18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. j. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers:
Food vor BRITAIN.
– My attention has been’ drawn’ to the fact that in the Geelong Advertiser of Thursday, the 20th March, the following report of- a speech made in connexion with the annual conference’ of the Australian Natives Association by Senator Sheehan, referring to the problem of assisting’ Great Britain, was published. I do not know whether this is an accurate report and I quote it merely to indicate the subject-matter -
In reference to the gift of £25,000,000 to Britain instead of a gift of food, he said that the answer was that the United Kingdom Government had asked for cash.
Can the Prime Minister say whether Great Britain asked for cash instead of food, and, if so, when?
– I know nothing of the statement referred to. As for the query whether the Government of the United Kingdom made any request for cash in preference to food, I cannot answer- yes or no. The impression J gained during talks while I was in London was that the Government of the
United Kingdom would’ very much appreciate some assistance by the Dominions, including Australia, regarding the matter of sterling balances. I cannot say whether the subject of food was ever discussed, but I can say that there was a discussion about sterling balances. As n result of further conversation between representatives of the Australian Government and officials in London, I have been confirmed in the impression that one of the particular wishes of the Government of the United Kingdom - I do not desire to commit that Government in any way, but I am stating my impression - is that it would very much appreciate something of the nature which this Government proposes to do.
- Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention, to the fact that on the notice-paper there is a notice of motion in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) concerning food to Britain. I understand that the Prime Minister will bring down a bill this week to validate the gift of £25,000,000 in cash to Britain. I should like to know, sir, on behalf of the right honorable member for Cowper, who cannot be here till later to-day, whether, while his notice of motion remains on the notice-paper,, he will be permitted during the debate on the second reading of that bill, to discuss the subject of. food for Britain. The right honorable gentleman is- quite prepared to move that the notice of motion be discharged from the notice-paper if he can be assured that by doing so he will be afforded, the opportunity to discuss the subject of supplying food to Britain.
– It is most unusual to ask a question about a matter that has really not arisen, but I anticipated that the difficulty referred to by the honorable member might arise, and the right honorable member for Cowper was informed’ accordingly. The position is briefly that the bill mentioned will be a measure to appropriate money. ‘ The debate thereon, as far as I can see, would be limited owing to the fact that the right honorable member for Cowper has on the notice-paper a notice of motion closely related to the subject of a gift to Britain. The right honorable gentleman was so informed, but he has not yet notified me that he intends, with the permission of the House, to withdraw the motion. I consider that if the motion did not appear on the notice-paper, discussion of that aspect would be permissible; but I understand that the motion will be submitted at a later date, and, therefore, the subject of it may not be referred to during the debate on the proposed gift of £25,000,000 to Great Britain.
– Having regard to the dire position of Great Britain, will the Prime Minister consider remitting tax on gifts to that country? As the Prime Minister knows, gifts to certain institutions in this country enjoy this concession. Does he not believe that at the present time Britain is more deserving of the benefit of such a concession than any institution?
– Successive governments have adhered to the principle that tax concessions should he allowed only in respect of gifts used in Australia. On several occasions requests have been received to extend this principle to gifts made overseas, one such request being in respect of China. I presume the honorable member refers to the tax rebate on gifts of money.
– Yes, or on the gift itself.
– The principle I have mentioned has been firmly established, and I, as Treasurer, have always adhered to it, but I shall consider the representations of the honorable member.
– In Saturday night’s news broadcast from the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, which was subsequently re-broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission-, the official commentator said -
Not even in the war was British diet at sp low a level. It is indisputable that under the present dietary levels a good deal of the spirit has been pounded out of the British people. Great Britain must choose between more food and less raw materials, which means unemployment, or more raw materials and a still further reduction in diet.
In view of those statements, will the Prime Minister reconsider the views which he formed last year when in England as to the relative value of food and money ?
– Great Britain is now obtaining all the food it is possible for New Zealand, Australia and Canada to send, having regard to the rationing schemes in operation in those dominions. In some instances, in order to save haulage, the British authorities have decided to distribute certain portions of that food, such as sugar, to other centres, and to obtain its requirements from places nearer home. I have already made it perfectly clear that no more food can be sent from Australia unless a very drastic form of rationing is introduced in this country. That is a matter of Government policy. The Government . believes that the fairly heavy rationing ‘ imposed upon Australians during the war in- order to enable the British people to obtain all the food it is possible to supply, should not be made more severe. I am unable to promise the honorable member that there is likely to be any immediate review of the existing food rationing scale.
– Last week I referred to the assistance given by Australia to Japan and Turkey during times of national disaster and asked whether the Prime Minister would consider giving equivalent assistance to Great Britain at this time of national disaster, when floods in that country are said to be the worst for centuries. Since then 1 understand that the British Red Cross has sent an S O S to Australia asking for clothing and food, and that conferences on the subject have been held between the Prime Minister and representatives of the Australian Red Cross Society. Will the Prime Minister indicate the degree of assistance proposed by the Government, whether instructions will be given to the Department of Trade and Customs to suspend any export prohibitions that may hamper the granting of any such help, and whether the Commonwealth Disposals Commission will take stock of the position with a view to ascertaining what assistance it can render in the way of providing clothing, drugs and food.
– Yesterday morning I received a communication from the president of the Australian Red Cross Society requesting the co-operation of th, Government in assisting it to respond to a.n appeal made by the British Red Cross Society. Arrangements have been made for representatives of the Australian Red Cross Society to prepare a list of the types of articles they hare in mind. I understand that a conference is to he held this afternoon between officials of the society and representatives of the Departments of Supply and Shipping and Commerce and Agriculture and the Rationing Commission with a view to ascertaining precisely what is desired. Until that conference has discussed the matter I am afraid I can do no more than indicate to the president of the Australian Red Cross Society that the Government will cooperate in its efforts to meet the urgent requirements of the British people.
– In view of the appeal to the Australian Red Cross Society by the British Red Cross Society and the colossal task that it is undertaking, does the Prime Minister intend to leave the matter entirely to the resources of the society which has done such excellent work, or does the Government propose to give a monetary subscription or a contribution in other ways?
– When I have heard the result of the discussions to-day the help that can be given to the Australian Red Cross Society in this matter will receive consideration.
Release of MOTOR Vehicles.
– As there is still an. urgent meed for many kinds of motor vehicles in country districts, can thu Minister for the Army make available for civilian use an additional number of Army vehicles?
– During the last three weeks, I visited both Moorbank, in New South “Wales, and Bandiana, in Victoria, and as a result of what I saw 1 believe that it is possible to release more motor vehicles. Therefore, I have asked both the Eastern, and Southern Command to make available a greater number of vehicles.
– Will the Minister see that ex-servicemen get them ?
– We have asked that that be done as far as possible, and that in certain instances ex-servicemen be given preference even over State governments.
– Has an application been made to the Loan Council by the Brisbane City Council for approval to convert its loan raised in the United States of America? Is there any truth in the suggestion that the Loan Council refused to allow the Brisbane City Council to approach the loan market in the United States of America until the 1st August ? If so, what are the reasons ?
– It is true that the Brisbane City Council made an application to the Loan Council in respect of the conversion of a loan maturing in the United States of America. It is also true that at the last meeting of the Loan Council consideration was given to the conversion of a loan of a similar type proposed by the Sydney City Council, in connexion with which Alderman Cramer, who is, I believe, Chairman of the Finance Committee, went abroad. In a general way the members of the Loan Council decided that, having regard to certain governmental conversion proposals, it be left to the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, and myself to determine a suitable date upon which the loan of the Sydney City Council should be converted on the American market. There was a good deal of correspondence concerning that loan and it was decided that the Sydney City Council should approach the American market at an appropriate time after governmental requirements have been met. A similar position has arisen in regard to the conversion loan proposed by the Brisbane City Council. The Council has been informed that its loan should be so timed as to fit in appropriately with governmental loan proposals. I have discussed the matter with Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, and although he has not signified his agreement with the Loan Council’s decision, he offered no objection to it. The matter is now the subject of discussion with those associate*! with the floating of loans on the American market. I shall ascertain the present position and inform the honorable member fully in regard to it at an early date.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read a report in to-day’s press regarding an ex-serviceman, aged 30, formerly employed at South Kensington, Victoria, who was discharged from the Army as medically unfit and was found hanged yesterday afternoon? Has the Minister any facts concerning this case? Does the honorable gentleman know whether this young man wa3 refused a pension because his disability was regarded as not being -due to war service?
– I have no definite information in regard to the regrettable case mentioned by the honorable member. I have called for a report, particularly in regard to the suggestion that the man concerned had been discharged from the forces medically unfit. I expect to receive the report within the course of a few days. I shall supply the honorable member with full information in regard to the case. There are about 386,000 pensioners to whom we are paying about £14,600.000 a year. It is certain that some miscarriages of justice occur. I personally investigate all cases of alleged miscarriage of justice that come to my notice, and if an injustice has been done, it is remedied as far as possible.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen the report from the New York Herald-Tribune that British officials at detention camps at Cyprus are offering interned Jewish refugees their visas and transportation facilities to Australia and other parts of the British Empire if they will agree to discontinue their attempts to enter Palestine? If this report is correct, has the Australian Government given the British officials authority to make such an offer?
– I have not seen the report, but I have seen similar statements from time to time and I have emphatically denied several of them. No one has the authority of this Government to offer visas or landing permits or anything else to people in Cyprus or anywhere else.
– This information was taken from the Sydney Bulletin. That journal is most reputable-
– There is no such thing as a reputable journal.
– As the Prime Minister remarks, there is no such thing as a reputable journal. The honorable member should not take notice of these reports. If he likes to interview me privately, I will give him any information he wants about any particular cases. But there is no more truth in that report than there was in the report about the storm-trooper Johan de Witt.
Vocational Training Scheme
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say what progress has been made by the Commonwealth Government’s vocational training scheme in connexion with the building industry ? How many trainees have completed their training and are at work?
– When trainees in the building trades are 40 per cent, efficient they are transferred to the industry. Seven or eight days ago, 13,000 men had started training and about 6,000 who were 40 per cent, efficient had been placed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that ex-servicemen are suffering considerable hardship as the result of the rigidity of the regulations governing the payment of war gratuity? Will he give sympathetic consideration to men who, through illness, are getting into debt? Many of these men have entered into commitments to purchase furniture on time-payment, which includes interest, and because of sickness, they are unable to comply with the terms of the agreement and their furniture may be repossessed. In accordance with medical advice, some ex-servicemen have been obliged to move from houses in low-lying areas to dwellings on a higher level. If they could be paid their war gratuity now, they would be relieved in a large measure of their financial- worries. Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of amending the regulations in order to meet these particular cases?
– As the honorable member is doubtless aware, the legislation dealing with the payment of war gratuity was based almost entirely upon the report of a Parliamentary committee. That body recommended that the prescribed authority should be permitted a certain degree of latitude in determining whether payments should be made in certain circumstances. The committee was unanimous as to how the allowance should be paid to ex-servicemen who desired to build. Whilst some minor administrative departures have been made, particularly in regard to liabilities which have accrued as the result of sickness and hospital treatment, I have tried to adhere strictly to the recommendations of that able committee. Six of its members were ex-servicemen, and it considered this subject for a long period before it made its recommendations. The most that I can promise the honorable member is that I shall consider whether 1 shall ask the former members of the committee to examine the matters which lie has raised.
– -Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the reported warnings by senior members of the Government, and the Speaker of this House, that Communists aimed to destroy the Arbitration Court and the Labour party itself? Does he concur in these warnings? What action does the Government intend to take to protect the Arbitration Court and other democratic institutions against the machinations of this disruptive element? In this regard, what security check is exercised upon persons entering the Public Service as temporary employees? Will the Prime Minister follow the example of President Truman, of the United States of America, and purge government departments of all employees whose loyalty, is reasonably suspect, membership of, or association with, any Communist group or party being evidence of disloyalty?
– I have read in the newspapers the reported remarks of two prominent members of the Labour party, and, generally speaking, I entirely agree with their statements. Any action that the Government might intend to take to protect the democratic institutions of this country involves a matter of policy, and as the honorable member knows, it is not the practice to deal with such matters in reply to questions. The honorable gentleman asked also whether the Government would issue instructions for a purge of the Public Service, similar to that which the President of the United States of America is reported by the newspapers to have ordered. I have always had my doubts about the value of the kind of action which might be likened to the setting up of the equivalent of a gestapo. The history of the world has shown that when organizations of the kind suggested have been set up, some of them have been used for a number of purposes other than those intended, and that .they could readily be used for the purpose of damaging persons who have no association with the Communist party. I have not seen the full text of Mr. Truman’s statement; but I must confess that, although I agree that every care must be taken to scrutinize carefully the credentials of those who enter the. Public Service and are engaged upon any important governmental work, nevertheless, I am doubtful of the use that might be made or the results that might accrue from such investigations if the utmost care were not exercised or the right people were not in control of them. What Hitler produced in Germany might be repeated here. I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will place on, the notice-paper a question relating to the activities of the Security Service, so that the AttorneyGeneral may prepare an answer to it.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to reconsider the decision to allow the Australian production of rice to be consumed locally, and to examine the possibility of exporting our surplus production to Great Britain or some other needy country. Has the honorable gentleman, any further information on the subject?
– On the 26th February the Government, in the light of the information then available, and upon my recommendation, agreed to make available to the Australian consuming public the incoming rice crop, with the exception of that portion which would be required for supplies to the Pacific islands and the mandated territories. Inthe light of information since received from the British Ministry of Food, to the effect that the overseas rice crop this year will be equivalent to only 50 per cent. of the world’s requirements, the Government yesterday decided to make available all rice surplus to our own essential users and to the needs of the islands, to those countries which, according to the determination of the International Emergency Food Council, will require rice.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether a licence has been granted to any civil aviation company to operate an air service between Tamworth and Sydney. If so, what type of machine is if proposed shall be used, and when will the company be likely to commence its operations ?
– No licence has been granted to any company, other than Butler Air Transport, to operate in the area mentioned. I am not aware whether permission, has been granted to that company to operate a direct service between Tamworth and Sydney. I believe that the applications that have been made by various people in that area, as well as throughout Australia, will be dealt with by the inter-departmental committee which was appointed for that purpose. Decisions upon the applications will be made when the report of the committee has been furnished to me.
– In view of the acute shortage of the supplies of superphosphate that are being made available to wheat-growers - I do not know whether the companies handling superphosphate or the railway authorities are responsible, but I believe that a shortage of trucks is the cause - will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture use his influence with the responsible department to have priority of delivery accorded to wheat-growers, in all the early wheat-growing districts, such as Berrigan, Finley, Ganmain and Ardlethan? It is essential that superphosphate shall be made available, if that be at all possible, to the early hay-growing districts.
– Adequate supplies of superphosphate are available but some difficulties are being experienced in rail and road transport. I shall refer the question to the responsible authorities and ascertain whether anything can be done to expedite deliveries.
– In view of the adverse vote of the wheat-growers of South Australia resulting in failure in the passage of complementary legislation to enable the Government’s wheat stabilization plan to be put into operation, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Government intends to introduce a more equitable plan for the benefit of the wheat-growers for the coming harvest?
– As the honorable member has asked a question on a matter of Government policy, I cannot, at this stage, give him a reply.
Shortage of Supplies
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that Sydney warehouses which deal in cloth for the manufacture of clothing have no supplies available for the tailoring trade? If this is so, is the trouble due to shortage of man-power or machinery in the textile industry, or to heavy exportations of cloth made in Australia? If the trouble is due to a shortage of machinery has the Government received any indication whether Australia will receive a proportion of the textile machinery being removed from J apan ?
– I am not aware of any difficulties arising in this industry in consequence of a shortage of machinery, but there has been a grave shortage of labour in the textile and other industries. In regard to exports of cloth from Australia, it was explained some time ago in this House that in order to enable the manufacturers of this country to maintain contacts with markets which might become permanent it had been the practice to allow token shipments of cloth to be sent abroad. Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Darling, have asked me whether shipments of cloth sent abroad have not been larger than, token shipments. I have asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, whose department controls exports, to have the matter examined. I think the real reason for the shortage is the inability to get suitable labour. The matter of getting machinery from Japan will come up for consideration when reparations are being discussed, and when a decision has been reached as to what shall be done with Japanese industry.
– Oan the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what progress has ‘been made with the establishment of an aluminium manufacturing plant in Tasmania? Is the total estimated cost yet known, and can an estimate be given of the cost per ton, of the aluminium when produced? Can aluminium be purchased from overseas, and if so, at what price?
– This matter is one for consideration by the Minister for Munitions, to whom I shall refer it, and he will supply the honorable member with the information he seeks.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has considered the strong claims of Hobart as head-quarters for the Australian whaling industry?
– The whaling industry has received much consideration by the Government, and it was proposed to place orders in the United Kingdom for the construction of a factory ship and a number of chasers. However, difficulties arose regarding an allotment for this work. The claims of several ports, including Hobart and ports in Western Australia, have been considered, and will receive further attention should Australia take part in the whaling industry, as I hope it will. I shall arrange with the appropriate Minister to prepare a more complete reply to the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister bear in mind the outstanding claims of the port of Eden, situated on Twofold Bay, to be the head-quarters of the whaling industry ?
– When this matter was first discussed, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made strong representations to me and to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction on behalf of the port of Eden. I can assure him that Eden, as well as the other ports regarding which representations have been made, will be considered.
Application for Deregistration
– Is it a fact, as reported in Melbourne to-day, that consideration is being given to the making of an application for the deregistration of the Amalgamated Engineering Union for its action in precipitating an industrial crisis in Victoria? If so, when will the application be made? If this course is not contemplated, what action is the Commonwealth Government taking to terminate the crisis in Victoria precipitated by the extension of the engineers’ strike? Will this Government take appropriate emergency action to restore and maintain-, essential services in Victoria?
– If the honorablemember wants to know whether the Commonwealth Government has applied to the* court for the deregistration of the union, the answer is “No”. The Government has not given the matter any consideration. The employers may apply to the court which, if it thinks fit, may deregister the union.
– It has been indicated to the House that the Commonwealth Government has no power to move for the deregistration of a union that openly defies an award of the Commonwealth’s own instrumentality, the Arbitration Court. If such a power is not provided for in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill now before the House, will the Attorney-General take steps to amend it in order to give to the Commonwealth Government that necessary power?
– That will be considered when the debate on the bill is resumed.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question arising out of the recent action of the Russian Government in claiming reparations of £2,500,000,000 from Germany over the next twenty years, and the assertion that the agreements at the Yalta Conference entitled Russia to this amount. Does the Minister expect the character of the peace settlement to be determined by any more secret aspects of these war-time agreements? Did the Australian delegation express any opinions on reparations when placing their views before the Council of Foreign Ministers? If so. what were the views expressed ?
– Recently, the Soviet Government revealed that at the Yalta Conference, an alleged understanding was reached that reparations would come out of current production in Germany. At the time existence of such an agreement was known only to the representatives of the countries which took part in the Yalta Conference, and in that respect it resembles a large number of agreements reached during the war, which have greatly prejudiced and interfered with the working out of peace settlements. The Australian Government has placed its views before the Council of Foreign Ministers, and those views are stated in the White Paper on Reparations which was tabled at the beginning of the debate on external affairs. The Australian Government believes that there is a just claim against Germany for reparations, not by Russia only, but by all the belligerent countries. Secondly, it believes that reparations should not be arbitrarily assessed but should be decided upon in consultation with the nations concerned. Thirdly, they should not come from current production of surplus capital equipment over and above what is necessary for a peaceful, democratically minded Germany. Finally, they should not be exacted without regard for the economic welfare of Europe as a whole. These were stated in the document which was before the Council of Foreign Ministers. The view of the Governments of the United States of America and Great Britain is that the arrangements made under the Yalta Agreement with regard to reparations have been merged in and replaced by the terms of the later Potsdam Agreement. From the latter agreement it is reasonably clear that the source of reparations is not to be current production.
– Does the Government support Russia’s advocacy of decentralized government f or Germany ? If so, will the Minister for External Affairs state whether such support of provincial governments can be taken to mean that the Commonwealth Government will extend similar support to the rights of the Australian States in contradistinction to Labour’s policy of unification?
– I can answer only the first part of the honorable member’s question. I endeavoured to deal with that subject during the debate on international affairs. I shall refer to it again when I have an opportunity to do so. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, it is related to the first part only in a very distant way and it does not directly affect me.
Overseas Research Studentships
– Last week the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction informed me that it would not be possible to proceed with the building of the Australian National University for some time. Will the honorable gentleman consider the issue of overseas research studentships in the name of the Australian National University, pending the actual establishment of that institution?
– The suggestion that the Australian National University should offer overseas research studentships in order to advertise the fact that we are setting up such a university is a very interesting one. If the university were to do that, however, it would duplicate work already done by the Commonwealth in respect of overseas research scholarships generally. Under the postwar reconstruction training scheme more than 50 students are on the way to Great Britain or are already there for the purpose of undertaking post-graduate research courses. The Commonwealth is meeting the cost of these courses and of the maintenance of students while they are in Great Britain. In addition the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research makes available studentships in the United Kingdom for the study of certain specialized subjects. At present 35 students in the United Kingdom benefit from that plan. I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable member any hope that studentships additional to those already made available by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and under the post-war reconstruction training scheme, will be made available.
– Did the Prime Minister receive to-day a deputation from the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party ? Was there a discussion of the lifting of the remaining wage-pegging regulations or substantial modification of them ? Can the Prime Minister indicate to the House what decisions, if any, were reached after that discussion?
– I hope I shall not be asked from time to time to disclose to the House the request made by all deputations that come to me about various matters; but, as a courtesy to the honorable member, on this occasion, I may say that I did receive a deputation from the executive of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. We did discuss some aspects of wage-pegging, notably, interpretation of penalty rates and marginal rates, agreements between employers and employees and a number of detail matters not of great major importance, although probably of great importance to the men that raised them. I have promised to give consideration to all the matters raised by the deputation.
Alleged Alteration of Statement By Prime Minister
– It was reported in the press that the Prime Minister was preparing to make or had made a material alteration of his reply to a question in this House. Do you, Mr. Speaker, think that this is in accord with the high ethical standards of this House in view of the accepted rule that no honorable member shall materially alter statements made by him without the concurrence of the House? Do you not think that in view of the high position held by the Prime Minister he should set a standard by seeking the concurrence of the House?
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is a mystery to me. I do not know what he is talking about. If he supplies me with full information I may be able to answer him.
– Will the Minister for Defence say when His Excellency the Governor-General, as CommanderinChief of the armed forces, will make his first official inspection of them?
– I shall try to obtain that information.
Mr. William Winter
– Recently Mr. William Winter, an American broadcaster, returned to the United States of America from Australia. When in Australia, he wrote a series of articles in the press, broadcast for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and appeared in newsreels that are now being screened throughout Australia, in the course of which he attacked vigorously and directly theWhite Australia policy and Australia’s connexion with Great Britain and the Crown. He came to Australia for a variety of interests, but the principal one was a contract with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Does the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral approve of Mr. William Winter’s criticism of those two subjects of national policy? If not, will he take steps before people are brought to Australia to broadcast to ensure that their views shall not clash with Australia’s vital interests?
– The honorable member asks me to resurrect the war-time censorship over what shall be printed or broadcast, or, if not, he asks that some action be taken to restrain the Australian Broadcasting Commission from giving facilities to people to criticize over the air matters of vital concern to Australia. To do as the honorable member suggests would require amendment of the Australian Broadcasting Act, because it vests the Australian Broadcasting Commission with complete independent powers. Ministers of all governments have had reason to be annoyed and embarrassed by the activities of various commissioners who have constituted the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but, as the act stands, nothing can be done about the matter. I wish the commission would use a great deal more discretion than it does in the selection of both broadcasters and themes of broadcasts.
Formal Motion foe Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The claim of ex-prisoners of war to subsistence payments covering the period of their imprisonment in enemy hands.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– This non-party matter has not been debated in this House, although we have heard some statements about it, and I have brought it to the notice of honorable members on many occasions. I have been supported briefly, on this side of the House, by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and one other honorable member, whose name I cannot for the moment remember, and, on the Government side, by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and, I believe, by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), although he did not definitely state his support. The honorable member read in this House a poem entitled, “ On the Road to Tarakan “. and the subject was “Australia, My Country, Will’ You Repay?’* At that time, the honorable gentleman was referring to the men who died and were buried on the road to Tarakan. If he were so sympathetic towards the men who died, his sympathy must also lie with those who went through that hell, and later came back to Australia.
I desire to make it abundantly clear that I do not regard this subject as a party matter. I emphasize that to-day, because of a letter which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser over the name of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers). Up to that time, the honorable gentleman had been most courteous in giving attention to this matter. Only last week, I introduced him to one of the nurses who survived the massacre in Malaya, Sister Oram, and his treatment of her was a delight to see, and left nothing to be desired. However, writing to the Adelaide Advertiser, he said that honorable members on this side of the chamber had raised the payment of the subsistence allowance, not in the interests of the prisoners of war, but for party propaganda purposes. I assure the House, as the only voting representative of the prisoners of war in this Parliament, that I have raised this matter solely in the interests of the men who are entitled to this subsistence allowance. For this purpose, I have forgotten about party political propaganda, and I hope that all honorable members, on this occasion, will adopt a similarly dispassionate attitude.
When the Minister for the Army made a statement to the House on this subject last week, he said that the hysterical utterances of the Opposition in this chamber had lent support to the view that we were treating this as a party matter. That statement was absolutely ridiculous. The Minister himself is an exserviceman, and I am still of opinion that if he had to decide whether the prisoners of war should receive this subsistence allowance, he would immediately approve of the payment. Whenever I have discussed this subject with him, he has been most sympathetic. Some other honorable members opposite hold similar views. Speaking in this House on the 20th November, 1946, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said, in reference to myself -
The honorable gentleman repeated a plea, which lie 1ms made on many other occasions, for the payment of certain allowances to men taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese at Singapore. If there were complete honesty on the part of any government in relation to the re-establishment of ex-servicemen, and if there were complete sincerity on the part of the people of Australia, that money for which the honorable member pleaded would be forthcoming immediately.
Subsequently, the honorable member said -
I should like to see provision made in the budget for the £2,000,000 which would be needed to pay the subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war, as the honorable member for Wimmera has indicated.
Therefore, I can state definitely that this is a non-party matter. To date, it has been so treated. I hope that it will continue to be and that all honorable members, who have force, enthusiasm and sympathy - not that the ex-prisoners of war want sympathy - will speak in favour of this urgent matter. What is the position of the Government? Can it afford to pay the subsistence allowance? I believe that all Australians desire that this money shall be paid promptly. The Government is always asking the people for a lead. Recently, it requested the people to grant to the Commonwealth, by referendum, increased industrial powers. On that occasion, the people rejected the request, but I have read in the newspapers that the Government proposes to re-submit the question. If the people of Australia could be asked, at a referendum, whether they believe that these exservicemen should receive the subsistence allowance, an overwhelming majority of them would reply in the affirmative. Therefore, the Government has nothing to fear from the people on that score. They are in favour of the proposal. I also believe that all honorable members are in favour of the proposal. The next question is, “ Can Australia afford to pay?” Only last week in this House, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated that Australia was now at the very peak of its prosperity. Therefore, Australia is able to afford to pay. The third question is, “ Oan Australia afford to disregard this claim ? “ Certainly, Australia cannot afford to do so. High Army officials agree that if the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force had not held up the Japanese advance down the Malayan Peninsula for approximately seven weeks, the Japanese would have invaded Australia. One honorable member, speaking on the Overseas Telecommunications Bill, declared that, had it not been for the telecommunications experts who were listening in shortly before the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese would have landed in Australia. That statement was ridiculous. Had it not been for the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force holding up the Japanese advance in Malaya, the telecommunications experts would not have had an opportunity to obtain valuable information about the battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese made a mistake when they launched their attack on Malaya. Had they directed their first offensive against Australia, they would have captured this country. But the Japanese considered that their best plan would be to subdue at the outset our forces in Malaya. They believed, erroneously, that they could conquer those forces without delay, but that small band of men held them up for seven weeks and, in that period, the Australian Government was able to secure assistance from the United States of America. That is the main reason why
Australia, the Australian people, and the Commonwealth Government, must not disregard this claim.
One statement has been made that Australia should claim reparations from Japan, and I am in accord with it. If the claim is met, so much the better! The ex-prisoners of war would welcome that. But is it not a reasonable and logical conclusion that, first of all, we must put our own house in order? How fan we ask the Japanese, who were so brutal to the prisoners of war, to pay reparations when our own Government refuses to pay to them this subsistence allowance. The people applauded the boys when they embarked, and when we returned, I, among others, drove through Melbourne, where cheering crowds showered us with flowers. At that stage, the people would have acceded to any request that we made. But time has passed, and it seems that, not the people, but the Government is .forgetting the sacrifices. The Government cannot afford to disregard this claim. The view has been expressed that if a man is on active service, he gets certain things; and if he is not on active service, he does not receive them. Honorable members must realize that the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force was on active service from, the date of embarkation to the date of disembarkation. One claim lias been put forward that if the subsistence allowance, which is due to the men in lieu of the food that the Government did not have to provide, is paid to the ex-prisoners of war of the 8th Division, other men who continued to fight on land fronts, at sea or in the air will not be treated fairly. I remind the House that the men who continued to fight and who were not taken prisoners of war, are the first to support this claim. They say that they would not have liked to be prisoners of war even if they had been paid £100 a day. Having been a prisoner of war, I agree with their attitude. The men who continued to fight are among the first to support this claim on behalf of the prisoners of war.
The Minister for the Army said that prisoners of war, while in captivity, had received certain payments. That may have occurred in isolated instances, but I myself do not know of any prisoners who received any payments in Singapore, Changi or Thailand. Having been with many of them, and spoken with others, I am definite on this point. If the Government estimates that the 5 oz. to 10 oz. of rice a day, according to the various stages of our imprisonment, was worth ½d. a day, the men will not object to the deduction of that amount from their subsistence allowance. They are quite agreeable to the deduction of that half-penny a day which represents the value of the rice supplied to them by the Japanese. The men who were prisoners of war in Singapore, Malaya and Thailand starved day after day and week after week for three and one-half years. Members of this Parliament, who throughout the war had three meals every day consisting of a variety of food, cannot realize what it is to have nothing but boiled rice day after day and year after year for three and one-half years. In all great wars, it is the nation which gets the praise but the men bear the brunt of the fighting. Certainly in all the wars in which Australia has been engaged no men have borne the brunt to such a degree as did the members of the Sth Division. All Australia subscribes to that view. Those prisoners of war who have returned to Australia will never be the same as they were before they went abroad. I shall quote from one or two letters from the many that I have received on the subject. A letter was published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 18th March, over the signature “R. L. Jones “. I shall not refer to that part of it which is displeasing to the Minister for the Army, because I do not believe that he said that the claim that had been made on behalf of prisoners of war was not justified.
– I did not say that.
– I quote this passage from the letter -
It was just bad luck that we were caught by the enemy and made to work as slaves from twelve to twenty hours a day till we were of no further use to them, and had to exist on rations that a mau would not feed to pigs.
I came home with nerves gone to pieces, eyesight and hearing affected through malnutrition. The doctor told me my organs were fifteen years older than my years.
Another man wrote this to mc from Carlisle, Western Australia. -
I was compelled to work on the Burma-road with my pals, pitting all we had against the bestiality of Nippon. Looking back over those times it is a wonder so many survived. But [ am sure all felt it was worth while fighting to maintain our sanity, feeling that when we were at last freed we should receive fair treatment at the hands of the country we all served to the best of our ability. I did not, nor I believe did my cobbers, expect or want charity. Wo received the pay which was our just due, but as you have so well emphasized, have been refused the ration allowance which is also our very definite right.
A lady has written to me in these terms -
May I presume to ask you if Mr. Chambers has decided yet to grant ex-prisoners of war the subsistence.
I want to be quite fair to the Minister. He is not solely responsible for the decision, because it represents the policy of the Government and he is compelled to act as its representative in the matter. Tho letter continued -
I boldly wrote a couple of letters to the Prime Minister several weeks ago pointing out that my husband (and a lot of others no doubt) had spent their deferred pay recuperating. My husband never worked for nine months-
Many of these prisoners of war could not do any work when they returned to Australia, and a lot of them are still going into hospitals to receive treatment. The letter continues - and even now is hardly fit. Sometimes after a hard day he looks ill. The mental worry of having nothing behind him gets him down. They have suffered insecurity for so long they are entitled to a little peace of mind now.
I and those who think as I do believe that if this subsistence were paid it would enable these men to have a holiday and to obtain extra food which would make up to some extent for what they lacked during, the three and a half years of their imprisonment. We claim that men who had to starve should now have the opportunity to obtain the best food, so that they may recuperate. A very interesting military finance regulation and instruction reads -
Prisoners of war who escape are granted 3s. subsistence per day during the period_ of their evasion of capture, plus exchange, making a total of 3s. lid. a day.
In the case of personnel of Malaya and Java where a soldier has evaded capture following the date of capitulation, if he can show proof that lie was not captured until a subsequent date to that of capitulation, he is entitled to claim and is granted subsistence for that period of evasion at the rate of 3s. per day plus exchange.
Why should men who were prisoners of war and had to suffer bell at the hands of the Japanese be excluded from this payment? So far, no reason has been given in this House. We have merely excuses, which mean, nothing. Excuses can be found for any act. These men ask, not for sympathy, but merely for justice. Honorable members must realize that their claim is a legitimate one. It has been said that money is the cheapest thing which a nation can sr/end during a period of war. I assert that money is the cheapest thing which a government can spend during war, and in doing justice to these men and giving them a chance to recuperate. [Extension of time granted.’] Unfortunately, in all past wars Australia has had to spend more than money; it has been involved in the loss of the lives of some of its best sons. Others have returned to their homeland impaired in health. Surely in a great, rich country like Australia, the Government which these men served so well will not allow their claim to pass unheeded !
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has raised this matter on several occasions. In the early portion of bis speech, he expressed the hope that the debate would be non-political. He has made reference to a letter that was published in the Adelaide Advertiser. When I used the expression “political propaganda “ I did not refer either to the honorable member or to this House.
– I was the only honorable member who had spoken.
– Other honorable members have spoken to me on the subject. I believe that they were completely hysterical, and that they do not know the details of the subject as the honorable member does. I believe him to be absolutely sincere. When I spoke about political propaganda, I was referring to the press throughout Australia, which had described what I had said as “ a sneering remark “ or “ a sneering statement “. I ask honorable members whether there was anything of a sneering nature in the statement that I made on prisoners of war. The press also alleged that I had said in my statement that prisoners of war were not justified in expecting any further consideration. Those words do not appear in the statement that I made.
– I have supported the Minister in that contention.
– I have expressed high appreciation of the honesty and sincerity of the honorable member for Wimmera. The press has also alleged that I had said that we had been most considerate towards the prisoners of war. I did not use those words ; they are not in my statement. Except that we are limited as to time and that honorable members would be wearied thereby, I would read the whole statement again. However, I make it clear that the words to which I have referred were not used by me. There was no personal consideration in my statement, for it was made on behalf of the Government. I make it clear also that I believe that the honorable member for Wimmera is absolutely sincere in his approach to this subject. We ought to be able to discuss the question on a nonparty basis, for there are probably as many ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House as on the Opposition side of it, and, naturally, they would all have the same interest in the welfare of Australian ex-prisoners of war and exservicemen generally.
– It is not necessary to be an ex-serviceman to have an equal interest with them in the subject.
– Quite so. All the Australian people are sympathetic alike to Australian ex-prisoners of war, to the relatives of the men and women who died in the service of their country, and to those who have returned to Australia maimed and unable to resume their normal life. Many of these individuals will be practically useless for the rest of their lives, because of the sufferings that they have undergone. Consequently, it surely can be taken for granted that all of us, and the people of Australia generally, are deeply sympathetic with them.
But in giving consideration to the request of the honorable member for Wimmera for the granting of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day we have to be careful that we do not do something which will be unjust to other ex-service men and women; and in dealing with Australian prisoners of war who were in Japanese hands we must have regard also to the conditions of our prisoners of war who were held by the Germans and Italians. In this regard I received a letter only this week which, I am sure, will be interesting to honorable members. Sometimes letters of this description come to hand in respect of which no check can be made, but I have checked up on the writer of this letter, and have ascertained that he is a public servant and an ex-prisoner of war. He writes -
Contrary to general belief that these “ exEurope prisoners of war “ were infinitely better off than their fellow sufferers in Jap hands, I would point out that conditions in German hell camps were equally bad as their contemporaries. Without doubt the Japanese disregarded convention and resorted to primitive methods of torture to gain their ends, but so too did the Hun, in an equally bestial though somewhat “ civilized “ manner.
The climatic conditions pertaining in the areas of the respective “detaining powers” were completely opposite -
The Jap prisoners were subject to intense heat as against the European intense cold.
The Nips’ diet of rice was more than the equivalent of Jerry’s turnip top soup once a day, and the clothing and medical position in both was practically nil.
True in the European theatre we could get food parcels from outside sources at times - in fact if it had not been for these no prisoners of war ex-Europe would have survived.
This is not a rash statement but one of fact based on the conditions experienced by the writer (whose weight at one stage was 76 lbs.) and the comparison made between Russian prisoners of war who died of starvation in tens of thousands in our camp, “living” only on the turnip tops - the camps concerned were Lamsdorf and Warburg. As regards the food parcels it must be remembered that these were bought and paid for by our next of kin and although arrangements were made for the receipt of these by the Swiss Red Cross, it was not until at least six months after Crete .that any of us saw one - in any case the supply was never consistent the average being about one per fortnight.
Working conditions in Germany had little or nothing on that of the Jap - whereas our boys on the Burma railway were sweltering in the heat and rotten with malaria, their pals in Germany were freezing in the metal quarries and salt mines in water to their waists. Neither of these present a pretty picture or do they form a good study for comparisons.
I brought some of our boys back from Germany that had worked in the salt minus and also the quarries - disabled for the rest of their lives - I too have seen the poor unfortunates release.d by the Japs - there is little between them and it is unfair to attempt to make comparisons by trying to measure pain and suffering - the best is the least that can be done for them.
I arn sure that the honorable member for Wimmera will accept that individual’s statement as the true story of an Australian prisoner of war held in the European zone.
We also have to consider the conditions of service of Australians in the front line of fighting, particularly in the early days of the war- in Crete, Syria, and in the Owen Stanley Range of New Guinea. It. is well known that during a part of the campaign in the Owen Stanley Range area it was not possible to transport food to the troops regularly. All that could be done was to drop supplies from aircraft. Early in the war the containers of such food were not entirely satisfactory, and they were smashed when the parcels landed. It is on record that sometimes, for a fortnight at a time, servicemen in the Owen Stanley Range could not be provided with army rations and had to subsist on such food as they could gather from the bush.
It is reasonable to mention, also, that on previous occasions when the honorable member for Wimmera has referred to this subject he has had in mind Australian prisoners of war held by the Japanese. To-day he has referred to Australian prisoners of war in general terms.
– I desire a general investigation to be made.
– That brings to light rather a. different situation from the one described in the House earlier. Hitherto, I think the honorable member will admit, the attitude of the Government has been that a sectional investigation, covering the conditions of Aus tralian prisoners of war in Japanese hands only, would not be justified. Any investigation would have to cover the whole field, and include prisoners of war in Europe and also, it may be, the circumstances of servicemen who, because of adverse conditions, were deprived, at times during their service, of army rations.
– But, at any rate, those men were free.
– That may be so, but they were not receiving army rations. It is on record that at some periods supplies could not be delivered for as long as a fortnight at a time.
– Surely there would be information on the files in the Department of the Army dealing with the conditions of prisoners of war in Europe and the degree to which they conformed to the terms of the Geneva Convention. It would surely be much better to rely on those records than to rely upon casually received letters.
– That also may be so, but the records do not provide a complete cover, and many contradictory statements are on record. It would be necessary to make an overall survey. That is the only proper way to approach the subject. I assure the honorable member for Wimmera that the Government will look further into this matter.
– If an investigation were made it would reveal that prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese suffered much more than did those in the hands of the Italians or the Germans, and that there is reason for saying that they are the only ones who should receive payment.
– That will be looked into. Every member of the Government has the greatest sympathy with the prisoner of war.
– They do not want sympathy ; they want justice.
– I think it was stated that the Government had no sympathy with the prisoners of war, but that is not true. This should not be a party question.
– How many times has this matter been before Cabinet?
– Once since I have been a member of Cabinet. “We are trying to do everything possible to make matters brighter and happier for these men.
.- The matter raised by the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mi-. Turnbull) is a very important one, and the answer of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) is in some ways hopeful, but in some ways rather curious. I am still a little puzzled to know why he wrote his now famous letter to the Adelaide Advertiser. Let me recall that this matter having been raised primarily by the honorable member for “Wimmera, the Minister for the Army made a statement on Friday. the. 14th March. That statement was made by him on behalf of the Government, including himself. I do not understand the distinction that is arising in modern times between a Minister’s views and the Government’s views, because a Minister can have no views other than those of the Government. In hi3 statement, the Minister said-
As with all other matters affecting personnel who were in the hands of the enemy, the Government has given very careful and sympathetic consideration to the representations.
If the claim put forward on behalf of prisoners of war in Japanese hands were accepted, it must equally apply to all prisoners of war held by the Italians and Germans. . .
Then he makes a citation from the report, of the “War Gratuity Committee, and continues -
Having regard to these considerations, the. Government is not able to accede to the request.
That seems to be pretty clear and unequivocal, and certainly nothing that I have heard in the House would justify the comments of the Minister. If I may offer a word of advice to the Minister, it is this : It is never wise for a Minister to write letters to the press, because if he does he will very quickly find himself in trouble. In the course of his letter to the Adelaide Advertiser, the Minister quarrelled with the letter of Mr. R. L. Jones, and I think he may regret his words when he looks at them again. He wrote -
In the Advertiser (18.3.47) was a letter signed by Mr. R. L. Jones, of McLaren Vale, quoting me as stating that claims of exprisoners of war for payment of subsistence money were “ not justified “.
That statement is incorrect and conveys a misleading impression of my attitude to the problems of Australian ex-prisoners of war and hardships and suffering endured by them while in Japanese prison camps.
As Minister for the Army, I made a comprehensive statement to Parliament last week, setting out the history of this subject and the reasons on which the Government based its decision after sympathetic consideration.
Full record of my statement appears in Hansard and perusal will disclose that I made no personal comment therein on the merits or otherwise of the claims for subsistence by ex-prisoners of war.
That is a very strange distinction, and one that no Minister should make. But the letter goes on -
Abbreviated reports of my announcement, il read in conjunction with the almost hysterical outbursts of Opposition members at the Government’s decision would undoubtedly lead to misunderstanding.
Furthermore, it is patently clear that the Opposition was more concerned with the claims of the ex-prisoners of war as a propaganda weapon than it was with the ultimate payment of the 3s. a day subsistence.
So that if Mr. R. L. Jones had asserted f Iia t the matter was being treated in a partisan way, there is an abundance of foundation for his claim in the rather unfortunate epistle of the Minister.
I turn away from that, because it is of minor importance. What is of major importance is that a very powerful case has been made out by the honorable member for Wimmera. I have no doubt that a very powerful case can be made out for prisoners of war in all theatres. I have no doubt that all these cases require investigation, and raise problems not to he dismissed with a wave of the hand. We are all willing to recognize that. We can start off on the assumption that every member of this House, wherever he sits, has an instinctive sympathy with the claims of prisoners. It appears beyond contradiction that these men have been imprisoned in circumstances of great, and frequently inhuman, hardship. It is quite true that during the period of their imprisonment - and this is a cold fact that none of us can ignore - Australia was saving money on them. Australia was not at the charge of maintaining these thousands of men while they were in the hands of the enemy. Their imprisonment involved the most shocking hardships and, as the whole world knows, it invoked a great deal of splendid heroism unsurpassed in any field of waa-. Finally, it is abundantly and tragically clear that the imprisonment and sufferings endured by the men concerned may permanently impair their lives.
Those being the facts, is it not clear that this claim ought not be rejected out of hand, or made the subject of some routine, departmental consideration? This is a claim which, in conjunction with the other claims that I have mentioned, ought to be made the subject of a full, impartial and authoritative investigation, either by a committee of this Parliament, or by a committee representing those who, by their military or other experience, are fitted to sit in judgment on the matter. I do not know whether the answer should be that a full claim ought to be allowed in respect of one section of war prisoners and not of another. All I know is - and the Minister must agree with me in this - that we cannot, consistent with human feeling and the judgment of our consciences, allow a matter of this kind to be decided by the simple yea or nay of one department of State. It affects every member of Parliament. Its proper and just treatment is, in the long run, the concern of this Parliament. Therefore, I urge on the Minister and on the Government that they should take this opportunity to establish a full and impartial investigating authority so that all the facts may be examined, and a judgment arrived at which is not a cold, mathematical judgment, but one which does justice to the enormous, human issues involved.
– This is a matter on which one speaks without any relish or enthusiasm. It is a difficult subject to speak on impartially and factually, if one takes a certain point of view, without being described as unfair and unsympathetic towards the prisoners of war. I am convinced that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), in stating the claims of the prisoners of war as he has persistently done, is sincere, and that he believes that they have a legitimate claim against the Government; but I point out that all the men and women involved have been back in Australia for a considerable time after their trying experiences. Subject to correction, I say that they were all back in Australia prior to the last general election ; yet not one political party, nor one candidate - unless it was the honorable member for Wimmera himself, for whom I have great respect in thi3 regard - included this issue in a policy speech, nor stated that if his party were returned to power it would pay sustenance money to the persons concerned.
– What relevance bas that?
– I am stating the facts. This was a vital question, and it had been raised in this House previously, I think. There were in the parties represented by honorable members opposite some very eminent generals and other officers who had served in the two wars. Apparently, they were unmoved by this claim, and did not bring any pressure to bear on their leaders to include it in the party platform.
– I can not see what this has to do with the matter.
– This is a subject upon which I could very well have dodged expressing an opinion. As for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), we know that he never took any risks of being a prisoner in any war. Notwithstanding that, he promoted himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. I speak with a considerable amount of emotion on this subject.
– And with a good deal of stupidity.
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah must remain silent.
– The honorable member for Warringah bought into this, and now he does not like it. After the 1914-18 war, and again after the recent war, the parties opposite consistently pointed to the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act as a measure which provided full compensation due to all returned soldiers, whether prisoners of war or not. If, as the result of his war service, an ex-serviceman suffers physically from wounds, sickness, or disease which prevent him from resuming his civil occupation as efficiently as he would otherwise have resumed it, he is entitled to the compensation provided under the terms of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act.
– Gould not all that be taken into account by an impartial investigation ?
– It could ; but that is n feature of this subject which must not he overlooked. The claim has been made only on behalf of men who suffered acutely and desperately in durance vile at the hands of the Japanese. If it were allowed, however, would not similar consideration have to be given to those who escaped from Greece into Albania and other countries and were finally rounded up by the Germans, and, similarly to those who were captured on other fronts, and those who suffered maltreatment in German hell-ships and upon whom grave mental and physical strain was also imposed during their incarceration in enemy camps? It will be recalled that during World War I. the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was captured by the Turks, deprived of his rations, lived as best he could on what he could “ scrounge “ from the Turks, and finally, when he escaped into Russia, had to pay out of his own pocket such sums of money as were necessary to buy food to keep him alive. The government of the day, however, did not recompense him for the loss of his rations during the period of his imprisonment and escape. There are other factors surrounding this case which se far have not been brought to light. My recollection of World War I. - and I refer to it with great diffidence - is that at that time King’s Regulations laid down that to be taken prisoner by the enemy was a court-martial offence. When I say that I do not wish it to be thought that I am reflecting in any way upon the men who were the victims of the capitulation at Singapore or upon those who were captured earlier during the campaign on the Malay peninsula. The plain fact is that military authorities view surrender to an enemy as a courtmartial offence.
– The Minister should be fair; at Singapore the troops obeyed an order to surrender.
– I am stating thefacts as I understand them. It is possible- - God forbid that it should ever happen - that we may be involved in another war at some later time and if this proposal beagreed to it may constitute an inducement, in the eyes of the military authorities-
– That is a i terrible thing: to say.
– The honorable member ran out of the Army and never went back to it to fight for his country. If hereflects upon my motives I am justified’ in indicting him. The plain fact is that the military authorities may view a demand for compensation of this kind as a precedent which may encourage men tobecome prisoners of war, perhaps in the hands of an enemy more merciful than the Japanese. These factors cannot be overlooked. I am willing and anxious–
– To besmirch the name of your fellow Australians.
– During the last few weeks the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has besmirched the names of many decent citizens under the cover of parliamentary privilege. Honorable members will realize that this, is a difficult question which must be tackled without bias. I have just as much sympathy for the men and the women concerned as has the honorable member for Wimmera, but we have to consider the degree of misery and suffering endured not only by those held in durance vile in the prison camps of the Japanese, but also by those who served right throughout the war on the battlefronts in which our forces were engaged. We must also consider the precedent established during World War I., when men similarly circumstanced were not compensated for the loss of their ration allowance.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I am glad of the opportunity to support the plea of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) on behalf of Australian prisoners of war. It has been clearly established that their entitlement to the proposed assistance has been proved from two different angles. I desire to approach the subject from a third angle merely to ensure that every phase of entitlement of the claim is covered. This case is peculiar because there is no precedent for such a payment. Is there a precedent for the calculated brutality meted out to our prisoners of war by the Japanese? It is upon cases such as this that precedents are established. Let us dispense with all thoughts of imaginery difficulties and get down to practical considerations. The Australian military regulations and orders, known to the troops as A.M.R. & 0., provide, among other thing3, that a soldier on service shall receive pay, separation allowance and rations. If a soldier be serving in circumstances where the ordinary rations cannot be made available to him, he receives what is known as emergency rations - hard and uninteresting fare, but unquestionably luxurious compared with what the Japanese provided for our prisoners. If, on the other hand, a soldier is so circumstanced that he cannot get either the ordinary or the emergency ration, he is entitled to 3s. a day in lieu thereof. His entitlement to that payment of 3s. a day is what we are now discussing. Such an allowance was paid to every soldier serving inside Australia, in spite of the comparative luxury with which he was surrounded, if he were beyond the precincts of a military camp for three days or more. Why hesitate in this case? Has this claim been rejected because of the £3,000,000 it would cost, an amount which would have been paid in any case if these men had not been taken prisoner ? The Treasury would not be in any different position if this payment were authorized, than it would have been had the men remained under the control of the Australian army. If that is the reason it is the first time I have known this Government to be embarrassed by the thought of expending a few millions of pounds often on things very much less worthy than the claim we are now discussing. Or is the Government’s unwillingness to accept this charge because of the fear that recognition of the claim may induce prisoners from other battle spheres to make similar demands? These cases should be considered on their merits by such an authority as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has proposed. I believe that the real reason is due to a complete failure to appreciate the value of the services rendered to the nation by soldiers in battle. There is nothing greater, nothing finer or nobler, than that service and it can never be assessed in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. In the short time available to me I intend to endeavour to describe the thoughts that actuate soldiers on the battlefield, where they establish friendships that will never die, where for the first time they realize the value of unity and appreciate the true worth of their fellowmen, and where every petty and unworthy thought is forgotten and only the best that is in man can prevail. How different are the thoughts of many people who live their lives surrounded by comforts, unafraid and care - free in their own homes, because of this service which I now hope to describe. In order to give some idea of the thoughts that animate our fighting men on the battlefield I propose to read the concluding paragraphs of the exhortation of the late Sir John Monash to his troops on the eve of the great offensive against the Germans on the 8th August, 1918, because the sentiments therein expressed apply equally to all soldiers who have been through hell of modern warfare. I shall read it in the hope that it will assist people who have never had any personal contact with war to a greater appreciation of the unfailing loyalty of the men who bore arms for their country. On that eventful occasion Sir John Monash said -
I entertain no sort of doubt that every Australian soldier will worthily rise to so great an occasion, and that every man, imbued with the spirit of victory, will, in spite of every difficulty that may confront bini, be animated by no other resolve than a grim determination to see through, to a clean finish, whatever his task may be.
The work to be done to-morrow will perhaps make heavy demands upon the endurance and staying powers of many of you; but I am confident that, in spite of excitement, fatigue, and physical strain, every man will carry on to the utmost, of. his powers until his goal is won for the sake of Australia, the Empire, and our cause.
I earnestly wish every soldier of the corps the best of good fortune and a glorious and decisive victory, the story of which will re-echo throughout the world, and will live forever in the history of our home land.
Live for ever in the history of our homeland ! Let me assure the House that even while that exhortation was being read to the troops elements in this country had already forgotten them and were quite indifferent as to their fate. After three years of uninterrupted fighting in snow, sleet, rain and mud the soldiers on the battlefield were still big enough to be stirred by an appeal to do their utmost “ for Australia, the Empire, and our cause”. How well they performed their task is now history. They turned a prospective defeat into an assured victory, a success described by Field-Marshal Ludendorf as Germany’s black day from which he could see no recovery. The men on whose behalf we are pleading to-day are the sons of the original Anzacs, young men proud of the traditions established by their fathers, who were grimly determined, that “ Australia, the Empire and our cause “ would not suffer through any failure on their part, who from the time of their first contact with the enemy until the final ignominious surrender, which was no fault of their own, fought with their comrades in arms, gave of their very best and by so doing gained a delay which probably saved this country from the horror and degradation of a Japanese occupation, to be free from which we would cheerfully have paid £100,000,000. Their immediate reward was rotting for three and a half years in a Japanese slave camp. Many thousands of them died of starvation and disease. Many thousands more survived. But all, living or dead, were worthy sons of Australia. We plead that Australia prove worthy of them.
– Having listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who submitted the motion, and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), I wonder to what they direct their attention.
When this agitation arose, I understood’ that it was intended that the payment of” sustenance, to former prisoners of warshould be. confined to those that were in. the hands of the Japanese.
– That is what I say.
– There is inconsistency between that proposal and thesubject of the motion because it covers all Australians who were prisoners of war, regardless of in whose hands they were held. I should, be glad if honorable members were consistent. Many irrelevancies have .been introduced into this debate, but I propose to keep to the point. Not only Australian soldiers but also the soldiers of all the Allied forces fell into the hands of our enemies, and suffered varying degrees of hardship. All the Allied nations, in reviewing the services of their armed forces, have tried . to look at the matter broadly and have tried not to particularize. The treatment of prisoners of war is the subject of an international convention, but its conditions were not carried out by the Japanese.
– The Japanese were not a party to that convention.
– I am not sure that the Japanese did sign it. Anyway, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said recently about war gratuities, this Government and Allied governments, the Government of New Zealand, the Government of the United Kingdom, and I think, the Government of the United States of America, have made no distinction between members of their forces who became prisoners of war. Varying degrees of hardship were suffered by all troops overseas. Other honorable members and I have talked with men who were in prison camps in Germany, and we know that great numbers of them suffered extreme hardships. There are others who were in prison camps in the Austrian Tyrol whose treatment was indeed good. The treatment of prisoners of war depended largely on the character of the camp commandants. I am not expressing my own opinions; I am repeating the opinions of officers and men who were prisoners of war. The prisoners of the Germans have been referred to in this debate. They were imprisoned in Germany, Austria and Poland. Great numbers of them suffered gravely, but there were others, particularly officers, who admitted that they were far more safe as prisoners of war than they would have been in the firing line on short rations, suffering deplorable weather. The Allied nations have decided that they cannot differentiate between the degrees of hardship suffered by their troops, whether as combatants or prisoners of war. In New Guinea our troops were subjected to diseases, pests, extraordinarily bad weather and many other hardships. Their conditions were worse than those of prisoners of war in other parts of the world. It has been said - and I freely admit it - that Australians held by the Japanese suffered great cruelty, in fact, torture; but that is also true of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Allied troops held by the Germans. In one prison camp in Poland the Russian prisoners of war were reduced from 75,000 to 10,000 in nine months. Therefore, the prisoners of the Germans suffered grave hardships for a long period.
– The right honorable member is right off the subject. We are asking for sustenance for prisoners of war.
– I do not know precisely what the honorable gentleman opposite are asking for. The honorable member for Wimmera asked for one thing and the honorable member for Gippsland another.
– We are asking for an investigation.
– I know what is being asked for. I have tried to avoid politics and the financial aspect of this matter. I resent and repudiate the suggestion that this Government is inhuman in its treatment of men who fought for Australia. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and other allied countries have taken precisely the same stand as we have taken.
– I do not suggest that the Government is being inhuman, but I do suggest that the right honorable gentleman is not taking the view that I tried to express. We are asking for ‘the sustenance that former prisoners of war are entitled to.
– I repudiate any suggestion that the Government has an inhuman outlook. Every other Allied nation shares our view that there should not be discriminatory treatment of members of the various services. We consider that all should be treated broadly on the same level rather than that degrees of hardship experienced should be taken into account in assessing what treatment ought to be accorded to them.
– We claim that the exprisoners of war are entitled to subsistence.
– Order! The honorable member has made his speech and if he does not remain silent I will name him.
– I did not interject when honorable members opposite were speaking. I revert now to what was said recently by the honorable member for Barker, namely, that the joint committee that reported to the Parliament on the subject of war gratuities did not single out former prisoners of war for special consideration, but looked at the broad picture without trying to particularize degrees of hardship between this or that section of the troops. I agree that prisoners of war were not considered as a body. It is one of the elements of war that some shall be taken prisoner and suffer hardships of varying degrees. One cannot differentiate between them. We did try to make up for some of the hardships that prisoners of war suffered by granting them extra leave. But generally we have tried to treat all troops that served overseas alike. The war gratuity is paid alike to men who served overseas in safe places far from the battlefield and to men whose lives were constantly in danger and whose circumstances were constant hardship. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) said that the matter of subsistance for prisoners of war would be completely re-examined. There is no reason why that should not be done if any new facts can be adduced. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Army will be prepared to examine anything new, but I have heard nothing new to-day, and I see no reason why there should be discrimination between our ex-servicemen. I join with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for the Army in expressing full sympathy for and appreciation of what our armed forces have done for this country and for what the armed forces of our Allies have done for their countries and for Australia, too.
.- We would a.11 agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that hardships and sacrifices are unequal. No payment could recompense for a life lost or shattered health. I am sorry to observe the Prime Minister leaving the chamber. He said that he had heard nothing new in this debate. The treatment by the Australian Government of its citizens who were prisoners of war in World War I. did not n rise as a major issue after that war because there were but few of them, but in World War II. Australia suffered its greatest disaster in the loss of almost a whole division when Singapore fell to the Japanese. The matter has a wider interest now because of the greater number affected. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) dragged me into the debate as a former prisoner of war. As one I can talk frankly, especially as any payment will not, be made retrospective to World War I. I know what former prisoners of war suffered at the hands of the repatriation authorities after the previous war because I fought many cases for them. As prisoners of war they disappeared from the face of the earth. They were lost souls. When they returned to civil life they were Rip Van Winkles. They had difficulty in accommodating themselves to it. They wanted to get back to work immediately. Then, >when impaired health manifested itself they claimed pensions for their disabilities; but they were told, by the Repatriation Department that it had no record of their illnesses. Of course it did not. How could prisoners of war expect to have medical history sheets. It was easy for men at head-quarters to have them. The history of these former prisoners of war was incomplete. I fought one case so strongly for two or three years that eventually the Repatriation Department agreed to pay to a widow a pension in respect, of the death of her husband from a war disability, which it took the department that period to recognize asa war disability. The repatriation officials even wrote to Turkey asking how the Turks had treated this man in their camps. I can imagine that before long .they will be writing to our enemies in the second World War for similar information. The position of men who have disappeared for a long time is not understood by repatriation officials and it should be more strongly stressed. That being so, I submit that the Government might reasonably consider- doing something in accord with the desires of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) who submitted this motion. I concede that one cannot make sacrifices equal. Therefore, I do not say that the proposal of the honorable member is the right one, or that 3s. a day would be adequate compensation for the hardships that former prisoners of war suffered. As has been revealed, Australians imprisoned during the war in Germany, and Italy too suffered grave hardships. Men who escaped from prison camps also suffered hardships in making their escape. I remember the expense that I suffered when I escaped from the Turks. In Russia I was forced to borrow 2,000 roubles from a Dutch consul. It was worthless money, but I had to pay a considerable sum through the Foreign Office to repay him, although the market value of the 2,000 roubles was a couple of hard-boiled eggs, which I offered to post to the Australian pay-office later. The sufferings that men underwent as prisoners of the enemy countries have imprinted on them a mark that will not become apparent for years. One young airman made ten attempts to escape from Germany before he succeeded. Other men escaped and lived in concealment for months in France, Holland and Spain before they were able to return to Great Britain. The cheques (hat they wrote had to be met, and the money that they borrowed during that period, had to be repaid. The proposed sum would be quite inadequate to recompense men who escaped from captivity. In World War I., men who were given parole lived 5n captivity in comparative comfort; but those who refused to give their word not to escape, because they felt that they would still be “ fighting the fight “, were put into hardship camps, and had less food than others. This matter must be examined very carefully, and I suggest that the Government should appoint a board to assess hardship. Men become so hungry in captivity that they will sell their boots in order to buy food with the proceeds, although they know that, by disposing of their footwear, they may be sacrificing their own lives if they are required to undertake a march. Some men sell their fountain pens and wristlet watches in order *to buy food. Others borrow money from more fortunate prisoners. Those debts have to be repaid. Perhaps the proposed board could consider en bloc the hardships endured by the prisoners of war of the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force, and then deal with exceptional cases of men who, in escaping, incurred considerable expense for which they should be recouped. Some unfortunate prisoners of war died in captivity, and the Government has no record of the date of their death. To-day, I received from the Minister for the Army, a reply relating to the circumstances of a mother who believed, up to the end of the war, that her son was still alive in captivity. Then the authorities informed her that his death had occurred in January, 1942. In the period in which the young man was presumed to be alive, she received his allotment, but pay was withheld so that his estate was worth very little indeed. After having lived in an agony of suspense for years she will have only a few pounds.
– We are re-examining that case.
– That is only one of a number of similar cases.
– We are examining all of them.
– The file of a prisoner of war is seldom complete. In some camps, Australian doctors were able to do heroic work. They performed operations with instruments and anaesthetics which they themselves had made, with a result that the history sheets of the men in those camps is fairly complete. But the records of men in other camps are a blank. Now, when these men are endeavouring to rehabilitate themselves in civil employment, they are feeling the strain of the years of captivity. Because of malnutrition, some ex-prisoners of war are blind, though not totally, and are learning the Braille system. They are not complaining, but their circumstances should not be overlooked. Money will not compensate them for their disabilities. Honorable members may know of an officer in Borneo whom the Japanese tortured for a month in an effort to make him betray his companions. Then he was executed. What recompense can be made to his family? With the exception of an occasional award of a Victoria Cross, George Cross, or a mention in despatches, very few posthumous awards have been made. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member .for Wimmera could cite many instances of obvious hardship. The Minister for the Army should not be afraid to try something new. Do not let us be static, and believe that a method which was good enough after World War 1. is equally suitable now. I urge the Government to set up a board to investigate these cases. Justice must be done to all these men.
.- This matter involves a number of considerations. Our primary, objective should be to do the best that we can to reabsorb former prisoners of war into our civil life, and restore, as far as possible, their health, which was affected by their experiences in captivity. When we recognize that as our objective, honorable members, after a calm consideration of the facts, will not regard the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) as the means of accomplishing it. That the honorable gentleman is most earnest, I do not doubt for a moment. He feels very strongly about the situation, not for selfish motives, but on behalf of his comrades with whom he suffered as a prisoner of the Japanese. He considers that the payment of a subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war in Japanese hands is the correct solution of this problem. I do not agree with him.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not doubt the sincerity of every honorable gentleman who has spoken in favour of or against this proposal. Personally, I pay full tribute to the honesty and sincerity of the honorable member for Wimmera, but his consideration for servicemen does not outmatch that of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers). As the honorable member for Wimmera will agree, the Minister for the Army has teen as earnest and as sympathetic as any person who has been associated with this problem. The question arises: Should we pay to these ex-prisoners of war an. amount of 3s. a clay as subsistence allowance during the period of their incarceration? I assume that the amount is claimed only on behalf of those men who were prisoners of the Japanese until thecessation of hostilities. It is true that many of those men suffered tortures about which, we cannot speak too strongly. It is also true that we can hardly contend that the recompense which should be made to them, if special consideration should be given at this stage, should take the form of the subsistence allowance payable under Army regulations. The purpose of the subsistence allowance is to provide for troops’ rations which the Army ordinarily would supply; but no subsistence allowance, which is paid to these men can give to them food for the period during which they were incarcerated in enemy camps.
The amount of 3s. a day may be sufficient or it may not. Honorable members must ask themselves whether these cases of special hardship will best be met by the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day. I remind the House that the subsistence payments was provided for a different purpose. We must also ask ourselves, whether our repatriation and rehabilitation services should be made more generous on behalf of ex-servicemen who returned from captivity, or the dependants of those who unfortunately fell in battle or died during captivity. In my opinion, an infinitely more preferable approach to this problem is to ensure that repatriation benefits shall provide the fullest measure of support for the ex-servicemen in their efforts to rehabilitate themselves in civil life.
As these men deserve the best that Australia can give to them, so the dependants of servicemen, who died . in the hands of the Japanese have a claim for a full measure of gratitude, which may be recognized either by compensation paid to them, or by the provision of additional opportunities to them in civil life. So far as I can see, the suggestion of the honorable member for Wimmera does not include consideration for the dependants of servicemen who died during the war. Therefore, I believe that whilst we sympathize with any action to alleviate the lot of ex-prisoners of war, we cannot differentiate between those who suffered the tortures of Japanese prisonerofwar camps, and those who suffered tortures, perhaps to a lesser degree, in German and Italian prisoner-o’f-war camps. I do not consider that’ the honorable member has sought to make party political capital out of this issue. He is earnestly endeavouring to obtain, not for himself but for others, some payment which, he considers Australia owes to these men. However, I believe that this payment should not be made by means of a subsistence allowance, which, is provided definitely for a different purpose. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides the means for the care and welfare of former prisoners of war and possibly their dependants, and any improvement of: existing conditions should be granted through that legislation.
– I support the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). It arises from his original request that a grant, based on the subsistence allowance of 3s. a day, should be paid to prisoners of war who were held in Japanese hands. The Government considered the suggestion, and the Minister for the Army Chambers) made a statement to the House. From the honorable gentleman’s remarks,. it appeared that the proposal had been considered as if it could, or would, have general application to all prisoners of war. During the debate to-day, reference has been made to that fact, and, consequently, the proposal of the. honorable member for Wimmera has. been widened to include a consideration of the claim of prisoners of war generally to subsistence payments covering the period of their imprisonment. I propose to direct my remarks mainly to the case of the nien who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese; but, if in order to determine the fact that such prisoners are entitled to the claim made on their behalf, it is necessary to widen the scope and have an investigation of the conditions suffered by all prisoners of war, I say, “By all means let us have the wider investigation Personally, I believe that such an investigation will prove definitely and conclusively that the conditions suffered by those servicemen who were held by the Japanese, were of such a nature as to make them entitled to some special consideration. But if, also, it shows that some prisoners held in other countries were equally entitled to such special consideration, the widening of the original proposal will have served a very good purpose.
The statement which the Minister for the Army submitted to the House suggested that acceptance of the original proposal, namely, payment of the subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, would establish a precedent which would have to be applied to all prisoners of war. In my opinion, that is not so. Obviously, any person who has been so unfortunate as to become a prisoner of war, will inevitably suffer a certain measure of privation. Not for one moment do I suggest that those who were prisoners of war in Germany or Italy had anything in the nature of a picnic. They suffered, in particular, great nerve strain as the result of their enforced inaction, and because they lived for years without any knowledge of the position of their own people, and very often of their own forces. That, in itself, caused particularly severe nervous strain. In addition, the food which the prisoners in Italy and Germany were given was not good. The Allies were doing their utmost to reduce food supplies to Italy and Germany, and, therefore, our troops in their hands were forced to exist on a lower food ration. But granting all that, and admitting that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was correct when he said that in certain specific instances the conditions suffered in those countries were bad, I still contend that the conditions suffered by prisoners of war in Germany and Italy were in no way comparable with the conditions suffered by those in the hands of the Japanese. For, in addition to the nerve and other strains to which I have referred as being applicable to prisoners of war generally, those men who were held by the Japanese were forced to work far beyond the normal capacity of any mau. As a matter of fact, it is common knowledge that they were treated as slaves. The stories told by those who returned remind one of the old days of chain gangs and galley slaves many generations ago. Therefore, they were living under the worst possible conditions. They were deprived of all decent medical treatment. They had no proper drugs or other medical supplies, which would have enabled them to treat sickness and disease. As a matter of fact, had it not been for the remarkable efforts of their own medical men in experimenting with grasses and herbs in an endeavour to find counters .for beriberi and dysentery, probably very few of the men stricken with these diseases would have recovered. In addition, they were literally starved. That is why I say that their conditions were far worse than those of prisoners of war in other spheres of operations. Had it not been for the remarkable stamina which they exhibited, their invincible determination not to be beaten, and the wonderful spirit of comradeship and mutual help which they developed among themselves, very few of them would have returned to Australia. It was a combination of those factors which enabled them to pull through. In considering this matter, two factors have to be taken into account. First, Australia owes a very great debt to our servicemen generally, but a particular debt to those whose case we are now considering. That, I believe, will be conceded by honorable members on both sides of the House. It must be remembered that these men were in the hands of what I regard, from my own experience, as a subnormal race, but a race with which. in the not very far distant future, we may have considerable dealings. I believe that the magnificent bearing of our prisoners of war under great hardships has raised the prestige of
Australia considerably in the eyes of their captors, and on that account alone we owe them a great debt, the real extent of which has not yet been realized in Australia. The impression that they made will last for generations, and will be of great advantage to us. But in addition, unfortunately, I believe that there must be in varying degrees on every man an adverse effect in consequence of the experiences through which they have passed, and that will remain with them throughout their lives. The degree to which it will be felt individually is not readily ascertainable, and therefore cannot be dealt with by some form of rehabilitation or pension. In some instances, that may be possible, but I believe that generally speaking we cannot provide a rule whereby we can measure the degree of disability and make provision accordingly. The problem needs specialized treatment, and I can see no better way of dealing with it than by implementing the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera, and making provision for something in the nature of a grant to cover all those who so suffered. The honorable member for Wimmera has suggested the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day as a basis for the determination of what the :grant should be. That is the light in which I view this proposal. I do not believe that justification for the payment rests solely on the fact that these men did not receive subsistence. But it would provide a good basis on which to determine the amount; consequently, I support it. I also point out, because mention of it was made in the House to-day, that in ray -opinion such a grant, if the Government should decide to make it, should apply to the dependants of those servicemen who did not como back. The question is not whether or not Australia can afford to make this payment. If it ought to be made, then Australia can afford to make it. Let us bear in mind that reparations can be taken into account. I do not say that we should wait until the scale of reparations has been determined before deciding the matter. If we decide that it is right that this grant should be made, the Government can ultimately be recompensed through the medium of reparations.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that this is not a party matter; yet he thereupon, as I thought, proceeded to make it such, and much of his material was directed towards that end. I do not consider that the debate should centre on the honorable member for Wimmera. He has no greater interest in the matter than have other honorable members. I take it to be the desire of all honorable members, even in excess of their desire that justice shall be done to servicemen everywhere, that a full measure of justice shall be done to ex-prisoners of war. In this particular regard, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has spoken not only as a member of the Government, but also for the Government. If proof of that were needed, it is to be found in the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has spoken to the motion from his place at the table. I have received from a constituent an almost threatening letter, in which he questioned whether he had been voting for the right party. I do not know how many others may be thinking in that way. In my reply to his letter, I ventured to point out to him that general elections are held at reasonable intervals for the express purpose of giving to electors the right to decide for whom they shall vote. Whether any constituent votes for me or for another candidate, I take leave, to have been impressed with the statement of the Minister for the Army as an expression of Government policy, as well as by the statement of the Prime Minister, who said in addition that the treatment of prisoners of Avar was a matter of universal application and that all prisoners of war were treated alike. That is the view which I consider should be held. I heard the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) make an impassioned address. >I venture the opinion that much of it was irrelevant to the view held and expressed very well by the honorable member for Wimmera. In common with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I consider that we all should feel a degree of sympathy with prisoners of war in all theatres of war.
I believe that the emphasis on “ all theatres of war “ may well be taken to be confirmation, if such were needed, of what was said so well by the Prime Minis.ister and the Minister for the Army, namely, that all prisoners of war are equal. As the Minister for the Army pointed out, his reply was necessarily short, but not because the subject is one which can be treated shortly; it might well be treated at large. I point out that a gratuity is given to all servicemen of all ranks, irrespective of where they served, and that it is given for a good reason, namely, service.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This afternoon we have heard a defence of the Government by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) and also a statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), and no one could dovetail the two utterances. We have since heard the views of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). It appears that ultimately some sort of an inquiry will be held. The Minister for the Army made a statement in the House on the 14th March last, which should have expressed the considered views of the Cabinet, but since thu pressure has gone on this afternoon it has become clear that the honorable gentleman is prepared to run away from his previous position.
– That is not so.
– The honorable gentleman has wilted.
– The case that was put this afternoon was quite different.
– The Minister has shifted from his statement of the 14th March last-
– That dealt with prisoners of war in Japanese hands; the honorable member for Barker desires only to attack me.
– 1 suggest that there is something to be explained by a man who becomes a prisoner of war. If a man becomes a prisoner of war his first duty is to escape. In any case, whether he does so or not he remains answerable to the Army as to how he became a prisoner of war. I would be the first to admit that in the war that has just ended conditions operated which did not operate in World War I., and those conditions began to operate very early in the war, in fact as early as the campaigns in Greece and Crete. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have a vivid recollection of the conditions to which I have referred. In Africa the whole 2nd/28th West Australian battalion was captured at Tel-el-Eisa. The same kind of thing occurred in Malaya and in Java. These conditions deserve consideration by a committee such as has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). In Singapore we suffered the greatest military disaster in the history of British arms, and we are entitled to know how it came about that those men were concentrated in that area, and how they were reinforced within a few hours of capitulation by British forces. That happened about 48 hours before capitulation. There are ugly stories that we would not have suffered this disaster if it had not been for a certain insistence by the Australian Government. There are equally definite statements that this disaster might have been retrieved but for the fact that the Australian Government would not allow the 7th Division to go to Burma. Another thing that requires explanation is how Blackburn’s force got to Java without arms or equipment. But these are not matters mentioned by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
The questions raised by the honorable member for Wimmera should be considered by some competent authority and I believe that a proper committee of inquiry is the correct approach. It is wise when payments of the description now proposed are under consideration that certain questions should be asked. The first is : Is it wise, in the interests of future discipline in the army, to make such payments? If the answer to that question be in .the affirmative, a second question is : In what special circumstances should such payments be made? A third question is : Where do those special circumstances apply? Personally I have every sympathy for our prisoners who fell intoJapanese hands. I have no doubt that they suffered severely. But I also havea personal opinion on all these matters. I say that if a man has been in actios?- and has been unfortunate enough to get into the hands of the enemy, the greatest thing that can happen to him is for him to get out whole. I have very grave doubts whether a lot of our men who got into the hands of the Japanese did get out whole, although they may appear to be whole. I believe that special consideration should be given to these men throughout their whole life by the Repatriation Department, because no man can stand for three and a half years what these men experienced in starvation, overwork, and the like, and come out of it whole.
The question whether sustenance should be paid or not is a subject on which I am prepared to be dogmatic, but there are big issues at stake, in regard to the general effect of this sort of thing upon the army as a whole. During the war there were occasions when I wondered whether a man did right in escaping from the enemy. Judging by the reception given, to one or two men, it might well be doubted whether they were wise in trying to escape. “But that is an entirely different matter from the one now before us. I cannot get away from the fact that many of these men became prisoners of war in circumstances which have not operated in any other war of which I have any knowledge. I have referred to Greece. I do not think that our men had a chance in that campaign from the day they landed; nor did they have much chance even to get away again. The same applies to Crete, and to our forces at times in North Africa. In the Japanese fighting different conditions again prevailed. He would be a very dogmatic sort of person who would lay down, without a proper inquiry or investigation of all the facts, what should be done. I believe that this is one instance in which a good case could bc made out for and against, and for that reason I have no hesitation in saying that I wholeheartedly support the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition that the subject should be submitted to a committee of investigation of some kind. That is the best way to deal with the difficulty. The committee would need to be composed of men who had some experience of the matters to be investigated, though I do not say that they need necessarily have been prisoners in the hands of the Japanese. They should, however, be competent to deal with the facts of the situation, and to assess the disability of the sufferers.
It is of no use to attempt to import the idea into this matter that there is any kind of party issue at stake. So far as I am concerned, there is none. For that reason, I was the more amazed at the letter of the Minister for the Army which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser. The honorable gentleman definitely mentioned the Opposition and opposition members. If he says that he did not mean this, he must have written the letter in his sleep, or else he does not understand the meaning of the English language. The Minister has said that he will reconsider the matter, but does he propose an appeal from Caesar to Caesar? What better chance is there to get a sound decision than from the members of the Parliament? The subject, no doubt, came before the Cabinet before the honorable gentleman made his statement on the 1.4th March. Will he put up the same case next time, or will it be a different ci:se after this debate?
– It will not be the same case.
– In my opinion, there is justification for my question, seeing that two members of the samp Government, speaking from the table this afternoon, have each put an entirely different and contradictory case. I refer to the statements by the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In these circumstances, I was not surprised that the Prime Minister found it necessary, during the debate, to attempt to pull some of the chestnuts out of the fire. I trust that before long we shall hear another statement from the Prime Minister to the effect that he is prepared to remit this matter to the consideration of a special committee, that the committee will have the most complete powers of investigation, and that it will bc* authorized to call witnesses or do anything at all in order to ascertain the facts. I believe that if such a committee were appointed its decision would be acceptable equally to the prisoners of war concerned and to the Parliament. I have a strong suspicion that if certain matters had been handled differently a lot of the men would not have been left in the hands of the Japanese.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There is very little time left to discuss this subject. It is perfectly true, however, that the terms of the reference of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) are entirely different from those which he has used on other occasions when presenting to the House his case in regard to prisoners of war. The honorable gentleman has, undoubtedly, broadened the issue to-day. Previously, he dealt only with prisoners of war in Japanese hands; he is now proposing that all Australian prisoners of war should be covered, wherever they served. On this submission, the Prime Minister has indicated that, if facts had been adduced from the discussion to-day that were not available previously, action will be taken accordingly. I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) which, as usual, was forthright, and also to the remarks of most of the other members who have participated in the debate, and the thing that has struck me has been the different approach of honorable members of the Opposition to the subject. Time will not allow me to make a detailed analysis of their speeches, but an examination of the Hansard record will indicate that there in no common point of view among honorable gentlemen opposite. It would be quite impracticable to attempt to deal with this subject on the basis of sentiment alone. Everybody has the greatest sympathy with all of our prisoners of war, irrespective of where they served, and where they were imprisoned, as we also have sympathy for the members of our fighting services generally. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) based his case entirely on sentimental grounds, which he associated with the fighting qualities of the Australian soldier.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
– I have received an assurance from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that the scope of the United Kingdom Grant Bill providing for financial aid to Britain will be so comprehensive that an opportunity will be given to discuss my proposal that a gift of food be made by Australia to Great Britain. Therefore, I ask for leave to withdraw notice of Motion No. 2 standing in my name, namely -
That in the opinion of this House the Commonwealth 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.
Leave granted; notice of motion withdrawn.
– by leave - The Government intends to place before the House the following financial proposals -
These proposals havebeen framed after a searching review, not only of the immediate financial position but also of future trends and developments, and I desire to outline certain basic considerations which have emerged from that review.
Returns of revenue and expenditure for the first eight months of the current financial year have already been published, and are available to honorable members. The revenue for eight months was £242,000,000. The budget estimate for the full year was £385,000,000. It is clear that the budget estimate will be exceeded as the result of the prosperity of business, and the high level of trade turnover and consumers’ spending for which full employment is mainly responsible. Also, an increase of the volume of imports has led to an increase of customs revenue.
Expenditure for eight months was £253,000,000. The budget estimate for the year was £444,000,000. A number of savings has been effected in defence and allied services, and there has been a lag in spending on new civil works, mainly because of shortages of labour and materials. The progress figures of expenditure are not, however, an accurate indicator of the year’s expenditure. As usual, there will be large settlements brought to account in May and June, and in particular, heavy payments overseas are expected.
It is too early to make a firm estimate of the net result of the various factors, but I expect that the final figures will show an appreciable reduction in the estimated budget gap of £59,000,000. With the close of the war not yet two years past, this is a satisfactory financial situation. “In assessing the practicability of increases in social services and reductions of taxation, the Government necessarily reviewed carefully the continuing commitments on the public revenue arising out of the war, and from policy already approved by the Parliament in other fields. This review emphasized the extent to which these continuing commitments had increased as compared with pre-war, and the need for prudence in adding to those commitments or in reducing the revenue by way of tax concessions. It is clear that in the future, total Commonwealth expenditure is unlikely to fall below £400,000,000 a year compared with about £S8,000,000 in 1936-37, only ten years ago.
The budget estimate for “ Defence and Post-war Charges “ in 1946-47 was £221,000,000. Further substantial reductions will be effected next year, but it is difficult to make an accurate forecast on normal defence costs at this stage. Examination of the Australian post-war defence arrangements is still proceeding. Nevertheless, it is clear that the normal provision in the budget for defence must be a substantial amount, very much above that of pre-war years.
Debt charges, war pensions, &c, in respect of the 1914-18 war are still costing nearly £20,000,000 a year and similar costs in respect of the recent war will be over £100,000,000 in 1947-48, and will decline only gradually. Then there is a special liability of £75,000,000 for war gratuities.
Social service payments were £14,000,000 in 1936-37. This year the estimate is £68,000,000 and, on the basis of existing legislation and approved plans, they will approach £100,000,000 a year within five years. Partly this will arise through a normal increase in the number of recipients, as with old-age pensions, and partly through planned expansion of services, such as the national medical scheme, which is estimated to cost £15,000,000 a year when in full operation.
Payments to the States are now costing £58,000,000. A proposal to increase the Federal Aid Roads grant is already before the House, and the formula for the variation of tax reimbursement grants approved by the Parliament in 1946 will probably result in substantial increases of the payments by the Commonwealth.
The Government is maintaining a firm control over price and cost movements, but it is evident that some rises in wages and prices are inevitable, and this will increase significantly the costs of Commonwealth works, business undertakings, territories and general administration.
With rising civil employment, rising money incomes and unemployment almost non-existent, revenues are at present buoyant, and it may be thought that this will continue for some time ahead. To this possibility, however, there are important limitations.
Industry appears almost to have reached a man-power ceiling. This means that increased output of goods and services can come only from higher productivity. Moreover, a continuance of present exceptional prices for wool and wheat cannot be relied upon, while, if droughts or major industrial disturbances occur, production will be restricted.
Finally, the spending from savings accumulated during the war period must in time come to an end. The Government considers, therefore, that it would not be safe to assume that sources of revenue will continue to expand strongly year after year. “We have to look ahead in this matter and take stock of the very many factors which can cause revenues to rise or fall.
A balancing of long-term expenditure commitments against revenue prospects dispels any illusion that the future will be a Lime of easy finance, and in proposing tax reductions and the extension of governmental services and benefits, the Government has kept in mind the weight of such measures upon the budget some years hence, as well as immediately.
The Government proposes that reduced rates of social services contribution and income tax will operate as from the 1st July, 1947. In addition, it is proposed to increase the amounts on which rebates for dependants are calculated. The cost to the revenue of these concessions will be £33,000,000 in a full year, of which £11,500,000 is on account of the increased allowances for dependants. The proposed reductions would be approximately 26 per cent, of the present full assessment yield from these taxes.
Taken with the previous reductions which operated from the 1st January, 1946, and the 1st July, 1946, respectively, the present proposals will mean that the combined levy of social services contributions and personal income tax have, within eighteen months, been at least halved for the majority of taxpayers.
The amounts on which rebates for dependants are calculated will be increased as follows : -
It is also proposed to extend the concessional rebates to cover the following additional classes of dependants : -
A further proposal is that a rebate be allowed in respect of a student child under the age of nineteen years maintained by the taxpayer. The present age limit for student children is eighteen years. An extension of the provision allowing a concessional rebate for a housekeeper and an expansion of the provision relating to medical expenses so that that provision will embrace expenditure on diathermy treatment are also proposed.
The combined effect of the reduced rates and increased concessions for dependants will be that the greatest benefit will be enjoyed by persons with dependants. These will obtain reductions ranging from 100 per cent, on the lowest incomes to approximately 10 per cent, on high incomes. Under the proposals the exemptions from the combined levy of social services contribution and income tax will be as follows: -
Tables showing the total levy of social services contribution and income tax that will be payable by various classes of taxpayers in different income groups, and comparing these amounts with the amounts payable ruder present and the war-time rates, are being circulated to honorable members. Under the Government’s proposals, the combined rate of social services contribution and income tax on income in excess of £5,000 will be 15s. in the £1.
The following is a summary of other concessions proposed by the Government : - (1.) The extension for a further period of five years of the exemption from income tax and social services contribution of income derived by a resident of the Northern Territory from primary production, mining or fisheries in that territory. (2.) The increase from £40 to £120 of the special deduction allowed to individuals residing in the northern parts of Australia coming within the area described as Zone “ A “ for income tax purposes. (3.) The allowance of a deduction for capital expenditure incurred in combating or preventing soil erosion or in constructing dams, bores, wells, irrigation channels, &c, on land used for primary production. (4.) The allowance as a deduction of losses incurred during the seven years preceding the year of income, instead of the four preceding years as at present. (5.) The provision of the following concessions for the mining industry -
The additional concessions are estimated to involve a loss of revenue of £1,000,000 per annum. The total cost of proposed concessions will thus amount to £34,000,000 a year, bringing the aggregate of the income tax remissions made by the Government since the end of hostilities to £71,000,000 a year. The measures which will be brought down to give effectto the foregoing proposals will also contain provision to give legal effect to the agreement for the relief of double taxation made last year with the United Kingdom Government.
It is proposed to raise the exemption from gift duty from £500 to £2,000.
It is also proposed that the special deduction of £5,000 allowed in respect of the estates of deceased members of the forces shall be made to apply to the estate of a discharged member who dies after his discharge and within three years of the termination of the war. Full details of the tax concessions will be given when the legislation is brought before the House.
It is proposed that an all-round increase of pensions will take place as from the 1st July, 1947. An additional 5s. a week will be paid to invalid, old-age and widow pensioners and war pensions will be increased on a comparative basis. The allowance to the wife of an invalid pensioner will also be increased by 5s. a week.
It is also proposed to increase the allowances payable to male and female trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, and to ex-servicemen for business and agricultural reestablishment purposes by 5s. a week, whilst the maximum living allowance to university students under the scheme of financial assistance will be raised from £104 to £117 per annum. The cost of these proposals will be approximately £7,500,000 in 1947-48.
The Government proposes to make a gift of £A.25,000,000 to the United Kingdom as a contribution towards the cost of its unparalleled war effort. The Australian contribution will be related to costs incurred by the United Kingdom in and around the Pacific. I am sure the House will endorse this recognition of the war-time achievements of the United Kingdom and its present magnificent efforts towards recovery. Appropriate legislation willbe introduced immediately.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Financial Statement by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer.
– by leave - I hesitate to suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that he should move “ That the paper be printed “ unless it is quite clear that the general debate on the paper will precede the consideration of the individual financial bills. The House would like an opportunity to discuss these matters and, unless some latitude is extended by the . Chair, we may not be able to do so in toto when the individual bills are before us. It is difficult to discuss the matters in sections. The last thing I want is that the motion “ That the paper be printed “ be moved, and that the bills be proceeded with without preliminary discussion of the paper. I suggest either that the Prime Minister should move, “ That the paper be printed “ whereupon we could have a general debate and deal with the principles of the proposals or that by mutual agreement we treat the first bill as opening up a general debate in which we would be allowed to go beyond the scope cf that particular bill.
– It would be preferable to debate the matter on the motion “ That the paper be printed “.
– If the motion, “ That the paper be printed “ be moved and the debate be adjourned we may be told when the individual bills came before us that as a motion for the printing of the paper stands on the notice-paper certain elements of the debate would be out of order. I suggest that the most practical course is to have a general debate on the motion for the printing of the paper, and then to proceed with the consideration of the individual bills. The only practical alternative is to have agreement in the House, winked at, so to speak, by Mr. Speaker, that on the first bill to be introduced we will be permitted to indulge in a general debate on the whole problem.
– If I consent to that procedure I might be reminded next week of what” I did this week.
– I would be glad to accede to the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). At the conclusion of my speech I did not move, “ That the paper .be printed “, because I was afraid that the circumstances mentioned by the right honorable member might arise. After the Easter recess it will be necessary to proceed immediately with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the discussion of which will take some time. It will also be necessary for finan cial measures dealing with taxes to be ratified by both Houses of the Parliament so that the general work of preparation in the Taxation Department may proceed. I am afraid that these circumstances may render impossible the making available of a long period to debate the proposed gift to Great Britain. I agree that had I moved. “ That the paper be printed it may have had a cramping effect upon honorable members who desired to discuss the taxation bills. It may be better not to move “ That the paper be printed “ and later to give honorable members an opportunity to deal with the whole subject in a general debate. I have no desire to limit honorable members in the debate on the individual bills.
– Strictly speaking, 1 may not be in order in taking advantage a second time of the leave given to me to make a statement. I merely wish to say that I fully appreciate what the Prime Minister has said about the necessity for passing certain bill3 through both Houses. I had thought that there would not be much difficulty in allowing some reasonable period, say, two or three days, for a general debate on this subject.
– I do not object to that;. I had feared that a general debate might occupy a fortnight.
– I speak subject to the approval of other honorable members. In my view the House would welcome the allocation of, say, three days for a general debate on this matter. If that were done, a lot of time would be saved in the discussion of the individual bills.
– On the understanding that the general debate will be limited to a few days, I move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Question stated -
That the message be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House forthwith.
.- This is an appropriate time to say a few words with regard to the resolution before the House because it will ultimately determine the scope of the bill to give effect to the resolution. As we all know, once the resolution has been passed it will be impossible for the appropriation to be increased.
– There is no resolution before the Chair. The question before the Chair is that the GovernorGeneral’s message be taken into consideration in committee and the whole House forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £25,000,000 as a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.
.- It seems that it would be wise for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to make, as has often been done in the past, an explanatory speech on the motion at this stage. The resolution that will be reported by the committee wi1! determine the long title of the bill which in turn will be a limiting factor in the debate that may take place. I wish to make certain that the order of leave and the long title of the bill will be such as to permit not merely a discussion of the desirability of making a grant of food to Great Britain if we so desire, but the general distribution of the proposed grant of £25,000,000, and, if necessary, ways and means whereby we can send food to Great Britain. Unless some understanding is given at this stage the Standing Orders may prevent honorable members from traversing this subject to the degree that they desire. I raise this matter at this early stage of the proceedings on this measure in the hope that the Prime Minister may clear the atmosphere by making an explanatory statement.
– It would be more appropriate to raise this matter in the House when Mr. Speaker is in the chair because what may be debated will be a matter for his determination. However, Mr. Speaker’s advice this afternoon to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made it clear that if the motion standing in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) were withdrawn there would be a fairly wide scope for discussion of this subject. Mr. Speaker, of course, did not know exactly the contents of the bill which is to be introduced. In order to assist the right honorable member for Cowper, who consulted me about the withdrawal of his motion, subject to Mr. Speaker’s approval, I have used the word “ food “ in one of the paragraphs of the speech which I am about to deliver. That will, I hope, induce Mr. Speaker to give the right honorable member for Cowper the latitude he desires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the bill before the House appropriation is sought for a grant of £A.25,000,000 to the United Kingdom as .a contribution towards the costs of war incurred by it in the Pacific zone. The United Kingdom is labouring under great difficulties to-day because in the war it fought with unsparing -will the battles of many other peoples as well as ite own. On the military side the story is in all our minds, but it may well be that on the economic side, which is no less important and which is now so much to the fore, we do not comprehend so fully just what the United Kingdom did, and the further sacrifices that are necessary for its complete recovery. The
United Kingdom mobilized its own economy and kept it at a pitch of a total effort as long as the war lasted and, indeed, with only gradual diminution, for many months afterwards. Its effort, however, went a great deal beyond that, l.t organized and bore a large part of the cost of campaigns in which the forces of other nations were engaged. Its strategic responsibilities were immense and far exceeded its own current resources. In order to meet the cost the United Kingdom drew heavily upon its external assets and pledged its future wealth and earnings. As a result £1,500,000,000 sterling of its international investments were realized for war purposes and it has incurred new external liabilities of £3,500,000,000 sterling in its prosecution of the war. The United Kingdom has thus suffered a deterioration in external capital account of £5,000,000,000 sterling. Then, in order to tide over the needs of the transition period the United Kingdom had to raise credits from the United States of America and Canada to the amount of £1,250,000,000 sterling. Meanwhile its homes and industries had suffered from enemy bombing, its shipping fleet had dwindled and its export trade - sacrificed to permit full concentration upon war industries - had been reduced to one third of its pre-war volume.
We, in Australia, put forth a full-scale war effort, but we suffered no loss of external wealth and on balance we incurred no external liabilities. In fact, our position is more favorable in that respect to-day than it was before the war. Though we still have some war accounts to settle with the United Kingdom, our London funds, after providing for this, are considerably higher than in 1939. Moreover, we were able during the war to reduce our London debt by £60,000,000 sterling. This improvement has come about partly because non-essential imports were curtailed, partly from substantial lend-lease aid from the United States of America; and partly because cash expenditure by American forces in Australia contributed something over £100,000,000 sterling to our external funds. The United Kingdom is, in fact, the only one of the United Nations to emerge from the war heavily burdened with external war debts. Seen against its war achievements, the irony of this must surely seem intolerable. The latest, estimate places these debts at about £3,500,000,000 sterling. This is owed to a number of countries - some within the sterling area and some outside - to which the United Kingdom made payments in sterling for local currencies for pay of the forces, war purchases and other services in them. Under the financial agreement with the United States of America the “ line of credit “ of $3,750,000,000 is intended mainly to aid Great Britain in its post-war recovery and to assist it to resume normal multilateral trade. The money is being spent in the United States of America on goods and services that Britain needs. Other countries will also benefit insofar as their sterling balances are convertible into dollars. No interest or principal is repayable until 1951, so Great Britain gets a short breathing space. But the external war debts of Great Britain, £3,500^000,000 sterling, are an immediate problem. They have gravely disturbed the economic balance. To discharge these debts, by exports or conversions to other currencies in the near future, is impossible. Even spread over a very long period, they would impose a crippling burden. In the meantime, the liquid form of the balances is embarrassing. It is essential, therefore, for Great Britain to make some arrangement with the holders of these balances. The United States of America made a generous lendlease settlement and is giving further assistance under the loan agreement to Great Britain to aid its recovery. It is reasonable that other countries, including the Dominions, should make some contribution, from their war accumulation of sterling balances. Although Australia is not a large holder of sterling, it did derive a net benefit to its external position during the war, partly by repatriation of sterling debt and partly by some increase of our balances, which at the end of the war stood around £120,000,000 sterling and are now about £170,000,000 sterling. That sum has, however, to be considered in the light of large arrears of import requirements owing to war-time shortages, and an increase by more than SO per cent, of import prices.
When I was in London last year 1 discussed with the Chancellor of tho Exchequer the matter of assistance from Australia and it has since been considered in Cabinet. After full consideration the Government decided that the most appropriate method of assistance to the external war debts problem of the United Kingdom would be to make an outright contribution of £A.25,000,000. It is proposed to make this contribution towards war costs incurred by the British Government in and around the Pacific.
It has been suggested that we should do better to make a gift of food and other commodities to the United Kingdom to the value of £25,000,000. There is no real issue here. We are already sending all available food to Great Britain. The only way to increase these exports would be to intensify food -rationing drastically. To make a gift of food would not increase the quantity reaching the United Kingdom. It would in effect do exactly what the Government proposes - that is, make a money gift. The form of gift as proposed in this bill is, in all the circumstances, the most appropriate and the one most acceptable, I believe, to the United Kingdom Government.
I feel certain therefore that honorable members will readily approve this gift and that they will wish it to go forward as a practical expression not only of gratitude to the United Kingdom .and its people but also of our proud confidence in them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st March (vide page 1048), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following papers be printed: -
. (vide page 190).
.- Foreign affairs debates are often conducted in the old diplomatic style. The things that are talked about are of comparatively little importance and the matters that are vital are not referred to. It is easy to get a condemnation of the veto powers of the Big Four or a discussion of the problem of displaced persons in Europe, the trouble at Trieste, the Turkish predicament, the worries of Greece or any of the many points of friction in other parts of the world. For a long time world power has been gradually getting into fewer and fewer hands until now we are virtually at the point where the “Big Two “, the United States of America and Russia, are dividing up the world. All these matters are of interest to every country and every people, but every country looks at them in relation to its own situation. That is not supposed to be the thing to do in this new era, but still that is being done. Every country has a traditional foreign policy in relation to its own situation and takes every opportunity to assert it. Whatever the policy abroad, the United States of America has for a long time had a definite policy about South America and the Pacific and has never hesitated to announce and assert it. The Russian policy of imperial expansion has been constant, no matter what the regime has been or the name of the ruler. There has always been a constant central policy followed by Whitehall right through the centuries. And we, in this country, have our central point of foreign policy. Up to now we have accepted that policy as a matter of fact. No one in this country, anyway, has ever thought of questioning it. The pivot of our foreign policy is a White Australia policy. Until the war we never regarded ourselves in Australia as having a foreign policy. White Australia seemed to be just an article of faith that stood alone. Now it seems that for the first time in our history we have a real foreign policy and that for the first time in our history we have a government that is seriously thinking of tampering with the White Australia policy. Some Ministers are prepared to say that the Government will stand firmly to our article of faith, but our foreign policy has always been a murky, secretive sort of thing, and Ministers’ speeches have not always been enlightening. Behind the Ministry is an army of administrators. Where once we had a handful of officials in a key office we now have a large foreign office filled with diplomats, professors and similar people, and with them there I fear that our White Australia policy is doomed. The dominant and learned men hold in common with this Government the general atmosphere of defeatism that pervades it and say that our White Australia policy cannot be maintained, anyway, and that we may as well just make a gesture of it. It is not a gesture. White Australia is the most vital plank of our national policy. It is because of a white Australia that our fertile semitropical lands are the most heavily populated in Australia. Drop the White Australia policy and what becomes of our sugar industry, our tropical fruits industry and similar industries in Australia? Are we to import coolie labour to work the farms? If we do, we shall have in Australia our problem of displaced persons. We shall have our Australians displaced from their own farms. If not coolie labour, then perhaps we shall meet the situation by removing tariff barriers against the products of the coolie labour of neighbouring countries. Official propagandists say that there is no need for anything like that. In their opinion, the trouble is that our White Australia policy is too stark, and that it is insulting. They say that we should allow a token immigration from neighbouring countries. Indeed, that statement is made over and over again. The official propagandists contend that the White Australia policy is offensive. This token immigration is called a “quota system” and the official propagandists urge “just a little quota “. If the Government really thinks that it can establish this quota, it is pulling its own leg. It is certainly not pulling anyone else’s leg. Our White Australia policy is vital not only from an economic stand-point. That policy was originally implemented in order to build up and maintain a high standard of living in Australia. But that policy is more important to-day from the standpoint of security. Until now, we have benefited very greatly from our geographical position. Our isolation has been our salvation. But with the centre of affairs moving to the Pacific, our geographical position will no longer assist our security. Instead of being our salvation, it exposes us more seriously to trouble and difficulty. In Pacific affairs, geography places Australia in a position not unlike that which Belgium occupies in European affairs. The use and support of Australia is vital to any nation or any group of nations expanding into the Pacific. Australia is of the most vital importance to any nation or group of nations that sets out to curb any expansion in the Pacific. Nature gives us a far better chance of looking after ourselves than Belgium has in Europe. But we should be frittering away that opportunity if we were to allow this country to be overrun with permanent fifth columnists. Our position would be hopeless if we had large groups of people who were interested only in the fortunes of contending countries and who cared nothing at all about Australia or its welfare. Complaints about the lack of interest in foreign affairs are futile when the people of Australia see the Parliament avoiding the one question which is of paramount importance to them. The nation would be greatly heartened if it could get from the Government a forthright guarantee that, in all circumstances, it will not tolerate any departure from the White Australia policy as we know it to-day. Whenever the opportunity occurs, the Government should let the world know that that is its vital point in foreign policy, and it should never run away from it. It should notify the world of it, and on every possible occasion, assert that central vital point of our Australian policy.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) in his opening remarks stated that those countries able to exercise really decisive authority in international affairs at present could probably be narrowed down to the “ Big Two “, namely, Soviet Russia and the United States of America. I have no doubt that a great number of people, not only in Australia but also in other countries would agree with that statement. Because it represents the viewpoint of so many people, I propose to ask the House to consider with me for a few moments why the country which was giving the world leadership, protection and security a few short years ago, is to-day not regarded by many people as ranking among those which are decisive in world affairs. Whether we like the fact or not, I, for one, deeply deplore and regret it. The power and influence of Great Britain, as a factor in international affairs, has steadily declined since that period. Yet only a few years ago, the world was applauding Great Britain’s “ finest hour “. In 1940- 41, Great Britain stood as a small but powerful shield-, between the forces of darkness, and civilization as we know it. At that time, the prestige of Great Britain had never stood higher in the eyes of mankind. Great Britain was able to speak with authority, and give a moral and effective leadership which has not been surpassed in our lifetime. Yet, with’-n a few years, this wonderful country, with its splendid tradition and its great capacity for leadership, has been almost discarded as a vital factor in world affairs.
I, for one, shall not attempt to follow the developments in British politics which have contributed to this situation. That would be perhaps presumptuous on the part of any of us so remotely situated as we are here. But I believe that it is proper for us to examine the degree to which we, in Australia, by our foreign policy, and by developments which are linked with that policy, have contributed to this development in Great Britain. I have said before, and the statement will bear repetition, that Australia’s enhanced stature in world affairs and prominence at the council tables of the world that we did not previously enjoy, have, in part, been gained at the expense of the influence of Great Britain. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has placed emphasis upon Australia’s special and peculiar position. He has stated reasons why special consideration should be given to Australia, and why special factors are affecting us in this part of the world. All of these, no doubt, are valid in themselves, although, perhaps, they are not necessarily pressed with the degree of emphasis that he has given to them; but they have reduced to some degree the unity and the cohesion, and, to that extent, the influence of the British Empire. What weakens the force and influence of Great Britain as a whole, and the British Empire with it, is had not merely for Great Britain, Australia and the other components of the British Empire, but also for world peace, security and progress. On occasions, the Minister
Mr. Holt. for External Affairs has challenged criticism on this particular aspect of his policy. He has declared that he stands for a strong British Empire and for the closest co-operation with other parts of the British Empire and, in particular, with Great Britain. But we are not to be satisfied by lip service to this cause. We are applying the real acid test to what this Government does in its relations with Great Britain, just how strong that link between the two countries is maintained, and to what degree we are contributing to the strength of the British Empire.
There are straws in the wind. I propose to mention one of them because it illustrates my contention. Recently an Australian was appointed GovernorGeneral. I make no criticism of the man personally, and I have no inferiority complex about the capacity of Australians to fill the most eminent office that this country can provide. Now, the world is critical of Great Britain. People in many countries are talking about the “disintegration of the British Empire”, as they see developments in India and the Middle East. A critical public opinion of that kind could have been met, to some degree, by Australia saying, “ We at this time are proud to bring to this country an Englishman of eminence. Let us have a Mountbatten or a Montgomery or some other distinguished English figure, not merely as a man who can serve us usefully and well, but to show the pride that we feel in our Empire association “. Unless we, for our part, are prepared to pull together and display that unity without which the Empire cannot be great, the Empire’s power and influence in world affairs must become diminished. In my opinion, this Government missed a psychological opportunity of the first importance when it failed to follow up the good work which had been done by a member of the Royal Family in Australia by bringing from Great Britain another distinguished servant of the Empire.
Then, we have a further development in the field of trade. Very soon, our delegates will participate in the International Conference on Trade and Employment. All honorable members must be astonished to learn that the representatives of the countries forming the British Empire will not confer before they proceed to the conference, that no common policy has been worked out, and that no determination has been expressed to protect the interests of the various members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would be remarkable if the Government of the United States of America was not able to express at such a conference a common policy for the people of America. What is the difference, in principle, between a spokesman speaking for the Government of the United States of America, and a spokesman speaking for the British Empire as a unit? Surely we have a family problem, and family interests to preserve. Are we to be confronted with a situation in which our delegates will attend the conference unaware of what proposals are to be put forward by other members of the British Commonwealth, and of how those proposals will impinge upon vital matters of trade in which this country is interested? To me, the indifference of the Government to the whole problem is remarkable. Last week, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) admitted that he had not even read the report of the preparatory conference which had been held in relation to these matters. Yet his emissaries have gone forth from this country. He has not conferred with his opposite number in Great Britain or in our sister Dominions in order to learn how adversely a general lowering of tariff barriers or a diminution of the protection which we now enjoy would affect the various parts of the Empire. The vital principle of Empire preference is at stake, yet there has been no discussion or close co-operation so as to learn what is to be done. Again I mention the United States of America. Empire preference means to us in principle what the tariffs of the different States mean to the United States of America. Wherein lies the real difference in principle between us? We are a team, just as they are. If we were to behave like a team, we would not allow such things to occur. Consider the latest gesture by the Government. We know that at present Britain is impoverished as a result of the magnificent contribution which it made to world security in the last great war. We know that, on top of that impoverishment, it has had to endure the most terrible difficulties and ordeals, climatic and other, that have been encountered in recent times. We are asked, not by one Government to another - because I believe the British Government to be too proud to make a direct request to this country - but by the British Red Cross Society, a voluntary organization functioning in Great Britain, to do all that we can for Great Britain by means of the provision of food and clothing, and we have had introduced to-night-
Mr.SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member may not anticipate the debate on a bill dealing with that subject.
– I propose, not to go into detail but merely to illustrate the point that I have endeavoured to make from the outset; that is, that if this Government intends to give lip-service to the cause of Empire, its actions must speak for it and it must leave words on one side. Words can be meaningless froth unless they are backed by effective action, which means co-operative action and team work. When I heard the honorable member for Reid say to-night that authority had now been confined to the “ Big Two “ - I am not criticizing, him for his use of the expression - thethought that passed through my mind, was, how much diminution of prestige and influence did that mean in relationto not merely Great Britain but also all of those who are partners in that fellowship concern that is known as the British* Commonwealth? I considered that some-‘ thing should be said about that before this debate had concluded. A strong and united Empire has always been a most powerful factor making for world security and peace. It has given to the world a record of progress and democratic enlightenment which no other epoch or Empire has equalled. So, when we find that within a few short years this country and those which stood with it in the Empire have ceased to be regarded as a world saviour, and to-day are regarded as a force which scarcely counts in world affairs, we must ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that we shall make, through an Empire that is still great, a valuable contribution to the peace and progress of the world.
.- The unanimity of opinion and conviction, generally speaking, in this House, on foreign affairs, must be regarded as very satisfactory by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who has done so much within recent years in the international field. If the same spirit of unanimity were displayed in the United Nations, the future of the world would certainly be secure. The Minister for External Affairs has been pioneering new fields in relation to foreign policy. I whole-heartedly agree with the statement of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) that before the last war there was no foreign policy in this country. World War II., and the atomic bomb, have demanded a new sincerity, a new cooperativeness, a new humanitarism, a new regard for justice, and a new internationalism in foreign affairs. The Minister for External Affairs has vigorously injected those requisites into our foreign policy. Whether we like it or not, isolationism is dead. The world’s physical frontiers no longer count, nor do they divide the world. There are mental barriers which may do so, but they are of our own creation. Mostly, they are racial and climatic barriers. Gradually, they are receiving mortal blows, as the result of the interchange of thought and knowledge of each other, and the propagation of Christanity throughout the world. The late Mr. Wendel Wilkie’s great conception of one world is no Jules Verne vision which is to become a reality in two or three centuries. If we are to survive, it must become a reality in our generation. Building the nations into one world community is our supreme post-war reconstruction task. I believe that this great task will either bring out man’s greatness or prove that he is unfitted to control his own inventions and is morally impotent to adjust himself to life’s new demands and conditions. From now on, it will be a case of one world or no world. The United Nations must succeed; there would not be a second chance after another war. We are sure that, notwithstanding all its present faults and imperfections, it will succeed. But each nation must be prepared to relinquish some aspects of its sovereignty to the common pool, in order that we may sur vive ; in fact, in order that we may have anything at all left to us. I state the position in this way: There must be a marriage of the nations, on the same basis and with the same principles as are to be found in any ordinary marriage - a sharing of our thoughts, and a sacrificing of pet theories and selfish ambitions for the greater good and “for greater unity. The prevention of war, through the eradication of its causes, is the sacred duty of all the nations of this era. It is the first requisite of the one world to which I have referred. I quote from the Agreed Declaration of the 15th November, 1945, issued by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Canada, to illustrate the urgency of preventing war -
The complete protection for the civilised world from the destructive use of scientific knowledge lies in the prevention of war.
Our foreign policy, therefore must b«s directed to the removal of the causes of war. In order to achieve anything worth while in this direction, these principles should be recognized : -
I am pleased to see that in our new foreign policy a recognition of the new alinement of nations is emphasized. This has been brought about by World War II. and the atomic bomb. Before the la3t war we were bound to Great Britain in regard to foreign policy. In fact we were utterly dependent upon the Mother Country and we were safe behind its bastions. That is not the case to-day, for, to our deep regret Great Britain has emerged from the war an impoverished nation. The Prime Minister referred to this fact this evening, and I do not need to stress that Britain is fighting to-day for its very economic existence and survival. Although Britain will always wish to help Australia, it may be unable to do so, at least to the degree that it did before the recent war. There is to-day a new alinement of nations. Under the prewar set-up in Britain was always in a position to assist the Dominions, but that is probably no longer the case. Consequently there is, to-day, a new spirit in our foreign policy.
The United States of America has stepped in to help Great Britain, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada have also come to its assistance. We all must face the fact that whereas before the war Britain was the strength behind the British Dominions, to-day, to a considerable degree, the reverse is the case. For this reason help is coming to Great Britain from the Dominions in order to ensure that the Mother Country should not go under in the struggle. A community of nations has arisen ;n which the strong will assist the weak, and the wealthier will help the poorer. I do not believe that any nation wishes to see the United Kingdom lose its strength in the economic struggle.
One of the most important results of United Nations’ activity, in my opinion, has been the development of a world conception in which the strong should help the weak. This is the first important occasion on which the United Nations! conception of one world even looks like becoming a reality. The fortunate nations now have an opportunity to assist an unfortunate but gallant people. We are experiencing the first practical demonstration of the one world idea in operation. The motto of the United Nations may be written as “ Each for all, and all for each “. We all are interdependent and interlocked in the tremendous struggle to ensure the triumph of sanity over insanity, peace over war, trustfulness over distrustfulness and faith over fear.
The United States of America has emerged from this war, as it did from the World War I., stronger than ever. The approach of the late John Curtin to America undoubtedly introduced a new alinement in foreign affairs insofar as Australia was concerned. From now on we are co-partners with America in Pacific affairs, and I believe that this co-partnership will grow to be of paramount importance. The West has dominated the world scene for centuries but in the future world affairs will be determined in the East. China, Siam, Malaya, the Dutch Indies, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, South America, the United States of America, Canada, Russia and Japan, with India nearby, all border on the Pacific. The East is awakening from a Rip Van Winkle sleep. The resurgence of the spirit of self-government, the thirst for knowledge, the upsurge of from 1,000,000,000 to 1,100,000,000 people against the white man’s domination and interference is focussing attention on the East. The East has the key to the future and is taking the place of the West of one hundred years ago, when a similar social, spiritual and economic awakening took place.
We must combine with the United States of America and with Russia in assisting in the economic, industrial, and educational awakening of the East with the object of helping the Eastern peoples to fit into the conception of the one world of the atomic age. This vast area is becoming industrialized and will need our help in providing it with machinery and factory equipment. As the standards of living in the East rise, so will the people there provide larger and ever larger markets for our goods. There may be irony in the fact, but the coloured races are increasing at a faster rate than the white races. Another war would probably be between white races, and in such a conflagration the white races might be liquidated so completely as to leave the dark races in, command in a stricken world. In teaching western ways to the peoples of the East the white people must be actuated by a desire to pull together; otherwise they may bc educating their future masters. This, as I have said, may yet be one of the ironies of world histories.
Australia should fill an important place in the administration of the Pacific regions. Here we must build our arsenals of trust, co-operation, justice and brotherhood, and we must build them firmly and strongly in order to protect ourselves against the possibility of a future war. We all agree that the peace treaties with Germany and Japan, must prohibit any rebuilding of militarism and the manufacture of weapons of war, and we must also provide against an influx of overseas capital into those countries for such purposes. Capital will be needed to provide means for the re-education of the peoples of both nations, but the peace treaties should undoubtedly aim at the economic and financial recovery of those nations for peaceful purposes and international harmony. We must recognize that economic impoverishment in Germany and Japan would undoubtedly lead to disasters in the future.
I shall devote the latter part of my speech to the subject of atomic energy, which has already been referred to frequently in this debate. We all are now well aware that a new world era was born when the first atom bomb fell on Hiroshima. To plan our foreign policy or defence projects without taking cognizance of the effect of atomic energy would be sheer lunacy. Scientific development must more than ever condition our foreign policy. Undoubtedly it will affect and condition the form of society under which we shall live in the future.
Atomic energy will undoubtedly require comprehensive readjustments in the sphere of international relations, commercial power and morality. Unless the United Nations can effectively internationalize the control and development of atomic energy and so remove the terrible danger that would flow from any one nation, manufacturing atomic bombs for future war, progress in any field of human endeavour will be useless and futile, and we might as well give up the struggle and surrender our reconstruction plans. We must defeat this new menace or it will certainly defeat the white races if another conflict should occur. It is fanciful thinking to say, as some people are doing to-day, that the atomic bomb is so destructive that there will never be another war. That is wishful thinking of the worst type. Such wishful thinking has been proved to be fallacious every time a new and highly destructive weapon has been discovered and manufactured on a big scale. To say that fear of the next war will prevent war is ridiculous.
Another factor that will have to be considered in relation to the future of the world is oil. Oil, as we are all realizing to an ever increasing degree, is one of the most important products in the world that, we know, and it can easily be the cause of serious international repercussions, lt may be necessary, in the next few years, to internationalize the control of all oil-bearing countries in the world in order to prevent one nation, or one group of nations, from securing a monopolistic control of all supplies.
I believe that the nations which constitute the United Nations of to-day are sincere in their efforts to find a way to divert atomic energy .from destructive into constructive channels. I have studied the report on the international control of atomic energy which has been prepared by the secretaries of the State Committee in the United States of America. The committee met in March, 1946, and examined all aspects of this extremely difficult problem. Above all else the committee gave headline emphasis to the fatal danger of secrecy within national boundaries in connexion with atomic energy developments, and it emphasized the impracticability of supervising a vast system of manufacturing plants and the like. The report recommends the elimination of national rivalries by providing for the international control of atomic development and operation. It also stated that national rivalries in the development of atomic energy are at the very heart of the difficulties that are being encountered. The establishment of an international authority would involve the constitution within the United Nations of a fully competent body. I believe that this has already been arranged, and that the authority is known as the Atomic Development Authority. It is proposed that all raw material for the manufacture of atomic energy, such as uranium and thorium, should be internationally mined and owned, with the authority providing geologists, scientists and mining engineers for the purpose. Refineries should also be owned by the Atomic Development Authority. With so few deposits of uranium and thorium this should be practicable without much difficulty. Individual nations would be forbidden to mine uranium and thorium. Production plants, stock piles, processing equipment and the like would all be owned by the Atomic Development Authority. Research activities would also be under the control of the authority which would conduct its own investigations, but would not retain sole access to the results ascertained through such research. In other words, the authority would not be monopolistic in this regard. Research into methods providing for the commercial use of atomic energy should be encouraged. The general idea behind the organization is that the Atomic Development Authority must be the best-equipped agency and authority on atomic research in the world. Provision is also made for certain licensing activities which would be necessary under international control. I quote the following passage from the final pronouncement in the report : - .
When the plan is in full operation there will no longer be secrets about atomic energy. We believe that this is the firmest basis of security for. in the long run, there can be no international control and no international cooperation which does not presuppose intercommunity or knowledge.
I am sure that all honorable members will agree with that finding. This measure of co-operation is absolutely essential if atomic energy is to be applied only to constructive purposes and is to be denied for destructive activities. A distinguished scientist associated with research into atomic energy, Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, says -
The plan will bring together in a constructive collaborative effort men of various nations on a job of vital interest to the maintenance of peace and the furtherance of human welfare. This is somewhat new, but you will get no.t only ambassadors but chemists and physicists, business men and engineers, working together with a .purpose which, is completely common . . A scheme in which extreme nationalism, the true poison of to-day, will have no place, and in which the sense of fraternity and common understanding will have a chance to get some place and will help to remove suspicions and fears.
The report also stated -
The development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and the development of atomic energy for bombs are, in much of their course, interchangeable. The only assurance that a conversion to destructive purposes would not be made within the nations would be the pledged word and the good faith of .the nation itself. This fact puts an enormous pressure on national good faith.
Co-operation of this kind would be hopeless unless a new spirit of sharing, cooperation, understanding and common knowledge can be introduced into international affairs. Without these conditions I feel that atomic energy will continue to he used for destructive purposes. So it is one world or no world.
There is a spirit of cynicism in the world to-day. It grew out of the failure of the League of Nations in which we had reposed such high hopes. It also grew out of the great economic depression, and manifests itself in a distrust of human nature, and in the growth of materialism. This cynicism has led to a distrust of the efforts which are being made to preserve world peace. Until the nations collaborate to work on an international scale for the outlawing of war, the- people will continue to look upon their efforts with suspicion, and in our own country this suspicion will embrace our efforts in. this Parliament. We have to ask ourselves whether there is sufficient good will in the world, sufficient faith and trust in humanity among the leaders of the nations, to handle this enormous power of atomic energy. At the moment, the answer is “ No “, but we are developing these attributes so quickly, that I am convinced that within a few years there will be sufficient goodwill and trust and common sense among nations to deal satisfactorily with the problem. Recently, Mr. Attlee made this statement : -
Since wars began in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed.
That is undeniably true. We must battle against the causes of war in. the minds of men. We must fight against those thoughts, those ideas and ideologies which make for war. On the 23rd June last year, Albert Einstein, who, for a long time, was a cynic and a critic of religion, said -
A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. . . Tn the light of new knowledge, a world authority and an eventual world state are not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, they are necessary for survival. Our defence is not in armaments, nor in science or in going underground. Our defence is in law and order. Our foreign policy must be aimed at that goal. . . .
Therefore, our duty is to win the war of ideas, which is going on to-day, and it must be waged in men’s hearts and minds. There must be moral rearmament, and we must work to uphold the laws of God and humanity so a3 to fit men to handle atomic energy for the good of the world. I close with a quotation from Oppenheimer in the film The Beginning or the End which is the story of the atomic bomb, and the bombing of Hiroshima. This is what Oppenheimer said -
We of to-day know the beginning. You of to-morrow, if there is a to-morrow, know the end.
It is the solemn, sacred over-riding duty of the people and their leaders to see that there is a to-morrow. I honestly believe that our foreign policy, as outlined by the Minister for External Affairs, has this end in view.
.- A debate on foreign affairs gives honorable members an opportunity to express their views, and certainly the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has expressed his. I draw attention to one statement of his which cannot be allowed to pass uncontradicted. I was staggered to hear him say that, in his opinion, the civilization of the “West had to give way to the civilization of the East. It was at that point that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and I were unable to contain ourselves, and we interjected. If what the honorable member says represents the opinion of the Labour party then God help Australia ! If there is one thing that we must cling to it is this: We are a bastion of western civilization, and none other. We are the inheritors in this country, and in this part of the world, of the traditions that made Europe great in its heyday, that produced in Europe the flower of Christian civilization, of culture, of learning, and of tolerance. The suggestions that western civilization is on the wane, that it is giving up the ghost, is the epitomy of hopelessness. We on this side of the House stand for the maintenance of everything that was and is good in western civilization.
Debates of this kind tend to be general. lt is inevitable that they should be so. By its nature, the subject of foreign affairs cannot be confined to certain subjects, and it is difficult to be specific. That is not the fault of any one in particular, and it is not the fault of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). He is not free, as are Ministers of other departments, to speak his mind on all matters.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– If the honorable member will remain silent I shall explain to him why I made that statement. Consider for example, the question of Manus Island, which has been discussed recently. Obviously, the Minister for External Affairs is not free to tell us all he might wish about that matter, or all that we might wish to know. He is not able to speak freely on such matters because negotiations are still in progress.
– He is using that as a shield.
– That may be, but 1 am assuming that the matter is of such a nature as to restrict free discussion. All this, however, emphasizes the need for a committee of the House, to be consulted regularly on foreign affairs and to discuss them, because it is so often difficult for this House to discuss them openly. That is what the Leader of the Opposition had in mind when he urged the appointment of an all-party committee on foreign affairs. I referred to the subject in the first speech which I made in this House, and later I asked the Minister for External Affairs whether he had yet reached a decision on the subject. He replied that he had not. Some time later, I again asked him if he had come to a decision, and again -he replied that he had not, I should now like him to say when he is likely to come to a decision. We believe that this is a matter which is beyond and above party politics. We on this side of the House are just as patriotic and single minded in our devotion to Australia as are honorable members opposite, and have at least as great a contribution to make to the consideration of foreign affairs as have honorable members on the other side of the chamber. We would welcome the opportunity to participate in the work of a committee on foreign affairs. The next question to which I turn is the position of Australia in the world to-day. I ask the plain, blunt question - what is the position of Australia to-day in foreign affairs ?
– Very good.
– The honorable member says it is very good - we have that assurance right from the fount of knowledge and learning! It is my contention that, if we look about us honestly, the position of Australia, far from being good, is very bad.
– Ridiculous !
– The Minister for External Affairs will appreciate what I say, even if his back-bench supporter does not, when I point out that our situation is one which justifies great alarm and anxiety, particularly when we try to visualize things as they may be in ten or twenty years hence. There are 7,000,000 people in Australia, and to-day for all practical purposes, we are without the support of the British Empire to back up our White Australia policy. We have declared that this is the key to our foreign affairs policy, and that we intend to uphold it with all our strength.
– Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite applaud, and I agree that I can see no other policy for us, but I point out that we, with a population of 7,000,000 people living in the neighbourhood of a potentially hostile population of 1,000,000,000 coloured people are bound to have difficulty in maintaining a white Australia. Japan has a population of about 100,000,000. Japan is now a defeated nation, but it has a population of 100,000,000, with 400 people to the square mile as against our three people to the square mile. Japan is defeated, but it -will rise again, nothing can stop it. Only two and a half days flying time away to the north of us there is China with a population of 400.000,000 people. Russia is on its northern border. What will come out of China no one knows. In one year, or ten years, or in a generation, political changes may take place which will have the most terrible consequences for Australia. Immediately to the north of <u& too, there is Indonesia, with a population of 90,000,000 people, who differ from us completely in race, civilization, and outlook. By permitting our masters, the waterside workers, to dictate our foreign policy, we have done our utmost to drive the Dutch out of Indonesia, and alienate a friendly power, thus leaving the way open for the growth of an alien and hostile ideology. The plain physical fact is that, just to the north of us, within a day’s air flight from Australia, there are 90,000,000 coloured people of alien race and civilization. In Burma there are from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 people. The British are moving out of Burma and the Burmese are undoubtedly to become an independent people. They, again, are of a different race, colour and civilization from our own. They have no reason to love or admire us, or want to do us favours. They are seeking their own place in the sun and the development of their own national way of life ; Australia means nothing to them. In India, there, are some 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people also of alien race and civilization. Because, on the maps with which we were taught at school, India is shown in red, because we have always regarded India as a part of the British Empire, do not let us delude ourselves that India is our natural friend and ally, or that Indians desire to build up Australia and be our friends. The British are moving out of India in 1947 and no matter what happens to India, whether it succeeds in putting its internal house in order, or whether it falls apart in a gigantic internal revolution, the 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people of India have a different civilization, a different outlook and different aims in life from our own. It is only natural, nay, it is inevitable, that the people of India should look upon Australia and wonder about us. They must wonder, for instance, how we can justify holding this country with only three people to the square mile.
– The honorable member is inviting them to do so.
– That is the most incredible statement I have heard in this Parliament for some time, even from a Minister who is not unaccustomed to making incredible statements. Does the honorable gentleman say that, in a free Parliament, where we are endeavouring to contribute to the solution of our national affairs, an honorable member should not speak his mind freely, and. that if he does so he is inviting attack by other countries ? It is time we faced facts and got away from the “ wishy-washy “ sentimentalism that produces miasmas on every occasion international affairs are discussed in Hi is chamber. I am sure that the Minister for External Affairs views these dangers in a realistic way; that he does not minimize the problems that lie ahead of us insofar as our neighbours are concerned. India has every cause to wonder about Australia. It studies our White Australia policy, for which it can have no particular respect. In many quarters the White Australia policy is accepted as something fundamental to our way of life; but it is of no use to expect that the ordinary man in the street in India, who looks at this country with its vast empty spaces, should accept that policy with resignation and equanimity. I have no doubt that the rank and file of India, in common with those of many other countries, do not think much of some of our pretensions. We boast about ourselves and tell the world how wonderful we are. I agree that for a nation of 7,000,000 people we are doing fairly well, but it is one thing to say that we are doing well and another to claim that we are one of the great powers of the world, as Mr. Makin is reported to have said recently in the United States of America. If we face the fact that we are a small nation endeavouring to become great and powerful, instead of posing as a nation already gigantically great, we shall deal with our own problems more effectively.
– The honorable member is writing down his side.
– If to face facts is writing down my side, I agree with the honorable member. If this country is to become great, we must be prepared to work for it. We can do more for our own people by being realistic and true than by being boastful and pretentious.
– But for Labour’s policy we would not have a “ cracker “.
– I hear a murmur from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I do not know what he means; but I do know that Australia is alone in a world of 1,000,000,000 people. On the one hand, it has the United States of America, and on the other it has or has had a prop upon which it has always leaned, namely, the senior partner of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a partner which unfortunately is now broken and reeling and for the moment is impotent to help us. Let us face the facte. The United States of America is not greatly interested in Australia. Great Britain has always been interested in our well-being but is not in a position at the moment to give us the support and help we need ; the assistance which all small nations need in a potentially hostile world. We must reorient our ideas and change our traditional views in order to determine what our place in the world is to be and what we are to do in order to achieve it.
– Is the honorable member in favour of or against the White Australia policy?
– I have stated my views on that policy at least four times during the course of this speech.
– What should we do?
– We must be prepared for hard work. Paced with world conditions as they are to-day we may even have to abandon some of the ideals of social security for which we are all aiming and which we hope to enjoy. As I see the writing on the wall, I see the lessons of history, nations which are not prepared to work and make sacrifices for the sake of their external security may reach a stage where they no longer survive to enjoy internal security. We must therefore reorient our views upon this subject of international affairs. First, we must make up our minds that we will not get anywhere unless we are prepared to work hard - and that applies to all. Secondly, we must build up our population, not by small numbers, not by a mere 5,000 or 25,000 a year, but in vast numbers and within a short time. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has told us he has devised a scheme to that end. The honorable gentleman has a scheme but he has not yet been able to get the migrants. Unless we build up our population in a short time, all the social security plans, all our dreams of a happy and contented state in which every .man from the time he is born until he dies will be given a fair deal and enjoys an absence of anxiety and worry, will be of no avail.
– Cheer up !
– The honorable member for Wilmot has himself been referred to as a Jeremiah. The further one proceeds with this subject the more justifiably the same term may be hurled at me. Unless we are prepared to disregard the apparent rosy glow, to abandon the beautiful feeling of selfsatisfaction with which so many honorable members view these things, and consider the problems that face us in the light of cold facts, we shall not get anywhere. The measures which I have so far mentioned are primarily domestic. In the external field we must stiffen our attitude fo Great Britain and the British Empire. I do not approach this subject in a spirit of jingoism or empty patriotism, or with any desire to w,”-p the flaw. In this month and year, in this day and hour, the subject of world affairs is a matter of plain anxiety, not one for a display of mere patriotism or emotion, and unless we view it realistically our future will be a poor one indeed.
– The honorable member is a super optimist.
– Evidently I cannot please the honorable member, for but aittle while ago he accused me of being a pessimist. The central point of Australian foreign policy .must be a tight and close relationship with the British Empire - or what is left of it, because India and Burma are leaving it and many of the strategic advantages which Great Britain used to enjoy in Egypt and Greece are disappearing. We see to-day a vastly changed world which holds a very deep menace for Australia. Great Britain, is, of course, still a very great and important power, but is gravely embarrassed financially. That, I believe, is all too true. As an honorable member has said, it is one of the ironies of the world to-day that a country which so recently won a great war has come to the pass reached by Great Britain. Is not that all the more reason why we should rally to its support? The proposed gift of f 25,000,000 is a positive trifling gesture.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– That matter will be debated to-morrow.
– The Minister reminds me that that subject will be debated tomorrow. With great respect-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the statement before the House.
– A trifling gift of money, food, or anything of that sort is beside the point. That is not the way in which we can successfully tackle our future relations with Great Britain. They must be tackled on the basis of a tie with Great Britain. Before we sit at the conference tables with foreign powers we should talk first with Great Britain and obtain a united front. That has been said before in this House. At all costs, at this time, we cannot afford to have divergent views from members of the British Commonwealth at international conferences. No matter into what international relationships we propose to enter we must, as far as it is humanly possible, speak with one voice. The world does not understand Australia’s voice if it differs from Great Britain’s. The world can understandpower and force, and if what is left of the British Commonwealth speaks with one voice we shall be respected, but separately we shall not be. The need for prior unanimity is where I part company from the Minister for External Affairs. If we are unanimous, the world will understand that there is still left, not only the great traditional and moral force of the British Commonwealth that has stood for so many years, but also a great material force, of the peoples of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. I have heard a great deal of loose talk, which is the result of loose thinking, about the balance of power. I do not believe that the balance of power was always bad. It was often a very good thing. One of the most terrifying things in the world to-day is that the balance of power has gone from Britain but if the members of the British Commonwealth speak and act as one, it is still within their grasp to use their weight to preserve peace and justice in the world. I do not refer to the need for close collaboration with Great Britain merely as a piece of jingoism or emotionalism, but sentiment and emotion still have their part to play in the lives of nations as well as persons. It will be for the good of not only Australia but also of the rest of the world if we, by close collaboration with Great Britain, play our part in preserving not only the material power of the British Commonwealth but also its very great and moving moral power.
– It is rather late in the day for one to participate in a debate on international affairs, but before the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) replies I propose to say a few things that should be said. I have listened to practically every speech in this debate and heard many views expressed. I doubt very much whether in our isolated state on the continent of Australia the man in the street or the man on the farm has paid as much attention to the great change of world events that one would wish. What concerns us chiefly and immediately is that the great change of world events has affected the United Kingdom, and, through it, the Australian Commonwealth. We can survive as a nation only by cultivating the closest possible military and political ties with the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The first thing that strikes a student of foreign affairs is that Great Britain to-day is no longer the great naval power that it was a few years ago. After World War I., from the position of the first naval power, it accepted equality with the United States of America, and to-day it ranks well below that country in sea power and air power, and its position as a military power will be greatly affected by whatever decision is reached by the Indian Constituent Assembly. I have heard little in this debate about the change that will take place in the status and power of the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Empire in world politics as the result of what looks like the impending defection of the Indian Empire from Great Britain. That is an impending event about which we can do little but argue or speculate. In the Middle East we see the United Kingdom stepping out of Egypt. I have never approved of that. I have never been the slightest bit concerned about what the Egyptians thought of the British occupation. If we are to maintain the British Empire as a world power - and we cannot survive as a White Australia unless we do - there are certain corners of the world that we badly need. One is Egypt with the right to control the Suez Canal and the Bed Sea, which are vital lines of communication between Australia and the United Kingdom, although I believe that certain alternative routes are being developed across Africa. We see in the present Government of the United Kingdom a tendency to cast aside the burden that was taken up by the United Kingdom more than one hundred years ago. Whether that is a good thing for the British Empire or not time alone will tell.
My strongly held opinion is that it is a bad thing for the world at large and particularly for the smaller nations.
The Russian empire has expanded enormously as the result of the war. It occupies to-day a great part of Europe. Its western boundary runs roughly down the Elbe River to the Adriatic coast. It is attempting to stretch out into Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. The old Czarist ambition of warm water ports in the Pacific Ocean, the Persian Gulf and, perhaps, the Indian Ocean, the Baltic and the Mediterranean, has not been given up by the Soviet Government. I seldom agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), but he made an important statement about Russia when he said that whether ruled by the Czar or the present dictator, it applied in world affairs a constant policy and method. The ‘Commonwealth Government has raised no outcry that I. am conscious of against imperialist expansion by Russia in Europe. As far as I know it has acquiesced in what Russia has done to Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia, Hungary and Rumania.
– Surely the honorable member will agree that some others acquiesced at Yalta and Potsdam?
– We are dealing with our own Government. I recall to the minds of honorable members opposite that this Government, for the first time in the history of Australian government, has insisted upon having the front of the stage at practically all international conferences. It has insisted upon having headlines in the press and a good share of wireless broadcasting. If it insists on that it must account to the Commonwealth Parliament and Australian public opinion for its actions, whatever they may be.
– How can the honorable member say without distortion that the Government insisted on being featured in the press?
– lt gets that, anyway, and I have a strong suspicion that it is insistent on it. I repeat that as far as I know it has raised no outcry against Russian expansion. But it has shown great willingness about events close to home. Japan went to war with two prime objectives. The first was to extend Japanese domination to the Pacific, the Indies and continental Asia, and probably the Australian continent, lis second objective clearly was, if it were foiled in its first objective, to destroy western control, western trade and western power in those areas. To a great degree it succeeded in its second objective. With a great deal of regret I am afraid that a part of that success has been due to the spinelessness of the Australian Government about certain events to our near north. The treatment meted out by Australia to the Dutch in the East Indies is something that we need not be the least bit proud of. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. The Dutch were in the war with us. When we entered the war and undertook with the Dutch to defend our common interests in those areas, there was no such thing as a Republic of Indonesia. I have not much doubt that if, five years ago, people were asked what Indonesia was we should have had a lot of scratching of heads but little information. But suddenly it seems to have been taken for granted that Indonesia is some great power in South-East Asia, that being the description of the area that the Minister for External Affairs prefers.
– Where are your backstops ?
– 1 am talking to the other side. I do not need to convert the Christians. It is the heathens that I seek to convert. The honorable member omits to notice the presence of my leader (Mr. Menzies). No question exists as to the doubtful attitude of the Australian Government towards the Dutch in SouthEa.st Asia. The Minister ‘for External Affairs has told us of some great conference on South-East Asia that he proposes to have before long. My comment on that is contained in four letters: “ Don’t ! “ We have had two recent conferences. Out of one arose the Anzac Pact, which was signed by the genteel baud of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), amongst other Ministers. Then we had the South-West Pacific. Conference in this city. Out of that will arise a secretariat and the Lord knows what in expense. What it will achieve oan bo written off now by 20s. in the £1. Any conferenceon affairs in South-East Asia would bean utter futility. The Indian Empiredoes not know where it stands. It doesnot know whether all India will comeunder the rule of those who will follow the provisional government. India doesnot know whether Pakistan will becomean accomplished fact or whether theIndian princes will maintain their rights. We do not know whether Burma will’ stay in or leave the British Empire, and in the event of its withdrawing,, whether it will remain as one unit, or besplit into several units. We do not know the future of Malaya or Thailand, and wehave no knowledge yet of the fate of Indo-Ohina. Whether it is to be divided or not, we do not know. The fate of the Dutch possessions is also extremely doubtful. In the circumstances a conference in Australia at present to deal with matters of that description would be utterly futile.
The Australian Government must get very much closer to the British Government than it has been since the Labour party took office late in 1941. Members of the Opposition have complained about this matter time after time. There is too much evidence of a rift between Australia and the rest of the British Empire. There is too much of this tendency to talk about foreign affairs at San Francisco, London or Moscow, wherever the international conference is held, as if we were a big power in the world. Australia’s power in foreign politics depends upon its military and economic power, and nothing else. That is the only thing that counts. That is the only reason why countries of the size, power and potentiality of Australia not represented at places like Yalta, Potsdam, Teheran and Cairo, where important conferences were held during World War II. Therefore, since we have to accept the position of a minor power in these matters, let us accept also the other position that, standing alone, we are not very influential. But if we unite with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, which are the predominantly white countries of the British Empire, we shall be in a position as a united force, speaking with one voice, to exercise upon world affairs a very important influence - an influence which cannot be ignored either by the United States of America or Soviet Russia, much as they would like to ignore it. The moment the British Empire gets together and is able to prove to many of the small nations, especially those in Europe, that it is a cohesive, united force determined upon certain policies in world affairs, a number of countries in Europe, small, democratic, but determined, with a history and a future, will be prepared to link themselves fairly closely with the British Empire. But if we are to leave, the United Kingdom very largely to shift for itself in European affairs, the future not only of Great Britain and ourselves but also of the small democratic countries of Europe will be extremely doubtful.
At present, the Australian Government is not in a position to tell us precisely the implications on the United Kingdom defences and for that matter on our own defences of the new weapons which were employed towards the close of World War II. Honorable members hope to obtain some information about these matters in the near future. Whatever those implications may be, they cannot be properly applied in any common-sense way unless there is in future a much closer union between the white countries of the British Empire than there is to-day. The cardinal point of Australian policy should be to secure that closer union between other members of the British Empire and Australia.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) commented that this debate is becoming stale; but a remark which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) made earlier has prompted me to make a brief contribution on international affairs. The honorable member said that “national rivalries are at the heart of our difficulties “. In my opinion, rivalries are at the heart of our difficulties. Is it not a fact that the selfishness of our way of life is the thing which is wrong? Within our national boundaries, we have developed extreme rivalries in our business life and personal life. In the educational sphere, we foster the spirit of rivalry. The development of competition has warped our thinking and our every activity, and has lowered all our standards. To-day, in international affairs, we have the extraordinary spectacle of a group of countries attempting to discover the way to the preservation of world peace, but they are themselves rivals in an armaments race. Could anything be more absurd or more contradictory ?
I have found this debate most depressing. Speech after speech has hardly contained an indication that we are seeking unity. Mistrust and fear have been apparent in almost every speech. Those emotions appear to be paramount. We need to understand the living conditions of people in other countries. Unless we have that understanding and amend our way of dealing with our social problems and the social problems of other people, we shall not bring about unity in world affairs nor discover the way to world peace.
– in reply - This debate has covered such a wide field, and many of the speeches on international affairs have been so extensive that I feel impelled to remove some of the doubt? which have been expressed and to clarify certain problems which have arisen. Before I deal with some of the early speeches, I desire to refer to several matters that were discussed this evening. First, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) said that the Australian Government was “tinkering” with the White Australia policy. That statement is absolutely incorrect, and quite unjustified. There is not a tittle of evidence to support it. During this debate, the House has had a most clear and unequivocal affirmation of this fundamental principle of our policy, not only by me on behalf of the Government, but also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of honorable members opposite. I said, in answer to a question which was asked during the last few weeks, that I should be prepared, if necessary, to state and re-state the principle morning, noon and night; but I do not need to do that when there can be no dispute about that principle in this Parliament or in the country. The honorable member for Reid was right when he said that the White Australia policy is related to the security of Australia. I state quite frankly that had the policy not been applicable to the territories of Australia when war with Japan occurred, the result would probably have been the over-running of a substantial portion of this country by the enemy. However, the thing is axiomatic. It is fundamental to all our way of thinking. Our relations with the countries to the north of Australia are not prejudiced or should not be prejudiced by that fact. Indeed, I do not believe that they could be prejudiced by it. If the declaration is clear, that is the basis of friendship and mutual understanding. So, it is necessary for me again to make that perfectly clear. That was the only point, I believe, made by the honorable member for Reid is his speech.
This debate has dealt with international affairs, that is, the relations of this country with other countries; yet, at this stage of the debate the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) injected into it, I think for the first time, a suggestion that our relationship with Great Britain, although we have affirmed that it is of vital significance to us, was being weakened in action. He referred to a few examples, and I was amazed that those matters should be mentioned in a foreign affairs debate. The first was that the King had appointed an Australian to be Governor-General of thi3 part of the British Commonwealth. That was the first point the honorable member made. He then referred to the subject of Empire preference, implying that the Government of this country was, on its own account - otherwise his comment would have no point whatever - doing something to weaken preferential trade arrangements which bind Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, including the United Kingdom. That comment was completely without justification; but it was followed later this evening by the most amazing speech of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). That speech was full of inspissated gloom. He said that the situation of Australia was very serious. He discovered the populations of the countries that lie to the north of Australia, and said, because of that fact, we must make certain changes, not in our foreign policy, but in our domestic policy ; that we must work harder and increase our own population. The truth of some of his comments is obvious; but what does he suggest as a practical means of achieving this objective? I believe that it is a most important development in recent years - indeed, almost in recent months - to find the British Government applying principle by principle those matters which are laid down in the fundamental document known as the Atlantic Charter, one clause of which requires that nations which have a population capable of self-government and demanding self-government should be encouraged to govern themselves. I .believe, as I have said on previous occasions, and when I was initiating this debate, that one might test the principle by applying it to the problem of the people of India. The government of India, under the British Dispensation, has been remarkable and romantic. It recalls to us the great achievements of the British in that part of the world, and the enormous contributions to the technical development of India, as well as the great figures of statesmen and pro-consuls who have gone from England to India in those years. But the position to-day is that through British initiative, in many cases, the people of India have made their demand for self-government. It has taken various forms. Royal Commissions have inquired into the problem and tentative experiments have been made; and greater self-government has been demanded because the demand is never complete until self-government itself becomes complete. Finally the British Government has given a full meed of self-government as has been British policy for the last 130 years in other parts of the British Empire; and that at first strikes one as being, perhaps, something which will cause alarm and concern. But, on the other hand, it is surely, too, a message of confidence and hope in the people of India expressed by the people of Great Britain. The policy in countries to the north, from Egypt right down to Burma and Malaya, has been one of encouraging self-government of the peoples of that great area; and the great policy to pursue in that area is one of friendship with those peoples based on complete frankness and aiming at the continuance and maintenance of friendship between us.
In several speeches we find the suggestion made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that there is some rift between this country and Great Britain. I do not know whether a statement merely by repetition by some people becomes true; but that is not a true statement. To-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) illustrated, and I have affirmed the fact, that we have the most intimate relationship with the Government of the United Kingdom. In recent years there have been extraordinary developments in that respect in relation to such functional matters as telecommunication, the wool arrangement with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and our aviation arrangements. Those are very important, practical matters of co-operation. They involve not merely good relationships, but the wellbeing of our peoples; and the whole feeling between the two governments and peoples is one of not merely comradeship but kinship, which bafflles definition but is as firm, as a rock. Some honorable members opposite have said that there must be some firm arrangement, a binding, contractual relationship among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations as a group, as to what is to be done by any one of them. That entirely misconceives this family relationship of the British Nations. On previous occasions, when dealing with the position of Canada, I have told the House how I have heard the Prime Minister of that dominion, who has held office for over twenty years, declare that that very proposition if put to the Parliament of Canada would set back by many years the relationship between Canada and the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is because there is no such contractual relationship, but something different, that the British Commonwealth of Nations becomes a. moral force and the centre of great physical force whenever the world has been threatened by grave dangers such as occurred during the two world wars.
Honorable members must really understand - they must work on the documents - that it is impossible on every occasion to get all British nations to agree. When the doctrine of full employ ment was proposed by Australia at the San Francisco Conference, every single nation except South Africa accepted it as an obligation to the United Nations. That country took a different line. On that occasion there was no failure to consult beforehand with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Canada, for reasons I have mentioned, because of its own internal view, cannot take the same view as Australia and New Zealand takes. I say frankly that the fact is that of all the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the nation which is endeavouring to make co-operation closer in the conduct of foreign affairs is this country. In my speech when initiating this debate, I made suggestions with respect to consultation with the United Kingdom. We do not regard as perfect or as permanent the methods of consultation that are employed to-day. New situations may demand different methods. So far as Australia is concerned, and I believe that so far as New Zealand also is concerned, the desire is to improve the methods of consultation. One could illustrate that in many ways. I believe that better methods of consultation could be applied to the making of the peace settlements. We have gone a very long way in that connexion. One cannot indicate, even in this debate, how far we have gone, with a view to seeing whether in respect of, say, Germany, it is not possible for some of the British nations to speak with one voice.
– If there cannot be agreement among the British nations, how can it be expected among the others?
– The honorable member knows that, in a family, agreement is not always possible. If a great emergency threatened a family, it would work, and if necessary fight, together; but in a special group of nations, each of which has an independence of its own, and all of whom are united only by loyalty and allegiance to the King and a common kinship, it is impossible to act as a bloc in all matters at international conferences. Usually, they agree on the big questions. I have already referred to the criticism that that relationship, or the suggestion in regard to it, is capable of improvement, and my remarks did not evoke disapproval. I have indicated that the Government is willing to reconsider the matter at any time. But that does not alter the fact that, broadly speaking, those governments make determinations on their own account and in their own spheres, yet work together in the most important matters. Apart from the matters that have been mentioned tonight, to which I should not have referred at such length, the field covered by the statement that I made on behalf of the Government relates to the United Nations, the recent Assembly meeting, the problem of disarmament, the problem of atomic energy, the South Pacific Commission, recent developments in India, the agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia, the trade relationships of Australia with South East Asian countries - which show a remarkable development of trade; the figures are most spectacular
– With which countries?
– I do not intend to repeat all the figures that are contained in the White Paper that has been circulated in the annexure to this report. I had expected some elaboration of them in this debate, but they have not been referred to. The statement also dealt with the peace settlements with Italy and the former satellites of Germany, which were analysed very carefully ; the general lines of the proposed settlements with Germany and Austria; the policy in relation to the occupation of Japan as a means to the final settlement with that country; the doctrine of trusteeship and Australia’s participation in it, with special reference to New Guinea; the future disposal of the Japanese Mandated (Islands - I call them that because the matter is one to which I shall have to refer separately - Australia’s relationships with Great Britain; and dozens of other matters. All of these have been set out for the information of this House. The field covered is a vast one, in respect of both subject-matter and area. All of these matters could have been discussed at any length, but most of them have not even been mentioned during the debate. I think it is fair to assume that with such an opportunity for discussion as there has been, there is no great or special difference of opinion among members of the House on most of these topics.
– Most of these subjects would require a special debate if they were to be considered properly.
– There has been no interference with freedom of debate. Not only are these matters separate, but in addition all of them were referred to in my statement. Details of them were given in a White Paper, consisting of from 80 to 90 pages, which accompanied my statement.
– I have read every line of it.
– I am glad of that. If the honorable member read it without objection-
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member had an opportunity to object to it. I had almost said that we could take it that he does not object; but maybe we can take it that he has a general objection. Any foreign policy does not consist of only one or two matters on which day-by-day decisions are given. It involves hundreds, probably a thousand, matters throughout the year. Domestic policy involves department after department of government. One cannot expect, at any rate in a political system, unanimity in any matter of domestic policy. Substantial agreement on the main heads of foreign policy gives one something which, I believe, was commented upon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The words that he used were -
The second thing’ which struck me was that on many matters discussed there is a great deal more common ground in this House than we may suppose.
I make that point. Because I want to deal in some detail with other points that have been raised, and because I do not wish to leave anything unanswered, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Second-class Mail Matter - Telephone Services.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to raise briefly certain matters in connexion with the administration of the Postal department. I have received a letter from the editor of Hoofs and Horns, a magazine published in the City of Adelaide. He has complained that copies of this magazine, which is posted to people in the various States of Australia, receive very slow postal transmission. I can confirm his statement from my own experience, newspapers posted to me from Sydney having taken as many as six days to reach me in South Australia. He has advised me that copies of the magazine posted at 3.55 p.m. on the 25th February for transmission to addresses in Wodonga had not reached their destination until the 4th March. I raise this matter particularly because of the press statement that the PostmasterGeneral is studying the possibility of the Postal department securing its own aircraft and transmitting firstclass mail matter by air so as to obtain speedier transport of it. While striving to obtain speedier transport of first-class mail matter, the department apparently is falling down on the task of handling second-class mail matter. Not long ago, I had occasion to send a parcel rather urgently to Brisbane to one of my colleagues. I asked the Postal department how long it would take to get there, because it was necessary that it should reach the recipientbefore he left for London, and I was informed that the department could not get it there in less than three or four weeks. For practically the same fee as the Postal department would have charged, the parcel was despatched next day by air and reached its destination on the same day. I have certain newspapers posted to me from Sydney, and they usually take six days to reach South Australia.
I wish to deal also with the installation of telephones. I have received complaints from Sydney that considerable difficulty is being experienced in having telephones connected. One man wrote to me and said that having encountered this difficulty he was approached by an officer who told him that if he had £25 he could have a telephone installed but otherwise he could not. It is time that this matter was investigated. I understand that similar cases have occurred in other cities, and that where the Postmaster-General’s Department has made a check, appropriate action has been taken. The installation of telephones is an important matter. A certain scale of priorities is laid down having regard to the business of the applicants, and that scale should not be departed from. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to have the three matters that I have raised examined, and to inform me of what steps the Postmaster-General’s Department is prepared to take in connexion with them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 - No. 13 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - C. G. Setter.
Supply and Shipping - H. B. Owen, L. S. Prior, R. F. Thyer, K. H. Zelman.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 35.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 1, 8.
Distillation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 26.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 28.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Moonee Ponds, Victoria.
Port Augusta, South Australia.
Redfern (Strawberry Hills), New South Wales.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 33, 34.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Broadcasting: Use of Official Cars by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I desire to inform the honorable member that inquiries are being made into these matters and a reply will be furnished at the earliest possible date.
Cabinet : Collective Responsibility ;
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the wholesale ex-factory price of the following items imported from the United States of America by the Commonwealth Government and sold in November, 1945, for use in the Victorian timber industry: -
One only T. 5- R.B. “Garwood” winch ; and
One only 20-21 Bucyrus Eric hydraulic bulldozer?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Ox and/or heifer beef weighing more than 400 lb. but less than C50 lb. per carcass - 6.6d. per lb.
Ox and/or heifer beef weighing more than 050 lb. per carcass - 6d. per lb.
Second quality or trade cow beef - 5.4d. per lb.
Wether mutton - 64d. per lb.
Ewe mutton - 5Jd. per lb.
Hogget mutton - 7d. per lb.
Lamb weighing not more than 30 lb. per carcass - 10id. per lb.
Lamb weighing more than 36 lb. per carcass - 9Jd. per lb.
l. - On the 18th March, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked whether I was prepared to make public the titles of the seven American films which have been banned by the Commonwealth Film Censor.
I have consulted the Minister for Trade and Customs and now inform the honorable member that particulars of films rejected are confidential as between the film censor and the importer. I regret, therefore, that the information sought by the honorable member cannot be supplied.
Dairying : Price of Milk.
d. - On the 12th March the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked that if, in view of the dissatisfaction that exists in the milk industry and the representations that have been made for an increase of the price of milk, consideration might be given to the granting of an increased price.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The question of an increased price for milk must be considered in the light of the Government’s policy of price stabilization, but returns to dairymen have been increased substantially by the payment of subsidies on whole milk and that these are under constant review.
Compulsory Trade Unionism.
y. - On the 6th March the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question regarding union membership of government munitions factory employees. The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australasia made an application to the Industrial Registrar of the Arbitration Court for registration as an organization. Objections to the application have been lodged by eleven different organizations and, owing to the state of business being congested due to Full Court activities, there has been no opportunity to list the matter for hearing. It is expected that the application will be set down for hearing towards the end of this month The honorable member will have a full opportunity of discussing the other matters raised by him during the debate on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which is now before the House.
Industrial Conditions in Australia: Statement by Mr. N. J.O. Makin.
– On the 21st March the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked the following question: -
Has the Prime Minister read the press report of certain statements made in the United States of America by the Australian Ambassador, Mr. Makin. including the following: -
That Australia enjoys prosperity unparalleled in its history, that Australia’s arbitration system has brought added respect for the law and has been accepted by most employers and employees: and that there was only occasional industrial dislocation in this country? Does the Prime Minister agree that such statements are fatuous and misleading and will he take steps to prevent their repetition?
Further to my reply on that occasion I am now able to supply figures provided by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician which indicate the record level of employment and prosperity in the Commonwealth, as follows: -
The number of civilian wage and salary earners employed in July, 1939, was 2,061,000. This was the highest figure reached in pre-war years. Civilian wage and salary earners employed in December, 1946, numbered approximately 2,460,000, the highest number yet recorded, and the upward trend is continuing. The average numbers of wage and salary earners working in the years 1938-39 and 1945-46 were 2,067,000 and 2,200,000 respectively. Wages and salaries paid were £432,000.000 and £610,000,000 respectively. Thus, while average number employed increased by6½ per cent., total wages and salaries increased by 41 per cent. During the period 1920-21 to 1938-39 unemployment was never less than 7 per cent. of available wage and salary earners, and it reached nearly 30 per cent. in 1932. In July, 1939, it was 12½ per cent., and in December, 1946, it was not much over 2 per cent. The percentage idle as a. result of industrial disputes (strikes and lock-outs) was a fraction of 1 per cent. of total wage and salary earners.
Oil from Coal.
y. - In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on the 12th March, I am now in a position to inform the honorable member further, on the matter of bringing to Australia German technicians in connexion with the extraction of oil from coal, as follows: -
The Australian Scientific and Technical Mission, which is administered through the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and is operating in England and Germany, has advised the Secondary Industries Division that two highly qualified chemical engineers, particularly skilled in processes for the treatment of coal have been allocated to Australia. Conditions of their employment in this country are now being finalized and early advice of their departure from Germany is anticipated.
In addition, the Secondary Industries Division has received from the Australian Scientific and Technical Mission particulars concerning the qualifications of many other eligible German scientists and technicians from whom selections are being made for the purpose of fulfilling requests from Commonwealth and State departments, universities and private industry for the services of men with certain specific qualifications.
A number of these selections have already been approved by the parties concerned, and applications have been lodged with the authorities in London for their allocation to Australia.
Two of the main functions of the Secondary. Industries Division, in connexion with the enemy aliens employment scheme, assisted by a committee representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Immigration Department, Australasian Council of Trade Unions, Combined Australian Universities, and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, is firstly, to ensure that only enemy aliens who can contribute knowledge, skill and experience not possessed by an Australian citizen or a citizen of the United Kingdom are brought to Australia, and secondly, to ensure that the knowledge of such aliens is utilized in directions from which the greatest benefit is likely to accrue to the Commonwealth as a whole.
With regard to plant as an alternative to obtaining the machinery, endeavours are still being made to secure not only the necessary blue prints and drawings, but also a technical pilot model of an oil extraction plant.
Armed Forces: Parcels from Japan.
– On the 18th March, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question, concerning the withholding from delivery of certain parcels sent to Australia by troops serving in Japan.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The importation of goods from Japan is precluded by the Trading with the Enemy Act. However, an exemption has been granted in the case of goods to the maximum value of £10 sterling in any one twelve months period sent or brought to Australia as gifts by members of the Occupation Force.
Any goods sent in excess of the allowable maximum value, or any goods which might reasonably be regarded as being for purposes of sale, trade or exchange, would be refused delivery.
Coal: Proposed Visit by Professor Jones to Queensland Mines.
y. - On the 12th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question regarding the itinerary of Professor David Jones, of the Department of Mining of the University College, Wales. The Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has informed me that Professor Jones’s visit to this country will be of about three months’ duration. He is at present visiting the coal-mining fields in New South Wales, but it is planned that he should visit all States of the Commonwealth. It is proposed that he should spend about a week in Queensland and arrangements for his itinerary will be discussed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with the Department of Mines in that State.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australian Air Force: Personnel on Reserve.
r asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows
A touring squadron would not be satisfactory as a means of keeping reservists in flying trainingeven on thesmaller types of service aircraft( e.g., Mustangs and Mosquitos ) while it would be impracticable to provide a touring squadron of the larger types of machines (e.g., Liberators and Lincolns) for the following reasons: -
Destructionof Pests: . 310Rifles.
n. - On the. 20th March, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) asked a question concerning disposal of a quantity of . 310 rifles. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The Department of the Army recently declared a quantity of 1,000 . 310 rifles in Queensland for the express purpose of making these rifles available to graziers and landowners in country districts for the destruction of pests. The rifles will be sold through recognized gunsmiths in country areas. The Disposals Commission understands that the Army is reviewing its stocks with a view to making further quantities available in all States including Western Australia. The rifles will be sold through the trade and every effort will be made to have these rifles distributed to merchants in country areas where they are most required.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470325_reps_18_190/>.