17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the. chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It has been brought to my notice that some exservice men and womenwho,having been demobilized in, for example, February, began with Commonwealth assistance the first year of a university course in March, have failed to pass in the first year an examination held in the following November. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction have the matter reviewed, and rectify any injustice that may have been done toex-service personnel thus penalized?
-Probably, some exservice men and women who entered the universities of this country in March, 1945, and were therefor entitled to sit for an examination in November of that year, failed to secure a pass. I was unaware that there had been any such failures. I believe that in these examinations an allowance is made for circumstances which may be said to have contributed to failure to pass. I shall have the matter examined, with a view to determining whether such students may be given a second chance, provided their failure has been only partial.
– I askthe Minister for Works and Housing whether a recent land and tenancy regulation was designed to permit applications to be made by ex-servicemen for theoccupancy of unoccupied dwellings, and whether the drafting of the regulation has been such as to make it possible for applications to be lodged for the occupancy of houses that are being built under contract for private purchasers? If so, can the. Minister explain how the rights of these private purchasers may be protected? In view ofthe uncertainty that is felt by builders who are constructing houses for private sale, what will be the result on the building programme of the Government? In any event, will the Minister promise that the regulation will be further considered, with a view to overcoming any such anomalies that may exist?
– A request for the amendment of a housing regulation was recently received, I believe, from one of the State governments so as to make provision of thekind mentioned by the honorable gentleman. The matter was brought to my . notice . and is now being examined by the Attorney-General’s Department with a view to ascertaining whether the regulations need to be altered.
.- I have received from the International Labour Office, Montreal, Canada, a copy of the following paper: -
Coal Mines Committee - Report of First Session, London, December, 1945.
I present it, and move-
That the paperbe printed.
The following countries were represented on the committee: - United States of America, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, United Kingdom, India, Netherlands, Poland, Tnrkey and the Union of South Africa. The principal subject of discussion was the release of prisoners of war from mines in those countries which had been occupied by the enemy. The problem was to release the prisoners without too seriously depleting man-power resources, and it was proposed to spread the releases over a number of years. A further point discussed was the best way to attract young men to the industry. It was pointed out that in Great Britain alone 1,000,000 men have left the industry, and young men could not be induced to take their places. In fact, they preferred to enter the armed forces, and it was necessary to conscript, men for work in the mines, these being knownduring the war as “ Bevin’s boys “. The committee sat for seven days, and its findings are summarized as follows : -
The opportunity for steady employment, to be assisted through stabilization of produc tion and use of coal and the development of alternative uses of the products of coal mines.
The Coal Mines Committee considers that an international economic agreement between the coal -producing countries, which would remove unfair competition, would facilitate greatly the solution of the social problems mentioned in the suggested principles for incorporation in a coal mine workers’ charter.
The Coal Mines Committee requests the International Labour Office to continue and complete its report on safety provisions in coal mines and to make a thorough inquiry into health conditions in coal mines and the health of coal mine workers; and
Requests the governing body of the International Labour Office to convene a session of the Coal Mines Committee which would act in the capacity of a technical preparatory conference, charged with formulating a draft recommendation on the whole problem and a draft model code on safety, taking as a basis for its discussions the report prepared by the International Labour Office, for the preparatory technical conference which was to have been held in Geneva in 1939, as completed and brought up to date.
The United Kingdom Workers’ member suggested that the committeeshould adoptthe report of the sub-committee unanimously. The Belgian Employer’s member associated himself with the request of the workers’ member from the United Kingdom that the report’ be adopted without discussion, since each of the points had been fully debated in the subcommittee.
The committee adopted the first seven points una nimously. The text of point 8 was adopted by 85 votes to 1.
The Resolution No. 1 relative to an international economic agreement was adopted without opposition.
The Resolution No. 1 1 relative to safety and health was adopted without opposition.
The report of the sub-committee on the Mineworkers’ Charter was adopted as a whole by the committee without recourse to a vote.
On the motion of the French Workers’ member, the committee unanimously adoptedthe following resolution at its eighth plenary sitting.
In view of the importance of the problems examined during its session for rehabilitating the mining profession:
And in view of the urgency of achieving certain measures which are impatiently a waited by mine workers;
The Coal Mines Committee expresses the wish that, while taking the situation in their respective countries into account, governments should strive to give effect as soon as possible to the reforms recommended by it.
At its eighth plenary sitting the committee unanimously adopted the following statement, submitted on behalf of the Steering Committee by itsVice-Chairman, the United States Employers’ member:
I emphasize, by the employers’ member. And all employers’ members were present at all sessions, an experience quite different from what we have had in this country. The employers who supply honorable members opposite with propaganda with which to attempt to ridicule the coal-miners are very different from those who attended the sittings of the committee. The report continues -
At its third sitting on 7th December, the Steering Committee considered the question of conversion of coal into oil to which attention was drawn by the Australian Government number at the second full sitting of the Coal MinesCommittee. The Steering Committee, while fully recognizing the importance of this matter, considered that conversion of coal into oil is primarily a technical question which it is not the function of the International Labour Organization to study. The Steering Committee decided to recommend, however, that the International Labour Office he requested to examine the question from the point of view of the social problems involved?
Every honorable member realizes that the coal-mining industry is the subject of criticism. Criticism was pronounced at the conference. Discontent seems chronic in the industry throughout the world.’ We can only conclude that the discontent and consequent non-continuity of production of coalis due to the fact that the industry has not been made attractive. In many parts of the world, including the south coast and parts of the northern district ofNew SouthWales, dust causes diseases of the lungs.
-Order! The honorable member moved for the printing of tie report of an international conference. He is going beyond the bounds of that subject in discussing local conditions in the coal-mining industry.
– Recommendations concerning dust were made. The fact stands out that under the system of private ownership of coal mines no money is expended to alleviate the sufferings of dust-affected miners. I know a father and his two sons, both of whom are under 38, and another father and his son who are totally incapacitated for life by dust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Can the Minister for the Navy explain why members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve do not receive discharge certificates on demobilization as do members of the Australian Imperial Force and Royal Australian Air Force? I have received a letter from one man stating that he was constantly in combat zones from the cessation of his initial training until the hostilities ended, and that he is one of the few Australian veterans of the Russian convoys. He adds that since returning to civil life he has found a constant need for a certificate of discharge. He refers to the impossibility of carrying on his person the papers mentioned in the following memorandum from the Naval Staff Office:-
With reference to your discharge from the Royal AustralianNaval Reserve, forwarded herewith are your Certificate of Service, Submarine Detector History Sheet, Gunnery History Sheet, and Torpedo History Sheet.
You are advised that this certificate of service constitutes the only official discharge paper that you will receive on your discharge from H.M.A. naval service.
Is it possible to issue a small discharge certificate similar to those issued by the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I shall be glad to examine the matter, and shall endeavour to have a satisfactory form of discharge issued to those who have served in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve.
ButoryCharge-Addressby Mr. Boyd.
– by leave - The agreement which was entered into between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa for the disposal of accumulated stocks of wool and of oncoming, clips provided for decisions by the four Governments, first, of a reserve price for the season, below which sales would not be made, and secondly, for a contributory charge which would be struck in each country to meet the industry’s share of the cost of administration. Inow inform the House that the general reserve price agreed upon is the price at which wool is at present being sold ex store. For Australia, this is, on average,18.15d. Aust. per lb. The contributory charge decided upon by the Commonwealth Government is 5 per cent. of the value of the wool, which works out at . 91d. Aust. per lb. average. The 1st, July, 1946, has been proclaimed as the date of the commencement of the contributory charge.
The price of18.15d. per lb. less the contributory charge of . 91d. gives a net average return of17.24d. Aust. and this is1.79d. Aust. more than the average price of 15.45d. Aust. over the whole clip payable by the United Kingdom under the war-time agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. This must be considered very satisfactory to growers, because it gives to them, in effect, an overall minimum guaranteed return substantially greater than that received by them under the war-time contract. It is true that the table of limits upon which the reserve price will be based will undergo alteration and that this will mean that some types will be valued higher and other types lower than war-time appraisements. It may be assumed, however, that the average reserve price applied to any single grower’s clip will be greater than the average price that he received under the war-time appraisement scheme.
– I desire to move -
That the paper be printed.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture obtained leave to make a statement. If the honorable member for New England also desires to make a statement on the same subject at this stage, the House can give him leave to do so. But unless the Minister lays on the table the document from which he read, there is no “ paper “ which the honorable member can move to have printed.
– The statement which I. made was only an explanation of the agreement for the disposal of wool. Subsequently, legislation will be introduced to give effect to the agreement, and the honorable member for New England will then have an opportunity to discuss the matter.
- Mr. Boyd, one of the officers of the joint organization handling the sale of raw wool, has recently returned to Australia.Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make arrangements during these sittings of the Parliament for Mr. Boyd to address a joint meeting of senators and members of this House who are interested in the disposal of wool?
– Mr. Boyd is chairman of the Wool Board, and perhaps one of the greatest authorities in the Commonwealth on the wool industry. As it would obviously be of advantage to members and senators, I shall immediately get in touch with Mr. Boyd with a view to endeavouring to arrange for such an address to be delivered.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, (1)how many ex-servicemen did the Commonwealth Government settle on the land in each State after World War I.? (2) How many of those men remained in possession of their holdings? (3)What were the principal reasons for the failure of some of the settlers to carry on?
– Considerable research will be required to obtain the information, but I shall furnish it to the honorable member as soon as possible.
-Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that the Army is holding substantial stocks of wire netting at Penrith, in New South Wales, and in other depots throughout Australia? If such stocks are being held, will the Minister consider releasing them at an early date so that primary producers, who are to-day very short of wire netting, and also ex-servicemen, who need wire netting for poultry and vegetable farms which they are establishing, may have their requirements met?
– It is the policy of the Government that all wire netting and barbed wiresurplus to Army requirements shall be made available without delay for disposal through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I shall inquire whether any stocks are being held at Penrith that can be so disposed of. Large quantities have. already been sold for purposes such as those mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for Information seen a report in a Sydney newspaper that the comedian known as “ Mo “ has become a financial member of the Liberal party? Is this a part of a plan by big business to secure larger Liberal party meetings? Further, is it the forerunner of an announcement that the Liberal party will change its name to the M and Mo, or “ Mo “ and Menzies, party?
– The honorable member is like “Stiffy”; he is dead.
– I read in a copy of the Liberal pamphlet known as the Daily Telegraph this morning an announcement of the accession of one more member to the Liberal party ranks. I do not know that it will achieve any greater success through a new member named “Mo” than it has had under its present leader, whose namebegins with the same initial letter. It is of urgent public importance that an exposure should be made of the depths to which the Liberal party has sunk, when it tries to get into power in the Parliament on a Tivoli platform, having no otherplatform on which to appeal.
Broadcasting of Proceedings
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have approved of the installation of a loud-speaker in Committee Room 218 in Parliament House, through which parliamentary debates are, in fact,being broadcast, and whether you will obtain advice as to the legality of the broadcast, and the possible right of action by individuals against yourself and the Australian Broadcasting Commission if any defamatory matter is published by such action prior to the passage of the Parliamentary Proceedings ‘Broadcasting Bill? Will you inform honorable members, as soon as possible, of their privileges and liberties in this direction, as they have been ascertained by you?
– During the week this matter has been touched upon by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) , and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan). I submitted a general question to the Solicitor-General for legal advice. Only a moment ago I received the information that I sought, but I have not yet had an opportunity to study it. The other question asked by the honorable member will be given consideration. As to the installation in the committee room to which he has referred, loud-speakers which were installed about seven or eight years ago arc now not very efficient, . and it was thought that more efficient instruments should he provided to give honorable members an opportunity to hear, before broadcasts actually commenced, how their voices will sound over the air. Consequently the best instrument obtainable was placed in a room which is not often used, where it would not inconvenience members using the party rooms. I shall inquire into the legal point raised by the honorablemember and furnish information to him later.
Eagle Farm Aerodrome
– In view of the fact that Eagle Farm aerodrome, Brisbane, is to be the principal aerodrome in Queensland, will the Acting Minister for Air consider the erection on it of an observation tower and refreshment rooms, and theprovision of other facilities for the travelling public?
– I shall be very glad to have the matter investigated, and to endeavour to provide the suggested’ facilities.
– In view of the fact that this year Australia has exported more than 3,000,000 square yards of woollen textiles, including 88 6,000 square yards to Russia, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the rationing of woollen textiles that are used in the making of clothing for ex-servicemen may now be eased or abolished? Can he indicate when the rationing of this material will cease?
– The honorable gentleman asked me a question on somewhat similar lines yesterday, and I promised to confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to obtaining the information for him. I have been assured by the Minister for Trade and. Customs that the exports to Russia have been of certain worsted materials of a kind that is unsuitable for use in Australia, and that only a token quantity of materials of a kind that can be used in Australia has been exported to Russia and other countries. I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs has stated further that token quantities of materials have been exported to certain countries, notably New Zealand, and, I think, India, for the purpose of retaining their interest in the Australian manufacturer; because provision has been made fora big expansion of the manufacture of woollen goods in Australia, and the aim is to obviate the complete capture of those markets by the manufacturers of other countries, to the exclusion of the Australian manufacturer and the detriment of the thousands of additional workers whom it is hoped to employ in Australian factories in the near future. I shall obtain further information for the honorable gentleman.
Unregistered Private Hospitals - Mental Hospitals
– Some of my constituents have informed me that when they have entered a private hospital they have discovered that it is not functioning under the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services say whether or not the names of approved hospitals under that scheme may be made known, and whether a subsidy may bepaid to persons so affected?
– I have not heard of a case of the kind mentioned. Some private hospitals may not be registered under the hospital benefits scheme. Hospitals have to make application,and be passed for registration. Most of the private hospitals have now been registered and are participants in the scheme. If the honorable member can give to me the name of any hospital that has not been registered, I shall mate inquiries and obtain the information he desires.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that under the hospital benefits legislation passed recently Commonwealth financial assistance is given to State hospitals but not to State mental hospitals? Is the honorable gentleman able to explain the reason for the exclusion of mental hospitals and- indicate whether it is intended to extend the benefits of that legislation to such institutions?
– I am not certain whether mental hospitals are entitled to participate in assistance provided under the hospitals benefits legislation. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Health and furnish the requisite information to the honorable member.
– I endeavoured to-day to obtain from the Parliamentary Library and from records a copy of the report of Mr. Justice Davidson on the coal-mining industry. I was informed that a number of copies had been roneoed by the Prime Minister’s Department, but that the only copy available was in the
Parliamentary Library and bad to be perused there. In view of the urgent nature of the coal discussions that are taking place at the moment, will the Prime Minister arrange to have roneoed a sufficient number of copies of the summary which already has been made available to some honorable members to ensure that all members who may need a copy will be able to obtain one?
– As I mentioned recently, and as honorable members-know, this report is a very large document of, I think, two or three volumes. 1 have already explained that it will not be possible to have it printed before the completion of other work which has to be done. The probability is, therefore, that some time will elapse before copies of the report will become available.
– Will it be printed before the next elections?
– If possible.
– I have referred only to the summary.
– So that members might have an opportunity to, make themselves acquainted with the main portions of the report, a summary of it was prepared. I am prepared to make available to each member of the Parliament a copy of that summary, on the distinct understanding that it is to be regarded, not as an official document, but merely as what are regarded by those who prepared it as the essential features of the report.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen an article published in the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, the 26th June, 1946, headed “Sydney. Saved Again!” and then proceeding as follows : -
Ten Mh.es per Hour Exceeded in Exciting Dash.
Gloomy prognostications of the County Council Chairman, Councillor Cramer, that Sydney faced an electricity breakdown to-day collapsed again when five divisions of the Black Diamond Express hurtled through the night and day and the first arrived at Bunnerong before -the deadline of 10 a.m.
Sometimes the trains exceeded 10 miles per hour in their dramatic dash with 1,630 tons nf coal.
The locomotive’s powerful headlight and twu kerosene lamps; on the front buffers cost an eerie glare on the shining streamers of metal, and a final shrill from the fireman told the anxious watchers behind that the first division of the Black Diamond Express had thundered across the points at 4 miles per hour and was now on the main line, Bunnerong bound.
The wheels as they pounded the rails took up a steady chant: “Coal for Calamity Cramer. Coal for Calamity Cramer. Coal for Calamity Cramer “.
– Order ! J have many times told honorable members that they are not entitled to quote at length from newspapers or letters when asking questions. The honorable member may, in order to make hie question clear, state the essence of the newspaper article to which he Kas referred.
– I bow to your ruling.
– The honorable member has no choice.
– In view of the statement in this article and in similar newspaper articles published recently regarding the coal situation in Sydney, will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether “ Calamity Cramer “ is guided by political considerations in making alarming statements regarding the coal position? Will he also ascertain whether by their inefficiency and bungling “ Calamity Cramer “ and some members of the Sydney County Council are actually responsible for the coal situation in Sydney?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable member refers, but I understand that a gentleman by the name of Cramer has made certain gloomy prognostications regarding the generation of electricity at the Bunnerong Power .Station. I have observed that some of his prognostications of a similar kind in the past have not turned out to be correct. It has also been reported to me that, restrictions on the use of electricity which have been applied in certain districts within the city area have not, for political reasons, been applied in certain other districts. I shall consult with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ascertain whether there is anything this Government can do to bring about an improvement of the situation.
Ship Painters and Dockers
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether a dispute is developing on the Sydney waterfront between employers and employees who are engaged in the work of ship painting and docking. If so, will the honorable gentleman take steps to avoid an extension of it?
– A dispute is developing on the Sydney waterfront because the firm of Poole and Steel cannot agree that the labour which it requires shall be picked up according to the roster system which has been in operation for some time. At the moment, the dispute is confined to this one firm; but the ship painters and dockers section of the Chamber of Manufactures has notified all other employers engaged in the same class of work that, unless this firm agrees to adopt this method of engaging labour, they are to lock out their employees. Judge O’Mara has taken cognizance of the dispute and has referred it to Conciliation Commissioner Findlay, who has advised both parties of his intention to call them together next Monday, in an effort to find a solution of the trouble. I hope that meanwhile the employers will not persist with their intention to lock out their men.
Erection ofnative Village.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories whether, as the Pacific Islands Monthly has stated, £118,000 is to be expended on theerection of a native village in Papua. If so, what purpose will the village serve?
– If the Pacific Islands Monthly has stated a fact, it has done so for the first time. The Department of External Territories has decided to expend £118,000 on the construction of a native village in close proximity to Port Moresby. The Government was obliged to rehabilitate these natives, who had been disturbed by military operations. Their old villages were destroyed, and we thought that, while we were on the job, we would do it well, and give them a model village.
Drought Relief in Victoria.
– Has the Victorian Minister for Agriculture asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to review the terms agreed upon for the distribution of the amount of £100,000 jointly provided by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Victoria for drought relief to dairy farmers in that State? If not, would the Minister reconsider the method of allocation if representations were made to him by the Government of Victoria?
– I do not know of any request, by the Government of Victoria for a. variation of the method of allocation from the drought relief fund for dairy farmers. However, if a submission is made to me I shall present it to Cabinet for consideration.
– As Chairman, I: present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Conelan) - by leave - prorposed -
That the report be agreed to.
– I have no wish to oppose the adoption of the report, but I think that this is an appropriate time to raise a point in connexion with the printing of parliamentary papers. I should like to know whether it is proper for the Printing Committee to move for the printing of a report even though it deals with a subject already on the noticepaper, and not yet disposed of. I ask the question because, some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) presented the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure and the Auditor-General’s report. It now transpires thatthe AuditorGeneral’s report has not been printed because the motion for the printing of the document is still on the notice-paper. This seems to be absurd, because there are few documents which honorable members wish more to read than the Auditor-General’s report. The motion now stands No. 3 on the list, and I realize that the Prime Minister has brought it forward so that the matter may be disposed of. The report is not available to honorable members, and apparently the Printing Committee does not feel at liberty to have the paper printed while the motion remains on the notice-paper. [ can remember many occasions upon which a paper already printed has been tabled, and a motion made that it be printed so that a debate could take place. It seems farcical that the report of the Auditor-General should not be printed and made available to honorable members;
– This difficulty could, I think, be overcome by agreement with the Government. Technically, until Parliament authorizes the printing of a paper it cannot be printed, although we know that, in practice, papers have been printed before presentation to Parliament. However, if the point is taken, documents of that kind cannot be printed until Parliament gives leave to do so. The motion for the printing of the document referred to by the. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is still on the notice-paper, and until it is disposed of leave cannot be given for the printing to be done. I cannot see any way of getting over the difficulty other than theoneI have suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ask his colleague to make an early statement on the result of the investigation by his officers into stocks of good leather held by leather merchants, and at present not available to boot manufacturers and repairers? If the investigation has disclosed that there has been a hold-up of such essential material by leather merchants, will action be taken to ensure immediately a satisfactory distribution of available stocks?
– The answer to both parts of the honorable member’s question, is “ Yes “.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that the specially selected adviser of the Minister for External Affairs has returned to
Canberra ? Does not the right honorable gentleman wish to obviate Australia running the risk of an unhealthy or unsatisfactory peace by returning that adviser to Australia; thus leaving the Minister for External Affairs to rely on his own resources in the making of decisions of such an important nature?
– To whom does the honorable member refer in the first part of his question?
– Whom did the Prime Minister appoint to advise his Minister for External Affairs ?
– If the honorable member is not prepared to identify the person to whom he refers I cannot answer his question. One of the officers appointed to advise the Minister for External Affairs was the present SolicitorGeneral, Professor Bailey. Is the honorable member referring to that gentleman ?
– He is referring to Senator Grant.
– It is true that, with the consent of the Cabinet, Senator Grant was appointed to the staff of the Minister for External Affairs. It is also true that Senator Granthas returned to Australia. As I explained recently, it was anticipated that the peace conference would be held much earlier than at present seems possible; but as the peace conference had not yet commenced, and as the Government desired to have ample support in the Senate to carry its proposed amendments of the Constitution, and also as a call had been made of members of the Senate in accordance with constitutional practice, on behalf of the Government I asked Senator Grant to return to Australia. I would have been very foolish personally and politically had I allowed the passage of important constitutional bills by the Senate to be endangered when I had at my disposal means of ensuring that a majority of Government supporters could be present when the vote on that legislation was taken.
– Why was not. a returned soldier sent abroad with the Attorney-General ?
– I make no apology for what has been done.
– In answer to a question on Thursday the Acting Minister for Air stated that he expected to have at the end of last week information as to when the Air Force station at Mildura would be available for the establishment of a branch of the University of Melbourne. Is the honorable gentleman in a position to furnish the information now?
– Only yesterday I signed a letter furnishing the requisite information to the honorable member. I am surprised that he has not yet received it.
– It has not reached me.
– Is it a fact, as reported in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, that the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners in Western Australia has instructed its members to work all Dutch ships in future, whether armed or not ? If that is so, will the Prime Minister withdraw the critical remarksbe made recently with regard to the action of the Dutch authorities in sending the Piet Hein to Fremantle ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers. In any case, I do not propose to withdraw any remarks I have made in this connexion.
Formal. Motion for Adjournment
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The state of emergency caused by the failure of the Government to ensure adequate supplies of coal for the industrial, transport and domestic requirements of Australia.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen
– The purpose of this motion is to give an opportunity to this House once more in the circumstances now existing to discuss the problem of coal, because the fact is that the coal position, which has excited the attention of this Parliament before, has gone from bad to worse. It has probably never been in a worse position than it is at this moment. Queensland is in a state of emergency literally, because there is an industrial hold-up that has led to very uncommon actionby the Queensland Government. Industry in all the States that depend on coal is almost on the edge of disaster because there are no reserves of coal. A facetious attempt was made a few minutes ago by one honorable member to impute undue gloom to a member of the Sydney County Council, but the elementary fact, is that that in the industrial States hardly a factory has any reserves of coal, public utilities are literally living from day to day, and hundreds of thousands of people have employment that no longer has any security beyond the next day or two, because, as we know, all that we need to have is a. breakdown or a stoppage of supply in some large electric supply utility and we shall have from 50,000 to 100,000 people out of work within 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of housewives are suffering intolerable interference and unavoidable hardship. Above all, vital production is delayed, and the economics of re-establishment are imperilled. I believe that is a perfectly fair summary of the state of affairs that we are now contemplating.
There has undoubtedly been within the last twelve months a marked degeneration of this matter. I might point out to honorable members in the very few minutes that I have on a proceeding of this kind a few material figures. In 1942, the average number of days lost per employee in New South Wales was 13.3. In 1945, that figure had risen to 36.1. In 1942, coal production in New South Wales, with 17,101 employees, was 12,280,770 tons, and in 1945, with 17,317 employees, it was 10,176,254 tons. So we have a calamitous reduction of more than 2,000,000 tons in the output of the industry, though there were some 300 more men engaged in it.I know, because we have learned this from experience, that the favourite reply of the Government to questions on this matter is to go back to 1940, when there was a general strike in the industry, and say, “ But the figure was lower in that year “. Of course, it was. Had it not been for the resolute battle in 1940, when the strike ended without any concessions to the strikers, it is doubtful whether we should have had the production that we did have in the succeeding years. But the Government, terrified at the prospect of any dispute with the malcontents in the industry, is content to sit back and do literally nothing, while the production of coal falls by more than 2,000,000 tons from 1942 to 1945. Another answer commonly given is that trouble exists in the coal-mining industry in Great Britain, as well as in Australia. The statement is made and applauded that there is trouble in the coalmining industry in Great Britain. I took the trouble to ascertain what the comparable figures were. In 1942, when the average number of days lost per employee in New South “Wales was 13.3, the figure in Great Britain was 1.18. and in 1945, when the average number of days lost per employee in New South Wales was 36.1, the number lost in Great Britain was. 9. So, to compare the loss of coal production in Great Britain with the loss that is imposed upon this community by irresponsibles in New South Wales is to compare unlike things. Indeed, one more figure will perhaps establish what is almost a terrific fact in relation to this industry. In New South Wales, in 1940, 629,000 days were lost by 17,000 miners, and, in the same year, Great Britain ,lost 640,000 days, approximately the same total, with 700,000 miners. So it, is as clear as anything could be. that whatever trouble exists in the coal-mining industry in Great Britain is a mere trifle compared with the constant wreckage and ruin imposed on the Australian community by the coal-miners, particularly in New South Wales. The gravamen of the charge against the Government is that it has applied ‘ a policy that falls into two parts: it retreats; it does nothing, and, by that very futility of policy, it has encouraged stoppages in the coal-mining industry. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, on the 14th October, 1943, read to this House a statement of the things that the Government proposed to do in order to improve and maintain coal production. This, mark you, was’ in 1943, when coal production was, in fact, between 1,000,000 ,and 2,000,000 tons greater than it is now. And what did he say? I quote his own words - .
Action will be taken to give effect to the following : -
Prosecutions will be applied in every case of a mine-worker absenting himself from work without lawful excuse and, similarly, prosecu– tions will be launched against any person connected with the mine management responsible for a breach of existing regulations.
Mechanization of mines to be proceeded with as rapidly as the procurement of equipment will permit.
Provision of additional labour from personnel at present in the services, or in other industries, the number to approximate COO.
The working of a second shift in mines on the South Maitland coal-fields.
That was very specific. .The one outstanding feature of all of it is that not one of those things has been done, except the third, which was that additional employees were to be provided, and, as a matter of’ fact, as I had occasion to point out in the House on the 31st August, 1944, almost a year later, although a few . additional men had been brought into the industry, production was lower than before they had been brought in. So that if we ignore the one matter which proved to be futile, the answer to all that is that, although it was stated clearly, not one of those things has been carried out On the same day, the 14th October,- 1943,” the then Prime Minister used some strong words. He said -
As a result of inquiries which 1 have had . made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of minority malcontents and irresponsibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production.
Has one of those malcontents and irresponsibles been removed ? We did hear at one stage of some being called up for military service, but before long, they returned to the mines. Without going further into the speech that the late Prime Minister then delivered, I pass to the next notable statement, which was made on the 31st August, 1944. I commend it to the thoughtful consideration of honorable gentlemen opposite. The then Prime Minister said -
There is on our statute-hook a law which deals with this matter-
He was referring, of course, to the National Security Regulations and to. the Coal Production (“War-time) Act- and I .say to the House, but more directly I say it to the industry, that that law will beenforced ruthlessly. T make no qualification about this time or any other time. I have no object in saying something merely to please the Opposition. I repeat, that the law which we have passed in respect of the coal-mining industry will be enforced ruthlessly against all those to whom it .can be applied validly, whether they be workers or members of the employing organizations.
Those fine words have been completely falsified by the result, because the law has never been enforced ruthlessly or otherwise. The policy of the Government has been one of retreat and inaction. On that occasion, the then Prime Minister glanced at the supposed remedy of nationalization, for which another campaign is being developed now. Of nationalization, he said -
I venture to say, however, that the nien who go on strike under the present management of a mine would go on strike under any other kind of management. Therefore, strikes must be stamped out. I say to the union that it will be destroyed if it cannot exercise discipline over its members-
I emphasize the following words: - and I accept also as logical, the fact that the Government will be destroyed unless it also can enforce discipline.
– The .late Prime Minister made an accurate forecast.
– I agree. The only other citation that I desire to make from the speeches of the late Prime Minister is an utterance on the Coal Production (War-time) Act. He pointed out, in very just terms that one thing is obvious, namely -
In- a democracy no- group of workers, just as no group of employers, can be permitted to arrogate to themselves the right to dictate to the Parliament, and so to the Government.
If we require words which explain precisely the nature of the Government’s authority, the resolution of the Government to exercise its authority, the needs of society and the need for discipline, those are the words. But the community has long since reached the stage when it is tired of words and wants action, because it wants coal. I know, even if the Government does not know, that coal is the basic -requirement of our industrial society in Australia. I remind the House that even now, the things promised in 1943 have not been commenced. The Government has had before it for some time the report of the Davidson Commission. It has been difficult for us to examine the complete report, for the reasons that were discussed at question time,, but the document makes really terrible reading. All honorable members should read in full the very elaborate summary of the report which has been, to some extent, circulated. Yet has the Government given effect to . the recommendations of the Davidson tribunal ? Not at all ! So far from giving effect to this most careful, comprehensive and authoritative report, the Government has continued to negotiate with the miners to see what they would like, whereas the’ royal commission’s report contains the most clear-cut, documented and amply supported conclusions as to what is wrong in the industry and what remedial measures should be taken. 3 have jotted down a few of its outstanding features. They deserve to be very widely known in Australia, because they include such matters as these -
That most stoppages have not been based upon genuine grievances and that practically none of them has been brought about by the owners or management.
That is the -finding of a very distinguished judge who had years to inquire into these matters. His Honour found also that, there is -
Clear proof of the an ti- Arbitration activities of the Communist leaders.
Of course, the Communists were “good boys “ during the war for reasons that are notorious. The Soviet Union was involved in the war. But when hostilities ceased, they felt “free once more to pursue their policy of an ti- A rbitration. Their policy is direct action or collective bargaining, by whichever euphemism you care to describe it - the law of the jungle in industry. The third finding was -
The inability or reluctance of the Govern-, ment to enforce the law.
The learned judge found also that -
Increased mechanization is indispensable to the achievement of stability in the industry.
His Honour found, although the Government so far has not heard his voice, that -
The burden of taxation is the most active of all causes of absenteeism.
According to His Honour, one of the evils in this industry is -
The profitable character which strikes have been allowed to assume.
Finally, he found that -
Nationalization is no answer. . . . and in support of his conclusion, he set out -
The melancholy story of Lithgow and Coalcliff.
If any honorable member requires abundant proof of the absurdity of the idea that the coal-miners will work harder for a government than they will for a private owner, he has only to read the conclusions contained in this report dealing with the Lithgow colliery, which is owned by the Government of New South Wales, and Coalcliff, which was brought under Commonwealth control under the. Coal Production (War-time) Act. The learned judge described the coal industry as a “tottering” industry; yet it is basic to the national life. The problem of increased production of coal is, in consequence, the greatest single industrial and economic problem confronting the Government, and in relation to it, the Government has, in’ previous years, done nothing but retreat. The time has come when the people demand action. Failing action, the people will undoubtedly pursue what the late Prime Minister himself conceded to be the logical course, of throwing out this Government.
– Although I have been a member of this Parliament since 1940, this is the first time that I have discussed the coal situation. That does not mean that I have not taken a deep interest in the problem ever since my membership of this Parliament began, and indeed for long before that time. In fact my interest in it goes back to my boyhood, for I grew up in a coal-mining district and have relations engaged in the coal-mining industry. Consequently I believe that I know a good deal more about the problems of the industry than do many honorable members opposite.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The Minister mustbe given the same opportunity to put his views as was given to the Leader of the Opposition. If any honorable member indulges in any” funny business “ he will be dealt with.
– My interest in the coal industry has quickened in recent years, particularly since I became a member of the Parliament and a member of this Government. My first recollections of the subject as a member of the Parliament go back to the occasion of my first journey to Canberra by train after my election in 1940. Honorable members will recollect that the Corio by-election ushered in the downfall of the Menzies Government, because, as the result of it. the right honorable gentleman was compelled to admit Country party representatives to his government. On my first journey to Canberra as a member of the Parliament I had to sit up all night, because no sleeping berths were being provided on trains at that time. Why was that? It was because of a coal strike. What government was in power at that time? It was the government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), which included Country party representatives. It will be realized, therefore, that disputes in this industry are not new either in Australia or in other parts of the world. The plain fact is that the problems of the coalmining industry in this country and in other countries are a legacy of many years of neglect by private owners of. coal mines, and by governments which failed to deal adequately with problems that shouldhave been faced. Indeed, the acute coal shortage in Australia today is, in part, the result of the very coal strike of 1940 to which I have ref erred, because if there had been no strike at that time reserves of coal would have been available in Australia to enable us to meet such an emergency as faces us to-day.
I have examined carefully the terms of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and. I find them to be almost, amusing. The right honorable gentleman has used the phrase “ failure to ensure adequate supplies of GPa “ for certain purposes. I ask the right honorable gentleman what steps he would take to ensure the provision of adequate supplies ?
– The Government has been given information on that point in the- Davidson report.
– What steps did .the right honorable gentleman take in 1940, when coal production ceased for a long period ? On a more recent occasion when the issue was raised, the right honorable gentleman said that we should have a showdown in this industry and a complete stoppage for however long” it might be necessary.
– That is a misrepresentation of what I said. 1” said that the Government should not be afraid to have a complete showdown.
– The tight honorable gentlemen, by inference, advocated that we should have such a showdown in this industry as might result in a complete stoppage for an indefinite period. Even to-day he talked about ruthless action of the type he then envisaged.
– That was the. late Mr. Cur-tin’s language.
– Order ! I ask honorable, members not to interject.
The honorable member for Balaclara inter rjecting
– Order! I shall name the honorable member if he continues to interject.
– He has interjected very little!
– - I can envisage the Leader of the Opposition saying, if he were the Leader of the Government, “ Well, if these miners are not going to produce coal, the law must be enforced, and we must put them in gaol if neces sary”. Suppose that course were taken, and that all the coal-miners of Australia were jailed. Would that get us more” coal? If the soldiers were sent to the coal-fields and miners were put against a wall to be shot, would that get us any more coal? Nothing that the right honorable gentleman has advocated - and I am sure that he had some of tha things that I have mentioned in his mind -would have resulted in our getting another ton Pf coal. It is true that he mentioned the Davidson report, I am not a constitutional lawyer, but as the right honorable gentleman claims to be one 3 ask him whether the Commonwealth Government has the constitutional power to implement the Davidson report? I saythat it has not. It is quite futile for the Leader of the Opposition to advocate a course of action which he knows it is not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Government to take. Itis true that the Davidson report recommends the mechanization of coal mines. Has the Coin.mQnwea.lth Government any power to enter privately-owned coal mines, and to order that they shall be mechanized ? It hag no such power.
Our situation to-day in regard to coal supplies is critical indeed, I deplore the fact that disputes of one kind and another take place IP this industry, and prevent the winning of a,s much coal as could otherwise be obtained; but I remind the House that if no stoppages at all occurred in the industry we should not be producing sufficient coal to meet our requirements. The plain fact is that the demand for coal, not only in Australia but. also in other parts of the world, has increased enormously in recent years. . It has increased, of course, pari passu with our population, which has grown by 500,000 in the last .’even years.
– The increase has1 been 7 per cent.
Mc. DEDMAN- That is so. That increase has also expanded the demand for coal for the production of electricity and gas for industrial and domestic uses.
– There has also been an increase of man-power.
– But the increase of man-power in the coal-mining industry has not been proportionate to the increase of population and of the demand for coal The reason is that the young people of this country do riot want to work in the mines. I, for one, do not blame them. This industry has been neglected for at least the last 50 years. Past governments, composed generally by the poli tical parties which now constitute the Opposition in this House, were responsible for that neglect. There has been a complete failure to develop efficiently the coal resources of this country.I have mentioned that the population of Australia has increased by 500,000 in the last seven years. There has also been a very great increase of the general productivity of the community during the war years, and that, taken in conjunction with the increased industrial activity, constitutes one of the reasons for the present shortage of supplies of coal. Had the Government allowed unemployment to develop, as did the parties which now sit in Opposition years ago, there would not now be the existing demand for coal for industrial purposes. Had the Government allowed industries to lag behind production demands, as those parties did in the depression years, there would not now be the existing demand for coal; because a very close relationship exists between the tempo of industrial activity and the demand for coal. I shall read some extracts from a confidential report that has been compiled for the Minister for Supply and. Shipping (Senator Ashley) in reference to this matter.
-I ask that the document be tabled.
– The Standing Orders provide that if a Minister states that a document is confidential, it. need not be tabled. On a number of occasions, the Chair has ruled that a motion for the tablingof a document declared by a Minister to be confidential is not in order. Whether or not the Minister quotes from such a document, is a matter which ho himself has to decide.
– On a point of order, I a sk whether, if a Minister claims that a document is confidential, and then quotes from it in the Parliament for publication in the press, it can be termed confidential in any sense of the word?
-I have already given my ruling.
– The section of the report from which I am now about to quote relates to the use of coal per man employed in industry.
– Whose report is it?
-It is a confidential report.
– By whom?
-To the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– By whom?
– The right honorable gentleman must think that I am in the witness box. I am not.
– If the honorable gentleman were, he would be in a bad way and I should be sorry for him.
– The section of the report which relates to the use of coal per man employed in industry states -
Recent papers in the United States of America have shown a good correlation between the total amount of fuel used and the index of industrial activity. As no such index is used in Australia, and as motor fuel is almost entirely imported, it was decided to compare the total fuel used excluding oil, with the total number of men employed in factories (since men predominate in the industries using the greatest amount of coal). The agreement is exceedingly good.
It would probably be sounder to include firewood and oil used in factories in the totals used, but these figures are not available for sufficiently far back.
The next section deals with the use of energy in relation to industrial output. Every one knows that the very high productivity in the United States of America is closely related to the high horsepower of energy used per industrial worker. The report states -
Recent figures give the use. of energy in the United States of America exclusive of motor fuel as 5.2 equivalent tonsof coal per head of the population of which 1.65 represents fuel for domesticheating leaving 3.55 for industrial fuel and domestic power.
The corresponding figures for Australia for 1939 would be just under 2 tons per head.
That is, 2 tons of coal a head for industrial purposes in Australia, compared with 3.55 tonsa head for industrial purposes in the United States of America. The point that I make is that the greater the use of coal per head of the population for industrial purposes the greater is the productivity per head of the population for such purposes. The present shortage of coal is due, first, to the fact that employment is at, an exceptionally high level; and secondly, tothe fact that the tempo of industrial activity in the community is now very much higher than it has ever been previously in the history of Australia. I again point out that had this Government been prepared to allow unemployment to develop in the community, as it might quite easily have developed because of the diversion of resources for war purposes and the difficulty of reconverting them to civilian use, there would not have been a. shortage of coal to-day. The existing shortage is due to the increased demand over the whole of the industrial field, and to the increase of the population. I have every sympathy with the coal-miners. I believe that the conditions that exist in this industry -to-day are due to neglect by the owners of the mines in years gone by, and to the failure of past governments to ensure that it should .be adequately protected. There has been left to the coalminers a legacy of hatred, distrust, suspicion and discontent, because, in years gone by, the workers in this industry never had a fair deal. “We have just emerged victorious from a war that was fought to prevent the establishment of a dictatorship throughout, the world. During the course of that war, the promise was held out to the workers of not only this country but also other countries that after its termination an endeavour would bc made to establish a new social order. I, for one, firmly believe in at least attempting to establish that new social order. But there must also be an attempt to establish for the miners a. proper place in that new social order. As I view the matter, the workers in this industry to-day can conclude that the establishment of that new social order for the community at large will depend upon increased production, which will depend very largely upon an increased output of coal; therefore, the new social order will be provided at their expense to a greater degree than can be said to apply to any other section of the community.
– The Minister’s time has expired. Is there a motion for an extension of time?
Opposition Members. - No !
– Order ! The sooner the Opposition learns that I am in charge of the business of this House, the better. I thought that I had heard a Minister move for an extension of time. What view of the matter may be held by the Opposition is immaterial to me. Whether or not there shall be an extension of time, is a matter for the House to decide. [Extension of time granted.”]
– While the Minister has been speaking, there has been an unfair and, apparently, an organized attempt to interrupt him. I draw the attention of the ‘Opposition to the fact that during the whole of the speech of their leader there was only one interjection; for the remainder of the time, he was heard in complete silence. If there is any further attempt to’ interrupt the Minister in the additional time that has been granted to him, I shall name the offender.
– I was drawing attention to the fact that one of the outstanding reasons for the war that has just terminated was the necessity to establish a new social order. I pointed out that, if that new social order was to be established, an increased production of coal was essential. The workers in this industry have probably come to the conclusion that unless something be done for them as a class, quite apart from the rest of the community, the new social order will be established at their expense more than by the efforts of any other section. For that reason, I believe that the workers in this industry are justified in .their determination to ensure that there shall be a new order in their industry. This is’ neither the -time nor the place fo’r me to deal with certain proposals which the Government has in hand for this industry. It is’ impossible for the Commonwealth Government to act on its own. It has not the power to implement recommendations in the Davidson report, even if it wished to do so; and I do not know whether or- not it does. Neither those nor the nationalization of the industry need be discussed, because the .Commonwealth Government has not the power to effect such purposes. But I believe that the plans which the Government has in mind, and which have been discussed with representatives of the coal-miners and the Government of New South Wales - which has certain constitutional powers in the matter - will ensure that, for the first time in many years, the workers in this industry can be assured that in the very near future there will he some reform of the industry in which they have to spend their lives. I also believe, that when the majority of the workers in this industry realize that - and the point is being reached at which it can be said that the majority do realize it - there will bc greater continuity of effort, and production will more nearly approximate our requirements. Yet I fail to see how, in present circumstances and with the number of mines now operating, sufficient coal could be produced to ensure full employment throughout Australia, even if every man in this industry worked full time oh the job and there were no stoppages on any account. It is, therefore, essential that, in addition to anything which the Commonwealth Government is doing, the State governments should open lip neW mines and develop open-cut mining. The Government of New South “Wales is already working towards that policy. In such action, rather than in attempts to obtain continuous production, lies our best hope for the future.
– If the subject before the House were not so important, and the present situation not so serious for Australia, the speech which we have just heard from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) might be regarded as humorous. It was a specious plea in defence of the miners by the Minister who represents in this chamber the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon whose department rests the responsibility to get enough coal to maintain and expand production. We heard from the Minister a dissertation on the new social order, but I remind him, and those associated with him, that unless production is increased we shall not be able to maintain any order, new or old. Coal is a basic requisite for the carrying on of our primary and secondary industries. When a Minister of the Crown makes speeches such as that to which we have just listened, is it any wonder that the coalminers behave as they are doing? Is it any wonder there is industrial anarchy in Australia when Ministers of the Crown, from their places in this House, offer excuses for industrial lawlessness? In those circumstances, the miners are encouraged to believe that they have been ill-treated; that this is no time in which to increase production, and that they are entitled to a “ new order “. The Minister said that coal production could not be increased with the available labour and facilities in the mines. ‘ The fact is, however, that production is not even being maintained, as is made clear by the following statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 27th May last: -
The gross output- from the New South Wales cool-fields last year was about 1,054,000 tons less than in 1939. Production last year was about 2,092,300 tons lower than the peak reached in 1942. In the first quarter of this year New South Wales coal output, it was recently stated, fell 50,000 tons below the level of the first quarter in 1945.-
There has been a grave deterioration in the industrial situation since this Government took office, and the excuses just offered by the Minister are a dangerous encouragement to those responsible. Figures released by the Government Statistician show that there has been a marked increase in the number of industrial disputes and working days lost since the present Government came into office. For instance, in 1941, there were 567 disputes with a loss of 984,174 -working days, and it has to be remembered that the bulk. of the industrial trouble at that time was of a political nature. Indeed, those responsible for it admitted thai strikes were their business. -In 1943, when the Curtin Labour Government was in office, the number of disputes rose to 7S5, and the loss of working days to 990,151. In 1944, there were 941 disputes with a loss of 912,752 working days. Last year, there were 945 disputes, and a loss of 2,119,641 working days.
I come now to the coal industry itself. Figures which I obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician to-day reveal an appalling state of affairs, one with which no responsible Minister should.be satisfied. They certainly do not justify the stupid and ridiculous attitude of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– He did not nin a “ slush “ fund.
– No ; but the Government did, and I shall ventilate that at the proper time. The figures are as follows : - 1943 - 550 disputes; 320,231 working days lost. 1944- 660 disputes; 389,582 working davi lost. 1945- 693 disputes; 611,312 working days lost.
The industrial turmoil in the coal industry is mainly in New South Wales, as these figures show- 1943 - 344 disputes; 325,352 working days lost. 11)44 - C4S disputes; 378,591 working days lost.
Last year, the joss of working days rose to 591,982. Is it surprising, therefore, that it has been found necessary to move, the adjournment of the House to focus attention on this alarming state of affairs? The Government has proved itself to be utterly spineless. Ministers would do well to pay heed to the Labour Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, who said that the workers must recognize the need to produce every ounce possible because production was the basis of wealth. He pointed out that there existed industrial machinery to prevent unnecessary strikes and industrial turmoil.
The proposal has repeatedly been put. forward that the nationalization of the coal-mining industry would overcome the present difficulties. ‘ It has been claimed, that the miners would work better for the Government than for private employers. We have been told that private owners have not given the workers a fair deal, and have refused to provide proper amenities. Let us look at the history of government control in the mining industry. Take the Coalcliff colliery for example. . It came under control in. March, 1944, and for the year ended the 31st March, .1945, the net loss was £28,350. For the year ended the 31st March’ last, the net loss was £27,652, and the accumulated loss to the 31st March was £56,002. The cost of production for the year ended- 3.1st March, 1946, was 27s. 3.42d. a ton. The selling price of the coal for the two years was 21s. 2.909d. and 22s. 11.35d. a ton respectively. For the twelve months ended December, 1944, production losses from absenteeism amounted to- 22 per cent. In the following year they were 14 per cent. [Extension of time granted.’] For the nine months of control during 1944 there were three one-day strikes, and during the year ended the 31st December,194:”i, there were ten strikes. In Queensland, three mines are being operated under government control - Bowen, Styx No. 3, and Mount Mulligan. For the year ended June, 1945, Bowen showed a tret loss of £39,923, and Styx No. 3. £16,329. Indebtedness’ to the Treasury at the 30th June, 1945, in respect of the three mines, was £336,959.
– The Bowen mine has not lost a day’s production.
– No, because it is being worked. It is not being run as a government mine. The aggregate operating loss on all Queensland State mines, and capital losses written off to the 30th June, 1945, were £413,502. In respect of the Bowen mine, the loss increased in 1943-44 by £6,314, compared with the previous year, due mainly to a reduction of output, The selling price of coal supplied to the coke works was’ 17s. lOd. a ton, c 5s. 9d. below the cost of production. Recently, it was announced in the press that the Commonwealth Government proposed, as one way of solving the problems of the coal industry, to provide elaborate amenities for miners. However, at the Bowen mine, £25,688 was spent on the provision of huts to accommodate additional miners, the expenditure being met from Consolidated Revenue. Just how much the miners appreciated this is shown by the fact tha v. they produced les* coal. Furthermore, the fact, should be borne in mind that the cost of constructing those huts was not taken into account in computing the aggregate operating loss.
Because of the industrial lawlessness prevailing in Queensland, the Labour Government , in ‘ that State has found it necessary to invoke the provisions of. the Public Safety Act, which was passed to ensure the welfare, order and public safety of the State during the war. Despite the fact that the war’ is over that act still remains on the statute-book. I invite the attention of honorable members to it. and ask them to compare it with the Crimes Act, which they have criticized in and out of season. Section 8 (1) of the Public Safety Act provides -
The Council may do and execute or cause, direct, or authorize to be done and executed all such acts, matters and/or things by, to. or with inspect to any person or persons, his or their services, and/or his or their property as it shall doom necessary or desirable to secure the welfare, order, and/or public safety of the State of Queensland or of any part thereof, or of all or any of its inhabitants.
Although the Premier of Queensland has publicly stated that he intends, if necessary, to invoke the provisions of that act, lie has also stated that it is not his intention at the moment to use its provisions to discipline strikers, and that he, hopes they will exhibit a little common sense. I remind honorable members that the implementation of that section would cause maximum inconvenience to the law-abiding population of Queensland. What is the use of having as wide a power as that if the Government exhibits such spinel lessness in its administration? ft is obvious that the Queensland Government will implement that section if it is compelled to do, so, and thus show the Labour Government of the Commonwealth the most appropriate way to bring about respect for the law in this country and end the present chaotic condition of affairs brought about by a few recalcitrants who hold the law in contempt.
.- There is an old saying, “figures do not lie, but liars can figure”. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is adept in juggling figures to suit his own purposes. I know something about Hie coal industry, having represented coal-miners in this Parliament for over 25 years.
– Far too long!
– The electors of Werriwa do not agree with the honorable member. Honorable members opposite and those who sent them here have no regard for the conditions of employment under which the miners are forced to work. They provoke the miners in every way by insults and criticisms founded on a complete and wilful misunderstanding of their problems. The disputes in the coal-mining industry are not of today’s making; we are but reaping to-day the crop of evils that has been accumulating in Australia ever since coal-mining was started in this’ country, and accu-moisting in Great Britain and Europe for over 100 years. As a former Labour man, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) should know something about the problems of this industry. At one stage in his career, when he was engaged in a struggle on behalf of the mine-workers, the then Premier of New South Wales - I believe it was Mr. Wade - threatened that he would put him in leg-irons. Amongst the miners on the south coast of New South Wales there is a very grave fear of the effects of dust. So great is this fear that when the present generation of miners dies out there will be nobody to work the mines. Every time they go down the shafts the miners take their lives in their hands.
– What is the Government doing to improve their conditions?
– The Labour Government has been in office mainly during the period of the war when, because the efforts of the nation had to be harnessed to the task of winning the war, little or nothing could be done to help eradicate the causes of unrest in the mining industry. What was the record of the peace-time governments supported by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and other honorable members who now sit in opposition ? In the piping days of peace no attempt was made to improve working conditions in the mines. At Port Kembla, a few years ago, when the mine-owners and the heelers were swearing before God that there was no gas in the Port Kembla mine, the mine was blown up and 300 miners lost their lives. In my electorate many men under-30 years of age are completely “ dusted “ and will never work again. During the course of this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the cost of production. Is. the right honorable member aware that in one mine on the south coast, for every ton of coal produced an amount of 13s. 8d. has to be paid in compensation to miners affected by dust, and because no insurance company is prepared to insure against that risk this Government is subsidizing the owners in order to keep the mine in production ? No” mine-owner on the south coast of New South Wales has ever expended one penny in an attempt to deal with coal dust. All along the constantly growing tracks men walking to and from the coal-face churn up the dust–
– Yet nothing has been done, despite the fact that Labour governments have been in office in New South Wales for ten years.
– Labour has not been in control in New South Wales for as long as that. It is because of these and other unsatisfactory conditions of employment, that the miners are restive to-day. Now that we have peace again this Government believes that the time is ripe for the improvement .of industrial conditions generally, and the Government is determined that the coal industry shall be placed on a proper footing and that the men who are engaged in it will not in future take their lives in their hands every day they go down the mines. Because of the dangerous nature of this employment, and because so many of the bad conditions of the past are still existing to-day, this industry cannot be judged by ordinary standards. I am satisfied that if mine-owners and governments in all countries would act in conformity with the recommendations contained in the interesting and informative report presented by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to-day, the coal industry throughout the world would be vastly improved, and better production would follow. Honorable members opposite have spoken of our failure in .the past to build up reserves to meet losses of production. The miners on the South Coast have not forgotten that when millions of tons of coal were placed in reserve some years ago, it was used as a weapon to break down their conditions and to starve them into submission. Whenever a miner sees coal stocks being built up “ at grass “ he wants to know what is at the back of that policy. That psychology of fear can only be broken down when the conditions under which the miners work are raised to a standard which is the best that the industry can afford. Instead of ranting about the miners the Leader of the Opposition should tell us. what he would do to improve’ the coal position: Not one honorable member opposite has contributed a worth-while, suggestion on this subject. A good deal has been, said about the opposition of miners -to the mechanization of the industry. [Extension of /**» granted.]* Although I have attended hundreds of meetings of . rank and file members of miners’ lodges and coal conferences of various kinds, I have not heard one word said by the miners in opposition to the complete mechanization of the mines. Nearly all of the mines of the Broken Hill Proprietary . Company Limited are already mechanized and, as far as I am aware, that company has never experienced industrial trouble over the use of machinery in its mines. Stoppages have, however, occurred in mines where mechanization is not complete and where miners doing manual work on the coal face are subjected to added dangers by the existence of the machinery. I am wholeheartedly behind them in their protests against the continuation of such conditions. To be effective and safe, mechanization must be complete.
– I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ministers, but that sympathy is tinged with a great deal of disgust, for whilst they are sworn to uphold the law, when they are called upon to face up to a national- crisis of this kind they are recreant to the trust reposed in them. I refer particularly to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who represents the Minister for Supply in this House. He asked what we would do and, when the Leader of my party advised implementation of the Davidson report, the Minister fell back again upon his customary falsification of the position. When he says that there are- constitutional difficulties in carrying out recommendations made by Mr. Justice Davidson, he knows that three State parliaments, including the Parliament of New South Wales, have transferred certain powers to the Commonwealth. New South Wales produces about 90 per cent, of the coal. Therefore, that transfer of powers gives the Commonwealth Government authority to legislate effectively to control the coal-mining industry, if it chooses to do so. The technique to-day is the technique of all Labour Ministers since the inception of the Labour party’s current term of office. The late John Curtin, as Prime Minister, denounced the coal-miners with all the fervour that he felt, and then immediately appeased them. When he succeeded to the Prime Ministership, the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) similarly denounced them. Now he appeases them. The Minister for Post-war Beconstruction encourages their lawlessness when he says that, notwithstanding what Mr. Justice Davidson said in Lis report, the Commonwealth Government is powerless. All the Minister seems capable of is pious hopes like “ We hope to get coal, we may succeed in doing this ‘ or that “. Notwithstanding . the declarations of the Prime Minister that coal must be mined to keep- industry going, all that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator. Ashley) can say is that no matter how much coal is given to the Bunnerong power-house, it cannot produce the power necessary to keep industry going. To that wild statement the Chairman of the Sydney County Council, Councillor Cramer, replied that the maximum load at Bunnerong would not exceed 300,000 kilowatts, that if the coal supply was of satisfactory quality Bunnerong would have a capacity of 275,000 kilowatts, that Pyrmont powerbouse could supply 48,000 kilowatts, and that 10,000 kilowatts was available (rom sub-stations in’ the city, making a total of 333,000 kilowatts, and that, but for the delay of the State Government in approving of the installation of a 50,000 kilowatt generator at Bunnerong, the total capacity of the power house would have been brought to 383,000 kilowatts. That statement was made by the man charged with responsibility for the generation of power for Sydney. Yet the Minister for Supply and Shipping says that Bunnerong cannot supply the necessary power, regardless of what quantity of coal is supplied to it. The Minister for Supply aud Shipping also said that we had lost our coal reserves in the 1940 strike, but let us examine the position. In 1939, 1.6,588 coal-miners produced 11,195,832 tons of coal. In 1945, the number of miners had increased by 736 to 17,317, but they produced only 10,176,254 tons, or 1,019,578 tons less than in 1939. That decrease will require some explaining. It is obvious that as long as the Government encourages strikes and absenteeism and concedes all the miners’ demands production will fall. If we were .producing to-day as much coal as was produced in 1942, when the output of the New South Wales mines was 12,280,717 tons from 17,101 miners, we should have coal reserves. The output has declined since 1942, to which honorable gentlemen opposite point proudly as the peak year of coal pro duction, because of the failure of the Government to enforce the law and to ensure that the miners continue at work. Because of the Government’s laxity in enforcing the law, industry cannot function and the necessaries of life cannot be produced, to s’ay nothing of the other commodities that contribute to comfort. I do not blame the ‘ miners so much for this deplorable situation as I blame Ministers for having failed to honour their oath to observe the law. It is because of their failure in that respect that industry is languishing for lack of coal. Mr. Justice Davidson said in his report -
A stage has been reached in the industry which borders on disaster. The coal industry in its major fields is a tottering industry.
If that is true, it is equally true that the whole of Australia’s economy is faced with utter disaster. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction referred to production, and it would be as well, since he is so fond of citing figures, to consider these figures -
Stoppages of work on the New South Wales coal-fields in the last quarter of 1945 caused the loss of 1,250,415 working days. The total of working days lost throughout the year was 1,923,000 working days, indicating the way the industry suffered as the result of disputes in the last three months of 1945.
That is why Australia is losing the production upon which its economy depends. If this Government hopes, to survive the next general elections it must solve that problem. I direct the attention of Ministers to what was said by the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, himself a former coalminer, aware of the problems of the coal-mining industry, and a Labour stalwart -
Between 1940 and 1944 the coal output per mau decreased from 3.40 tons to 3.09 tons per man-day. In the same period wages rose from £3,047,095 to £G,337,309.
J.n other words, for less production wages almost doubled. Yet Ministers mouth pity about the hardships that miners encounter. No wonder Mr. Justice Davidson said-r-
The time has arrived when a note of realism should be struck in order to dissipate the cloud of maudlin sentimentality that is everlastingly spread over the industry with every _ bad effect.
If honorable members compare’ the improved conditions and increased wages that the coal-miners are enjoying with the reduced production, they can only conclude that Ministers who talk about the difficulties that the coal-miners have to contend with are guilty of the maudlin, sentimentality referred to by Mr. Justice Davidson. This Government is too weak to combat the pressure put upon it by the miners’ leaders. Kern ember what the general president of the miners federation, Mr. Wells, said -
Malicious and stupid suggestions that the federation proposes to abandon the strike weapon and embrace arbitration have no foundation.
That was in 1945.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If hot air could be substituted for coal as fuel, the honorable member foi1 Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) would’ be of national value. Unfortunately, however, this country’s industries require coal as a. source of power, and only the coal-miners are able, and prepared, to go into the bowels of the earth to win that essential of our economic welfare. Most honorable gentlemen opposite have criticized the methods of this Government in handling the difficult situation in the coal-mining industry. The honorable member for Wentworth referred to 1942 as. the year of record coal production. It is the practice of honorable members opposite to do that these days; but, in 1942, I was Minister for Labour and National Service- in the first Curtin Ministry, and I recollect that, when a few stoppages were occurring in some of the coal pits because of the pinpricking tactics of a section of the coalowners, members qf the Opposition criticized, my methods of dealing with the disputes, and said that I was too soft with the coal-miners. Yet, in that year, the coal-miners won more coal than in any other year since the establishment of the industry in Australia, and, remember, they were - working a 40-hour week then against a much longer week previously. The Opposition has changed its methods.. On one occasion, when thi.” country was fighting for its very existence. the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), when challenged to say what ought to be done to settle the coal trouble, said, “ If we are to have a general strike, let us have it “. That was the only solution’ that he could offer! It is true thathonorable members opposite tried to devise means of getting more coal. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) went into the Muswellbrook coal mine, which had been working continuously for many years. As soon as he did so, the miners objected to his obnoxious presence and went on strike. In 1940, the Leader of the Opposition, who accuses this Government of appeasing the miners, went to the northern coal-fields and appealed to the men to go into the pits. He did not talk about rigidly applying the law, but applied the policy of appeasement that he now accuses us of applying. As the result of the failure of those methods, his Ministry tried another method. It established what has become known as the “slush fund” for the purpose of attempting to bribe trade union officials to sell the men’ they were paid to represent. Exposures in this Parliament compelled the antiLabour government to appoint Mr. Justice Halse Rogers as a royal commissioner to inquire, into this matter. His report contained caustic criticism of the evidence of certain Opposition members. This is exactly what he said -
We have an extraordinary series of contradictions … in some cases recollection only is involved, in others there must be deliberate perjury. There is no doubt that one or more of the witnesses lied valiantly . . . one of the great difficulties in the case from my point of view as Commissioner is that some of the witnesses have given definite answers on matters of recollection and later, when their attention has been directed to certain other evidence and to certain proved facts which are inconsistent with their testimony, they have been forced to admit that what they had previously sworn could not be correct … I pointed out that both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden had been asked many questions on matters of detail, and in several instances had given replies which were subsequently shown to be incorrect.
Referring to the right honorable member for North Sydney, His Honourproceeded -
Consequently he made several mistakes. Mr. Fadden possibly -made more. Their testimony as to matters incidental to the transaction cannot he relied on. B,ut such mistakes are not basic. They have increased the difficulties of counsel appearing before the commission and of myself because they have made harder the tusk and. caused greater difficulty in piecing together a connected narrative.
Subsequently, His Honour stated -
There is no doubt that these instances show that Mr. Hughes’s memory is at fault “as to details on more tiran one occasion, and it has been urged that his whole story of the visit is a reconstruction made months afterwards and that his memory may have been ut fault on this too. In answer to that con- tention I pointed out during the course of the argument that one could not possibly put aside this evidence as being due to mere failure of recollection or mere self-deception on reconstruction of past events. It is a statement repeated on oath at a time when Mr. Hughes obviously must have had a full realization if the importance of the issues raised aud the implications of the statement to which he was pledging himself.
Vet the Opposition now criticizes the methods adopted by thi* Government to solve industrial (roubles !
– That was thu only plan which the Opposition could evolve to increase the output of coal.
– That was the plan which the” Opposition eventually got down to, because their methods of appealing to The miners for increased production failed. During this debate, certain members of the Opposition endeavoured to belittle the campaign that is now being waged for the nationalization of the coalmining industry. In 1942 T. recommended to the Curtin Government the complete nationalization of the industry, and 1.t is my firm opinion that before we csm solve the troubles in the coal industry, :he Government must bring it under complete national ownership and control. The Leader of the Opposition, who to-day is opposed to nationalization, has not always been of that opinion. Speaking at a conference of the mining unions and the mine-owners on the 13th December, 1939, he said-
If the coal-mining industry gets itself rationalized and a number of companies go out of existence and the whole of the industry is put on an economic basis it will become a better industry and there will be less men employed in it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) expressed that view six years ago. Undoubtedly, a very logical case can be adduced for nationalization. It has always been my opinion that no nationalized industry or governmentcontrolled industry can hope to succeed unless it has a complete monopoly of the field of operation. The reason for that is obvious. While private individuals share the field of operation, there is an incentive for them to bribe and corrupt officials’ who may be employed by the Government to operate its enterprise. What is the experience in other countries? Let us seek examples elsewhere, because some honorable members opposite are unable to see ‘ beyond their State boundaries. In New Zealand, the Labour Government has been nationalizing certain of the coal-pits. The production of coal in the . government-owned pits has not declined but has increased. In Great Britain, where the operators have a greater experience of the industry than either we in. Australia or our colleagues in New Zealand have had, the Government has decided to nationalize the coal-mining industry, and support for its policy is forthcoming, not from the ranks of the direct, adherents of the Labour party alone, but also from, people in all walks of life and from all schools of political thought. Coal is a national asset. lt is also a diminishing asset. The time may come when we shall regret the use of the inefficient methods now being employed in the production of coal. Mr. Justice Davidson, when chairman of a royal’ commission on the coal industry in 1929, directed attention in his report to the fact that many of the thicker seams in New South Wales were being inefficiently mined, and that existing methods of production would result in a loss of between 66 per cent, and SO per cent., of the available supplies. Extension of time granted.] In its last issue, the Sydney Sunday Sun published an article by a contributor who evidently had made some research into the coal-mining industry. He made it clear that, because the private coal-owners have failed to introduce hydraulic stowage in the industry we have lost, not for one year or two years, but for nil time, approximately 700,000,000 tons of coal since the industry was established. When we take into account our extended industrial effort to-day and our requirements of approximately 13,000,000 tons of coal a year, that loss represents many year’s supplies for this country. The day may come when we shall regret this waste of a national asset.
Why have the private coal-owners refused to introduce this method of production into the pits? They claim that if they introduce hydraulic stowage, the cost of. producing coal would - increase by 6s. or 7s. a ton. Because ‘ they are solely interested in the production of coal for profit they operate only the more easily worked sections of the pit and leave behind this large volume of valuable coal which is thereby lost for all time. In the national interests, this industry must be brought under government ownership. What is happening on the northern coal-fields .to-day? Because the private coal-owner is concerned only with securing his profit, he has not taken the necessary precautionary methods to prevent the heating and flooding of the mines. To do so would involve expenditure and he has preferred to take -the risk. The result is that recently a disastrous fire occurred on the northern coal-fields which endangered the whole of the valuable Maitland seam. Therefore, I contend that in the nation’s interests, irrespective of what may be argued regarding costs, this industry must come under national control and ownership. The sooner that happens, the better it will be for the industry, and the nation.
I pass now to the coal-miners themselves, their attitude to the- industry, and their employment. The miners have always considered that they were hot getting from various governments the treatment that they should receive. Stoppages in the pits are not a new feature of the industry. Stoppages have always occurred. But when the industry was capable of producing in excess of requirements, we heard no complaints about the stoppages. It is only now, when an acute shortage of coal exists for the purpose of parrying on our economy, that great attention is “ directed to stoppages of work. When I was Minister for Labour and_ National Service, I had experience of the attitude of certain section’s of the coal-owners towards the miners, and there were disputes and stoppages which would not have occurred if the Government. had owned the industry. For example, I read in the press from day to day statements accusing the miners of holding up the pits on frivolous pretexts. I read that in the Vale, of Clwydd pit, in the western district of New South Wales, the miners had gone on strike because they were demanding that a member of the staff, who had been employed at the colliery for many years, should .-join the miners’ federation. I did not consider that during a period of national crisis that was sufficient reason to hold up work at the pit, but I did not accept the newspaper version of the trouble. I went’ to the mine and called a meeting of the lodge. I then learned the exact cause . of the stoppage. The matter of the employee joining the miners’ federation was an issue which had been introduced after the stoppage had occurred. This is the actual reason why the pit stopped. These’ employees were contract miners, who were paid according to the quantity of coal they produced. Suddenly, .they became suspicious as to whether the weigh-bridge was opera- ting properly, and asked the management for a test. After a great deal of delay the management agreed,and it was discovered that- the weigh-bridge was at fault. It recorded every skip of coal as being half a hundredweight lighter than the true weight. The miners adopted a reasonable attitude. They did not blame the management or accuse it of having deliberately conspired to bring about faulty weighing. They informed the management that they were prepared to continue working on a daily wage rate; alternatively, they asked to be paid an agreed amount for every fully-loaded skip. In addition, the miners claimed that they should he credited in respect of the shift when the discrepancy was discovered, with half a hundred-weight of coal for each skip that they had filled. The management would not accept the proposal. A conference was called and the matter was quickly settled, because the management knew that it had no ease.
On “another occasion on the northern coal-fields, one elderly and sick miner who had grown old and ill in the industry’ drew in the quarterly “ cavil “ one of the most difficult places in the pit where the timbering was heaviest. Under normal conditions, he could not work continuous shifts. He therefore knew that he .could not possibly carry on in the new position. He arranged with a young, physically fit man to change places with him. In other words, the physically fit young man would go to’ the coal face while the sick, elderly miner would do the lighter job. The arrangement was so sensible that no one would ‘assume that a management, which was concerned with increasing the production of coal, would object to it. But, to the amazement Of the miner’s lodge, the management refused to agree. It insisted upon adherence to the positions that had been drawn in the “ cavil “. I communicated with the mine manager by telephone, because the miners intended to stop work’ the next day. I cannot relate in detail the whole of the conversation, because some of it would probably be unparliamentary. However, the pit did not stop,’ and the elderly, sick miner did the lighter work. This is typical of the sympathetic approach by the government of the day to the problems of the industry which was responsible for the record output of coal in 1942. If the. industry had been completely owned by the Government, there would not have been the adoption of such pin-pricking tactics. Honorable members opposite continually contend that the poor coal-owner is making no profit. ‘ Some coal-owners complained to me that their mines had not paid dividends for years. I should think that if the industry is a liability to them, it’ would be an excellent arrangement in their own interests and in the national interests for them to hand over the industry to the Government to operate. Let me refer to the findings of another royal commission. presided over by Mr. Justice Campbell. He declared that in 1914-18 the coal-owners made, on the capital employed, profits ranging up to 155 per cent. Therefore, the contention that this industry has been unable to afford to improve the conditions in the mines and the welfare facilities for the coal-miners themselves will not be accepted by any sensible person.
I ‘now desire to deal with the use which’ members of the Opposition make of the present industrial trouble. They constantly quote the remarks of Mr. Cramer, a member of the Sydney County Council. I ask: Is it not a fact that Mr. Cramer is a prominent member of the Liberal party, who stood for selection as a Liberal candidate ? Is it not also a fact that Mr. Cramer, in deciding to cut off from power and light certain sections of the City of Sydney, discriminated* as between industrial suburbs and those where the “ silvertails” live? Is it not true that the electorate of East Sydney had an almost complete black-out but Bellevue Hill and Rose Bay, which are represented by the honorable member for Wentworth, were not deprived of electricity? Some people are prepared to go to any lengths to defeat this Government. I recollect that the honorable member for Wentworth, on a previous occasion when a Labour government was in office in New South Wales, was prepared to join with a subversive organization which planned to resort to arms to overthrow a constitutionally elected government. The honorable member hopes to inflame the minds of the people of Australia against this Government, but it is a vain hope.” He will be fortunate if he can hold his own seat against Mrs. Jessie Street, the Labour candidate at the coming election.
Coal-miners are engaged in a very hazardous occupation. It riles me beyond words to hear the honorable gentlemen opposite trying to belittle the coal-miners. Not one of them has ever, during his lifetime, done work of a national character equal to that of the. miners in the coal pits. Yet- they talk about the coal-miners “ sabotaging “ the national effort. Hai any honorable gentleman opposite who talks in that way studied such subjects a? safety in the coal mines, or statistics relating to industrial accidents, or has he ever attempted to compare the seriousinjuries which the coal-miners suffer through dust with the industrial disabilities of workers in other industries? The health of many coal-miners is destroyed while they are relatively young. Not one member of the Opposition has ever engaged in such heroic work as that performed by the coal-miners. The people of Australia will not take long to assess the value of the work of the ‘coalminers as against that performed by their critics opposite, who have among their numbers accountants, auctioneers, exforeman of a skirt factory and the like, not one of whom has ever performed work of such national value as that of the coal-miners.
The Government has made the right approach to this subject. Coal-miners oannot.be coerced. , They can be reasoned with for they are reasonable men. Honorable gentlemen who have suggested that the coal-miners are sabotaging the national effort should. bear in mind that there was as high a percentage of their relatives in the fighting services as that of any other section of the community. It is ridiculous to assert that the coal-miners would engage in sabotage. All the miners ask for is justice and fair treatment, and they know that they can get it only from a Labour government.
– I rise to order. I ask whether an honorable gentleman who is granted an extension of time can speak for more than an additional ten minutes, the time allotted for his original speech on a motion of this description. I finished my speech at, 4.55 p.m., and it is now 5.18 p.m. Has not the honorable Minister already exceeded the extended time granted to him?
– The Standing Orders provide that extensions of time shall be for fifteen minutes, and that applies even though the original time might have been only ten minutes. The Minister is due to complete his speech at 5.21 p.m.
– I have not much more to say. I believe that when the facts are put before -the people of Australia, they will realize that the Chifley Government is making an honest attempt to deal with the problems of the coalmining industry in the proper way. They will also realize that the Opposition has failed in its appeasement policy inside this country, just as it failed in its appeasement in respect of our enemies overseas. They will realize, also, that Opposition members, when they were in power, had no plan for the solution of the problems of this industry except the improper use of public moneys in an a ttempt to bribe and corrupt trade union officials, for that is the effect of the report made by the late Mr. Justice Halse Rogers. The Australian public has a reputation throughout the world for faildealing, and I believe that it will be prepared to examine the case for the coalminers on its merits. It will not be misled by the honorable member for Wentworth, Mr. Cramer, of the Sydney County Council, or the Leader of the Opposition, who are endeavouring to use this situation for political purposes. They are not concerned “about the nation’s welfare. If they can provoke a general strike, they will do so for political purposes. I appeal to honorable members to reject, the motion and to leave judgment in the case to the people of Australia. 1” have no doubt what that judgment will be.
– I come from a State which has no black coal resources within its boundaries. No eloquence or wit of members of the Ministry, or Government supporters, can prevent the recognition of certain facts in regard to the coalmining industry. The first of these is that South Australian transport and industries have no reserves of coal whatever for the production of electricity and gas. Only . last week difficulties arose in Melbourne also because of the non-arrival of a certain ship which had been delayed by storms. It is Gilbertian that Ministers should seek extensions of time in order to deal with almost every aspect of the coal situation other than the circumstances relevant to the motion before the House. The Opposition “ makes no a’pology for castigating the Government for its failure to maintain coal supplies in Australia. What is happening to-day? Ministers have said that because of the wickedness of private enterprise about 700,000,000 tons of coal had been lost in Australia. The position is, however, that the Government of New South Wales has complete control of the coal mines. There are no constitutional barriers to prevent it from doing what it may desire in connexion with this industry. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) attempted to cane the Menzies Government because of the coal strike in 1940. I do not know whether the action of the Menzies Government was due to Country party influence, but” I recollect that years ago the Minister lost his deposit at an election which he contested as a Country party candidate. I am sure that he must have been chasing that £25 for quite a long while. Before the honorable gentleman resinned his seat he defended the inactivity of the Government on the ground that it lacked certain constitutional power. Obviously the Menzies Government had no’ more constitutional power than either the Curtin Government or the Chifley Government. This Government has an absolute majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and a government of its own political complexion is in power in New South Wales. Yet the combined efforts of Ministers and their satellites have failed to provide any solution of the problems of this industry. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has talked a great deal from time to time about a new order,’ but it becomes more and more clearly demonstrated, as the days go by, that the only thing the Government can do about a new order is to talk about it. The people in most of the metropolitan areas of Australia are in a most serious position to-day. If they want even wood for domestic cooking purposes they themselves must collect it in the country and bring it home. Gas and electricity are not available for such purposes in metropolitan areas. Civilization as we know it cannot be maintained unless coal supplies can be provided for power, transport and industry, and for our . ordinary amenities. ‘ ‘
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) talked about amenities on the coalfields. I say to him that coal-mining is not one of the low- wage industries of Australia, and has not been for many years, if it ever has. I have been through coal-fields districts on a number of occasions, and I have seen in them some of the worst slum areas there that can be found in the Commonwealth. This is due, not to the low wages, but to a permanent complex which causes coal-miners every little while to go out on strike. The Minister said that the Opposition desired to provoke a general strike to assist it at the coming elections. No general strike could be of so much assistance to the Opposition as an election card as is the failure of the Government to get the coalminers of New South Wales to produce coal. No general strike could reveal the weakness and political futility of the Government as it is being revealed by the stoppages that are occurring in the coalmining industry.
The position in the railways of South Australia is exceedingly grave. A railwayman approached me a few days ago on this subject, and I have no doubt that railwaymen have approached the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) also.
– No railwaymen have approached me on the subject.
– That is probably because they know it would bc futile to do so, as the Minister is about to leave the country and has lost interest in the subject. I was informed in Adelaide that the South Australian railwaymen were about to apply to the State Government for an increase of wages for firemen because of the disabilities connected with the use of the rotten coal that they are required to handle on their job. I suppose rotten coal has to be used on the railway systems of other States also. I travelled from Adelaide to Melbourne a few days ago on a train that was hauled by a locomotive driven by oil fuel. The actions of the coal-miners of New South Wales are forcing industrial authorities in Australia to seek some other local or overseas means of producing power. Obviously oil is the first choice. I dc not believe that any recommendation that. is likely to be made by certain Ministers opposite will be of any value. The Minister for Transport is, we know, an advocate of- the nationalization of the industry. The honorable gentleman appears to be antagonistic to everything that his ministerial colleagues appear to favour, including the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement.
– And the High Court.
– No doubt he would like to put the High Court judges into boxes like ferrets and feed them on milk and eggs. The Minister for Transport is often hailed as a great left-winger; he would be more accurately described, as, in fact, he has been, as a “cheer-chaser”, but he is not likely to win any cheers for his attitude in connexion with the New South Wales coal-miners. We know that the Prime Minister is a man of few words, but that policy will not get him anywhere. The Ministry is winning a reputation for words and not actions, but words will not produce coal in Australia. Conferences galore have been held, but they have not got us coal. The people are asking for something more than words from the Government. The Labour party may have a good majority, and it may be claimed that its stocks are high, but I tell the Government that antagonism is banking up against it. The country will have something to say to it very shortly, for the people are disgusted and exasperated because of the inaction of Ministers in regard to the coal-mining industry of New South Wales. The people of South Australia and Victoria are not alone minus coal; the Bunnerong power station, which is almost next door to the coal pits, is working on practically only a 24-hour supply. Transport has had to be restricted in Sydney and Melbourne. That might almost lead to a minor revolution if the people of Sydney cannot get to horse races, the “ dogs”, or something else, next Saturday or Sunday.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Motion (by Mr. Scully, through Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That. leave be given to bring in a bill for an actto amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1938, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Scully, through Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the transfer of the powers, authorities and functions conferred upon and exercised by the Controller of Meat Supplies and the Meat Canning Committee appointed under the National Security (Meat Industry Control ) Regulations and the National Security (Meat Industry) Regulations respectively to the Australian Meat Board during the continuance of the National Security Act 1939- 1946 and the Regulations thereunder.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave be given tobring in a bill for an act relating to the naturalization of persons who reside or have resided in the Territory of New Guinea.
Debate resumed from the 19th June (vide page 1566), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government is still deducting from the estates of deceased soldiers amounts that were paid as allotments. From time to time, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has explained the reason for this. I have raised the matter periodically, and it has also been brought up by other honorable members. I am sure that all honorable members will be astonished to learn that when a man has been reported missing while on active service, but for some time has not been presumed dead, the Government, in some instances, if not in all, has asked for the repayment of the allotment money that has been paid in the intervening period. That is a mean and miserable attitude to adopt, considering the millions of pounds that are appropriated for defence purposes in a very short space of time in this Parliament. This letter, written by a woman in my electorate in regard to her son, is typical of many letters that have been written on the subject -
Sub-tendered is a copy of a letter dated 12th June, 1946, received from District Accounts Office, 3rd Military District, with reference to my son, V65927 Private V. C. Scattergood (presumed dead). “Re.VG5927- Scattergood, V. C. ( deceased ) . - Reference is made to the allotment of 6d. per day from your late son’s military pay to you which was used for the purpose of meeting premium payments on life assurance policy.
It is advised that the allotment has been paid up to and including 2nd May, 1946, this date is 1361 days after the date of decease of your son, and allotment moneys paid to you during this period amounts to £34 0s.6d.
I am sure that Ministers generally do not know that such a thing is happening. The statements which the Minister for the
Army has made on the matter are unintelligible to me. The letter goes on to say - “ As the assurance company will refund to the estate all premiums paid subsequent to the date of death of your son, it would be appreciated if you would advise this office if you are agreeable to refund the amount above referred to or that recovery of same be effected from moneys due to the war service estate.”
In other words “hand back the money, or we shall deduct it from whatever is due to the estate of the deceased soldier in the form of deferred pay”. Do honorable members agree that the estate of a man who has made the supreme sacrifice should be mulct in such a miserable amount which he had allotted to his mother when he went on service, merely because the authorities were not aware of his death on the date on which it occurred ? Is the Government unperturbed about it? This is only one case; there are hundreds of others. These people cannot a pply the pressure that can be exerted by some groups, which can make the Government jump when they want anything - highly paid people, who did not run any risk in the war. The mother of this deceased soldier goes on to say -
My son was reported missing in New Guinea on the 10th August 1942. whilst serving as a member of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion and was subsequently reported “Presumed dead” on the 17th May, 1940.
This is what is generally understood by the public, and what I understood -
Assurances have been given on many occasions that such sums paid on behalf of soldiers reported missing would not be claimed by the Department of the Army and under the circumstances I am not prepared to agree to the repayment of any such sum from my son’s estate.
It would be appreciated if, at your earliest convenience, you would bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for the Army.
I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for the Army to ensure that in other instances such action will notbe taken against the estates of our heroic dead.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 26th June (vide page 1800), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the House is one to obtain parliamentaryappropriation for the expenditure of an additional £20,000,000 of revenue for war purposes. It has been made necessary by the fact that the budget estimates were less than the actual receipts from the various sources of revenue mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in his secondreading speech. For example, the right honorable gentleman stated that the buoyancy of customs and excise revenue had indicated that the estimate of receipts from this source will be exceeded by £7,000,000, whilst increased sales of civilian goods, mainly due to the demobilization of the armed forces, may result in anincrease of the revenue from sales tax amounting to £5,000,000. It is also anticipated that income tax will yield £5,000,000 more than was estimated. An accurate forecast, which it is possible to make at this juncture, is that the receipts will exceed the estimate by approximately £20,000,000. The Government, for obvious reasons proposes to transfer from revenue to loan fund the sum of £20,000,000. The loan expenditure has exceeded the estimate by approximately £30,000,000. At last we have had the belated admission by the Treasurer that war expenditure is far greater, to an undisclosed amount, than he estimated that it would be in his budget last September. I have waited nine months for vindication of my assertion that revenue would be greater by some millions of pounds than the Treasurer was prepared to concede when he presented his last budget. Yet, at a time when revenue is estimated to be more buoyant than was anticipated by £15,000,000 or £20,000,000, the party in occupancy of the treasury bench is prepared to make what I would describe as a scandalous and. unwarranted exploitation of the Australian dairy-farmer, wheat-grower and wheat-producer. An additional £2,500,000 has been paid to the Commonwealth Government by the British Government on account of sales of butter overseas. That amount was derived as to £1,659,325, by the Government of Great Britain making a special grant to the Australian Government after that Government had represented to it that the Australian dairy-farmer was selling butter at less than the actual cost of production under Australian conditions.
– That is incorrect.
– It was obviously on the basis of the representations that had been made by the industry to the late Mr. John Curtin and the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, when it was jointed out that the subsidy then being paid wa3 quite inadequate to. meet local costs of production. If that be not so, in what circumstances did the British Government make that special grant of £1,659,325 to the Australian Government during 1944-45, and in what circumstances has it promised to grant, and has the Commonwealth Government estimated that it will receive a further £1,000,000 in respect of the current year? r draw attention to .the estimates of receipts and expenditure for the year ending on the 30th June, 1946. The Government expected an expenditure of £7,500,000 by way of assistance to primary production under the heading “Dairying industry”, because it placed that amount on its estimates. Of a total expenditure of £6,812,197, it expended only £5,152,372 from its own funds, the difference between the two amounts being the £1,659,325 which it had received from the British Government. The Australian dairy-farmers have not received from it the sum’ of £6,S12,197. I have no doubt that the grant was made by the British Government in response to representations by the Australian producers, and that the British Government paid this amount of £1,659,325 in the belief that it was going to the producers. Altogether, £2,659,000 is being received from the British Government, and retained by the Commonwealth Government, whereas it should be paid to the Australian producers. The situation could be cleared up if the communications which passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Great Britain were tabled.
The intention of the Government to wring the last penny out of the rural industries is evident from its treatment of the wheat industry. In this case, no less than £6,000,000 due to wheat farmers from pools Nos. 5, 6 and 7 alone has been’ withheld. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) raised this matter in the House more than once, and since he first did so certain adjustments have been made. In other words, the Government has admitted that it was withholding money which was due to the growers. The Government compulsorily acquired the whole wheat crop, and sold a part of it at concession prices which were lower than the true value, and it then expected the wheat-growers to bear the entire loss. The wheat-growers do not object to the making of concessions to the poultry-farmers, for instance, but they do object to those concessions being made entirely at their expense. They contend that they should be paid the full price realized on pools Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8, as well as N6. 9 pool. Instead, we find that, by Government decree, the price of wheat for stock is less than the board’s selling price, and wheat for breakfast foods and for power alcohol has to be supplied at concessional rate3. The Government has consistently baulked at compensating the Wheat Board for the deficiency resulting from this interference. At first it, offered to pay 6d. a bushel. Subsequently, as the result of pressure from farmers’ organizations, the Government reluctantly produced another ls. Although values continue to rise, 1,000,000 bushels of wheat was supplied for stock feed during the drought at the concession price which, with ls. 6d. subsidy, amounted to 5s. 0$d. bagged at port. In January, 1944, the Australian Wheat Board was exporting wheat for 5s. 6d. a bushel, and by October, 1945, it was receiving as much as 9s. 2£d. The Government did not intend to make up the difference, but strong pressure from farmers’ representatives forced from it an undertaking that suppliers of concession wheat to No. 7 pool only would receive a further payment to bring the price up to 6s. 5-J-d. at ports. Wheat-farmers are still some mil-lions of .pounds short of what they would have received if the board had been allowed to sell the wheat at export value ou the dates of release at the concession rates. The following table, compiled from accurate data, shows what wheat-farmers will lose if the Government continues to direct the board to sell wheat compulsorily acquired at prices below those which it could otherwise obtain : -
The total of £6,128,000 is the deficiency on Nos. 5, 6 and 7 pools only, and takes no account of interest. If pools Nos. 8 and 9 are included, together with interest, the loss would be much greater. For instance, in No. 8 pool - the drought crop - 4s. 1½d. has been paid for bagged quota wheat, and 3s. 9d. for the excess, although the export value was 7 s. 4d. a bushel at the time the crop was acquired. The figures which I have cited are seen to bear a relation to the figure of £10,000,000 repeatedly referred to by the- honorable member for Indi. Adjustments made by the Government have reduced the deficiency to £6,128,000. As I have said, the Government lias consistently turned down appeals for justice for the wheat-growers. When the Government, as a matter of internal” economic policy, orders the sale of wheat at prices below those which would otherwise be realized, it should in justice assume responsibility for making up the difference to the growers.
A position somewhat different in principle, but similar in effect, has arisen with regard to the wool industry. The amount involved here is no less than £7,000,000. During the war, the Central’ Wool Committee accumulated large amounts of money out of activities associated with, but in fact outside of, the limits of the wool purchase plan as arranged between the governments of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom. As I have said, there is at present a credit balance of £7,000,000 made up as follows : -
This amount of £7,000,000 will be substantially increased in the near future. The money came to the Commonwealth Government as the result of the disposal of the product of one of Australia’s greatest, primary industries, but the producers will not receive one penny of it. > Instead, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction proposes to fritter it away on one of his nebulous plans. He said recently that it would not be distributed to any section of the wool industry, but would be used for the benefit of the industry as a whole, particularly on research into methods for promoting the use of wool. There is no doubt that this amount of £7,000,000 was received for wool produced by the wool-growers of Australia, not by the Government or the Central Wool Committee. The growers are to have the money filched from them.
They have not been consulted regarding the disposal of what is, after all their money which was paid lor wool which they produced. The Government gave an undertaking that before any public announcement of its intentions with regard to this money was made, its proposals would be submitted to the woolgrowers, but this undertaking has not been honoured. The growers are already paying a heavy wool tax to provide funds for research, a tax which is expected this year, to produce about £600,000. If the Government remains adamant- in its refusal to hand back any of the £7,000,000 to the wool-growers it should at least suspend the operation of the wool tax, and use instead the £7,000,000 as long as it lasts.
The manipulations of the Government in connexion with three of Australia’s greatest primary industries - dairying, wheat and wool- bear a striking resemblance. In each case, the Government stepped in and compulsorily acquired the product, which it either sold, or could have sold, at a profit of millions of pounds. That profit, representing about £2,500,0.00 in respect of the dairying industry, £6,000,000 in respect of the wheat industry and £7,000,000 in respect of the wool industry, has not been handed back to th« producers by the Government which has played the part of middle man. Instead, various ingenious excuses have been made for retaining the money. Despite the financial stratagems adopted, the fact stands out clearly that the man on the land is the loser every time. The party which I lead views this matter very seriously. Such financial manipulations are not in the best interests of the primary industries. Men on . the land should not be robbed of the incentive to produce to the maximum. The Government should state the fact* clearly, and publish its correspondence with the Government of Great Britain on the subject, particularly in regard to the dairying industry.
Sitting suspended^ from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I inform, the dairymen of Australia that, of the financial assistance their industry has obtained from the- Commonwealth, no less than £2,600,000 has been contributed by the Government of the United Kingdom, or, in other words, by the taxpayers and consumers of Great Britain. That grant from the United Kingdom Government was placed to the credit of consolidated funds and afforded great relief to the Government in its commitments to the dairying industry. The necessity for the introduction of this measure has been brought- about by the need to transfer buoyant revenue to the loan fund, as indicated in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer. I draw attention t” the indisputable fact that, whilst for the eleven months’ ended the 31st May revenue from customs excise, sales tax and income tax has been buoyant, only £11,000,000 is estimated to be received for the year ending the 30th June, 1946, from the pay-roll tax, or £8S,000 less than that actually received for the previous year. That is evidence of the inefficiency and impracticability of the Government’s attempt to implement its re-establishment and full employment policy, because if any figures should reflect an increase they assuredly are those relating to the pay-roll tax, which is assessed on the wages fund of industry. The fact that the amount estimated to be received from this source will probably be £88,000 less than in the year ended the 30th June, 1945, is clear evidence, if evidence is required, of the ineffectiveness of the Government’s attempt to bring about the reestablishment of the 500,000 personnel who have come out of the fighting services and out of government war activities. These figures tell the tale of the static condition of employment and indicate the degree to which the Government has failed to implement its full-employment policy. The Treasurer has very belatedly admitted that war expenditure, which had been estimated at £360,000,000, will be exceeded in the current year. The right honorable gentleman says that this excessive expenditure is due mainly to the acceleration of demobilization. But in the estimate of expenditure for the year 1946-47, which the Treasurer presented to caucus and which, found its way into the press of Australia, no provision of an extraordinarynature was made which would account for the overlapping of demobilization costs from the year ending the 30th June, 1946, to the year ending the 30th June, 1947.
– How does the honorable member know that that statement was made by the Treasurer?
– It has never been denied. I quoted it in an earlier speech; I reiterate it now and it is still not denied. According to the statement relating to Commonwealth taxation in 1946-47 circulated to the members of the caucus by the Treasurer in March last, expenditure on war and repatriation services, including the defence programme estimated at £60,000,000, was estimated at £176,000,000. That is the only reference made in the estimates given to caucus upon which we can assess the Government’s financial commitments and responsibilities for the year ending the 30th June, 1947. Not one word was said of any other large commitments. Therefore the excuse that the estimate will be exceeded on account of acceleration of demobilization is a specious one which will not hear investigation in the light of the facts which I have placed before the House. It is regrettable that one has to go to the trouble of tedious research and minute dissection in order to arrive at a true estimate of the financial commitments and achievement of this Government. The Government’s Financial statements are clouded and concealed in every- way -and do not represent anything like what one would expect from the National Government, having regard to the large amounts of the receipts and expenditure embodied in them. One would require the ingenuity of a black-tracker, rather than the discerning mind of an accountant, to prepare from the information supplied to us by the Treasurer anything like a true statement of the financial position of this Government.
.- The bill before the House, which provides for an appropriation of £20,000,000 for war purposes, affords to honorable members on this side of the House an opportunity to examine what seem to me to be some very important matters in relation to war finance. Inextricably mixed up with war finance is finance for all other purposes. Two vital questions arise in my mind, the first relating to the method of budgeting adopted by this Government, and the second relating to the method of finance which the Government is pursuing.
It is to these two questions that I desire to direct my observations.
In the first place, it must become apparent to every honorable member that during ‘the war period we had to depart completely from any control by this chamber over the finances of the country. I venture to say that there is no real control even by the Executive over the huge expenditures which we have to meet each year. When we contemplate budgets more than five times as great as’ pre-war budgets, when we are dealing with budgets which nowtotal approximately £500,000,000, and when we have regard to the total national income, it must be obvious that the country cannot continue to carry that burden and at the same time make the progress necessary to be made if all the promises to the men who fought in the war, just ended are to be redeemed. There is no control by the Parliament or the Executive over the total amount budgeted for. Honorable members will remember that when hostilities came to an end the budget was reframed in the space of two or three weeks. Two or three weeks to reframe on a peace-time basis a budget originally concerned with the waging of the war! We know that the war expenditure for the financial year about to end has in no way diminished < compared with that of the preceding year when we were in the midst of the terrible conflict. That, of itself, must surely excite the comment that, in the interests of honorable members on both sides of the House there needs to be the closest scrutiny of government finance. I have always advocated that the members of this chamber, on whatever side they sit, owe a prime obligation to themselves and to the country to know more about govern- ment finance than has been vouchsafed to them by the .Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). During the period of the war we had, for security reasons, to lump together the total amounts expended on defence and for other purposes. We all know that the amounts expended on defence and for war purposes were by far the greater part of the budget ; but that, for security reasons, individual items could not be revealed. But the time for that has long passed, and I should have thought that any government cognizant of its responsibilities to the country would long before this have introduced a supplementary budget based upon the requirements of peace, in which the details of expenditure on defence and war would have been revealed and subjected to the closest scrutiny. It has been left to members on this side of the House to ferret out matters which should have been made apparent to them by the Administration. However, it is not much good going over the past. “When the next budget is, brought down a clear responsibility will rest upon the members of this House to insist that the most complete details are given of every item included in it. ..
It appears that no matter how much pruning is undertaken, future budgets will be stabilized somewhere in the neighbourhood of £300,000,000. That amount of money represents a large portion of the total national income of this country. Consequently there is a need to have a running scrutiny from month to month by this Parliament and the Executive. I can appreciate the difficulties which confront the Executive in seeking to control finance. After all, there are so many questions of policy which assert themselves, and it is not always competent for the Executive to keep control of extravagant expenditures, and to make certain that every £1 expended is properly accounted for. The time is long overdue, however, when there should be established a statutory authority in this Parliament owing its obligations to this Parliament solely and not to the Executive, which should sit continually, and examine each commitment as it occurs, and, as far as possible, before actual payment is authorized. This Parliament, in my view, has been treated with contumely in its dealings with financial affairs. Only when expenditure has already been incurred do the matters come before us for debate, and debate upon them is then very much restricted and rendered futile because the harm, if any, has already been done. There ‘ is ‘ a prime necessity for the Parliament ro assert itself in these matters.
Also the Executive has an obligation to present its budget, much earlier than is customary. I understand that we are not to receive the budget before the general elections. Before the new Parliament assembles nearly one-half of the next financial year will have passed. The budget will be introduced when nothing can be done in any real sense to control expenditure. No man in this chamber can say that he is not cognizant of governmental extravagance. So there are three points concerning the budget that must be heeded. The first is the necessity to grapple with the problem of how taxes can be reduced. That cannot be done until the strict needs of the budget are known. Secondly, there is the need for a continuous examination of Commonwealth accounts by a statutory authority. The committee of the House of Commons affords a splendid example of how effectively governmental expenditure can be checked. We made a minor attempt to create such a body when we appointed the War Expenditure Committee, but that touched only the fringe of the problem, because it dealt mainly with only comparatively small matters and almost invariably after the money had been spent., Thirdly, I emphasize the need to bring down the budget early in the financial year. The obligation is on the ‘Government to state its budgetary requirements before we go to the people. Otherwise we face the electors without precise knowledge of the commitments and deprived of essential information for debate.
This appropriation springs from the constitutional necessity to appropriate surplus revenue to some account so that it shall not revert to the States. It is necessary to consider what money is to be appropriated and how it is to be expended, because the Government has revealed a dangerous tendency to appropriate money for purposes that are not provided for in the Constitution, Sections 51 and 52 of the Constitution provide that this Parliament shall have power to legislate in respect of specific matters, and there is. a general power of appropriation for the purposes of the Commonwealth. It is clear, I should think, particularly in view of the High Court’s decision in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, that money may not be appropriated except for the purposes of the “Commonwealth. Yet, this financial year, the Department of Labour and National Service, which I cite, not as the exclusive example, but as a1 good example, has been the subject of the appropriation of money for purposes which- do not come within the constitutional limits on the Parliament’s power of appropriation. After the cessation of hostilities a national employment organization was set up. It is .concerned only to a minor degree with the placing in work of exservice men and women, and its general purpose is that of an employment bureau. There is no constitutional authority for the appropriation of money for that purpose. We either have, or have not, the power to legislate on such matters, and if we have not, we are not entitled to ex. tract money from the people and apply it for such purposes. The Department of Labour and National Service is issuing a number of booklets that are commendable in respect of both the manner in which they have been prepared and printed and the various aspects of industry that they deal with, but there is no authority for the appropriation of money for that purpose or similar purposes.. The budget for 1945-46 provides for the expenditure of many millions of pounds in authorized directions. So, there are instances of money being wrongly applied.
There is no attempt to reduce the huge overburden of taxes which has been prolonged into the peace. It is illuminating to cast one’s eyes over the list of portfolios now being administered. There are nineteen Commonwealth Ministers. I can understand the necessity to increase the Cabinet strength during war, but, with the return of peace, the time is ripe to reduce the number of portfolios and to eliminate overlapping. It is essential, for example, to concentrate in one department all matters relating to the reestablishment and repatriation of ex-service men and women. Honorable members on both sides of the House have had to go from one department to another on behalf of constituents before they have been able to have matters resolved.’ Economy can be effected by wiping out the overlapping that unquestionably exists. There is also room for economy in reducing the number of government employees. I concede that since the peak employment figure was reached in, I think, 1943, the number of employees of the Government has been reduced,, but in the last three months that movement has been arrested. Indeed, latterly, movement seems to have been in the other direction, especially in regard to male employees. Since 1939 the number of government employees has increased by 22 per cent.
– Those are men taking the place of women.
– That is only partly correct, as I have reason to know. Girls discharged from the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service have been promptly re-employed by the Department of the Navy as civilians. ‘ ‘
The Treasurer recently estimated that war expenditure next financial year would be £250,000,000. That cannot be justified. In order to put the matter on a debatable basis I consider that more approximate to the needs of the country are the following figures: -
I state those figures only because they provide the only way in which we can get down to bedrock. If any of those figures are incorrect, the Government should say which are incorrect and why. Then we shall know our defence needs next year. . -
Substantial sums of money resulting from the termination or surrender of war contracts and from the activities of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission are going into the Treasury. There are also large sums of money due to the Commonwealth from other countries for work done by Australia for them. Sound finance demands that all such money, which probably amounts to hundreds of millions of pounds, should be applied direct to the reduction of our war debt in” order to reduce the annual interest burden on the loans raised during’ the war.
– Some people want to pay all the proceeds into the Consolidated Revenue and to reduce taxes.
– I am wholly opposed to that. Nor do I think that such a course is necessary or proper to achieve a substantial reduction of prices. To the extent that that money can he applied to debt redemption the annual interest commitment will he reduced.-
I intend to say a few words about methods of financing war as well as peace, hut, before doing so, I think it is appropriate to refer to the views on that subject of the Treasurer’s lieutenant, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini), which, I have no doubt, reflect the opinion of other members of the Labour party. In June, 1941, when we were in occupancy of the treasury bench, the honorable gentleman expressed -an astounding view of financial methods in these words -
Are we to be expected to leave ourselves in the bauds of the money-changers and to pile up huge debts which later will have to be paid by the blood, sweat and tears of the men who fought for victory? If we must mortgage our future we shall mortgage it only to ourselves. We should operate through our own financial institution. The Commonwealth Bank should be the only organization operating in relation to war indebtedness. If the Government is honest in its desire to mobilize the resources of this country in respect of materials, men and machinery it should draw upon the resources of the Commonwealth Bank. Money, terms mean nothing in our present situation. If the Government wishes to float a loan it should act solely through the Commonwealth Bank. . It should not permit other financial institutions to burden the people of this country with debts that will be unpayable after the war.
Now, is it not extraordinary in the light of this statement that there has been a radical departure from that view?
– When did he say that ?
– In June, 1941, when the views which he expressed were almost generally held by the Labour party.
During the war, the Labour party has pursued, in principle, but with the addition of certain unsound systems of applying them, the financial methods that the Government of which I was a member laid down in 1941. That policy, always the subject of attacks then by those presently occupying the treasury bench, was to finance the conduct of the war by taxation and loans, and to the extent that we could not finance the budget from those two sources, we should have recourse to central bank credit. Since 1941, the Labour Government has raised many loans. As I refrained from taking part in the last campaign it is proper that I should explain to the House the reasons for my action.
– The honorable member refused to take part.
– I refrained from taking part. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) may interpret that, if he pleases, as a refusal. In my opinion, the methods . adopted by the Government in raising the last three loans are grossly unsound and can result only in the aggravation of the inflationary forces in the community. The first of the three loans was for £107,000,000, and there were approximately 412,000 subscribers. Of the total amount, the major portion was found not by the people but by financial institutions and business houses, which the Minister assisting the Treasurer .(Mr. Lazzarini) condemned in 1941, and the Commonwealth Bank. In fact, the Commonwealth and State Savings Banks and other governmental institutions found 48 per cent, of the money. For the second loan of £86,000,000, the number of subscribers fell alarmingly from 412,000 to 259,000. Again, 48 per cent, of the money was provided by the Commonswealth Bank and State savings banks. The third loan was for £78,000,000, and there were 179,000 subscribers. On this occasion, the Commonwealth Bank and the authorities I have mentioned found 38 per cent.” of the money. I assert that that is inflationary finance, and I shall explain the reason for that opinion. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is advancing, not its own funds, but the money of its depositors, and the same remark applies to savings banks of the States - and similar institutions. Those funds belong to the community, and the depositors are entitled to withdraw their money from the bank at any time. But the money has been lent on long term and short term loans to the Commonwealth Government. In future, when production gradually overtakes demand and ‘people need money for the goods and services which they have been denied during the war, they will seek to withdraw their deposits from the Commonwealth Bank. Then the bank must find money to meet that demand. But the money has already been hypothecated to the Commonwealth. The deposits have been used for Commonwealth purposes, although the Commonwealth Bank is still under the obligation to make the money available to the depositors on demand. Having regard to the fact that those three loans totalled £261,000,000, and of that total more than £100,000,000 was found by the Commonwealth Bank, and kindred institutions, we have a serious inflationary factor introduced into the national financial structure. I express the opinion, for reasons which I shall shortly develop, that we are riding into an inflationary period, and unless this is arrested by marrying production to demand, it will be followed by a period of deflation and then’ a period of economic’ depression.
The methods of finance which the Government is now pursuing, are depressive. During the war, taxation and the method of finance were directed solely to the accomplishment of diverting production from civilian requirements to war purposes. For that purpose, we did two things. First, we taxed the people to the maximum extent that they were able to bear in order to reduce their purchasing power which otherwise would compete with government moneys for war purposes. Secondly, we persuaded the people, quite properly, to save their money and invest it in Commonwealth funds for war purposes. By a. combination of both factors, we abstracted money from the community in order to prevent competition with governmental requirements, and by that method in conjunction with other controls, diverted production from civilian to war needs. That was admirably suited to the requirements of war, but the Government has now failed to appreciate the need to change that policy much more quickly than it is doing.
– That would promote inflation.
– No. That is where the Government is creating the essence of inflation. A large amount of money is deposited in the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the trading banks. 1 believe that I am correct in saying that deposits have increased by more than £600,000,000 since 1939. In addition to that, a large amount of money has been taken by taxation and loans, and ia finding its way into the hands of the spending community by way of gratuities and deferred, pay. All this combines to form a total bank which must find an outlet at some time. Unless we stimulate production so that those funds can find an outlet and provide goods representing the value of that money, we shall create a condition in which production will be retarded and costs will be increased. That will increase the tendencies to inflationary finance. That proposition is incontrovertible.
The Government must realize that methods of finance, which were ‘admirably suited for war purposes, are not suited for peace-time purposes. Bit by bit - I do not believe in shifting completely at one stroke from one method to the other- money must be made available for civilian production, so as to absorb labour in civilian occupations. But advertisements appear on every big hoarding in the cities showing a hand pressed down, and bearing the caption “Keep prices down,’ and invest in Government loans “. If that is to be the mark of our financial policy, is it not obvious that we shall restrict opportunities for civilian production? I do not suggest, as I have said, that the Government should change rapidly from one method to the other. In the change-over from peacetime to war-time conditions, we had to move gradually in order not to cause a great dislocation of the economy before it wa3 elastic enough to take up the, shock. In the change from war-time to peace-time conditions, we must proceed by. progressive stages. But the Government has not revealed that it proposes to pursue any method of finance other than that of high taxation and loans, which it has adopted in the past. It the Government follows that policy, itwill only aggravate the shortage of commodities, increase the costs of goods, and limit production. By a combination of nil those factors, the Government will contribute to inflationary finance.
– Does not the honorable member recognize that there is a shortage of goods to-day because of the lack of man-power ?
– No, I do not recognize that altogether. That there is a shortage of man-power is true in one sense,, but to state it as an absolute proposition that explains everything is, in my view, te commit an error. There is a failure to realize that production is the means of preventing inflation. Inflation cannot be avoided simply by damping down production by high taxation and a continuance of the system of government loans for the purpose of financing budgets. Having regard to the large sums of money which that system of finance must abstract from the total national economy, it must be obvious that the method rs simply a continuation of the policy which prevents civilian production from asserting itself. That, in .short, was the policy which was followed in war-time. Unless some more elastic approach to finance be adopted, I assert now, without any equivocation, that we shall ride into a period of inflation, and no efforts of the Government will be able to avoid it. That period will be followed by deflation and an economic depression. All honorable members are desirous of preventing that, and this isan opportunity to examine the best method of achieving that objective.
The time is long overdue when we must realize that it is the stimulation of production which will prevent inflation. From the public viewpoint two vital factors of finance are demanded. The first is reduced taxation. I do not. desire to elaborate that subject. The matter has been dealt with fully by other members of the Opposition. I have shown that the Government cannot reduce taxation until it- has control of expenditure, and, in” my opinion, neither the Parliament nor the Executive has control of our expenditure. Secondly, we should have as our aim, and should bring it about as quickly as possible, the elimination of taxation on the basic-wage earner. In short, the basic wage is not- a reality if it. is subject to taxation. It has a high ethical and moral significance, and if the basic-wage earners who form the major portion of the consuming capacity of the community, are deprived by taxes of a large amount of money, the Government is denying to them the ability to live upon the basic wage, and is limiting the consuming power of the community, and, consequently, in that sense, is retarding production. All those matters are of the greatest importance as objectives of financial policy. Taxation should not be regarded solely as a means of raising revenue. Particularly at this time, it should be regarded as an instrument of precision, directing the financial development of the country, and not as it has been, and is continuing to be, what 1 term a crushing press squeezing the last drop 1 of revenue from an already dehydrated economy. So I appeal to the Government to review its financial policy, and not be so myopic in its approach as to have in view only one year ahead; it, should be envisaging the probable requirements of the next three or four years at least. Our ability to finance our commitments will depend upon our total national income, and that in turn will depend upon our production. Factors in that connexion will be taxation and loan raising in particular.
I said that I would explain why I did not support the last loan. I did not do so because I disagreed with the methods being pursued by the Government. 1 consider that it is wrong, ethically, to inform a community that a loan had been fully subscribed when that has not been the case, having in mind the ‘meaning which people customarily give to the term. When an announcement has been made that a loan has been fully subscribed it is naturally assumed that it has been subscribed by the people, but the Government has not been frank in this matter. This has been revealed as the result of pressure from this side of the House. We have ascertained that the Government has been applying practices which must inevitably lead to inflation. Its actions are the more serious because they have led the people to believe that it is adopting a procedure which will prevent inflation. For the reasons that I have given, I make no apology for having refrained from supporting the loan. If the Government persists with its present policy in respect of loans, I hope that all honorable members on this side of the chamber will refrain from supporting future flotations.
Persistence in the present procedure can load only to inflation.
It must be obvious that, if production does not increase, costs will rise on every hand. This matter is affected to some degree by controls which the Government is continuing to apply. I refer in particular to wage pegging. Those regulations were undoubtedly vital and essential during the war, but the time has come when they should be progressively lifted so that industry may be allowed to develop normally. Surely we cannot contemplate an economy which is to he tied down for all time to the limitations associated with wage pegging. The members nf the Government must realize that the wage-pegging regulations are being deliberately ignored and flouted in certain industries. Despite the continuance of the regulations, wages have been substantially increased in some industries that I have in mind, and the result has been an increase of production. “We must view i hi.? problem in wider perspective.
Inflation can be avoided by controlling expenditure, by desisting from applying funds in the wrong way, and by reducing taxation so as to give an incentive to production. The present heavy taxation should be lifted from the salaries of persons in the lower ranges, and from people in executive classes. It cannot be disputed that a continuation of the present high rates of taxation will defeat the purpose that was in mind when they were imposed. People will not do their best work now that the urgency of war has passed when they know that their earnings will be so heavily taxed, and I do not blame them for that attitude. It is ti ue, also, that investors will not put their money into industry unless they have a reasonable assurance of a ‘ satisfactory return. They will not take risks in investing their capital if they know that it may be lost to them, or that their enterprise will not be reasonably rewarded.
– A man who earns to,000 still has £2,000 to live on.
– Oh, does he? The Minister obviously is unacquainted with the rates of taxation. I would like to know of a man who can retain £2,000 out of a net income of £5,000. The members of this Parliament should scrutinize more closely our whole finan cial structure. It is idle for us to debate financial subjects unless sufficient data is made available to us. Exfension of time -granted.]
I appeal to Ministers to take the House into their confidence in relation to the financial affairs of the country. I appeal to private members on the benches opposite to do everything in their power to assert their rights as private members. Parliament, in the last few years, has been merely a shadow of itself. We have often debated matters which have already been determined. This is a reflection upon both the Executive and ourselves. The sooner the members of the House take an active interest in our financial structure, the better it will be for the country. If the present policy of the Government be carried to its logical conclusion it will be impossible to avoid inflation. Everything possible should be done to avoid such a. calamity.
.- I take the opportunity provided by the presentation of this bill to make an additional £20,000,000 available to the Government to discuss certain subjects which are causing general dissatisfaction among ex-service mcn and women throughout Australia. There are many grievances requiring ventilation, but as the time limitation will not permit me to deal with all of them, I propose to refer mainly to the bungling that is occurring in connexion with rehabilitation plans. As a returned soldier I protest strongly against the attitude that the Government is adopting. There is serious dissatisfaction among returned men over the vocational training “ set-up “. Our men expected that when they were discharged from the forces they would be able to settle down speedily in the industries of their choice. Those who needed vocational training for more skilled industries than they had previously been employed in visualized entering upon their training immediately. The fact is, however, that training in almost every respect is lagging seriously behind requirements. An obligation rests upon the Government and its supporters to fulfil the promises made to men and women when they .joined the various services. No excuses can justify the failure of the Government to honour these undertakings. Demobilized personnel who desire to return to businesses in which they were formerly engaged, or who wish to establish new businesses, expected to have their deferred pay and other promised financial resources made available to them for immediate use, but they are finding that difficulties of all kinds are obstructing their progress. Materials and supplies of all descriptions, premises, and other requirements for the establishment of businesses are practically unavailable in many cases. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) may make grimaces, but unfortunately that does not solve the difficulties to which I am referring. Former servicemen are especially aggrieved about their inability to obtain tools of trade.
– Private enterprise should be producing the goods that are required.
– If the honorable member ‘ for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) were not so entirely uninterested in the subject he would be supporting me. He and his colleagues should be doing their utmost to force the Government to honour its promises.
I strongly protest also against the failure of the Government to administer the War Gratuity ACt more effectively. Hundreds of returned men and women who expected to obtain their gratuities without delay for the purpose of building or buying a home have discovered that prescribed authorities which should have been established under the act have not been established. This is most unsatisfactory. Section 22 of the War Gratuity Act reads -
Upon the recommendation of a presribed authority, made in pursuance of an application by a member, the Minister may authorize the then present value of the whole or portion of the war gratuity to which the member is entitled to be transferred to the War Service Homes. Commissioner or any other authority approved by a- prescribed authority for the purpose of being credited by the Commissioner or other authority, by way of deposit or otherwise, towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a dwelling-house for the member, and the whole or portion of the war gratuity may, thereupon, be so transferred.
I have made a most Careful inquiry to ascertain whether the prescribed authority has been established, but the results have been entirely negative; yet, the act was assented to nearly twelve months ago. Quite recently I brought -to the attention of the Government the case of a young married couple - a returned soldier “with a fine ‘record of gallantry and a young woman who had served with ability and had reached the rank of sergeant. They had married and desired to cash their gratuities so that they could purchase a home. Two months had passed before I received a reply from the Minister, stating that the matter was still under consideration. This is the comment of the ex-serviceman who wrote to me -
It is difficult to understand why in urgent financial circumstances such as was the case with Mr. and Mrs. Cox, the Government cannot give special consideration to a request of this nature from ex-service personnel, and more particularly when that request is in reference to the provision of a home in which to live, and the request is no more, in fact, than to be permitted to utilize their own hard-won funds earned in the defence of their country. At the best it is scant interest or gratitude for services rendered. .
Why has not the Government prescribed an authority? Hundreds of men desire to obtain homes and settle down. The home-building efforts of the Government are a scandal of the first magnitude. Under pressure from the Opposition in this House, the legislation was amended to provide that the war gratuity could be used for the purpose of building homes, yet the .Government has not yet prescribed an authority which will enable that to be done. According to the latest advice from the department, the list has not yet been published. No Government could defend such a long delay, and no honorable member opposite who has any association with ex-servicemen should tolerate it for a moment. I also ask that permission be granted for the use of the gratuity for the enlargement of a home already owned by an ex-serviceman, foi” necessary’ repairs, painting and overhauling, and ‘for the purchase of any furniture required. Many requests are being made for permission to use the money in these ways, yet nothing has been done to make that possible. The failure to prescribe an authority to implement section 22 of the act is a grave reflection on the Minister and others responsible for the administration of this legislation. There a re also other irritating delays and handicaps. I cite the case of an ex-serviceman who applied for a loan of £200 to buy an ice-run. “When . two months had elapsed, he had not received a reply. He was then sent an application form, which a Philadelphia lawyer and an accountant would require weeks to complete; it consisted of two foolscap pages of questions. When the completed form had been lodged with the authorities, there was a further delay of two months, and meanwhile the offer to sell the icerun had been withdrawn. lt is impossible for a discharged serviceman to obtain a suit of clothes within a reasonable period, and while waiting for one he has to wear a sports coat and a pair of trousers. The Government should co-operate with the textile industry in providing the materials that are needed, and the ex-servicemen should then be given preference in the tailoring of suits with the least possible delay. Many ex-servicemen have written to me pointing out that they had been out of the Army for two months before any one would listen to them, and had then to wait for five or six months before they could obtain suits. No Government supporter should be satisfied with the existing position.
– There was a government woollen mill at Geelong, and the party supported by the honorable- gentleman was responsible for disposing of it.
– There have been government woollen mills, butcher shops and fish shops which have been a complete failure. In Queensland a Labour government recklessly expended public funds in the establishment of State butcher shops, timber mills, and other industrial enterprises, every one of which failed. The Administration in that State led by Mr. McCormack disposed of all the State industrial activities because they had proved financially disastrous. Inefficiency is always associated with government enterprises of that sort. If honorable members opposite can suggest only the establishment of woollen mills as a solution of the problem of clothing exservicemen, those men are in a sorry plight indeed, and Government supporters will feel the weight of their indignation at an early date. When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) sought information as to how much material suitable for clothing was being exported, he was informed that the total quantity exported was 3,000,000 square yards, of which 886,000 square yards had been sent to Russia. All this material was exported between January and April of this year. Applications have’ been made to various departments by men desirous of engaging in an industry or business, for the right to obtain supplies of rationed, goods, and every handicap has been placed in their way. The Government should adopt a more co-‘ operative attitude towards ex-servicemen who want to engage in industry. Business enterprises are hard enough to conduct to-day without having the further irritation of lack of sympathy on the part of the Government.
I draw attention to the delay of the Government in dealing with surplus canteen funds. The last balance-sheet about which I have been able to obtain any information dealt with the period up to the 30th June, 1943. The canteen balance was then shown to be between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. The Government has not a policy in regard to the disposal of those funds, which were accumulated as the result of sales of goods to service men and women while they were in the forces. Many of the amounts charged for goods which they purchased from the canteens were excessive. Any profit should have been devoted to the provision of additional amenities while the war was on. Three years have passed but the Government has not issued u statement setting out the manner in which the funds are to be utilized. They should be devoted to the purpose of helping the needy ex-servicemen and their dependants. The men are suspicious of what is to be done with the money. It is due to those who made the surplus possible by the purchase of goods, that the Government should state its intentions clearly.
I draw intention again to a matter which I raised in this House when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was being considered. I refer to Government amendments which made inoperative section 84 (9) (c) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Under that act and the Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act, power was taken to give to any ex-serviceman who had been employed continuously in the Commonwealth Public Service for a period of two years, the right to a permanent position. After World War I., thousands of exservicemen were able to obtain permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service under the provisions of section 84 (9) (,c) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Today, that privilege is denied to ex-servicemen. I have made representations on the matter by letter, and have placed on the notice-paper a question which has not been answered. I protest against the delay in answering it, and urge the Government to restore to ex-servicemen who have been temporary employees for two years, and have given efficient service, the .right of permanent appointment, on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner.
I direct the attention of the Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Makin) to the injustice that has been and is being done to Flight Sergeant “ W “, whose number is 44967. He was discharged at Redbank camp, Queensland, on the 5th December . last. As he was being driven after discharge to Brisbane in a military truck, it was involved in a collision with a Royal Australian Air Force truck, and many of the discharged personnel were seriously injured, including some members of the Military Forces, who were immediately re-enlisted in the Army by the military authorities and sent to hospital. This flight sergeant too was taken to a military hospital, and has been in hospital ever since. So badly injured was his arm, that it has had to be broken and re-set three times in efforts to save it. He does, not know where he stands so far as the department is concerned. He has been moved from Queensland, and is in a convalescent home at Jervis Bay. Many letters in connexion with his case have been written to the Minister for Air by the Air Force Association, which has received only formal acknowledgments. There have been communications pointing out that an application had been made for the reenlistment of this man in the Air Force, and the last reply stated that the matter had been referred to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. From the 5th December of last year until to-day, 27th June, no satisfactory reply has been received as to how the man stands in regard to pay and conditions. I ask the Minister to have the matter carefully examined at once. I do not propose to let it rest until justice is done to this ex-serviceman, who will probably be maimed for life. The circumstances are such that the Minister should hang his head in shame. It is not right that the victim should be compelled to seek the assistance of service organizations in order to obtain justice. The State secretary of the organization wrote to the Minister without result, and later the federal secretary did the same. Now I have been asked to take a hand, and I intend to follow the matter through until justice is done. The Government should review its whole attitude towards re; habilitation. When the Reestablishment and Employment Bill was before the House we asked that one Minister be made responsible for all phases of rehabilitation, but our request was refused. Now, so many Ministers are concerned with the subject that it is impossible to get any one of them to take responsibility. Until there is a single ministry for rehabilitation ex-servicemen will not receive justice. The flight sergeant of whom I am speaking was discharged on the 5th December, and was injured on that day. The Air Force should have immediately taken him back and given him full pay and allowances. His treatment is typical of the attitude of the Government to the welfare of exservicemen.
.- The debate on this Appropriation Bill provides a suitable opportunity to draw attention once more to the circumstances in which many Australian lives were lost in Ambon, Timor and New Guinea. In September last, I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr Forde) to make available reports regarding what has become known as the Ambon tragedy. Ten months later I rise again and ask for the production of the report. The war has been over for so long now that there is no reason why a veil of secrecy should be drawn over operations which led to the loss of so many Australian lives. On the 3rd October last, the Minister promised that he would try to get the information for me, and make it available before the House rose. He did not do so, although in a letter which he wrote to me he made certain statements on the subject. There are in Australia many persons who have not forgotten the discussion which took place in this House on the 3rd October last, and I include i. he relatives of the men who lost their lives in Amboina, Timor and New Guinea. In Melbourne, on the 4th March, representatives of various associations met and issued the following letter : -
With reference to questions asked in the House just before it went into recess, the en- closed Notes may be found to be of interest and to provide material and further questions to use when Parliament reopens this week.
The Notes have been prepared by a Subcommittee representative of the several bodies indicated hereunder.
In this connexion thu representatives of the bodies mentioned request that you will take the matter up in the House at the first available opportunity with a view to a royal commission being appointed to inquire into the matter.
In confirmation of this request the following signatures are appended.
The names appended are- (Sgd.) Eva M. Tilley, C.B.E., J.P., Prisoner of War Relatives Association. (Sgd.) L. C. LEGGE Wilkinson, War Bereaved Parents Association. (Sgd.) Eva A. PIGGIN President, Eighth Division S.A.F. Auxiliary (incorporating 2/21. 2/22, 2/40 Battalions.) “ (Sgd.) J. L. Watt, 1/21 Battalion, A.I.l-‘. Association. (Sgd.) Chas. R. BROOKES, Fathers Investigation Committee, Upwey. “(Sgd.) G. M. QUIGLEY, Fathers Investigation Committee, Caulfield. (Sgd.) 11. H. PALAMOUNTAIN, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Fathers Association of Australia. (Victorian Branch). (Sgd.) J. L. Davis, Chairman of the Meeting.
I have read the names so as to make it clear that the persons concerned are not just a few people affected by grief over the loss of their relatives. The resolution., as honorable members can see, has 1.non signed by representative citizens. They ask that a royal commission be appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the loss of so many lives. Three forces were involved, known as the
Gull Force, the Lark Force, and the Sparrow Force. The Gull Force consisted of a brigade under the command of Brigadier Lind. It first went to Darwin in March of 1941, about nine months before Japan declared war. lt was sent to Darwin in anticipation of a possible attack by Japan, it being desired that there should be a force in ill at area to defend it in case of need. Eventually, the enemy did strike, and the force was assigned to Timor and Amboina. For months before the troops left for Ambon, - that being the locality where they were stationed on the island of Amboina - . reconnaissances had been made by Australian troops in that area, and Brigadier Lind was so impressed with the need for better equipment to enable his troops to do the job that might be required of them that he made many requests to headquarters in Melbourne, but all his requests were ignored. I asked the Minister for the Army in the House, and later by letter, what was the position in regard to equipment and supplies for the force.
In a letter dated the 14th November, written from Victoria Barracks, he said -
I refer to your letter or the 16th October, 1043, regarding the force sent to Ambon, and desire to advise that no inquiry of the nature referred to by you has been held.
As stated by nic in the House of Representatives on 3rd October, 1945, the statements that the force was inadequately supplied with fighting equipment and was deficient in medical supplies are definitely incorrect. Supplies of ammunition, medical and all other requirements were completely adequate, it being directed by the Government that six months’ reserves of such requirements should bc maintained at Amboina, and t am assured by the military authorities that these instructions were curried- out.
– What about “-the Brisbane line “?
– This may be a joke to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), but I remind him that in these operations thousands of Australians were taken prisoners, largely because they were not properly equipped. I am not discussing this subject in order to provide amusement- for the Minister, nor will the relatives of the prisoners of war be amused. Evidently the Minister thinks it very funny that of -all the members of the Australian ‘ Imperial Force who went to Ambon not one was ever heard of again. If the Minister thinks such a catastrophe humorous he is sadly out of touch with the feelings of the people of Australia. The letter continues -
Colonel Roach’s reports are military documents, and it would not serve any useful purpose to make them available as suggested by you.
The war has now been over for nearly twelve months, and there is no reason why the report of Colonel Roach should continue to be secret, any more than the documents which are now being made public by the authorities in the United States in connexion with the Pearl Harbour inquiry. The public are entitled to full information, particularly in regard to a matter which closely affects so many Australians. There is a very distinct difference of opinion between the Minister for the Army on the one hand, and Brigadier Lind who commanded the brigade, and Colonel Roach who commanded the battalion, on the other. In response to a request I had made for further information, Colonel Roach in a letter dated the 29th October stated -
Thank you for your letter of 24th October.
I had noted, with considerable interest, that you have made striking statements on the floor of the House. In my opinion, yon are to be commended for the practical interest you have taken (and apparently are continuing to take) in the matter.
It is my opinion that the subject should be ventilated. -As to how this should be done there seems to be some variation if individual views. It is a matter which, I feel, should be discussed.
There are several aspects which were highly unsatisfactory, not to say improper.
As far as I am concerned I took what action I knew to be right in the circumstances, distasteful though it was, but the Army Command at the time saw fit to place me on the reserve. They accordingly took the responsibility for the loss of my force, and certain others. Whether this was done with ministerial approval I do not know. Mr. Forde himself was later acquainted by me - at his request - with an outline of the facts.
So that the Minister had been informed by Colonel Roach personally of what happened in respect of this expedition. Obviously, the Minister is endeavouring to shield somebody higher up.’ I do not expect the honorable gentleman to have a full knowledge of all the operations which took place in all theatres in which Australians were engaged, but at least he knows the facts in connexion with this expedition, and no matter how important the personage involved may be the Minister should not attempt to shield him. The fullest inquiry should be instituted in order to ascertain whether Colonel Roach was deceived, whether Australian lives were lost that could have been saved, and whether adequate equipment was provided for this force. My information goes further than that supplied by Colonel Roach. I have before me a confidential copy of a report made by Brigadier Lind on the 10th September, 1.942, to the General Officer Commanding Victoria Lines of Communication Area, Melbourne, relative to the inadequacy of the equipment of the Ambon force and of its absolute inability to discharge the duties which were to be entrusted to it, and expressing the certainty that it would be slaughtered if it undertook the operation without adequate supplies of arm? and ammunition.
– Where did the honorable member get the report?
– I refuse to disclose that information.
– The honorable member must have stolen it.
– Brigadier Lind’* report reads -
As result of instructions received in May. 1041, Bde. Comd., B.M. and Comds. 2/21 and 2/40 Bns. made recce, of Amboina and ‘Timor. Instruction referred to, stated that it was probable that these Bns. would have to move to these respective stations in the event of hostilities with Japan.
This was the report made in May, 1941; the Japanese did not enter the war until December, 1941. The report continues -
As result of this recce, recommendations were submitted by Comd. 23 Aust. Inf. Bde. to the effect that the forces projected were inadequate in armament and that it was advisable to establish military ‘liaison with N.E.I. Army H.Q. at Bandoeng to ensure fullest efficiency of co-operation with N.B.I. Comds. involved.
In July, 1941, whilst in Melbourne, Comd 23 Aust. Inf. Bde., made strong personal representations to CCS. and Director of Military operations with reference to inadequacy of numbers and armament of projected forces to proceed to Amboina and Timor.
– The honorable member himself was a Minister then ; why did he not’ see that this force was supplied with adequate arms and ammunition?
– My sole concern in raising this matter is to ensure that a thorough inquiry shall be made. . If any honorable member on this side of the House is to blame for what happened he must accept full responsibility.
– Some members opposite will be tried as war criminals yet! I do not believe the honorable member really wants an inquiry.
– Before I resume my seat I shall give to the honorable gentleman an opportunity to support an amendment which I propose to move to this bill designed to provide for such an inquiry to be instituted. That is my reply to the honorable gentleman’s taunt that I am not in earnest in asking for an inquiry. In order to save the time of the House I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard the remainder of the report made by Brigadier Lind.
– I object.
– As leave has been refused I must read the report. It continues -
In Oct. 1941 B.M. with Comds. 2/21 and 2/40 Bns. and Coy Comds. these Bns. made tactical recce. of Amboina and Timor and as result further recommendations reference inadequacy of armament and necessity for army liaison with N.E.I. Comd. were forwarded. At same time Comd. 23 Aust. Inf. Bde. appreciating the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing at, both these islands and the difficulties revealed by recces. of May and Oct. made urgent request by wire through Comd. 7 M.D. for opportunity to make personal contact with A.H.Q. with view to overcoming difficulties and obtaining definition. This request was disregarded.
On 8 Dec. 1941 orders were received by signal that these forces were to move immediately and statement was included whereby they were to come under direct comd. A.H.Q. on embarkation.
No instructions, no information, no orders were received by Comds. 2/21 and 2/40 Bns. - before or on embarkation - from A.H.Q.
In case of 2/21 Bn. very brief instructions were received by signal about 14 days after disembarkation at Ambon while A.H.Q. Op. Instr. No. 15 of6 Dec. 1941 implementing the move was received by this Unit 28 days after disembarkation at its destination.
Date of receipt of orders and A.H.Q. Op. Instr. No. 15 of 6 Dec. 41 implementing the move by 2/40 Bn., is unknown.
No copy of orders for these forces or of Op. Instr. No. 15 of6 Dec. 41 were received by H.Q. 23 Aust. Inf. Bde.
– That sounds like an attack on the Commander-in-Chief.
– It is an attack on whoever is responsible. My sole purpose in bringing this matter before the House is to give honorable members, on behalf of the relatives of these unfortunate men, an opportunity to ascertain who is responsible for this gross negligence. The report continues -
Comd. 2/21 Bn. (Lt. Col. L. N. Roach, M.C., E.D.) after arrival at Ambon made representations direct to A.H.Q. in which the inadequacy of numbers, armament munitions were stressed and inadequacy of N.E.I. capacity for effective co-operation were indicated.
These representations were made in the full knowledge of local conditions and terrain, with knowledge of inadequacy of Naval and Air force co-operation and with knowledge of Japanese tactics.
Lt.-Col. L. N. Roach was relieved of his comd.
Subsequent events at Ambon have made clear the justice and wisdom of the representations ofLt.-Col. L. N. Roach.
From consideration of the above summary and relevant facts, it is placed on record that in the case of the detachment of 2/21 Bn. to Amboina. and of 2/40 Bn. to Timor the following conclusions are accurate:
Eight months were available for provision of necessary adequate personnel and armament and for provision of the necessary co-operation with N.E.I. with the Navy and with the Air Force.
No satisfactory army liaison with N.E.I. Comd. Bandoeng was established with result that preparations for reception of forces concerned were inadequate and the capacity for effective co-operation with N.E.I. Forces at Amboina and Timor was not developed.
No effective L. ofC. was established in the case of either force.
Forces involved were not informed of arrangements for Naval co-operation - if such existed - under conditions in which such was essential. Such co-operation did not materialize.
Effective air support was non-existent No covering aircraft were available at time of Japanese attacks at Amboina and Timor. ((1) Forces involved were not provided with adequate fire power. Although eight months intervened from inception of project to its. execution -
No Fd. Arty. was made available.
No A.A. Arty. was made available at Ambon.
Provision of Light Automatic weapons was limited to 26 per Bn. and spare parts were not available.
These forces were embarked and despatched on tasks of first magnitude without orders from executive authority at A.H.Q.
Competent authority on the spot was deprived of opportunity to make essential representations relevant to projected operation. (Sgd.) Frank Lind, Brigadier.
That report must be in the possession df the Minister and Army Head-quarters. As a result of the’ discounting of the recommendations made by the officers on the spot, as the result of the relieving of Lieutenant-Colonel Roach of his command because he had asked for more weapons and equipment, this’ was the fate of the expedition : Of the 1,092 men; 305 were recovered from tile Japanese, 4.07 are .known to be dead, and the fate of 3S0 is unknown. This is an indictment of whoever1 was responsible for sending that ill-equipped force to Ambon. The troops were brave, welltrained men - but. they did not have one chance in a thousand of surviving with the inadequate equipment and arms supplied to them. Leaving the ,1 …Ul of Ambon and Timor, I ask that all the relevant documents be laid on the tabic of the House so that the Ho use and the Government shall be able to determine whether the matter warrants further investigation by a royal commission.
– How does the honorable member know these things?
– I have reason to know them. If any of my statements are incorrect, they can be controverted by the Government complying with my request that all the documents be tabled. At this stage, long after the war, the veil of secrec”y ought to be lifted. After the women and children had been evacuated, there were 300 civilians left at. Rabaul. All but a few have been accounted for, but they have hot been accounted for alive. Hundreds of the 2nd/2-2nd Battalion, and most Of the civilians went down with the Montevideo Maru when it was’ torpedoed in July, 1942. Amongst them was the Deputy Administ rft for, Mr. Harold Page, brother of the right honorable member for Cowper. Many Of those survivors, civilians and soldiers, who never had a chance of defence, were re-captured by the Japanese and were taken to Toll plantation and Gasmata. We know the terrible story of their fate. Some of them were led into the jungle with their hands corded behind their backs and used for bayonet practice. One man got away with a number of bayonet wounds in his body. He told the gruesome story. That was the fate of the civilians who had been detained at Rabaul for no military reason at . all. Their lives were sacrificed through incompetency or neglect. We and the country want to know who was responsible. I have torn the veil of secrecy from these incidents as far as I am able with the information at my command. I do not pretend’ to have it all; there is much more that could be said, but the Government is the only authority that knows or can possibly obtain all the information. In committee I shall move an amendment -
As an instruction to the Government that “all cables and communications between the Administrator and Deputy Administrator of New Guinea, add the Government of the Commonwealth in respect of the evacuation of civilians from New Guinea and Rabual a and that all reports arid signals between the commanding officers of the” troops s sent to Ambon mid Timor and the Australian Army, Air Force and Navy Head-quarters, be laid on t the table of the House
If the Government has the power to withhold those documents, it also has the power to grant the investigation that I think is due to the relatives Who are asking for it. I agree, with the representative bodies that I named at the beginning of my remarks that “ thousands of the bereaved are entitled to know, and the few hundreds who survived the grim days of captivity are also curious to know “ the facts about Ambon. Therefore I ask for the tabling of these documents as a preliminary to a further investigation, if necessary, of the circumstances of these expeditions.
.-I also take advantage of this bill to make some reference to the ill-fated Ambon expedition and the other expedition mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The tragedies that have been ventilated are so terrifically close to the people who remained behind that I am at a loss to understand why they are canvassed with such, heat in this chamber. I cannot understand the anger that is generated by honorable members opposite in making a case that is acceptable to us all. In my electorate there are relatives of members of the “ Gull “ Force that went to Ambon, and I, too, have received communications similar to those of the honorable member foi- Richmond, but I thought, in. view of the war of nerves that is being perpetrated, whether it is kindly meant or not, on the survivors and the fathers, mothers, wives, sisters, brothers and sweethearts of the dead and probably dead, that the more humane, the more manly course would be to deal with the matter on the departmental level. There is always a suggestion - and I do not imply this against the honorable member for Richmond - that the canvassing of such tragedies as those referred to by him may be some sort of a political discussion or that the implications of it may readily become political, and, whilst it is the honorable gentleman’s right; to come in’to this House and seek an inquiry, I think that the whole investigation could have been carried further before it became necessary to throw it into the arena in this Parliament. For the sake of the bereaved, I honestly believe that that would have been the right procedure. For the honorable gentleman to introduce side issues and to make sweeping changes against the officers concerned is to revive the whole tragic history of the war tq the north. If we are to consider a royal commission into Ambon, how much more should we consider a royal commission into the greatest tragedy in. history, the tragedy of Malaya. These tragedies. ought to be left until our feelings, are less lacerated, until our natural emotions have died down, We. could leave so many of these things to history and let historians apportion blame and find the reasons why. We must analyse these heartbreaking incidents, we must go into the early unpreparedness, and without being political on the matter I say that we know where to place the blame for that. I think it is tragic and dishonorable to use the. bodies of dead soldiers as a rampant from which to. fire at the Government, We have survived a tremendous and heartbreaking war, and post-mortems, examinations and inquests will naturally bc. many and varied, but, if those things are tq be con sidered in the light of peace-time living, we must look at the whole picture, and, I think, as. I have mentioned previously, that the tragedy of Malaya is a paramount one. If the honorable gentleman would like a royal commission, I would be right behind him if he asked for an investigation of the whole campaign from the day on which . honorable members opposite dropped the reins of government from their palsied hands into the strong hands of the Labour party. A salutary lesson is to be learned f rom the facts in relation to the war and the little and great tragedies that occurred from time to time. In spite of politics, I cannot see why the honorable member found it so necessary to show such spleen in presenting his case. As a soldier, I was ill, the humble capacity of a private, but I consider that I have already vindicated, by correct analysis, my contention that any mistakes which were made, in the islands campaign were not committed by any government, except the .major mistake of lack of equipment in the early stages of the wai;. The mistakes were made by high-ranking officers. The matter of the “ brass hats “ presented a much bigger problem in. World. War II. than it did in World War I., and if we seek those men, we shall find, them contesting the selection ballots conducted by the Opposition. If we desire to find the guilty men in this case, we shall discover them, not on this side of the chamber, but among the high-ranking officers who tunnelled under their trusting Minister and did everything possible to defame and ridicule him. That is the truth. They had the protection of thelate Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and their service Ministers, but when they were discharged from the services, they became amateur journalists in an honorable profession and were well paid to sell again their malice against the Government which had loyally “stuck” to them through their mistakesbecause, after all, they had had an extensive military training. If anyone seeks the answer to all these tragedies, losses and pathetic, heartbreaking experiences, he will find it among the ranking officers who protected themselves until the end of the war. Then, miraculously, some became involved in disputes with others. Peace-time preferment was not so easy, wa.r-time censorship was lifted, and the “ brass hats “ are bailing out one after the other. If anyone searches for the guilty men, he will find them among the “higher-ups” and the people most vociferous in their support of the Opposition.
The fate of the Australians on Ambon would have been better dealt with outside this chamber, in the coolness of a conference instead of in the heat of a political debate. I have the greatest admiration for the courage of the women who are still seeking the truth of Ambon. When it is revealed, it will be a melancholy truth, and this Parliament for once will be helpless to assist them. But arising out of that is another grave matter, namely, that these investigations and pinpointings of disaster are a part of the early days of the war. “ No good can come of an inquiry unless we make a complete survey in a responsible manner of the whole black tragedy of the early stages of the Pacific war. While this subject is being discussed, there is a campaign among the offenders to “ get in out of the wet “ and make their own statement ex parte and leave the matter at that. Their statements will be on record, and if ever a sweeping inquiry is held by the Parliament or historians, their case will have been stated. That is the danger to the reputations of the men who died, and to the good soldiers, irrespective of rank, who refused to talk.
My final point concerns what really happened in the early days of the war in Malaya and Java. Last night, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred to Behind Bamboo, by Rohan D. Rivett, concerning the experiences of prisoners of war. The honorable member himself was a prisoner of war and I pay tribute to his gallantry and fortitude in having survived those ordeals. At the same time, I consider that the honorable member entirely misquoted and misrepresented the statements of Mr. Rivett concerning the Dutch. I have no desire or intention to associate myself with either the Dutch or Indonesians in the dispute in Java, but since the written word and the quoted word are privileged in this chamber. I believe that the privilege should be extended to the author, so that his views ‘may bc presented in their right connotation. The honorable member for the Northern Territory stated that the British and the Dutch arc of Anglo-Saxon blood, and recommended the course that we should pursue regarding this matter. In my opinion, it is not necessary for us to take sides any mors than to take a balanced judgment. The text which the honorable member read from certain chapters of Behind Bamboo created the impression that the author was critical of the Indonesians. In addition to the disasters which occurred in the north shortly after Japan entered the war, Rivett mentioned the loss of the Australian cruiser Perth. He stated on page 98 -
A report from Dutch head-quarters which reached Captain Waller before the cruisers left Tanjong Pryok stated that aerial reconnaissance had failed to discover any signs of the enemy in Sunda Strait or its approaches. This report is one of the unexplained enigmas of the defence of Java. That evening Perth personnel plotted over 200 vessels - presumably all enemy - in the waters north of the island.
– Does the honorable member assert that my information about the Dutch admiral who was prepared to fight under any conditions is incorrect?
– I do not say that the honorable member’s references were incorrect, but the whole inference to be drawn from his statements, and the extracts which he read, was that Rivett considered’ that the Indonesians were cowardly and treacherous, and had no thought for the Australians. Actually, Rivett told a different story. Referring to the attitude of the Dutch to the Allied Forces in Java, Rivett stated -
All the Dutchmen whom we met seemed to feel that, since they had no chance of defending Java successfully, their immediate surrender was the right thing, and now all they had to do was to sit back and wait resignedly until their Allies won back their country for them. We had abundant evidence during our five-hour journey that the bulk of the population welcomed the island’s conquerors, and were emphatically anti-European.
Again, on page 129, the author wrote -
The much publicized army of the Dutch on Java, supposed to amount to between 50,000 and 100,000 trained troops, existed only on paper and in the minds of the propagandists. To all intents arid purposes, the Dutch did not light on Java, and their surrender, a few days after the landing, involved the capture of several thousands of Australian, British and American soldiers and airmen.
Later, the author stated -
When I passed through Java at the beginning of January, 1942, 1 found the Dutch very resentful against their American allies, on the grounds that they had been let down, thanks to American unpreparedness at Pearl Harbour, and that since then the long promised help in ships and planes had not been forthcoming. After the fall of Singapore, the British became the main offenders. In the subsequent years of captivity in the prison camps, it became fashionable for Dutchmen to maintain that, by their sacrifices, they had saved Australia. Left virtually unsupported by their allies, it was. they said, the deeds of their sailors and airmen which procured the delay needful to protect Australia. This view of the Dutchman, returning good for evil and perishing gallantly on the altar of his allies’ interests, is absurd and unrealistic.
The plain truth is that the Dutch, with only 8,000,000 European Dutchmen in the world, and only 250,000 free outside their conquered homeland, never had any chance of holdingtheir huge island empire against Japanese invasion, unless other people pulled the Dutch chestnuts out of the fire. Some anti-British Dutchmen have talked glibly about the favorable terms they could have made with the Japanese if they had not Been lured to fight by Allied promises which were never fulfilled. Fortunately, no such view prevails among the better-balanced members of the Dutch community, who realize that the Japanese would have overrun and then bled the Indies in the interests of their own war effort, whether the Dutch were nominal enemies or not.
Finally, in order to correct the impression made by the previous quotations, I desire to read the following passage : -
The worst incident of the whole gloomy story ocurred at Kalidjati, main British aerodrome in northern Java. A Japanese landing was expected at Cheribon, and British and Australian air force officers had been told that considerable Dutch forces, ensconced in pillboxes and prepared positions, would defend the aerodrome. Yet the first word of the Japanese landing that the pilots and ground staff at the aerodrome received came when Japanese armoured cars and motor-cyclists started to stream across the edge of the field.
A handful of men, dashing to their planes, managed to get some of them off the ground as the approaching vehicles opened fire. The majority of the men on tile aerodrome were rounded up or ambushed on trucks and a large number of them were killed. Whatever the difficulties of Dutch resistance to the landing forces, it should have been possible to get word to the aerodrome to avert this catastrophe. As a result of the entire absence of any warning, a large number of planes, either ready to take off or only temporarily unserviceable, fell into the hands of the Japanese undamaged.
That extract illustrates that all the1 Allies were equally responsible for the tragedies of the war, and if we are to investigate the fate of our forces in the islands, we should do so in a reasonable spirit of inquiry and not in a spirit of political hatred.
.- The tragic story of Ambon and Rabaul is not and should not be the subject of political controversy.- When the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) raised the subject, he certainly did not have any idea of bringing it into the political sphere.
– I had a different impression.
– I notice smiles on the faces of honorable members opposite, but I remind them that this sad story had its genesis during the life of the MenziesGovernment, whilst the end occurred under the Government which now occupies the treasury bench. Therefore, obviously blame, if blame there be,’ i3 not attachable to any one political party.
– That is the only fair statement which has been made on the subject.
– That statement ‘ was made earlier. I also received a copy of the document . which the honorable member for Richmond read. It was distributed by members of various associa-tions connected with those unfortunate men who took part in the two expeditions. Like the honorable member for Richmond, I consider that this story might well be further clarified in order that relatives of the ill-fated troops, and others who take a close interest in the story may know the truth, as far as it can be ascertained. Therefore, I urge the Government to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Richmond. After all, we are not here to engage in a witch hunt. All we desire is to ascertain the truth of the events which took place.
I desire now to refer to the matter ‘of the .refund of allotments made to nondependants of servicemen who were reported missing and then presumed dead, and who finally were found on further evidence to have died earlier than the date on which their death was presumed. On previous occasions, other honorable members have raised this subject. This afternoon the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to it. During the last session, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Balaclava urged the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to endeavour to ascertain whether more generous treatment could be accorded to those non-dependants’ who had been in receipt of the allotment. The following is a report of the Minister’s reply: -
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) denied today that there were any cases in which n. soldier’s dependants had been required to refund allotments or dependants’ allowances received after the date of the soldier’s death.
The Government’s policy was to continue allotments and dependants’ allowances for one month from the date on which the death was reported to the Repatriation Commission and the pension began the day after the cessation of allotments and allowances.
Where a non-dependant receiver of an allotment could show himself to be unable to refund any overpayment after death, recovery would not be effected. r cite a typical example of a large number of cases which have arisen. A serviceman made an allotment to his mother before he proceeded to Singapore. After he had been taken prisoner, he was sent to that horror spot, the Siam-Burma railway, where he worked under the Japanese. About two years later, a fairly reliable report was. received that he had died. The date of his demise, was presumed to be some time, in 1944. After the, war further’ inquiries were, made, and it was discovered that the. man died a year before the date he was presumed to. be dead. The result was that about a month ago his mother-, whom. I know quite, well, as she lives not far from me, received what I regard as a peremptory if no callous, note demanding the refund’ of about a year’s allotment. The financial position of the family was such that the amount, about £20, could be provided, without much hardship, but what upset this unfortunate lady and, in fact, reduced her almost to a state of nervous prostration, was that the Government had acted in such a callous way in respect of a man who had given his life for his country. That case is one of a considerable number of the same kind. I suppose fifteen or twenty of them have been brought to my notice. Looking at the matter from a strictly logical’ point of view, it may be said that the Government is justified in demanding refunds of overpayments in such cases, but surely these matters should be dealt with, not in the terms of strict logic, but in a generous and humane fashion. Women have come to me in tears to describe certain inhuman treatment to which they have beon subjected in respect of their beloved dead. I ask the Government to make an investigation with, the object of rendering unnecessary the refund of money in cases of this description. The amount involved cannot possibly be very large, nor can the number of Gases be considerable. We know the number of casualties in the war, the number of our men who were taken prisoner, and the number of such prisoners who died. The amount overpaid in allotments in respect of persons presumed to be dead would be a mere bagatelle in comparison with the heavy expenditure that is still being incurred in connexion with the war. I therefore ask the Government to deal with this subject in a generous spirit.
– -Before following- previous speakers in their discussion of the war, I wish to make some comment upon the provisions of the bill. It is most extraordinary that, at a time when Australia is the most highly tuxer! country in the world, a bill should be brought down to transfer to loan funds £20,000,000 collected in taxes. If the proposal were the opposite of that it might bo excused, because, to some degree at least, it would be following the post-war credits system that has been adopted in Great Britain; but to transfer £20,000,000 from revenue to loan when the country is staggering under terrific taxation is utterly preposterous. This is being proposed at a time when everything possible should be done to increase production. The solution of our present ills, in the view of the Australian Country party, and, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has just pointed out, is an increase of production. Before Ave can double production, which is necessary, we must halve taxation. That would be a beneficial circle’, and it would do ‘something to counteract the inflationary trends that are so noticeable in our financial affairs. If the Government would halve taxation it would encourage production. But the policy not being pursued has created a vicious financial circle which is strangling production, causing shortages of every kind on every hand, creating black markets and introducing inflation. It is extraordinary to me that receipts from revenue should be dealt with in this surrepititious fashion, at a time when the Government should he reducing taxation and doing everything possible to encourage an increased output of primaryproducts for export. In spite of the fact that higher prices for butter and wool are being extracted from the Struggling people of Great Britain, our primary producers are worse off to-day than they wore in the first year of the war. A comparison of the total receipts of the farmers of Australia from their three major products, wool, wheat and butter, shows that they received less from the sale of these commodities in 1944-45, the last year of the war, than they received in 1939-40, the first year of the war. This is due partly, of course, to weather conditions, but it has been caused largely by the strangling of industry by strikes, “ go-slow “ tactics, shortages of equipment, and wastage of the time and energy of the farmers, owing to certain administrative procedures of the Government.- The total amount received for wool in 1939-40, the first year of the war, was £65,246,000. In 1944-45, the last year of the war, the total amount received was £62,512,000, a decline of £2,750,000. Wheat in 1939-40, the first, year of the war, realized for the Australian farmers a total of £31,352,000; For 1944-45, the last year of the war, the total was £7,593,000, a fall of £23,750,000. The total income for the butter industry in 1939-40, the first year of the war, was £27,19S,000; in 1944-45, receipts were £19,000,000, which, combined with the government subsidy of £6,700,000, made a total of £25,750,000, or a decline of roughly £1,300,000. In 1939-40, the first year of the war, Commonwealth and State income tax absorbed £45,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. In 1944-45, the income tax on individuals and companies .totalled £211,000,000, or over four times as much. Revenue taxation, from all sources in the Commonwealth in 1938-39, the year bef ore the war, totalled £74,000,000. In 1944-45, the corresponding amount was more than £300,000,000, or over four times as much. In 191S-19, the last year of World War I., our total taxation amounted roughly to £33,000,000, or twice as much as at the beginning of that war. Prosperity came after the 1 914-18 war by reason of the fact that during the first five years when I. was Treasurer I reduced the income tax rate by 70 per cent. This increased both buoyancy in industry and general prosperity. We never had so many people employed in the factories of Australia as we had at that period, until we had to turn our attention to the production of munitions during this war.
It is abundantly evident that an alteration must be made of the taxation procedure of this Government. As things are, no one in the community knows, nowadays, what the amount of his taxwill be. A taxpayer may submit his returns but he cannot, in any satisfactory way, estimate the amount that he will be obliged to pay.
Before Labour came into power, concessional deductions for a wife, £50 for each dependent child, insurance premiums, union levies, and so on were allowed before the taxation rate was struck. To-day, the taxation rate is struck on the gross amount, then a concessional rebate rs made on these other items, which does not amount to as much as the original deduction, and. is most difficult to estimate. .
Before we agree to the passage of this bill we should extract from the Government an assurance that its methods of taxation will be reviewed, and a procedure adopted which will stimulate industry and encourage people to do their best work. We should apply a system such as that of Great Britain. Quite recently I had shown to me, on the same day, two taxation assessments for the same year of different persons who had earned approximately the’ same amount of income. One of them had earned the money in Australia and the other in Great Britain. The latter had just returned to this country after six years abroad. On his arrival he was handed a bulky envelope which rather disturbed him, as he knew it had to do with taxation. On opening it he was surprised and pleased to find that it contained a postwar credit remittance of £75 sterling, which is equivalent to about £100 Austraiian. The money was extremely useful to him as he was about to resume civilian life. The other man was a teacher who had earned approximately £700 during the year. His wife,, for patriotic reasons, had taken a war-time job as a sewing mistress and had earned ‘ £14, payment of which had been delayed. She received it in circumstances which increased her income to more than £50. The amount was added to her husband’s income and resulted in an extra tax of £30 15s. That was the reward of this lady for doing something to help the children of Australia in a time of war! Such a procedure must be altered. The outlook of the people of Australia must be ‘ changed. We must introduce a method which will encourage production, for only by that means can we solve the problems which face us. If the taxable income could be doubled,- the same amount of revenue could be derived with half the present rate of tax. That is what happened after the last ‘war, and the problem has to be tackled in that way to-day. Therefore, I put it to the House that this method of handling surplus revenue should be regarded with grave suspicion also. I am doubtful of its constitutionality.
During the debate, reference has been made, to the attitude of the Dutch to World War II. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a quotation in slighting terms from the work of a journalist who had flown over Holland or Java. I had the privilege of sitting with Dutch representatives in the Pacific War Council in London during the most critical period of the war. Nothing could have excelled the manner in which they stood up to their obligations. Their remark in regard to the vessels that their country had in the Indian Ocean was : “ Fm heaven’s sake, let us put our fleets, and if necessary, lose ship for ship, against the Japanese, and that may bring the Pacific war to an end years sooner, as the British and Americans can build three or four times as rapidly as the ‘ Japs “. In the early days of 1942, the Dutch fleet covered itself with glory and its ships went down with all hands, as did our gallant units Perth and Sydney. No one can rightly east aspersions on this gallant race which, as the late Mr. Curtin pointed out repeatedly, tried to protect that arc of islands to the north which was the real shield of Australia. When it became obvious that it was impossible to hold those islands, the Dutch representatives agreed that the Australians, British and Americans should leave Java with all their aircraft and equipment and personnel. They said: “ We realize that Java cannot be held, and must be evacuated. All that we ask is that Dutchmen may be allowed to fight to the death on their own soil “. That gives the lie to the rotten statements that are made in the book from which the honorable member for Parkes quoted. When the British had lost Prince of Wales and Repulse, the Dutch offered to send 25,000 men to Singapore if they could be of any assistance to the British forces there. Yet when it was proposed to send mercy ships from Australia to the Netherlands East Indies, or to repair a damaged Dutch war vessel which had fought in our defence, it was said that those ships could not be loaded, even though Australian men and women are starving over there. Could anyone conceive of the British
Government remaining idle while British subjects were being subjected to such conditions? The Australian treatment of Dutch ships is a shameful thing to do to a gallant ally. The history of the British race for hundreds of years contains proof of the readiness of the British Government to send armed forces to the relief of its subjects. Yet the Commonwealth Government has behaved in a cowardly fashion because, as .the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, if the attempt were made to have these boats loaded there would be a general flare-up on the waterfront. Could there be a more general flare-up than there is in Australia at’ the present time? In Queensland, during the currency of the meat strike, 60,000 tons of beef which should have been killed and sent to Britain to feed is starving people has not been shipped, because nothing has been done to end the strike. As the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. .Fadden) has pointed out, the State Government has had the courage to bring into operation the provisions of the Public Safety Act, and to de-register the Meat Industry Employees Union; but the Commonwealth Government claims: “It has nothing to do with us; it is a State matter “. The 60.000 tons of beef that I have mentioned will not now be killed, because the cattle have been returned to the stations from which they were brought. They have lost condition, and the Tailing season has passed. We read every day in the press, reports of starving people in Britain whose meat ration has been reduced in order to help the people of other countries. Several things will have to be done in this country. First, the unions will have to submit to discipline, and we shall have to make certain that our arbitration laws will “ run “. Mr. Lang was- dismissed from the office of Premier of New South Wales by the Governor of that State because he broke ‘State and Commonwealth laws. .The present Commonwealth Government is practically allowing the arbitration law of this country, which is held in the highest respect in every other country, to be broken with impunity. Secondly, we shall have to en-sure decent treatment of our women and children.
Four or five months ago, when electricity was rationed in Sydney, one of the first steps taken was to discharge from the hospitals all the people who could walk. They were told : “ You will consume less gas and electricity in your homes “. The Commonwealth ‘Government did not do anything to relieve the position. We have to make certain that coal will be won and that the waters of this country will be harnessed so that production- may be increased. What can be done in any country which has not coal and power? We have heard an extraordinary story about an increase of coal production. It is the most peculiar increase of which I have heard - from 15,000,000 tons annually to 12,000,000 tons ! A production of 14,000,000 was achieved by 15,000 men, yet only 12,000,000 tons could be produced by 17,500 men. Throughout the world it is being realized that the aftermath of the war and the terrific waste caused by it can be counteracted only by increasing individual output, and by combined effort. Psychologically, the outlook of the people can be improved by reducing taxation as quickly as possible. This would give them an incentive to work harder.
– lt would seem that the hour of post-mortems is at hand. There is diversity of opinion as to whether we should learn the reasons for our failures in Malaya, Ambon, Timor and other places.
I congratulate the honorable- member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) on the speech that he has made. The Government considers that the parents and sweethearts “ cannot take it “. As one who has received most distressing correspondence since his return to Australia, I assure ministerial supporters who wish to shelter , behind that excuse that the relatives of servicemen “ can take it “. Before I state my own ideas, I should like to do something for those who * have survived, particularly members of the 8th Division who were in Malaya. Prior to going to Sandakan, in North Borneo, unknown to the Japanese I was elected president of an old diggers association. I arranged gatherings, at which lectures were given, and collated for my own benefit much information from businessmen who had been in Malaya, aswell as from Australians, so that after the war immediate advantage could be taken of the trade and business possibilities in Malaya. These men have written asking me to place their case before this House, so that the exact information obtained may not be lost, and immediate advantage may be taken of the trade possibilities. They are now “ champing at the bit “ because all their endeavours to rehabilitate themselves may be nullified by the hold-up of shipping. While I was a prisoner of war in Malaya, I had many discussions with men who had been in business in Singapore, China and the Netherlands East Indies, with regard to the possibility of Australia getting a greater share of the far eastern trade than it had prior to the outbreak of the war. My idea was to raise my voice in this House later, with a view to the rehabilitation of these men under the provisions we are now discussing. The general consensus of opinion was that Australia had sadly neglected its opportunities in that area in the past. One man who had had trade experience in the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya and Hong Kong, extending over a period of 30 years, told me that he could recall very few Australian products being marketed in those places during the period between World War I. and World War II. Those that he remembered were a well-known brand of jam, the biscuits of another firm, and two brands of butter. The outbreak of World War II. in Europe was directly responsible for Australian goods finding a ready market in the Netherlands East-Indies, Malaya and Hong Kong. Those countries, together calledsterlingbloc.Duetostringentexwith India, were members of the sochange restrictions, trade relations were confined almost entirely between themselves, and with Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Prior to Japan’s entry into the war, the tide of South African exports flowed towards Britain, almost entirely to the exclusion of theFar East. Paradoxically, although Britain required all the foodstuffs and raw material it could obtain, itsexports of manufactured goods to theFar East continued, although on a diminishing scale because of the lack of shipping. Later, itsexport trade was confined almost entirely to the “ gold bloc” nations, consisting of the United States of America, Canada, and the various South American republics, for very sound economic reasons. Thus Australia, and to a certain degree, New Zealand, had a clear field inFar Eastern countries. These were the conditions obtaining in Malaya, Netherlands East Indies and Hong Kong prior to the war, and they will obtain once more now that the war is over. And what of China, with its vast, unexploited markets? In 1940-41, the leading British, Canadian and American firms were unable to meet the demand of the Netherland East Indies and Malaya, and had to retire from the market. It was during this period that Australia came into the picture, supplying wines, spirits, beer, ham, bacon, &c, for which advertising created a considerable demand. Thus, Australia gained an entry into the Far Eastern markets with little or no effort. In fact, the tendency was for local importers to beg Australian firms to establish local representation. Now that the war is over there is great danger of this market being lost through complacency: The quality of Australian products is on a par with the best British and American products, and the prices are competitive. It is obvious, however, now that peace has been restored, that British and American manufacturers will start a strong trade offensive to regain the lucrative trade which they lost because of the war, and they will be helped by the Far Eastern commercial houses which had established agencies before the war. We know that Australia produces most of the requirements of the Far Eastern consumer. How, then are we to obtain our proper share of this business? We must do as others have done in the past, plus a little more. The Chinese like Australians. They find it difficult to get on with some Englishmen, but they have no difficulty in getting on with Australians. Chinese have told me and other prisoners of war that we must come back after the war and trade with them. Other prisoners had a better opportunity to discuss such matters than I had, because I was in irons a good deal of the time. I offer the following suggestion for stimulating Australia’s trade with the Eastern countries : -
Before the war, 40 per cent, of the cargoes sent from Australia to Singapore, and 20 per cent, of those for Hong Kong were carried in Dutch ships. What is Australia doing to-day to implement trade with the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, China and the Philippines ? We axe certainly sending large quantities of foodstuffs to Britain and Europe, and rightly so, but what of the Dutch ships lying in the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, ready to transport goods to starving people in Java and Sumatra ? I understand that £A6,000,00Q worth of foodstuffs .and merchandise is in store ready for transport to the Netherlands East Indies. Is the will of the waterside workers to prevail? Apart from the possibility of converting an ally to an enemy, what of the many returned soldiers, and particularly those prisoners of war who came in contact with businessmen, while in the camps of Singapore and Malaya, and who themselves want to get into business, but cannot do so because of the attitude of Thornton, Healy, Wells and others? What of the many others who could be put into useful employment if this useless and vicious ban on the loading of Dutch ships were lifted? Dutch ships would transport goods, not only to the Netherlands East Indies, but also to Singapore, Indo-China, Chinese ports and the Philippines.
With regard to the Philippines, it will be remembered that the Prime Minister, on his way back from a lightning visit to Japan, called in at Manila, where he met government officials, and businessmen who were anxious to do business with Australia. He, as usual, promised to discuss the matter with his colleagues, and said that he felt sure that trade with Australia could be speeded up, and he welcomed the opportunity, and so on. But what can the Prime Minister and his colleagues do in the matter? He and they must pander to their Communist bosses, Thornton, Wells and company. Dutch ships could help. I wonder whether those people in Manila know what the trouble is. They will know very soon. The Dutch Minister to Australia. Baron Van Aerssen, has left for Manila to represent his country at the liberation _ celebations in that country. He, too, will meet those government officials and businessmen, and no doubt they will ‘ discuss trade problems, and what is happening in Australia. In view of the Government’s attitude, and the Prime Minister’s rebuke to the Dutch Minister regarding the Dutch warship
Piet Hein, Baron Van Aerssen will be able to tell the real reasons why the expansion of our export trade with our northern neighbours is being neglected, why this golden opportunity is being missed. It is for no other reason than that -the ships of a country, who was an ally, and whose country i3 strategically important to us, are lying idle because of the whims and viciousness. of our Communist friends.
One young man, Tom Dole, with whom I was a prisoner, I have met since my return. He gathered this information with some other businessmen, including an old digger of World War I., E. C. Alexander, a fellow prisoner in Malaya, who has now, I believe, returned to his position in the. Treasury at Canberra. I urge that his precise knowledge on trade to Malaya be” studied by the Government. Mr. Dole has organized a firm to which he has given the name “ Ceigoa”, standing for Consolidated Export and Import Group of Australia, the idea being that it should carry on trade with eastern countries. .The last time I saw him he had two husky Japanese hanging on to his arms, leading him out into the jungle, and others were belting him. I thought he would be shot, but evidently the Japanese contented themselves with beating him, and he turned up again. His address now is 5S Oxford-street, Sydney. There are dozens of men like him, anxious to take part in trade activities with the East, but the Government does not seem to control the situation. It is in the toils of the communist python. I ask the Government to do something to open up trade with the East. I met men in the prison camps representing British firms in Java, and some of them I have met since my return to Australia. All of them agree that there are unlimited opportunities for increasing trade with eastern countries if only the Government will have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the present situation on the waterfront. The honorable member - for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has asked, for a post-mortem on the campaigns in Ambon, Timor and New Guinea. I think I have a. right to ask for a post-mortem on the Malayan campaign. The Government need not fear that the relatives of the men engaged in the campaign will not be able to “ take it”. I suggest now, as I have previously suggested in press statements, that Brigadier Taylor, who took part in the campaign, might be called to the bar of the House to explain matters to honorable members. If it is thought undesirable that his disclosures should be made public, there is no reason why he should not address the members of both Houses in King’s Hall, so that they might know just what happened in Malaya. Also, as one of the few survivors of 1,900 men at Sandakan prison camp, I have a right to ask why no effort was made to rescue prisoners of war held in Borneo. General MacArthur has declared that it was known to him that we were lightly held by the Japanese, and that the position could have been retaken. I refuse to accept the plea of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that it would only distress the relatives of the men concerned if these matters were inquired into. In the name of those who died because the Government failed to send a force to their rescue, we have the right to demand an inquiry. My own nephews, my brother’s boy and my sister’s boy, one of them in the commandos and the other in the Labuan landing, and thousands of others were awaiting an opportunity to take part in a rescue expedition. Why were they not allowed to do so? I think I know why. If the policy of the Labour party had been put into effect at the beginning of the war, no Australian troops would have gone to Suez. The Middle East would have been lost, the Germans would have joined up with the Japanese, and Australia would inevitably have been overrun by the Japanese. Never before has the old Roman adage, “ He who fights has the right to govern “, been more applicable than it is to-day. Among the few honorable members opposite who were prepared to fight for their country on the battlefields of the world I notice present at the moment only “ Davy “ Watkins and one or two others, including “ Reggie “ Pollard. I can forgive those who did not fight if they had good reasons to .stay at home; but ‘I despise those who sat at home and advised others not to fight. No doubt some honorable members opposite had a good reason for remaining in this country, but there must be many of them who should have been in the services and have had first-hand experience of the horrors of warfare. We are reaping to-day the results of the poisonous propaganda of Labour’s hillbilly spokesmen in the Sydney Domain, at King’s Cross and on the Yarra Bank who, when the world was arming for war, told our youth that there was no cause for alarm and that in any case we should not spill our blood on foreign soil. . It is because of that feature of Labour’s policy that so many of our boys are to-day lying in jungle graves in Malaya. Although 20,000 trained , fighting men were waiting in Darwin for an opportunity to go to Java to rescue their mates, this Government would not send them outside of Australia because it had decided, with a complete lack- of realization of the situation, that the Militia should not be sent beyond the Commonwealth and its mandated territories. This Government even brought down legislation delineating in precise terms the area in the equatorial belt beyond which those troops gould not he used. And this at a time when war was raging in two hemispheres and when an appeal was made to the United States of America to “ save Australia and you save America “. I now learn that that was a catch cry for this Parliament. How galling that decision must have been for General MacArthur! The Australian forces in Darwin could do no more than shake their fists at the Japanese across the Arafura and Timor. Seas. The people of America must’ despise this Government for that disgraceful attitude, and share with many of us the opinion that it resulted in many of our boys lying in jungle graves. . How can the Government be so lacking in principle as to say that an inquiry will only revive the anguish of the relatives of those unfortunate men? Far from being made the object of criticism, the honorable member for Richmond is to bc commended for having brought this matter forward. The honorable member for Parkes took exception to my quoting passages from a book written by the son of an . illustrious Australian, Sir David. Rivett, because his party believes that these Indonesian murderers are wonderful people, and that the Dutch people had been exploiting them for too long. I have no desire to weary the House by a recapitulation of my war experiences; but it is necessary to refer to’ some incidents in order to acquaint honorable members opposite with the facts. After I had been captured and sent to Borneo by the Japanese I wa3 appointed leader of an escape party. I intended to come back to Australia and raise a force to rescue my mates. The full history of this attempt will be presented to the Prime Minister next week. I have written to my former commanding officer, Major Fleming, M.A., Dip.Ed., now a master at .Scotch College, Melbourne, for permission to use the official records of my unit in the preparation of this history. I was ably assisted in this attempt by the Honorable Dr. P. J. Taylor, formerly of Orange, New South Wales, a member of the Legislative’ Council of British North Borneo, who had been in Borneo for sixteen years and had been employed as a doctor with a chartered company there. I intend later to bring his case before the Prime Minister with a view to securing for him some recompense for! his valuable assistance. He suffered torture by the Japanese on our behalf. After I was captured by the Japanese I was put in cells, with Dutch prisoners, including an engineer from Medan, Sumatra, named Bekkering a lieutenant ‘ in the Netherlands East Indies army who had been captured by the Japanese . a week or two after the invasion. Later, he was given his liberty for twelve months, but being a good Dutchman he immediately joined the underground forces and undertook responsibility for designing roads intended for use by the Australians who were expected to invade the country. The Japanese, however, discovered the work he was doing, and he was arrested, tried, sentenced and transported to Singapore, where he shared a cell with me at the Outram Road gaol. Incidentally, his ship was torpedoed cn route. We were associated for fifteen months. I learned that his leader was shot in gaol. Naturally we had many interests in common, because we had been engaged in allied professions. I promised Mr. Bekkering that some day I would return to Sumatra and visit him, and 1 invited him to come to my home in Australia after the war was over. After his release from the prison camp he returned to his home, and on the 15th
December, 1945-, lie wrote me the follow ing letter: -
I hope you to be in good health and expect that Australia’s abundance changed your thinness into common dimensions’. I hope also you joined your family and found your people in good condition. And I hope you will have been able to show the Australian nation how the yellow swines did treat their prisoners of war and the same to the English nation in London, accordingly the scheme you told to prisoners ito in cell No. so and so, nearly one year ago.
He was referring to a proposal to bring Dutchmen and north-west Europeans to Australia. The letter continues -
I, too, must not complain. At present I’m sitting in my own home with my wife and my four children, all in very good condition. I.’lie return to Sumatra was in political wise a great disappointment. When we came in mir country we were longing for starting work 10 recover the damages done to the Nipponese management and for living as soon as possible in common way. This is at present quite impossible and I. fear it will remain so in near future.
I left Changi about the middle of September and went to Johore Bahru near Singapore. [ stayed there about a fortnight in a great hospital and started in the beginning of October for Medan. My wife and children who had been interned for three and a half years of which two years in poor and one and a half years in very poor conditions, happened to arrive in Medan nearly at the lime day. lt is a sad but epic story. In a long paragraph he told me something of the conditions they had to overcome when the Indonesian Republic was formed. Me went on to say -
Dutch troops and police are not permitted to invade; we are depending quite on English and Indian troops’. They got only order from their Government to maintain order in Medan. So the difference with Outram Road is that our prison is quite- good and comfortable and that we are allowed to walk for several miles i’-i Hie European quarters but we all feel that up till to-day we are still in prison. Evacuation is possible but by lack of ships’ the amount of evacuees, for Europe is but. little. Widows orphans and’ sick persons, have preference.
Has the Government no- sympathy for these people? I replied to this letter on the 6th February, 1946. Had I had the experience- of another four months in Australia I could certainly not have written a letter in more acid or succinct, terms. This .is what I wrote -
It was with great pleasure that I read your long letter telling me that your family were safe, although they had undergone great trials from starvation in- Sumatra after you were placed in prison.
I look back to the days when we were together in” the cells at Outram Road jail - not with pleasure, of course - but the month that I happened to be in your cell passed quickly because we had so much in common, and were able to talk when the Japanese guard was not looking our way.
I am very distressed to think that you came out of one prison, under the Japs only to find yourself in another, owing to the Indonesian attacks on any Europeans whom they find out in the streets. Of course 1 am not so silly as not to know the reason. The Japs played a very cunning game in the islands when they found they were not going to win - they primed and trained the Indonesian to fight the white man in an endeavour to make their case good, as it were. We know what the dirty little slit-eyes did to the half-breeds and natives when they thought they were going to win - they treated them as an inferior people, merely as slaves, but of course with the forty millions in Java they realised that they had a whole population which could be a menace to the white race now and in the future, and so help Japan (as Tojo said) in their hundred years’ war. even though they lost it this time. I am ashamed of my own country, and of many of the public men supposed to be controlling it. because they have lent a very soft ear to some of the mongrels here known as Communists, who have played a dirty, filthy game against you Dutchmen by not allowing food boats to leave Australia for Sumatra. However, as Parliament has not yet met I am unable to express myself publicly, but believe me, that little will be left unsaid by me against these odious specimens of humanity who pander to a low section in older to catch votes from the nondescripts in Australia merely to get back into Parliament, and who have not the guts to stand up for the white race. Some of our people seem to be ashamed that they are British and have white* blood flowing through their veins, but rather prefer to side with the Indonesians simply because they realize it is a miniature Communist cell in the communistic growth - a cell that will, if its growth is allowed to go unchecked, be a great menace, not only to our Australian safety in the future, but also to the white race in general. At least, such arc the Blain sentiments.
With regard to youn friend whose letter was forwarded to me; I must confess that I let it pass out of my hands to some Butch friend in Brisbane, who took it out to show to some of your unfortunate’ evacuees who were brought to our country for safety. I did intend going out to their camp to. give them, a little talk, and encourage them to have fresh heart, but 1 was unable to do so because I have been anxious to visit my own electorate in the Northern Territory before the Federal House meets in March. I fear that I may have lost contact with my Dutch friends in Brisbane, and so would ask you to request your friend to write to me again and place his case before mc, when I hope 1 may be able to bc of. some assistance to him. Believe me, if you should bc able to journey to Australia as an evacuee it would give me the greatest pleasure to see you again, so do not forget to look me up, when we may talk of old times and perhaps 1 may be able to place you in your engineering profession - you could be of great use to Australia in developing our water supplies, a matter which needs such urgent attention.
I have tried to do something for Dr. Taylor. You remember he was sent to gaol with us from Borneo to Outram Bond, as a civilian. His old friend Mr. Ma vor, the Englishman, died in the cells, unfortunately - he was just unable to make the grade against the Jap. treatment.
Please convoy my best wishes to all the old friends, and hoping to see you some day when I make that promised journey to Malaya.
have made myself clear. All I nsk the
Government to do is to get the ships moving, to take strong action against the Communists who are holding the country to ransom, to re-establish the exservicemen, particularly the members of the Sth Division captured in Singapore by the Japanese, to re-establish friendly relations with the Dutch and not to allow our relations to be further impaired by unpardonable interference in their dealings with the Indonesians.
.- We have heard the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) tell us what he thinks. Wo should always’ be glad to hear him. He has emerged from the silence.” He has told us what he and his fellow members of the Sth Division suffered from the Japanese in the years of their confinement as prisoners of war, while we sat here in safety. His story is one that we should never forget. I agree with what the honorable gentleman has said about the.way in which the Government lias allowed our relations with the Dutch to be strained. I feel equally strongly on that subject, and I advise the
Government to make up its mind quickly to come to our way of thinking.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) raised a subject that has been exercising my mind, namely, the fate of our forces at Ambon and Rabaul. I have had conversations with the officers who returned. There are ‘not many of them. I have also, talked with bereaved parents of the men who lost their lives in those ill-fated ventures. An inquiry is needed. It is a fact that outposts are often overwhelmed by an enemy because they have to stand their ground in the early stages of the war. The history of the w.ars in which the British have fought shows that at the outset of those wars that has been the fate of many of its. outposts. That may be unavoidable, but that cannot be said without qualification about the Ambon force. It is beyond comprehension that it. should have been sent there without .a single field gun. 1 have talked with Lieutenant-Colonel Roach, formerly commander of the’ 21s.t Battalion, who was recalled and replaced and was not even granted an interview on his return to Australia to give him the opportunity to explain but was merely put on the reserve and thereafter debarred from taking any part in the war. He told me that the battalion had no guns, although he had asked for them, and plenty were available at Darwin, The tragedy of the 21st Battalion at Ambon is that one section of the battalion completely disappeared. It is believed that they fought magnificently, but whether they died at their posts or were captured and executed later is not known. If the Government had any regard for the feelings of the relatives of those men it would grant the inquiry that they seek* That inquiry must be directed to discovering the fate of the men and to fixing responsibility for the ignoring of the protests of the commanding officer against the fact that they had no artillery.
Another necessary inquiry is into the revelations in the Melbourne press by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, who recently retired from the Royal Australian Air Force. He has drawn attention to the duplication in the command of the Air Force in Australia that led to inefficiency. Every one in .the Air Force knows of the long-standing feuds between senior officers at head-quarters and in the Royal Australian Air Force commands. The squadrons themselves did- splendid work. A royal commission like that asked Ivy the honorable member for Richmond to inquire into the Ambon and Rabaul affairs is required to- inquire into the Royal Australian- Air Force. Either a royal commission or some other competent authority, such as a parliamentary select committee, ought to be set up to make that inquiry, not only to verify the revelations made by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, but also to ensure future avoidance of such happenings and to inquire into policy. There has been too much secrecy about the Royal Australian Air Force. It is, perhaps, ‘understandable in war, although matters that went wrong in the Army were ventilated in the Parliament while the war was still being fought. Probably that is because the Parliament contains many honorable members with army experience, but few of us know much about the Air Force. I have never criticized the Royal Australian Air Force in any political way, as I think all honorable members will agree. All my questions have been directed to the promotion [ do not regard it as something that ought to be used as a political football. It is because I want to ensure a high pitch of efficiency in the Air Force that I ask for a searching inquiry into its administration. Last year, Mr. Slater, M.L.A., and others were appointed as a committee that inquired into various aspects of air force administration, but I think something that will go deeper into the matter thanthat committee probably went is needed. At any rate, that committee made several reports, and although I pressed the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) many times to table them, because I believe that they are helpful, they were never able gentleman, in his capacity as Minister for Civil Aviation, in my request that the report of the interdepartmental committee on civil aviation be tabled. I desired that it be made avail-, tabled. I got no further with the honorable because I believed it would be helpful and instructive to the Parliament. The Minister has kept that report in the dark for two years. We know nothing of its contents. Yet the Government insetting up an expensive organization to conduct civil airlines.
If an investigation of the administration of the Air Force is made, I am sure that those charged with the investigation would agree that the proposal that an interim air force be established is quite unsatisfactory. Airmen, particularly members of air crews, have been invited to enlist in the interim air force for two years. M.any young men who have given four to six years to the Air Force want to make a career of it, but the best that the Government can do is to offer two years’ service. These men have fought in the skies from Iceland to New Guinea. Fifteen thousand went to Great Britain and flew over Germany night and day. But, on- their return to Australia, they are offered the miserable opportunity of two years in the interim air force with the rank of flying officer, regardless of what rank they rose to, on war service. Even if a man had ‘ achieved the rank of group captain, if he is only a duration man and wants to continue in the Air Force, he must accept the humiliation of reduction to the rank of flying officer in the interim force, because that is the only substantive rank available. That will not induce the enlistment of men of the best type. Indeed, so little inducement . does it offer that enlistments are flagging. Something better should be devised. There ought to be a greater number of permanent commissions. We have to think to-day in different terms of time and space. The bombers that served 11: in the war are obsolete. Our attention must now be directed to aircraft that will fly in the stratosphere and will be propelled by jets or rockets. Yet tile Government is carrying on a force that is only a shadow of its former self. The splendid force we had in the ‘ war has disintegrated.
Pensions ought to be provided for members of the Royal Australian Air Force on their retirement. The Royal Air Force has had a pensions system, for many years. Many Australians have taken permanent posts with the Royal Air Force, because the inducements in the Royal Australian Air Force, are not so good. Amongst many I could name are the late
Sir Peter Drummond, Air Commodore Guilfoyle, who is now in Australia, and Group Captain Edwards, V.C.. I met many of them when I was abroad. They will not come back- to the Australian service because of its shortcomings.
The spirit of the Empire Air Training Scheme ought to be preserved in peacetime. Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force ought to be able to serve anywhere. That would make for integrated’ training and the use of standard aircraft instead of a multiplicity of types.
I recently referred to the policy under which £9,500,000 is to be expended on the manufacture in Australia of 61 Lincoln aircraft, a variation of the Lancaster bomber, which devastated German industry and cities. I take this opportunity to impress upon the Government the waste of money, which would be better expended on the building of houses than on- the manufacture ‘of obsolete aircraft. Because the Lincoln is an improved version of the Lancaster, whose 10-ton bombs created the funeral pyre of Germany’s ambitions, some thoughtless adviser of the Government recommended that the Lincoln be built in Australia. Foolishly, the Government is constructing 61 obsolete flying arks when it could have obtained from the British Government 60 Lancaster bombers, possibly free of charge. The metal which is being used in the construction of these obsolete aircraft could have been better employed in prefabricated houses. This is an opportunity for the Government to make a substantial saving. Australia should have a small but highly efficient air force capable of dealing with any initial emergency. In the ranks of that force we should have men who have a knowledge of .the latest developments, including atom-bomb strategy. Fast, light bombers carrying atom bombs will replace the heavy bombers of World War II. Therefore, the inquiry which Air ViceMarshal Bostock has requested should be made, and this matter of policy should be probed.
At present, the war gratuity is available only to the widows of servicemen, blind and totally and permanently incapacitated personnel, and those who intend to build homes. Many exservicemen desire to purchase furniture, and the withholding of the gratuity is driving them into the hands of money-lenders. The Department would be relieved of considerable responsibility, and officialswould not be badgered so often, if the Government would reconsider its policy. Evidently this matter was not thoroughly considered when the conditions governing the gratuity were prescribed. The Government should now revise those conditions, and make them more generous in the interests of the men who are in straitened financial circumstances to-day.
When Australian’ forces occupied’ Thursday Island, they did considerable damage to the property of the residents,, whom the Government has subsequently treated in a miserable manner. To-day t]ie Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) informed the House, with great pride, that the Department of External Territories is erecting near Port Moresby, at a cost of £118,000, a model village for the natives. Undoubtedly, the natives will keep their pigs and goatsthere, but evidently the Minister considers that the village is more important than is the provision of homes for our own citizens. A Thursday. Island pearler, whom I know well and whoseword I accept, has informed me that the island suffered severely as the result of military occupation after the compulsory evacuation of the residents early in 1942. He stated that through buildingshaving been burnt down, only 200 or 300- remain, and they are empty shells.- All conveniences including sinks, baths and tanks have been stolen. My correspondent informed me that all his furniture, including the refrigerator and piano, . havebeen stolen, and the internal fittings of” the house have been smashed. Our own troops were responsible for this looting. He stated .that the War Damage Commission, has paid certain sums in compensation, but the money does not represent one-quarter of the replacement value of” the goods. Very few buildings are left in the main streets, which are overgrown with weeds 6 feet high. The luggerswhich were impressed for transport services have been wrecked. The’ pearlers of Thursday Island constituted a valuablenucleus of white people in the north. They rendered valuable service during the- wm:. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I endeavoured in every possible way to encourage them to remain there. They could live in Sydney or Melbourne in greater comfort. Now that the war is over, they should not be forgotten. Their furniture should be replaced or they should be amply compensated for its loss. Undoubtedly, this is a consequence of the war, and the claims of these pearlers are more important than, is the construction of a village for natives in New Guinea. When next the Minister visits the Territories - to see whether hot water has been provided in the village for the native inhabitants - he should call at Thursday Island for the purpose of ascertaining whether he can overcome the difficulties of the white residents.
– I was particularly interested in the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) regarding the incidents at Ambon and Rabaul. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who followed him, complained that the honorable member had introduced heat into the debate. Although Australian troops had been killed in the islands and the whole episode was most deplorable, the honorable member considered that references to it. now were most regrettable. I emphasize that those responsible for the disaster may still be in the service. Therefore, the documents which the honorable member for Richmond mentioned should be laid upon the table of the House so that we may know who were the guilty persons. The honorable member for Parkes declared that the honorable member for Richmond should have raised this matter on the departmental level. Actually, the honorable member for Richmond had done so, and he received from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) a reply which, according to .Brigadier Lind’s report, was incorrect. Evidently the Minister’s reply was written by a departmental official with the object of shielding some one who was responsible for the massacre of Australian troops.
– What Government was in office at the time3
– The Curtin Government was in office at the time of the tragedy, and had been in office for some time before it. occurred. Colonel Roach and Brigadier Lind protested that the troops were not adequately armed, and should be given field guns which were essential to enable them to make a stand.
– This speech sounds like an attack on General Blainey. .
– At that time, General Blarney was in the Middle East, so in no circumstances could he be held responsible for the tragedy. But there may be persons in high positions in the Department of the Array to-day who were responsible for the deplorable condition of affairs that, led up to the despatch of our troops to Ambon without adequate weapons. If those officers are still in the Army and the documents show that they were responsible, the unmasking of them is not muck-raking. The relatives of the dead Australian troops raised this matter because they do nol want other Australians in the future to suffer from the mishandling of which certain Army officials were guilty in the past. If any exposures are made, those responsible should be discharged from the positions that they now occupy.
The honorable member for Richmond also dealt exhaustively with the evacuation from Rabaul of the civilian employees of the Department of External Territories and 22 missionaries. I was particularly impressed with his remarks. I read the report of Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C. on the incidents which occurred in Papua between certain dates in December 1941, and January, 1942, but the matter which I recall most vividly was that Mr. Leonard Murray telegraphed frequently to the department in Canberra, and made strenuous efforts to obtain replies from, the then Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser). But no replies or instructions were received. If those telegrams are produced, I feel confident that it will be shown that events occurred at Rabaul similar to those reported by Mr. Barry to have taken place in Papua. To all requests for instructions, the Department in Canberra was silent. Had instructions been given, they” might- have saved the lives of the brother of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) anr! ether members of the civil staff in Rabaul, and 22 missionaries. Apparently all were massacred. If what Mr. Barry stated was correct regarding Papua and similar events occurred in Rabaul, they were the result of the in- efficiency and ineptitude of the Minister, who did not reply to requests that the -taff be allowed to leave by one of the vessels in Rabaul Harbour. As honorable members know, the lives of those people were sacrificed; later when the 1/ ontevideo Maru was lost.
– That is a scandalous statement. It is muck-raking.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is the arch priest of scandalous statements, and has the most malignant tongue in the House, lie is a fit and proper person to. judge what constitutes muck-raking. I repeat that those civilians were massacred probably as the result of the inefficiency of the then Minister for External Terri.tories and his department. The Opposition demands that these papers shall be laid upon the table of the House so that we may study them. Later we may demand the appointment of a royal commission so that those responsible shall be branded with the ignominy of their crimes.
The Commonwealth Disposals Commission is disposing of Crown lands that were used by the Army during the war. The Crown does not consider that it is bound by the Land Sales (Control) Regulations, and, consequently, it is selling this land and the huts thereon at most inflated values. Advertisements are published in the press describing these military huts as modern flats. The purchasers who are being “taken down” are exservicemen. They are buying the huts because they are unable to get other accommodation. It is a particularly mean action to rob ex-servicemen of their deferred pay by charging extremely high prices for huts and land that are being disposed of by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. In order to show what is taking place, I shall read from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th June, an extract relating to certain sales which took place recently at the military hospital at Tamworth, in the New England electorate -
Tamworth, Tuesday. - Military huts ut » former army camp on the Manilla Road, Tamworth, now being used by returned soldiers and their families were described by a Federal Treasury official to-day as “ little better than a blacks’ camp.”
He said it was a disgrace that white people should be living under conditions where animals and people were- herded together.
The huts were recently advertised .by the
Commonwealth Disposals Commission’s agents as attractive flats.
A “ Herald “ representative learnt to-day that many returned soldiers had bought the huts and land at the ex-military camp at inflated prices.
One returned soldier, Mr. R. Coleman, of Tamworth, paid £000 for two acres two roods of land and two huts worth £130 each.
They secured land for about £170 an acre while the Valuer-General’s valuation was less than £4 an acre unimproved for the worst land and £10 an acre for the best land.
Buildings were assessed as fit for demolition purposes only.
Reports to the Tamworth local government authorities reveal the lots should have been purchased for not more than £25 to £30 ouch.
CONFIDENCE THICK METHODS.
A local government spokesman said to-day the Disposals Commission had sent agents to Tamworth to sell the camp land at the highest possible prices. The Government used its privilege of waiving pegged price of land law on the grounds that it did not apply to the Crown, and were sold almost worthless grazing land up to £170 an acre without fear of black market prosecutions.
Many ex-servicemen, ho said, had been deprived of their deferred pay by the Disposal Commission’s agents who used confidence trick methods and a cunningly-written catalogue to convince people.
I know the buildings and their condition. Et is a disgrace that the Government should charge ex-servicemen the high prices mentioned for such huts and .the land on which they are built. The prices are far above the rates which other vendors of land and buildings are permitted to charge. I hope that the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission will take action to inquire into this matter with a view to ascertaining whether the report is correct. I hope also that he will instruct the commission that in future it is to consider itself bound by the same regulations as apply to private citizens in respect of the sale of land, so that ex-servicemen shall not be robbed of their deferred pay.
– It was only to be expected that sooner or later some honorable member would take the course which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has taken to-night. A question which agitates the minds of many people in the community who are not actuated by party . political bias, particularly exservicemen, is the reason why certain units came to be placed in exposed positions. If a piece of cheese is put out at night one is not surprised that it is eaten by rats. I have endeavoured to get some information on this subject. On the 2nd -January last I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) suggesting that, in the public interest, it was time that certain matters relating to the conduct of operations were cleared up. I had no axe to grind when I wrote that letter. Like all letters from the Prime Minister, the reply of the right honorable gentleman on that, occasion was fairly lengthy, but it could have been summed up in one sentence, namely, that it was a matter for the historians. I propose to visit South Australia at the week-end, and when I return to Canberra next Wednesday I shall have the correspondence with me. Questions relating to Rabaul and the battalion at Koepang are inter-related. Another matter referred to was what happened at Singapore. The campaign in Malaya is not purely an Australian affair; it is rather one for the Imperial Authorities. I have little doubt that, in due course, the United Kingdom Government will institute its own inquiry into what happened in Malaya. I say that because of certain things that have occurred in the United Kingdom. In similar cases it has been customary for the Imperial Government to undertake its own inquiry. Honorable members may recall that, after the evacuation of Gallipoli, which certainly was not a victory for the Allies, the British Government of the day appointed its own commission of inquiry. The facts were sifted and the blame was apportioned. I am not greatly concerned about fixing the blame for some of the things that happened during the war of 1939-45; I am not concerned with getting hold of some Army officer, or even the Minister in control at the time, and holding him up like a kitten because of something that was done when conditions were difficult. I have some knowledge of such conditions. We were faced by strong Japanese forces, and, as the result of the consistent policy of the Labour movement, Australia did not have forces capable of meeting such an onslaught.
– The honorable member wanted to send all Australian fighting men to the other side of the world.
– When that matter arose in this Parliament, I recorded my vote on it. At the time, the honorable gentleman was not here, but if his colleagues wish to say that they were right in not agreeing to men being sent to the Middle East, I should be interested to hear them. However, I shall not press for any statement on the subject tonight, because I know that it might be considered wise to hold a caucus meeting first. The most important thing to be obtained from any sifting of facts is the gaining of knowledge which at some future date, should similar circumstances again arise, will prevent a repetition of the mistakes that have been made.
– That is not the .purpose of the amend ment.
– That i? the purpose of the honorable member for Richmond. So far as the Rabaul incident is concerned, it should te possible to ascertain whether instructions were, or were not, given. The honorable member for Richmond desires to know whether instructions were given and, if so, what, those instructions were. I have received letters from people in different States who had relatives on the Montevideo Maru. They are most anxious to know the circumstances in which their relatives caine to be left at Rabaul and placed on that vessel, seeing that they were not part of the fighting garrison that was sent to Rabaul. That is a. pertinent question which cannot be baulked ; sooner or later it will be inquired into by direction of this Parliament. I shall not attempt to dictate to the Government in the matter because I realize that it is not in a position to dictate to any one. It is more accustomed to being dictated to. If the present Government will not undertake this inquiry, .a future government will do so.
– The inaction of . previous governments, which resulted in Australia being left defenceless, wipes out that possibility.
– One man in Queensland has written a book on the subject. He obtained every copy of Ilansard from 1924 until the end of the Japanese war. His book will contain many things which the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will be able to read at his leisure after the next elections. I suggest that the holding of an inquiry into- the Malaya campaign should be discussed between the Commonwealth and Imperial Governments. .
– Does the honorable member think that the United Kingdom Government will order an inquiry into the Malava campaign?
– I do not say that such an inquiry will be ordered by the present Government there; it has a different approach to world and imperial problems from that of the Commonwealth Government. But sooner “or later it will be inquired into. Public opinion in Australia- will demand that certain matters shall be investigated, and among them will be the matter raised to-night by the honorable member for Richmond. Honorable members may have seen in the Melbourne Herald articles” written by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, and they probably know that’ few, if any, airmen who have returned from overseas are altogether happy about what took place in the Royal Australian Air Force. T do not know anything about these things - they are outside the scope of my knowledge - but I have read certain articles in the press. I put it to the Minister that those articles call for ii reply. They not only say that certain things were wrong; they have also named the Minister in the present Government as being responsible for the things which Air Vice.-Marshal Bostock alleges to have been wrong. I realize that it may not be politically convenient to hold an inquiry just now, but I remind the House that the Government was obliged to appoint a commission of inquiry into the escape of LieutenantGeneral Gordon Bennett. I do not know that that inquiry did a great deal of good. My personal view is that it did not matter much whether Bennett stayed in Malaya or came away from there, because in either case he would have been adjudged by some people to have done the wrong thing.
– By whom?
– -For a number of years I have been . a trout fisherman, and I am not rising to that fly. As I have said, whatever General Bennett did would have been wrong in the view of some people. “When he came away from Malaya they accused him” of having forsaken his troops; if he had remained there, the same people would have said that he did not have sufficient courage to get out in order to acquaint his Government with the conditions that he knew existed there.
– The same thing would apply to any inquiry into the charges made by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock. The only result would be the expenditure of a large sum of money.
– The honorable member for Richmond has merely asked that certain communications and documents be placed on the table of the Parliament and that members be allowed to view. them and judge for themselves. The masters whom we are shortly to face will be intelligent enough to arrive at a judgment if those documents are not produced for inspection.
.- I have waited long for some Minister to reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The matter raised by the honorable member touches the lives of Australian servicemen and their relatives. Many Australians are worried about the matters which the honorable member for Richmond’ has brought forward. 1 did not think that such a matter could be raised in this Parliament without some Minister being found willing to reply to it. As the honorable member for Barker ; (Mr. Archie Cameron) pointed out, the honorable member for Richmond is not asking for the appointment of a royal commission or a board of inquiry; he has. merely asked that certain documents be laid on the Table. It may be that reasons which, in the mind of the Minister, appear to be good, can be advanced for refusing to table such documents. But there can be no excuse for complete silence by the Government, and complete refusal by all Ministers to acknowledge having heard the case that has been put by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) on behalf of relatives of Australians who have lost their lives. The only response from the Government side of the House has been cat-calls, not only from the back benches hut also from the front ministerial bench, and accusations, not in the form of a speech but merely by way of interjection. I know something of this matter, and also may be regarded as having some degree of responsibility in connexion with it. I have no fear of any inquiry. Nor, I am sure, has any honorable mem her who was a Minister in a former government which include myself, any fear of an inquiry or the tabling of any documents dealing with the period when this country faced the possibility of Japanese aggression. Obviously, the enemy had to come by sea, and through the islands to the north of Australia. Unquestionably, the prudent thing was to make preparations to meet such a threat should’ it materialize, by having air reconnaissance. Consequently, arrangements were made, in collaboration with our prospective Dutch ally to establish air bases in that chain of islands. In country extending over many thousands of miles, air bases were prepared. Air squadrons were stationed at Darwin for the defence of that particular zone, and when- Pearl Harbour was attacked they wore moved to Lahar and another flying-boat base in Amboina, in accordance with what had been planned. It was obvious that invaluable equipment and a couple of air squadrons could not be left open to destruction by a minor raiding party. Every one realized that Australia could not afford to make available divisions of men either to defend air bases or to provide against the possibility of the destruction of these invaluable squadrons by a minor raiding party. A battalion was stationed at Darwin, and was kept ready to be moved. The 21st Battalion was moved. These were the preliminary preparations, which had been made many months before the outbreak of war with Japan, with the full knowledge of representatives of every party in this House. When the war with
Japan eventually broke, with a suddenness and an intensity which no one had predicted, the responsibility lay on the government of the day to decide whether the battalions at Darwin and Rabaul, and the small forces at Nauru and Ocean Island, were to be left in those localities as hostages to fortune, were to be reinforced, or were to be withdrawn. This Government withdrew Australian divisions from the Middle East. It could have withdrawn the battalion from Ambon had it considered that the right thing to do, or it could have reinforced it. It poured reinforcements into Malaya a few days before the fall of that island, and it could have sent reinforcements to Ambon. Whatever may be the responsibility in respect of this tragic episode, there can be no transference of i.t from the government of the day. I have risen to support the request of the honorable member for Richmond that the ‘documents in* relation to .this matter be tabled in the House for perusal by honorable members. A matter of such tragic human consequence having been raised in this House, I am positively stunned that not one Minister has risen to reply to what has been said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Issue and application of £20,000,000).
– I move -
That the clause he postponed.
I have already stated my reasons for asking for this information. I am not, at this juncture, pressing for the appointment of a royal commission, as I have been requested to do by numerous relatives of those who were members of the forces I Lave mentioned. But in reply to the observation of honorable members opposite that to rake these matters up would probably be to hurt -the feelings of relatives, and that it would be better to leave them in their present state of mind, I say that -he request for this investigation has come from those relatives. I raised this matter as far back as September and October last, when I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) for specific information. He did not give it to me at that time, but he wrote a letter in reply to one that I had written to him. I want to mention the names of some people who have written to me, in order to’ show how widespread is the interest in the matter. I have in my hand a few of the many letters which I have received from relatives of members of this force who are demanding some kind of satisfaction in the form of an inquiry. That is why I make my request. I have been asked to do so by a number of associations, such as, the Fathers Association, the Prisoners of War Association,’ the Sth Division Association and numerous other bodies, speaking on behalf of relatives of exservice personnel. I have good reason to believe that the Government possesses all the information I seek, because an inquiry was made in this matter by Mr. Justice Reed about two years ago. I understand that documents relating thereto are in existence, and that the Minister for the Army is aware of them. I am astounded that in respect of this incident in which 1,000 Australian lives are believed to have been thrown away, not one Minister has risen to say a word.
– The Government does not believe the honorable member.
– I am not asking anybody to believe me, I am asking that the documents and papers relating to the matter be tabled so that every honorable member will have an opportunity to inform himself on the facts of the case. I sincerely hope that the Government will accept it. It is not a “ dynamite “ amendment in the sense that its adoption will ruin the bill. This is the only means provided to me under the Standing Orders of drawing attention to the matter during .the debate on a measure of this kind. I hope that the Minister for the Army will reply to my allegations and that the Government will agree to place the documents upon the table. If the Minister will intimate that he will place the documents upon the. table, I shall withdraw my -amendment. Otherwise, I shall be obliged to divide the ‘Committee on it.
– I rise to answer an interjection made by an honorable member opposite to the effect that no inquiry was instituted by the British Government with respect to the Malayan campaign. Not a single Minister has attempted to provide an answer in this matter which’ concerns the families of many Australians who lost their lives: A strong request has been made for an inquiry; and a precedent exists for the institution of such an inquiry. The greatest disaster suffered by the British Army prior to Singapore was the loss of an army of 13,000 men in Mesopotamia in 1916. Of that army only 3,000 men came out of captivity. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has suggested that any inquiry might embrace an investigation into the whole of the Malayan campaign. I suggest that an inquiry he held into the disasters at Ambon and Rabaul. M.any Australian soldiers who were lost at Ambon have not been traced. It is alleged that many civilians who lost their lives at Rabaul could have been withdrawn had instructions been . received from the Minister for External Territories at that time. Whether that is true, I do not know; but that statement was made to me by the father of one of the men who lost his life. There is an urgent need for an inquiry. The British Government ordered an inquiry into the Mesopotamia disaster to which I . have referred, and sheeted home the blame to those responsible. I clearly recall that inquiry because I was one of the victims of the disaster.
– It appears to be the function of the Opposition to ask for inquiries into all aspects of every campaign in which Australians have fought. All of us know that the Japanese moved southward so rapidly that they very quickly overran the Philippines, Sumatra, Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies, , and nearly all of the islands in the Pacific. That was because the Allied forces did not have sufficient fighting strength and equipment to hold them. At this stage no good purpose would be served by ordering an inquiry into the campaign in each of those territories. I remind honorable members- opposite that the strategy of sending a certain number of troops to Rabual, Ambon and Timor, was not decided upon by this Government, but was planned by the military advisers of the Commonwealth before this Government took office. It is futile for honorable members opposite now to try to lay the blame at the door of this Government. They might as well ask for an inquiry into the whole subject of defence of Australia with a view to discovering why this country was sp unprepared that, to use the words of my predecessor in” office, one division of Japanese troops could have gone through the whole of Australia because our defences were inadequate. We . know that all the democracies were caught napping. They did not have trained and equipped forces t.o withstand the attack of a wellprepared enemy like the Japanese. Therefore, we cannot set up commissions, of inquiry to find out why this island or that was overrun. Strategy was in the hands of the operational command, and the Government’s military advisers planned the sending of a certain number of troops to Ambon, Timor and elsewhere because they did not have enough men or equipment to send divisions. Our divisions were in the Middle East. When Australia and New Zealand were threatened, and this Government found that we lacked the men and the equipment to defend ourselves, it arranged with the British Government to bring back to Australia two divisions of troops as quickly as possible. The bringing back of those divisions was opposed by certain honorable members Opposite. Some suggested that they should be. sent to Burma, while others said that they should be sent somewhere else. However, the Government, after consultation with its military advisers, decided that it was essential that the two divisions should be brought home to stop. the southward thrust of the Japanese and to protect the lives and homes of the” people of Australia. Therefore, for the reasons which I’ have stated, no good purpose would be served by holding inquiries to determine why certain forces were overwhelmed.
.- The speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) constitutes one of the best reasons why an inquiry should be held. He spoke of the need that existed to bring divisions back to Australia in order to defend this country, and then he said that there was no need to inquire why troops were left exposed in positions to the north of Australia. Surely, if it was necessary to bring back two divisions to defend Australia, it was even more necessary to bring back the troops who had been left exposed in the north like bits of cheese left out for rats in a barn. That is a point which I want cleared up. In January last, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to what extent certain military dispositions were the result of political considerations rather than military considerations. The speech which the Minister for the Army has just delivered raises this issue once more. He virtually admitted that men were sent into forward positions regardless of military considerations. Some government, whether it be Labour or antiLabour, will eventually have to grant access to certain documents so that the public may learn for themselves the rights and wrongs of this matter. This is alleged to be a democratic community.
– It is, too.
– I am very doubtful of it. I have had a question on the notice-paper for over three months, and only recently did I receive a reply to it. Then I was told that I could not be informed of the cost of certain imported commodities because the matter was linked with lend-lease arrangements, and it was not-permissible to tell the people what had been done under lend-lease arrangements. The people of Australia will not take that sort of thing from any government. If members of the Government want to get into a first-class “ dust-up “ with democracy in action let them go on telling the people that they cannot be told the why and the wherefore of certain government actions about which they are greatly disturbed.
– I waited to see if any member of the Opposition, who had expressed himself as anxious for an investigation into certain aspects of the northern campaign, would suggest that the scope of the inquiry be extended to cover what has become known as “the Brisbane line” strategy.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! The committee is discussing clause 3 of .the bill, to which an amendment has been moved by -the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The Minister must confine his remarks to the clause or the amendment.
– I am speaking to the amendment. Personally, I will have no objection to the holding of the most searching inquiry into any campaign in which our troops were engaged ; but I point out that honorable members opposite want to restrict tho inquiry to certain military operations while taking very good care that, in so far as they can prevent it, there shall be no inquiry into what I believe was the grossest betrayal of. Australia, namely the evolution of “ the Brisbane line “ strategy. If the mover of the amendment wanted an investigation into preparations for the defence of the country, he should have asked that the inquiry cover a wider field. It has been said by some honorable members, opposite that I failed to toe the line when there was ‘ to be an investigation of certain charges which I had made. The fact is that I was never offered a proper investigation of the charges, and members of the Opposition never wanted such an inquiry to be held. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into one statement which I had made in th is chamber regarding information which had been passed to me to the effect that a certain document was missing from the official file. That was the only issue referred to the commission. When we challenged the Opposition to ask for the appointment of a parliamentary committee with wide powers to inquire into the charges I had made, they were silent, because they did not want any such in quiry. I think that there is a great deal in what the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) said by way of interjection, namely, that the present move is aimed against particular men who are holding high positions of command in Australia’s armed forces. They have not been named but they have been referred to by inference. The honorable member for Barker. (Mr. Archie Cameron) mentioned the escape of LieutenantGeneral Gordon Bennett from Singapore. Shortly after his arrival in Australia., General Bennett said that one of the reasons why he had become unpopular in certain quarters was that he had exposed and opposed “ the Brisbane line “ strategy. General McArthur has also referred to it a.s have all reputable American journals. It was freely admitted that at the time the Labour Government came into office the defences of this country were in such a deplorable state that one division of well-equipped Japanese could have over-run the whole of our country. I recollect that on one occasion when I complained that there was not a heavy artillery unit-
The” CHAIRMAN. - The Minister must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I was answering criticism levelled by honorable members opposite and endeavouring to expose their hypocrisy in regard to this matter. They are not all anxious to have a complete investigation. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asks that certain official orders given and messages exchanged prior to the evacuation of Rabaul be placed on the table- of the House. I was not the Minister for External Territories at the time Rabaul was evacuated, but I know something of what transpired because I have read, the report submitted by Mr. J. V. Barry on the subject. That report clearly demonstrates that my predecessor was not -responsible in the slightest degree. for what happened, When the token force was sent to Rabaul by the anti-Labor Government it was never intended that it should hold New Britain against a Japanese invasion. The force was to be sacrificed in an attempt to delay the southward advance of the enemy. Honorable -members opposite speak with tongue in cheek about this matter. My advice to my colleagues in the Ministry is that if honorable members opposite so desire there should be a complete investigation of the unpreparedness of Australia’s defences -at the time when the Menzies-Fadden Government collapsed. Let us expose the whole sorry mess in its entirety, and let us have an opportunity to tell the people the facts relative to the state into which our defences had drifted under the anti-Labour Government. At that time the press in this country was’ attacking the Menzies Government, which had been- in control of affairs in this country for some considerable time after war had been declared, and was. advocating a change of government because it believed that only a change of government could save the country. The honorable member for Richmond is a sham fighter; he is clearly not anxious that a thorough investigation should be made into this matter. The report of Mr. J. V. Barry is still in the hands of the Government, and I have no objection to tabling it if my colleagues are agreeable that that should _be done. The Government has nothing to fear from the production of any reports or any evidence on the subject which may be found on the official files. If honorable members opposite want an investigation, by all means let them have it. We would have been an easy target for the advancing Japanese if they had known how weak we were at .that time. I have no doubt that some honorable members opposite will ask what the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had. to say in regard to the defences of this country when he took office. It is true that the right honorable gentleman made a public statement indicating that our defences were in a healthy condition and that we were fully prepared for any eventuality; but it is obvious that he was merely trying to bluff the Japanese into believing that this country* was in a state of preparedness. Would it not have been the height of stupidity on the part of the leader of thi3 nation to have made known to the world the defenceless state in which we then found ourselves? Accordingly, the right honorable gentleman attempted to bluff the Japanese so that we might be given time to prepare our defences. Honorable members opposite
– are very glib in making quotations and references.. I hope that _ry colleagues will decide to call their bluff. If they do so honorable members opposite will be sorry they brought this matter forward.
– We have heard something about “calling their bluff”. I propose to call the bluff of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who has been talking about “ the Brisbane line “ for so long that we have become accustomed to the record which he turns on on every occasion. He has a most exceedingly limited intellect ; his only ability is to make three speeches which -we have heard here continually. The honorable gentleman, who holds ministerial rank against more competent men behind him, can do no more than tell the same story over and over again. I propose to call his bluff. ‘ The honorable gentleman was given an opportunity a little while ago to tell us what he knew about “ the Brisbane line “, but although he has always been contemptuous of all tilings British, he took refuge in the provisions of an old statute of William and Mary and refused to do so.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah has received the call from the Chair, and should be heard in silence. The Minister for Transport has spoken to the clause and the honorable member is entitled to reply without interruption.
– It seems to me to be a very important . matter that the public should know upon what the Minister for Transport relies when he says there was a “Brisbane line”. I foreshadow ai; amendment which will give the committee an opportunity to ascertain exactly where the honorable gentleman stands. Later I propose to move that clause 3 be postponed as an instruction to the Government to lay on the table of the House all official documents and decisions of the Government upon which the Minister for Transport relies as establishing the existence of a “Brisbane line “.
– Let us have a thorough investigation.
– We shall have the documents first; as far as I am concerned the fullest investigation may follow.
– The honorable member is running away.
– I have never run away from the Minister, whom I regard as one of the most contemptible persons ever to have held ministerial rank in the Commonwealth Parliament. It is high time that the facts in this case were known. An allegation must be based upon fact.
– Tell us about the release of your brother-in-law who was interned.
– It is contemptible for the Minister to make allegations of that sort which he knows to be false. The Minister has said that he wants an inquiry in order to ascertain the facts. Let us have the facts. For the last four years the Minister has been making speech after speech about “ the Brisbane line “, until every one of us knows every cliche he is about to utter. There must be documents upon which his statements are based and they must be official documents - they cannot be anything else. Let us have them and let the people know what they contain so that they may know what reliance can be placed on the word of the Minister for Transport.
– A motion has already been made for the postponement of this clause. I therefore suggest that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should take the action he proposes on a subsequent clause.
– I shall move the postponement of the next clause.
.- The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is a prominent personality in a government which has behind it the greatest majority ever accorded to a. ministry in this Parliament. If he can induce his colleagues to believe that an inquiry into “ the Brisbane line “ is justified, he need not ask the Opposition to take action in the matter. He could do that in Cabinet, or he could even be instructed by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to have it done. I would give 2½ roubles in Russian money to have the Minister brought before an inquiry in order to say what he knows about this matter. I challenge him to have an inquiry made into it. I dare him to do so.
– I raised this issue. I have moved the amendment before the Chair, and I have not asked for the appointment of a royal commission or for any inquiry. I have simply asked that the documents relating to “ the Brisbane line “. and to the Australian forces sent to Ambon and Rabaul be tabled. I say to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who has also asked for an inquiry which might vindicate his good name, that if he will support my amendment I. shall cheerfully support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to enable the Minister for Transport to clear his name from the stigma cast upon it by the royal commissioner.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Anthony’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Question so resolved. in. the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Appropriation)
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the clause be postponed.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) proves conclusively that he is the squib that I said he was. The honorable member started off by saying that he’ was going to call my bluff and give me the opportunity of producing whatever evidence I might have to -substantiate my charges against preceding governments. The amendment asks for the tabling of some official papers. I have never contended that my charges were based entirely upon whatever the official records may disclose. If the honorable gentleman wants a proper .investigation he should move for one, not merely for the tabling of some papers. But he is just a squib. He has alternated independence with membership of, first, the United Australia party, and, now, the Liberal party. He has been in and out of the party, but he has never faced up to an issue. I tell him and his colleagues that I should welcome a proper investigation of all matters concerning the unprepared state of this country’s defences when the Labour party took office. I will discuss this matter with my party when it meets again, and tell- it that it might he a good thing for this Government to have the people know the unprepared state of the country’s defences when we took over the administration. I believe that such an investigation would be a good thing, particularly as it- would cover the period when the “ Baron of Bardia “ was Minis ter for the Army. I remember well how the honorable member for Warringah came back to Australia and told us how he conferred with the generals at midnight just before the attack. Yes, we ought to have an investigation of the state of affairs in this country when the. honorable member for Warringah was Minister for the Army. The investigation also ought to cover the activities of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) when he -was Minister for Air and enemy vessels were able to lay mines in the waters south of Australia, and much farther south than “ the Brisbane line “, undetected because we did not have enough aircraft to patrol the Australian coast. The investigation ought to cover the fact that the Royal Australian Air Force at the Japanese attack on Rabaul, about which there had been bo much talk to-night was equipped with Wirraway training aeroplanes - to meet the most modern aircraft of Japan. If the honorable member for Warringah really wants an investigation, he will do very little to clear up the matter by persisting with his puny amendment. The only way in which it can be cleared up is by presenting an accurate picture to the people, and that can be done only by a thorough investigation of the. state of this country’s defences when we, fortunately for Australia, became the Government in October, 1941. So I propose to discuss the matter with my party with a view to having a proper investigation made. Honorable members opposite have never asked for an investigation. The honorable member for Warringah, by insinuation and otherwise, made a personal attack upon me when he lost his temper. What I have said to him, by way of interjection, about his activities as Minister for the Army -will bear examination. The records of this Parliament show that, when I challenged him from the Opposition benches, he admitted having communicated with the authorities with regard to the arrest of his brotherinlaw, Phillip Raoul Hentze. But the honorable member is not genuine in his amendment, and, because he is only 6ham-fighting, we should waste no moro time in considering it.
– We have seen once again the “ dingo “ character of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). He always runs away from, any issue with which he is confronted. When the honorable member talked again about “ the Brisbane line “, i he thought he would be able to put . across his usual bluff, but when his bluff is called, he runs for cover. He said, “I will discuss this matter with my party “. He has had the opportunity of discussing it with his party ever since he made his lying statement about “the Brisbane line “ in this chamber, but has never taken it. He has never been game enough to pursue this issue to its ultimate conclusion. He was not game enough to appear before the royal commission that was set up by the Government of which he was a member. Instead he took refuge behind a law dimmed by ‘the ages in order to save his hide. Now, at this late date, he continues to pour his corrosive filth on members of the Opposition. The Minister says- he would welcome an investigation. I will give him the opportunity to have one by an amendment that I propose to move when we come to the next clause. Let us see if he will run away from that. What are the f acts_ in regard to the defence of this country? Who objected to the formation of the Australian Imperial Force? The members of the Labour party, including the present Minister for Transport? Who objected to universal training? Members of the Labour party? Who said, “ Sue for an honorable peace”? The New South Wales Labour party conference, supported by honorable gentlemen opposite. Who made the statement that we should have an honorable peace when Britain was facing Germany alone but for its dominions? A resolution to that effect was carried at the conference just referred to by 195 votes to SS. Who opposed’ the Empire Air Training Scheme, which saved civilization? Honorable members opposite? Who is it that has attended completely anti-British demonstrations ? Honorable gentlemen opposite? Who called the Royal Navy an evil thing?A member of the party opposite. Who but the Minister for Transport talked about giving away New Guinea, and said, “Let the capitalists defend New Guinea if they want to, but I would not send one working man there to defend it “< The irony of it is that he is charged with the administration of the territory that he was ready to betray! This man who has the temerity to pose in this place as a patriot, referred to the “ diggers “ of the last war as “ Evebob.adaymurderers.” He is ever ready to pour out filth. Every statement he makes reeks with it. No decent man would associate with him. This champion of loyalty has never been able to express the truth. He relies on filth and vituperation. I will give him the opportunity to have his investigation. To-day he said something about, my being a person prepared to oppose- constitutional authority pf this country. To prove what a dirty coward he is, I give him the opportunity of saying that outside this chamber, and if he says it outside this chamber, I will prosecute him for slander.
– I thought that the honorable member was offering to “have me on “ in the physical sense.
– I will “have the Minister on “ any time he likes. Legal proceedings will hurt him more than a hiding.
– The honorable member could not give me a hiding.
– We shall talk about that later. If the Minister repeats that slanderous statement about me-
– What statement?
– The statement about my being prepared to resort to unconstitutional methods to overthrow the government of the country.
– What about the New Guard ?
– Will the Minister repeat that outside the House? He shelters behind the privilege afforded in this chamber, but 1 ‘shall give him an opportunity to prove whether he desires the investigation. On the next clause, I shall move that the investigation which be pretends to seek be granted so that he may attempt to justify the slanderous statements he has made in this House.
– After having examined the wording of my proposal, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) stated that he never declared that his allegations regarding “ the Brisbane line “ were based upon the possession by the Government of any relevant documents. Therefore, I move -
That the clause he postponed.
If the motion he carried it is to be regarded as an instruction to the Government that all official or other documents in the possession of the Government or the Minister for Transport, upon which the Minister relies in establishing the existence of the alleged “ Brisbane line “, be tabled.
That will provide the Minister with an opportunity to produce, if he does not rely upon an official document, any other documents in his possession, or otherwise. At this juncture, I should like to reply to an allegation which the Minister has repeatedly made. For the last five years, it has been his practice, whenever he gets into disputes with me, to ask me about my “ German brother-in-law “. I consider that it is only fair that I should state the facts relating to three decent Australians for whom I have great respect. TheMinh.ter speaks of a man who is a naturalized Australian, whose mother was a daughter of Sir Graham Berry and whose father was a Belgian. This man happened to be born in Germany, and, consequently, by British law i3 a German, but by reason of the fact that German law only acknowledges the law of blood, he is not a German. Naturalized in Australia, he was educated here, and married an Australian girl who happened to be my wife’s sister. It strikes me as being extraordinary that the Minister for Transport should be permitted, after four and a half years during, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had every opportunity to examine this man’s loyalty, if any doubt existed regarding it, to repeat this statement. .For my part I do not care how often it is made against me, but I do view with utter contempt reflections made in this House upon decent Australian citizens. Having said that, I shall doubtless in the future be asked by this remarkable Minister, “ What about your German brother-in-law,” whenever he is driven into a hole. He is driven into a hole now. For a long time, he has said that he had some document to justify the allegations regarding “ the Brisbane line “. Let us have the documents so that we may know what value is to be placed upon the word of this Minister.
– He never said that he had a document.
– Can any one beat that! Perhaps somebody whispered in the Minister’s ear. Very well ! We shall find out whether there is any document, and if there is none, he can tell us who whispered in his ear. But by the process of elimination, we shall certainly discover whether the Government has in its possession any such documents that justify this wholly political charge. If there is no such document in the Government’s possession, we shall endeavour to discover whether there is any document, personal or otherwise, in the Minister’s possession that would justify one scintilla of the charge.
.- I do not propose to enter- into a screaming match. This is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. We are here to uphold- democracy, and we can only do so while this Parliament retains the respect of the people. To-night we have discussed - a matter most vital to the Australianpeople, namely,- the defence of the country and whether a Commonwealth government planned to abandon a part of the country to the enemy. The reply to that question should not be made by a junior Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) must answer it. The. late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, answered it on a previous occasion, and the records show that he was able to say, after an investigation, that no official document existed which revealed any plan that could be described as “ the Brisbane line “. By the grace of God we avoided a terrible danger in World War II. Unless the habits of mankind change completely, we may face another war. The ‘ people can sustain a - war only if they have confidence in their government, and in the integrity of their elected representatives. A most serious charge has been levelled against a number of men, of whom I am one. I speak for my colleagues and myself when I state that not. one of us wish to evade or retreat from it. I now invite the Prime Minister, as my colleagues and I invited a former Prime Minister, to say whether he is in possession of a document which could sustain the charge of one of his Ministers that the Government of which I was a Minister. ever planned to abandon a part of this country to the enemy. If he is not in. possession of such a document, will he say whether such a document exists, or will he order an investigation and -from his place in this Parliament as did his predecessor either endorse or repudiate the statements of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) ?
– Some of the remarks that have been made in this chamber to-day are not to the credit of the Parliament. I have listened to some of the statements made during this and previous debates and, in my opinion, they do not reflect credit on the Opposition.
– Or on the Government.
– At times, each of us may have offended in some way, but I have always tried to treat the Parliament,, which is the instrument of democracy, with respect. I certainly thought that an appropriation bill would not have led to the demonstrations that have occurred in this chamber to-night. Although I greatly deplore what has taken place, I wish to make it clear that I see no purpose in raking over the dead ashes of the past. That opinion is held by men occupying higher positions in theworld than I hold. If it could be shown that men have been guilty of corruption, dishonesty or treason, I could understand a request for inquiries to be made. I do not impute those crimes to any member of a previous government or of the present Government, or to any of the military leaders of this country. Some of them might have been guilty of stupidity, or a lack of foresight; but in my opinion such things do not constitute a good reason for raking over the dead ashes of the past. If the British Empire were to do that, it would want to know all about what happened at Dunkirk, Malaya, the Middle East, and elsewhere. There would be endless inquiries into the actions of all sorts of people, many of whom have rendered honorable service, and their names would be besmirched because of the accusations made against them.- I do not propose to be a party to any inquiry into what might only have been military mistakes. The G overnment will not support any motion for such inquiries because there could be no end to the .things that might be inquired into. The British Empire and its allies suffered many disasters in the war in which they were recently engaged, and endless inquiries could be instituted to find out what really happened. I do not believe that any of those mistakes were due to treason or corruption, although probably there were instances of lack of capacity, and of failure, to realize the potentialities’ of the war position. After all, human beings, are fallible. I shall not order a survey of what has happened in the past, or be a party to the making of charges against people who, although they made mistakes believed at the time that they acted for the be.st. So far as I am concerned, there will be no inquiry at all.
– I have not taken part in this discussion to-night, although 1 have listened to some of it with a great deal of interest, and to other parts of. it with some astonishment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) cannot, however, leave this matter where it stands. He has rebuked the Opposition for certain observations made in the course of a rather heated debate.
-. - I spoke also of previous debates.
– When the Prime Minister says that he is not a great believer in post-mortems, I, personally, agree with him. I think that the time has not yet arrived for sorting out the incidents of the. war that ended less than a year ago, although I, on my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues who shared the responsibility of government, would welcome any inquiry at any time into any aspect of Australia’s participation in the conflict. But while it may be true as a general statement that nothing much is gained by investigations undertaken simply because somebody somewhere has made an allegation, what the right honorable gentleman has completely failed to realize Ls that the heated discussion to-night has arisen once more out of the repetition by one of his Cabinet Ministers of a charge of the gravest magnitude against the right honorable gentleman’s predecessors in office. This charge about what has frequently been referred to as “ the Brisbane line”, cannot be brushed aside lightly. It has not been made by some irresponsible person outside the Parliament, nor is it the controversial statement of some war correspondent. It is a charge made in this House by a Minister of the present Cabinet, speaking as such. The country is becoming tired of the facility with which the Prime Minister disavows all responsibility for statements made by other Ministers. But when a Minister repeatedly makes an allegation and is never rebuked for it, we are bound to accept it as an. allegation made on behalf of the Government. On the one occasion on which the Minister in question had an opportunity to say something in support of the allegation, which he garnished with a further allegation that a file was missing in suspicious circumstances, he declined to be sworn or crossexamined, for reasons that every one can understand. The judge who inquired into that case stated in his report in clear terms that, on the evidence before him, there was, first, no missing file - something which the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had told us- and, secondly, that the military people who had been called all said that the first time that they heard of “ the Brisbane line “ was when they heard the public allegation of the Minister. But the allegation is repeated. I say without any heat that I am wearyof hearing this allegation made, but I also say to the Prime Minister that his duty in this matter is either to state categorically that this charge is not made on behalf of the Government and is not supported by him, or if it is made on behalf of the Government, to say that it will be investigated promptly in justice to every one concerned, and in justice to the people of Australia.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Spender’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the schedule be postponed.
My object isto have a full investigation of the truth or otherwise of the allegations of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) concerning “the Brisbane line “. I regret the heat of the earlier debate. It was caused by the language that had been used by the Minister for Transport, which is the only language that he knows. One had perforce to come down to his level. I wish to test his sincerity. He wanted an investigation.
– I still want it.
– By voting for my amendment, he can prove to the committee and the country that he sincerely desires an investigation. I also wish to give to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) an opportunity to do what the Opposition and the country would regard as the decent thing. While the last division was being taken he must have reflected upon what had been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). If he now considers it necessary to do so, he can state whether or not the charge made by the Minister for Transport was levelled on behalf of the Government, and can authorize the investigation which that Minister claims he desires.
Question put -
That the schedule be postponed (Mr. Harrison’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 643), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
T hat the following paper be printed: -
Audit Act- Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year 1944-45, accompanied by the Reportof the Auditor-General.
– Following on what I said earlier, I quite agree that it is very desirable to have the AuditorGeneral’s report printed and distributed. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has been good enough to tell me that we shall probably have another Supply Bill to discuss we shall have an opportunity at that stage to say what we need to say upon the Auditor-General’s report. Accordingly, I do not propose to debate the motion further.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. No. 99.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of External AffairsA. H. Loomes.
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations -Nos.
National Security Act - National Security ( Rationing ) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 124-128.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year 1944-45.
House adjourned at 1.30 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and I nd us trial Research, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The experiment was designed primarily to determine not only the toxic properties of the rucide preparation used but also the practicability of preparing large quantities of the dipping fluid, and its stability in the vat. The result of this particular trial indicated that-
Re-establishment: Training Courses; Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
In respect of the State of Queensland -
What is the number of men and women of the services demobilized since the 1 5th August, 1945?
Of that number, how many have applied for full or part-time vocational training or post-graduate training?
How many (a) have been considered; (b) have been accepted; (c) are actually undergoing training; and (d) have been refused ?
What is the number over the period 15th August, 1945, to 1st June, 1940, of (a) men; and (b) women, in receipt of a reemployment allowance, and what is the total amount paid?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
(The numbers shown as applied for training cover the period from inception of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme (1st March, 1944) to the 31st May, 1946. It is impracticable to ascertain, without examination of each individual application, the number of applications lodged by persons demobilized since the 15th August, 1945. Re (b) Numbers quoted represent total applications for university type training. Applications for post graduate courses are not identifiable from records of this department, but immediate inquiries are being made of the chairman, Universities Commission, and information will be supplied at earliest possible date.)
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, 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 : -
AustralianArmy: Winter Clothing.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Motor Vehicles: Release of LendLease Stocks.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Enemy Prisoners op War.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many prisoners of war (a) German,
– This question was first asked by the honorable member for Moreton on the 10th April, 1946. It was not possible to have the information collected in time to supply an answer before the House rose on the 11th April, but the information then obtained is now appended. Up-to-date figures are now being obtained and will be supplied to the honorable member if he so desires.
r asked the Minister for Labour and . National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Coal-mining Industry: Open-cut Production.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Mr.Dedman. - The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: - 1.No. It was, however, explained to the press that the Commonwealth Disposals Commissionuses a statistical system which enables information regarding sales to be furnished, provided that specific details as to location, date and type of equipment declared as surplus to it are available. This is in accordance with the “ goldfish bowl “ policy recommended in the Barouch-Hancock report to the United States Government on war and post-war adjustment policies. 2, 3 and 4. The right honorable member is referred to the reply furnished on the 4th April to a question then submitted by him, which deals with each of the points now raised. I regret I am unable to add anything to my previous reply.
e asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Rationing : Tea and Sugar.
e. - On the 21st June, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked whether it was a fact that members of the Rationing Commission had made suggestions, if not recommendations, that tea and sugar be lifted from the list of goods rationed.
The following reply has now been furnished by the Minister for Trade and Customs : -
Tea - The Rationing Commission early in April last discussed with Mr. Dedman, then Minister for Trade and Customs, the question of continuance of tea rationing. The world supply of tea is much below pre-war level and available supplies are allocated to various tea-importing countries by the Combined Food Board. On the basis of its proportionate quota of reduced supplies Australia would be entitled to approximately 34,000,000 lb. of tea per annum as compared with its present allocation of approximately 46,000,000 lb.
The Combined Food Board had made available to Australia a further 12,000,000 lb. of tea in order to maintain the existing ration of 2 oz. per week, but it was probable that’ if tea rationing were withdrawn this 12,000,000 1b. would not be available. In these circumstances the Commission and myself are in agreement that tea rationing should be continued.
Sugar - Members of the. Rationing Commission also recently discussed sugar rationing with Mr. Dedman, then Minister for’ Trade and Customs, but no decision was reached. 1 have asked the Rationing Commission to keep the position under constant survey and to report to me periodically what prospects there are of removing sugar fromrationing provisions, having regard to the needs of the United Kingdom and other overseas countries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460627_reps_17_187/>.