18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last week, the honorable member for Flinders and other honorable members, including, I think, the honorable member for New England, asked for copies of the report of the Canadian royal commission regarding leakage of secret information. Further copies of that document have just arrived, and I how lay on the table the following paper : -
Canadian Boya] Commission appointed to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding the communication, by public officials and other persona in positions of trust, of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power - Report.
Additional copies will be made available through the Clerk to those honorable members who wish, to obtain them.
– -Earlier to-day I stated that there would be ten or twelve copies of the Canadian Royal Commission’s report available. In addition there will be about 50 summaries. So there should
Dc either a full report or a summary available to every honorable member.
Basic Wage awd Forty-Hour Week INQUIRY
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the remarks of the Acting Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Judge’ Drake-Brockman, that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was trying to dictate to the court in the 40-hour week and- basic wage case; that if the action, of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, certain parties, and certain governments was persisted in, the onus pf delaying the hearing, which was of vital importance to the Australian economy, rested’ at their door? In view of the nation-wide interest in the ultimate determination of the court in this matter, and the seriousness of the present agitation for increased wages and improved conditions, will the Government immediately confer with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, certain governments and other parties mentioned by the Acting Chief Judge to ensure that the effectiveness of the court is preserved, and further delay in the hearing of this vital matter avoided?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but I imagine that it was made during a discussion between the Acting Chief Judge and the representative of one of the applicant unions. It does not seem to be a matter into which I or the Government should intrude. As for conferring with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions-
– And certain other governments.
– I shall have to consider the position regarding other governments. They regard themselves as having sovereign rights, and I presume that the views of the representatives of State governments are not likely to be influenced by anything which the Commonwealth Government may say. I shall examine the points raised by the honorable member to see if they contain anything which might further the cause of industrial peace. The question was a long one, and the answering of it would involve quite h lot of research and consultation with other authorities. I do not propose to enter into the dispute between the Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court and one of the advocates appearing before him. I have enough to do without that.
– As there aTe still some maternity hospitals in South Australia which have not been approved under the Government’s hospital service, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Social Services consider a proposal for amalgamating the maternity allowance with the £2 2s. ;i week which is paid by the Commonwealth on behalf of hospital patients, seeing that the birth of a child is proof that hospital services have been availed of?
– I can understand quite clearly the first part of the honorable member’s question. There are still some private hospitals which have not been registered under the Government’s hospitalization scheme. One reason for their failure to do so is that some of them cannot pass the standard of efficiency and proper accommodation; another reason may be that they are still prejudiced against the scheme. Whatever may be the reason, it is a fact some private hospitals in each State have not yet registered under the scheme. The second part of the honorable member’s question is more difficult to understand. If I understood the honorable member correctly he referred to the position of patients in private hospitals not covered by the scheme who thereby lose the benefit of the Government’s subsidy of £2 2s. a week. I shall ask the Minister for Health to look into the matter, and ensure that the people concerned are not prevented from obtaining the benefit.
– Will the Prime Minister take action to ensure that price control is more effectively policed and. that existing prices be not increased, particularly in view of the fact that tens of thousands of persons throughout the Commonwealth have bad no increases of their incomes and are forced to pay increased prices out of their meagre weekly allowances? This applies to invalid and old-age pensioners, superannuated public servants, war widows and many others. Also, will the right honorable gentleman take action to ensure that the meat position shall not.be come a further .burden on the worker?
– The point raised by the honorable member regarding rising prices has been a matter of concern to me during the whole period in which I have been Treasurer of the Commonwealth. I have pointed out, both here and elsewhere, that increases of costs generally are very burdensome upon those sections of the community which have not enjoyed increased incomes. They include not only pensioners, superannuated public servants, and war widows, but also a great number of people who have fixed incomes and are not eligible for either invalid or old-age pensions. I have always been mindful of the point raised by the honorable member and the Government has given a great deal of consideration to it. There has been, I think, a general belief that wages and so forth are too low and that, in many cases, they are due for some revision by the court. One of the objectives of wagepegging and prices control was to retain stability in the community so that the difficulties mentioned by the honorable member should not occur. Every endeavour has been made by the Government, even by the payment of fairly large subsidies, to prevent prices from rising excessively in view of the hardship that rising prices impose on the people, particularly that section referred to by the honorable member. The meat position in Victoria is receiving the constant attention of the Ministers concerned. For the honorable member’s benefit, I shall ascertain what steps are being taken to meet the position.
– Will the Attorney-General investigate the possibility of regular visits to Launceston by officers of the Legal Aid Bureau at Hobart in order that ex-servicemen may be given the benefit of advice on National Security Regulations. particularly those affecting housing?
– Legal Aid Bureaus are established in all the State capitals. I shall ascertain whether anything needs to be done to make its services more readily available in Tasmania and inform the honorable gentleman. “broadcasting.
Australasian Performing Right Association - Parliamentary Proceedings.
– I ask the Attorney.General, as the Minister administering the copyright laws, whether he is aware that the Australasian Performing Right Association is attempting to levy a fee for music broadcast to factory workers, particularly in the clothing trades, involving, 1 understand, many employees in Commonwealth clothing factories. As the fee to Australasian Performing Right Association is levied on the commercial stations, does not the right honorable gentleman think that the second fee is an imposition and an injustice to workers who desire to listen to music while they work ?
– That matter is being looked into by the department because it concerns the copyright law. The Australasian Performing Right Association charges a fee, I think, on each record broadcast by all broadcasting stations, national and commercial. Recently the Australasian Performing Right Association claimed that the Commonwealth Clothing Factory should take out a license for the right to hear the session called “ Music While You Work “.
– They do not want harmony in industry.
– Yes, music while you work, or wait. This matter was, i think, before the Broadcasting Committee some time ago, and I think it was also the subject of a royal commission conducted by Mr. Justice Owen. The suggestion made was that one overall fee should be fixed by compulsory arbitration, as is apparently the law in Canada.
– The Attorney-General gave us an assurance three years ago that appropriate action would be taken.
– Legal difficulties about that matter arose, and they were rather formidable. The position now is that this new claim has been made. No such claim was made during World War II. With the Postmaster-General, I shall inquire into the matter which, the honorable member for Parkes raised, and make a recommendation to Cabinet to deal with the whole subject.
– People of northern Queensland are deprived, amongst other amenities available to people in the cities, of the opportunity to hear broadcasts of debates in the Commonwealth Parliament. Will you, Mr. Speaker, consider having these broadcasts extended to northern Queensland, either through the national broadcasting service or by the short wave system ?
– That matter will be brought to the notice of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee under whose instructions the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates.
– In view of the tactics which the Communist party is pursuing to jeopardize the livelihood and the welfare generally of the people of the Commonwealth, what steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to prevent such activities? If the right honorable gentleman considers that united action by the Parliament is required, will he seek the co-operation of the Leader of the Liberal party and the Leader of the Australian Country party in order that legislative and administrative action may be taken to protect the interests of the Australian people ?
– The activities of both the Communist party and the Liberal party are constantly under review.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the representative of Australia at the Empire Communist Conference in London, Mr. Gerald Peel, M.A., is the same person who, a few years ago, was one of the principal publicists of the Communist party in India? Is it a fact that since his arrival in Australia, he has devoted himself almost exclusively to organized propaganda directed by the central committee of the Communist party and aimed at the destruction of the White Australia policy? As this man is not an Australian subject, will the Minister consider using the appropriate provisions of the Immigration Act for the purpose of preventing Mr. Peel’s return to the Commonwealth?
– I am not in a position at the moment to say whether the statements which the honorable member has made are true or not true. I shall have them investigated, and inform him at a later date precisely what can be done or what cannot -be clone in the direction which he suggests.
– Earlier to-day, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider seeking the co-operation of the leader of the Liberal party and the leader of the Australian Country party in this House with a view to securing united action to curb the activities of Communists who are creating disorder and industrial dislocation throughout Australia. The Prime Minister replied in a facetious manner. I now ask him whether he considers that the activities of Communists in disrupting our industrial life are a matter for facetiousness.
– I do not regard any people who are engaged in disrupting the economic and industrial life of the Commonwealth in any .but the most serious way. The Government is making every endeavour to prevent any actions which could disrupt industry. I do not consider that I need say more than that.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether within the last two years the Commonwealth Investigation Branch has made a report on the activities of the Communist party in Australia, suggesting subversive activities of its part against the Government? Is there any reason why that report should not be made public or .at least a summary of it placed before the Parliament? In view of the findings of the royal commission in Canada as to the activities of the Communist party there and the common knowledge that it is a world-wide organization, will the right honorable gentleman consider setting up a royal commission to investigate the activities of the Communist party in this country and to ascertain whether it is engaged in subversive activities against democracy and whether it is connected with a certain foreign power?
– No special report on that subject has come to my notice. If any report of that kind is in existence, it is a routine report to the permanent head of the department. I shall look into the matter and also consider the other matters referred to by the honorable gentleman.
– This morning I received from my electorate two telephone messages and an urgent telegram regarding the shortage of petrol supplies. Mr. Smith, of Smith’s Service Station, Yass, telephoned me to say that the whole of the Yass district was without petrol and that he had sent a telegram to Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited, Sydney, asking for prompt action to ease the situation. Mr. Smith stated that there was plenty of petrol in Yass, hut it was frozen in the oil companies’ depot. He added that the people of Yass demanded that supplies be released at once. The second communication was from Mr. Smith, of Yasco Leather Goods, Yass. He stated that all towns from Albury to Sydney were without petrol, but that there was plenty of petrol in the companies’ depots. He said that it was being held until the 1st April-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear’). Order! The honorable member is not in order in informing the House what the Smith family are saying about the shortage of petrol, or in introducing Mr. Smith’s contentions as to what is being done with the supplies. There is a shortage of petrol. That is enough.
– Communications have reached me to the effect that a desperate position exists in many towns throughout the country because petrol is being held in depots and is not being released for liSe. In view of these circumstances, will the Minister cause an immediate investigation to he made to ascertain whether companies are deliberately holding petrol supplies until the expiration of the pool, so that they may then release it as their own product?
– If the circumstances are such as the honorable member has outlined it is greatly to be deprecated. The honorable gentleman has stated that depots are holding pool petrol in various country towns and refusing to release it until the pooling arrangement terminates at the end of this month, when they wish to make it available as their own product. I make it quite clear that the pooling arrangement was entered into voluntarily by the 011 companies, for the distribution of petrol and oil during the war. It is perfectly true, of course, that if the companies had not made this voluntary arrangement the Government would have probably imposed a. compulsory scheme to achieve the same purpose. I shall take up with my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, the matter mentioned by the honorable member, to see whether anything can be done to rectify the situation. As far as I am aware the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to interfere ‘with the situation.
Fis a i. of Loan Quiz Competition.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received a number of protests from ex-servicemen’s organizations in Queensland against the holding of the loan quiz final competition on Anzac Night? In this connexion I bring to the notice of the right honorable gentleman the following telegram that I have just received from Brisbane: -
General meeting last evening unanimously protested Government action holding quiz finals Anzac Night. Urge you to make representation Prime Minister for cancellation - Secretary Diggers’ Association (Queensland).
Has the Prime Minister received representations from ex-servicemen’s organizations requesting that the quiz final be not held on Anzac Day? Is it correct, as published in the press, that he does not consider the holding of the quiz final to be contrary to the spirit of Anzac Day? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give further consideration to the request of the ex-servicemen’s organizations, and arrange for the quiz to be held on a day when it will not offend such an important section of the community, which is entitled to the greatest consideration in this matter.
– Some two or three years ago the question arose whether loan appeals should be conducted on Anzac Day or on the evening of that day. -I discussed the subject, at the time, with representatives of the ex-servicemen’s organizations from whom I had received some protests on the matter. We were able to come to a satisfactory agreement. I suggested to the loan organizers that nothing should he broadcast in connexion with the loan appeal on Anzac Day, or on the evening of that day, which could be regarded as offensive to people who had a deep reverence for the day and what it stood for. Last week I received one or two protests from representatives of exservicemen’s organizations against the holding of the quiz final on Anzac night. I have been unable to see that anything was proposed to be done which would be contrary to the spirit of Anzac Day. The quiz session is being conducted, as previously, as an incentive, or an inducement, to people to subscribe to the loan.
– This protest has come from ex-servicemen. Does not the Prime Minister respect their protest?
– I respect everybody, but I receive many protests about many things. The fact is that the commercial stations will be engaged in commercial work on that day and night, although I presume they will have some regard to the day. I have not been able to see any reason why this session should not be held on Anzac night.
Occupied Properties - Use of Motor Vehicles - Malayan Campaign : Awards to 8th Division
– In the north of Queensland, the Department of the Army acquired a considerable number of properties during the war. Many have already been returned to their owners, but others have not. The Department of the Army still holds many blocks of land which are lying unoccupied and unused, and their retention is causing inconvenience and hardship- to the owners. Will the Minister for the Army take immediate action to have all property acquired by his department during the war returned to the owners in the same order and condition as when it was taken over ?
– I have already issued instructions, not to a representative of the Army, but to a civilian to go through all the areas in question, make an investigation, and then report to me. When I have his report, I intend to authorize the return of whatever properties can be returned to their owners.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is correct that the Auditor-General has undertaken an investigation into the use of army vehicles which are said to be used at times for purposes other than those associated with the Army?
– I did not know that the Auditor-General has begun an inquiry into the use of army vehicles. However, I can say for the information of the honorable member that out of 100,000 motor vehicles formerly in the possession of the Department of the Army, 96,000 have already been disposed of. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that a number of army vehicles have been improperly used.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me how many awards for bravery during the campaign in Malaya were recommended for members of the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force? How many awards lave been made, and what has become of recommendations for awards which have not yet been made? This matter is causing considerable concern to many persons who believe that they were recommended for awards for bravery during the campaign in Malaya. I ask the right honorable gentleman to have the whole matter examined, and make a full statement to the House.
– Obviously, 1 am not able to answer the honorable member’s question off hand, but I shall endeavour te obtain the information for him.
– Is it ,a fact, as reported in the press, that although there have been discussions between service Ministers and the Prime Minister on the post-war defence policy for Australia, the Government h-as not yet formulated any concrete proposals which it can announce to the people? If so, in view of the fact that more than eighteen months have elapsed since the war ended, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House when some clear-cut statement on Australia’s future defence policy may be expected ?
– As I indicated in this House many months ago, it is very difficult even for those who are experts on military technique to decide exactly what will be the requirements of military forces in the future, or what kind of military equipment will be needed. I understand that this matter has been the subject of discussion among experts on the highest possible plane in the British Army. Pending a decision by them, it is not possible to determine a clear-cut policy in any part of the Empire. It is true that a Cabinet sub-committee has been appointed to deal with this matter and, as the position now appears to be somewhat clearer, the committee will commence its sittings either this afternoon or -to-night. I am not able to make an announcement regarding Government policy at this stage, but as soon as things become clear this will be done.
– Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the report of the Canadian royal commission on Communist espionage, and the conviction of certain refugees in Canada? Has his attention also been directed to the disclosures to a committee of the American Congress of the activities of Gerhard Eisler, who posed as a German refugee, but was actually chief representative of the Comintern in the United States of America, and also the report of Sir Frederick Morgan, a British general, regarding the presence of Russian agents amongst the refugees in the British Zone in Germany? In view of such disclosures, have any precautions been taken to check the credentials of refugees to whom permits have been issued by the Minister for Immigration?
– The full report of the royal commission which sat in Canada has been tabled to-day, and a number of other copies will be made available to honorable members. As for the disclosures to a committee of the American Congress on the activities of Gerhard Eisler, I know only what has been cabled to the newspapers of this country. No official reports have been received. Regarding the security aspect of immigration, I do not think that this is lost sight of either by the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department or by its .Security Branch. I shall look into the position closely, and see whether I can give the honorable member any additional information. I think that the Department of Immigration controls the issue of permits.
– It is not a matter of permits, but of whether any check is kept on refugees after they come here.
– There is a special section of the Immigration Department which attends to that aspect of the matter. The exact part which the officers of the Investigation Branch play in it I cannot say off-hand, but I shall look into it, and inform the honorable member later.
– Evidence given before the tribunals trying Japanese war criminals, and reports from repatriated servicemen who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, indicate that great feats of heroism were performed by many prisoners of war. Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government proposes to recognize in a suitable way the heroism of such men, some of whom lost their lives because of their adherence to the principles for which they had gone to fight?
– Has the honorable member in mind some monetary benefit, or some kind of decoration ?
– Some kind of decoration.
– I presume that the granting of decorations will be subject to recommendations from those who were in a position to judge. I shall make a considered statement on the matter at a later date.
Administrator - Parliamentary REPRESENTA tion.
– Is it a fact that His Honour, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, is seriously thinking of relinquishing his appointment unless an elective legislative council is established to assist him? Is the Minister for the Interior able to indicate when it is intended to establish such a legislative council ? In view of the war effort of the people of the Northern Territory, and the manner in which the area was used to defend Australia against the impending invasion by the Japanese and as a striking point for waging the Pacific war, will the honorable gentleman indicate if he is prepared to bring ‘before the Parliament during this sessional period a bill to give to the honorable member for the Northern Territory full voting powers in this House ?
– The suggestion that His Honour, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, is considering resigning, is news to me. His Honour was in Canberra until a fortnight ago and, as a matter of fact, expressed himself most enthusiastically in regard to the programme set down for the development of the Northern Territory. It is true that he has some anxiety in regard to the establishment of a legislative council, but when he saw the progress made with the draft legislation to provide for such a council he expressed his complete satisfaction with it. In regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, the proposal is well in hand. The suggestion contained in the last part of the honorable member’s question will receive consideration after the decision to grant legislative council rights to the people of the Northern Territory is given effect.
- by leave- On the 21st February, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Flinders asked for information in reference to the Commonwealth grant to the States for the eradication of tuberculosis. With the consent of the House I now incorporate in Hansard a statement on the subject: -
The Commonwealth Government, by an amendment to the Tuberculosis Act- passed last year, has made available the sum of £250,000 for allocation to the States for distribution amongst approved sufferers from tuberculosis.
A conference of Commonwealth and State health officers was held on the 18th December last to discuss a basis of distribution of this money, with a view to ensuring uniformity amongst the States. This conference decided upon a tentative basis of distribution on the understanding that the position would be reviewed after six months.
A conference of Ministers for Health will take place on the 14th and the 15th April next, and the subject of tuberculosis will be placed on the agenda for discussion.
Four States (Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia) have already applied for and received their proportion of the Commonwealth grant. New South Wales has recently applied, and payment to that State will be made within the next few days.
As further evidence of the Government’s interest in this important question, the Commonwealth, under the Tuberculosis Act 1945- 104G, has given authority for payment to the States of the sum of £100,000 per annum on a £]-for-£l basis for the establishment of diagnostic and after-cure facilities. No State has yet taken up its proportion of this amount.
Under the hospital benefits scheme, .the sum of fis. per daily occupied bed is paid to all public hospitals and sanatoria accommodating sufferers from tuberculosis; who receive free treatment and accommodation. In the case of approved private hospitals, a similar sum is paid to the hospital and deducted from the patient’s account.
In connexion with the Hospital Benefits Scheme, each State controls a trust fund containing moneys received from the Commonwealth which may, subject to Commonwealth approval, to be used for expenditure on capital items including construction of new hospitals and sanatoria. None of these moneys has hitherto been expended for these purposes because of shortages of staff and materials. The conference of Health Ministers will be asked to consider any emergency measures which might be taken to meet this situation.
Applications have been called for the position of Senior Medical Officer, Commonwealth Department of Health, to administer and control, under the direction of the DirectorGeneral of Health, all Commonwealth activities referable to tuberculosis, to visit all States advising latest developments and activities, and to co-ordinate all work on diagnosis, treatment, prevention, control and research in the field of tuberculosis throughout the Commonwealth.
It is the intention of the Government to seek a fuller collaboration with the States in an effort to satisfactorily deal with this serious problem.
– Did “the Prime Minister inform the Australasian Council of Trade Unions recently that he would not consider at present a suggestion that all employees in the Government munitions factories he compelled to become members of unions? Did the honorable gentleman also say that he would review the position after the Arbitration Court had reached a decision on the application by munitions workers for registration under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act? Does the right honorable gentleman believe that all government employees should be compelled to> become members of unions?
– My recollection of the matter is that representations weremade that munitions workers should become members of the appropriate unions covering their callings. That, I understand, arose out of a dispute in one of the munitions factories as the result of which the Ironworkers Union claimed that another organization, the Arms, Ammunition and Explosive Workers Union, which was registered in the State court in Victoria and has, I believe, made application for Commonwealth registration, had intimated to certain munitions workers that they should join the latter union. The Ironworkers Union pointed out that many workers in munitions factories should more properly belong to its organization. As to the second part of the question, all I have indicated so far is that, although the Government is strongly of the opinion that all workers should be members of unions, it has not taken any steps to indicate to workers what union they should join. I shall have a full statement on the matter prepared and furnish it, together with the copy of the letter 1 have written on the subject, for the information of the honorable member.
– Is it the intention of the Repatriation Department to vacate the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, and, if so, has any definite date been fixed for its vacation? Is it the intention of the department to continue occupation of those premises for other purposes?
– It is not the intention of the department to vacate the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick for some time, at least “mot until arrangements can be made for She outpatients department to be transferred elsewhere and there is a diminution of a number of cases requiring hospital treatment, or until such cases can bc treated at Concord. It is estimated that that will probably take up to two years.
Sale to New Zealand
– In view of the interest of honorable members in the subject and the general public interest which attaches to the matter, will the Prime Minister arrange to have laid on the table of the House all communications and relevant documents leading up to the conclusion of the agreement between Australia and New Zealand concerning the sale of wheat?
– I shall consult with my colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and give consideration to the request.
– What were the defects in the wheat agreement with New Zealand which prompted the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to say, at a public meeting held at Glencoe last Saturday night, that “he felt morally hound to proceed with the steps taken by his predecessor”?
– Apparently, the honorable member refers to a statement in the press, which reported me as having said that the Commonwealth Government considered itself morally bound to enter into the wheat agreement with New Zealand. I did say that I considered that the Commonwealth had a moral obligation to supply wheat to New Zealand, and I believe that to be true. Therefore, we concluded the agreement with New Zealand on the basis which I have already outlined to the House.
– .As the wheat agreement with New Zealand will increase Commonwealth expenditure by £1,800,000, will the Prime Minister inform me whether the approval of the Treasury was obtained for the deal, and, if so, when?
– Approval for the deal was obtained, not from the Treasury, but from Cabinet, quite recently.
– I have before me the documents tabled by the Minister for External Affairs in connexion with his statement on foreign affairs, which he made some days ago, and, in particular, the precis of the proposed peace treaty with the Italian Government as far as it affects Australia. Having regard to the old treaty with the Italian Government, under which Italians claimed to be entitled to enter Australia as migrants, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the peace treaty to be signed with Italy deals with this matter, and whether it is proposed to perpetuate the old arrangement?
– The treaty in question was abrogated by a special clause in the new treaty with Italy. Its reinstatement, amendment or anything of that kind would have to be dealt with afresh. Tho treaty with Italy will come before the House for approval after the conclusion of the debate on international affairs.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen the report in a section of the press that a firm of suppliers of medical and quasi-medical goods is launching <a high pressure campaign to increase the sale of contraceptives in this country? In view of the responsibility assumed by the Minister for increasing the population of Australia through immigration, does he propose to ignore so obvious an attack promoted for commercial gain upon its expansion through natural increase?
– I agree with the protest contained in the honorable member’s question, against the outrage on the family life of this nation by advertising the sale of certain articles. That can only be condemned by right-thinking people. Unfortunately the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to control advertising in newspapers or other periodicals. The responsibility resides with the States for prohibiting the publication of advertisements that offend against good taste or have a detrimental effect on the interests of the nation. State laws .cover the publication of matter regarded as obscene or blasphemous, birt no Sta’.e parliament has yet passed legislation dealing with the matter raised by the honorable member.-
– Cannot the POSt.masterGeneral’s Department take action to prevent the delivery of offensive matter through the post.?
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral whether some action may be taken in that rega-rd. No condemnation of such reprehensible advertising is too severe. Action by the States cannot be taken too early to prevent a practice that must hasten the destruction of the Australian nation. It is grotesquely absurd that the Department of Immigration should be expending hundreds of thousands of pounds on encouraging people to come to Australia while some who are residing in Australia are trying, for pecuniary gain, to encourage the Australian nation to commit race suicide.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has completed its proposals for continuance of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Is it intended to liberalize the aid in any way? Does the Government intend to make a special allocation for vital through roads in country areas?
– The Government has approved a measure covering that matter. The proposed aid is not to be quite in the form of the assistance given previously. The bill is being drafted, and I understand that the Minister for Transport will introduce it in the next two or three, weeks.
Trunk Telephone PRIORITIES
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question relating to the system operating within the precincts of this House under which priority is given to certain callers on the .telephone system. Did it operate in the Parliament before the war? If its introduction was made necessary for security and defence reasons during the wai-, what factors make its continuance necessary, and what persons are entitled to exercise priority in relation to telephone calls made from this building?
– I :am not quite sure of the position, but I shall investigate the matter and probably make .a statement for the information of all -the honorable members to-morrow..
– There are still many prohibitions operating against the importation of manufactured and other goods and permits for import licences lave to be obtained from the J department of Tirade and Customs. Why is the system of import licences still operating in view of Britain’s desire to trade? When will the restrictions be removed ?
– 1 1 is -true that a system of permits under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs operates in regard to imports. I shall ask him why it still operates and convey the information to the honorable member.
Refugees and Displaced PERSONS
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the matter of the admission to Australia of refugees and displaced persons from Europe and Shanghai.
Opposition Members. - N o !
Leave not granted.
– by leave- Much has been written and said in recent weeks about the admission to Australia of refugees and displacedpersons from Europe and Shanghai, and particularly about those of the Jewish faith. Without probing - at least for the moment - the motives inspiring this public comment, I feel impelled to restate certain important facts. In the first instance, the policy of the present Government in providing for the entry of a limited number of refugees and displaced aliens is in line with the policy which was introduced by the Lyons Government early in 1939 as an obligation accepted by Australia under a widely publicized international agreement.
The second fact is that wherever there is any concern about the present policy in regard to refugee immigrants, it is clue mainly to misunderstanding caused by a lack of knowledge of the facts, to exaggerated and untruthful news reports and to periodical outbursts of antisemitism and xenophobia. Thirdly, it is important to bear in mind that the number of pre-war refugees which Australia agreed to admit, and the number who reached Australia before and during the war, is many thousands less than the total which Australia agreed to take in 1939. Fourthly - and lastly - I emphasize that in proportion to the Government’s total immigration programme, hased mainly on migrants from Britain, from other selected European countries and from the American continent, the proportion of refugee aliens of Jewish faith who will have reached Australia over a period of, say, four or five years from the end of the war will be extremely small.
Let us examine the background to Australia’s attitude to the admission of refugees. In 1938, the Lyons Government sent a delegation, headed by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), in this Parliament, to attend a conference arranged by the United States of America to discuss the prob lem of political refugees in Europe. The conference, held at Evian, in France, during July of that year, was attended by representatives of 32 countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and other British dominions as well as Australia. The agenda included the following tasks : -
To consider what steps can be taken to facilitate the settlement in other countries of political refugees from Germany (including Austria) .
To consider what immediate steps can be taken, within the existing immigration laws and regulations of the receiving countries, to assist the most urgent cases.
To consider the establishment of a. continuing body of governmental representatives, to be set up in some European capital, to for mulate and to carry out in co-operation with existing agencies, a long-range programme looking toward the solution or alleviation of the problem in the larger sense.
To prepare a resolution making recommendations to the participating governments with regard to the subjects enumerated above and with regard to such other subjects as may be brought for consideration before the intergovernmental meeting.
The honorable member for Balaclava stated the Australian attitude at this first conference when he said -
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia has had very much in mind the problem of foreign migration, as well as British, and a proportion of new arrivals during recent years has been from foreign sources. Realizing the unhappy plight of German and Austrian Jews, they have been included on a pro rata basis, which we venture to think is comparable with that of any other country. To ensure that the new arrivals are suitable, they are very largely sponsored by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society.
The honorable member referred to the work of the conference with this concluding paragraph -
What the United Kingdom is doing together with our own efforts and those of others already related will, we trust encourage members of the Intergovernmental Committee here assembled to formulate further plans for co-operation toward the solution of a tragic world problem and thus bring hope to many unhappy people.
It is interesting to recall that the honorable member, as leader of the Australian delegation, was appointed chairman of the sub-committee which heard the representations of various organizations that were concerned with the relief of political refugees coming from Germany, including Austria, at that time. With the representatives of ten other countries, he received a sub-committee appointed by 39 of these organizations, which were of Jewish and Christian character and came from various parts of Europe. In his report, the honorable member said that the moving stories told disclosed what he described as -
A great human tragedy which calls for early amelioration and challenges the conference to early co-operative action to that end.
From what I know of the circumstances existing at that time and in the light of experience since, and of my understanding of the situation as Minister for Immigration during the past eighteen months, I am satisfied that the policy adopted by the government of that day was the correct one and fully expressed the feelings of the Australian people.
The Evian conference decisions provided for the detailed organization necessary to enable these hundreds of thousands of people to be admitted to other countries with prospects of living in reasonable freedom. The conference formed an inter-governmental committee to meet subsequently in London, and it was a responsibility of the chairman of that committee to approach the governments of the countries of refuge and settlement, with a view to developing opportunities for permanent settlement.
In the Commonwealth Parliament on the 1st December, 1938, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who was then Minister for the Interior, made a statement, by leave, on the acceptance in Australia of these European refugees. He referred specifically to the arrangements to provide for Jews, as well as Christians, in this class of immigrants. In the course of his statement, the honorable member for Indi said -
The Government of the Commonwealth has been invited with the governments of the other dominions and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and .the governments of other powers to consider the plight of many thousands of unfortunate people as the result of recent happenings in Europe.
It views with feelings of deep sympathy the sufferings of people both of Aryan and nonAryan races who have become refugees.
The Government has considered^ very earnestly the extent to which it can, in con cert with other countries, assist in a humanitarian way to alleviate the conditions of these unfortunate people.
The Government feels that, if a solution of this problem is to be found, countries must be prepared to receive a proportion of those to be expatriated, in relation to the capacity of the countries to assimilate them.
The honorable gentleman continued -
In recognizing this obligation, and after careful examination of the position, the Commonwealth Government has decided that Australia should assist to the extent of receiving up to 15,000 refugees over a term of three years.
In arriving at the figure of 15,000 over a period of three years, the Government has been influenced by the necessity that the existing standard? of living should not he disturbed and for reconciling with the interests of refugees, the interests of Australia’s present population and of the people of British race who desire to establish themselves in Australia.
The Government will approve of only the ari mission of those classes whose entry into Australia will not disturb existing labour conditions. Special consideration will be given to individuals who have the capital and experience necessary for establishing and developing industries not already adequately catered for, and, in particular, those industries the product of which would command a market within and outside Australia.
The honorable member for Indi added -
Although the refugee problem is one quit, apart from the general question of immigration, in that it deals with the specific question of the amelioration of the conditions of oppressed people, at the same time it is essential that it should be considered in relation to the general question of immigration so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. The Government has decided, therefore, that, on broad lines, the admission of refugees should conform to the same principles as those governing the entry of white aliens generally.
The Government appreciates that an indispensable factor in the assimilation of refugees into the general community is that there should be available in Australia some body or organization able and willing to give them a helping hand after arrival and to assist in their absorption.
These refugees may be divided into three classes: Aryans; non-Ayran Christians, i.e., people wholly or partly of Jewish race of the Christian religion; and Jews. The Jewish community in Australia has set up an organization called the Australian Jewish Welfare Society for the purposes of assisting in the absorption of Jewish refugees after their arrival in Australia. This body is doing good work. The establishment of a separate organization is necessary in order to assist in the absorption of Aryan and non-Aryan Christian refugees after their arrival in” Australia.
It is necessary that such’ an organization should bc adequately financed to enable it to successfully undertake this work, and I arn advised that church and Other organizations in various parts of Australia have already expressed a desire to assist in the establishment of such an organization.
The Commonwealth Government hopes’ that various public bodies throughout Australia will co-operate in establishing a body for the purpose of helping Aryan and non-Aryan Christian refugees after their arrival.
The Government would be prepared to consider the granting of some small financial assistance to assist in the establishment of such an organization.
The honorable “member for Indi explained that in all cases permits for the admission of these refugees would be granted strictly in accordance with the general Australian immigration policy providing for the entry of persons of European race or descent, and that they would be handled within the limits of the average quota of 5,000 a year which he had explained.
The honorable member emphasized the following points:-
Every refugee must be desirable as an individual, and of good character and health of which prior evidence must be forthcoming. He must have the approved amount of landing money or have this maintenance guaranteed by some approved individual or organization in this country.
Desperate as is the need of many of these unfortunate people, it is not the intention of the Government to issue permits for entry influenced by the necessity of individual cases. On the contrary, it is felt that it will bo possible for Australia to play its part amongst the nations of the world, in absorbing its reasonable quota of these people, while at the same time selecting those who will become valuable citizens of Australia and, we trust, patriots of their new home, without this action disturbing industrial conditions in Australia.
The quota which I have stated means that there will be some increase, but a not very great increase, of the rate at which permits have been issued to people of the refugee classes during the last six months.
It is part of the policy of the Government to plan that aliens who are given permission to come to Australia shall be distributed as widely as is possible throughout our country; in order to facilitate their assimilation into our population, and the Government maintains a steady policy against facilitating or permitting undue aggregation Of aliens in any particular towns or centres.
That concludes the statement of Government policy to the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Indi in December, 1938. If I mav say so, that statement of policy is as valid to-day as it was when first made to this House. When the inter-governmental committee dealing; with European refugees met in London in February, 1939, Australia was represented by the Acting High Commissioner at that time, Mr. J. S. Duncan, and two other officers of the staff of Australia House. Mr. Duncan reported the decisions of the Australian Government oil the recommendations from the conference at Evian, and in doing so he made this announcement -
The Australian Government feels that if a solution Of this problem is to bc found countries must be prepared to receive a proportion of those to be expatriated in relation to their capacity to assimilate them. Iii recognizing this obligation and after careful examination of the position, the Commonwealth Government has decided that Australia should assist to the extent of receiving up to 15,000 refugees over a term of three years.
And so Australia was bound by this agreement to accept 15,000 refugees and displaced persons in the three years of 1939, 1940 and 1941. That is the background to the pre-war policy of the Lyons Government on Jewish and refugee immigration. The number of refugees who actually arrived in Australia were 1,556 in 1938 and 5,080 in 1939, the first year covered by the agreement originated at Evian
There were ether arrivals during the’ War years- 32S in 1940 ; 98 iii 1941 and 56 in 1941, apart from a party of aliens transferred from the United Kingdom to Australia in the steamer Dunera hy the British Government; The aliens aboard the Dunera were at first interned as a precautionary measure while certain investigations were carried out. A number were then released under specific conditions laid down by the Australian Government’s aliens control system. Most of these were allowed their freedom when it was established that they were willing and able to assist in the Australian war effort, and many served in employment companies in our military forces. About three-fifths were subsequently repatriated ; while a proportion remained in Australia following an examination of their record in war service, and in civil life generally.
The total number of refugees who reached Australia on the Dunera was 2,542. Of these people, 1,451 were repatriated, 165 emigrated to other countries, 13 died and 913 were permitted to remain in Australia. The following details apply to those who remained in Australia : -
Whatever were the conditions of distress suffered by refugee peoples in 1938, honorable members will not doubt that their plight in 1945 was even more acute. The total number of this class of immigrant admitted to Australia between the end of 1938 and 1945, when the Immigration Department was established, was, as honorable members may have computed from the figures I have already given, 6,475. This left 8,525 who could be admitted within the figures set by the 1939 Evian agreement.
It might be appropriate to mention here that nearly 6,000,000 persons of the Jewish faith died in enslaved Europe during the war years and, in the early post-war period, the plight of refugees and displaced persons by the hundreds of thousands was one of the major tasks which faced the allied nations - and indeed it is still a tremendous responsibility.
In response to requests by relatives living in Australia able to accommodate and maintain individual refugees, this Government decided to grant a limited number of landing permits on humanitarian grounds. It invoked the assistance of the same Jewish relief organizations which had co-operated with the Lyons Government in the pre-war years.
In a statement issued on 23rd January, 1947, I explained the extent to which humanitarian considerations could be accepted as the grounds for admission to this country in future. I said that the Government believed it had gone as far as it could reasonably be expected to go for the present in granting landing permits on humanitarian grounds to the victims of religious, racial dr political persecution, and the issue df permits on this basis had been closed. It was intended, I explained, that in future the approval of applications would be more selective from the point of view’ of the intending migrants’ ability to contribute to Australia’s economic welfare, with particular regard to their ages and proficiency in those skilled occupations where there was a marked shortage of labour. I also pointed out in that statement that the Government’s policy had always been to give full preference to returning Australians and British migrants on any ship where it could influence the allocation of passages and that this policy would continue to be adhered to.
The similarity between the appreciation of this problem of refugee alien immigration shown by the Lyons Government in 1938 and 1939 and the views of the present Government is acknowledged readily. All the refugee persons who have been granted landing permits, whether Jewish or otherwise, since the end of the war, have been nominated individually by relatives or friends in Australia able and willing to guarantee them accommodation in their own homes and able to guarantee them maintenance independent of Government aid.
I mentioned earlier that much of the public misunderstanding of the alien immigration question was due to exaggerated and untruthful news reports. Some of the most extraordinary and brazen inaccuracies seen in many years have been spread by certain newspapers during recent weeks in alleged news statements on this question of refugee aliens. Because of a confused sort of editorial policy shown by one of the most culpable newspapers concerned, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, I can only assume that the campaign has a political origin. While displaying blatant falsehoods about alien immigration in streamer headings, the same newspaper produces editorials ostensibly pleading for racial tolerance and condemning all forms of racial and religious hatred. On Tuesday, the 11th February of this year, the Sydney Doily Telegraph published a story with a full page banner heading stating 3,000 refugees were coming to Australia. The report went on to say that three Dutch liners, the Johan de Witt, Oranje and Johan Oldenbarneveldt, had been chartered by an American and Netherlands Jewish relief organization, and would bring more than 3,000 displaced persons from Europe to Australia by the end of April.
I had, the day before, issued a statement concerning the Johan de Witt in which I explained that a number of aliens with landing permits for settlement in Australia were coming to this country on that vessel, and that it was also carrying passengers for Batavia. The aliens on their way to Australia held landing permits that had been’ issued on the humanitarian grounds explained a few minutes ago, and the permits had been in force for twelve to eighteen months. At first 1 was told that 600 aliens were coming to Australia on this vessel, and later this figure was revised by the Dutch shipping authorities to 700.
Inquiries cabled to the Australian Minister at The Hague on the day of publication of the statement in the Daily Telegraph brought an immediate reply which caused me to issue a press statement on Friday, the 14th February, saying -
There is not one grain of truth in the story featured by the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Sun Pictorial that the Dutch ships Oranje, Johan Oldenbarneveldt and Johan de Witt have been chartered by the Jewish relief organization to bring thousands of Jewish refugees to Australia.
A cablegram received to-day from Mr. Keith Officer, Australian Minister to The Hague states -
There is absolutely no foundation for the statement regarding the three steamers. Johan Oldenbarneveldt is in the Mediterranean carrying troops to the Netherlands East Indies. Orangie is en route to Amsterdam with passengers from Batavia. There is no intention of either ship going to Australia on charter or otherwise. “ I have been in touch with the local branch of Hebrew International Aid Society who assure me that there is no intention to charter ships and that they fully appreciate the need for closest cooperation and observance of conditions laid down by you”.
In reply to my inquiry as to whether either of these ships could be chartered by the Australian Government, Mr. Officer said - “ I. cannot guarantee that either ship will be available for charter, hut I will advise you further on this point. As stated above, there is no intention of either ship going to Australia.”
My press statement went on to say - i nin forced to the conclusion that the original story of the alleged chartering of the three Dutch vessels was concocted in the Sydney office of the Daily Telegraph as part of a campaign to arouse the passions of racial bigots and to embarrass the Government.
The seriousness and sinister character of this anti-semitic campaign cannot be overemphasized. There is ample evidence that this story, which was given wide currency by two newspapers, has caused the utmos’t confusion and misapprehension in the public mind.
I concluded my press statement with these words -
The people responsible for this concoction have done a grave disservice to Australia. .
The facts as given by Mr. Officer were so unassailable that even the Sydney Daily Telegraph was obliged to publish the statement fairly fully. But it made one significant alteration. It stated in parentheses that the news item being contradicted by my statement had been published “ in the Australian press on 11th February “. It just did not mention that the report so convincingly exposed as a lie was faked in the Daily Telegraph office, and then published as a news item. That is just one example of the unashamed distortion and misrepresentation that is being published on this question of Jewish immigration.
In the light of the actual numbers of new arrivals and with a full knowledge of the background to the Government’9 policy on the entry of refugees and displaced persons, I look forward to a continuation of the constructive attitude on immigration shown by all Australians who really want to make their country secure and see its economy expand. I have consistently tried to keep immigration on a. national plane. It is not a political question, and although it is obvious that much of the criticism of different phases of Australia’s immigration planning and its progress is due solely to the fact that a Labour government is responsible for this policy, I have refused to allow the vital question of immigration to be made a matter of political disputation.
A few days ago, it was my privilege to announce that the free and assisted passage schemes entered into by the Australian and United Kingdom Governments would begin on the 31st of this month. For the time being, shipping difficulties will limit the flow of British settlers, but there will be no relaxation of the Government’s sustained efforts to obtain a maximum allocation of berths for British migration purposes, and there is every evidence that these efforts will result in us reaching our objectives much earlier than was previously expected.
Measuring the extent of refugee immigration over the last eighteen months, and estimating the flow for the next two or three years against the Government’s total programme of encouraged immigration from all sources, it will be seen that the proportion of this class of refugee settler will be comparatively small. As far as we can ensure it, no undesirable persons will be admitted in the refugee or any other class of settler.
But few though these victims of man’s inhumanity will be when set against the scores of thousands - and ultimately the hundreds of thousands - of our own kith and kin whom we propose to bring from the United Kingdom to these shores, our programme of assimilation by education aims to make each and every one of them a good Australian citizen.We encourage neither racial nor religious hatreds when war comes. We appeal then for the highest contribution of citizenship from everybody, and the war just ended found that that appeal had not been made in vain. It is an axiomatic truth that Australia’s security depends more on man-power than on any other factor. It is equally true that those who might attack us in the future will be no respecters of names or racial origins. Should Australia have need of every man it can muster when that day comes, let it not be said of any Australians living to-day that we turned away from these shores a single person who desired to settle here and who had within his heart and soul the capacity and the will to become a good Australian citizen.
– Does the Minister know that the Evian conference dealt only with Austrian and German refugees?
– That is true. The question of a new home for displaced Tews from other countries did not arise at that time, because Polish, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian and Rumanian Jews were not then being persecuted by their governments as were the Jews of Austria and Germany. However,as the Nazi power spread over Europe, and Jews elsewhere in Europe became the victims of Nazi hatred, the obligation upon other nations to assist those victims increased. Ilay on the table the following paper : -
Immigration, Admission of Refugees and Displaced Persons - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House -
1 ) the proposal to establish a rocket bomb testing range in Central Australia is an act of injustice to a weaker people who have no voice in the ordering of their own lives; is a betrayal of our responsibility to guard the human rights of those who cannot defend themselves; and a violation of the various Charters that have sought to bring about world peace, and
such action is against the interests of the whole of the people inthis Commonwealth.
In submitting this motion, I wish it to be quite clear that I am concerned on behalf of the Australian aborigines and also because I believe that the whole of the people of Australia must suffer because of a departure from standards of justice of which we have become accustomed to boast, the betrayal of our responsibilities, and the denial of certain principles of peace for which we have declared ourselves before the whole world.
A proposal to establish a guided weapons range hasbeen made in that part of Central Australia which has at one of its extremes Mr Eba and, as its terminal at the other end the Ninety Mile Beach in Western Australia. The proposal for the construction of the range has been announced as a joint venture with the United Kingdom Government. On the 22nd November last the proposal was presented in some detail to this House by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). I do not propose to go over that ground again. I do not need to remind honorable members of the high initial cost of this venture and of the increasing annual cost as the-work is -expanded. I certainly question the wisdom of great ‘expenditure ‘on ‘. .rn I.ments at a time when the world is struggling $ot pea’ce, ami wh’en the peoples of -many countries i-n the world wre starving I wish to remind honorable members of some of ‘the “utterances made by the Minister during the course of his speech on the proposal. In outlining its details on the 22nd November, the honorable .gentleman said -
Except for a few pastoral leases at the firing point end in South Australia, the central aboriginal reserves and a few more pastoral leases adjacent to Ohe Ninety Mile Beach .in Western Australia, the ‘area of the range and that which it is proposed to reserve for eventual extension, is largely uninhabited.
I emphasize that, except for the spot here, the central aboriginal reserves, and another spot there, the area was said to be largely uninhabited. The Minister was very conscious of the need to do everything to safeguard the aborigines from contact with whites in areas of special significance to them. He said that a report was to be made on the measures necessary to ensure their safety and welfare. I wish to examine these points. Dealing with the area, the honorable gentleman is reported to have said on another occasion that the guided weapons range would not interfere with the few aborigines resident there. There are in the area concerned from 1,000 to 2,000 natives. We may assume as a fair estimate that there are about 1,500 natives there. That may be regarded as but a few natives; but it is worth hearing in mind that that number, although it seems small, represents nearly 5 per cent, of the total number of Australian aborigines alive to-day after 150 years of contact with the white race. The absolute impracticability of keeping aborigines away from centres of civilization is admitted in none other than an official brochure issued by the Commonwealth Railways Department immediately before the war for the information of travellers on the Trans-Australia Railway. In the brochure the Commonwealth Railways Department had this to say -
A vast area of the region traversed has never been trodden by the foot of the white man. The nomadic tribes of aborigines who gain their livelihood from these vast tracts of otherwise unused country are seldom seen from the train. Generally the only indication rft habitation is an occasional .smoke ‘signal cur-ling skywards in the .system of ‘bush telegraphy developed to .’a remarkable perfection b,y these stone-age peo.ple
It would not be fair to ‘the .aboriginal race to regard the semi-civilized type sometimes seen in the vicinity of railway stations as typi’cal. .Their .newly acquired .habits of life and the white .man’s food and clothing have caused their degeneration as -compared with others of their race who are living on the resources of the country under the primitive conditions to which ;the race -has ‘been accustomed .throughout the ages. It is unfortunate that efforts to induce these unhappy people to leave the vicinity o’f the railway line have not so far been -successful.
That is a picture of a .portion of the Trans-Australia railway route which is already inhabited hy whites and blacks. Tt was reported in the press last Wednesday that the Minister had said that the people may rest assured that the rights and privileges of all aborigines in the area would be protected. Since December last hundreds of letters have been sent to Ministers and other members of this House in connexion with this proposal. This afternoon I received three telegrams, one containing the text of a resolution carried by the Methodist Conference in Melbourne, a copy of which was also sent to the Minister, objecting to the construction qf the guided projectile range. I have also received to-day two other telegrams, one from Tasmania and one from Melbourne, both in the same terms. Since I raised the matter in, the House in November last I have received many hundreds of letters and telegrams relating to this proposal. The range is intended to be 2,000 miles long and 200 miles wide. Presumably, the white people living within the limits of the range will be removed from their homes, but we must remember that the area is recognized principally as an aboriginal reserve, as the last home of the nomadic tribes who wander about in the reserve and at times go away from it only to return to it again as their natural home. We cannot but question the usefulness of a report relative to measures proposed to be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of these tribes. The range is to go through the reserves and accordingly there can be no measure of protection for the tribes who regard the land as their own, for irb. om it holds certain hallowed places, sacred to them even as our churches are sacred to us, their hunting grounds, and ,the area in which their water-holes are situated. In what way can it be possible to safeguard from 1,500 to 2,000 nomadic people from contact with the personnel <of the so-called guided weapons range? How will it be possible to prevent the encroachment of military and other personnel into areas of special significance to the aborigines? How will it be possible to protect the water-holes if a projectile, even without a warhead, falls in that particular area? This land is as sacred to the aborigines as are the war memorials and cemeteries of the white man. It has
Deen pointed out that in the past our ignorance, indifference, and sometimes hostility, in respect of the aborigines has led to their degradation and to a decline in their numbers. Humanitarians everywhere have been appalled at the effect that European civilization has had upon native populations, not only in Australia but also in other countries. “We know now that the native populations flourish only in those areas where the white man nas not penetrated, and because we realize this, in an attempt to prevent further wrongs being inflicted upon them, we 1have made reserves available for their sole use. In October, 1935, the Government’s policy on native welfare was enunciated in this House by the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. McEwen, who, in a report circulated to honorable members, stated -
As to natives who are still living in tribal stait, it is felt that these people may be left alone and protected from the intrusion of whites, until we have made much further progross in the care of those who through contact with civilization are in need of training, education, medical attention and general care.
Tt will be the policy of the Government to. at least for the present, leave these natives in their ancient tribal life protected -by the ordinances from the intrusion of whites and main* taining the policy of preventing any exploitation of the resources of the reserves.
It was decided that certain areas would be declared as sanctuaries and left inviolate. It is true that that report was not issued by the present Government, but I have yet to learn that anything appertaining to the well-being of the native peoples is a matter for party politics. The chance of natives being struck by missiles fired from the range is perhaps remote, and the serious aspect of the proposal is the effect of permitting military and other personnel to enter the areas reserved for the aborigines, the danger of interference with the native women, the possibility of lives being ruined and the desecration of tribal lands. If the range is completed no measures can be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of the women who will come into the area if a road is constructed or observation posts built. The tribes, as was found in the establishment of the Trans-Australian railway, flock in, and immediately there is a danger to them from interference. We might just as well bomb them out of existence at once. That would be kinder than disintegration of the moral and physical lives of primitive people by white men who have the habit of forgetting they are civilized. In newspapers in this country and other countries references have been made to this matter. The New Statesman and Nation contains a long letter, which [ do not. intend to read in full ; but which states that there are two alternatives, one, to leave the natives where they are and, the other, to move them from their present hunting grounds to adjacent areas’. The writer says -
If the second alternative is adopted, we are going to witness a sordid repetition of Governor Arthur’s notorious great “ Black Drive” of 1830 when an attempt was made to herd the aborigines of Tasmania into a small area of that State.
I do not consider it possible to move or warn nomadic tribes. The letter continues -
If the same tactics are adopted, the results will he the same; but probably tobacco, treacle, tea and flour will provide sufficient inducement to draw the aborigines temporarily away from their limiting grounds. But it is just as certain that the aborigines’ totemic and psychological ties with their country will bring them back into the rocket range area. Thus the -unhappy sea-saw will continue - the white man’s “ tucker “ in the balance against the native’s love of country. The result will be complete disruption of tribal life and the decimation of the aboriginal communities.
I leave it there, because I have-no doubt that the Minister will read it, if he has not already done so. If he has, he will agree that it is a long and interesting letter.
If we should have another war, let us not delude ourselves that with such weapons as we may he trying out we shall be able to defend ourselves against weapons that have already been invented. We can have no defence. Again, on this point of defence, during the war, Great Britain refrained from using Irish ports, and adhered to the agreement which had been made although the war may have been shortened and many lives spared if those ports had been used by the British Navy. We have made a promise to our aborigines in respect of these reserves, and shall we deal less honorably with them than Great Britain did with the Irish? In his first public statement on his return to London from the United Nations Conference in New York, Mr. Ernest Bevin is reported to have said that the search for a formula of peace by the nations of the world was being greatly hampered by the efforts of certain nations to improve implements of war notably atomic bombs and guided projectiles. He stressed those two only. That is a curious statement from a member of the British Government, particularly at this time. We have a responsibility to guard a minority and to guard most jealously the rights of those who cannot guard themselves. What is our policy on minorities? I could give it from various sources, but I propose to give it from the latest expression I can find. The policy of Australia on minorities has been expressed on various recent occasions by the Minister for External Affairs and I think honorable members will agree that we can be satisfied that it is an interpretation of Australia’s policy. I propose to read a few remarks published in a book, Australia in World Affairs, that has been circulated in this House. I mention that so that honorable members may read it. There we have adequate material to convince us of the intentions of Australia in regard to minorities. In a statement made in July or August, 1945, the Minister for External Affairs said of the United Nations Charter -
The Australian proposals which were accepted include- and then he gave a number of which the eleventh reads -
An amendment designed to secure that the objective of the organization will be that fundamental rights shall be not only respected, but observed.
The thirteenth of those amendments put in by Australia dealt with trusteeship. Technically it may be argued - I do not know - that this matter does not come within the scope of the trusteeship proposals, but are we or are we not trustees of our Australian aboriginal minority? I take it that we are. In this Australian proposal on trusteeship we find “the obligations of the trustees including -
That is confirmed, not only in the speech of the Minister, but also in article 73; chapter 11 of the United Nations Charter. In a statement at -the San Francisco Conference on the 10th May, 1945, the Minister for External Affairs said -
The Atlantic Charter speaks of all the men in all the lands.
He went on -
We, tile United Nations, would be open to serious criticism if, having the power to lay down the principles of future world order and welfare, we forgot those who have not the power to participate, who are not hero to raise their voices, but whose fate will lie determined by what we do as much as our own fate will lie. We would not deserve to succeed if we thought only of ourselves. The principle of trusteeship was acknowledged in the settlement after World War 1. in respect of “ peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world “.
Farther on, the Minister said -
I believe that there should be provision in the Charter of this United Nations Organization for the regular forwarding to an independent expert body of full information concerning the welfare and progress of the inhabitants of less advanced territories, whether they are mandated territories or not.
He went on -
We are morally bound by the Atlantic Charter to endeavour to assure to “all the mcn in all the lands” freedom from want as well as from fear.
On the general principles of trusteeship I quote from the speech of the Minister, reprinted in Australia in World Affairs, pages 31-32, who said -
Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant spoke of the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples forms a f acrod trust of civilization, and securites for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this covenant. I believe the same to be true to-day of all the peoples not yet able to stand by themselves.
In. a British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast on the 10th May, 1946, the Minister for External Affairs said -
It should be recognized that war is best prevented by removing its underlying causes. We must, therefore, settle all international disputes by reference to what is just and right, and not to what is merely expedient.
Do we use this principle only in matters of international dispute or do we also use it at home? In an article, “The Framing of the Peace in the American journal Foreign Affairs, in January, 1946, the Minister for External Affairs wrote -
The objective of freedom from fear can and must .1)0 pursued by the Great Assembly of the United Nations as well as the objective of freedom from want.
In another article, “ The United Nations Assembly - A Great Opportunity”, published in the American journal, Post-war World, in December, 1945, the right honorable gentleman wrote -
The immediate and urgent task of the Assembly is the organization of practical means to achieve the objectives of the Charter. These objectives are, broadly speaking, twofold, and may be classed as the objective of freedom from want, and even more important, the object of freedom from fear. In its pursuit of the first objective, the Assembly must take action to promote -
universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to the race, sex, language or religion.
On another occasion the Minister said -
Another important organ in the sphere of international welfare is the Trusteeship Council. All members of the United Nations accept the general obligation to promote to the utmost the well-being of the inhabitants of all non-self-governing territories, and to carry out certain related obligations. In addition to this general declaration set ou.t in Article 73. there are undertakings such as the obligation to protect native peoples against abuses, and the obligation to furnish the United Nations with statistical information relating to the economic, social, and educational conditions of the native people.
Later, on. the samp subject, the Minister wrote -
The principles in this first part of the trusteeship provisions of the Charter apply to our external territories, including both Papua and New Guinea. It is fitting that I should mention here the important steps which have already been taken in the legislation recently lipton- the House providing for the provisional administration of our territories and also setting up the Territories Research Council and the School pf Civil Affairs for the training of administrative staff.”
– Order! Under the Standing Orders, the time allowed for the debate on this motion has expired. Does tho honorable member for Bourke desire to continue her speech ?
– The Standing Orders provide two courses: Either the debate may be adjourned and be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, or the debate may be adjourned until a later hour this day.
– Would I be in order in moving -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to permit the honorable member for Bourke to conclude her speech.
– Standing Order 119 provides -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order-
That appears to permit the honorable member for Fawkner to submit a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Standing Order 119 continues - the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation ;-
That would mean the Order of the Day standing in the name of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. *Lang) - but if there should be no Order of the Day. the discussion on motions may be continued. The consideration of motions may be resumed after the orders of the Day are disposed of.
It is quite clear that the debate must be interrupted unless the House otherwise order.
– Do I understand that the effect, of a motion for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the honorable member for Bourke from concluding her speech would he to cause the House to proceed with the consideration of the Orders of the Day?
– Unless the House otherwise orders; and I assume that if the honorable member’s motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders be agreed to, the House does otherwise order.
– Do I understand that, at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Bourke, the debate will automatically come to an end?
– No. As I stated previously, there are two courses: Either the motion may be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting or be made an order of the day for a later hour this day. The Standing Orders specifically provide that two hours after the House meets the debate on motions shall be interrupted unless the House otherwise order. The only way in which the debate may be continued in my view, is for the House to agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders, as the honorable member for Fawkner suggested.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate on the mo ton being continued.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) put -
That the resumption on the debate be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Passages on “ Strathmore “.
Debate resumed from the 28th
November, 1946 (vide page 755), on motion by Mr. Lang -
That there be laid upon the table of the House -
the papers relating to the entry of 200 alien immigrants who arrived from the Middle East on the
the original applications for permission to enter, together with the recommendations thereon, and
the text of the representations made through Australia House to the British Ministry of Transport which led to the withholding of 200 berths from passengers stranded in England in order to accommodate migrants from the Middle East.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– I rise to a point of order. Standing Order 119 reads -
If all Motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall bc taken in rotation; but if there should be no Order of the Day, the discussion on Motions may be continued. The consideration of Motions may be resumed after the Orders of the Day are disposed of.
Will the decision as to whether notices of motion are to be continued after orders of the day have been disposed of rest with you, Mr. Speaker, or with the Government?
– Standing Order 119 is very clear. It provides, as the right honorable member for Cowper has said, that if all motions shall not have been disposed of in two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, unless the House otherwise order and orders of the day shall be taken in rotation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) moved, a few moments ago, that the Standing Orders be suspended to allow the debate on Notice of Motion No. 1, moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), to be continued ; but the House otherwise ordered. We must therefore abide by the Standing Orders which means that the resumption of the debate on the motion of the honorable member for Reid, which the honorable member for Warringah has been called on to continue, must proceed. If that be disposed of within the time limit consideration of motions may be resumed as there is no other order of the day. I have not the slightest doubt that the House and not Mr. Speaker will have to decide that question if the situation that I have indicated should arise.
– The motion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) seeks to have laid upon the table the papers relating to the entry of 200 alien immigrants who arrived from the Middle East on Strathmore. the original applications for permission to enter, together with .the recommendations thereon, and the text of the representations made through Australia House to the British Minister for Transport which led to the withholding of 200 berths from passengers stranded in England in order to accommodate the migrants from the Middle East. I rise to speak to the motion in order to draw the attention of the country and the House to the rising wave of anti-semitism which is passing through the country - a wave of hostility to people coining here which may ultimately redound to the disadvantage of Australia. We have just ended a war which I understood was fought, in part, to preserve a spirit of tolerance towards the peoples of other nations and to obliterate, as far as we can from our relations one toward another, differences of creed in particular. The honorable member for Reid raised this question in a directly racial manner. I wish to make it quite plain that I am ‘utterly opposed to the manoeuvres of the honorable gentleman in his endeavour to raise issues which are not for the benefit of Australia. I make it plain, too, that I think that some criticism can be directed to some types of migrants who are coming here. But, that matter is entirely dissociated from the motion of the honorable member for Reid which is the sequel to an allegation he made in this House some time ago that a racket existed which allowed Jewish people to come here. He associated with that allegation the name of his predecessor as the representative of the division of Reid. It is quite clear that his charge of corruption against Mr. Morgan, while he was the member for Reid, with which he also associated other members of the House, was entirely without foundation. I therefore gladly avail myself of the opportunity to record my disgust at this type of allegation which is being made only too freely in this House. The honorable member for Reid will never enlist my support of any action of his in this House unless be has some substantive matter to submit, for I have a very clear recollection of his record of destruction in New South Wales not long ago—
– Order ! That has no relation whatever to the matter before the Chair. The honorable member must direct his remarks to the motion.
– I now direct myself to the motion.
– I hope that the ‘ honorable member will not stray again.
– I shall not do so, Mr. Speaker, unless I do it inadvisedly.
The motion seeks to have laid upon the table of the House certain papers in relation to alien immigrants who arrived from the Middle East on Strathmore. The ‘ events in relation to the matter were explained by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) but because his explanation was not accepted the Minister made the papers available to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and others. I suggest that that procedure is hardly one that should be pursued as a matter of general practice. When a charge is made it should not be difficult to answer it, especially when it is asserted that something underhand has occurred in relation to the matters of the charge. But it is now suggested that the papers should be placed upon the table because there may be something in them which would be to the disadvantage of the Government and which would reveal corruption.
In these circumstances a question of public policy presents itself for determination. lt appears to me that in these days there is a strange curiosity on the part of some people concerning the details of the lives of other people. We have even found that certain Ministers have their own informers in public departments. The honorable member for Reid is seeking to have placed upon the table particulars in relation to certain individuals which are of a confidential nature. The issue which we have to face, it seems to me, is whether there is any substance, as a matter of public policy, in this motion, or whether it is designed simply to attract publicity to the honorable member for Reid. I believe that the second suggestion is the true one. I do not believe therefore that the time of the House should he taken up any more than is required to offer a few observations on these issues. If these papers are produced as desired by the motion then it seems to me that it would establish a precedent that once a charge is levelled against any department the papers will be required to be produced, with, the result that the lack of secrecy which is developing in public departments, regrettable as it may be to have to say it, will be increased, and nobody’s confidential papers will be free from publicity.
The papers asked for relate to the entry of 200 persons on Strathmore, the original applications for permission to enter with the recommendations thereon, and the text of certain representations made through Australia House to the British Minister for Transport. The papers have already been placed before the Leader of the Opposition. It must be quite clear from that fact that if there were any grounds for support of this motion from this side of the House, such support would have been forthcoming. It is equally clear to me that, on the production to the Leader of the Opposition of the papers sought by the honorable member for Reid, nothing was revealed that called for inquiry. Consequently I oppose the motion. I oppose it also because I believe that we must record in this House our disapproval of the action of the honorable member for Reid. He wishes to make it appear that he is a great defender of all democratic principles. That is the last thing I believe of him; whatever else I may believe. He wants to make it appear that he is concerned with public propriety. I do not believe that he is concerned with it in any way. He is concerned with beating the anti-semitic drum because he knows that many people will answer. Whatever we may believe of some of the Jewish immigrants who ha.ve come to this country, the worst thing that could happen is to permit an increase of racial or religious intolerance in Australia. When I spoke on this subject about three years ago, I drew attention to what seemed to me to be the real problem: how do we propose to attract people to this country when our habit is to accuse newcomers of being foreigners, and to become intolerant towards them on racial grounds? I urge the Minister, when considering applications for permits in future, to make more careful investigation regarding the types for whom the applications are sought, but at the same time I condemn the attempt by the honorable member for Reid, through this motion, to raise the issue of racial and religious intolerance.
.- It is very interesting to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) relative to the motion before the Chair, and particularly that part of his speech which related to the attitude of the Opposition. It is extremely gratifying to see that among their number there is one at least to protest against the wave of anti-semitism which is sweeping the country. Perhaps all the members of the Opposition do not subscribe to the same liberal - I use the term in its broadest sense - principles as those voiced by the honorable member for Warringah. This is quite obviously an unworthy motion, and not a genuine attempt to get further information relative to the unfortunate persons who came to this country on Strathmore. It is an attempt r,o revive the waning excitement about those few thousand persons who sought sanctuary in this country from oppression abroad. There is far too much narrow nationalism amongst us. For some reason we are constrained to label foreigners who migrate to Australia as “ refos “ or “dagoes” or “scowegians” or some other term designed to set them apart from the rest of the population. This is a relic, of our isolation, and it is something to be deplored, instead of being encouraged by certain kinds of newspapers and politicians who, whenever they see something in the national gutter which can be dragged out at the end of a. stick, are disposed to say “ this is good stuff “. We must develop a broader outlook.
However, to return to the narrow limits of the argument about what happened or did not happen on Strathmore, we find that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has been completely vindicated. All the charges made against him have been proved to be without substance, and it has been established that a reasonable arrangement was entered into for the transport of cer tain persons from Europe - persons who had been through a period of some anxiety and, in some instances, in fear of their lives during the war. The controversy has emphasized the dignity with which the whole affair has been conducted by the Minister for Immigration. He has taught us a lesson in good clean Australianism. He is not Jewish or partisan ; he is an Australian who can see both sides of a question, uninfluenced by a noisy press or by the rabble outside. For his conduct he must win the applause of honorable members on both sides of the House. As he has pointed out, statistics show that we have lost more population in recent years than we have gained by immigration. During 1946, our population decreased by some thousands, so that it may be said that our immigration scheme has not yet begun. Despite that, because we have decided, in common with other responsible members of the United Nations, to relieve the plight of some of the first victims of Hitlerism, a cry has gone up that we are filling the country with aliens. The Government has decided to call them new citizens, to bed them down, as it were, in their new homes, and not to listen to objections from the Opposition or from interests outside this House.
Our national attitude towards immigration worries me more than does the local press or an occasional demagogue seeking temporary limelight. Our fear of strangers arises from the fact that, in the past, strangers came here to plunder us. They were the bankers from overseas or the pastoralists, and their purpose was to “ shear “ Australia. They wanted to get something out of the country, to live lush and free on the best parts, and let the rest go to pot. There is in the minds of the working people of Australia, as the result of such experiences extending over 150 years, an element of fear regarding strangers, because in the past we did not always have the best strangers here. Instead, we had strangers who came here to exploit the country, and that is the reason for our xenophobia. That is one of the deadly diseases from which we suffer, and we must cure it before we can claim to be a true member of the United Nations, joined with other nations in amity and peace. If we consider our record for the absorption of aliens in this country, which is crying out for settlement, it will be seen that our contribution to the problem is pitifully small. In Switzerland, alone, there are thousands of displaced persons from Germany and Austria, and other parts of Europe.Up to the present time-
– The honorable member is getting away from the terms of the motion before the House. The subject of immigration generally can be discussed more properly during the debate on the statement made to-day by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). On this motion the honorable member must confine himself to discussing the request that certain papers be tabled.
– The honorable member who preceded me discussed the subject of anti-semitism. The subject of the persons who came to Australia on Strathmore has caused people to leap up in their places, even in this House, and give definite indications of an antisemitic bias. I refer in particular to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) for whose gallantry in action I have the highest admiration, but somewhere between the jungles of New Guinea and the jungles of politics he has become hopelessly bewildered. References of the crudest nature have been made to Jews.
– What has this to do with the motion?
– I was referring to the refugees who came here on Strathmore. Am I permitted to continue?
– The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– The matter of Strathmore brings clearly before us the fact that a wave of anti-semitism has been sweeping Australia. There was never any real sincerity behind the present attack. It has been merely a game of Jew-baiting from beginning to end, and as such is unworthy of Australia and of the Australian people. I trust that it will be dismissed at its true value.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business, be considered forthwith.
.- I second the motion. In doing so, Mr. Speaker, am I permitted to speak to the motion?
– The honorable member is entitled to speak to the motion made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
– The motion standing in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper. (Sir Earle Page)reads as follows: -
That far the opinion- of. thi si House: the Con monwealth Government should immediately/ make a gift to the United Kingdom Government* of foodstuffs to the value of £25,000,000 in order- to- assist in alleviating the undernourishment of the British people and encouraging them, in their heroic efforts towards recovery.
I propose to speak not on the question embraced’ in that motion, but on the rights of honorable members and their need to discuss the motion at this particular time. Whether there should be an effectivefood contribution to the people of Great Britain, and the circumstances that exist in that country are matters that concern very deeply the Australian people to-day. The object of the motion, is to give to. the Parliament and to the people of Australia, an opportunity to demonstrate their sympathy with and appreciation of the conditions’ in which the people of Great Britian find themselves- today. If the’ motion before the Chair be not carried - and it appears- to be- the intention of the Government to- apply the gag- in- order toprevent it from being- carried - there will be no possibility of discussing the proposed gift of food to- Great Britain feral: least/ another month. In accordance’ with the Standing Orders, the motion will remain on the notice-paper until next grievance day, a month hence. In the meantime the situation in GreatBritain
– Order ! _ The honorable member knows that he. may not discuss that aspect of the matter.
– There is, in my opinion, and, I submit, in the opinion of this House, no matter of greater urgency for consideration by this Parliament than the motion standing on the noticepaper in the name of the right honorable’ member for Cowper. Now is the timefor consideration of that motion. If theGovernment refuses the Parliament an opportunity to discuss- the motion now it shows its lack of appreciation, of what the Australian people expect of it.
.- I understand that if this motion be not carried the House will then, proceed to the discussion of grievances-. Therefore theissue before, the House is the relative urgency, importance and merit of a discussion of grievances as against a discussion of. a proposal to vote £25,000,000 worth of foodstuffs- to Great Britain. I submit that there can be- no argument as to tha relative urgency of these- two matters. The plight of the people of the United Kingdom is too well known, to need recapitulation?-
– Order !’
– No opportunity has been given to this Parliament to discuss what may be done to aid the people of Great Britain, and consequently, that opportunity is now sought to be created by the motion of which the- right honorable member foi” Cowper has1 given notice. It would be a grave reflection; upon this Hoarse, which I am sure, would’ not passunnoticed in the United Kingdom, if by its numbers the Government deliberately debarred honorable members of an opportunity to discuss the urgent necessity for the despatch of foodstuffs to the people of Great Britain who are so desperately- in need:. J. trust that, the Government by refusing, to permit the discussion- of. measures designed to provide such a tremendous quantity of. foodstuffs to our kith, and kin in Great Britain will not ea<rn fon this Parliament a reputation which will remain forever a blot on its- escutcheon. If the discussion is permitted opportunity will be taken to reveal to the Government, which is- unconvraced on the point, that it is possible to provide such a’ vast quantity- of food.
– Order-! The honorable member may proceed along thoselines only if the motion now before theChair be carried.
– I am merely pointing out what should be discussed.
– And. I am drawing, the honorable, member’s attention to. the restrictions imposed by the Standing Orders;
– If we are- not enabled to speak to his motion membersof the Australian Country party, whohave specialized knowledge of the production of foodstuffs, will be- debarred from informing- the Govern? ment of measures which we areconvinced would result in. making; available the vast quantity of foodstuffs so desperately needed by the people of Great Britain. Because I arn in no doubt as to the inclination of honorable members on this side of the House I urge the Government not to use its numbers to dismiss this motion and to transform this place for the rest of the day into an arena in which electorate and parochial grievances may be aired, but rather to permit us to avail ourselves of the opportunity for debating on the highest plane a matter of tremendous consequence and urgency to the people of Great Britain.
– I rise to order. On the notice-paper provision is made for general business to have precedence until 9 p.m. Under the heading “Notices of Motion” are listed three notices of motion and one order of the day. Standing Order 119, to which you, Mr. Speaker, have frequently referred, reads -
If nil motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order, the orders of the day shall he taken in rotation; but if there should be no order of the day, the discussion on motions may be continued. The consideration of motions may be resumed after orders of the day are disposed of.
I point out that the debate on the motion in the name of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) was dealt with in accordance with the Standing Orders. I therefore contend that, until 9 p.m., according to the notice-paper before us, the remaining items of general business should have precedence and, accordingly, that ‘the motion “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair “ will not be in order until 9 p.m. Under my interpretation of the Standing Orders the business of private members, namely, the. motions standing in the names of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) constitute the proper business to be dealt with at this stage.
– The honorable member has raised a very interesting point. There is no doubt in my mind that Standing Order 119 is in some respects mandatory; but in this case the main consideration i3 to be found in th« latter portion of it. Whilst one portion of the Standing Order is mandatory, the latter portion appears to leave it entirely in the hands of the House itself to determine what matter should be discussed.
– Are you not overlooking the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the notice-paper, which is printed and circulated, not on the authority of the officials of the House, .but of the Government itself, states that general business shall have precedence until 9 p.m.? I put it that in view of the fact that the concluding sentence of Standing Order 119 is not mandatory, and as there has been no decision of the House to proceed with the consideration of government business, private members’ business should take precedence now.
– I was a member of the Standing Orders Committee when proposed alterations of the Standing Orders dealing with the question of times and motions for the adjournment of the House were dealt with. It will be remembered that in the past, before the Standing Orders were amended, motions for the adjournment of the House automatically expired two hours after the meeting of the House. The Standing Orders Committee was of the opinion that that provision rendered impossible the appropriate discussion of the matter raised, and accordingly the time was extended to two hours after the motion had been proposed. The committee considered that the phrasing of Standing Order 119 plainly indicated that, after orders of the day had been disposed of, the House would automatically resume the consideration of motions. Had there been any fear on the part of the members of the Standing Orders Committee - it was an all-party committee - the phrasing of Standing Order 119 would have made the matter mandatory rather than permissive, as it is now.
-Is the right honorable gentleman able to point out any standing order that fixes 9 p.m.?
– No, I am not raising that point. I am pointing out the procedure that should be followed in cases such as this. It was felt that Grievance
Day belonged exclusively to private members. It was thought, however, that the good sense of the House and sane decency in debate would govern the position, and that no question such as that now confronting us would arise.
– I again rise to order. I submit that the structure of the notice-paper and the placing upon it by the Government of a notification that general business shall take precedence until 9 p.m. precludes the bringing forward of other business before that hour unless the Prime Minister or some other Minister moves that government business be discussed before 9 p.m. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the intention of this notice-paper, as it is prepared and supplied to honorable members, is that Grievance Day, which is provided for under Standing Order No. 241, shall be taken in the Government’s time and not in private members’ time. Therefore, until all notices on motion on the noticepaper by private members under general business have been disposed of, government business* cannot be proceeded with. I put it to the Prime Minister that, unless that is the decision of the Chair, this notice-paper is untruthful and misleading to honorable members.
– I have no reason to deviate from my previous ruling. I am guided by Standing Order 119. I find no reference in the Standing Orders to government business taking precedence after 9 p.m. So my only guide is the Standing Order which must he observed unless the House otherwise decides. Standing Order 119 is mandatory in certain sections, but it appears to me that in the situation that lias arisen it is entirely within the discretion of the House to decide what shall be done. Let me cite the parts that I think are mandatory - something that must be done, unless otherwise ordered by the House -
If all Motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for -the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted.
That is definite - “shall be interrupted “. It goes on -
Unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.
That indicates that although at first the Standing Order appears to be mandatory, the House is entitled to express a contrary opinion. It says -
The Orders of the Day will be taken in rotation: but if there should be no Order of the Day, the discussion on motions may be continued.
This is the vital part of the Standing Order-
The consideration of Motions may be resumed after the Orders of the Day are disposed of.
I cannot place any other interpretation on, that Standing Order than that consideration may be resumed of motions if the House so orders. That is my ruling and unless the House does order otherwise, I propose to proceed with the business.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker-
– The motion before the House is “ That the question be now put “.
– I think that a motion of privilege suddenly arising may be moved at any time.
– The motion is “ That the question be now put “. Th« question is -
That Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business, be considered forthwith.
Question put -
That the question bc now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business, be considered forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Before you, Mr. Speaker, put the question on which the last division was taken, I rose in my place and stated that I desired to raise a -matter of privilege. You overruled me, and I had no opportunity to submit the point.
– Order ! The honorable member has not correctly stated the position. He knows perfectly well that when Mr. Speaker is on his feet, he must be heard in silence. 1 had risen, and was about to state the question. At that stage, the honorable member had no right to intervene. However, he now has the right to raise his question of privilege.
– With respect, Mr. Speaker, I desireto take exceptionto your remarks.
– Order !
– I sprang to my feet as quickly as I could immediately thequestion had been decided. I could not have been quicker if I had had springs in my heels.
– Order ! This is not a question of agility but of the Standing Orders.
– I direct attention to Standing Order 284, which provides -
All questions of Order and matters of Privilege, at any time arising shall, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other Question.
I contend that I should have been given the opportunity, before the question was put, to state my point of privilege.
– The honorable gentleman was just a victim of an unusualcoincidence.
.-I move -
That Notice of Motion No. 3, General Business, be considered forthwith.
Once again, the House has the opportunity either to discuss a substantive notice of motion dealing with a subject which relates to the seniority of members of the Commonwealth Public Service or to allow private members to ventilate their grievances; The number of occasions on which a member of the Opposition, or a private member supporting the Government has an opportunity to initiate a debate; isvery limited. This happens to be one of them-. I’ contend that the Government should not gag the debate which I have now initiated or deny to the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) the opportunity to present his case. The purpose of his motion is to preserve the rights of thousands of members of the Public Service. To them, few things are more important than is their seniority. This motion, if proceeded with, will enable honorable members to discuss and reacha decision upon the matter of seniority. At the same time, the very fact that an honorable member places a motion upon the notice-paper - this is his only opportunity to initiate a debate - is a grave step, because, his action in doing so automatically limits the rights of honorable members to otherwise debate the subject or ask questions relating to it. One of the original purposes of the parliamentary institution was to give to the elected representatives of the people the opportunity to raise issues affecting the citizens and reach a decision upon them. A government should not deprive honorable members of that right. As the guardian of the rights of. the Australian people, this Government should not deny the House the right to discuss a matter which affects thousands of Commonwealth employees. I strongly urge the Government to allow the debate on the motion of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to proceed. If it refuses to do so honorable members will be debarred even from asking questions on this subject. Having “gagged” one debate earlier this afternoon, the Government should not make a habit of shelving substantive motions. The Prime Minister. (Mr. Chifley) does not desire the House to proceed to consider, urgent government business. If the motion be defeated, “ Grievance Day “ will be called on. I do not belittle the necessity for “ Grievance Day “, and for privatemembers to have a. regular opportunity to voice their complaints in this House. But I base my claim on this issue on the relative urgency and importance of these two opportunities to employ the time of the House, and therefore, I urge the Government to permit the discussion forthwith of notice of Motion No. 3 of. General Business.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion. Private members in this chamber have fewer opportunities to bring matters of importance before the Parliament than have members of the State parliaments. A few days ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who is a man of considerable standing and responsibility in the community, gave notice of a motion for the specific purpose of providing an opportunity for discussion to-day. The Parliament should be prepared in the limited time available to it, to give him an opportunity to state his case on the issue.. The subject affects many thousands of Commonwealth public servants, and the right honorable gentleman regards it as being of considerable importance. I do not propose to state my views now at any great length, because the time which will remain for the debate, even if the House agrees to the motion, will be only one hour. I support the views expressed by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen).
.- Private members are allowed a very limited time in which to raise matters in this House. They have rights in this chamber to represent their constituents: With private members time, no government should interfere. When the government does interfere, this period ceases to be private, members’ time. Sometimes, people who are not present have to give decisions, and they might not know anything of what has occurred in the Parliament. Any motion which is submitted in private members’ time does not determine the fate of the government. Whatever happens in that period, the government can ignore. But once the government intervenes in private members’ time and declares, as it has done this afternoon, that it controls private members’’ time, votes which are recorded in such periods may affect, years hence, the fate of a government. The procedure and the Standing Orders of this Parliament are based upon those of the Mother of Parliaments. In the Mother of Parliaments, time is provided to enable private members to raise matters which they consider to be of importance. Bills with world-wide implications, and of great importance to the human race, have been introduced to the Mother of Parliaments in private members’ time and after years of work, persistence and energetic application, the legislation has been placed upon, the statute-book of Great Britain for the benefit of mankind. I need only mention one example, the Plimsol] mark. If successive governments in the House of Commons had taken the steps that this Government took this afternoon,
Hie world would have been poorer in its legislation for humanity. For the Government to interfere in private members’ time is wrong. It is against the principles of democratic government, and eventually will do an injury to the cause of the Parliament itself. I make those statements in all seriousness and earnestness. Let us forget what happened earlier this afternoon; but in future, for the sake of the parliamentary institution and of democracy itself, we should ensure that private members’ time be devoted to the purpose for which it is intended. If it is not to be, then again, for the sake of the Parliament, let us abolish private members’ time. Let us not be guilty of pretence and fraud. Let us be honest.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– The question before the Chair is whether the motion on the notice-paper in the name of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) should be proceeded with. If I were certain that the Government intended to respect the rights of private members in the future on matters of this description, I might be a little more lenient towards it in my remarks to-night; but, having regard to our experience this afternoon, the Government has given no indication that it intends to change its attitude on this matter. The point made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), with whom I am sorry to have to agree on this occasion, was very good. He pointed out that the Plimsoll mark was introduced as the result of the advocacy of private members in the House of Commons. If it were not for private members in that Parliament, we should not, perhaps, have seen the abolition of slavery and the introduction of reforms in prisons and factories in Great Britain. Those reforms resulted mainly from the activities of private members of parliament. The right honorable member for Darling Downs has held a commission from the Governor-General as Prime Minister in this Parliament, and he has seen fit to give notice of a motion which appears in his name on to-day’s noticepaper. Notice of another motion appears in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who also has been Prime Minister of this country. The Government is guilty of an act of unusual discourtesy towards those right honorable gentlemen, who have held such responsible positions and have achieved such outstanding records in the Parliament, when it refuses to allow them to place their cases before the Parliament. Both the motions, the merits of which I am precluded from discussing, are of first-class importance. The Government would not attempt to deny that fact. If private members are not to have time allotted to them, if to-day’s noticepaper does not mean what it says, if it is a false and, virtually, a fraudulent document, as it would appear to be from certain things done this afternoon, then there is nothing for honorable members to do but use whatever time and opportunity they can under the Standing Orders to ensure that private business is discussed. If I had my way I would ensure, as the result of what happened this afternoon, that a formal adjournment motion was moved every day until the Government gave an indication that it intended to be reasonable and decent in respect of matters which private members wish to discuss. We get little enough time as it is. We are allowed one day a month to discuss private members’ business. We cannot tolerate the action of the Government in muzzling honorable members in this fashion and denying them their rights as it did this afternoon. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) should just about blush the next time he meets representatives of small nations. What chance has a private member against a government such as this? Should the Treasurer depart somewhere else, I, being a small man, should not like bo ask him for an overdraft. The Government attitude will not redound to its credit, or contribute to the harmony of proceedings in this chamber. Neither will it help to save time, because I warn the Government that the Standing Orders are so framed that, should the Government want to play a little game of rough and tumble with respect to the order in which business shall be brought before the House, then I am prepared to play the same game; and it will find that I am not inexperienced in that sphere.
.- The protests uttered by my colleagues are very timely. The Government is making a practice of denying private members their rights. One cannot discuss the merits of any of these proposals, but I point out that on several occasions during the last three years, I have brought up the subject of the notice of motion standing in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is an ex-Prime Minister of this country, with respect to the supply of foodstuffs to Great Britain.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The Government’s action this afternoon is becoming a habit. Last session, a notice of motion stood in my name on the notice-paper relating to pensions for war widows and dependants, of servicemen; but the day before that motion was due to be discussed, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) moved that government business take precedence over all other business, with the result that my motion was not considered at all. Private members rarely have opportunities to bring forward matters of importance. Private business is considered only on one day each month, but two months may elapse before a particular motion may be discussed; and whenever that opportunity is afforded the Government treats honorable members in a cavalier fashion. This is a deliberative assembly. We come here, not at the will of the Prime Minister or of the Government’; we are elected by the people, and every honorable member, so long as he observes the Standing Orders, has the right to discuss matters of urgent concern to his constituents and the nation generally. To-day, the Government has shown grave discourtesy to two ex-Prime Ministers, whilst the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) was not allowed to conclude her remarks when dealing with the motion in her name.
– Order ! That is a reflection upon a decision of the House.
– The Government is overriding the rights of private members. Its attitude should not be tolerated. I hope that it will take heed of our protests, and that even at this ho ir the debate on the motion in the name of the right honorable member for Darling Downs will be allowed to proceed.
.- The practice of the House has been to give precedence to private members’ business on one day a month. Motions in the names of private members concern matters of national importance. For the remainder of the month, on each day the House sits, government business takes precedence; but to-day, and this becoming increasingly the case, the Government has sought to curb the right of private members to bring before the Parliament matters of extreme importance to the nation. There can be only one reason for the Government’s attitude. The Government is afraid df unhindered criticism. Otherwise, there would not be this haste on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to apply the gag on each occasion an embarrassing matter is raised. So far as my experience goes, no Prime Minister has shown greater contempt for parliamentary tradition and practice than the right honorable gentleman. If it pleases him, he comes into the House, and although he does -not say so in so many words, his actions amply demonstrate his attitude that he has the numbers and the Opposition cannot do anything about it. At the last general elections, 4S pet cent, of electors voted for members of the Opposition. The fact remains that we on this side of the chamber represent a substantial minority of the people of Australia, and that minority ‘has a right to have its voice heard, especially on a day that is set apart particularly for private members’ business. The Opposition would be failing in its duty if it were to permit, without protest, the whittling down of the privileges of members of the Parliament merely because the Prime Minister would be inconvenienced-to arse the mildest possible term - by criticism. To-day, we have had before us three motions that have been on the notice-paper of this House for some time. Naturally, we expected that we would have -an opportunity to discuss these matters, but the Government has endeavoured to ‘“gag” discussion of them. No reason is apparent for that attitude, other than that the Government is afraid to stand up to legitimate criticism. In common with other members of my party, I cannot allow the occasion to pass without registering an emphatic protest. Toleration of action such .as this without a -stern effort to resist it, would be the beginning of the end of democratic government. This is typical of action taken in the early days -of totalitarian States, where the weight of numbers was used to suppress minorities. Although the Prime Minister does not have his opponents taken out and put against a wall, he is em-ploying every means in his power to deny them the right to be heard in this Parliament. I trust that this will be the last occasion on which the rights of private members will be filched f rom them in this manner.
.- I support the protest that ‘has been made against “this attempt to deprive honorable members of the right of free speech in this House. I snail ‘not repeat the various reasons ‘that have been advanced for this protest, but I wish to bring to the notice of honorable members another aspect of the matter. Regulations must be laid upon the table of the House within fifteen sitting days of th’eir promulgation, and the Government, by its failure to permit a discussion of Statutory Rules 1946, No. 120, which embody 1?h’e regulations within, the prescribed period, will force us to take action on some other occasion. I recall having given notice on a previous Occasion of my intention to move for the disallowan’ce of ‘a certain regulation. The then Prime Minister, recognizing the importance of the matter, permitted a discussion which occupied almost an entire day, ‘during which ‘government business in this ‘chamber was suspended. This motion is equally important, but the present Prime Minister (Mr. -Chifley) has n’ot been so generous.
.- -Both in the British Parliament and in this Parliament the necessity to grant to (private members the right to express their -opinions on important issues is recognized and it has been the practice for governments to allow private members’ business to take .precedence over government business on one day -in -each month. This .tradition had been honoured for many years both in the Mother of Parliaments and in this legislature. This is the only opportunity that private members have to move for the disallowance of regulations, unless the Government is prepared to allow time for this to be done on other sitting days. It is a public safeguard in the face of the .growing tendency for governments to govern by regulation rather than by legislation. “ Grievance Day “ is supposed to be sacred to private members. This is a matter that is vital to every member of the Parliament, because sooner or later a private member who is a Government supporter will wish to discuss a matter that does not come within the ambit of the Government’s programme or policy, and he will be precluded from doing so in the same manner as discussion of this motion is being shelved. It is strange, indeed, that the privileges of private members should be interfered with by a .government. I had never seen this happen until the present
Government assumed office. The Government said, in effect, to the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) “ You cannot discuss that matter any longer “.
– Order ! The House has already decided that matter.
– The Government has decreed that we may not discuss matters of vital importance such as the sending of food to Great Britain.
-Order! The subject before the chair is notice of motion No. 3 on the notice-paper.
– The Government has decreed that private members may not discuss the question of regulations applying to the Public Service. The three notices of motion are as wide apart as the poles. We cannot discuss the poor old black fellow, the starving people of Great Britain, or certain regulations applying to the Public Service. I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). That private members of this Parliament should be denied the right on the day set down in the Standing Orders as private members’ day, to state their views on important matters, is dictatorship in its worst form. I cannot understand honorable members opposite acquiescing in this action. Ministers, of course, have to abide by Cabinet decisions, but how any reasonable man sitting behind the Government, who is not a moron, can stand for this sort of thing I do not know.
– It is extraordinary that when honorable members supporting the Government remain silent on matters such as this they are accused of being dumb and not courageous enough to express their opinions and when they rise to say something, they are chided with having broken the Government’s silence. Honorable members opposite apparently want to have it both ways, but any one who has been in this Parliament for long knows that no honorable member can have it both ways, no matter which side of the House he may be on. Right down through the years, it has been the practice for governments to arrange the order of business in both Houses of theParliament. It is true that in the Mother of Parliaments and in this Parliament it has been the practice to set aside one day each month for private members’ business. That custom has been honoured through the years, sometimes more in the breach than in the observance. I have been a member of this Parliament long enough to know the practice. “ Grievance Day “ has often been used in this House for the discussion of government business, and it is useless for the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to deny the fact. The right honorable gentleman was a member of a government which frequently used “ Grievance Day “ for the purpose of dealing with its own business. Every government has done likewise. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) favoured that practice in the days when he was a Minister.
– He must have had a good reason for doing so.
– Yes, the reason being that he was supported by a majority of the House. The situation to-day is no different from that which has existed throughout the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is wrong of the right honorable member for Cowper to suggest, for the benefit of his radio audience, that this Government is doing something that he and his supporters did not do years ago. The time alloted to-day, for the discussion of private members’ grievances could have been profitably used by honorable members opposite, and by Government supporters as well, in debating important matters instead of in attacking the Government. Honorable members opposite should not try to anticipate discussion of items already on the notice-paper under the heading of “ Government Business “. That is not the purpose of “ Grievance Day “. They have been given the opportunity to discuss their grievances. They have declined to do so, and now they are becoming hot and bothered because they have not been allowed to arrange the business of the House to suit their own inclinations. This Government is here to govern. The people gave it a mandate to do so only a few months ago, when they endorsed the Labour party’s policy at the elections.
– And they have regretted it ever since.
– They will enjoy the benefits of the legislation which the Government will enact in the next few months. They can expect something more than ihe 28 per cent, tax reduction promised by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), or the 20 per cent, reduction promised by another right honorable member.
-Order! That has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I merely wish to refute the charges made against this Government by the right honorable member for Cowper. He said that the Government had departed from the practice of previous governments. That is not true. Private members have been given an opportunity to-day to voice their grievances. The Government gives them such opportunities whenever possible. Sometimes pressure of business prevents it from doing so, but that is not new. The Opposition parties, which are so blatant in their criticism of this Government, did likewise when they were in power.
– I voice my objection to the action of the Government in depriving honorable members generally,, particularly those on the back benches and those who represent outlying electorates, from exercising fully the privilege that is accorded to them not more than once a month. I, too, am surprised at the Government’s action in deliberately defeating the purpose of “ Grievance Day.”
– Why does the honorable member call it a privilege? It is a right.
– Yes. As the honorable member said this afternoon, it is a right that ha3 come down to us from the Mother of Parliaments. In my student days, I was taught that metrology could be defined as the science of measure, and that measure is size in relation to a standard.
-Order! Can the honorable member point out what metrology has to do with the motion before the Chair?
– I propose to speak of a standard of parliamentary procedure, and I wish to emphasize my point by employing an analogy.
-The Chair proposes to apply a standard to the honorable member. His remarks are out of order.
– By what standard can the people of Australia measure the actions of the Government to-day? Is it a standard of ethics, or a standard of truth? I believe that it is a standard of “ shame, -which we on this side of the chamber must expose. I shall define shame. This Government has no shame about anything which the public knows nothing about. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who laughs, does not seem to have studied the works of a well-known philosopher Aristophanes who lived in the fourth century B.C. He said that shame was the apprehension of a vision reflected from the surface of opinion - the opinion of the public. I say that this Government was apprehensive this’ afternoon. It indicated that it was apprehensive, and that it was already ashamed of itself, by depriving the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) of the opportunity to submit motion No. 2, general business in his name.
-Order! The honorable member knows very well that that was a decision of the House, which must not be reflected upon except when moving for the rescission of the motion.
– Then am I permitted to discuss motion No. 3 in the name of the right honorable member for Darling Downs?
-I thought that that was the -motion that the honorable member was discussing.
– The fact is that the Government was apprehensive of what would be discussed on the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper. I bow to your ruling, Sir, that I may not discuss that motion, but I warn the Government that it should look to its laurels now before the people see its shame. I hope that, in future, it will adopt the principle advocated by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and never permit a repetition of such a disgraceful occurrence as we have witnessed to-day.
.- The tactics which members of the Opposition are pursuing–
– Are not new.
– That is true; but, since I have been, in this House, they have never been persisted in to the point of stonewalling. When the Labour party was in opposition, it filled the business paper with notices of motion, but although this Parliament has been in existence since November last, the Opposition has so little in the way of troubles or grievances or “ belly-aches “ that there are only three notices of motion on the notice-paper for discussion. That seems to indicate that the Opposition has very little to complain of, compared with what we had to complain of when we were in opposition. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a member of a government which was very severe in curtailing the privilege* of private members. On the eve of every private member’s day the then Prime Minister, now Viscount Bruce, used to give notice that on the next day of sitting, he would move that government business take precedence of all other business. I, myself, had on the notice-paper a motion during the term of office of three different governments.
– Oil from coal !
– No, it was not oil from coal, and neither was it bounties for hungry farmers. It was not until 1940, when the Government and the Opposition had equal numbers in this chamber, that I got the motion through. Its purpose was to ensure that invalids living in the homes of their parents should be eligible to receive the invalid pension, and the permissible income was raised to £2 10s. a week for each family unit. The policy of past governments of all descriptions has been to restrict the right of private members to introduce business. When the present Opposition constituted the government, that was its policy. The principal opposition party has had three different names since I have been a member of this House.
– The honorable member for Hunter must understand that the question before the Chair is that notice of motion No. 3 be taken forthwith.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I am trying to point out why it should not be taken forthwith. The Government is charged with the responsibility of putting through the Parliament legislation of great importance to the nation. The Opposition is stonewalling, and wilfully holding up the business of the country. The motion which it wishes to debate provides that Statutory Rules 1946, No. 120 shall be disallowed. No one can pretend that that is of any importance compared with the business which the Government wishes to consider. Such tactics will not win any votes for the Opposition. Since 2.30 p.m. to-day, the Opposition has prevented the Government from getting on with the business of the country, having apparently decided upon these tactics at its party meeting this morning. It is not right that matters of urgent public importance should be held up by such humbug.
– The question before the Chair is whether the motion standing in the name of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should be considered forthwith. So far as I have been able to learn, Government supporters have only one objection to this being done, namely, that some years ago governments also prevented the consideration of private members’ business. As a new member, I regard that as a very weak excuse. If honorable members opposite thought such action was wrong some years ago, surely they are not justified in acting as they are to-day. If it was wrong then, it is also wrong now, and I believe the position should be clarified. Private members’ day affords honorable members an opportunity to voice grievances, and I, who represent many primary producers in the Wimmera electorate, have several grievances which I wish to bring before the Parliament. I do not wish to take up too much time in discussing this matter, because I realize that the more time is spent on it the less time there will be in which to do any business. However, I enter a very strong protest on behalf, not only of my own constituents, but also of the constituents of every honorable member elected to this democratic Parliament.
– I should not have taken part in this debate had it not been for the fact that a responsible Minister sought to justify the action of the Government in robbing private members of an opportunity to discuss matters of public importance on the one day in the month allowed for this purpose. Strangely enough, he was supported by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). This is an extraordinary situation. It is ludicrous that the honorable member for Hunter, who always poses as the champion of the rights of the underdog, and of the rights of private members, should now seek to justify the Government’s action in preventing a debate on a private member’s motion. What is the position in respect of private members’ motions? As has been said by other honorable members, once a month private members have the right to bring before the House for the benefit of the country some matters which they regard as of urgent public importance. The forms of the House require a specific motion to be moved in order to initiate an ordered debate in regard to them, not the sporadic efforts of “ Grievance Day “, but the ordered debate to which we are accustomed on private members’ day. In this instance, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has moved “ That Statutory Rules 1946, No. 120, being amendments of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations, be disallowed “. Honorable members will know that a motion for the disallowance of a regulation must be brought before the House within fifteen sitting days after the regulation has been tabled, and that in order to enable a debate on the motion to proceed the motion must be discussed in this House at some stage prior to the lapse of the time allowed. Why, then, does the Government seek to prevent a debate on the motion at this juncture? It does so because it knows well that it will derive no credit from an ordered debate on the proposed amendments of the Pub lic Service Regulations. The Government says, in effect: “Let us dispose of this business which is of sufficient importance to warrant the leader of a responsible party in this House moving for a disallowance of certain regulations by preventing a debate from taking place. Let us, on the other hand, give honorable members an opportunity to “ grieve “ on a multiplicity of topics ; let them work the parish pump as much as they like ; but by no means let us permit an ordered debate in respect of regulations which are of great importance to members of the Public Service “. Why cannot the Government be honest and face up to the position and say : “ We are afraid to allow the debate to proceed at this juncture; we will allow you to discuss other matters, but will not allow you to criticize the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations”? Why does not the Government be honest and say : “ We do not intend to permit you to proceed along these lines; we have the numbers and we shall not hesitate to use them. This may be a deliberative assembly; it may be all the things that democracy claims as representing its highest achievement; but we have the numbers, and, although we claim to represent the under-privileged, if you dare to raise your voices in protest against what we lay down in regulations for the Public Service, we will use the weight of our numbers to bludgeon you into submission “ ? By this action the Government is striking right at the very roots of democracy. I appeal to private members opposite to stand up for their rights and not to allow the Government to bludgeon them into submission. Surely they are more than “Yes men”, more than mere rubber stamps. Is it the wish of public servants generally that the regulations be amended as the Government proposes ? If it were the Leader of the Australian Country party would not move for the disallowance of the statutory rule. It is possible that the right honorable gentleman may be wrong in his premises as to the suitability of the proposed amendments. That, however, will not be revealed until such time as open debate takes place and the Government is prepared to listen to the submissions of the right honorable gentleman. These are the simple fact? of the issue before us. We are coming to a sorry pass in this deliberative assembly when we find that honorable members sitting behind the Government are not prepared to uphold their rights and permit a debate on a matter which is of intense interest to the public servants whom, the Government controls, to take place. I join with my colleagues in registering a strong protest against this high-handed action on the part of the Government. We want an ordered debate on the subject ; we want the rights we have won over a long period of years to be preserved ; we want the Government to realize its responsibility in that regard, and accordingly we ask private members sitting behind the Government to support us in our determination to have these matters properly discussed in the National Parliament.
– I, too, protest against the curtailment of the rights of honorable members of this House. It has been pointed out that it is not a privilege but a right of private members to have set aside one day in each month on which to bring forward matters of vital public importance and have them thrashed out in the Parliament. The action of the Government in preventing a debate on the motion of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) cannot be excused on the ground that it has a big programme before it which must be disposed of. That fact is made apparent by the decision of the Government not to call Parliament together next Tuesday, as was intended, but to defer the commencement of the sitting next week until Wednesday.
– We will be playing cricket on Tuesday.
– Honorable members opposite are more concerned with sport than they are with looking after the rights of the public servants who will be affected by the amendments contained in the statutory rule which has been made the subject of a motion by the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– It is clear that honorable members opposite have not yet learned to play cricket.
– Another function is also to be held on Tuesday.
– The swearing in of the boilermaker !
– The Government apparently has no concern for the welfare of its many public servants. Within the last week or two there was a demonstration in Canberra which showed that there is seething discontent throughout the Public Service to-day because of the manner in which public servants have been treated by this Government. The Government has treated honorable members of this House with as much contumely as it treated representatives of the Public Service who came from all over the Commonwealth to interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) with regard to their grievances. What did the right honorable gentleman do when representatives of the Public Service organizations called upon him? He merely puffed his pipe and churlishly refused to meet them. Is that any way to treat men who came thousands of miles to interview him? His subordinate Ministers consented to talk to the representatives, not in their offices, but in the passages of this building. We are being prevented from discussing the urgent motion of the Leader of the Australian Country party simply because the Government does not wish it to be discussed. It is a poor look out for democracy when governments refuse to allow members of this House to express their views. The rights and privileges for which our ancestors fought for more than a thousand years, and which are the very cornerstone of the principles of freedom which the people of the British race so cherish are being steadily filched by the totalitarian government which occupies the treasury bench to-day. Tonight we had the spectacle of the demagogue from the Hunter electorate-
– I withdraw the word demagogue and substitute pedagogue.
– The honorable member must address other honorable members in a proper manner.
– Let the bull of New England say what he likes.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Hunter says our action will not get us votes. He may rest assured that what the Government has done will not improve its standing in the eyes of the people. I tell the honorable member for Hunter that the Opposition is not seeking votes. It is trying to preserve the sacred rights of the Parliament and to ensure that they shall not be jeopardized. It ill becomes an honorable member who represents the coal area on the lower Hunter to throw away the rights of the Parliament and chide us with merely seeking votes. “Whether we win votes or not, it is our bounden duty to preserve the rights and liberties of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I, too, protest at the curtailment of private members’ time in this House. I have found that if there is any matter that a private member wishes to be thoroughly debated, almost invariably he has to bring it up in some oblique fashion. Probably the motion for the adjournment of the House is the most effective. It is true, as to-day has thoroughly demonstrated, that a motion put on the notice-paper does not ensure proper debate of any matter at all. Another point that we have to consider is that this action by the Government is really a part of a pattern in which there is permitted in this House less and less discussion by private members. We are given insufficient time to debate not only private members’ business, but also the business initiated by the Government. How often in the last Parliament and this has time been reduced so that only four or five members of each of the parties on this side have been allowed to speak ! It has not been due to pressure of time. It is entirely necessary that this protest should be voiced particularly as the danger to this country is that the authority of the Parliament shall weaken and that another form of Government shall come to be accepted by the people. Such developments must be checked. Although we have an audience that is not present in the chamber and whether or not the Government has won a ta.cti.cal victory, the Parliamentary institution has lost.
– I enter an emphatic protest against the treatment of not only honorable members on this side but also myself in particular as the sponsor of a motion that has been on the notice-paper since the 5th December last. This is the second time I have received similar inconsiderate and callous treatment from the Government, for I placed on the notice-paper on the 29th August, 1945, a motion requesting that the Commonwealth Parliament extend a vote of appreciation to the Right Honorable Winston Churchill for the valuable service given by him to the British Empire and civilization generally. That motion has not. seen and never will see the light of day, because it has been wiped from the notice-paper. The churlish, inconsiderate state of mind of this power- drunk Administration is demonstrated by the merits of the motion that I have tried to debate to-day. In that motion I set out to remove an anomaly and a pronounced injustice to an important section of the Commonwealth Public Service. A contract dating back to 1924 under which certain public servants have worked has been utterly repudiated by virtue of Statutory Rules 1946, No. 120. I have moved for the disallowance of those statutory rules in order to remove an indisputable injustice, but the Government will not allow an opportunity for proper discussion of the matter. I challenge the Government to tell me to what extent Statutory Rules No. 120 concerns the Public Service and how far my complaint is justified. I do not think that one Minister has given the slightest consideration to the injustices inflicted by those statutory rules on a section of the Public Service. Is it any wonder that honorable members on this side are protesting against the callousness of the Government in stifling debate on the day set aside for the a ‘ring of grievances? The Government’s attitude is another reason why it should be censured in the eyes of all responsible Australians. Under this Administration the authority of the Parliament is being melted like ice cream in the sun. As the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) said, the Commonwealth Parliament’s existence is threatened by the Executive. Parliamentary debate is stifled not only on private members’ business, but also on government business. Government measures receive their greatest consideration first from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and then from the caucus, which is the instrument of that organization. More time is spent in discussing matters in the caucus than in the Parliament because of the Government’s habit of curtailing debate in this chamber. Therefore, we have the duty to ourselves and, what is more important, to the electorate, to utter the most vigorous protests possible against the course that the Administration is following. It is high time that the people of Australia learned bow parliamentary government and constitutional authority are endangered. It is time that they took stock and told the Government to take a round turn in order that democracy may be maintained to counteract the communistic undermining of constitutional .authority.
– I rise to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and I am sorry I did not have the opportunity to follow him. The honorable member said that he has been in this Parliament for nineteen years. I have been a member for as long a period. During that time there have been instances of motions by private members not being permitted, but never in the way that wo have witnessed to-day. On previous occasions a Minister has moved that government business take precedence over private member’s business towards the end of a session, but never in the earlier part of a session, or of a Parliament, have private members been denied the right to submit motions and never before has the present procedure been adopted against private members. The privileges of making motions has been handed down to us by the Mother of Parliaments
– The time allotted for the consideration of general business lias expired.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Government Publications - Wool - Wheat - -DRIED Fruits - Sale of Live-stock - Emigre Trade Preference - Use of Printing Paper - Import Licences : War-time Controls - Employment.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
.- The motion “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “ gives honorable members an opportunity to refer to some of the matters which are exercising their minds. I bring before the Parliament and the people the difficulties which lie in the way of a reduction of taxes and governmental expenditure, without which no proper progress can be made in this country. The per capita tax burden on the Australian people is the highest in the world, and even when it is reduced after the 1st July, as has been foreshadowed by thePrime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Australian people in all probability will still be the highest taxed citizens in the world. That burden has been made heavier by the Government’s policy of continuing: in the post-war period departments and undertakings which have no proper place- in peace-time. In order to illustrate my point I direct attention to some of theactivities of the Department of Post-war’ Reconstruction. Honorable members arefamiliar with the history of this organization. It came into being as the Department of War Organization of Industry during the war years, when its function was to rationalize Australian indus- ‘ tries during war-time. We recall, all too vividly and painfully, something of that process of rationalization. Although the department had been built up to considerable dimensions, and was spending a substantial sum of mony, it was believed by most people that after the war it would go out of existence. But that is not the practice of this Government; it delights in expanding services, and maintaining public expenditure at a record level. And so, after the war there was a metamorphosis; the Department of War Organization of Industry became the peace-time Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The idea, so we were told, was to give
Australia an orderly transition from the conditions of -war to the conditions of peace ; to assist industry through the difficulties in that period; and to ensure that there would be as little dislocation as possible in the economic and community life of the people. Judged by that criterion, and in the light of the chaotic state of Australia to-day, with shortages on all sides, despite full employment, the de-“ partment has ‘ damned itself and should have gone out of existence long ago. “What do we find? Instead of a decreasing staff and diminished activity, the department is expanding all the time. In order to determine whether we are getting value for our money let us examine some -of the activities of this mushroom department. An amount of £611,000 was set -aside in the budget this year for the -administrative expenses of the department That figure, of course, does not i represent the total cost to the community, ^because the department controls, or inter”fe”‘es with, many industries, and so the all-round cost to the community is considerably more. I draw attention to one phase of the department’s work. I have before me the Sixth Report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which was released to honorable members earlier this week. It is contained in a bound volume of 208 pages. At the same .time we were given a summary of the commission’s Tenth Report. Apparently, reports are to flow in for a considerable time to come. I do not know who reads these reports; I have asked many honorable members whether they read them, but no one has yet told me that he does. I doubt that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction himself has read them.
If these reports led one to think that Australian primary industries would produce a great deal more, as a result of them, one would feel less critical of them ; but, instead, one finds that Australia’s exports of meat, butter and other foodstuffs urgently needed in Britain are declining. Before the war, when there were no reports from the Rural Reconstruction Commission, our farmers, graziers, and other primary producers got along very well and produced much greater quantities of produce than they do to-day. Of this commission’s activities one can truly say that never was so much written by so many for so few. Although that is not the main ground of my criticism to-night, it leads to a more startling development of this department, startling because, in order to puff itself up and “justify this great expenditure, it has embarked upon the most brazen and impudent piece of fraud that has come to my notice in my parliamentary experience. I do not know how many officers there are in the department, but as more than 160 officers are in receipt of £500 a year and more the public must be shown something for its money. My attention has been drawn to one of the ways in which the public is misled as to the activities of this department. Some time ago the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) announced that the Government was sending technical men overseas, particularly to Germany. Later, we read that some of the members of these commissions had returned and that reports from them were flowing in. The Melbourne Argus of the 30th October last reported this fact, under the heading “ 2,000 Reports “ as follows : -
About 2,000 reports have been received from Australian technical missions in Germany and Japan, Mr. Dedman, Minister for Post-war “Reconstruction, said to-night.
Data from the reports were being prepared for distribution throughout Australia. Copies of reports would be lodged in main public libraries, chambers of manufactures, universities, technical colleges and government departments of industries in each State. Information from the reports would help in the expansion and modernization of technical processes of Australian industries.
– Are they not translations of German reports?
– Those to which I have referred are not. They are nothing more than a bare-faced “ crib “ of reports put out by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-committee. The implication clearly is that members of these, missions had sent back these reports, and that they would be of great interest to Australian industries. I have in- my hand some reports which illustrate my contention. The department has published nearly 200 of them. Three were issued by the British Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee. I am advised that of the 2,000 reports received, at least 95 per cent, consist of reports from British and American missions operating in Germany and other countries, and they had already been published overseas. All of these were available through His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, or the Department of Commerce, “Washington, and have been freely advertised for months past in lists of official British or American publications. They cannot be related in any way to the work of the Australian- missions, because those delegations did not reach Germany until January, 1946, and these reports had been published before that date. But that fact has not deterred the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. It takes the reports,, rips the covers off them and substitutes its own covers. One of those covers reads -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Technical Service to Industry.
German Photo Taking for the Detection of Infra. Red Radiation.
Secondary Industries Division, Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, Wentworth House, 203 Collins-street, Melbourne.
The same procedure has been extensively adopted. The reports issued through His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, have been taken in their entirety, reproduced even to the printing errors contained in them, and sent out as reports purporting to come from the Commonwealth Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
– Without any acknowledgment?
– No acknowledgement whatever to the source, and so far is this fraud carried that if honorable members will examine the reports - I shall gladly make them available - they will see that each of them contains a table of contents, beginning thus - “ Object of Visit; Targets Visited; Outline of Work done in Germany”. The impression would be conveyed to any person in Australian industry receiving those reports that they represented the work of the Australian technical missions which the Department of Post-war Reconstruction had sent abroad, and that the department was now generously making them available so that Australian industry could get the benefit of what had been done. Another impression conveyed would be that the taxpayer was getting value for his money.
-Is the honorable member aware that there wa.s an arrangement between the British and- Commonwealth Governments in, relation to this, matter
– I invite the honorable member for- Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to examine these documents. If he can find in them any acknowledgment to the people, who.- conducted those visits or any refer-ea.ee to the fact th.at they were not the work- qf the. Au.str-a.lian technical missions, there will be some substance in hi? statement. But if he does not admit, as one Minister to, whom I showed it admitted., that this is an outrageous piece qf work, I have misjudged his character very considerably.
I raise this matter because I believe that in Australia to-day, the tentacles of this bureaucratic octopus are spreading throughout the country and stifling the life of the Australian people. We must be on our guard against these developments. I make no attack against the Public Service proper. I know that public servants are men of capacity and industry, and I have frequently said so in this House; but it is a very understandable characteristic of human nature that if a person is placed *n a. position of authority in a government department or in private enterprise, he is apt to build up his position, hold on to his job, and maintain his security. I am not critical of them, but I am critical of a government which allows these conditions to continue. In this instance, I am informed, what has been done, was done under direct ministerial instruction, although objections were raised within the department itself. I have been informed also that one Australian technical expert feels too ashamed to return to England, because he knows that the British technicians will have found out by now what we have been doing. Surely the proper course would have been to state at the beginning of these documents that the reports had been prepared by officers sent by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-committee, or the authority concerned, and that they had been made available to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction ! But to have done that would have been to break down the effect on Australian industrialists. It would have made people realize that the work which was being done, was not on the scale that these reports suggest. This is a deliberate fraud on the part of the Minister. I invite him to give the reasons why these things have been done in this manner. In some instances, I repeat, it has not merely been a matter of substituting the department’s own covers for those on the original documents; the department has done the whole roneo job in Australia to the extent of reproducing the printing errors in the reports.
These matters, I believe, are indicative of what is happening in many Commonwealth departments. During the war, we had occasion to criticize the growth of the administrative side of the Department of Air. Compared with this growth in other countries at war, so far as we could obtain information, the department was hopelessly overloaded in proportion to tho fighting units that were engaged. From our friends in the Royal Australian Air Force, we heard what was happening. An officer would obtain promotion, with an increase of pay, if he were able to build up his own establishment. Human nature being what it is, many of them set about to build up their own establishments, and so this service became inflated beyond reasonable bounds. Just as that could happen in a service department in war-time, so it can happen in a. government department in peace-time. If the Government is not prepared to make the necessary overhaul, prune these departments, and abolish a great deal of this “ control “ administration, which is stifling the economic progress of Australia at present, the Parliament should act; and if the Parliament will not face up to its responsibilities, the people should make it do so.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Parliament and the people of Australia to the relative dietary scales which obtain in Great Britain and in this country. Australians generally must be extremely distressed to learn that the diet of the people of Great Britain, under post-war conditions, is worse than their diet wa3 under war-time conditions.
– Order! I hope that the right honorable gentleman is not now debating the subject which stands in his name on the notice-paper.
– No, I am making a comparison between the conditions in Great Britain and Australia, and I propose to indicate the procedure which Australia should adopt, not now, but in the immediate future, to assist the people of Great Britain.
Extraordinary distress prevails among the people of Great Britain. I do not need to emphasize that. In the last issue of the Sydney Truth appeared a news item from its London correspondent, stating that there was no longer any crisis in Great Britain. The crisis had passed ; but the condition of the people was one almost of coma, because of the severity of the winter and the shortage of coal, gas and electricity. “With a. reduced food ration, the people have had to endure one of the coldest winters on record. During the war a person in Great Britain was allowed weekly ls. 4d. worth of meat, made up of ls. 2d. worth of carcass meat and 2d. worth of canned meat. To-day, a person is allowed to purchase ls. worth of carcass meat and 4d. worth of canned meat. But because tho canned meat is relatively much dearer than carcass meat, the British consumer gets only slightly more than 1 lb. of meat a week. In Australia, at present, although meat is supposed to be rationed at 2-i- lb. a week, we are actually eating on the average 3£ lb. a week per capita.. Up to may, 1945, just about the time that Germany capitulated, the people of Great Britain were given a ration of 4 oz. of bacon and ham. Immediately following the war, that ration was reduced to 3 oz.. and to-day it has been reduced to 2 oz. In Australia, bacon and ham are not rationed.
The people of Great Britain .are receiving only 7 oz. a week of fats, compared with 6 oz. of butter allowed to the Australian people. However, we can obtain other fats as well. Although supplies of fish in Great Britain are plentiful, the cooking of fish is restricted by reason of the fact that there is no fat available. Fish can only be grilled, or boiled, and, therefore, as a dish it becomes monotonous and tasteless and cannot be eaten continuously. The ration of eggs in Great Britain to non-priority customers is one egg in the shell each fortnight, plus a certain amount of egg powder. In Australia, eggs are not rationed. During the war, supplies of potatoes in Britain were abundant because the highlight of British war-time agriculture was the building up of the production of wheat and vegetables in order to obviate transport difficulties. Wheat and vegetables, in effect, became the safety valve under the rationing system, offsetting to some degree the shortages of concentrates such as butter, eggs and meat, which had to be transported from the Dominions.
Owing to the United Kingdom Government’s agricultural policy the British people had ample supplies of potatoes; but I am now informed by experts that supplies are somewhat hazardous. In Australia, potatoes are not rationed, although in certain seasons we cannot obtain as many as we should like. But the worst position for the British people i.: in respect of bread. During the war bread was not rationed, but last July the position became so difficult that supplies had to be reduced by 10 per cent, In Australia, bread is not rationed. The desperate position of Great Britain so far as food is concerned is revealed not only by the dietary scale but also by the extraordinary prices which Great Britain is prepared to pay for foodstuffs which it cun buy overseas. In Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald it was reported that Great Britain had contracted to buy from Denmark butter at 242s. sterling per cwt., roughly 3s. per lb. Australian. Great Britain is paying ls. lid. per lb. for Australian butter, and our dairy-farmers are receiving less than that; but I recall that last year, in order to obtain more butter, it offered and paid 4d. per lb. more than we actually asked. A year ago, Great Britain agreed to take wheat from Canada at a minimum price of 7s. Sd. a bushel and a maximum price of 9s. Sd. a bushel f.o.b. Montreal; but that wheat is not, sufficient for its needs. During the last few months it contracted to purchase 18.000,000 bushels of wheat at £1 Australian a bushel from Argentina; and in order to increase its supplies of meat, it has contracted to buy meat from Argentina and Australia at an increase of price of 45 per cent. That is the position in Great Britain to-day. Because it is so short of food, it is prepared to pay those high prices at a time when it has extraordinary heavy debit sterling balances with countries within the sterling bloc and the Dominions.
The most disconcerting feature of Great Britain’s position is /that during the last year, or eighteen months, its sterling debts have increased enormously. Its debt to India has increased from £1,116,000,000 to £1,330,000,000 from July, 1945, to the 31st March last, that is nine months later. Its debt to Australia has risen from £183,000,000 to £223,000,000 from the 18th February, 1946, to the 19th February last; whilst its debt to New Zealand has increased from £S6,000,000 in November, 1945, to £103,000,000 in November, 1946. Thus Great Britain’s position has worsened approximately 20 per cent, within twelve months. Great Britain must increase enormously its exports of goods in order to enable it to pay these sterling debts. It will be in a very difficult position by reason of the loan agreement it ha.= entered ‘into with the United States of America. A certain proportion of the sterling debt to the Dominions must be paid immediately, whilst a large proportion must be redeemed by 1951. The remaining balances must be adjusted as a contribution to the settlement of war and post-war indebtedness and in recognition of the benefits which the countries concerned might be expected to gain from such a settlement. Therefore, it is very important that Great Britain should be able to look for assistance to countries with which it can make good deals for supplies of the enormous quantities of food it requires
I have studied Great Britain’s dietary position from a medical point of view, and I find that, the four commodities most needed in order to restore a proper diet balance are meat, sugar, fats and eggs. If it can obtain those commodities from the Dominions under less stringent arrangements which will help it to pay its debts, it will be much better off than if it is forced to make arrangements with foreign countries for the supply of such foodstuffs. That is graphically illustrated by the fact that to-day Great ‘Britain has .arranged to purchase wheat -from Canada at a minimum price of ‘7s. 8d. a bushel and a maximum price of 9s. 8d. a bushel, whereas it is forced to pay £1 Australian a bushel for wheat from Argentina. That is an excellent -example of Empire trading. If Great Britain had made an arrangement with Australia along the lines of the agreement whereby N.ew Zealand is to buy our wheat at 5s. J9d. a bushel for the next four year.s it would be helped considerably. What can we do to help Great Britain? We must increase our production of foodstuffs in order to enable us to supply the needs of not only our own growing population but also those countries which now look to us for help.
We require to produce particularly products which come from live-stock, such as meat and butter. A sheep, or a cow, if looked after properly, is virtually a walking factory which produces these concentrates. Our agricultural policy must be directed immediately to increasing the production of meat and butter by incentive prices. We shall thus be able to render greater aid to Great Britain. We must build up our dairy herds, and also increase our production of bacon, ham and pork. We must also increase our poultry flocks and our production of eggs. These are the things upon which we shall have to rely. In regard to the stimulation of meat production in this country, I urge the Government to give consideration to the complete removal of controls and restriction on the sale of meat. Under the present system of rationing and ceiling prices, we have seen’ during the last three monthhs two serious shortages of killing stock in Melbourne, one in Sydney, and I understand there is one in Tasmania at present. Obviously if there are to be hiatuses in the sales of killing stock, exports to Great Britain cannot be maintained ; in fact, there were no local supplies of meat. My own view is that we should be better off if -meat rationing were abandoned. I have discussed this matter with experts, and the general view seems to be that under the present system more meat is being consumed in Australia than would be consumed if rationing were abandoned and a free market for stock operated. People to-day are coupon-«on- scious .and then, of course there is -the black-marketing under-the-counter -trade as well. If a free market were to operate, some difficulties might be encountered during the first two or three weeks, but they would soon be adjusted. Any price rise that occurred could be offset by a payment of a subsidy for a month or two until the natural law of supply and demand asserted itself. More stable prices would prevail and the forwarding of stock would be more certain. Probably there would still be trouble every spring in regard to the killing of fat lambs, but that is a production problem that will have to be solved, whatever we do. A free market would probably result also in more continuous supplies, and better meat for the people of Australia.
In regard to butter, we cannot do very much at present because we are approaching the end of the current season and about six months will elapse before the next season starts ; but when i.t does start, the question- of price will arise immediately. To meet the rising costs of production the price will have to be at least -2s. per lb. or more. I believe that 2s. 6d. would be near the mark. If the Government does not make an announcement in this regard at an early date production may be impaired. A price increase should be commenced immediately pending the determination .of a figure by an authority such as the dairying industry production costs committee which has been set up for this purpose. If a payable price were guaranteed to producers, we should be able eventually to export 120,000 tons of butter a year as we did in 1939-40, compared with 50,000 or 60,000 tons exported last year. I believe that in the coming year we could increase our exports by 20,000 tons. The figures that I have cited in regard to the diet scales operating in other countries show how necessary it is that we should increase our food exports.
Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton) f 9.35]. -I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the very indifferent manner, in which the recommendations contained in the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, who investigated conditions in the coal-mining industry are being implemented, particularly in regard to dust in Queensland mines. Dealing with, the health of coalminers the Royal Commissioner pointed out the extent of the dust menace in the southern coal-mines of New South Wales. I shall not read the entire paragraph dealing with this matter because it is rather long. It is sufficient for me to say that the problem is of the utmost magnitude and deserves urgent consideration and attention. Immediately the report of the Royal Commissioner was tabled in this House coal-mine owners in New South Wales formed a company known as Coal Research Proprietary Limited of New South Wales to tackle the problem of dust in mines. The company has been assisted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has obtained the services of Professor Jones, of Wales, an expert in ventilation and in the problem of coal-dust. Whilst I welcome the effort that is being made on behalf of coalminers on the southern fields of New South Wales, I point out that until miners in that State became hopelessly troublesome, caused strike after strike, and held up industry generally, nothing was done. I protest against the Government’s failure to deal with coal-mines in Queensland in which the dust nuisance is most serious. Many of those mines have prior claims to treatment, In his second report Mr. Justice Davidson said -
The quality of the coals in Queensland is of a standard to attract demand not only for all local purposes but also for bunkering or export.
Dealing with health conditions in the mines the Royal Commissioner stated -
Working conditions in several of the mines visited by tho board were most unsatisfactory because of - (a) defective ventilation; (fi) excessive temperatures;
hand-wheeling on wooden rails; (rf.) inflammable gas and dust.
The use of naked lights in the coal-mines in Queensland should be prohibited, subject to the allowance of reasonable time to make the change.
There should be much more rigid superVision and regulation of gassy conditions in the mines.
The practice of stopping the fans at the end of the last daily shift and during week-ends should be prohibited.
If greater precautions are not taken with regard to inflammable gas and coal-dust in the mines, there will be likelihood at any time of serious disaster.
The Commonwe a 1 bh Government and the State Government have a prime obligation to ensure safety in the mines. The report continued -
The dust ‘hazard in relation to the health of the workers is being Badly neglected. It i» certain that many mine workers underground will become incapacitated by the inhalation of dust unless proper methods of control of the dust are adopted, whilst the amount oi compensation payable will become a serious burden as in New South Wales.
The statutory provisions relating to .safety and health in the Coal Hines Regulation Act in New South Wales should be adopted and applied in Queensland as soon as practicable.
On behalf of the Queensland coal-miners, I protest against the Commonwealth Government’s lack of interest in their welfare. It should take immediate and drastic action to eradicate the dust menace from Queensland mines. Such steps as have been taken as the result of Mr. Justice Davidson’s report have ‘been restricted to New South Wales. I am glad that action has been taken in New South Wales, but the Government should not stop short at that. Throughout the war, and for several decades previously, there was harmony and co-operation between the mine-owners and the workers in Queensland. Because they have “ played the game “, this Government has remained indifferent to the needs of the industry in Queensland. Apparently, unless a union causes trouble, holds up industry, and interferes with production generally, it receives no consideration from this Government. The coal-miners of New South Wales, particularly in the southern areas of the State, have gone on strike repeatedly. Within the last few weeks they paraded the streets of Sydney and held a meeting on the steps of the State Parliament House in protest against dusty conditions in the mines. As the result of that activity, the Government bestirred itself in an effort to eradicate dust from New South Wales mines. Because the Queensland miners, on whose behalf I have spoken frequently in this House, have refrained from causing industrial disruption, the Government has neglected their welfare. It should make use of the services of experts employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and all other available authorities, to inspect Queensland mines with a view to eliminating the dust menace.
An examination of recent industrial history shows that the only way in which the Government can be forced to satisfy the demands of the workers is to cause strikes and unrest. After the waterside workers had gone on strike in defiance of the Government and had “ raised Cain “ generally, the Government took action to appease them by giving them what they wanted, and perhaps more than they wanted. Gas workers, seamen, railway workers, and even the dairyfarmers, have achieved results in the same way. Honorable members on this side of the chamber frequently appealed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and to his successor in that office (Mr. Pollard), to increase the subsidy paid to dairy-farmers in order to compensate them for the drastic effects of severe droughts. The honorable gentlemen turned a deaf ear to our requests. But when the dairy-farmers laid plans for a strike, the Government increased the subsidy, by as much as 4-^d. per lb. for butter in some instances. This suggests that the only means of securing justice from the Government is to go on strike or threaten industrial disturbance. The coal-miners of Queensland have built up an excellent record, particularly over the war years, for which they deserve commendation. “Within the last 48 hours they resolved that they would not participate in the proposed Australia- wide strike on May Day. But the Government is inviting them to strike in order to secure justice. It has ignored many requests that I have made in this Home for improvement of conditions in Queensland on behalf of these coal-miners, and if it continues to do so the Queensland miners will be obliged to resort to direct action as a final desperate measure. The Government’s inaction and indifference, and its partial treatment of New South Wales miners, will provoke the Queensland miners to emulate the miners of New South Wales. I ask the responsible Minister, for once in his limited and erratic political career to take quick action so as to provide for a careful examination of the peculiar features of the coal-mining industry in Queensland. There is plenty of coal in that State. Mr. Justice Davidson’s report stated details of Queensland deposits very clearly in paragraph 1144, which is as follows : -
Geological surveys, which as yet are not sufficiently comprehensive or adequately proved by boring, suggest an estimate of 2.238,000,000 tons as the total available content of the known coal measures. In all probability the true figure is much larger. The various localities in which the deposits occur nr« widely separated, chiefly along or adjacent to the coastal belt extending from Cairns in the north to Brisbane in the south. In some instances the coal-fields are situated ii considerable distance inland, such as Blair Athol and The Bluff mines respectively 23H and 170 miles west of Rockhampton and mines at Darling Downs 120 miles from Brisbane. In the inland area alone there is said to be an uninterrupted stretch of coal measures extending over a. distance of (100 miles.
With the consent of the House I shall have the following table inserted in Hansard: -
Queensland has adequate coal deposits to meet its industrial needs, but the dust menace must be disposed of in the interests of the health of the workers and the prosperity of the industry. The structure of Queensland coal is fragile, so that it breaks easily and creates in some instances a great deal of dust. The health of the miners .is being imperilled by the inane and foolish inaction’ of the Government which, if continued, will lead to a serious industrial upheaval. I ask the Government to enlist the services of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to remove this threat to the welfare of the miners in Queensland.
Australia to-day needs increased production of secondary commodities more than anything else. Coal is basically essential to the development of our secondary industries, yet stocks of coal in every city are at a dangerously low level. They must be replenished in order to avoid intensified industrial disturbances. As far as this Government is concerned, Queensland is the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth. It suffers from shortages of all sort3 of commodities. Whenever we complain on this account, the Government blames shortage of transport facilities, hold-ups on the waterfront, and the difficulty of carrying goods by rail. Recently, the people of Queensland were forced to kill 1,000,000 hoad of poultry because of the shortage of feed wheat. When we appealed to the Government for help, it promised to send supplies to Queensland but failed to do so. Only after insistent protests in this House were we able to obtain results. Trying to move this Government is harder than trying to move the sphinx of Egypt.
– The Government provided dog biscuits.
– Which were manufactured in New South Wales. .Members of the Government know more about dogs and horses than about industry. Whether they realize it or not, production must be increased. We have discussed taxation and its effect upon production, but we must also realize that production is dependent upon power, and electric power is dependent upon coal. It will be a serious rhine if the Government forces the miners in Queensland to emulate those in New South Wales, and go on strike in order to obtain proper treatment. Queensland coal-miners did a magnificent job during the war. They maintained production and kept clear of industrial strife. They now deserve better treatment than they have received.
– Primary producers are greatly concerned over the rising costs which they have to meet. Indeed, they cannot carry on if prices continue to rise, especially as the Government will not allow them to take advantage of present world parity prices for foodstuffs. I desire once more to protest against the contribution of 5 per cent, which is levied on wool. At the present, time, wool is selling fairly well, but it must be remembered that woolgrowers have had varied experiences in recent years, including droughts. It is necessary that their income he somewhat, above the average in some years if they are to maintain an average income over n period of eight or ten years. When, on previous occasions, I have protested in this House against the levy of 5 per cent, on wool, I have been told that it has nothing to do with the Government - that the money goes into the wool fund. That may be true, but it was this Government which introduced the legislation imposing the levy.
– If there is enough money in the fund the levy will be considerably reduced.
– .It appears that about £6,000,000 will be collected from wool-growers this year by means of this levy. We maintain that the Government has already taken no less than £9,000,000 from them which, added to the £6.000,000 collected under this levy, makes a very substantial amount of which the growers have been deprived. I have here a letter from a primary producers’ organization in which reference is made to the 5 per cent. levy. I quote the following extract : - “I’ll i s bus boon the subject of correspondence and deputations by all interested bodies, but to no avail. It has been pointed out on numerous occasions that a charge of 2 per cent, would have been exorbitant, and far in excess of the charge warranted under the circumstances. Further, this claim is not an idle one, but a claim put forward by very competent authorities who should be in a position to know the facts.
The charge ma.de during the war years for the handling and appraisement of the whole of the Austraiian wool clip amounted to less than Id. per lb., and it is beyond the comprehension of wool-growers to see why such a7i adnormal sum should he charged for the growers’ half-cost of the operating ot the new wool disposals plan, when, under normal conditions, the charge to be made should be less than half of that incurred under the wartime appraisement scheme
I agree that it is beyond the power of comprehension to understand why the charge is so high, hut apparently the Government does not intend to allow the growers to obtain the full benefit of prevailing prices. Further injustice is that the levy is collected on the gross return from wool rather than on the net return. If the gross return is £1,000, the grower has to pay out of that the commission of the wool-broker, and also freight and other charges, so that his net return is considerably less than £1,000. However, I maintain that, even if the levy were made on the net return, it would still be too high. A charge of 1 per cent, would be ample. Formerly, a charge of only 2s. a bale was made, and then it was suddenly increased to 5 per cent. - why I do not know. More money is being collected than can be used to the advantage of the wool industry. At the present time, growers could use the money better than can any government department in promoting the welfare of the industry. Whenever I have spoken in this House of the disabilities which the Government has placed upon primary producers, I have been told by some Government supporter that, during the last few years, farmers have been able to reduce their overdrafts and other liabilities by an amount between £70,000,000 and £S0,000,000. However, it is ridiculous to suggest that this is an indication of great prosperity. In normal times, farmers would have used the money to maintain their properties. During the war. because they were unable to get the equipment and the materials necessary for maintenance, their properties have deteriorated by more than three times the amount by which the Government’s supporters claim their liabilities have been reduced. Had they been able to carry out normal maintenance work their properties .would have represented an asset of so much greater value to Australia. It is not a fact that the farmer is in a better position to-day than he was previously.
– The honorable member should visit my electorate and see for himself.
– I invite the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) to talk to the farmers in my electorate; he would quickly find that they are no better off than they were previously. During the recent Federal election campaign I addressed a meeting at Swan Hill Some university students who attended the meeting claimed that no matter what the primary producers said the figures spoke for themselves, and that the producers were at least £70,000,000 better off. When I took the platform I asked the primary producers of many different classes of production if they could account for the figures. Not one of them was able to do so. I feel sure that if the honorable member for Hume put the same question to his constituents he would receive the same reply. It is high time the Government saw fit to abandon this legislation which has proved so harassing to the wool-growers. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) indicated by way of interjection that this legislation may be reviewed at some future time.
– I definitely said that it would be reviewed.
– The Minister indicated that it may be reviewed after the expiration of an indefinite period. I believe the review should take place now so that wool-growers may be able to recoup drought losses and get a just price for their wool which is so important to our Australian economy and so urgently needed in other parts of the Empire.
I turn now to the wheat industry. For the greater portion of his crop the wheat-grower has been unable to get a price which will return his costs of production. Dealing with the wheat agreement with New Zealand, one spokesman of the Government recently stated that in view of the fact that the price of wheat for home consumption had been fixed at 5s. 2d. f.o.r. ports for many years, he regarded 5s. 9d. a bushel as a good price. The real position is that the homeconsumption price of 5s. 9d. a bushel has operated for too many years and that the time is over ripe for a rise of the price. For all his requirements the wheat-growe:’ has to buy on a post-war market but he is compelled to sell his wheat at a price that was fixed before the war. Is it possible for any industry to meet post-war costs of production from the proceeds of sales at pre-war prices? The Government fixed the home-consumption price of wheat at what it considered a reasonable price before the war but that price is hopelessly inadequate to meet present day costs. Honorable members opposite do not seem to ho able to realize that. In their speeches and by interjection they constantly reiterate that the wheatgrower is being well catered for to-day. If they kept quiet in regard to this matter one would believe them to be ashamed of the Government’s action. How can they claim to represent wheat-growers when they know so little of the difficulties confronting the man on the land? The home-consumption price is applicable now not only to wheat sold for human, consumption but also for wheat sold in Australia for all purposes. The time is overdue for the Government to remedy this state of affairs. I am aware that at present a committee is inquiring into the costs of production in the industry, but we have no guarantee that if the committee finds the costs qf production to be in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel, legislation will be brought down to give effect to its findings. The determination of true costs of production in this industry is a matter of vital urgency. If the wheat-grower is unable to keep his equipment in working order, one of Australia’s greatest assets will deteriorate to such a degree that continued production will become economically impossible.
I pass on now to the dried fruits industry. Dried fruits growers in my electorate, and throughout the country generally, are most concerned about the maintenance of Empire preference. Honorable members know only too well that any abandonment of existing Empire preferences may well spell ruin to the dried fruits growers and many other primary producers in Australia. For that reason at every available opportunity I shall continue to stress that the Government should impress upon its representatives at overseas conferences the necessity for the maintenance of the existing preferences. I go further and say that, at this stage in our history, it is more than ever necessary to tighten the bonds of Empire by stimulating Empire reciprocal trade. Even with the continuance of the present preferential rates Australian growers of dried fruits are finding it difficult to make ends meet because their production costs are rising day by day. The cost of tractors and agricultural machinery and, in fact, everything used for the production of dried fruits, is reaching the highest level. Some relief must be given if the growers are to carry on their industry and the export trade is not to be lost to this country. Costs of production must be subjected to the closest scrutiny. .There is a grave necessity for the Government to give this matter immediate attention. The primary producer is in a different category from those engaged in secondary industries. Manufacturers are able to pass on what they regard as their cost of production plus a reasonable profit. The primary producer is not in such a fortunate position. Some time ago, before the war, I was speaking to a man who was employed as manager of a well-known co-operative concern. It was controlled by a council and was therefore a public utility. It purchased a big line of wethers in New South Wales. After they had been on the farm for about three months, it was found that they could not all be held, because the farm was over-stocked. So a meeting of the committee that managed the farm, which included some manufacturers, was held to decide whether they would be sold and, if so, at what price. The man I was acquainted with was in attendance as an adviser without a vote. The chairman informed the meeting that 1,000 head would have to be sold. One man asked what they cost and when he was told “ £1 a head “, he asked, “ Can not we add 33 per cent, and let them go ? “ My acquaintance intended to advise that 16s. a head would have to be accepted, because that was the market value. But the man who wanted to add 33 per cent., was engaged in secondary industry and was used to that sort of deal. Neither he nor this Government realizes that in drought and in other adverse circumstances at times primary producers have to take, not what they want, but what they can get from the sale of their produce. That aspect must be closely examined.
At Newmarket in Melbourne the marketing of live-stock is chaotic, as it was last year, when the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture decided that there should be one bid at auction, and, of course, the meat was acquired.
– I am surprised that the honorable member, who is usually fair, should say that. I had nothing to do with the meat auctions or anything else.
– What about acquisition?
– Nor acquisition.
– Well, the Minister lifted it afterwards.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order!
– If I am wrong in blaming the honorable gentleman, I withdraw. He knows that I have the greatest personal regard for him. At any rate, at Newmarket butchers could not buy meat on the hoof at the price it was selling at and then retail it profitably, without resorting to the black-market The position became so grave that for weeks stock sales ceased. I concede that that trouble was settled months ago, but it is still fresh in the mind of the primary producers. The present situation is that’ the butchers ave now in a similar position. They cannot buy meat on the hoof and retail it except at a great loss. I now suggest a course that might provide relief. The price of tallow to the producers is about £100 a ton less than world parity. That is a great anomaly and injustice. If .the producer were given the relief that would come to him from receiving the proper price for tallow, the tangle at Newmarket would be considerably unravelled.
Recently there came to me a man who had been medically certified as qualifying for the invalid pension.
– If he were certified as being eligible for the pension he would get it.
– He is not getting it, and cannot get it.
– Then something is wrong. Eligibility for the pension depends on the medical report, as the honorable gentleman would know if he had handled as many cases as I have.
– That is not iso, as I shall prove, because. if a man has a certain amount of money, he cannot get the pension. I advise the honorable member not to rush in’ where angels fear to tread.
– The honorable member knows that a man is not eligible if his means are beyond the limit.
– He has a certain amount of money with which he intends to build a home.
– If he builds a home he can get the pension.
– Of course, if he builds a home he will be eligible, but he cannot build a home because he cannot buy material. Neither can he get the pension. So he is at a double disadvantage. Meanwhile, his capital of about £800 is being whittled away day by day in maintaining himself and his family. Eventually he will not have the money to build a home with. Then he will be able to draw a pension. That is a grave anomaly, and something should be done to provide for such cases. I have heard from departmental officers that there are many like cases. They should have the immediate attention of the Government because such cases are not in the interests of the country.
I deprecate the tendency among honorable gentlemen opposite, when honorable members on this side raise matters worthy of the attention and action of the Government, to reply, “ When you were in power you did nothing about it “. The fact that a government five, ten or fifteen years ago did nothing to remove a wrong does not justify this Government in being similarly inactive. What was a wrong then is a wrong to-day. I learned as a boy a lesson that Ministers in this Government ought to learn. I have forgotten what I wanted to do, but when my another said, “ You must not do that “, I said, “ But the other boys do it “, and she replied, “ That is not the point. The point is whether it is right or wrong “. The job of this Parliament is to legislate to do right not to perpetuate a wrong merely because an earlier Parliament neglected its duty. I enjoin honorable members opposite to keep their eyes on the path of true legislation from now on and not to hark back into the past and drag up as an excuse for their inaction the inaction of a predecessor.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) [10.20J.- Earlier the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction was making use of British Intelligence handbooks by merely placing a new cover on them and issuing them as its own production. That is most reprehensible. Similar action by a private individual would be journalistic piracy and would infringe, copyright law; but apparently gone governments have different standards.
I wish to bring before the House the inordinate quantity of paper used and the volume of labour involved in the printing of government publications. I have mentioned this matter many times previously, having seen how newsprint is Treated in Great Britain. Newspapers there are still on a much smaller scale than in Australia, but the finer paper used in book production is rationed more liberally in Great Britain. One of the reasons for the shortage of paper in this country is that the Government, is using about 50 per cent, of the production of the Burnie mills, which turn out these finer papers. Good paper is used in many nf the booklets circulated among honorable members - publications which float almost automatically to the wastepaper basket. They are issued simply to toll us what, a fine fellow the Minister is. They are merely “ blah “ books and although they may be read -and cherished by (lie Minister they are wasted on the populace. The Deportment of Labour and National Service publishes a whole series, of books, well illustrated, on factory lighting and factory practice culled from ordinary catalogues and reproduced at government expense on paper which could be used to better purpose. Another publi cation is entitled, “ Re-print of important statements and speeches by the Prime Minister. “ I invite any honorable member who reads these prints to say so. Let any one of the few Government supporters present-
– I rise to order. Is it right for the honorable member for Balaclava to reflect on the number of Government, members present when there are only two members of the Liberal party in the chamber?
– That is a deliberate untruth.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member must not cast aspersions on other honorable members. If he is dissatisfied with the attendance of members in the chamber, the proper procedure is to call attention to the state of the House.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) is incorrect in saying that there are only two members of the Liberal party in the chamber. There are more present than members of the Labour party, of whom there are only four.
-The honorable member must deal with the question, before the Chair and not reflect on the attendance of honorable members.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.] I shall now proceed with my speech as there is a quorum present.
– The honorable member must proceed without reference to the attendance of honorable members.
– I think that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) agrees with me that the Government was most wasteful in the production of booklets. Some time ago, as the result of an inquiry, the number of copies produced was reduced. I support the honorable member for Fawkner in his contention that a great deal of government printing could be dispensed with. There is such a scarcity of good paper that many young Australian authors who might make names for themselves cannot, get their books published.
Publishers say they have to produce textbooks for students and that the Government is using most of the fine paper, and so they cannot print books for authors. A survey of the books of the type referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner should be undertaken because many of these books are published mainly for the edification of Ministers and are not of public importance.
I support the remarks of previous speakers as to the need for a greater volume of export. There is a great deal wrong with our trade position to-day in respect of both imports and exports, particularly between Australia and the United Kingdom. Great Britain has been our best customer for many years. A preferential tariff has operated in favour of Britain since 1908, and Britain reciprocated in 1932 under the Ottawa Agreement. In the midst of the greatest depression in history, the Dominions joined with Britain in setting an example of cooperation which was a lesson to the world. The countries of the British Empire were the first to emerge from the depression, only because of that co-operation. Over the years Britain has taken more than 50 per cent, of our exports; in respect of exports that country has taken up to 90 per cent. Great Britain has been the greatest buyer of Australian primary products. So, quite apart from the sentimental consideration that we should “ trade within the family “, commercial considerations and common sense dictate that as Britain is our best customer it should be remembered. I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) regarding production. In 1946, the last year for which we have statistics, Australia exported to Britain only 150,000 i>ns of sugar including refined, whereas The average for the war years was 221,000 tons including refined. Australians are consuming to-day more sugar than before the war, and so it would appear that, in some instances, rationing is not working out satisfactorily. There should be a survey by the Government and other authorities to ascertain- whether better results cannot be achieved. The period of reconstructon after the Ottawa
Agreement was a period of great development for Australia. In those six years Australia opened over 3,000 new factories and ‘placed approximately 400,000 more men in employment in secondary industries. To-day, there are too many restrictions on trade. Some measure of prices control is necessary, hut the system is carried to ridiculous extremes. Thousands of employees who are engaged in supervising and checking the operation of these controls could be better employed producing commodities needed by the public. Our sister dominion of Canada has set a worthy example. It is probably the most prosperous country in the world today. I hold in my hand the Imperial Review, which is a survey of world trade, and it expresses that view regarding Canada’s prosperity. The explanation is that Canada is largely “ de-controlled “. During the war, Canada imposed on production and supply all the restrictions that were required for a total war effort, hut immediately conditions of peace returned, those controls were abolished. In Australia we have the remarkable paradox that while a total effort is not needed for war, the strength of the Commonwealth Public Service has been increased by some thousands of persons. That is to say, more people are employed in the Commonwealth Public Service now than during the war. The Imperial Review states -
To-day Canada, is virtually decontrolled. Manufacturers can freely import their need9 and export or sell on the home market as they choose. The Government’s chief pre-occupation in the field of industry is the unravelling of its tentacles and tape from the machinery of industry on the one hand and on the other, perfecting its aid-to-exporters organization abroad.
That is not so in Australia. Here, restrictions of all kinds are imposed upon our trade, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has never made a definite declaration of policy announcing that we should return to pre-war conditions of trade. At the forthcoming world trade conference at Geneva, the whole matter of trade and Imperial preferences will be discussed; but on the eve of that conference, many restrictions still operate. Scores of items required by the public, manufacturers and merchants may not be imparted unless the Department of Trade and Customs approves. Until a few months ago, the Division of Import Procurement dealt with appplications for import licences, which had to be submitted in triplicate or quintuplicate and nearly three months might elapse before the applicant would receive a reply. Many of these goods could have been purchased within the sterling bloc from Great Britain, which urgently requires to expand its export trade. During World War II., the United Kingdom had to dispose of its overseas assets in order to purchase arms and munitions abroad. Now, it must increase its export trade so that it may establish overseas credits with which to purchase food. In addition, Great Britain must increase its production, and its people are gallantly trying to do so. For a number of years Australia, after South Africa, was Great Britain’s best customer. At times, India temporarily displaced Australia, but over a period, we held that position. From the United Kingdom, we purchased more than did the United States of America or any other foreign country. To-day, Australia could purchase from Great Britain considerable quantities of materials which are required for our factories and our people but wartime restrictions continue to operate and no responsible authority bothers to remove them.
From time to time, I have asked questions in the House seeking to elicit the reason for the retention of these restrictions. Now, the Division of Import Procurement has been, transferred to the Department of Trade and Customs, but the whole procedure of applying for permission to import goods must still be followed. A departmental official may refuse a. manufacturer permission to import urgently needed goods. The only regulation of our trade should be through the tariff. That should be the medium to control the flow of trade from one country to another. In 1933, the Lyons Government introduced the tariff which is still in existence, but, unfortunately, it is cluttered up with restrictions. The removal of those restrictions has not been properly explored. If it were, the Government would see the necessity for removing the restrictions on trade with
Great Britain, which so urgently requires an expansion of trade to-day. Honorable members may not be aware that certain goods of a primary or semi-primary nature may not be exported from Australia without a special permit. As we all know, the Waterside Workers Federation has placed a ban on the export of tallow, despite the fact that Great Britain is desperately in need of fats, animal and vegetable. In the United Kingdom,- soap is scarce, and fat for cooking purposes is rationed to 1 oz. a week for each housewife. The monotony of the diet and conditions oan be understood only by those who have experienced it. The position is worse now than it was under wartime conditions. This is the eighth winter that the people of the United Kingdom are fighting the Battle of Britain. In Australia we are producing an abundance of food, and if it were not for maladministration we could produce additional quantities of copra in New Guinea. We have a surplus of tallow, but because of an alleged shortage in one State, the export of this commodity has been banned by the waterside workers and by the Government. We are falling into a condition of trade isolation, for which we shall pay dearly unless we wake up quickly. We must ensure a freer movement of trade.
I do not advocate a reduction of tariffs. I had the honour to introduce the tariff schedule in 1933, and the rates therein were largely recommended by the Tariff Board. Those recommendations were based on evidence taken at public inquiries. If necessary, the tariff should be revised to meet present-day conditions, but, in the meantime, the schedules are cluttered up by regulations administered by officials who decide trade policy without a proper recognition of the facts. This is a major matter for consideration, and the Government should see that, as soon as possible, a survey is made of the whole field of trade.
Canada considered that it was making a great experiment when it removed wartime controls shortly after the cessation of hostilities. Unfortunately, in Australia, we are suffering from regimentation. The Government discovered that it was powerful enough to “ push people around and regulate their lives, and today it is reluctant to yield those powers. But we are a British community. We are not Russians, Germans, Italians or Japanese, and we desire to regain our individual liberties in order that we may prosper. Australia has a population of fewer than two people to the square mile. It has tremendous potential resources. It has never known real danger. In war, it? people have suffered casualties, but the country has never endured the ravages of invasion. To-day, in a world of troubles, we are neglecting trade policy and our responsibility as a member of an Empire family, because we are not mak’ ing a greater endeavour in the cause of a mutual trade. Let us examine the position in Canada. According to the Imperial Review -
Production of peace-time goods ig at an all-time high, employing 629,000 more people than in l!)3i).
– Is not the position the same in Australia?
– Numbers of people are unemployed, but they are not registered as such. Many ex-servicemen are still living on their deferred pay. The Repatriation Department has granted financial assistance to some of them for the purpose of enabling them to buy equipment with which to set up in business, but because of restrictions they are not able to succeed. Although the Repatriation Department provides this assistance, the ex-serviceman is not able to obtain a quota from the Department of Trade and Customs because he was not a basic importer in 193S. But any man who wag in business at that time and who carried on through the war, or who bought a business during the war, receives preference over the ex-serviceman Honorable members opposite know that that is true. They must have received many complaints about it. If ex-servicemen desire to engage in a manufacturing enterprise, they are not able to import their essential requirements. Invariably, the Department of Trade and Customs informs them that permits will not be issued to them because they were not basic importers. These restrictions must be abolished.
When honorable members opposite refer to the high level of employment in
Australia, they should realize also that there is a good deal of work to be done,, and that output is retarded by constant industrial troubles.
Many trade unions are controlled, by militant men whose loyalty isnot to Australia or the British Crown but to a foreign power. Those men dominate this Government. They want the1 free men of Australia to cower and bend the knee to them before they may join a union and get employment. Because they desire notoriety, they are responsible for members of the unions being frequently unemployed. These problems must be solved. Our sister dominion of Canada has a rising level of employment, and increasing prosperity. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr.. Scully) has endeavoured to grapple with many of the problems of export trade. But we shall force a local depression upon ourselves if we do not take heed of these facts. To-day, Canada is enjoying the highest national income in its history. The Canadian Government has reduced taxes to a greater degree than have Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand or Australia; and further cuts are forecast. Canada, to-day, is stronger financially than any of the countries which took part in the war. Yet, it has fewer public servants in proportion to population than Great Britain, the United States of America or Australia. I make these remarks because I believe that Parliament concentrates too much upon various bills which seem to be important, and at the- same time, loses its sense of perspective. It thereby fails to give adequate attention to the paramount need to restore Australia’s pre-war prosperity. We are inclined to lapse into a semi-totalitarian-socialist State in which the Government, being socialistic, although it calls itself Labour, constantly experiments. The Government must’ surely realize that that policy is unsound. Every citizen willingly surrenders a measure of individual freedom in order to maintain law and order, but the Government could remove the majority of our superfluous controls at the earliest possible date.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
The following ‘papers were presented : -
Aborigines located within the R ange for Guided Projectiles! - Report on Welfare by Australian Committee.
United Nations - Food and Agriculture Organization - Second Session, held at Copenhagen, September, ]’J4(i - Report of Austral ian Delegation .
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and ‘Shipping has supplied the following information : -
Commission does not sell retail or through retail houses unless they are also wholesalers. Surpluses for the trade are channelled through panels or associations nominated by Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce. For hardware, the Hardware Association makes the. allocation through the wholesale hardware trade. The prices and margins are those normally applicable to the .trade, and approved by the Prices Commissioner.
These hinges were allocated amongst thirteen firms nominated by the Hardware Association.
The Hardware Association is responsible for appointing representatives of the trade to its panel and representation is a matter for the association itself.
e asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mv. Harrison asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that there are adequate supplies of allow in store in Sydney and elsewhere for soap-making but that manufacturers will not sell tallow at the pegged price of £27 1Os. a ton when it can be sold overseas for about £130 a ton?
Is it a fact that whereas Australia previously exported tallow but little soap, increasing quantities of soap but little tallow are now being sent away because Australian manufacturers are able to undersell overseas soapmakers?
If so, does the Government contemplate increasing the pegged price or lifting the present export embargo?
d.-1- -The Minister for Trade and Customs lias supplied the following information : -
Tallow Pool on the tallow content of the soap ; no current permits are being used for soap exports.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is the salary of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board chargeable to the Treasury or to the proceeds of sales or against gifts of wheat?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Remuneration of chairman and members of the Australian Wheat Board is chargeable against Wheat Board funds. No alteration in this respect has been made from the procedure when the honorable member for Barker was the responsible Minister.
t asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follows : -
The bureau was transferred to my department in August last. This was in accordance with arrangements made between the Prime Minister, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and my predecessor on the occasion of its establishment in August, lf)45. At that time the bureau’s activities were almost wholly those of concern to the Ministry ofPost-war Reconstruction. They now relate lor the greater part to the activities of my department. 3. (a) See No. 2.
£19,12013s.10d . (salaries and allow ances). General administrative expenses unobtainable, being included in departmental votes.
s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The information requested by the honorable member is being obtained and will be supplied as soon aspossible.
Mr.Fadden asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.Whatis thetotal amount of special depositsof thetradingbanks lodgedwith the CommonwealthBank as at the 30th June, 1946, and the rate of interest payable thereon?
Mr.Chifley. - Inquiriesarebeing made and a replywill besupplied as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470306_reps_18_190/>.