the effect that sufficient labour is now available to do the work.
– For some time past, representations have been made to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) regarding the completion of arrangements for the sowing of the current wheat crop in South Australia, but only last week I received a letter from him saying that the matter had not yet been completed. I have received a telegram from Senator Mattner saying that he had not yet received any reply from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture regarding the supply of seed wheat to farmers on the west coast, and he asked me to press for a reply. Notwithstanding the fact that the wheat crop in South Australia was generally good last year, there were some areas in which it was an utter failure. This applied to large areas on the west coast where there was a total failure for the first time in the history of the State. No arrangements have yet been completed regarding the provision of seed wheat for this season’s crop. Because of the good rains which have fallen, the crop will be sown early this year, and it is time that an arrangement was made between the Commonwealth and the State for financing growers. As long ago asthe 9th November, I made representations to the Minister for Commerce on the subject, but so far nothing has been done to let the growers know whether assistance will be forthcoming, or upon what terms it will be made available to enable them to sow their crop for the new season.
– I am not certain whether the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) refers to drought sustenance, or drought relief.
– I refer to drought relief.
– This matter was discussed at the recent Premiers Conference, and a committee consisting of Commonwealth and State officers was appointed to make investigations. I have received a report which is now the subject of correspondence with the States. The immediate financial responsibility is regarded by the Commonwealth Government as the obligation of the States. I shall, however, give the matter further consideration immediately, because I recognize its seriousness and urgency.
.- I support what has been said by other speakers regarding the wives of exservicemen who are still overseas awaiting transport, to Australia. I referred to this matter last night, but as the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was not in the House I shall give some additional facts. I ask him to consider this matter as one of great human interest and importance rather than as one of party political importance. Last week I attended an indignation meeting at Coburg, Victoria, arranged by air-crew members who have rendered valuable service to Australia. These young men are married and have wives, and some of them children also, in England. They do not believe that more could not be done to bring their wives to Australia, and I .agree with them. I was in Great Britain from 1941 to 1943, and I know how inefficient Australia House was then and how prospective migrants were rebuffed. Last night I quoted from a letter from an official of Australia House in which he stated that the position to-day is no better than it was in 1943. I have in mind an Air Force officer with a distinguished record who has been trying to return to Australia since 1942. Another was in the first course of the Empire training scheme in Australia, and his regimental number is 250024. Only about six members of that course are alive to-day. Because of the iniquitous regulation which provided that the men must return to Australia before their wives, this man returned leaving his wife in England. He waited for months for her, and later when I made representations on his behalf, I was told that something would be done. Some time ago he received advice that his wife was seriously ill ; thereupon he decided to return to London. He tried to get a passage by air, but as officials get the priorities he had to travel by ship. He is now on the high seas, hoping to find his wife alive when he reaches England. The following report, by an Air Force doctor about the wife of another man who has been waiting for two years to come to Australia shows the seriousness of her condition : -
From a purely medical point of view, therebuff she has suffered has had a change upon her personality. From being the pleasant, optimistic young girl, full of hope and expectancy and trying ever so hard to reach Australia she has become frustrated, sad and. embittered by the humbug that has been dealt, out to her.
The Minister disagrees with my statement that better results are possible, ashe is entitled to do, but I do not think that he has received all the facts from London. Canada and the United States of America were able to obtain ships toconvey ex-servicemen and their wiveshome.
– The reason was that they could exchange tonnage for the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth.
– Australia could exchange food for ships. In the Daily Sketch of the 10th December, 1945, an official from Australia House is reported to- have said -
Limited passenger accommodation at present available in cargo ships is reserved for business men and officials travelling in the interest of Australia’s national effort.
I submit that these servicemen who have rendered good service to their country have been engaged in “ Australia’s national effort “ and are entitled to consideration before men travelling for business reasons. I do not minimize the shipping difficulties because I know of the losses that have occurred, but I submit that better arrangements could be made. Australia House needs a complete overhaul. At the indignation meeting to which I have referred I said that, in my opinion, more energy on the part of Australia would have avoided most of the difficulties which have arisen. I notice that the Australian agents-general are of the same opinion: they believe that more energetic action by officials of Australia House last year could have done much to avoid the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. The Minister cannot know all that is going on in the departments under bis control, and I admit that it is difficult to conduct negotiations by cablegram. I repeat that the position is serious, as many of the men concerned are not in employment and are incurring very heavy expenditure. Most of them are using their deferred pay and their pay in lieu of furlough to maintain their wives, and their wives are worried by reason of the lack of accommodation. I ask the Minister to use his utmost endeavours forthwith to remedy the position. I urge the Government to get this job done, and to let us know next week that transport has been made available.
– in reply - The Leader of . the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the statement I made yesterday relating to allowances payable to honorable, members while attending sittings of Parliament. This matter came to me originally from the House Committee, which submitted that an additional allowance was required in order to enable honorable members to meet increasing expenses with regard, not only to attendance in Canberra, but also work in their electorates. This claim was supported by representations made by members of the Government party. It was pointed out that over a long period of years no provision had been made to enable honorable members to meet everincreasing expenses incurred in their parliamentary duties. After considering the matter, the Government decided to make the allowances which I indicated in my statement yesterday. I should have been glad had the opportunity presented itself to ask a representative from each of the Opposition parties to join with a representative from the Government party in an examination of the whole matter. I realize that during a long session, such as we had last year, honorable mem-‘ bers who travel from distant States like Western Australia and Queensland and are obliged to remain here at week-ends over a period of many months, in some cases having their wives in Canberra with them for a portion of the period, are subject to very heavy expense. A public servant on a salary of £1,000 a year is allowed, when travelling in the course of his duties, expenses at the rate of 22s. 6d. a day. This rate has been fixed after careful consideration, and no one will deny that a member of Parliament serving the nation should be entitled to receive the same allowance. An honorable member has less security of tenure than a public servant. After being elected to one Parliament he may, after incurring considerable expenditure, lose his seat at the following election. I know that many people have the impression that members of Parliament are in a very good position and enjoy all sorts of privileges, but that is not the case. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out. they pay income tax on the normal basis except that certain deductions are permitted. However, those deductions were fixed many years ago when Mr. Ewing was Commissioner of Taxation. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that that aspect should be re-examined. Without wearying honorable members with a discussion of the merits of the matter, I suggest that the leaders of the two Opposition parties might appoint representatives of their respective parties to meet representatives of the Government party to look into this matter generally, and particularly the aspect which the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned. T houe that the two leaders will give consideration to that proposal. If they are not prepared to agree to it, I myself shall examine the matter further along the lines mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. In the meantime, until some other arrangement has been made, the allowances which I outlined in my statement yesterday will apply.
Several honorable members have . referred to the provision of transport for war brides. A great deal of nonsense is talked on this subject. The Government and its representatives abroad have been doing their very best in the matter. I am sure that all honorable members are most anxious that the wives and children of service personnel, and, indeed, their fiancees, should be enabled to travel to Australia as soon as possible. I for one should not discourage the realization of love’s young dream. We are anxious to meet the convenience of these women and children. However, it is nonsense to say the Government has riot been doing its best on their behalf, or that the British Government has not endeavoured to meet our wishes in the matter. In those circumstances, I must regard some of the statements made on the subject as party political propaganda.
– How is it that all of the other dominions have arranged transport for their wives of their servicemen?
– The Government feels so strongly on this matter that, when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was in London, I requested him to take it up on the highest possible plane. That was in November last, and my colleague took up the subject with the British Prime Minister, to whom he made strong representations. Later, the Acting High Commissioner in London, Mr. Duncan, took up the subject vigorously with the Minister of War Transport, Mr. Barnes. However, the British Government has its problems; and they are acute. As I am aware of the difficulties arising in this matter so far as shipping is concerned, nobody will induce me to engage in bitter recriminations with the British Government. We have pressed the subject strongly, and having regard to all circumstances, I am satisfied that we are receiving the most sympathetic treatment from the British Government. Mr. Barnes pointed out in November that he was beset with demands from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, India and the Colonies for shipping for the transport of wives and children of British servicemen. The British Government is confronted with an enormous problem in that respect. Mr. Barnes pointed out that il is impracticable to use troop-ships for the transport of women and children. A proposal has been made that the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth should be used to bring wives of Australian servicemen to this country, these ships to return to Britain with foodstuffs urgently required in the .Mother Country. Mr. Barnes pointed out that those vessels were not equipped for the carriage of foodstuffs. Particularly they lack refrigerated space other than is needed for ships’ supplies. He mentioned other difficulties which I shall not detail at this juncture having regard to the lateness of the hour. However, one of those ships was still being used by the Americans, whilst the other was in dock. Then I continued the discussion with the Resident Minister (Mr. Beasley). The Government does not have to be urged to action by people who merely want some cheap publicity. It is ‘equally, if not more, solicitous for the welfare of the wives and children of men in Australia stranded in England. When Mr. Beasley was going abroad, I asked him to press the matter as strongly as he could with the British authorities when he got to London, not offensively, but courteously as a -government is entitled to press any matter with another government itself beset with difficulties. Mr. Barnes has been most sympathetic in the provision of shipping. I have been sending cables to the Resident Minister, who ha3 been pressing the matter as strongly as he can. Yesterday he sent me a further cable about the matter indicating what can be done. I have heard some talk from the Opposition about business men and their wives. In addition to wives and children of servicemen, there are in England Australian business men and their wives who have been there for some years. It is true, too, that some passages have been found for British business men who are establishing, or hope to establish, industries in this country. I could name one or two large British industries that envisage manufacturing operations in this country. I can quite understand that they would be enabled to send representatives here to make investigations and reports about the industrial prospects. From time to time, I might mention, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) and I have been strongly pressed in this building for the provision of priority passages to England and back for people closely associated with the politics of the Opposition. If honorable members opposite want the names I can give them privately.
– Who is looking for political kudos now?
– I have been in politics for a long time. The Marquis of Queensberry rules suit me, but if “ rafferty rules “ are applied, I. having been in New South Wales politics for some time, am familiar with those rules, too. Recently the Minister for Immigration had an- application for a passage to England from a leading Victorian business man who wanted to take his wife as his secretary. Those who know the lady do- not think she has ever done much secretarial work. The Minister for Immigration could tell an interesting story about the representations that were made. Naturally, she had to be brought back. The Resident Minister, as I have said, has been strongly pressing the need for more passages. I do not propose to weary . the House by reading all the cables that have passed between us, but only yesterday Mr. Beasley sent a cablegram which he said that for March Mr. Barnes has made available two transports which had. been earmarked for troop movements. They will provide 780 civilian berths for Australia in March. It is proposed to allocate up to 650 berths to servicemen’s dependants, and the rest will be allotted to business men and Australian women and children who have been stranded in England for some years. The Resident Minister tried to get another ship, but Mr. Barnes has made it clear that the large ships are not available and that, even if they were, they could not be used, as some people have suggested, to carry food back to England, because they have no refrigeration space. Mr. Barnes is unable to give any figures for April, owing to demands on shipping, but, according to the Resident Minister, he has promised to make available as much s.pace as possible. The Resident Minister says that Mr. Barnes is completely sympathetic, but has so many demands for ships to move troops that he cannot do more than he is doing. One day it is a matter of getting -servicemen home, and, if that does not work, the next day there is agitation for ships to enable the re-union of men and their- wives and families. Every one is demanding something .that is in limited supply.
I think the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) mentioned the financial plight of stranded wives of servicemen in England. In Sydney I was asked to receive a deputation in regard to stranded war brides, but I asked the Minister for Immigration to receive it on my behalf. He, of course, was not able to tell the deputation any more than I can tell this House, namely, that the matter of their transport to Australia was taken up in London with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, by the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, whose representations have been followed up at the highest level by the Resident Minister. Last week the Minister for Immigration brought to my notice the fact that many of the war brides had difficulty in obtaining sustenance because they could not get away from England. I discussed the matter with him, and subsequently sent word to the Resident Minister that the Government had made the following arrangements to assist the’ dependants of servicemen in necessitous circumstances : -
Maximum weekly amount will be equivalent of dependants’” allowance aud service allotment for other ranks, that is, £2 16s. in case of wife without children. Additional assistance may be granted for children equivalent to dependant’s allowance, that is, £1 ls. a week for the first child, 14s. for the second child and 10s. (id. for each subsequent child.
I do not want it to be thought that the Resident Minister is thereby authorized to pay the allowance to every war bride who is awaiting a passage because nor all of them are in necessitous circumstances. It has been left to his sympathetic judgment to decide whether the circumstances justify the payment of the allowance.
It makes me a little sick sometimes when people, for political purposes, start criticism of a matter that I and my colleagues are working on all the time. 1 concede the basic earnestness of the representations- that have been made by honorable members, but I assure them that everything possible is being done to ensure the earliest possible transport to Australia of not only the brides and families but also, indeed, the fiancees of Australian servicemen, as well as other people who have been stranded in England for. years and are pressing to get back to -Australia. But I desire to make it .perfectly clear that the treatment which has been accorded to the
Commonwealth Government by the British Ministry of War Transport and by British Ministers in regard to the allocation of shipping for the transport of troops and the like has been too generous to warrant my directing in bitter recriminations against them. 1 speak not only of the present British Government, but also of its predecessor. Both gave to the Commonwealth very generous and sympathetic treatment. We shall continue to press the matter, but not in any spirit of bitterness.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House Adjourned at 12 o’clock (midnight).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. On the cessation of hostilities and the concurrent termination of lend-lease the Australian Government reviewed all its lendlease requisitions and cancelled all those items which were no longer required in the light of the changed circumstances. As at-V-J Day, however, a significant part of the Australian lend-lease requisitions which had reached the contract stage but had not yet been fulfilled were in respect of supplies which were still essential for the Australian economy even though hostilities had ceased. Accordingly, it was agreed with the United Kingdom authorities that, if necessary, sufficient dollars would be made available to Australia from the sterling area dollar pool to enable Australia to pay cash for essential supplies which would be coming forward for delivery against lendlease contracts in existence as at V-J Day. Very roughly speaking this arrangement covered supplies for the period ending 31st December, 1945. The amount of dollars available in the future to the sterling area, including Australia, will depend on whether the United States Congress ratifies the AngloAmerican Financial Agreement under which a loan of 3,750,000,000 dollars is to be made to the United Kingdom. If the loan or some alternative financial arrangement is not made by the United States, Australia will, along with other members of the sterling area, be faced with an acute shortage of dollars, which will mean that those dollar earnings of the sterling area which are available will have to be conserved and expended only on essential supplies.
The Government proposes to defer further consideration of the Bretton Woods proposals until it has received Mr. Melville’s report on the meetings now about to take place.
t asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Houses under Commonwealth-State housing agreement (July-December, 1945) -
The housing target for the complete year 1945-46 is 24,000 houses under construction or completed - for the first half-year 9,000, and the second (or current) half-year 15,000.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Repatriation Sanatorium, Kenmore, Queensland - 22 beds; (b) Repatriation Sanatorium, Turramurra, New South Wales- 238 beds; (c) Repatriation Sanatorium, Mont Park. Victoria - 110 beds; and (d) Repatriation Sanatorium. Belair, South Australia - 22 beds. In addition, provision exists at all
Repatriation General Hospitals for the treatment of acute and advanced cases, viz., Queensland 70 beds, New South Wales 90 beds, Victoria 150 beds, South Australia 34 beds, Tasmania 24 beds, and at the Edward Millen Home, Perth, 50 beds. Total 820 beds.
AustralianWomen’s Land Army.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What is the future of the Women’s Land Army in relation to harvest operations?
– Following upon the cessation of hostilities with Japan, the Standing Committee on Rural Man Power, of which the Director-General of Agriculture is a member, considered the future position of the Australian Women’s Land Army which had been organized as a war-time measure to provide some accretion to a depleted rural labour force. In the light of all the circumstances, the Standing Committee on Rural Man Power recommended to the Director-General of Man Power that the Land Army should be disbanded in all States not later than the 31st December, 1945. Production Executive subsequently approved of that recommendation and the disbandment of the organization as an official body took place accordingly. In some States, particularly New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, groups of former members agreed to remain on with employers after the date of their ceasing to be members of the organization. It is understood also that a growers’ organization in one State is directing special publicity to ex-land girls in that State to return to rural employment. The Commonwealth Employment Service will keep in mind the value of ex-members of the Land Army as a potential source of harvest labour and will on appropriate occasions use every endeavour to encourage ex-members to undertake suitable harvesting work. I would also like to take advantage of this reply to the honorable member’s question to place on record my deep appreciation of the splendid national service performed by members of the Australian Women’s Land Army during the three and a half years of its existence as an organization sponsored by the Commonwealth. When it is recalled that the membership of. the organization was chiefly recruited from girls who resided in cities and the larger provincial towns andwho had had no previous experience in rural industries, the very successful achievements of the Land Army are the more remarkable.. As Minister in charge of the department responsible for the functioning of the Land Army, I desire to thank all its members for their services rendered so splendidly.
Ho.use of Representatives.
Friday, 8 March 19^6.
Mr ; Speaker (Hon. J”. ‘ S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
S -(Kooyong. leader of the Opposition) [10.31). - May I inquire of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether he proposes that the House shall meet regularly on Wednesday, or alternately on “Wednesday and Tuesday? Can he give some indication of what the sitting days will be in the next few .weeks?
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [10.32). - The intention is that the House shall meet on Wednesday of next week and the following week. Certain legislation is being drafted, and it is hoped that if it can be brought forward sufficiently quickly the House will later be able to sit on four days a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the Bouse, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page 113), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
.- In ‘ this protracted debate, the Government has been criticized from the Opposition side of the House on innumerable courts. The framing of the motion in general terms has enabled honorable members opposite to discuss almost every subject, from war brides in Britain to the foreign policy of the Government. In the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), certain oblique references were made to a tendency on the part of the Government to criticize Britain unduly in the field of foreign policy. Since the matter of foreign policy has been raised, I wish to discuss four fundamental principles of Australian foreign policy, aud to examine the record of the Government concerning them. I assume that it will be agreed everywhere that the four cardinal influences on the foreign policy of this country arc : first, its connexion with Britain ; secondly, its membership of an international organization ; thirdly, its policy in the zone of special concern to this country - the South-west Pacific; and fourthly, the attitude that it should adopt towards -the rise of Asiatic nationalism. I hare never heard anything more trivially discussed from the Opposition benches than the rise of Asiatic nationalism. One would imagine that come of the Asiatic national leaders represent only themselves. That raises the question : If they have no influence and no power among their own people, who are primitive, backward, and incapable of organization, why do the Governments of the various colonial powers negotiate with them? In’ India, il was considered necessary for Sir Stafford Cripps, in the depth of the war crisis, to consult with Indian national leaders. That is not to say that they are all-powerful. But they are influential, and their power must be respected. Similarly, the Dutch Government haj had to negotiate with Soekarno. “We cannot escape from the present situation merely by saying that Japanese occupation stimulated those national movements, or that many of these men were Japanese puppets. The fact still remains that they have influence among the majority of their people, and therefore must be considered as a political force. It is perfectly true that in China, one who was a left-wing leader - Wang Cheng Wei - became a puppet. Subhas Chandra Bose, President of the Indian National Congress, became a puppet. No doubt Soekarno, in Java, also was a puppet of the Japanese. That points to a dangerous ‘and significant thing. All of these people claimed, at one stage to be Socialists. When matters reached a crisis they showed themselves to be, in fact, Pan-Asiatic nationalists, and to be prepared to collaborate with the worst form of imperialism the world has known - that of the Japanese. That still does not destroy the fact that
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460307_reps_17_186/>.