17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Conditions on Japanese Destroyer “ Yoizuki “ : Report of Mr. Justice Simpson and Brigadier F. G. Galleghan.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Conditions on Japanese DestroyerYoizuki - Report by Mr. Justice Simpsonand Brigadier F.G. Galleghan oftheir investigations. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Use for Purchase of a Home.
– by leave - Last week, the honorable members for Reid (Mr. Morgan), Parramatta (Sir Frederick’ Stewart) andBoothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked questions in regard to the use of war gratuities for the erection and purchase of homes.
Section22 of the War Gratuity Act 1945, provides for the transfer of a war gratuity credit to the War Service Homes Commissioner or any other authority towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a dwelling-house for an ex-member of the forces. The implementation of this section has been exhaustively considered by a committee representative of the Treasury and the War Service Homes Commission. The committee has made recommendations, which are briefly summarized thus -
The Government accepts these recommendations, and a regulation will be promulgated to permit war gratuity boards to authorize the payment of cash for a transferred war gratuity credit.
– Can the Minister for the Army say when the public will be acquainted with the facts elicited at the Darwin Military Court trials of Japanese war criminals, as promised by the President of the Court, so that public feeling concerning the outrageous decisions of the court may be allayed as quickly as possible? In view of the resentment aroused in Australia, will the findings of the court be considered by the Government?
– I cannot say when the evidence submitted to the court will be madeavailable to the public. So’ far, I have not received any report on the subject apart from what I have read in the newspapers. Last night’s Melbourne Herald contains a statement by LieutenantColonel Arnold Brown, D.S.O., M.O., O.B.E., President of the Darwin Military Court, in which he replied to protests in the following terms - “ This military court is a legally constituted body appointed for the sole purpose of trying the Japanese accused on the evidence before it and that has been done”, he said. “Is it suggested that a public 2.000 miles away has heard every wordand knows all circumstances? This court will not in any circumstance be stampededinto wrong action bypublic opinion “.
ColonelBrown, who has been mentioned in despatches five times in two ware, is a grazier from Coonabarabran, New South Wales.
I shall see whether it is possible to obtain information which would enable me to comply with the honorable member’s request, but I point out that the court is a legally constituted tribunal and that it is not the policy of the Government to interfere with the work of the trusted officers who have been appointed to conduct thesetrials.
– Will the Minister foi the Army ascertain whether or not written statements by former prisoners of the Japanese were rejected as evidence, and former prisoners who wished to give evidence were not offered transport to Darwin? If so, will the right honorable gentleman ensure that tortured prisoners who are still alive will be given the opportunity to go to Darwin, so that they may testify at the trials? Will the right honorable gentleman also order a re-trial, so that the punishment may fit the crime instead of being no more than a commanding officer would pronounce in respect of a’ serviceman who had been absent without leave for seven days?
– I have no knowledge of the accusations which the honorable member has made against the impartiality, of trusted Army officers who have been legally appointed to act as a tribunal to try these war criminals.
– That interpretation cannot be placed on my question. The right honorable gentleman should not twist what I said.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to state where he obtained his information, and whether he will make it available to me.
– If the right honorable gentleman is up to date in his office, he must have read the reference to the matter in the press.
– Order! The honorable gentleman, having asked a question, i3 not entitled to answer it himself.
– I have not read these accusations in the press.
– Then it is time that the right honorable gentleman did so.
– I- gave to the House this afternoon the only reference that I have read.
– The accusations appear in the statement which the right honorable gentleman read, but he did not continue the quotation until he had reached them.
– I read what was published in the Melbourne Herald. If the honorable member will give me particulars of the accusations, I shall see whether I can obtain the information that he seeks.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen an advertisement by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in Western Australian newspapers to the effect that tyres and tubes are now available to fit Army vehicles. Is he aware that tyres and tubes are not available in Western Australia, and that many farmers in that State have had applications for them with the authorities for several months? Will he see that a fair allocation of tyres and tubes is made to Western Australia, and that goods to meet that allocation are despatched to that State without further delay?
– I have not seen the advertisement to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall draw the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, to his question with a view to having any anomaly rectified.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether efforts have recently been made to resuscitate the Australian Overseas Transport Association - generally referred to as A.O.T.A. - and can he say whether or not any of his ministerial colleagues have discussed its reestablishment with any of the interested parties, and, if so, with whom? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate his attitude towards the revival of this association?
– I do not know of any arrangements having been made to resuscitate the body mentioned by the honorable member, nor am I aware of any discussions between representatives of interested parties and the Government. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and if he has any information on the subject I shall pass it on bo the honorable member.
– Seeing that the publication known as the Federal Guide has not been revised since 1944, will the Minister for Information have the book brought up to date?
– I shall give early and, I hope, favorable consideration to the suggestion, so that honorable members will have only themselves to blame if they do not address inquiries to the proper department- when seeking information.
– Has the Government considered the proposal that the control of potatoes, which would normally end on the 30th November of this year, should continue for at least one year more, thus covering the season. 1946-47, so as to enable the States to put into operation such marketing legislation as they may be contemplating? In view of the imminence of the new planting season, will the Minister for Commerce ana Agriculture make an early announcement of the Government’s plans in order to prevent unnecessary confusion and loss?
– This matter has been discussed between Commonwealth and State officials, and has also -been mentioned at meetings of the Commonwealth Agricultural Council. The Government is giving its attention to all aspects of the matter, which will receive further consideration” at future meetings of the Agricultural Council. If the control system is to be continued it can be done only by the States co-operating with th, Commonwealth.
Terms of Settlement of Dispute
– Can <he Acting Minister- for Trade and Customs say whether the agreement reached during the week-end at the Meat Conference in Melbourne regarding the dispute about the withholding of fat stock from sale provides for the payment by the Commonwealth of a subsidy to the meat industry ?
– The terms of settlement of the meat .dispute reached at the conference held in Melbourne during the week-end conform to the policy regarding the meat industry outlined by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and myself last week. The settlement terms did not provide for the payment of any subsidy, but did provide for the ! maintenance of the present ceiling prices.
A decision to ‘that effect having been reached at the meeting, the representatives of the various sections of .the meat industry agreed that a press statement should be made outlining the terms of the agreement. A full statement appeared in the Melbourne Age on Monday last, and any subsequent statements in other newspapers to the effect that a subsidy was to be paid to the meat industry are entirely false.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether any recommendation has been made to him by the Commonwealth Meat Controller, Mr. Tonkin, to the effect that the recent order for the acquisition of meat, as it applied to the Melbourne market, should be withdrawn. If so, what action does the Government intend to take? Will the honorable gentleman comment on the possible effect on the price of meat of the withdrawal of this acquisition order and the restoration of an open selling market in Melbourne?
– With my authority, Mr. Tonkin intimated to the conference which proved so successful in Melbourne during last week-end that immediately normal trading wa3 resumed and sales were established at the yards, the meat acquisition order would be withdrawn. That guarantee stands good. I have no further comment to make.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a reported statement by the secretary of the Meat Industry Employees Union in Queensland, Mr. Neumann, in which he forecast a strike throughout Queensland of 8,000 meat-workers unless the dispute about the dismissal of four employees of the Murrarie bacon factory was settled within seven days ? In view of the fact that- the bacon factory concerned is owned and operated by farmers on a co-operative basis, will he instruct the Meat Controller, Mr. Tonkin, to visit Brisbane immediately with a. view to settling the present strike, and averting the threatened extension?
– I cannot promise to send Mr. Tonkin to Brisbane or anywhere else, but I shall have an investigation made immediately. We will get in touch with Mr. Neumann, who has been very helpful in all negotiations with the department since I have been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I am sure that the matter will be straightened out. Mr. Neumann has always tried to avoid dislocation, and I am sure that he will do so again.
– Will the Minister also get in touch with the directors of the cooperative society?
Ship Repair Work
– On the 14th March, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me a. question concerning work undertaken by naval ratings on ships at the South Brisbane Repair Base, which he indicated was performed usually by members of the Ships Painters and Dockers Union.
I am now advised that chipping and painting of the outside of hulls of naval vessels above the waterline has been carried out by naval ratings from time immemorial. Such work is performed by painters and dockers only when naval ratings are not available from ships or depots for the purpose, and the fact that such work is carried by the award cannot preclude the use of ratings thereon.
Report of Committee
– I ask the Minister for the Army when the report of the committee appointed to investigate army detention barracks and courts-martial will be available?
– I expect that it will be available at a very early date.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is proposed to establish a peace-time security service as an adjunct to the Attorney-General’s Department. Should not such a service, if necessary, be associated with the Military Intelligence Branch? If it is proposed to establish such an organization, what are the projected functions’ of the service, how many officers will be employed, and what will be their duties?
– The Security Service established during the war performed many functions that previously had been undertaken by the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department. The work was extended greatly during the war, and hundreds of officers were ‘ employed. As soon as the Armistice was made with Japan last September, the Government and the Public Service Board appointed a committee to consider what should be done with regard to liquidating that service and war-time services generally. The reports dealt with the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Security Service, which was transferred from the Depart- ment of the Army to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in 1942. Without attempting to detail the report, I can say that its substance was that the Security Service was to be practically wound up. There was, however, some work of a security nature not complete. For instance, large numbers of enemy aliens were interned in this country during the war, and the question whether they should be allowed to stay here or be deported had to be considered. In addition, other security measures had to be continued until peace was declared. The Security Service to-day consists of very few officers. I can give the honorable gentleman the number later if he desires it. There is no intention, I assure the House, to have’ a permanent peace-time Security Service such as was necessary in wartime; nevertheless (here will have to be in the Investigation Branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department some officers whose duty will be to watch security matters in the interests of the country. ,
– As in Canada?
– As is and always has been the position in Great Britain in connexion through the Foreign Office and Scotland Yard. In all parts of the world such services exists. The exact form of the service in Australia has still to be determined, but I assure honorable members that the war-time activities of the Security Service are being wound up.
– And no new department. 3 being created.
– There will be n0 new department. The service is being brought under the chief of the Investigation
Branch, who will deal with matters that cannot yet be completed. The armistice has been signed, but there are still some problems of security that have to be dealt with by the Government.
– In view of the constitutional difficulty that prevents the Commonwealth Government from providing work for unemployed persons, what action is being taken by it to assist in the provision of work for persons registered as unemployed? Are the States kept informed of the numbers of unemployed in their areas in order that they may take action to create employment for them ?
– I do not admit the existence of any real unemployment problem at the moment, and we hope that there will not be one, but we have the machinery, which is being improved every day, by which we collaborate with the States in tabulating vacancies . and likely vacancies through work petering out, and in building up jobs for release at the right moment and in the right place to counteract any tendency towards deflation. Even this afternoon a conference was held in order to make the machinery more nearly perfect.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs seen the reported speech of the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, that the subversive activities of Russian agents in Canada were directed to obtaining information inimical to the interests of Great Britain and the United States of America ? Has he also noted that the Canadian disclosures occurred, through the voluntary confession of a member of the Russian staff in Canada? Has the right honorable gentleman made any inquiries as to the nature of the activities of foreign legations in Australia and as to whether the size of the staffs employed by them is consistent with their normal diplomatic activities?
– I have not seen the statement of the Prime Minister of Canada. I have not made inquiries as to the activities of legations accredited to this country, nor has any person, responsible or otherwise, suggested any improper activity on the part of any legation in this country.
– It was not suggested in Canada until certain persons confessed their guilt.
– I am speaking of this country. I am fairly confident that the honorable member does not mean his question too seriously, because it seems to me to be an obvious attempt at mischiefmaking.
Appointment of News Editor
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster - General whether it is a fact that a vacancy for a news editor exists in the Australian Broadcasting Commission? If so, will the Government see that the commission appoints to that vacancy a returned soldier ?
Mr.CALWELL. - I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General. I should like to add that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent body created by statute.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether it is a fact that Dr. Duncan of the University of Sydney has prepared a comprehensive report for the information of the Universities Commission in relation to adult education? If so, will the Minister make available a copy of Dr. Duncan’s report for the information of honorable members ?
– Dr. Duncan has prepared a. report for the Government on the matter mentioned by the honorable member. That report is confidential. I shall have a look at the matter in order to see whethera copy of the report can he made available to honorable members.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fart that many workers on receipt of their income tax assessments have found that they are in debt to the department, in some cases, to the amount of £30 or more? Is the Taxation Department asking that these balances be paid in a lump sum? Will the Treasurer arrange for the department to collect them in small .weekly instalments in order to ease the burden on the workers concerned?
– I do not know of specific instances. Weekly tax deductions made from salaries and wages are calculated upon the basis of fixed estimates in respect of medical expenses, - concessional deductions, &c. ; and, generally, it is estimated that of the total of taxpayers to whom assessments are issued 50 per cent. of .”taxpayers will receive refunds, whilst probably 50 per cent, will be obliged to pay an additional amount in order to meet their assessment in full. Under the pay-as-you-earn plan it is not possible to calculate with absolute accuracy the amount of tax which will ultimately be payable by each taxpayer, because certain concessional deductions and allowances which may apply in one case may not apply in another. With regard to the honorable member’s request that the department should allow taxpayers to meet their unpaid balance in weekly instalments, it has been the practice of Taxation Commissioners for many years, when a taxpayer has been able to show that he cannot afford to meet the arrears in a lump sum, to arrange for him to pay off arrears in weekly instalments agreed upon. In. some cases since I have been Treasurer the Commissioner arranged for an increase of the weekly deductions from salaries and wages, which ultimately met in full the amount which was owing on the assessment.
– In view of the fact that seeding time is close at hand for many Victorian wheat-growers, and as many of them require financial assistance, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether it has been decided to pay a subsidy to those whose crops were a complete or partial failure last season? If so, has the amount per acre of this payment been determined, and when can. the growers expect to receive the money?
– New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are the three States concerned in this matter. Recently, a committee investigated the circumstances, and the Premiers were notified that as the drought area was limited and- the effects were of a relatively restricted character, the Commonwealth Government considered that the responsibility for compensating the distressed wheat-growers belonged directly to those States.
Building Materials : Preference fob Ex-servicemen - Land Settlement in Queensland.
– In view of the many difficulties of re-establishment, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consider the institution of a scheme of preference for ex-servicemen in regard to the purchase of building materials, tools of trade and army trucks? Is the Minister aware that many ex-servicemen’s associations are pressing for this privilege? Will he have the matter thoroughly investigated?
– I have already given a great deal of consideration to this subject. The honorable member will understand that the problem is most difficult, because the Commonwealth Government’s authority in this matter is limited by the Constitution. However, I shall see whether anything further can be done to give some form of preference to exservicemen in the acquisition of building materials and other things which they require for their re-establishment.
– During the war over 6,000,000 acres of pastoral land in central Queensland reverted to the Crown, and was earmarked for settlement after the war by ex-servicemen. As there appears a likelihood of delays occurring in making these lands available for settlement because of a lack of surveyors, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction confer with the Government of Queensland with a view to getting surveyors from other States, or, if necessary, asking the Government of New Zealand to lend the services of surveyors, so that these lands may be made available for settlement as quickly as possible?
– If land settlement in Queensland is being held up because of a lack of surveyors and other trained men 1 should say that the proper course would be for the Government of thatState to make representation to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. J suggest that the honorable member ask the Queensland Government to do that.
– Last week, the Minister for the Army promised that 293 servicemen, who were stranded in Victoria, would be conveyed to their homes in Tasmania before the 21st March. That is to-morrow. I ask the Minister whether his promise to me has been honoured? If not. when does he expect that a naval vessel will convey those men to Tasmania?
– The present difficulty 3;as been caused by the shortage of shipping, but I am having inquiries made and hope to be able to give some definite information to the honorable gentleman. Unfortunately, the Army has been quite unable to obtain shipping facilities for the transport of those servicemen.
– The Minister promised that they would be conveyed to Tasmania before the 21st instant.
– To-day is not the 21st March.
– Quite! Will the Minister honour his promise?
– The honorable member has asked a question, but he does not appear to want an answer. I am satisfied that he would be the most disappointed man in the world if those servicemen were provided with transport- on the 21-st instant.
Permanent Administrative Building
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing - (1) What progress ba3 been made in the preparations for the erection of a permanent administrative building on the foundations laid near Parliament House in 1928; (2) have many major alterations been made, or are they contemplated, to the plans as originally approved by a resolution of this Parliament; (3) is the Government still bound by the condition of the original competition, in pursuance of which h Sydney firm of architects, as trustees for the estate of the successful competitor, was appointed to control the construction on the existing foundations?
– Early in 1944, when the Department of Works was under the control of the Minister for the Interior, approval was given for the alteration of the foundations, and for the erection of a larger structure than was originally intended. I shall obtain the other information sought by the honorable member and supply it to him to-morrow.
Employment -of ex-Service Trainees.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read the statement by the Secretary of the Clothing Trades Union, Mr. Wallis, published yesterday in the Melbourne press, that slow departmental procedure was holding up for from six to eight weeks, the employment of returned soldier trainees in the clothing trades? If so, in view of the urgent need to overtake arrears of supplies of civilian clothing, especially for discharged personnel, what action does the Minister propose to untangle the red tape that appears to be strangling his departmental officers?
– In the first instance, I deny absolutely that red-tape is strangling officers of my department. The question of training facilities for discharged servicemen in the clothing industry is engaging our attention constantly. There are many difficulties to overcome, and my department is doing its utmost to overcome them as early as possible. If the honorable member will cite specific cases in which undue delay has occurred, I shall have them, examined.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is true that the Jewish Welfare Society of New South Wales was granted a quota of 2,500 landing permits for members of the Jewish race, and that upon the exhaustion of that quota, a further quota was granted? I should like to know also whether any other organization, racial or religious, in this country has been granted a similar quota; If so, has the organization concerned guaranteed the good conduct and maintenance of immigrants upon entry into this country?
– It is not true that the Jewish Welfare Society of New South Wales has been granted any right to nominate persons for landing permits. It is true, however, that the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, an Australiawide organization, made representations to the former Minister for the Interior, Senator Collings. who then exercised powers under the Immigration Act, for the entry to Australia of the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, or other close relatives of people in this country, provided those relatives had been victims of Nazi oppression. I granted permission for the issue of 2,000 landing permits to persons in such close degrees of consanguinity with Australian citizens, provided that the Europeans who were to be admitted had been in such prison camps as Belsen or Buchenwald, in slave labour gangs, or were now in dispossessed family camps, or were otherwise homeless and destitute in Europe. I did that as an act of humanity. Many of the individuals concerned are the last surviving members of their families in Europe. The issue of landing permits gives them facilities for leaving occupied Europe and going to Great Britain, France) or certain other allied countries where they will await transport to Australia. It has been made clear to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the president of that body, Mr. A. Masel, has stated in the press, that none of the holders of these landing permits will be able to obtain shipping until the 6,000 priority passengers awaiting transport to Australia have been allotted accommodation. Persons in the priority classes are the wives and children of Australian servicemen who married in the United Kingdom, the fiancees of Australian servicemen, and the Australians who were stranded or marooned in England during the war years. About two years will elapse before any of the persons who have been granted landing permits will be able to leave Europe. Persons resident in Australia whose wives and children are in occupied
Europe are treated differently; they are permitted to bring their wives and children to Australia provided the security service knows nothing against them and there is no evidence of their having engaged in any subversive activity during the war. Three requirements must be fulfilled by those persons who will come to Australia in pursuance of the landing permits that have been issued : first, they must be in good health ; secondly, they must be of good character; and thirdly, the British security service must not know anything adverse in regard to them. Failure to comply with any one of those conditions will prevent the holder of a permit from coming to Australia.
– Those, who bring them here must guarantee that they will not be a burden on the State.
– I thank the Minister for that reminder. The sponsors must guarantee to be responsible for the upkeep of these migrants for a period of five years after their arrival, thus ensuring that they will not be a burden on the State. The whole purpose of the plan is to make a humanitarian gesture tothese, the most long-suffering victims of Nazi tyranny. In regard to the members of other racial or religious groups, every case is considered on its merits. Representations have been made to me by honorable members on both sides of the House, and I have tried to treat every application in a humane and sympathetic manner, requiring always the obligation thatthe person seeking a landing permit shall be able to give the assurance that the person nominated will not be a charge on the State, and also laying down the condition that there shall be no security objection by the British, Allied or other recognized authority in Europe that the person concerned has been associated inany way with Nazi or Fascist ideologies.
– Can the Minister for
Labour and National Service state approximately how many ofthe men who had entered the fighting services since the beginning of the war have been discharged, the number discharged for special occupational reasons, the number discharged since demobilization began, the number who have drawn the reemployment allowance, and the amount of that allowance?
– The figures change from day to day. Not having dissected the figures, I cannot state separately the number of each sex. A week or ten days ago, the total number of service men and women who had been discharged was 650,000. The number of special releases was between 90,000 and 100,000. The number discharged during the last three and a half or four months, since demobilization officially began, is approximately 300,000. Many ex-service men and women will not accept employment until they can obtain that which they believe to be suited to their mentality or- physical condition, whilst others change their occupation repeatedly until they find themselves satisfactorily placed. The number last week was 4,600 throughout Australia. The amount of reemployment allowance that ‘is paid during the waiting period is 50s. a week to the exserviceman, 22s. a week for his wife, and 9.3. a week for each child. This applies for a specified number of weeks, which so far has not been exceeded. Even if it were, the payment would not be stopped if. the circumstances warranted its continuance; but that contingency has not arisen, and I hope that it will not. Those who have, had to seek this relief do not constitute nearly 1 per cent, of the total number discharged.
– In the White Paper circulated by the Government relating to the Anglo-American financial discussions, detail are supplied of the settlement of lend-lease arrangements as between the Governments of the United States of America and Great Britain. I ask the Prime Minister whether there has been a similar settlement in connexion with the lend-lease arrangements between Australia and the United States of America. If not. when is it proposed that there shall be such -a settlement?
– A settlement has not, yet been reached between the United States of America and Australia, in re gard to the lend-lease goods supplied by America to this country, or the recipro-‘
Gai aid supplied by Australia to America. Negotiations have been proceeding for some time in an endeavour to reach finality. The Government has arranged that Senator Keane, Minister for Trade and Customs, whose department administers the Division of Import Procurement, shall continue the negotiations in Washington. The most that I can tell the honorable member at the moment is that that Minister informed me by telephone last week that the negotiations were proceeding, and that he hoped to reach finality at an early date.
– Oan the AttorneyGeneral say whether there was in existence in 1942 a ministerial minute to the effect that no Communists were to be interned? Further, is it a fact that during the inquiry into the internment of members of the Australia First Move: ment, the Officer in Charge of Investigations, Captain Blood, stated that there was such a minute? Will the right honorable gentleman lay upon the table the file containing the minute referred to by Captain Blood ?
– This subject was debated on Friday last, when the honorable member for New ‘England (Mr. Abbott) brought certain matters to my notice. The replies to the honorable member’s questions are: (1) No; (2) yes; (3) there is no such file. In other words, there never was a minute to the effect indicated by the honorable gentleman. When it was suggested some time ago that such a minute existed, instructions were given that a full inquiry be made. The result of the investigation, which was most precise because an inquiry was pending before Mr. Justice Clyne, was that no such minute existed. It was never produced. From .what the honorable member for New England says, I believe that Captain Blood did say that such a minute was in existence.
– What does the right honorable gentleman intend to do with Captain Blood?
– That is a different question. The honorable member asked me to produce the file. There is no such file.
– Has the. attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to a press statement that the Prime Minister of Persia intends to bring before the Security Council of the United Nations a complaint that the Soviet Government is retaining troops in Persia in contravention of treaties made between Great Britain and Persia and between the Soviet and Persia, that the troops of both Great Britain and Russia would be removed from Persia by the 1st March, 1946? Has the right honorable gentleman received any official communication from the United Nations on this subject? Can he say whether any such request has been received from the Prime Minister of Persia, and what attitude the Commonwealth Government intends to adopt towards countries which do not carry out their treaty obligations?
– In common with other honorable members, I have read press reports of the intention of the Prime Minister of Persia to bring the matter referred to before the Security Council of the United Nations. Australia is a member of the Security Council. The Commonwealth Government has not, as yet, received any intimation from the Secretary-General of the United Nations that any such matter has been raised. Should it be raised before the Security Council, the first thing that we shall do will be to try to obtain a full statement of the facts from both parties. After that, I hope that we shall aot according to the dicates of justice.
– Can the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government tobe represented at the meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations to be held in the United States of America in the near future, and, if so, who will be Australia’s representatives?
– Australia will be represented at the meeting. Its representatives will be announced shortly.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether the Commonwealth Government still controls galvanized piping? If so, will he see that the allocation of piping to the various States is strictly adhered to ? There is a grave shortage of½in. and3/4in. piping in Queensland which is delaying that State’s housing programme. Will the Minister see that Queensland receives its quota of this material?
– Galvanized piping is now under the control of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini). I understand that allocations are made, in the first instance, to the respective States, which are then responsible for the distribution of the piping. I shall ask the Minister for Works and Housing to make a statement on the subject.
Price of Goods
– Will the Minister for the Army see that the prices at which goods are sold at auction by the War Disposals Commission are not in excess of the fixed prices for such goods? It has been reported to me that goods have been sold at more than the fixed prices, so that logically the Government should institute a prosecution against itself.
– I shall look into the matter, and reply to the honorable member later.
Motion (by Mr. Chieley) proposed -
That government business shall take pre cedence over general business to-morrow.
– It is not uncommon towards the end of a session, when there is an accumulation of legislation to be disposed of, for a motion of this kind to be submitted by the Government; but I should have thought that the Prime Minister could havetold us why this early in the session, at this time of the year, and at this stage .of the Governments legislative programme, it is necessary to take away the right of private members, which belongs to them under the Standing Orders, to discuss matters of their own choosing on one day a month.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was absent from the House for the best part of last week.
– The period of my absence can hardly be described as the best part of last week. I was away for one .day, and as, on that day, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) spoke, - I should have described it as the worst part of the week. This session did not begin with, a mot-ion for the adoption of ian Address-in-Reply, which would have’ permitted a general debate by honorable members on. all subjects. It is true that it began with a. censure motion which permitted of a general discussion, but th.e debate was gagged. On Grievance Day private members have the right under the Standing Orders to embark upon a general discission, and, indeed, to move any amendment, they choose to the motion- “’ That, Mr, Speaker do now leave the Chair “. Now the Government, at the very beginning of the session, proposes to take this right away from private members. This is not because the notice-paper is crowded with bills. It is notorious that the Government was not ready with its legislative programme when it met the House. The notice-paper records the Government’s intention to introduce some half dozen bills which all appear to be related to one another. Apart from, these measures, there appears to be no reason whatever why the privilege of honorable members should be taken away from them. As a matter of fact, it is a weakness in our ]>hrliamentary procedure that private members do not have more opportunity to make considered speeches on matters outside government business. Practically thi? only opportunity for doing so is provided by moving a. formal motion for the adjournment of the House. Even on such a motion most honorable members are limited to ten minutes within which to speak, and the total time permitted for such a debate is two hours. Grievance
Day, as it is called, provides an opportunity -for a fuller discussion within a less rigid time limit.
– We sat in opposition for eighteen years, and non-Labour governments denied us such opportunities.
– If the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr.-Lazzarini) were in his customary place in opposition I am sure that he would object very strenuously to the taking away of his right to speak on Grievance Day. For the moment, he is on the box seat, and can make all the speeches he wants to. Therefore, he has no complaint. No one objects to such action as the Prime Minister (Mr.. Chifley) now proposes when it is taken at the .end of a session, and when there are many bills to be passed. When the session is drawing to a close, it is proper that government business should take precedence, but at this stage of the session such a proposal is unprecedented, and I take strong exception to it.
– I- join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in protesting against the high-handed and unjustified action of the Government, particularly at this stage of the session. As the right honorable gentleman pointed out, Grievance Day provides practically the only opportunity there is for honorable members to air grievances, and goodness knows we all have enough grievances placed before us by our constituents. . It may be argued by .honorable members on the Government side that ample opportunity has been given to criticize the Government, but I remind them that very recently the “gag” was applied while many honorable members on this side were still waiting to speak. The deputy leader of my party was denied an opportunity to speak on the censure motion, as was also the Whip. Therefore, on behalf of my party, I protest emphatically against the unfair and high-handed action of the Government, which is taking advantage of its numerical strength to override the constitutional and (leno- cratic right? of members of this House.
.- I also protest against the action of theGovernment. Private members already have few enough privileges, and I protest: against this proposal to deprive them of one of the most important. On the noticepaper there are nineteen items, and discussion of fourteen of them has been effectively blocked by your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that we cannot talk about them until they come before the House. Now, we are to be deprived of speaking on such other matters as we might have desired to discuss” to-morrow. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) why he has taken this action? Is it designed to protect the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) against criticism of his policy for the rehabilitation of servicemen? Is it designed to ‘ protect the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) against criticism of his department, or is ite purpose to protect the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) against those who could criticize the inactivity of his department? In other words, is the purpose of the motion to cover up the failures of the Ministers whose dereliction of duty has been responsible for the bungling administration of the Government? Private members have their rights in this House, and they should be afforded an opportunity to tell Ministers what they think should be done. I protest and ask the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision so that we may have an opportunity to discuss such matters as I have mentioned.
.- I object, too.
– -Use my handerchief, will you ?
– I am very surprised that the Minister has one. I object strongly to government business being given precedence. Only very minor bills dealing with taxation are listed on the notice-paper.
– Are they minor things?
– We think so.
– What about the War Service Homes Bill?
– I am referring to the bills that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) wants to have introduced, not to the War Service Homes Bill. Do not misrepresent the position. If the Prime
Minister’s motion is agreed to, many private members, particularly on the Opposition side of the chamber, will be prevented from raising a number of important matters to-morrow. I point this out without any feeling of partisanship. It is very difficult for a private member, whether he be a Government supporter or a member of the Opposition, to initiate discussion of any important matter in this House. Even a censure motion is allowed to be debated for only a limited time before the “gag” is applied by the Prime Minister or one of his colleagues. A restriction is placed upon the asking of questions without notice. The asking of questions by private members is their prerogative.
I noticed to-day that the Prime Minister was more indulgent than usual, possibly to sweeten the pill which he has just administered to us. However, on most occasions a private member is very lucky if he is allowed to ask more than one question at the commencement of a day’s sitting, and even then he frequently receives an answer such as was given to me to-day. These answers, which take the form of counter questions like, “ Can you vouch for the accuracy of your information?” or “Was it published in the press ? “, are not informative. Ministers ought to be thankful when private members ask helpful questions about the affairs of their departments. There are many subjects about which the people of this democracy are indignant with the Government. Can anybody say that the Minister for Transport (Mr.. Ward), who proposes to standardize railway gauges and to pull down the airlinessystem to the level of efficiency of the New South Wales railways service, hasfull knowledge of all subjects that comeunder his jurisdiction?
– Order! The question before the Chair is the motion, submitted by the Prime Min’ster.
– I emphasize that every member of Parliament, whether he be n< new member, an old. member. -an exMinister, or’ a Minister, is entitled, to beheard in the legislature. If he cannot, speak on important subjects which come to his attention, this place ceases to be a. deliberative assembly. The Labour party,, which is* nin on the caucus system, has its decisions made off-stage and prevents this House from fulfilling its true purpose as the debating centre of the nation. The Prime Minister will do an injustice to ali private members if he insists on forcing his motion through the House. He should not prS3 on with it.
– Usually the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is a reasonable gentleman. That is something which he and I have in common. However, this House has only recently reassembled after the longest break that I have experienced in nearly twelve years as a member of this Parliament. We were absent from Canberra for five months. It stands to reason that during that time the Government must have committed certain administrative acts to which even some of my constituents will take .exception. Opportunities for raising objections to the Government’s conduct of the nation’s affairs are extremely restricted at the best of times. We are not permitted to express complaints at length at question time because we are severely confined by the forms of the House. Very little purpose is served by raising them on the motion for the adjournment of the House at the end of each day’s sitting. I understand that for a long time it was the practice for Ministers to be present in the chamber when the daily motion for adjournment was submitted, so that they could give personal attention to matters raised by members of the Opposition and perhaps by other members brave enough to speak critically of the Government. That custom has died out, and I very much regret the fact. Parliament has been in recess for five months, during which time one would expect the Government, which is’ committed to great economic, social and financial changes, to have prepared a number of urgent bills. The fact is that the Government is not ready to go on with any of the important matters which it is supposed to have in hand. The bills already on the notice-paper are of the type that come before Parliament every year, and their effects will not be farreaching or vital. I want to discuss a number of important matters in this House. I have already stated, by interjection, that I want to refer to the case of the two “ Frankenstein brothers “ who left this Parliament recently. I have not had an opportunity to do so. I was prevented from speaking on the want of confidence motion, with the result that possibly one of the best speeches I had ever prepared was wasted. The Prime Minister should pay attention to our objections, because honorable members have a duty to express the;r views and the views of electors. If the Government proposes to monopolize the business of the Parliament, motions placed on the notice-paper by private members will never be debated. I understand that it will be the birthday of the Minister for Transport to-morrow, and in no circumstances would he like the Opposition to be in a happy mood’ on that anniversary. He would like us to be full of complaints, and therefore he, at any rate, should use his influence with the Prime Minister to see that we are given the opportunity to do at least a little plain speaking on that momentous occasion.
.- In voicing objections to the Prime Minister’s motion, we on this side of the House do so not simply because we are. in Opposition, but because we want to maintain ‘ the privileges of Parliament itself. If we gave way in this, matter without protest, the day would come when Ministers and their supporters would bitterly regret that Ave did so. Government supporters have said that when they were in opposition, they were subjected to the same restrictions as the Prime Minister now proposes to impose upon us. That is not a reason why the curtailment of private members’ rights should be condoned by any political party. Private members’ functions in Parliament, under existing conditions, are of” no great consequence. Grievance Day provides one of the few opportunities for us to voice the grievances of the people who have sent us to this Parliament as their representatives. The fact that the Government may take little cognizance of such grievances does not affect the issue. The important fact is that we have been elected for the purpose of airing them. I very much regret that the Prime. Minister is using the undoubted power that he has by virtue of the Labour majority in this Parliament to whittle down further the privileges of all honorable members. I say all honorable members because this deprivation affects not only members of the Opposition but also many members on the Government side who, I have no doubt, have things that they would like to say, not necessarily critical of the Government but in order to attract attention to them on behalf of their constituents. I tell the Prime Minister that cutting out Grievance Day will not mean a great saving of time. Honorable members, in the long run, will resort to the unpopular method of talking on the adjournment late at night if unable to exercise their rights at the proper, time. I hope that the Prime Minister will not deprive us of this opportunity to express grievances to-morrow.
– in reply - Now that all the sound and fury has died down, I must say that I’ am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did not realize that the motion is, “ That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow “. That does not cut out Grievance Day.
– Oh, well.
– So, it is really a case of much ado about nothing.
– It is a warning of what will happen if the Prime Minister does try to cut out Grievance Day.
– I have learned to exercise patience in this House.
– Private business is listed for to-morrow.
– I agree. ‘Government business will take precedence over general business, and honorable members with business on the notice-paper will not have the opportunity to discuss it, but that will not deprive honorable members generally of the opportunity to debate grievances.
– The right honorable gentleman will notuse his numbers to stop the debate at 9 p.m.?
– If the honorable gentleman feels inclined for it, perhaps the debute could continue a little later, but I have not seen any great inclination on the part of honorable members to stay here late. However, if it is the wish of the House, we can go on to 1 or 2 a.m. I rose merely to explain that this motion does not deprive honorable members of ‘ Grievance Day. I did not have the opportunity to do so before.
– Why not?
– I should have been closing the debate. I now assure honorable members that they will have their opportunity to grieve.
– Before I put the question, I think I ought to make some reference to the statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that the House has been debarred by a ruling of mine from discussing certain questions on the noticepaper. The House is not prevented by any ruling of mine from discussing questions on the notice-paper. Standing Order 274 is quite clear. It reads -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion-
This is the important part - nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
There is only one ruling that could be given on that. The Standing Orders prevent honorable members from anticipating discussion of matters on the notice-paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave begiven to bring ina bill for anact to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to States, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by lea-ve - I move -
Thatthe bill be now reada second time.
In 1942 the (Commonwealth Government established uniform income taxation for the period of the war and one full financial year thereafter. Later in 1942, the Commonwealth legislation - consisting of the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act, the Income Tax (Rates) Act, the Income Tax (Assessment) Act and theIncome Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act - was unsuccessfully challenged in the High Court, of Australia by four of the State Governments. The High Court found that, quite apart from the defence power, the Commonwealth could enforce priority in the collection of its taxation and make grants to States on the condition that they vacated the field of taxation on, for example, incomes. Following this litigation the Commonwealth, in agreement with the States concerned, established uniform entertainment; taxation on a similar basis. After considering the views expressed by the State Premiers, both before and during the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held last January, the Commonwealth Government decided that uniform income taxation should bc continued permanently.
Prior to 1942 the many separate and widely differing State and Commonwealth taxation laws caused the individual taxpayer much confusion, complexity, and, in some cases, inequity. There were 26 different taxes on incomes. These laws involved different income tax returns, different rates, different methods of determining taxable income, and different concessional allowances. On the other hand’, under uniform taxation there is only one income-Taxing authority, and conditions are uniform for taxpayers in all States of the Commonwealth. A taxpayer with the same income and the same family responsibilities pays the same tax, no matter in which State he resides. An effective pay-as-.you-earn system of collection of income tax is also practicable. From the point of view of the taxpayer, the abandonment of uniform taxation is unthinkable. Furthermore, prior to uniform taxation, the Commonwealth’s taxation policy was hampered by the difficulty of .imposing uniform Commonwealth rates of income tax on top of widely differing rates of State taxation. If uniform taxation were abandoned, (his difficulty would again be encountered because the Commonwealth’s financial commitments arising from the war and from new peace-time responsibilities require income tax rates much higher than before the war. Because of its financial commitments the Commonwealth must also remain in the field of entertainments taxation. At the same time the Government recognizes that the reimbursement grants fixed in 1942 will not be adequate to the Sta-tes’ responsibilities in peacetime, and it proposes to increase the reimbursement payments.
To implement these decisions the Government is now proposing appropriate amendments to the Income Tax (Assessment) Act 1936-1945, the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act 1942-44, the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund Act 1922-1945, the Entertainments Tax (Rates) Act 1942, and the Entertainments Tax (Assessment) Act 1942-1944. I shall deal with these proposed amendments at the appropriate time. The purpose of this bill is to provide for the increased reimbursement grants.
At the Premiers Conference last January, the Premiers of the -States opposed in principle the establishment of uniform taxation on a permanent basis. Nevertheless they agreed to discuss the basis of reimbursement to be adopted should the Commonwealth proceed with its legislation and, after lengthy and detailed discussions between the Premiers and myself and between Commonwealth and State officials unanimous agreement on this aspect was finally reached. The bill now presented ‘.o the House embodies the terms of that agreement.
– The agreement related to the amount of the reimbursement. The Premiers did noi abandon their objection in principle.
– No ; the Premiers made it clear that they were opposed to the continuance of uniform tax, and the only point upon which they came to agreement was with respect to reimbursement.
Under the present legislation, separate tax reimbursement grants are paid to each State concerned in respect of income tax and entertainments tax, respectively. It is now proposed to combine these payments, so that as from the 1st July, 1946, the reimbursement in respect of both income tax and entertainments tax will be covered by the one grant. For this reason, and also because of the substantial amendments involved in the new method of calculating the grants, the
Government considers it preferable to repeal the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942- and the States Grants (Entertainments Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 and to submit an entirely new bill.
As at present, the payment of the reimbursement grant in any year to any State will be subject to the condition that the State has not imposed in that year a tax upon incomes. Although the Commonwealth will continue to impose a tax on entertainments, the payment of the grant to any State will not be conditional -on that State refraining from imposing a tax on entertainments. This is because, unlike the uniform income tax arrangements, the present scheme of uniform entertainments taxation was originally -established under an agreement with the States concerned that it should not continue for more than twelve months after the war. Any State is therefore free to re-enter the field of entertainments taxation without prejudicing its right to a tax reimbursement grant.
I turn now to the aggregate grant to be paid by the Commonwealth and its distribution between the . States. The present grants are fixed at the average Collections of income tax and entertainments tax by the States in the years 1939-40 and 1940-41. The existing legislation also provides that a State may seek an increase of its reimbursement grant if that grant is insufficient to meet its revenue requirements in any year. Under the latter provision an additional amount of £553,000 was paid to South Australia in respect of 1944-45, but, in general, the grants have proved sufficient for the war-time requirements of the States.
The Commonwealth Government recognizes, however, that the basis of present fax reimbursement grants is unsatisfactory for inclusion in a permanent scheme of uniform taxation. First, some imme- diate increase in the grants is necessary to cover. a prospective deterioration in State finances, due, not only to the gradual disappearance of war-time opportunities for economy and of the indirect assistance to State revenues arising out of Commonwealth war expenditure, but ako to the increased level of wages and prices, and “to the increasing responsibilities of the States in the field of social services. Secondly, some automatic provision -for subsequent variations in the grants, not involving special applica.tions each year, is desirable to cover variations in inescapable State commitments due to increasing population and to movements in the levels of prices and wages. Thirdly, some variation in the present distribution of the total grant between the States has become necessary. The existing distribution is based on relative taxation collections in 1939-40 and 3940-41, and its continuance would prevent certain States from bringing their social and other services into line with those prevailing in other States.
Accordingly, the Government proposes that the aggregate grant should be £40,000,000 in each of the years 1946-47 and 1947-48.
– Could the right honorable gentleman make’ available to honorable members the formula upon which the aggregate grant was arrived at?
– I am having a statement on that matter prepared for distribution to honorable members. I regret that it has not been possible to issue it to-day. This is an increase of £5,745,000 on the present total, but after taking account of the increased needs of the States to which I have already referred, and of the reduction of the special grants under section 96 of the Constitution which may be expected to follow the increase of more than £2,000,000 in the reimbursement grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, I am satisfied that the increase is not excessive.
In 1948-49 and subsequent ‘years the aggregate grant will be £40,000,000, increased in proportion to the. increase in population and then further increased by half the percentage increase, if any, in average wages per person employed overthe level in 1946-47. The reason for the population adjustment is self-evident. The adjustment for movements in the “ wage “ index brings into account the variations in State commitments which follow variation^ in the level of wages and prices. The Commonwealth and State statistical officers have advised that the “ wage “ index is the best, currently available index for this purpose. The adjustment is limited to half the percentage increase in this index, because some State expenditures do not vary with levels of prices and wages. Honorable members will note that the provisions relating to the variation of the aggregate grant are framed so as to ensure that the States will, in the aggregate, receive at least £40,000,000 increased in proportion to population.
With regard to the distribution of the aggregate grant between States, the bill provides that in 1946-47 and 1947-48 the amount for each State will be as set out in the first schedule. The Premiers agreed to this distribution as approximating to their relative financial needs in those years. Thereafter, the intention is to progress by stages to a position where the aggregate grant is distributed between the States in proportion to their respective populations, after adjustments to take into account relative sparsity of population and numbers of school children. These adjustments are made because of the greater costs of administration and social services in sparsely populated areas, and because of the high cost of education for school children. The distribution will not be made solely on the basis of adjusted population until 1957-58. In the intervening years a gradually diminishing part of the aggregate grant will be distributed in the proportions in which the aggregate grant of £40,000,000 is distributed in 1946-47 and 1947-48, and a gradually increasing part in proportion to the adjusted populations of the States. In 1948-49 90 per cent.- of the aggregate grant will be distributed in accordance with the 1946-47 proportions, in 1949-50 80 per cent., with a similar reduction of 10 per cent, in each of the succeeding years.
As at present, the grants to each State will be reduced by the amount of any arrears of income tax which are collected by or on behalf of the. State during any year. If the States should ever decide to forgo the Commonwealth grants and to reimpose their own taxes on incomes an amount equal to these arrears, less any refunds of taxation made by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Stales, will be paid to the States. This provision continues the arrangements under the existing legislation except that interest will not accrue after the end of this financial year.
As I have already mentioned, under section 6 of the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942, a State may seek additional financial assistance in any year if the tax reimbursement grantsare insufficient to meet the State’s revenue requirements in that year. With fixed grants this provided a necessary element of flexibility. The basis of reimbursement grants now proposed should prove sufficiently flexible to meet the futurerevenue requirements of the Slates, and accordingly the Government, does not propose to continue the provision. I should add that if, in special circumstances, any State does require further financial assistance from the Commonwealth, application may :be made by that State for a special grant under section 96 of the Constitution.
It is understood that South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are making application under section 6 of the existing Act for additional financial assistance in -respect of the present financial year. Accordingly, in order that the .Commonwealth Grant3 Commission may, if necessary, make recommendations on such applications after the 30th June, 1946, and to enable any payments that may be necessary in respect of 1945-46 to be made after the date, sections 6 and 7 of the present act will be preserved temporarily for this purpose.
I am hopeful that the basis of tax reimbursement grants set out in this bill will not require amendment for many years. Nevertheless, at the Premiers Conference, it was agreed that, in the interests both of the Commonwealth and of the States, it was desirable to set out. the circumstances in which a review of the basis of tax reimbursement grants could be sought. The understanding between the Premiers and myself is that a. review of the method of determining the aggregate grant and its distribution may be sought at any time after the expiration of seven years from the 1st July, 1946, by either the Commonwealth or a State Government. ~If, however, there is a. major change in CommonwealthState relations having an effect on State finances caused, for example, by
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given tobring in abill for an act to provide for the appointment to or employment in the Commonwealth Service of certain State employees, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act in order to permit officers of State income tax departments to be appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service. The bill is one of a number which will be required to implement the Government’s decision to establish the Commonwealth as the sole authority for the assessment and collection of income tax from the 1st July, 1916. The present arrangements under which the Commonwealth is the sole income tax collecting authority were made in 1942’. As part of those arrangements, the staff which had been employed by the States for the purpose of collecting income tax, were transferred to the employment of the Commonwealth. They were, however, only temporarily transferred, because the uniform taxation arrangements which were introduced in 1942, were designed to cover only the war-time period. The Government considers that, if the Commonwealth is now to be established as the sole income tax collecting authority, the staff employed on that work should now be given the opportunity of transferring permanently to the Commonwealth.
The bill which I now submit for the consideration of honorable members, therefore, sets out the manner in which the transfer of staff will be effected and the conditions under which the staff will be employed by the Commonwealth. Broadly, the bill seeks to appoint or to employ each member of the staff with remuneration not lower than he received in the service of the State. The right to recreation leave accrued to a State employee at the time of his transfer to the Commonwealth Service will be preserved, and continuous service by such an officer witha State and the Commonwealth will be reckoned as service with the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The bill does not require any employee to transfer from the service of the State to that of - the Commonwealth. Each employee will be invited to accept employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. A permanent officer of the State service will be eligible for appointment as a permanent officer of the Commonwealth service. A temporary employee of the State will be offered temporary employment with the Commonwealth.
– Many temporary State employees will be given an opportunity under this legislation to become temporary employees of the Commonwealth. But although they are at present temporary employees of a State, their employment is really of a substantially permanent character. If they are transferred to the Commonwealth as temporary officers, they can be dismissed at three or four weeks’ notice.
– I agree that a great number of difficulties exist, but I inform the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that a series of conferences on these subjects have been taking place between representatives of the officers concerned, and the Public
Service Commissioner and the Commissioner of .Taxation. We are endeavouring to’ smooth out as far as possible all difficulties which might tend to create an injustice. I am not able, at this juncture, to deal with all the details, because the conferences extended over a number of days; but it is hoped that, in general, no officer shall suffer any disability as the result of this change. I shall examine the point raised by the honorable member for Warringah that although many of the State officers concerned are classed as temporary employees, they enjoy virtually permanent, status.
– Some have been employed in a temporary capacity ‘ for seventeen years.
– -.Some employees in the Commonwealth are in precisely the same position.
– But the temporary employees of the States, who may become temporary employees of the Commonwealth, can be dismissed .much more easily after they have transferred.
– I shall examine that point.
As well as those employees who are at the present time employed in income cax offices, the right of transfer to the Commonwealth service will extend to any State income tax officer who is now a member of the forces, and to any State income-tax officer who is at the present time employed on other duties. The right will also extend to the small staff which has been loaned to the Commonwealth in some States for duties connected with, the collection of entertainments tax. An officer who is a member of the forces or who is absent from the income tax office because of his. employment on other duties will be offered appointment with the Commonwealth under conditions which would have applied to him if he had remained on duty in the income tax office.
The bill states that the provisions of any law providing for preference in employment to ex-servicemen shall not apply in relation to appointments which are made under the provisions of the bill. This is proposed because there is clearly a difference between appointments to be made under the provisions of this bill and appointments made to the Commonwealth service in the normal way. The appointment of officers under this bill will be, in effect, a transfer en bloc of State officers to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies)/ adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1945.
Bil] presented, and read a first time.
– byleave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to extend toState taxation officers, who are to betaken over by the Commonwealth, the same conditions in regard to superannuation as were granted last year toState officers appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service in connexion with the Commonwealth Employment Service.. The conditions give to a State officer theoption of electing to pay -to the Commonwealth Superannuation Board the refund of contributions which will be received; by him from the State fund and to continue to contribute to the Commonwealth, fund at 4he same rate as he contributed, to the State fund for such pension benefits under the Commonwealth act as theCo mm on wealth Actuary certifies areequivalent to his State rights. If hedecides to retain his refund of contributions from the State fund he will comeunder the Commonwealth act as a new contributor at rate for age next birthdayas at the date of appointment and besubject to medical examination. Where a State officer has gratuity rights instead Of superannuation rights, the gratuity rights will be preserved to him under thePublic Service Act. He may, if he sodesires, convert such rights into a pension under the Superannuation Act. Theamendment will also protect the superannuation rights of other State officerswh’o may from time to time be appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service,, with the exception of any officer whose- appointment is the result of competitive examination for admission to the Commonwealth Public Service. Opportunity is also being taken to amend the provisions of the act relating to payments from the Provident Account, by restricting the minimum payment of six months’ salary to cases of retirement on invalidity or retrenchment or death in the service. The restriction will apply only to persons who become contributors to the Provident Account after the enactment of this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act 1942-1944.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to repeal certain sections of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act. The act was passed in 1942, and was one of the measures which authorized the uniform taxation arrangements which were adopted at that time. It will be recalled that under the uniform taxation arrangements the Commonwealth, took over the income tax organizations of the States for the duration of the war. The transfer of those organizations was effected by the Income Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Act, which provided for the temporary transfer to the Commonwealth of the income tax staff, office accommodation, furniture, equipment and records of the various States. The act also authorized the suspension of agreements which existed between the Commonwealth and the States for the collection by the States of Commonwealth income tax.
In another measure which the Government has submitted to the House, it is proposed to arrange for members of the State income tax staffs to be appointed permanently or temporarily to the Commonwealth service according to their status in the State service. The appointment of those officers to the Commonwealth service will terminate their temporary transfer under the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act, and, consequently, the provisions of that act which relate to the temporary transfer of staff to the Commonwealth will no longer be necessary. This bill, therefore, seeks to repeal the sections of the act which provide for the temporary transfer of staff and which set. out the conditions under which the staff are employed by the Commonwealth. As it is proposed to appoint the officers concerned to the Commonwealth service from the 1st July, 1946, the repeal of those sections will take effect on that date. In repealing those sections, the bill proposes that the officer who is at present temporarily transferred to the service of. the Commonwealth will retain his right to be reinstated in the service of the State upon the termination of his temporary transfer. It proposes to retain, also, theliability which the act placed upon the Commonwealth to reimburse the States for amounts contributed by the States to superannuation funds established for the benefit of those officers.
Those sections of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act which relate to the transfer to the Commonwealth of office accommodation, furniture and equipment, and to the agreements under which the States previously collected Commonwealth income tax, are not being repealed at this stage. At the present time negotiations are proceeding between the Commonwealth and the States for the purchase by the Commonwealth of the office accommodation, furniture and equipment, or for their continued use by the Commonwealth.
Action has been taken to terminate from the 31st August, 1946. the agreements for the collection by the States of Commonwealth income tax. Negotiations are proceeding with the States for an earlier termination of the agreements. Under the circumstances it is not proposed to repeal the relevant section of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal section 29 of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act 1942-1944.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now ird a second time.
This bill proposes that section 29 of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act should be repealed. Section £9 sets a term to the operation of the act and provides for it to continue in operation until the end of the first financial year after the end of the war. The effect of the bill, therefore, is to remove the time limit which has been placed on the operation of -the act and to give indefinite operation to the act. When the act was passed in 1942 arrangements were made with the Governments of those States which had been imposing an entertainments tax, for the field to be vacated by the States in order that the Commonwealth might impose and collect one uniform entertainments tax throughout Australia. The States were compensated for the loss of entertainments tax revenue by a grant from Commonwealth revenue. The arrangements were, in fact, based on those which had been enacted for uniform income taxation. As the legislation for uniform income taxation was expressed to expire at the end of the first financial year after the war, the same expiry date was adopted in the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act. In view of its present financial’ responsibilities, the Government proposes to continue in the entertainments tax field, and has made provision in the States Grants (Income Tax and Entertainments Tax Reimbursement) Bill for reimbursement payments in respect of both income tax and entertainments tax.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1930-1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - :I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which I now bring before honorable members does not propose any radical changes in the law relating to income tax. Its principal provisions are designed simply to allow, within the existing structure of the Income Tax Assessment Act, certain concessions to taxpayers which the Government believes to be a practical contribution to the solution of the post-war problems confronting industry. These amendments are designed to help in the building up and improving of Australian industry, and to encourage the bettering of industrial conditions.
– Does that include primary i ndustri es ?
– Yes, all industries. The most important of the concessions to” which I refer - taking them in the order in which they appear in the bill - are the allowance of .an additional depreciation deduction in respect of expenditure on amenities provided for employees ; the allowance of a special depreciation deduction in respect of property such as plant and machinery acquired during the post-war period; the allowance of a deduction or rebate of tax in respect of expenditure on research; and, the allowance of a tax credit in relation to expenditure incurred in reconverting businesses from war-time to peacetime production.
During 1945, representations were made to the Government by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures for certain modifications of the income tax law. The Government was anxious to explore the possibility of adopting any useful suggestions. Accordingly, a .conference was arranged between Government representatives and representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. The proposals put forward by the manufacturers were weighed and examined with the utmost care. Whilst it was not possible to accept all the suggestions which were made, the amendments to which 1 have referred above are founded on the recommendations of the Government’s representatives at the conference and represent a contribution towards reconstruction and a practical form of encouragement to the business community.
I turn now to a consideration of the proposals in more specific terms. In clauses 7 and 8 provision is made for the allowance of depreciation on certain amenities provided for employees by taxpayers who are engaged in business. In respect of some fixtures and fittings not at present subject to depreciation, normal rates of depreciation will be allowed. Other amenities for employees will- be depreciated at a rate of 33-J per cent. These provisions are a recognition of the important part which good conditions for employees play in the conduct of a business, and are intended to encourage employers to provide modern and hygienic facilities for their staffs.
Clause 9 proposes an amendment that is designed to assist in the expansion and establishment of businesses in the immediate post-war period. The Government proposes to provide a special initial depreciation deduction of 20 per cent, of cost in respect of plant and machinery acquired during the period from the 1st July, 1945, to the 30th June, 1950, for the benefit, at their option, of all taxpayers in business-, including primary producers. Depreciation at ordinary rates will also be allowed, in the year in which the plant is acquired or installed, but will, of course, be calculated on cost less the special allowance. I may add that the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa have also found it desirable to allow a similar concession. Their deduction rates range from 10 per cent, to 20 ner cent, of cost.
The Government also proposes an amendment to provide for an additional deduction in respect of amounts expended on scientific research for business purposes. The importance of scientific research in its bearing on industry can hardly be overstated. It is of the utmost importance’ in the development of the nation’s resources, and the allowance of an income tax deduction is being granted in the hope that research for business purposes will be encouraged and that Australian industry will be enabled to take fuller advantage of the opportunities which modern scientific discoveries offer. Under these proposals, certain research expenditure of a capital nature will be allowed as a deduction. In addition, payments to an approved research institute will be allowed as a deduction provided the research is related to the business of the taxpayer. Within certain necessary limits, expenditure incurred on buildings for research purposes will be allowed over three years, and depreciation will be allowable in respect of plant used for research at a rate of 33^ per cent. Provision is made elsewhere in the bill for concessions in respect of gifts made by companies and individuals to the same research institutions.
Clause 19 embodies another proposal that is designed to assist in -the reestablishment of industry. It refers particularly to these businesses which were converted during the war to purposes primarily connected with the prosecution of the war and are now under the necessity of reconverting to peace-time production. Under the present law, business expenditure which is allowable as a deduction is deductible from the income of the year in which the expenditure is incurred. Allowable expenditure which is incurred in reconverting a business from war-time to peace-time production is accordingly deductible from post-war income. The Government takes the view that where a business has engaged- in war production, the cost of converting that business to peace-time production should fairly be charged against war-time income. In this way, the deduction would be allowed at war-time instead of peacetime rates of tax. Therefore, provision will be made for an allowance in respect of expenditure incurred before the 1st July, 1947, in reconverting plant and machinery, and losses sustained before that date as a result of selling or scrapping plant which had been subjected to excessive wear and tear during the war years. The. allowance will take .the form of a credit of tax in post-war assessments, and will be equal to the reduction of income tax which the taxpayer would obtain if the reconversion expenditure and losses had been deducted from income of the year ended onthe 30th June, 1945, instead of from income of the later year in which they were incurred. The Government proposes to supplement these measures by providing a concession for the benefit of visiting industrial experts, technicians and Others from overseas. This, it is hoped, will enable Australian industry to obtain the best possible advice and assistance from overseas in the task of development.
So far, I have been dealing with those clauses which have a particular bearing on the problems of reconstruction. The post-war period, however, has raised other problems which impinge upon the sphere of taxation. The cessation of hostilities and subsequent events have made it necessary fort he Government to review those income tax provisions which relate particularly to members of the Defence Force. As honorable members are aware, the special sacrifices of those who served with the forces during the war have been recognized in some degree by means of income tax concessions. At present, all members of the forces enjoy exemption in respect of pay and allowances earned out of Australia, and those members who serve outside Australia for a specified period also enjoy retrospective exemption of pay and allowances earned in Australia for periods of up to two years prior to their departure. Personnel who qualify for the retrospective exemption are also entitled to exemption of pay and. allowances earned in Australia during the three months followingtheir return to duty here. Dependants’ allowances and deferred pay are also exempt. The Government considers that there is no longer warrant for extending exemption to members who go abroad in respect of pay and allowances which have been or will be earned in Australia, or for providing exemption in respect of pay and allowances at peace-time rates, and it proposes that in future - (a) exemption shall apply only to pay and allowances, whether earned in or out of Australia, which are at the special war-time rates; (b) exemption shall apply to pay and allowances earned in Australia by mem bers of the occupation and interim forces who volunteered for service with those forces on or before the date of the announcement of the Government’s decision to modify the taxation concessions provided for members of the forces -that is, the 13th February, 1946 - but shall not apply to members who volunteer to serve withthat force after that date, (c) that exemptions shall cease oil and after the1st July, 1947; (d) that the exemption in respect of deferred pay shall belimited in the same manner, and (e) that the special diminishing deduction of £250 allowed to members of the Defence Force in Australia and certain civilian personnel attached to the forces, as well as to the merchant marine, will continue to apply up to the 30th June, 1947. I emphasize that the new provisions will not operate so as to deprive members of the forces of any concessions under the existing law for which they have already qualified. Dependants’ allowances paid by the Government will continue to be exempt as hitherto.
Benefits for ex-sservicemen are proposed by clauses 5 and 21. Under the first provision, exemption will be granted to exservice personnel in respect of certain allowances which are payable while they are awaiting re-employment. Exservicemen who are vocational trainees will benefit in two ways ; they will be brought under the scheme of payment of tax by instalments, and they will be allowed, inrespect of living-away-from-home- allowances, the same deduction as employees who receive such allowances; that is to say, they will be assessed on livingawayfromhome allowances only to the amount of 15s. a week.
Clause 20 relates to the priority of the Commonwealth over the States in the matter of the payment of income tax. This amendment is a part of the Government’s plan to make uniform income tax permanent.
The few remaining clauses do not call for comment at this stage. Apart from those clauses which deal with purely technical matters, or amendments consequent on alterations which I have already discussed, provision is made for the exempting of unemployment and sickness benefits, and of premiums paid in respect of Grown leases that are used for residential purposes only. Another amendment relates to the collection of income tax on bearer debenture interest in certain instances.
The technical aspects of the proposed amendments are more fully explained in the explanatory memorandum which is being circulated to honorable members. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act 1040-1944.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is complementary to the Income Tax Assessment Bill. The latter contains provisions for the allowance of a tax credit in respect of reconversion expendi-. ture incurred by a taxpayer in the years ended the 30th June, 1946 and 1947. “ The object of the allowance of a tax credit is to place a taxpayer who incurs reconversion expenditure in the years referred to in the same position as if the expenditure had been incurred and allowed as a deduction in the assessment of his taxable income for the year ended the 30th June, 1945. The proposal was explained in more detail in my second-reading speech when introducing the Income Tax Assessment Bill and in the explanatory memorandum circulated to honorable members in connexion with that bill. Public companies are subject to war-time company tax as well as to income tax and it is proposed to allow a tax credit of war-time company tax on the same principle as is being adopted for income tax purposes. It will be noted by honorable members that provision is made in the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment, Bill to apply the appropriate provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The credit of income tax and the credit of war-time company tax will, therefore, be ascertained on a uniform basis.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
. -I move -
That the tax imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1942-1944 continue to be imposed without the limitation on the period of its operation contained in section6 of that act.
The purpose of this resolution is to provide that the operation of the Entertainments Tax Act 1942-1944, which imposed uniform rates of entertainments tax, shall not be limited in point of time. The need for the continued imposition of entertainments tax by the Commonwealth has already been explained to honorable members. Section 6 of the Entertainments Tax Act 1942-44 limited the imposition of entertainments tax by the Commonwealth to the close of the first financial year to commence after the cessation of the war. In view of the Government’s decision to continue entertainments taxation, the resolution seeks the repeal of that section. No” other amendments of the act are contemplated, and there will be no variation in theexisting rates of entertainments tax as a result of this measure. As explained in the course of my introduction of another measure forming a part of the scheme of uniform taxation, a State may enter the field of entertainments taxation without being subject to a reduction in the reimbursement grant proposed under the States Grants (Income Tax and Entertainments Tax Reimbursement) Bill.
Debate resumed from the1 3th March. (vide page 206), on motion by Dr.. Evatt -
That the following paper be printed: -
, has, of necessity, covered a vast field. If debate is to be useful it is idle for the rest of us to endeavour to go over the whole of the ground. I therefore propose, within the limits of reasonable parliamentary time, to concentrate upon those aspects of international affairs - particularly as they touch the European settlement - which are of immediate and urgent importance. The Minister stated three basic principles of Australian policy with respect to Europe. The first of them was that Australia, as a belligerent in the European war, is entitled to participate fully in decisions relating to the European peace settlement ; and that the establishment of a just and democratic peace in Europe is essential to the security of Britain and all British Dominions. The second was that while the leadership of the three major powers is accepted, other directly interested belligerents must be brought into consultation on important peace arrangements, especially those affecting territorial adjustments. The third was that we must consistently maintain the right of all active belligerents to a full share in the framing of the peace.
These principles will not provoke controversy unless they contain an assumption that Australia is a completely separate nation, which may regard all its international problems from a purely individual point of view. If it is true, as I believe, and the Minister himself stated, that “ we cannot -contract out of Europe “, it is equally true that we must not contract out of the British Empire. Great Britain is one of the three major powers whose leadership is accepted, largely because of its position at the head of a family of nations. I want to emphasize that. It is all too frequently forgotten that if Great Britain and each of the Dominions is to pursue its path on these foreign matters as if completely independent, of the others, as if they were completely separate nations, then not only will such action diminish the real value of our own voice, because we lose the benefit of the family association, but if will most seriously diminish the strength which Great Britain itself can exercise, because its strength is not merely that of 45,000,000 people in one quarter of the world, but of a vast association of people all over the world. In respect of all international councils and conferences, therefore, the fullest pre-consultation should occur between Great Britain and the Dominions, with a view to a joint policy. It is no answer to this to say that a British Empire bloc is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter or organization, or that it may provoke counter-blocs. Honorable members have read in the press observations criticizing the idea of an Empire bloc.
I believe that a strong and cohesive British Empire is vital to the success of the United Nations, and that the special association, organic and functional, of the British Empire countries is so unique and so utterly distinguished from temporary alliances or groups, that to refer to it as a “ bloc “ is to ignore its history and to falsify its true character. The rest of the. world, though it has understood this association imperfectly, has for many years recognized it by accepting Empire preference as not inconsistent with the most-favoured-nation clause in international trade treaties. The basic defect of the Australian Government’s policy or, at any rate, the policy of the present Minister for External Affairs, is’ - in practice and probably also in theory - that it aims at utter independence of Australian thought and action - which, for 7,000,000 people in a remote island continent is more pretentious than sensible - as if no special British relationship existed at all.
I turn now to say something about the United Nations organization. Last week the right honorable gentleman rather took some of us to task - not by name, but in substance - for having referred to the United ^Nations organization as experimental. I confess freely that on more than one occasion I have contrasted the experimental qualitv of that organization with the tried quality, over a very long period and under all sorts of difficulties, of the British Empire association. The United Nations organization is unquestionably “an experiment”, though it is one which strives towards an ideal which is supported by all decent humanity. It is experimental in the sense that, if used wrongly or approached in the wrong way, its Council may turn out to be little more than an angry debating society enjoying a world audience, but emphasizing and exacerbating international divisions ; whilst, if used as an instrument of collaboration with constant emphasis upon the absolute importance of peace and international justice and tolerance, it can help in the deliverance of mankind from the scourge. Let me elaborate this a little. We all suffer from the temptation to treat an international peace organization as if it were an organic structure, with legislative and executive arms, able to legislate, to judge, and to enforce. There is a further temptation, as wc saw before the war, to treat the problem of national security as more or less disposed of by the creation of a league and the contractual entry into the obligations of a charter. This is a dangerous fallacy. In the present instance the Charter, whilst it deals with many matters, leaves untouched the relations between the Great Powers. They, with some others, meet in the Security Council in what is in reality a conference, with facilities for discussion but with no major obligations or commitments. What is described as “ the veto “ amounts to nothing more than this - that in this conference no major power is subject to compulsion, and that the only pressure is that of argument or of world opinion. I pause here to s.ay that when I refer to the veto I refer to something which is there. I do not desire to go back to the discussion as to whether there should be any recognition of a veto. That matter was fully thrashed out at San Francisco. It became clear that some of the Great Powers would not find their way into this scheme unless the power of veto were reserved to them.
– Can there be discussion ?
Mr. -MENZIES.- There can be discussion, but no decisions in the presence of opposition from the power concerned. I refer to that >as something which is there- something which the Minister foi External Affairs regrets, since he fought against it. But it is there, because it was one of the conditions on which the Charter itself came into existence. So long as it is there, meetings of the Council, and meetings between the Great Powers, are conferences, and it would be a fallacy -for people to believe that those meetings will produce, against the will of any one power, some legislative result or some executive action.
In brief, we have here a piece of machinery which the powers may use for a’ genuine exchange of ideas, a genuine investigation of differences, a real cooperation in an attack upon some of the national or economic or social causes of the world’s problems, but which equally they may use for the pursuing of purely national ends. If the nations come to such a conference to pursue objectives of power, or to seek advantages unrelated to world peace - in brief, to play out a game of international politics - the machinery may prove disastrous to world peace, the delegates becoming the vocal champions of conflicting ideas and interests, and small disputes growing into great ones in the forcing house of publicity and propaganda.
These reflections, which I believe are realistic, lead to the conclusion that this new league, like the old, can rise no higher than its source, its source being the goodwill of the individual, nations composing it. Its existence, realistically considered, absolves no nation from the obligation to provide for its own defence, to maintain a steady and firm course in foreign policy, or, as I shall point out, to cultivate its special friendships with such nations as have common interests with it. It is essentia] for these reasons that we refer to the United Nations organization as “ experimental “. It must be tried, but not beyond its strength, and its true nature must not be mistaken.
If some of us continue to emphasize that the British Empire is not experimental, but tried and proved, it is merely because we know that every nucleus of peace and non-aggression and good-will within the international structure is a mighty source of strength for the United Nations organization. It is just at this point that Mr. Churchill’s Fulton speech has been so gravely misinterpreted. To issue a call to the British and’ American peoples for a close fraternal association in the cause of peace is not to threaten any nation and least of all the peaceloving nations.
– It has been referred to as an appeal for a military alliance. .
– It was not, and Mr. Churchill has repeatedly said that it was not. However, if the Government believes that it was a call for a .military alliance I begin to understand some of the things about its policy that I previously did not understand. I repeat that to issue a call for a close fraternal association is not to threaten the peace of the world. The truth is that mutual understanding and tolerance in this world are constantly impeded by a host of circumstances - differences of racial tradition, differences of language, differences of religious outlook, differences of political institutions, differences in public educational development, and many more. To ignore these things while endeavouring to set up a new world international order, particularly one in which the postulated use of concerted international force to control national aggression, points, however vaguely, towards the first rudimentary shape of an international super state, would be fatal. The United Nations organization will not spring fully grown from the womb of war and bitterness ; it will be a slow growth if it is to be a Strong one.
The real case for close and abiding association between the English-speaking peoples is that, by natural evolution from a large common racial and traditional stock, they possess a common love of individual freedom, a common language, a common religious outlook, common political institutions, and a similar public educational development. These elements were not produced by any treaty, nor do they need a formal treaty for their continuance. But they offer a solid foundation for a special association which will mean a building of reality into the United Nations organization itself. It is indeed unfortunate that anybody in the United States of America, should perceive in the “ stating of these truths the making of some special case for an Anglo-American treaty with all the legalities and set commitments which treaties involve. But it is more than unfortunate, it is tragic, that the leader of the Soviet Union, whose efforts in the common struggle and through a period of splendid mutual assistance have moved the hearts of both British and Americans alike, should find in a plea for continued Anglo-American association merely the assertion of a brutal doctrine of racial superiority - a doctrine for the defeat of which both nations have poured out blood and treasure in two great wars - and a threat of war against all nations who refuse to acknowledge what he describes as Anglo-American domination.
It is always difficult to judge in respect of countries where government is by the authority of a limited few, where there’ is a controlled press, and propaganda achieves unchecked and uncriticized power, whether statements of this kind are made for home consumption or for literal .acceptance by the world. But as they have been made, it is necessary that there should come from both the British Empire and the United States, through the mouths of responsible public men of all parties and of all political opinions, a good round declaration that we indeed have no thoughts of aggression. We desire to live and let live in peace. In very truth we seek “no aggrandisement territorial or other”.’ The one thing we seek for ourselves and for others is theright to live free lives in a world of men who through peace shall have come to prosperity.
It would be idle to pretend that the world is not at this moment in an apprehensive and pessimistic mood, and that the greatest factors producing this mood are not the policy .and the actions of the Soviet Union. The issue was stated by the Minister for External Affairs in these words -
The real question is, not whether the Soviet Union territory and zones of influence’ have expanded, but what is the underlying intention and purpose of the Soviet Union. Is it to secure the political domination of other countries, or is it merely to protect Russia against any repetition of the so-called cordon sanitaire which united all reactionary influence in Europe against her. during the period between the two great wars? Is it aggressive in substance, or defensive in substance? That is the great question.
There are involved in this question implications which cannot be accepted. The chief of them is that extensions of Soviet territory and zones of influence are to be regarded as faits accomplis and that if they are based merely upon a desire for national defence and the development of the Russian economy, they may be accepted as internationally legitimate and proper. Rightly or wrongly, this proposition is so reminiscent of the case w.hich was made out for Hitler’s lebensraum before the war and the earlier irredentist movement in Italy that it obviously calls for the closest examination.
It is curiously ironical that having made the statement just quoted, which is the very quintessence of what would have been called “ appeasement “ before the war, the Minister immediately went on to condemn in terms “ the Munich era of appeasement of Hitler and his Axis associates “. In the course of doing so, a very curious exchange occurred. The Minister said this -
I repeat that, in the Munich era of appeasement of Hitler and his Axis associates, there was the greatest inclination on -the part of some Western democracies to isolate the Soviet Union, and to hail Hitler as the saviour of civilization against the so-called Bolshevik hordes.
Earlier, the Minister had very boldly said, in reply to an interjection by me, that he could quote some of my own speeches in support of his contention. I should like him to do so; in fact I should like him to find any speech made by responsible Ministers, in Great Britain or Australia, which represented Hitler and his people as the saviours of civilization against the so-called “ Bolshevik hordes “. The Minister went on to say -
I am saying that Russia, between the two wars, was treated as outside the pale and was not brought into an alliance against Hitler. Until Hitler actually attacked Soviet Russia, no arrangement with it was entered into by the Western powers.
Then, an interjection by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) reminded him of _ the German-Russian agreement. This is a most curious account of pre-war history. It leaves out of the picture altogether the fact that, at the very moment when British representatives were in Moscow conducting negotiations with the Soviet authorities, an announcement was made on the 21st August, 1939 - a fortnight before the war - of a German-Soviet pact. We would indeed be blind to history if we did not think that the bringing into existence of that pact had something to do with the ultimate launching, very shortly afterwards, of the German attack upon Poland. At that very moment, the British authori- ties, following visits of months before, were in negotiation with the Soviet authorities. All this is brushed aside by the statement that Russia was not brought into the picture, and that the attitude of the Western democracies, including Great Britain, was one of supporting Hitler, and of being violently opposed to the Soviet. Having said all these things, the Minister concluded by saying -
I take the view that the Soviet Union’s policy is directed towards self-protection and security against future attack. In my opinion its desire is to develop its own economy and to improve the welfare of itd peoples.
The Minister should be aware that, if he were to find this very sentence, substituting “ Germany “ for “ the Soviet Union “, in a speech by a British statesman after the Anschluss and the absorption of Czechoslovakia, he would, in the light of later events, condemn it as either feeble or reactionary. This is not to say that he is prima facie wrong, or that our policy must be one of hostility to Russia, or that the parallels of history are to be projected too far; but it does render it necessary to clarify our minds by facing up to and analysing as clearly as possible the state of affairs with which we are now confronted.
If I have recalled the mind of the Minister to some recent history no apology need be made, for in his written paper as amplified in answer to interjections in the House he has himself gone to some trouble to distort history.
The charge that Great Britain, as one of the Western democracies, showed the greatest inclination to “ hail Hitler “ as the saviour of civilization against the socalled “ Bolshevik hordes “ is sheer nonsense. That there were some few people in Great Britain who took this view need not be denied. But to attribute it as a policy to Great Britain itself is merely another indication of a bias in respect of Great Britain which the Minister would do well to learn to modify.
But to return to the particular problem of Russia to-day: I submit for the consideration of the House a series of propositions which seem to me to be relevant to such a supremely important matter. In dealing with or assessing actions or intentions of a foreign power, particularly one in which political institutions and philosophy differ so sharply from our own, there is always the danger of oversimplification. This danger is to be avoided. It is not a question of being pro-Russian or anti-Russian. If we glibly group other nations into those which are always. right and those which are always wrong, we shall commit a childish error, and the end will be disaster. The Soviet Union has by the harsh labours of war earned the right to an understanding hearing and a calm and objective judgment by the Western democracies. It is therefore necessary for us - and that, alas, with imperfect information - to sort out our ideas about Russia, avoiding, rhetoric and preconceived ideas, but aiming at realism and not being afraid of the realistic view. It is unreasonable to expect Russians to think in just the same way as we do or to have a similar background. The social and political mental atmosphere of the. Soviet Union is, as Communist literature makes clear, anti-reformist and pro-revolutionary. The “ precedent broadening down to precedent “ which characterizes British - constitutional history is, with small exceptions, reformist and’ not revolutionary. It is not to be supposed that a people whose greatest modern political and social changes have been achieved by direct action and by revolutionary violence itself will have any sentimenta<l inhibitions on the question of establishing an international political position by direct action. Our people over centuries have succeeded in reconciling monarchy with democracy. The Russians destroyed monarchy to establish a republic and, abjuring what_ they regarded as ‘ the weakness ofdemocracy, have seen the path to their own concept of freedom through a dictatorship. But to us a dictatorship is the antithesis of freedom. The Russians have sought what they believe to be eco: non 11c freedom -for the masses through the power’ of the State; whilst we have visualized the only true power of the State as resting upon the political freedom of the individual. Each of us thinksthat he is right. And each of us may be, in his’ own country. Provided we eachrespect the other’s ideas, there is room for both of u3 in a world of men. But the condition of adjustment is that there should be no aggression by either, and that other nations should be left really free to make their own choice.
It is, therefore, a condition of true Anglo-American-Soviet friendship and tolerance that we should not think in terms of conflicting ideologies, a practice which breeds hatreds and may therefore breed war, but in terms of mutual recognition. That is to say, if Russia desires non-interference in Russia’s affairs by us, it is entitled to say so. If we desire non-interference in our affairs by Russia, we are entitled to say so. If smaller Powers desire non-interference by either of us, they are entitled to say so. In brief, there can be no real peace in the world unless every nation has respect for the territorial rights of the others.
Certain questions thereupon naturally arise. Since the war have we - and I use the word “we” ,a3 describing the British people all over the world, because for the whole purpose of this discussion we are to be regarded as one people - intervened in the affairs of other countries against their will? In the case of the two countries in respect of which British action has been challenged, namely, Greece and the Netherlands East Indies, the answer must clearly be in the negative. The Greek Government itself made it clear at the Security Council that Greece desired British troops to remain, whilst in the case of the Netherlands East Indies, .the work of clearing out the Japanese and releasing internees was work which British troops were properly called upon to do in conjunction with the long-established Netherlands Ea.«t Indies Government itself.
Now I turn to the other side of the picture: Has the Soviet Union intervened in the affairs of other countries against their will? One has only to take the map and to realize that already, with the war in Europe less than a year finished, the Soviet Union has annexed Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, East Prussia, East Poland, CarpathoUkraine Bukovina, Moldavia, and Bessarabia, to have the clearest answer! And on top of this, direct Soviet influence has been established in Eastern ‘Germany, in Hungary, in Roumania, in Yugoslavia, with demands upon Turkey for
Russian fortifications in the Straits, and the most recent incident of all, in Persia. Russia’s explanation of all this falls into two parts : (a) the annexations are of territories possessing some historic or racial association with Russia and are in any event’ directed, to adopt words of the Minister for External Affairs, “towards selfprotection and security against future attack”; and (6) the establishing of spheres of influence outside the annexed areas is justified - and here I quote Stalin’s recent statement - by “ the “ fact that the Germans invaded the Soviet Union through Finland, Poland, Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary.” This leads Stalin to the remarkable question, and again I quote; -
Is it to be wondered that the Soviet Union in its desire to safeguard itself for the future should make some effort to secure in these countries governments loyal to the Soviet Union?
On the mere recital of these facts it is quite clear that the Soviet Union has abandoned the terms of the Atlantic Charter, has swept aside the independence of other nations where it has thought desirable, and has in fact, as a result of victory in the war, enormously extended its boundaries, and its European authority, while enhancing remarkably its military and strategic position in the world. For the most part, therefore, the territorial adjustments made during and since the war have been by unilateral action on the part of the Soviet Union. They all have served to strengthen the position of the Union, and therefore - and it is a fact at which we must not blink - to weaken the position of the “Western democracies. The Minister accepts the Russian view that while all this is no doubt in sad conflict with the whole principle of the United Nations organization, it has been done quite reasonably for Russia’s security. But security against whom? Does Russia fe.ar attack by its smaller neighbours? Is the Soviet Union anticipating and guarding against an attack by a revived Germany? After all, that question will not arise unless Germany does once more become a great military power, and.it is not likely to become that unless the Soviet Union quarrels with the Western democ racies, and in the quarrel Germany gets to its feet. [Extension of time granted.”]
Or, to take the third possibility, is the anticipated attack from Great Britain and the United States of America? Reading Stalin’s statement one would almost think so. These questions well deserve to -be stated. There is no reason why we should go round corners in this business. With the best will in the world, and we have the. best will in the world towards the Russian people, we must bring these questions out and look at them fairly and squarely. These questions are immensely important because in all cases - in each of the three I have mentioned - the extent of the defence must be related to the scale of the anticipated attack. If the Soviet Union is really setting out to make itself secure against attack by the other great powers, what reason is there to suppose that its annexations will stop where they are now? After all, to put the matter in the plainest terms, if the Soviet Union desires to be secure against attack by the other two of the Big Three it can do so only by having more strength in defence on its own account than they have in combination for purposes of attack. In other words, this doctrine by which a nation, powerfully placed as a result of a victory in a war, is thought to. be entitled by annexations of territory and political pressure to put itself beyond the reach of successful attacks by others, and above all by others who offer no attack, is a doctrine which gives recognition to world domination as the prize of victory. All that can be said is, that if the British Empire and the United States of America are prepared to sit back and accept the comfortable theory put forward by the Minister for External Affairs about the present Soviet progress, the day will inevitably come when the world’s power will be out of balance and when, through the strength of an impregnable position, the Soviet Union will be able to dictate its own terms to the world.1
All these considerations, profoundly disturbing as they are, lead to one conclusion. Our natural interest in accelerating the growth of the United Nations from something which is an international conference to something which is a real international instrument of peace should not blind us to the fact that the most urgent of all British problems is the restoration of British economic and general power. This is needed so that the British Empire, in close association with the United States of America, may combine in tolerance and goodwill towards all other men, with an earnest desire .to ‘restore prosperity to all nations, with the resolute intention of respecting the political views and aspirations of other nations, but with, all the time, the assured knowledge that between them they have enough strength to defend the liberties of simple men and women against attack by tyrannies from whatever source the attack may come.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– The speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) delivered this afternoon did not improve international understanding, and will not help the cause’ of Australia in the counsels of nations. Indeed, it can be responsible for causing, very disturbing conditions. It is only the echo’ of a speech which was recently reported as having been delivered at Fulton, in the United States of America, and which had a serious reaction and caused an atmosphere of foreboding throughout the world. Consequently, it is fortunate ‘that, Australia has been afforded the advantage of the admirable speech which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) delivered last week, because it gives a more reassuring picture of -world affairs, and inspires a feeling of hope which is much more acceptable to the Australian people than were the expressions of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. Further, the speech of. the Minister for External Affairs was a splendid review of world conditions, and was in harmony with two other powerful speeches that were made last week-end, one by the Secretary of State in the United States of America, Mr. Byrnes, and the other by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Great Britain, Mr. Ernest Bevin. The speeches which those eminent and distinguished gentlemen made gave us much more to anticipate regarding peace and goodwill in world affairs than we find in the declarations of the Leader of the Opposition.
The right honorable gentleman again produced the threadbare argument which endeavours to misrepresent the attitude of Commonwealth Ministers and the Australian Labour movement generally towards Great Britain. Never at any period in history was the cooperation between the -Commonwealth and the United Kingdom more close than it is at this moment. I believe -that I have a right to express that view, because I am the last Australian Minister to have had consultations with British statesmen. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the Secretary of State for the Dominions expressed warm and cordial feelings towards this country, and acknowledged the’ great assistance that Australia has rendered to Great Britain. The Labour Government which is now in office in Great Britain finds it much easier to reach an agreement and to co-operate with the Labour Government in Australia than it would with a government led by the present Leader of the Opposition. The reason is that both governments have an identity of policy, political philosophy and principle, and our approaches to one another are made on the basis of complete understanding and cordiality. This relationship cements the friendship between the two countries even more firmly than in the past.
The statements of honorable members opposite, who endeavour to convince the world that our relations with the United Kingdom have undergone a change, are unfounded, and certainly misrepresent most unfairly the attitude which Australia has adopted and is continuing to adopt towards the British Commonwealth of Nations. If honorable members opposite require any proof of that co-ordination of effort, mutual understanding and confidence, surely it is to be found in the appointment of that eminent Australian, Mr. Macmahon Ball, to represent the interests, not only of Australia, but also of Great Britain and other parts of the British
Empire in the administration of Japan. In addition, one of our most prominent soldiers, General Northcott, has been appointed commander of the British Empire forces in the occupation of Japan. Those appointments afford more than ample proof that the canard which, was uttered this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition does not express honestly and fairly the true relationship between Australia and Great Britain. That being so, I sincerely hope that during the remainder of this debate, honorable members opposite will have the decency not to declare that something is lacking in the relations between the two countries, or that Australia has failed in any way to respond fully to its obligations to Great Britain.
The Leader of the Opposition sought also to belittle the United Nations, which has been created in order to endeavour to reconcile conflicting opinions among nations. He tried to convince the House that the United Nations was only an experimental body, and would be weak and ineffective. If public .men criticize the organization in that manner they will only assist to destroy its prestige and authority, and will not contribute anything towards making more effective its earnest endeavours to preserve world peace and security. By my own personal observations at the United Nations, I was able to gauge the earnestness of the delegates, and the integrity of the nations represented there. I saw displayed beyond all question the most earnest desire to make that world organization succeed. It is unfortunate that an attempt should be made now to attribute bad faith to any nation. There is no justification for such a charge against any country that is prepared to join the United Nations and to bring before that authority whatever problems may arise in its relations with other nations with a view to having them discussed frankly and freely, and resolved by that organization. The Leader of the Opposition sought to disparage the United Nations by questioning its effectiveness in view of a certain feature of its constitution, namely, the right of veto. I have seen the right of veto used. In my view, the power of the United’ . Nations lies in the fact that it is a world forum in which world problems may be discussed with complete frankness. It is a bar of public opinion before which any nation may ,be asked to justify its actions. Fear -of creating adverse world opinion will always act as a deterrent to any nation which may be tempted to make undue demands upon its neighbours. No nation can afford to ignore completely the opinion of the peoples of other nations. For that reason alone I believe that the United Nations will be effective in preserving the peace and the security of the world.
The Leader of the Opposition sought to attribute to Russia ulterior motives in what he regarded as a trespass upon the rights of bordering countriesand he mentioned a number of such countries that had been incorporated in the Soviet Union. Apparently the right honorable gentleman has forgotten that Russia’s action in relation to many of the nations to which he referred was taken in accordance with agreements reached between the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, the late President Roosevelt, and Marshal Stalin/
– That is not correct.
– Whether the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) believes that it is correct or incorrect, the fact remains that certain States granted concessions to Soviet Russia by agreement between the three great powers and it is remarkable that the right “honorable gentleman should, now speak of these actions °s appeasement. At times it is refreshing to delve into the pages of history. ‘Speaking in this chamber on the 28th September, 1938, the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, said -
The Commonwealth Government followed with close attention and in constant consultation with the British Government, the developments in the situation. It was believed that the annual rally of the Nazi party due to commence at Nuremberg on the 5th September, and at which Kerr Hitler was expected to make a pronouncement of po’ icy concerning the German minority in Czechoslovakia, would be a further critical period. Accordingly, on the 1st September, the Commonwealth Government fully reviewed the various proposals which had from time to time been advanced as possible solutions of the. Sudeten German problems. The United Kingdom Government was also informed that the Commonwealth Government urged that the Govern ment of
Czechoslovakia should not delay in making a public announcement of the most liberal concessions which it could offer, and that representations should be made to the Czechoslovakian Government with a view to securing an immediate public statement’ of such concessions.
In other words the British Government was being earnestly urged to exercise its influence upon Czechoslovakia to satisfy Hitler’s demands. Presumably the Leader of the Opposition subscribed to that pronouncement of policy by his then leader. If further evidence be required of the right honorable member’s views’ at that time, I draw attention to the following statement made “by him on the 12th December, 1938, at a service for men held in St. Stephen’s Church: -
I think there is a great deal to be said for Germany re-arming. A nation of 70,000,000 of the most virile people in Europe, it was unarmed in a ring of nations, most of whom had armed or were arming to the teeth.
The Melbourne -Argus of the 15th November, 1938, reported the right honorable gentleman as stating that during his visit to Germany he had been impressed by German industrial efficiency. The following statement was attributed to the right honorable gentleman : -
It was no good sitting back and thanking God that wo were better than Germans or the Italians. Democracy might bo the form of Government that suited Australia, but that did not mean that it suited everyone else. “What declarations they are! The views then held by the right honorable gentleman as to the possibility of another world war were reported in the West Australian of the 13th .September, 1938, as follows:- r-
Prophecies of the inevitability of another world war were discounted by Mr. Menzies. He considers that while there are dangerous explosive elements in Europe the general outlook is better than it was six months ago: Mr. Menzies suggests that it would be a mistake to take sides too hastily in the dispute about Czechoslovakia. He also protests against a one-sided judgment of Germany.
It is inevitable that, as an aftermath of the world-wide convulsion, we shall have to face, for years to come, serious conditions of international unrest, disturbances and difficulties which can only be adjusted by some world tribunal. These considerations impressed- upon the’” United Nations the need for the establish- ment of a Security Council as a means of judging these difficulties and of affording some reconciliation of world problems as they arose. Those who endeavour to make the world believe that to-day there are circumstances which are again driving us to war are but chanting hymns of hate with a view to provoking war. If this world had again to face another war, it would not survive the ordeal. The right honorable gentleman may regard the organization established by the United Nations as an experiment; I unhesitatingly say that it is an instrument that .cannot afford to fail in its purpose if the world is .to survive. Surely all men of earnest goodwill and good intention for world peace should give to this organization their undivided support rather than prejudice its success by discounting its effective power to achieve its objectives. Instead of attempting to destroy it they should seek to strengthen its ann so that it may discharge more capably the onerous responsibilities placed upon it. I have had an opportunity to associate with the representatives of other countries around the Security Council table and without exception I found them actuated by an earnest desire for peace. I deplore the efforts made in some sections of the press throughout the world to feature what they regarded to be matters of difference between the members of the Security Council. I say unhesitatingly that I found no evidence of conflict among those, associated with it. On- the other hand there was a genuine desire to ascertain the facts and to determine the issues involved oh their merits. In all cases there was expressed mutual satisfaction at the way in which problems submitted for consideration were handled. As the result of the deliberations of the Security Council the relationships between the member nations were even more firmly cemented. Australians should therefore combine with other people of goodwill throughout the world and increase as far as possible the opportunities that exist to-day tobring the nations more closely together for the general betterment of the economic and social well-being of humanity generally. Dp honorable members realize that, to-day, 23,000,000 people in Central
Europe face starvation and general living conditions on the lowest scale in history? This is ‘but one of the tragedies that war has left as a heritage to the people of our own day and generation. Therefore, we should all exert ourselves to preserve the peace and promote the cause of international’ friendship. Those who fail to do. so display a lack of understanding of the tragedy that, the “war has left in its wake. That being so, our purpose must always be to ascertain the facts, have thorough inquiries, and insist that the point of view of every country shall be received objectively and without prejudice. Under any other policy the result must be disastrous to world organization and the great cause of peace on behalf of which all of us should exert ourselves, earnestly endeavouring to use our powers to the utmost in order to establish in our day and generation a higher conception of what life should be for every man, woman and child.
.- When the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who has been Acting Minister for External Affairs for some months, assumed the role of second speaker on this motion on behalf of the Government, I expected that the House would receive from him some supplementary explanation of the Government’s foreign policy, and some lead as to what the Parliament and the people of this country might expect to be the future conduct of Australia in relation to foreign affairs. I submit that we have had nothing but a ponderous declamation. The Minister devoted an appreciable proportion of the early part of his speech to an endeavour to make party political capital out of this issue. Indeed, he turned the pages of that complete dossier which the Government apparently keeps with respect to everything that the Leader of’the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has ever done or said, and treated us to another tedious repetition of quotations that we had heard many times previously. Insofar as the honor-able gentleman’s speech dealt with international affairs, it consisted of nothing but flat denials, unsupported by argument. When arguments in> rebuttal are the only matters that can be regarded- as worth while, the Minister cannot expect to get away with a series of flat denials. I have nothing to say against the very passable sermon, the very moralizing discourse, of which the latter portion of the honorable gentleman’s speech consisted, and I have nothing to say for it.
The real matter at issue in this debate is the statement on international affairs that was made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). That right honorable gentleman again directed the attention of the House to the fact that Australia’s membership of. the United Nations is the guiding light in Australia’s foreign policy to-day. He recalled to our minds the fact that co-day we have a book of rules, in the form of the Charter of the United Nations, to guide us in our international relationships, and claimed that “whatever problem might arise one could turn to the correct chapter and page and there discover the formula for solving it. That sounds perfectly easy and simple; and it would be in a, theoretical world. Of course, this is not a theoretical world, but a real tough, hard world. I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition that, important as is the United’ Nations, and fortunate as is the world that such an organization has been created, none the less it is not to be recognized as a body which has within its own power the authority to solve every problem that arises. As the Minister who has just resumed his seat has told us, it is an open forum, a place which affords an opportunity for the representatives of the nations of the world to talk and to resolve, but not to enforce their will unless there is unanimity among them. Thus it is an experiment which, as we all know, is not in its final form; and it must be the task of all of us to help to mould it along such lines that, in its- final form, it ‘will assure to this troubled’ world the hope of a continuous peace. At the same time, in a real world, in which the United Nations cannot speak with the authority of law and force on every issue, it is incumbent on us to realize that this nation still has a separate sphere of responsibility; that is -to say, it shall n6t divest itself of its opportunities to look after its own interests. Frankly. I am bound to confess that I have not been able to discover in the speech of the Minister for External Affairs, apart from the reiteration about the United Nations, some continuous thread or motive” that would give us a guide to what he propounds as our foreign policy: nevertheless, I have discovered a continuous thread of iteration and reiteration of the separate, individual nationhood of Australia.
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– There is nothing at all wrong with that. But it has to be remembered that this is a formal, separate, independent “ nationhood within a family of nations. There is in the speech of the right honorable gentleman a conspicuous and continuous absence of any words that would serve to recall that fact to our minds. For months past, not a week has gone by in which there has not been some incident which has served to direct our attention to the fact that the United Nations are still dominated by three great powers. There is every evidence that, for all practical purposes, we can assume that in the days that lie ahead the United Nations will continue to be dominated by the three great powers. That is a practical state of affairs which it would be foolish of us to attempt to ignore. In that wonderful unanimity that was achieved between the leaders of the three great powers in the days of peril, there was born in the minds of the whole of the Allied people, the conviction that those three great leaders had discovered a fundamental common interest which would not only serve to guide us to victory in war but also hold out an unquestionable assurance that, in the spirit of this common purpose and objective, we could look forward to a world of peace, in which the three great powers would march together, exercising their influence as one, and directing themselves to the moulding of a better and safer world. But the incidents of months past have borne in upon us the knowledge that, the peril of war being past, the three great powers have separated up to a point, and now stand counterpoised: three great, powerful nations dominating the world. Many of those incidents have served to show to us that there has not been discovered that complete identity of interest and purpose, that economy and ideology, which we had hoped would emerge from the perils of war. That is the plain fact. Australia, with whose future we are primarily concerned, is not one of the great powers. But it is a partner of one of the great powers. We in this country occupy a position unique in history; Australia enjoys the right of separate nationhood in the counsels of the nations, and at the same time, is a partner in a bloc of nations. In ‘ other words Australia has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde existence. It would be well for us in this country to have regard to both those factors. If we would discharge our responsibility to ourselves and to those who will come after us in this country, we must not lose sight of the fact that the first Australian Imperial Force in battle, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) at Versailles, established for Australia the right to be recognized as a separate nation - a right which no one has yet challenged. I do not suggest that that right should be taken from us, but I point out that if we rest entirely on that claim, we shall classify ourselves as one of the “ small fry “ internationally. In the present state of the world, it is not safe to be one of the “ small fry “. Apart from all sentimental considerations, it is well to’ remember that Australia is a partner of one of the great powers, and it is our duty, to see that nothing is done to lessen our authority within the Empire partnership. We have come to assess Russia as a virtual Colossus because of its tremendous power. Russia is a powerful nation, possessing not only great wealth, but also a big population consisting of people whose spirit has been demonstrated in war. We have seen, too, the industrial resources of the United States of America organized for war along lines which few had ever dreamed to be possible. That country developed naval forces which dwarfed those of the British Empire. In addition, it had a tremendously powerful army and a magnificent air force, whilst its war production exceeded anything previously seen. I mention these things because I fear that there are rome people who. think that the British Empire has been overshadowed by the other two great powers that I have mentioned. But that is not so. If we take time to assess the resources of the British Empire, we shall find that, whether judged from the stand-point of man-power, physical resources, national spirit, military genius, or political experience, its potentialities for either war or peace outstrip those of any other nation. It is our great fortune as Australians to belong to the British Empire. We should serve our country ill indeed if we forget that fact, or did anything to weaken our place within the Empire. We would do well to recognize that of all the issues of external policy that an Australian government can have before it for consideration, none can match in importance the wisdom of strengthening the ties that bind the British Empire together. The Minister for External Affairs said that Japan is a defeated nation and that we must be careful to ensure that it never again has sufficient strength to become an aggressor. I think that every honorable member agrees with that view. Despite the fact that Japan has been shorn of its military strength, and that allied forces now occupy the Japanese homeland, I would say that no threat from Japan that I can visualize as a possibility in the future would be as serious as the secession of India from the British Empire. Within the structure of the Empire there are issues of far more importance than are some of the foreign issues to which our attention is directed by some of our leaders. We had the spectacle of Eire remaining neutral when the rest of the Empire was at war. Had the Germans successfully invaded Eire - a possibility in view of that country’s unarmed neutrality - that would have been an infinitely more deadly thrust at Britain than the seizure of Gibraltar or the Suez Canal. The Minister for External Affairs related a number of incidents in which he had figured which, he said, emphasized Australia’s separate nationhood. I put a different point of view to the Minister for his consideration. I say that, in pursuance of courses designed to satisfy ‘ ourselves, and’ by ‘the signing of documents indicating that. Australia has a separate sovereign right in the world, we can gain only so much, after which such a policy is subject ‘to the law of diminishing returns. Take, for example, the war with - Japan, and the signing of the terms of surrender. No unbiased observer could have any doubt that in the war against Japan an overwhelming ‘ proportion of the fighting was done by the United States of America, while the other two great contributing powers to victory were the United Kingdom and Australia. Nothing can take away from us the reality of our contribution to ‘the defeat of Japan. However, when it was proposed that Australia should not be invited to sign the surrender document, our right to do so was urged by the Minister for External Affairs with such force, and the logic of his argument was so indisputable, that the point was conceded; but it could not be conceded to Australia alone. It had also to be conceded to New Zealand and Canada and to the Dutch, although their contribution to the defeat of Japan could not possibly be compared with ours.
– The proposed exclusion of Australia on such an occasion was intolerable, and I am sure that the honorable gentleman agrees with me on that point.
– I regret the intended . exclusion of Australia, but I put it to the Minister that in establishing Australia’s claim to sign the surrender document he did not add to the stature of Australia, but rather reduced it.
– I obtained what was due to Australia.
– Let us now consider a more recent case, the conference of Foreign Ministers in London. Australia might reasonably be expected to be represented at such a conference, but its claims to be represented could not be granted unless the conference were turned into what would be virtually a meeting of the United Nations, and we know ‘that business is not done by a gathering of 40 people ; it is done by three . or four or five people meeting together. The Minister for External Affairs persisted in his claim that Australia should be represented, and again he prevailed, but the representative of Australia was admitted to only one short session in company with the representative of Italy. Does any one believe that such an occurrence added to the prestige of Australia?
I need not pursue the unhappy subject any further. Our record in the war will speak for itself.
– It will not speak for itself unless the country’s representatives speak for it.
– This attempt to have all our rights written down precisely is getting us into the morass which is always “waiting for those who pursue such a course. No one should know better than the Minister himself the limiting character of a written constitution. No one should know better than he that more successful claims have been made in courts of law based upon what was left out of written contracts than upon what was put into them. The world’s most superb diplomats, the British, do not seek to have every “ t “ crossed and every “ i “ dotted.
The position of Australia must be considered in relation to Europe, and to our own more immediate neighbours in the Pacific. The Minister has said that we cannot contract out of Europe. I agree with that statement, although hitherto the Labour party has held the contrary view. That has been the basic point of difference on foreign policy which has divided the parties on this side of the House from the Labour party during the last three decades. We cannot contract ourselves out of Europe, but I do not believe that we can ever exercise a dominating influence there. We must be acquainted with the problems of Europe, because we may become involved in them. I believe that, in regard to European affairs, we must, willy-nilly, go with the senior partner. However, Australia has a special sphere of responsibility in the Pacific. Just a-s I admit the leadership of Great Britain in regard to European affairs, so, in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand are entitled to claim leadership in the Brit:sh point of view. Outside the boundaries of British influence in the Pacific, we come up against what must be regarded as the very corner-stone of our foreign policy, name1)’, a friendly understanding and accord with the United States of America. For all of the reasons which were put by the Leader of the Opposition in a manner which I could not hope to match, namely, common ancestry, common objectives and ideals, and similar forms of government, as well as a common language, it is evident that Australia’s destiny, situated as we are in geographical relation to the United States of America, must be in a large measure inseparable from the destiny of the United States of America. I am sure that no honorable member of this Parliament would dispute that. But in the Pacific we have nearer neighbours than the United States of America with whom our policy must concern itself. The nearest foreign soil to the eastern coast of Australia is the French territory of New Caledonia. I know that the Minister for External Affairs has never ignored that fact. I did not ignore it myself when I held the External Affairs portfolio. I may now say that I personally took the initiative in supplanting in the clays of our greatest peril the pro- Vichy administration there with a governor nominated by General de Gaulle. It is quite evident that in considering our foreign policy we must not overlook our relationship with France in respect of New Caledonia. Geographically our nearest foreign neighbours are the Dutch, with whom, before their entry into the war, we had as close, friendly and complete an understanding as was compatible with their neutrality. After their entry into the war we had the closest liaison with them along lines that earned mutual respect. It is history that detachments of the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy and the United States of America Navy were proud to serve under that notable Dutch admiral, Admiral Helfrich. It is all the sadder that our relations with the Dutch since peace has been restored should have been impaired on the waterfront by an industr:al union which has made decisions upon foreign policy, decisions that should be the responsibility of the Government.
– Who made the decision on “ the Brisbane line “ ?
– The Minister who interjects. He can have that all to himself. The Government is servile in the face of the seizure of its authority by the waterside workers. I can hardly think of a more unfortunate incident than that which occurred to-day. The “mercy” shins which, as the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner himself sa’d in court, are required to take food and medical supplies to the Netherlands East Indies for the relief of 150,000 internees have been idle in Australian ports for seven months as the result of the refusal of the waterside workers to load them. We read this morning that the ships were at last to sail, that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the waterside workers had nominated two persons to travel with them to the Netherlands East Indies as observers.
– Is the honorable member disappointed because they are to sail?
– But they are not going. To-day the Dutch Minister in quite understandable terms said that he and his government would not accept a decision affecting the Dutch relations with Australia that had been made by a Communist-controlled union. What is the ‘Government going to do? No one has denied that the Waterside Workers Federation is dominated by Communists. The Government has been servile and silent clearly because the backbone of -the Australian Labour party is the industrial unions. [Extension of time granted.’] The Minister for External Affairs himself, was reported to have said that domination of this issue by the waterside workers could not be tolerated. It is most elementary that the foreign policy of a country ought to be devised by the government of that country. In . this case neither requirement has been satisfied, for we know that the Communist party, not the Government, has decided this issue. The Communist party’s spiritual home is Russia. Few are innocent enough to attempt to deny that it takes its instructions from the central organization of the Communist party. The Communist party in Russia is a governmental party. So this Government tolerates having its foreign policy shaped outside Australia and applied in this country by a nongovernmental authority. It is time that that state of affairs was brought to an end. The Communists have, captured some of the important unions in Australia and are powerful influences in others. The unions are the backbone’ of the political Labour party and exercise a dominating influence on the party’s policy. The unions through th’eir political affliations determine the choice of Labour candidates for parliament and determine whether sitting members should be reendorsed, and that includes ministers. Labour ministries are influenced by the Communist party. That is intolerably wrong. It is dangerous to this country. It. is time that the Government put an end. to it. Perpetuation of this situation is not compatible with loyalty to Australia. I know that I have got under the skin of some honorable members opposite and have touched a sore point. It is notorious that Ministers are unhappy on the very point that I have been making, that they are not free agents and that their presence in. this House and their opportunities to re-enter it will be determined, in many cases, by unions which are dominated by Communists.
I wish to make two other points. Before the San Francisco Conference, the Minister for External Affairs made many speeches upon a theory of regional security. Such speeches were being made during the currency of the San Francisco Conference and provision in respect of regional security is written into the Charter of the United Nations. Under the Charter, Australia is obligated to provide, if called upon, a contingent of armed forces to the United Nations; and that is a subtraction from the strength of the forces under our control. 1 do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to engage in any regional arrangement. We, of course, would not know until that was an accomplished fact. If there he no such intention, my remarks are not needed; but- if there, be such an intention, I voice a warning. I say that under an arrangement whereby a group of nations within a region commit themselves to an engagement for security they must inevitably commit themselves to the retention in their own zone of a certain proportion of their military strength. No other nation is so far flung over the surface of the globe as is the British nation, and should the British nation pursue a policy of engaging in a series of regional security arrangements over the whole surface of the globe - and the British people have ‘interests over its whole surface - of a character which obliges it to retain forces within those regions, then the result Would be a further subtraction from those forces which could be regarded as fluid and available for Empire purposes. No such arrangements could in themselves provide absolute security within a region; but a policy of freezing the power of the British’ Empire into a world-wide series of watertight Compartments’ would at one stroke take from the British Empire its force as a world power. I voice that warning here, and I hope that that policy upon which quite a number of speeches’ have been made will not be pursued.
In’ the atmosphere which exists at the moment I could not conclude my remarks upon international affairs without making some reference to the position which has developed, and still exists, with respect to Russia. The Minister for External Affairs did not seek to sidestep this issue or to evade offering his views upon it; no.r did the Leader of the Opposition. That is an issue which must engage the attention of any responsible assembly in a discussion of international affairs. The Minister for the Navy said a few days ‘ ago that if the newspapers would take three months’ holiday we could almost feel assured of the peace of the world. I do not believe for a moment that a holiday on the part of the newspapers for three months, or three years, would dispose of the fact that to-day Russian forces are still in Persia, notwithstanding Russia’s solemn undertaking to remove them by the 2nd March. That is one cause of the existing tension. Nor would a holiday on the part of the newspapers dispose of the transparent attempt which was made at the recent meeting of the United Nations to divide delegates by making charges against the United Kingdom in respect of its conduct in relation to Greece and Indonesia. These issues must be faced, even though geographically they are remote from us. The Minister for External Affairs, in biting terms, called to our mind the attitude of so-called appeasers towards Hitler when he was brow-beating and over-running his neighbours to secure lebensraum, which he claimed Germany needed. The Minister admitted openly that in his criticism of some western democracies in that respect he included Great Britain.
– The Tory parties - those in control - yes.
– The right honorable gentleman was not then making a party political attack, and it is too late for him now to turn his attack in that way. But now, before the strong statements of Mr. Bevin, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Byrnes have died away, the Minister himself is found making an .appeasing statement. He told us that, with respect to the issue with Russia, the test is not whether every small nation on the geographical perimeter of expanded Russian territory ought to have been dragooned into establishing a government so supine to Russia’s wishes as to be a puppet of Russia ; he said that that is not the real “test. Nor is the real test whether this conduct squares with the Four Freedoms and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The real question, he said, is whether the Soviet Union, in using the power of its position to establish this encircling ring of buffer states, it was motivated by aggressive or defensive intentions; and we have the Minister’s word for it that Russia’s- motives were defensive only. How much better that assurance will prove than Mr. Chamberlain’s “ peace in our time “ assurance, only time and history will prove. I see virtue in being non-provocative, but surely the denunciation of so-called appeasers of the dictator, Hitler, is an incredible preamble to an appeasement of the most notable appeaser of all, Stalin. However, I am sure that neither what I, nor the Minister, says will have any influence on events in that zone; so we need not raise our blood pressure unduly upon that matter. Nevertheless, a useful purpose is served in examining the situation that arises if the fair words of the United Nations Charter are not yet exactly interpreted by all parties to it according to their precise dictionary meaning. We shall benefit if we are. reminded that in this very realistic world, a combination of high motive and real strength is still the best recipe for peace and security.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen),. in the course of his speech, hinted at the control of Australian foreign policy by trade unions, and the control of trade unions by Russia itself. He came very close, I should say, to going further, and suggesting that we on this side of the House were recipients of Moscow gold. The last person who made statements similar to that was General Franco’s radio spokesman, Quiepo di Llano, who was referring to the Church of England. As I am a member of the Church of England and of the Labour party, I should receive some addition to my income in the near future.
I regret that because of an interruption, I was not able to hear the preamble to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), but as I entered the chamber, I heard him make two distinct points. The first was virtually to present, as alternatives to this House, membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations or membership of the United Nations. The second was to take” strong exception to a suggestion that Russia was diplomatically cold-shouldered before the war. Later, he rebuked the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the ground that he had exhibited continuously anti-British tendencies, and suggested that the Mini ster’s reference to the cold-shouldering of Russia was indicative of his anti-British tendencies. If that be so, the Minister is in distinctly good company. “When reading speeches on this subject in the House of Commons, I found that the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, said on the 3rd October, 1938, during the debate on the Munich agreement -
It has been a. very great weakness that throughout there has been this coldshoulderingof the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Prime Minister cannotbear even to mention them. They were never brought into consultation except on one occasion, and that was when it looked as if things were coming tothe worst, and their help was wanted. Then an approach was made, but when it was a question of negotiation they were not brought in at all. I do not know whether they will be brought into any future negotiations. But there you get the weakness of this Government and at the same time of France - and 1 say the weakness of Fr ance is even greater. At no time did they make up their minds whether they were going to stand or to tell Czechoslovakia to make its own terms.
Similarly anti-British was the Leader of the British Liberal party, Sir Archibald
Sinclair, and I should say in passing that I regret the disappearance of the British Liberal party, because it was liberal. Sir Archibald Sinclair expressed this view -
Why is not Russia mentioned, too, as a guarantor? Why is not Russia to be represented on the International Commission which is to be established under the Munich plan? - Russia, who has proved to be a loyal member of the League; Russia, who in Spain and in China has actually befriended the victims of aggression; Russia, who is better situated than we are to bring help to the Czechs in the time of need; Russia, the historic protector of the Slav race; Russia, whom we need now more than ever to restore the balance of power in Europe; Russia, whom the Government named as an ally on Tuesday when they thought we were going to be in trouble but who are now excluded from the council chamber. His Majesty’s Government will be making a disastrous mistake if they go on truckling to Herr Hitlerand Siguor Mussolini andleave Russia standing outside, on themat. Bring her in, and let her join in the guarantee to Czechoslovakia.
Similarly anti-British was Mr. Churchill, who, in the course of the same debate, declared -
France and Great Britain together, especially if they had maintained a close contact with Russia, which certainly was not done, would have been able in those days in the summer, when they had the prestige, to influence many of the smaller States of Europe, and I believe they could have determined the attitude of Poland.
If such a statement as that is taken by the Leader of the Opposition as proof that the Minister for External Affairs is anti-British, I say again that he errs in good company, namely, with the leader of every political party in Great. Britain.
The points which the Leader of the Opposition made concerning the British connexion, and those that have been made later in this debate, would suggest that in this House, the question. of maintaining the British connexion was an Australian political issue. But there is no political party in the Commonwealth which favours secession from the British Empire. It is not a political issue in this country; and to present as alternatives membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations or membership of the United Nations, because the Minister for External Affairs has been a -strong protagonist of the United Nations, is to resort to the old tactic of putting np a straw man for the purpose of knowing it down. -On several occasions, the Minister has suffered this accusation of being anti-British. He has been therecipient of “this form of abuse because on certain occasions at the United Nations he disagreed with the British representatives. He disagreed with them in particular on the issue of trusteeship. From 1916 to 1941 this House was dominated, except for two years when the Scullin Government was in office, by non-Labour governments. Nearly 25 years ! Whatever criticisms may be directed against those governments, and I could direct many, there is one” matter on which they cannot be criticized, arid that is the excellent administration by Australia of its mandated territory. Australia had a great record in that respect. There were provided expanding medical and educational facilities for natives, and the administration reported periodically to the League of Nations Mandates Commission. The reports and the work undertaken were examined by experts. Those administrators testified as to what a stimulus it was to the administration to have to make reports, which continually drew on the Australian administration- the searchlight of publicity. When the Minister was defending the trusteeship system against the disapproval of Lord Halifax and Lord Cranborne, he was accused of being anti-British. The Minister was defending the achievement of antiLabour governments in. the administration of the mandated territory,, with one modification, that in future, under the trusteeship system, it will be possible to fortify mandated -territories. So [ contend that to weigh the disapproval of Lord Halifax against the very substantial achievements of the mandate system or trusteeship system would be very foolish indeed. It is rather interesting to observe that Lord Cranbornewho on that occasion was associated with Lord Halifax, had so strongly disagreed earlier with Lord Halifax’s foreign policy that rather than be a party to it, he resigned, with Mr. Eden, from the British Government. That, of course, exposes the meaningless nature of this term “ anti-British “. What is Britain in this particular context? Successive British governments have pursued contradictory policies. The policy of the Conservative party shortly before it was defeated, was not to favour the trusteeship system. But Mr. Attlee, in the House of Commons on the 23rd February last, strongly supported the idea of trusteeship. Therefore, the new British Government has reversed the policy of its predecessor. If to disagree with any given British government on a particular issue is to be anti-British, then to be pro-British we must reverse our policy now, having agreed with Lord Halifax about trusteeship, and we must begin to agree with the new policy emanating from Mr. Attlee. So long as it is a clear issue on international affairs and a clear moral stand is being taken, it cannot be helped if we are not in agreement” on that particular point with Great Britain. It does not call into . question the British- connexion, which is not an issue in Australian politics.
I leave that subject now, and turn to other matters before us. The honorable member for Indi declared that the Australian Government lacked prestige in the eyes of other countries. He mentioned that we had been included in the peace negotiations, and then were treated as a minor power. He failed to mention, of course, that Australia was elected to the Security Council, which is the cabinet of the international organization/ and that is a pretty fair compliment, to a minor power. He did not mention, either, that the na tions recognize the constructive part which the Minister for External Affairs played at the United Nations Conference at San Francisco. He did utter certain meaningless words concerning our area of special concern in the South-West Pacific, but went on to warn us that if we recognized that Great Britain took the initiative in Europe, and that Australia took the initiative in the South-West Pacific, we should be, in some mystic way, subdividing the British Empire and- weakening it. A sensible statement on that, matter has come from the London Times, which in a recent leading article said -
The course of the war against Japan has brought Australia, into wholly new prominence as a power in the Pacific. It seems clear that she will exercise increasing influence in shaping the policy of the British Commonwealth throughout the area. The danger to which she was exposed and the part she played in averting it have aroused her to a lively consciousness of her international position and the responsibilities to which this gives rise.
Australia’s new position as a Pacific power is further acknowledged by the selection of Mr. W. MacMahon Ball to represent the whole of the British Commonwealth on the Allied Council in Tokyo.
As Australian External Affairs Minister (Dr. Evatt) pointed out, the appointment of an Australian to represent the whole of the British Commonwealth on the Tokyo Council may mark the beginning of a new stage of development in British Commonwealth relations, in which the dominions may share with Britain the duty of acting on behalf of all members of the Commonwealth.
The point made by the Times is indicative of what is bound ‘to be the new trend in foreign affairs in this country. The Minister for External Affairs has pointed out in many speeches the inevitability of Great Britain taking the initiative in Europe, and when he was in dispute with the former British Government, it was because that administration did not take account of the aspiration of Australia in making declarations concerning our intentions in the SouthWest Pacific. The Cairo declaration of the 2nd -September, 1943, by the United States of America, United Kingdom and China, made certain declarations about the Pacific which ignored this country altogether, and that reprehensible tendency on the part of the then British Government has since been discontinued. It is wise for Great Britain to consult with the dominions which are adjacent- to any area -that is under discussion. After all, it is an historic fact that although the dominions have been called upon to underwrite British foreign policy in Europe on two occasions - in the war of 3 9J4-18. and in the conflict just ended - Britain has not yet been called upon to go to war on behalf of a dominion. I do not dispute that British naval forces defended this country during the last war. but Britain has not had to so to war ir> the first instance on behalf of any dominion. So. there ha.« been a two-way ob’;»f;r”i in this matter, and the Australian Government, in emphasizing that it line the right to have its voice heard in Rr:4;n on matter.’ concerning the South- We<-fc Pacific, is quite correct, and, from the point of view of the healthy development of British Commonwealth relations, it is quite wise. The evolution of British Commonwealth relations has been referred to by the Minister for External Affairs. It is a far cry from the days of 1911, when Sir Edward Grey informed Mr. Andrew Fisher that the dominions would be consulted on issues of foreign policy when time, place and circumstances permitted. By 1917, thanks to the work of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), this country had secured a voice in the determination of British foreign policy. By’ 1926, Mr. S. M. Bruce, whom some branches of the Liberal party would like to see back in this country to lead that party, had succeeded, with other dominion Prime Ministers, in obtaining the Balfour declaration, which stated that the dominions were in no way subordinate one to the other, or to Great Britain, in any respect of domestic or external affairs. By emphasizing the need for an Australian voice in South- West Pacific affairs, the Minister for External Affairs has succeeded in getting the British Government to recognize the principle, and an Australian representative is to represent the whole of the Brit sh Commonwealth in the administration of Japan.
I turn now to a matter which has been exercising the minds of many honorable members, namely the development of Russian foreign policy, to which reference has been made by Mr. Churchill, and by the Minister for External Affairs in his speech to this House. I do not stand here in the role of ‘an apologist for any foreign power. I believe that the quota-‘ tion made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) concerning the welcoming by the present Leader of the Opposition of German re-armament in 1938, should warn us of the danger of makins such statements in this House or elsewhere, because thev will always be quoted in future. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) no doubt has V’.= quotations ready to produce shortly. However, I do think that it is a case of “ If the cap fits, wear it “. The Minister for External Affairs has pointed out that some of those who were very reluctant to make any expression against the continual development of German aggression - the Leader of the Opposition’s statement concerning German re-armament was made after the Munich Pact, when German aggression was patent to the whole world - have been very rapid to condemn Russia at the first indication of what, at its worst interpretation, was Russian aggression. I do not say anything concerning Russian policy, but I do say that ideology has never determined the foreign policy of Great Britain to any considerable degree, least of all when fundamental interests of the British Empire have been involved. Back in the days of Napoleon the expansion of the central power drove Britain and Russia together whether or not they liked one another’s ideology. In 1914 Sir Edward Grey disliked Czarism very much, but the expansion of Germany in the centre drove Britain and Russia together. Similarly, when the last war began and Germany was expanding to the East, Mr. Churchill, who has never had any sympathy for Russian ideology, was willing to become an ally of Russia. So, E do not believe that this issue of Communism which is always being played up in Australia, weighs very much in British foreign policy. If there is to be a dispute concerning Persia between Great Britain and Russia - somebody apparently is expecting it, although Mr. Ernest Bevin is not - it will have nothing to do with ideology, hut it will have much to do with British interests in the Persian Gulf. Russia’s foreign policy is flowing in historic channels. Its actions on its western front, its present policy in Manchuria and right down to Port Arthur, and its aspirations towards the Persian Gulf - if there be such aspirations - are all old in Russian history. I do not know whether or not that is Russia’s policy, but the implication of the speeches of honorable members opposite has- always been that it is. I personally do not venture to make an assertion on that point, but I do draw attention to what seem to me to be very wise words on the part of the London Times. That newspaper states -
Gelations between Great Britain and the Soviet Un:on provide at this time a cardinal test for British statesmanship. They require to iiic based, as Mr. Churchill said, not on ! appeasement” but on “settlement”.
I am quite certain that if the policy enunciated by the Minister for External Affairs be followed by sane international negotiations, a settlement will be achieved. The article continues -
That settlement must take account both of the effective interests and the effective power of both parties. So far as Britain is concerned, favorable results will not be achieved by a policy of words unaccompanied by action, and still less by reliance on American support a3 a substitute for a balanced and carefully weighed British policy.
So far as the United States of America is concerned, Mr. Byrnes does not feel that the international situation indicates that a formal alliance between Great Britain and the United States of America is necessary. It is mischief-making to hint, as many have here, that we are eonfronted with a situation pf Russian aggression which will call into being the need for an alliance between Great Britain and the United States of America. I do hot adopt the role of a prophet, but I believe that there is no fundamental disparity of interest, between Great Britain, the United States of America and Russia. There was a fundamental disparity of interest between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other, but there is nothing so fundamental in any diferences, there may be in the relationship that exists between Great Britain and Russia, and the innuendoes directed at one great power by members of the Liberal party have been entirely mischievous.
.- This debate has provided the House with one of its rare but welcome opportunities to express some views on foreign policy in so far as Australia is directly interested. It has been made notable by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) who, I believe, has given to this House one of the most masterly and eloquent pieces of analysis of Australian foreign relations to which we have ever been privileged to listen. If ever aman could claim to have spoken for Australia and stated where Australia stood’, on the live issues facing us to-day that man is the Leader of the Opposition in this House. By his cogent and clearelaboration of his points he has made the task of many of vis on this side of the chamber much easier. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has told us in a very long but very disappointing review that the status and prestige of Australia in international affairs have recently been dramatically increased. I believe we are to gather from that that the Minister himself has had a very large part to play in the position that has developed. He made this claim with a certain degree of selfconsciousness - almost aggressive selfconsciousness - -and not without some measure of complacency. We all agree from the ‘space which has been given to his advocacy of Australia’s policy abroad that Australia is a better known nation; the question upon which I have yet to be satisfied however is whether Australia, as the result of his efforts, is a m.ore favorably known nation. I believe with the Leader of the Opposition that there is a bas;c unsoundness in the policy of the Minister, which spreads right through the Government and its supporters, which is to be found in .the emphasis he persists in laying on the separateness of the Australian viewpoint from that of Great Britain. Despite the treatment given to it by the Leader of the Opposition it is necessary to deal with this matter again, because of the speech which lias just been made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The honorable gentleman chooses to interpret our criticisms as a charge that the Minister is antiBritish. That is a distortion of what I believe and of the views expressed by t lie Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members sitting on this side of the House regard a strong British Empire as being necessary in Australia’s own vital interests. Where we detect unsoundness on the part of the Government and of the Minister is that they have not yet. realized that an emphasis on the separateness of the Australian position- in international affairs and the separateness of the other Dominions comprising the British Commonwealth must have the effect of weakening, not only the position of Australia itself, but also the existence of the British Empire as a whole. One does not need to bc anti-British to weaken the position of Britain and Australia. Just how dangerous this policy may be and bow it may prejudice the position of Australia in world affairs is not appreciated by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Fremantle said that no member of the British Commonwealth desired secession. He did not see any possible weakening of the Imperial connexion, and the implication of his speech was that ail we had to do was to go along very much as we had been during the last generation or so and the British Empire would retain its pristine strength. Let us for a moment consider some comparatively recent events in the history of the British Empire. I believe that, in as far as ‘ the British Empire has remained a closely knit Commonwealth of Nations over the last generation or so, it has been due to the determined and persistent efforts on the part of those who saw the strength of their own countries in the strength of partnership and have directed their policies to counter any propaganda in their own countries that would have a tendency to weaken that tie. Let us. look for a moment at some other parts of the Empire. It is not so long since Ireland was a full member of the British Empire, and not so long ago when one government in South Africa, was developing a policy of pressure to force separation from the Imperial connexion. We have seen, developments in Canada over the last ten or twenty years which, while they_ have sought to stress the individuality of Canada in international affairs,, have endangered the Empire position because of misunderstandings on the part of other countries as to just where Canada was heading. In view of developments in, India to-day, who can say just how much longer India will continue to be a full member of the British Empire? Coming closer home, I do not think anybody here will forget the illogical and panicky anti-British feeling on the part of many people that swept overthis country during the war and which gave an enthusiastic echo to thestatement of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, that we wereturning to the United States of America without any pangs. Thesemanifestations of separateness cannot be lightly dismissed, .and wc cannot, ignore the fact that the Empire is noi; so closely knit to-day as it ‘ was some time ago. The best interests of Australia lie in the maintenance of the greatest strength in the British Empire as a- whole, and therefore we are determined to counter any policy or any administrative act which would have the effect of weakening the Empire simply in order to magnify, for a passing moment, the position of Australia in the world. We on this side of the House have no fears, no inferiority complex as to where Australia stands to-day in world affairs. For’ a people of’ 7,000,000 we can be proud of our record. We have aroused the admiration of the peoples of the world who have bothered to study what has happened in this country over the last 150 years. We do not need to try to impress upon the world the fact that we, a nation of 7,000,000 people, aim to be one of the great powers of the world. We can have, as we have pointed out in this place time and again, a voice and an influence out of all proportion to our numbers, by reason of our partnership in one of the strongest national groups in world affairs to-day, namely, the British Empire. So long as we maintain that partnership unimpaired, the voice of Australia will mean something of significance in world councils.
I turn to the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). It was disappointing in that it consisted principally of a factual review of international events that had occurred since he last addressed the House. Where he indulged in some comment upon the foreign issues of the day, he provoked the criticism to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave expression this afternoon. One of our criticisms, upon which my leader did not have time to enlarge, is that, however unsound the policy of the’ Government may be while the Minister for External Affairs is in Australia, we unfortunately have no foreign policy at all during his frequent and lengthy peregrinations abroad. From time to time, during his absences, we have vainly attempted to ascertain just where the Government stood on some issue that had arisen, but. experienced the greatest difficulty - in fact. I think I can say tha* we had no success - in securing a clear, unequivocal .statement as to where the Government stood. There could not be amore graphic illustration of that than was given to-day in connexion with the dispute on the Australian waterfront, arising out of the refusal of Australian waterside workers to load Dutch ships with foodstuffs and medical .supplies for the Netherlands East” Indies. If ever a government displayed inertia, and a refusal to give positive expression to its foreign policy, this Government has done so in relation to that episode. I believe that there is one recurring and fundamental weakness in the foreign policy of any Labour government that may be elected to lead this country. Labour members are dependent upon the trade union movement for their return to Parliament. I question whether one honorable member opposite could hold his seat if the trade union movement in his electorate decided not to support him. Every honorable member opposite knows that, and is influenced beyond a proper degree by the policy and the, attitude of the movement as they are conveyed to him in his electorate. We have had in this Parliament in recent years more than one instance of a Labour government refusing to give any expression to its foreign policy, and allowing it to be dictated by the- trade union movement. 1 take a quick glance back to the notorious scrap-iron episode, out of which honorable members opposite have made party political capital for years. We all know, because in a sense we are professionals, how easy it is to provoke a cheap and encouraging guffaw from an audience by casting a jeer at the policy of our political opponents. I gather from to-day’s press that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has had some recent practice in that sphere in the electorate of Henty.’ He and his kind have made party political capital for years out of the scrap-iron episode. Had the policy of the then leader of the Government been properly understood, not only the workers, but also the people of Australia as a whole, would have commended him for his strength, his diplomacy, and the soundness of that policy so far as Australia was concerned. Let us have a few facts placed on record in respect of that matter
At that time, Australia was sending to Japan wheat, wool, and other commodities in large quantities. The quantity of scrap iron which Australia was sending to’ Japan was one-twentieth of the quantity that was being sent by the United States of America. Scrap-iron was being freely obtained by the Japanese Government from a number of countries, which were only too glad to supply it. On the other hand, Australia was obtaining from Japan, during that period, canvas for military tents, silk for parachutes and other defence purposes, and machine tools, for use in our munitions factories to produce munitions with which to fight the Japanese later. I mention those as facts, not merely in justification of the policy that was adopted. The Government of that day decided its own foreign policy on the basis of the facts, public and private, which it had before it. It was not influenced by some pressure group saying, “ This is the foreign policy of Australia ; you go ahead and do this “. History will prove the soundness of that policy, and the stupidity of the criticism of it. Do Labour members forget the time when a Labour government in Western Australia was agitating very actively for the transfer to the Japanese Government of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound ? I am not trying to make party political capital out of that. Using its best judgment, and on the facts as it knew them, the Labour government of that State considered that it was doing something in the interests of the State by pressing for the transfer of those deposits ; but the’ national Government at Canberra - the Lyons Government - realized the dangers of that policy, and vetoed the proposal. That is an instance of a government acting decisively in respect of foreign policy, and it is the way in which any government which claims to speak for Australia, as the Prime Minister does, should act when such issues arise. But what happened in “respect of the present dispute in connexion with the Dutch ships? The Dutch, as we know only too well, were our tried allies during the war that has just concluded. When their islands were taken from them, they diverted cargoes of valuable material for the assistance of Australia, and stuck by us as we did by them during the whole course of the war. Yet what have we as a people - because it is through our Government that we speak as a people - done for the Dutch in this dispute? We on this side know, as does every honorable member opposite, that this has been a Communist stunt from beginning to end. The trade union movement knows it. Mr. Monk, secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, has said that he did. not know of any dispute in which there had been more chicanery than there had been in this particular dispute, which has held up these ships for seven months, during the whole of which time the Government, which claims to speak for Australia, has been dumb. What did the Minister say in his statement? He was all for the Dutch and all for the Indonesians, and all the time the ships were tied up while he did nothing. He tried to have “ a bit each way “, without saying a word as to where the Australian Government stood. We learned to-day that there had been a settlement of the dispute, and to-night we have read of the very understandable reaction of the Dutch Minister in Australia. These are Dutch ships, yet the terms of our settlement propose that two prominent Labour figures, one prominent in Communist trade union circles - Mr. Chapple - and the other prominent in orthodox Labour circles - a candidate in Labour electorates, and a regular henchman whose services are utilized freely for various purposes by this Government - Mr. Barry, K.C.-
– A brilliant lawyer.
– He is a very able man. I am not criticizing his ability or denying to him the right to hold the political views that he expounds. The Government appointed these two observers to go on Dutch ships, manned by Dutch nationals, in order to see that the transaction shall be completed as Australia would wish. What would be the reaction of any self-respecting Australian government if the position were reversed, and some other government said, “ We shall not allow our people to load ships unless we can put a couple of observers on board to see that undertakings given to us are honoured “? That would be an indication that our assurances were not accepted. I hope that the Government will show sufficient courage to settle this matter.
– Mr. Chapple is not a Communist.
– I shall not go into his trade union past, hut I point out that he was an acceptable nominee to the Communist section of the trade union movement.
– I have known ‘prominent Liberals to appear on the same platforms as Communists.
– I shall not attempt to cover the same ground as my leader has already done with regard to the Russian position. There can be no misunderstanding on the part of any Russian in this country as to where ‘the Opposition stands in relation to Russia. All of’ us .have admired, as the world has admired, Russia’s war effort, and the courage anc! wonderful performance of its people in the war. We have only the wannest and friendliest feelings towards them as a people.. The representatives of Russia with whom honorable members have come in contact in this country are charming amiable people, with whom it has been easy to work. If they are a fair representation of the people of their native land, I foresee very little difficulty in the people of the English-speaking democracies getting along well with them. Certain factors which create misapprehension on our part have been mentioned, and we are not unaware of other factors which create distrust and misapprehension on the part of the Russian people. We know that ;the present regime in Russia began with the 1917 revolution and that many public men of the English-speaking world were not merely critical of what was done but also took an active part in campaigning against Russia. No doubt what was said and done by them has been magnified in Russia. It is easy to understand a great deal of distrust on the part of the Russian people because of what the democracies have done in the past. We have all these things in mind when we express our own concern at the developments that have taken place. If it comes back to a problem of security, perhaps the Russian people and the Russian Government will realize the basic truth that if one nation which seeks security creates a feeling of insecurity among the people of other nations it will in time find that its own last state is worse than its first. If the struggle -for national security is pursued to such a length that every other country of comparable stature believes that its security is threatened thereby, the general prospect of peace and security for the world is endangered. That is probably the effect of Russia’s action. The activities of Russian governments, both past and present, have not been confined to an expansionist territorial policy; it is a matter of common knowledge that for many, years after the last war the Soviet Union took an active part, in the domestic affairs of other countries, even those as far removed from Russia as is Australia. How would the Russian people react if the Government of Great Britain, the United States of America- or any other major power sent its representatives into Russia with a view to fomenting trouble, or educated in their own countries Russian subjects who then went back to foment strife and discord? Yet that is precisely what Russia has done in many other countries, including Australia. Honorable members have probably heard of the Marxist-Lenin Institute in Moscow in which an international group studies the tactics of revolution, how to undermine the confidence of workers in their national institutions, and how to prepare for civil war. If I am asked how this policy affects Australia, I reply that some people in this country, who have become notorious in recent years, have been through that course of preparation in Russia. Among them are “ Jock “ Garden, a close associate of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). He was one of the first to make the pilgrimage to his spiritual Mecca. Others include L. Sharkey, president of the Communist party of Australia; Tom Wright, of the Sheet Metal Workers Union: R. Dixon, assistant general secretary of the Communist party; L. Donald, secretary of the Victorian State Committee ; Norman Jeffrey and last, but not least, in the hierarchy is Mr. Ernest Thornton, who is probably the chief of the gang in Australia. He recently had his own opportunity to study matters in Russia. It would be interesting to see whether a representative group from this side of the House would receive the same welcome, and be provided with the same facilities, should they endeavour to seek the truth about Russia. I make these comments in no unfriendly spirit, but merely to show why we on this side and the people of Australia generally, and indeed the people of other countries, are concerned :about Russia’s policy of territorial expansion, and in particular, wish to know whether that policy of active interference with the domestic affairs of the democracies will be pursued with the same vigour in the future. “Will those European countries which have been devastated by wa>r - France, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, and others - have any greater sense of security as the result of Russia’s expansionist policy or are they likely to be drawn as satellites into the Russian constellation? Are they going to find that in the post-war years the resuscitation of democratic practices is to be fraught with the utmost difFiculty i 1 do not .know what is the view of those who have inspected those countries recently at first hand, but, looking at them from this distance, one would imagine that such developments are inevitable. Industries have been devastated, people :are scattered, and governmental institutions are in a chaotic state. Obviously,, the rebuilding of those countries willdemand the existence of strong, central governments. However rauch we might advocate the advantages of private enterprise in times of peace, we must recognize that, in time of emergency, such as these -count vies are passing through, there must be strong central governments exercising emergency powers. Associated with that factor, which is in itself discouraging to those who believe in democratic practices, there is the disheartened feeling of the people themselves, the feeling of how difficult it is to -start to build again because of the mass of governmental restrictions which impede action. We can foresee that in such a situation there exists the danger of violent departure from democratic tradition, and a turning, as in the case of Germany during the growth of the Hitler regime, towards a strong, central leader ship that promises to overcome the difficulties.
I should have liked the Minister, in the .course of his statement, to have said something of ihe possible future of Europe, as he sees it, of the possibility of countries recovering from the difficulties which beset them, and of the strength of democratic institutions in Europe. Two major wars have been fought in our lifetime to preserve democracy. By the irony of events, after the successful termination of those wars, we find that in many of the countries of Europe democracy is in the gravest danger that it has .ever experienced. The eclipse of democracy would be a tragic thing for the countries themselves, and it would also be a threat to world security; so much so that another avalanche of war might descend upon the world even in our own time.
The statement of the Minister contained very slight reference to economic developments. I- understand that his department insists on economic developments -which may affect foreign relations being channelled through it, and one would have expected’ that, in a review of such length, a more extended reference would he made to economic matters, particularly the developments which have taken place in regard to lend-lease since the House last met, and to the Bretton Woods financial arrangein en.t.
– Is the honorable meinour in favour of it?
– I do not know the Government’s policy in regard to it. When the Government states its policy we shall be in a position to offer such advice as we can -from this side of the House, and I have no doubt that it will be very good advice. I should be glad if the Minister, when replying, would indicate the attitude of the Government on this matter, and whether it intends to accept the obligation of the Bretton Woods agreement. [Extension of time granted.] The strength of Australia at any time will be no greater and no less than the strength of the British Empire as a whole. I appeal to the Minister to let nothing be done in the name of Australia or for the aggrandizement of Australia, that would weaken the general position of the Empire. It has stood the test of two world wars in our lifetime. Our only security in the early stages of this war rested in our membership of this great association. We in this Parliament should say nothing and do nothing that would in any respect weaken the Imperial tie.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -
Order - Prohibited place.
Order by State Premier - South Aus tralia (No. 1 of 1946).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 45, 40, 47, 48, 49.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 190.
House adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No. What was issued was a directionthat in retrenchment of staff the first to be discharged should be married women and males over the usual retiring age.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What have been the daily enlistments for the Volunteer Force (a) for each State, and (/<) for the Commonwealth, since the recruiting campaign was launched?
– The average- daily enlistments, since recruiting was resumed on 15th February, to the 16th March, were -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honora’ble member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice - “
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the failure of wharf labourers in Brisbane to load relief ships for Java, is it a fact that the Government is contemplating the use. for this purpose, of shins of Royal Australian naval units in Australian waters?
– The Government is considering this possibility as well as others in its endeavours to find a solution to the problem in question.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister,. upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister make available tohonorable members copies of the report by . Judge Foster on the stevedoring industry?
– Judge Foster’s report on the stevedoring industry is at present, before the Government. As soon as thereport has been considered, the question^ of making it available to honorable members will receive attention.
s asked the Minister forWorks and Housing, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460320_reps_17_186/>.