18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.FULLER. - The Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture is doubtless aware that farmers are being greatly handicapped in their production by the prevailing shortage of tractors. Can the honorable gentleman indicate whether there are any prospects of an improvement of the position in the near future, and how soon can it be anticipated that Australian tractors will be produced in helpful numbers?
Mr.POLLARD.- It is true that, due to industrial disturbances overseas, the number of tractors arriving in Australia is not nearly sufficient to supplythe great demand for them.Reports received from overseas indicate thatthe quota for Australia for 1948 will be substantial.Within a period of twelve months locally made tractors will be coming on to the Australian market in fairly substantial numbers. Shortage of tractors, I know, is a great problem with agriculturalists. Honorable members . frequently make representations to my department in respect of it. Those representations should be directed to the State departments of agriculture, because it is through those departments that distribution is made to the farmers in the various States. The Commonwealth authority is responsible merely for distribution to the States.
Mr.HARRISON.-Replying to a question that I asked yesterday concerning the proposed formation of a company to exploit Australian-Indonesian trade, the Attorney-General said that before any such concern could be formed the Australian Government would have to be consulted. He also said that Mr.Roach and Mr. Healy had received no sponsorship from the Commonwealth Government, either directly or indirectly, to attend a conference in Indonesia. I now ask the right honorable gentleman to state what action is open to the Commonwealth Government to prevent a company that is established in Singapore from registering in an Australian capital city, provided it complieswith the company law in the State concerned. Were Mr. Roach and Mr. Healy given air priorities by special order by the Commonwealth Government to fly to Singapore by Qantas Airways on the 11th May to attend the Indonesian conference? Were two passengers off-loaded in order to make roam for them on the aircraft? if so, who authorized the issuing of priorities to them? Did these men have Netherlands East Indies visés entitling them to transit only through Batavia? If so, did they have the permission of the Dutch authorities to travel to Indonesian territory?
– I stated to the House yesterday that neither Mr. Roach nor Mr. Healy had received any sponsorship, wither directly or indirectly, from the CommonwealthGovernment. That is true. They received no endorsement. As a matter of fact, applications for sponsorship made both to the Prime Minister and to me were peremptorily refused.
– What about priorities?
– I cannot answer in detail about priorities, but I give a most emphatic and unequivocal denial to the suggestion that any Government sponsorship was given. In fact, they went to Indonesia at a time that was very embarrassing to the Commonwealth Government, which had its own delegation there. The visés were given to them by the Dutch authorities, and these enabled them to visit those parts of Indonesia which are controlled by the Dutch. That much I learned from the Dutch Charge d’Aff aires in Canberra. That is the responsibility of the Dutch Government, and I have nothing to do with it. I do not think that the House will be satisfied with any answer from me on a technical point of law. Since the honorable member for Wentworth raised this matter yesterday in the House I have been in contact with two security officers, Colonel Brown in Canberra and Brigadier Gallagher in Sydney. Their reports are not complete ; but, as so much publicity has been given to the matter, I think I should tell the House that it seems pretty clear from the documents they have seen, and from the conversations they have had, that the story about the formation of such a trading company is almost certainly part of a pretty elaborate hoax.
Expedition from Australia.
– In view of the increasing importance of the Antarctic, and having regard to the fact that an expedition from Australia is to visit the
Antarctic in the 1947-48 season, can the Attorney-General say what is the purpose of the expedition, and does it propose to winter in the south next year? Has the Government any plans regarding Macquarie Island, which lies to the south of Tasmania, and was recently surveyed from the air during a noteworthy flight by a Liberator aeroplane?
– It has been arranged that an Australian expedition will go to the Antarctic towards the end of this year. The drawing up of detailed plans is in the hands of a committee representing the various departments concerned, including the Department of the Navy, the Department of Air and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. This committee will decide the length of time which the expedition will remain away, and I have no doubt that some part of the expedition will remain in the south throughout the winter. A visit to Macquarie Island is included in the plans. In the courseof the recent flight from Laverton to Macquarie Island, a distance of 2,100 miles, some remarkable photographs were obtained. This island was visited years ago by Sir Douglas Mawson. The general purpose of the expedition is to maintain Australian and British interests in the Antarctic, interests based not only on the Australian expedition led by Mawson, but also on the share taken by Australians in the great expeditions of Scott and Shackleton.
– In view of the fine work done by the officers of his department by making a film of talented aboriginal artists in Central Australia, will the Minister for Information consider sending additional senior officers to Alice Springs to report on the unique scenic, mining and pastoral area about 100 miles north-east of Alice Springs, near Mount Riddock, in the McDonnell Ranges, with a view to reporting on the area as a suitable spot for the establishment of a little Hollywood, so that the natural and unique scenery and climate that exists there may be capitalized and the films exhibited in Australia for the education of our people and also shown overseas to intending migrants?
– I thank the honorable member for hiswell-deserved tribute to the officers of my departments I shall give favorable and very sympathetic consideration to his request that the officers of my department should devote further time in that important portion of Australia in order to record its scenic and other beauties. We shall do it as quickly as possible.
Mr.FALSTEIN.- Recently the honorable member forWentworth made an attack on the administration of the Rationing Commission at a time when the proceedings of this House were being broadcast. Yesterday the AttorneyGeneral, replying in part to this attack, listed a long record of criminal offences which had been committed by the honorable member’s informant. As the proceedings of this House are being broadcast to-day, will the AttorneyGeneral again recite the list in order that his reply may be properly publicized, as it was not mentioned in this morning’s newspapers?
– Having made my statement to the House, to which alone I am responsible, this answer may be sufficient to-day as a record thereof.
– In view of the announced increase of the price of cornsacks to 28s. and 28s. 6d. a dozen, which is equivalent to 10d. a bushel, will millers now receive wheat in bulk less that cost, which means that they will buy wheat at 3s. l0d. a bushel when the real value is approximately 16s. a bushel? If that be so, does not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider it is time for a review and a reasonable increase of the home-consumption price?
– I understand that arrangements are being made whereby the increased cost of cornsacks will be passed on to the consuming public and the purchasers of grain.
– In view of the good work being done by repatriation com mittees, inboth the city and the country, will the Minister for Repatriation consider increasing the originating grant to these committees from £5 to £100? Does not the honorable gentleman consider the initial £5 establishment grant too small to be effective? Is he aware that, because of the small grant of £5, many committees failed to survive and attract public subscriptions and support? As cases of distress among ex-service men and women are growing, will the Minister revise the whole scheme of repatriation committees financially so that the great work being done by public-spirited citizens on these committees can be more effective ?
– I do not admit that the difficulties of ex-service men and women are growing. On the contrary. I believe we have now reached a stage where they are commencing to recede.
– What nonsense!
– I have some knowledge of the facts and I do not speak without the book on this subject. There are about 480 repatriation committees in Australia. They have done excellent work on a purely voluntary basis and have been of great assistance to the Repatriation Department in looking at cases on the spot and expressing unbiased and considered views on them. I know that the amount ofmoney available for clerical assistance and the like is small. In view of the hon orable member’s representations, I shall have the matter examined and furnish him with a reply.
– In view of the considerable interest displayed in the whaling industry by other nations, will the Australian Governmentgive an early indication of its intentions in relation to that industry? As a former Commonwealth Minister stated last year that whaling would be under way by 1947 and that Tasmania would resume its rightful place as head-quarters of the industry, can the Prime Minister indicate whether definite steps have been taken to establish Australian participation in that valuable industry? If the Government has formulated plans to engage in whaling, will he assure me that Hobart will receive every consideration as the Australian base for the venture? If the Government has no plans for its participation in the industry, will encouragement be given to any one else to establish it?
– As I have indicated previously, the use of Hobart and Western Australian ports, which have been referred to in questions about v baling by other honorable members,will be considered when the whaling industry is being considered. I will arrange for a detailed reply to be furnished to the honorable gentleman.
Export to the Far East.
M r. WILLIAMS.- Gosford orange- growers are anxious to export oranges to Singapore and other places in the Far East, but owing to the uncertainty of the time the boats will be en route and the difficulty of obtaining refrigeration space. Burns, Philp and Company Limited and shipping agents and authorities advise Against an attempt to export fruit until some months hence. They say that the Government is taking all the available refrigeration space. It is feared that the valuable markets now offering might be lost forever. What is the position? Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inquire into the matter and take all necessary steps within the Government’s power to ensure that the growers shall bp protected and assisted to share in the lucrative prices now being obtained at Singapore and other places in the Far East?
– I appreciate the importance of the matter to the honorable gentleman’s constituents and the attention that he pays continually to their needs. I understand that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has already taken the matter up with the shipping companies. I also understand that we no longer control overseas shipping. Considerable space, particularly refrigeration space, is required for the shipment of food to Britain,but the Minister for Supply and Shipping has told me that he is discussing the matter with the shipping companies to ascertain if anything can be done to open up the market referred to by the honorable mem ber for the New South Wales fruitgrowers.
Land Settlement op ex-Servicemen - Reconstruction Training.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen the Queensland press reports that Mr. Alan Filmer, a returned soldier, claims to have contested 28 ballots for land since the end of the war and that the possibility of returned men drawing grazing areas is reduced to the category of a chance in the Golden Casket lottery? Has he seen Mr. Filmer’s further statement that since the end of the war about 20 persons in Queensland had drawn blocks out of a total application list of about 4,000 and that fewer than twelve had been settled on farming blocks under the land settlement scheme, which was a dismal record? In view of those statements does the Minister still consider that the Government’s plans for land settlement in Queensland are satisfactory? What does the Minister propose to do about the matter ?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member referred, but he will realize that the problem of the land settlement of exservicemen is quite complicated, and can be handled only by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. In pursuance of that, this Parliament passed a bill giving effect to an agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments in order to ensure that the land settlement of ex-servicemen should be undertaken on a basis which would provide for the men concerned a reasonable income from their properties. I am not aware of the number of ex-servicemen who have been settled in Queensland, but I can obtain the information for the honorable member. When I examined the figures not so very long ago I found that land settlement had progressed much more rapidly after World War II. than after World War I.
– One of my constituents, Mr. Cuttiford, of Merrylands, New South Wales, who had been a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, has informed me that he was discharged on the 1st May, 1946. Because of his war disabilities, he was notified that he was eligible for full-time training. He applied for a part-timecourse with the object of obtaining a diploma in mechanical engineering, hut was told that the course was full. He then applied for training as a watchmaker, and was told that there would be no course in that trade for two years. Finally, he suggested that be should study accountancy. He began this course on the 13th January last, but now finds that his full-time course will terminate at the intermediate and not at the final stage. Ex-servicemen accepted for this course before June, 1946, are being allowed to proceed full-time to the final stage. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give sympathetic consideration to permitting ex-servicemen discharged after June, 1946, to undergo the same full-time course of study as those who were discharged prior to that date? Will the Minister examine the case of Mr. Cuttifordin the light of these special circumstances?
– I shall give sympathetic consideration to this case, as I always do to any matter relating to ex-servicemen. As more than 200,000 ex-servicemen are enjoying the benefits of reconstruction training, I cannot possibly deal with individual cases. It may be that the trainee whom the honorable member mentioned was informed that he could not obtain reconstruction training in mechanical engineering. That matter is governed by the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act, which this Parliament passed as the result of an arrangement made by the Menzies Government in 1940. I do not know why this trainee was informed that he could not be given training in watch making for two years, but I am quitesure that the reasonwas adequate. I shall inquire into the case and if it is possible to do as the honorable member has suggested in regard to this trainee, I assure him that it will he done.
– Some time ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice, certain questions concerning the purchase of raw silk from Japan. My seventh question was -
Does the Government propose to accept the direction of General MacArthur’s headquarters that all imports from Japan must be at price levels corresponding to those of similar commodities in the United States of America ?
Only a part of my inquiry was replied to ; the remainder was evaded. I understand that the Government is paying £3 2s. 6d. per lb. for raw silk whereas the current priceon the New York market is 18s. 9d. per lb. I have had a question on the notice-paper on this subject for some time and I ask the Minister whether he will soon obtain a reply to it.
– I deny that the honorable gentleman’s previous questions were answered evasively. I shall inquire from my colleague whether any additional information can be supplied.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Immigration certain questions in regard to the population of Australia, and trends in relation thereto, which I regarded as highly unsatisfactory. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether he is in a position to give the House any information on the subject.
– The Commonwealth Statistician, after collaboration with officers of the Department of Immigration, has recently furnished me with the desired information, which I shall have incorporated in Hansard if the House will accord me its gracious permission. When the honorable member for Denison asked me if I could supply answers to questions dealing with certain aspects of population trends, I informed him that I would get the information and give it to him later. The honorable gentleman has now asked me again if I have the information.
– Order ! I take it that the Minister now has the information for which he was asked.
– That is so. The questions asked by the honorable member dealt with five aspects of population trends and raised issues that are very important and vital to Australia. He drew attention to a state of affairs which had been causing every thoughtful Australian grave concern for some time past. The honorable member asked me for figures concerning the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia. Briefly the figures are as follows :- 1901, 150,051; 1946, 580,026. The number of such persons per million of population has increased from 39,761 in 1901, to 77,870 in 1946. The second question the honorable member asked me dealt with the average issue of married women who bore children in Australia over certain periods.
– I rise to order. 1 listened carefully to the question asked by the honorable member for Denison. It was couched in broad terms and referred to certain trends of population in Australia as being unsatisfactory. The Minister is giving specific answers. The honorable member for Denison did not ask specific questions such as the Minister is answering. I take it, therefore, that the Minister is attempting to evade the forms of the House in answering in the manner that he has adopted.
– Honorable members will be aware that I questioned the Minister for Immigration on this point. To use the vernacular he is “ running very close to the wind “. For many years it was the practice in the House if objection were not raised for Ministers to reply to questions asked on a previous day and, without their being provoked to do so by the honorable members who have asked the questions. That occupied a lot of the time which should have been devoted to questions without notice. I theref ore ruled that if an honorable member did not make a fresh request for the information, the Minister would be obliged to obtain the leave of the House to give the answer. I clearly understood that the honorable member for Denison had drawn attention to a question he had asked some time ago, and had sought to learn whether the Minister now had the information.
– He provoked the Minister ?
– Actually, that is the position. The present case is not exactly in line with that of a Minister who answers a question without being provoked into doing so. Although the Minister is “ sailing close to the wind “, I am prepared to allow him to continue.
– I shall continue from the point at which I was interrupted. The average issue of married women who bore children in Australia in the period 1908-10 was 3.42. The figure fell to 2.38 in the period 1941-45. The third question relates to childless marriages; as a percentage of all marriages in Australia these increased . from 13.3 per cent, in the period 1911-15 to 22.3 per cent, in the period 1936-40. The next question concerns the fertility of marriages in Australia; these fell from 4.05 in the period 1901-5 to 2.18 in the period 1936-40. The most disturbing figure is that which occurs in the answer to the fifth question asked by the honorable gentleman, concerning the percentage to the total population of children under the age of fifteen years and persons aged 65 years and over. In respect of children, the percentage was 35.1 per cent, in 1901 and 24.4 per cent, in 1946. Persons 65 years and over constituted 4 per cent, of the total population in 1901, and 7.8 per cent, in 1946. On the basis of the population trends, the figures in 1975 will be: Children under fifteen years of age, from 20 per cent, to 22 per cent., and persons aged 65 years and over, 12 per cent. The information furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician discloses a truly alarming position. Whilst we shall be in a better position to gauge the population trends after the completion of the 1947 census, I, nevertheless, intend to discuss the matter without delay with the Minister for Health and Social Services, who has also been giving consideration to the problem. The sad truth is that Australia, as we know it, is only 150 years old. We are slowly bleeding to death as a nation and, unless the present position is rectified, there probably will not be any Australian nation in another 50 years. The complete statement is as follows: -
It will be notedthat the proportion of persons aged65 years and over in the population has almost doubled over the past 45 years.
Estimates of future population indicate that even if the gross reproduction rate rises slightly, the proportion of persons aged 65 years and over will increase to 85,000 per million by 1950, and to 120,000 by 1975. The migration factor was omitted in preparing these estimates because of the difficulty in forecasting the number and age-groups of migrants.
Coincident with the decline in the average number of children born to productive marriages, mentioned in 2 above, there has been an increase in the proportion of marriages which have produced no children at all.
The percentage of childless marriages can be calculated from annual tables showing first births, dissected according to duration of marriage of parents. Over a series of years, first births can be credited to the year in which the parents were married, thus giving the number of productive marriages, and hence the number which were unproductive. As 08 per cent. of first births occur within five to six years of marriage, the proportion of marriages which have proved childless can be estimated without serious error up to 1940.
Figures infive-yearly periods, commencing with 1911-15, are given in the following table: -
The following table shows the proportion recorded for each of the two groups at each census since 1901 and at June, 1946, and a forecast for 1950 and 1975.
More accurate forecasts will he possible when the requisite data from the 1947 census become available.
– A preparation based on DDT., and known as Rucide, is used by dairy-farmers and graziers in central Queensland. Competent and practical men who have used it have expressed the opinion that it proTides the best means of combating the arsenic-resistant tick and the spread of the buffalo fly, but at present, unfortunately, it is inshort supply and is very highly priced. Will the
Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research take steps to determine, through that body, whether this preparation may be made more readily available and at a more reasonable price?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is based on an entirely erroneous assumption in regard to the activities and responsibility of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The function of that body is solely to undertake scientific research. It is not at all concerned with the production of materials for either primary producers or secondary industries. It has an understanding with State departments of agriculture that it will confine its activities to research which may be of advantage to both primary and secondary industry, the field application of the research being left entirely to those departments. If there is any responsibility at all in connexion with the matter which the honorable gentleman has raised, it rests on the Department of Agriculture, in Queensland; that is, to ensure that adequate supplies of the material mentioned shall be made available to the primary producers in that State.
Re-establishment in Industry.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the Commonwealth Employment Service has endeavoured to ascertain how former Australian prisoners of war are being reestablished in industry? Is there any follow-up or after care, with a view to noting the manner in which they are settling down? What does the follow-up reveal? Does the Government intend to continue to exercise supervision until permanent security has been ensured?
– The answer to the honorable member’s series of questions is “ Yes “. Because of the desperate experiences which Australian prisoners of war had had, it was recognized that their re-establishment would present an almost insurmountable problem for some years. Consequently, orders were given to officers of the Common wealth Employment Service throughout Australia to keep a careful record of all Australian prisoners of war. and, by means of the follow-up system, to note how they were accustoming themselves to work which was at all comparable with that which they did before the war. I am very pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that the fears that were held have not been realized. In each State, the information gained by means of the follow-.up system shows that there are very few problem cases. The view of the experts is that the youth of the great majority of them has enabled them to regain their normal condition quickly. That view-is strengthened by the fact that all the problem cases are in the 35 to 45 year age-group. The department intends to maintain the follow-up system until permanent security has been assured. The Repatriation Department, acting under the instructions of its Minister, is making a complete survey of the whole of the ex-service personnel, with a view to ensuring that all of those who have any mental or physical disability shall be permanently established in industry, and to- assign reasons for any failure to do so. The evidence collected through labour bureaus all over Australia is to be dis-. seated. with the assistance of officers of the Repatriation Department, so as to make absolutely sure that these men will be permanently established in industry.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen the report published in the Melbourne Age last Tuesday, to the effect that the Commonwealth Jute Advisory Committee had informed the Government that it could no longer accept responsibility for the supply of jute to Australia? Has the Government rejected the recommendation of that committee that its chairman should proceed to Calcutta ? Was a Mr. Tomlinson, of the Australian Barley Board, a person who is unknown in the jute trade and who is not in close touch with jute control, selected instead? As stocks of jute goods are of the utmost importance to Australian primary producers, and in view of the unsettled conditions in India, will the Government review its decision and accept the advice of the Commonwealth Jute Advisory Committee, or arrange that a person who is conversant with jute problems and who has authority to make decisions shall accompany Mr. Tomlinson to India?
-With a view to overcoming the difficulty that has prevented Australia from obtaining satisfactory jute supplies to meet requirements during the forthcoming wheat harvest, the Government has arranged that Mr. Tomlinson, a most competent officer and the chairman of the Australian Barley Board, shall proceed to India. It is true that there has been in existence for some time a Jute Industry Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Stevenson, of the Department of Supply and Shipping. The functions of the committee are solely advisory. The fact that Mr. Stevenson is chairman of that committee in no way commits the Government to select him to go overseas on such a mission as that undertaken by Mr. Tomlinson. In the circumstances the Government will adhere to its decision.
Service to Darwin
– It has been reported that Trans-Australia Airlines proposes to establish a service between Darwin and southern Australia, and it has been suggested that Melbourne will be the terminal of the proposed service, instead of Adelaide, which has been the terminal of air services from Darwin for the past ten years. Will the Prime Minister ensure that full consideration is given to the claims of Adelaide in this respect, and that at any Tate, it continues to be a point of call ?
Mr.CHIELEY. - I know that consideration is being given to the matter mentioned by the honorable member, but I do not know the details. I will consult with the Minister acting for the Minister for Air, under whose jurisdiction TransAustralia Airlines operate. The matter will be examined with a view to ensuring that no injury is done to any place.
Mr, A. J. Dalziel - Permissible Forms
– I desire to make a personal explanation regarding the question which I asked on Friday last in reference to Mr. A. J. Dalziel, and regarding some remarks which you, Mr. Speaker, afterwards made reflecting upon me and my conduct. You said, after I had asked my question -
The Clerk of the House spoke to you regarding a question which I had ruled out of order. No Speaker would have tolerated the question you sought to have printed on the notice-paper.
With all due deference, sir, I am sure, especially after having referred to my papers, that your memory is at fault in the matter, owing to the lapse of time. The question to which I referred wasnot ruled out of order by you. It was part of another question, and I myself removed it on the assurance of the Clerk that the man concerned was ill. And so. instead of its being a question which no Speaker would have tolerated, you yourself tolerated it last week in almost exactly its original form.
You did later rule out of order two questions, one partly regarding Mr. Dalziel, and another regarding the conduct of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in a matter of grave importance to the reputation of the Government. These were the only question; which I proposed toplace on the noticepaper, and which you, sir, ruled out of order. I have your own typewritten note on the matter, and this is what you wrote -
I have examined the questions submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and have directed that they are not in order in their present form for several reasons. The main reason is that they seek to give information, and what information is sought has nothing to do with the administration of the Minister to whom the questions are addressed.
When I received this communication from you, I asked you in what particulars these questions were out of order, so that I might recast them. You refused to indicate your reasons. You did not then, or at any time, suggest that they were improper in tone, or that they were such as no Speaker would allow. I do not think that this House would regard them as in any way offensive. Except for one or two paragraphs, they are not open to the charge that they give information. They were certainly not pleasant questions for an honorable member to have to ask ; but they were questions which I thought it my duty to ask, and I still think so. I repeat that I made no reflections on the Clerk of the House.
– The complaint implicit in the honorable member’s personal explanation appears to be that I had told him in very mild terms what I expressed in somewhat stronger terms lastweek regarding the question which he sought to ask. I hope that the honorable member is not encouraged by the fact that last week he asked, without notice, a question which he was not. allowed to put on the noticepaper. The honorable member was allowed to ask the question without notice because I cannot very well rule a question out of order until I have heard it. Had I known the nature of the question prior to its being ashed, it would have been ruled out of order. It was my resentment against the honorable member’s reflections on an officer of the House, when I was responsible for the action taken, that brought about the rebuke, and similar action will be taken if the honorable member again acts in the same way.
Debate resumed from the 21st May (vide page 2723), on motion by Mr. Chambers -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, as the title informs us, is to establish from the profits and other assets of canteens conducted within the defence forces during the time of war which commenced on the 3rd day of September, 1939, and from other sources, trust funds to be administered in the interests of ex-servicemen and their dependants. All honorable members will agree that this is a necessary work. The funds which accumulated as the result of sales in canteens, and in the various messes of the services, are now to be co-ordinated and distributed. The bill is contentious in parts, and I hope that the Minister, who has been at great pains to bring down a satisfactory bill, will admit that there is room for a difference of opinion about it, and that he will accept suitable amendments. The Minister very fittingly paid a tribute to the Australian Imperial Force Canteen Committee, which, ever since World War I., has dealt with funds which accumulated during that war. I commend the report of that committee to the Minister and to honorable members. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) was evidently not aware of the existence of such an organization when he spoke last night, or he would have praised it also. The committee was charged with the responsibility of dispersing £751,000 of surplus canteens funds, and also a legacy of £703,000 from the late Sir Samuel McCaughey, who stipulated that the money should be devoted to the education of the children of ex-servicemen, particularly those who were not in receipt of pensions. The committee did its work so well that it has assisted to full citizenship 9,458 girls and 9,026 boys, among whom were twelve Rhodes scholars. It has the requisite machinery for, and is carrying out, the disbursement of the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Military Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force children’s educational funds. I trust that the Minister will enlist its aid. Provision is made in the bill for the appointment of trustees who are to be the heads of the services and four others. The trustees will not be able to deal with individual oases, and it is to organizations such as I have mentioned, and to the Legacy Club, that much of the work of distribution of these moneys should be handed over. The welfare branch of the Air Force Association should also share in it. The trustees should include among their membership the representatives of the War Widows Craft Guild, who have the particular interests of war widows at heart. As honorable members are aware, a deputation from the Opposition recently waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to discuss with him the difficulties confronting war widows, particularly young women with children, who are unable to work and are compelled to exist on a meagre pension. The help and advice of the Legacy Club and the other organizations to which I have referred should be sought. Members of the Legacy Club are all ex-servicemen. The club was formed in Melbourne in 1923 as lin. organization supplementary to the then Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. The organization was established specifically to assist the children of ex-servicemen and of deceased members of the forces. Like the other organizations to which I have referred, it has assisted thousands of boys and girls, provided the means for technical and university education, and has found them useful employment. Its record is a laudable one.
The bill proposes the establishment of four bodies, a major trust which will have control of the expenditure of approximately £4,500,000, .and three minor bodies, each of which will have £60,000 to commence with. Of the £4,500,000, an amount of £2,500,000 is to be devoted to educational purposes and the remainder to other work, such as benefits to men who are in indigent circumstances. Let us consider the three minor bodies first. It is proposed to take from the total of the services trust funds an amount of £180,000 to be apportioned equally between army, navy, and air force funds. In his second-reading speech the Minister stated that that money is to be expended on behalf of men who are already in the forces, in other words, those who are now serving in Japan. The honorable gentleman 3aid -
These separate service funds will be available for members of the forces who served prior to the war or who joined the forces subsequent to the prescribed date.
That does not appear to be provided for in the bill. I support the contention of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), that as £4,500,000 resulted from profits made on the sale of goods’ in canteens and in certain messes to volunteers who served in the three arms during the war, such profits should be distributed to those ex-service mcn and women as are in necessitous circumstances and to their children. How can the Government justify subtracting £180,000 from the funds in order to benefit members of the forces who did not serve in the war? Responsibility for their welfare rests upon the Government itself. Apparently, much of the money will be expended on welfare facilities for members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force of Japan. During the war there was posted up in every Air Force canteen a notice,’ the substance of which was that the money made in the canteen would be returned post-war to the troops. Facilities for the members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force should be charged against the defence vote. I trust that the Minister will explain this proposal more fully.’
I draw attention to the following words in the Minister’s second-reading speech, with which I am in entire accord : -
No provision from public funds, however benevolent it may be, can afford adequate compensation to those who are bereaved or who are suffering from serious wounds or sickness as a result of the hazards and privation of war.
If we believe that, as I am sure we all do, we should not countenance any subtraction from canteens funds. The profits derived from the canteens during World War II. were very much greater than, those in World War I. During World War II. there were serving in the forces 52,000 in the Navy, 735,000 in the Army and 218,000 in the Air Force, a total of over 1,000,000. The serving members of the forces in World War I. numbered approximately 425,000. Consequently, a very much larger sum is now available, but our liabilities to ex-service men and women are also correspondingly greater. Of the £4,500,000, the Government proposes to set aside £2,500,000 for the provision of educational assistance, including professional and trade training for the children of deceased servicemen, incapacitated servicemen, servicemen who are in needy circumstances, and other children of servicemen who are, in the opinion of the trustees, particularly deserving of assistance. The Minister indicated that £2,500,000 is a minimum amount, and that if it appears to the trustees to be desirable they may allocate further sums for the provision of educational assistance to children. After setting aside the amounts for the education of children, the balance of the services canteens trust fund is to be applied by the trustees for the benefit of eligible ex-servicemen and their depenants and the dependants of deceased eligible ex-servicemen in necessitous or deserving circumstances. We are also informed that the trustees are to have power to provide relief or benefits to eligible ex-servicemen or their dependants in such other cases as they think fit. The bill specifies who will disburse the fund. There will be a senior Army officer, presumably the QuarterMasterGeneral, a senior Navy officer, presumably a member of the Naval Board, and a senior Air Force officer, presumably the Chief of the Air Staff, and there will be four men who served in the ranks. I do not know why a specific reference is made to the ranks “. Most Air Force officers went through the ranks and that probably applies equally to the Army and the Navy. I think that it places unnecessary emphasis on the ranks, but I take no real exception to the provision, because thousands of men who served in the ranks could help to administer the trust fund. The trustees will have to deal with the multifarious cases that will come before it. I hope that the Minister will call in to assist him not only the organizations I have already referred to but also members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia, which is represented on the Australian Imperial Force Canteens Trust, and other ex-servicemen’s organizations, including the Air Force Association, which has a large membership covering men who served in Australia as well as overseas. The Air Force Association has a welfare branch, which operates extremely well and is doing the kind of work contemplated for the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Those people would be helpful to the Minister. He will have had conversations with them, but he should associate them with the organization provided for in the bill.
I should like the Minister to’ tell me whether any of the money will be allocated to the Repatriation Department.
– None of it will be.
– I am glad of that. We now know that all this money, except £180,000, will be disbursed for benevolent purposes. Under the bill people eligible for benefit will be members of the naval, military or air- forces of the Commonwealth; members of any nursing service or women’s service attached or auxiliary to any branch of the Defence Force of the Commonwealth; or members of the canteens staff of any ship of the Royal Australian Navy and any person, duly accredited to any part of the DefenceForce who has served in an official capacity on full time paid duty.. That does- not include worthy members of field’ units of the Salvation Army, the Australian Red Cross Society and the Young Men’s Christian Association, some of whom were taken prisoner in Singapore and suffered all the rigors, of imprisonment and. at the same time had to pay income tax, whereas soldiers on equivalent pay were exempt. The Minister should look at that matter, because he would not be happy if any one who should be included among the beneficiaries were excluded because of a drafting error. This measure will be of great importance not so much financially as from the humanitarian point of view. It will have a. great influence on the contentment of exservice men and women. They are. not looking for charity and. do not expect much from the promises that were made to them when they joined the services, but, later, as we in the Legacy Club and other organizations know from our experience after World War I., as they become older their capacity to earn may grow less. Then, or if illness befalls them, they or their dependants may have to turn to the Services Canteen Trust Fund for help. The fund will settle many domestic and industrial problems. With the limited criticism that I have offered, I give this bill my blessing. Let it operate under good management. Let the people chosen as the trustees of the fund be the best and most impartial obtainable. When it. has operated for a year or two the Government will know to what degree it needs- improvement. When the time comes for improvement I hope the Government will not be so perverse as it has been about needed alteration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, by refusing to make them because: a committee considered repatriation, in 1943! - as1 if times have not changed ! I hope that in committee the Minister will accept the amendments foreshadowed by Opposition members and that later, if further changes should be found necessary, those changes will he made, regardless of the political colour of those that suggest them.
.- On this measure we have had a discussion rather than a debate. As the honorable member for .Balaclava (Mr, White) said, the Australian Imperial Force Trust Fund after World War I.’ did a grand job. It looked after the educational and other needs of about 20,000 children of ex-servicemen. I do not doubt that the Services Canteens Trust Fund will operate equally well or even better, as the result of the experience gained from the operations of the Australian Imperial Force Trust Fund. Since his appointment to the Ministry, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has applied himself to his work with energy ‘and enthusiasm and has demonstrated his sympathy for servicemen and ex-servicemen. He has been commended all over South Australia, at least. I hope the right people are selected as trustees so that exservicemen and their dependants who apply to them for assistance shall be assured of support. As the Services Canteens Trust Fund will handle about £4,500,000, it has a big task ahead .of it, because more than 1,000,000 men and women were in the Australian armed forces and they and their dependants will make a much larger number of people to be dealt with than were ‘assisted by the Australian Imperial Force Trust Fund. I pay tribute to the Minister for consolidating the funds of the canteens of the Army, the !N*avy and. the Air Force. Undoubtedly, this money must be expended in the interests of exservicemen and their dependants. I emphasize that this bill will consolidate canteens profits, surplus mess regimental amenities and other benefit funds of the three services, which accumulated during World War II. This clarification is necessary because some ex-servicemen’s organizations do not appear to be aware of the position. In South Australia, the Minister for the Army and I were approached by one ex-servicemen’s organization which desired to be given full control of its share of the proceeds from the fund. From a private discussion with the Minister, I have ascertained that the profits of canteens available to members of the occupation forces in Japan will be paid into the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Another matter which I discussed with the Minister was the selection of trustees. The bill provides for trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund and the service funds to be established on the recommendation of the Governor-General in Council. It is proposed that the trustees of the .Services Canteens Trust Fund shall consist of a chairman, representatives of the Naval, Military and Air Boards, a business man, an cx-servicewoman and four .representatives who have served in the ranks of the Navy, Army and Air Force and who are nominees of ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Minister for the Army, the Minister for Air, and the Minister for the Navy will be responsible for the selection of suitable persons. The trustees should have sympathy for, and understand the needs of ex-servicemen who have served Australia so efficiently.
On more than one occasion, I have met members of the executive of the South Australian War Widows Guild, and they have expressed to me their fears for the future .of war widows. They consider that they have every right to be represented on the Services Canteens Trust. The Minister has assured me that every consideration will be given to their requests, and has pointed out that an ex-servicewoman will be appointed a trustee. After all, the war widows have paid a heavy price so their interests should be preserved. The war widows will have the Minister’s full sympathy and co-operation. He will see that they are not obliged, as they fear they will be, to plead extreme poverty before they can secure some of the benefits of the fund to which, they rightly claim, their husbands contributed. I commend the bill. I am certain that it will be administered efficiently. The Minister himself will ensure that it shall function in the manner in which he expects it to - in the interests of those who built up the profits which it is now proposed to disburse.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and other honorable members have spoken so eloquently and analysed so thoroughly the provisions of this bill that they have left me little to say. However, I shall make a few points which require emphasis. This bill is an honest attempt to distribute these surplus canteens funds. During i hu war, I frequently wondered how the money would be allocated. Exservicemen consider that the money belongs to them, because it was derived from them, and, therefore, should be expended to serve their interests in the best possible way. However, I was not able to evolve a suitable plan. While the bill meets the requirements up to a point, I shall later suggest some amendments which I hope the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) will accept. The success of (he scheme will depend upon sympathetic consideration and the ability of the administrators of the Services Can.teens Trust Fund. Therefore, the representation should be as wide as possible, without making the administration unwieldy and top-heavy. The Minister should include on the trust the representatives of organizations which have a practical knowledge of serving the needs of exservicemen and their dependants. The Australian Red Cross Society is one body which comes readily to mind. The Legacy Club has done extraordinarily good work since World War I., and has the machinery and the practical knowledge to assist ex-servicemen and their dependants. It has proved that it is able to look after them. Such an organization should not be overlooked when trustees are being appointed. The War Widows Guild also has a strong claim for representation, because war widows have a vital interest in the distribution of these funds.
The honorable member for Balaclava stated that an amount of £120,000 will be allocated to the occupational forces in Japan. In my opinion, the requirements of those forces are really the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. The money in the Services Canteens Trust Fund was provided by servicemen who participated in World
War II., and should be returned to them or to their dependants. The Minister should not allocate £120,000 to the occupational forces in Japan, but should return it to the fund, and use it for the purposes provided in the bill. The Minister spoke also about amenities for British forces in Japan. 1 should like him to explain whether the Commonwealth Government proposes “to supply amenities for all British forces in that country. As much as I believe that we should contribute towards a communal British centre, or amenities, I consider that this fund should not be used for that purpose. Another section of the people who should participate, and I have not heard any previous speaker refer to them, is the workers associated with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Many of them were taken prisoners of war, and their fellow prisoners will vouch for their extraordinarily good work. They shared hardships with the men, and were strenuous workers.
– They are provided for.
– I thank the Minister for that assurance. In my opinion, the fund should not be used to assist persons whom the Repatriation Department should help. Some honorable members fear that at least a part of this money might be used for that purpose. Finally, I emphasize the need for effective administration of the fund, and the necessity to appoint to the trust representatives of such organizations as the Legacy Club, which have had practical experience in this field. The services of these organizations should be used, because they know what problems arise, and can make valuable contributions to this work.
.- I support the bill and congratulate the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) upon having introduced it. I have no doubt that the funds will be used faithfully for the purposes set out. I notice, however, that no provision has been made for the granting of assistance to legacy clubs Every one knows that the legacy clubs have done a wonderful job in helping the orphaned children of men of both world wars. This was the case particularly during the depression years and in the early ‘thirties. Officers of. legacy clubs were able to approach employers in such a way that their appeals were rarely if ever rejected. Seeing that this institution has the confidence of the community in such a remarkable way, I consider that some of the funds available for distribution from canteens profits should lie allocated to legacy clubs to assist emergency cases.
I wish to refer now to the project for the establishment of the Lake Macquarie soldiers convalescent home which has been receiving the wholehearted support of ex-service men and women from Gosford, right up to the Queensland border. The organizing committee has been appealing for funds for this purpose for years, and it is receiving regular contributions from many people, including coal-miners, who are paying a voluntary levy fortnightly. The accumulated funds so far raised total some thousands of pounds. Representations were made to the predecessor of the present Minister for Repatriation for a grant to the funds for the construction of this home, but without success. In my opinion, the provisions of paragraph c, of sub-clause 2 of clause 22 of this bill are such as would allow the trustees to make a grant towards this specific fund, for the paragraph concludes with the words, “ and such other cases as the trustees think fit “. The Lake Macquarie home will not be an institution under the control of the Repatriation Department, but it is intended to be made available to all ex-servicemen who need a place of convalescence. The building will lie situated on the shores of Lake Macquarie, the largest lake in Australia, which has a foreshore of 365 miles. The committee hopes to raise as much as £60,000 for this most deserving cause. The home is to be used as a convalescent institution for those who may not be sufficiently incapacitated to require treatment from the Repatriation Department’s doctors, but who, nevertheless, are not sufficiently well to follow their normal calling. The plan provides that the home shall be provided with all kinds of sporting equipment and have facilities for bowls, cricket, tennis, swimming, boating, fishing and the like. I had the honour to introduce the Mayor of Newcastle, Mr. Quinlan, and Mr. Peter Omidi to the previous Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Frost, in the interests of this proposed home, and I also have had quite a deal to do with the arrangement of sports, lotteries and the like, for the purpose. Up to date, however, the Government has not seen fit to make any funds available to help with the construction of this home. I consider that the organizers are entitled to consideration in this respect. “We all are well aware that the men and women of Australia who were prepared to risk their limbs, health and life itself in the interests of the nation in time of war, were promised all kinds of assistance on their return to civil life. Similar promises were made to their dependants. I consider the Government is under an obligation to assist such projects as I have described.
I listened last night with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). I am of the opinion that although specific reference is not. made in the bill to women who served in the forces, it is undoubtedly intended that benefits from the surplus canteens funds shall be made available to them. I congratulate the honorable member upon her speech, and although women may already be covered in the definitions in the bill, I consider that the matter should be placed beyond doubt. The women of .Australia rendered marvellous service in the forces during “World “War II. Many thousands of them served in battle areas and did wonderful work. One wonders sometimes whether the war has actually ended. I do not desire to discuss the possibilities of still another world war. We must trust in God and hope that, for the sake of humanity, wiser counsels will prevail and that war will not recur.
The Minister will, I hope, give favorable consideration to the submissions that I have made to him, particularly in regard to the legacy clubs, the Lake Macquarie soldiers convalescent home, and the need to ensure that women are definitely included among those who may benefit from a distribution of the funds referred to in the bill. I am sure that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is acquainted with the proposal to build the Lake Macquarie soldiers’ convalescent home, because he lias attended meetings in my company at which the matter has been considered. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) also is aware of the project. There is not an honorable member from New South “Wales north of Sydney who has not been approached in connexion with it. The opportunity is now presented to them to endeavour to have it assisted. I know that the honorable member for New England definitely promised that he would lend his aid, and I anticipate that the right honorable member for Cowper also did. I should now like to have their support. Those associated with the project have worked very hard, and have received very little encouragement from any government. I hope that the Minister will state clearly whether the trustees of the fund will be able to make a grant under the provisions of clause 22.
.- I urn pleased to have the opportunity to support the appeal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that consideration shall be given to the Lake Macquarie soldiers’ convalescent bernie. Every one must be in favour of the primary purpose for which the appropriation provided, for in the bill is being made, namely, to provide “educational assistance, including professional and trade training (o) for the. children of deceased or incapacitated eligible servicemen or of eligible servicemen who are in needy circumstances, and (b) for the children of eligible servicemen other than those mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-section who are, in the opinion of the trustees, particularly deserving of assistance by reason of exceptional circumstances “. Those were mainly the purposes to which the canteens fund was devoted after World War I. The money was then expended wisely and with a good deal of discretion, with the result that, considerable benefits were conferred. Ft will thus be seen that there is a precedent for such action. There is great need for convalescent hospitals for both civilians and ex-servicemen, not only in New South Wales but also in every other State. I appreciate the point that has been made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn)’, but I be lieve that it is met by the definition of “ member of the forces “. Because of theacute shortage of hospital beds, many men and women are compelled to leave hospital immediately the most serious stage of their illness has passed, and their convalescence in many instances is retarded by their domestic conditions. It cannot be questioned that they would completely regain, their health much more quickly if they could become inmates of a well-situated institution such as it is desired, shall be established at Lake Macquarie. They would then again become productive units in the community, and the time that would elapse between recurrences of their illnesses would be lengthened. Therefore, no better purpose could be served than by either making a capital contribution towards the cost of this building or devoting a proportion of the interest derived from the fund to the maintenance of the institution when it had been established. If such, a contribution were promised by the Minister on behalf of the Government, the donations from many other sources would be increased, and the institution would be enabled to commence its operations much earlier. It is anticipated that when established it will give service to all those ex-servicemen who live in New South Wales north of Sydney, as well as to many of them who are residents of Sydney. The Minister, because of the nature of his profession, must be aware of the need to establish an institution of. this sort for the benefit of not only ex-servicemen, but also the civilian population. If the terms, of the bill are not sufficiently wide to permit the funds to be used in the manner suggested, I hope that he will have it amended so as to enable that to be done.
.- 1 have no complaint to make in regard to the purposes to. which the money in these funds is to be devoted; but, as it was taken from service men and women by means of overcharges for goods which they purchased, they and they alone should determine the manner in which it shall be expended. The members of the trust are to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral, which means by the Minister, ain.d I have1 no doubt that he will appoint men and women who are representative of the services. The service organizations should be entitled to make the selection. I have in mind the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Legion of Exservicemen, the Air Force Association, the War Widows Guild, and the organization which represents the women’s services. Many ex-service men and women will not be able to participate in the benefits; consequently, their dependants are entitled to some assistance. 1 raise the matter of the distribution of the difference between the pay of servicemen who worked on the wharfs during industrial disturbances, and the payment for that work which was made by shipping companies to the Government.
– Order ! That matter is outside the scope of the bill.
– With due respect, I do not think that it is. The predecessor of the present Minister promised definitely that the money would be devoted to the provision of amenities for servicemen.
Mir. SPEAKER,- Order ! The bill deals solely with canteens funds.
– I believe that the £1.250,000 involved should be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the bill. Surely, we are entitled to a statement by the Minister as to what the Government intends to do with it.
-Order! The Standing Orders provide other means for raising the matter. It cannot be discussed under this bill, which relates solely to the disposal of canteens funds.
– I urge the Government to reconsider the matter, and to give service organizations a voice in the selection of those who will administer these funds. The Government is being relieved of a heavy obligation in respect of men who have served this country. The amount of £4,500,000 is to be expended on ex-service men and women and their dependants. It is not the responsibility of the ex-servicemen to make that provision, but the responsibility of the Government and of this country. For that reason, it will be most unjust if service organizations are not allowed to have a voice in the selection of the trustees.
.- The measure has my wholehearted support. I should like the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to explain the position in relation to paragraph / of clause S, which provides for the appointment of regional committees with such powers and functions, and upon such terms and conditions, as are prescribed: Is it intended that, in each State, there shall be an advisory panel of trustees, to advise the principal trustees of the fund? Such panels would be in closer contact with those who require assistance from the fund. It would be a waste of money to send trustees to Western Australia to investigate a few small matters. They could be investigated by a local panel, and the recommendations of that panel should be accepted by the principal trustees. I arn certain that the Minister, having heard what the various speakers have had to say, will give some consideration to the representation of war widows on both regional committees and the trust. The number of trustees is not specified, and the Governor-General may appoint whatever number may be considered necessary. We. shall go a long way towards easing the conditions of war widows by giving them representation on such a body. All ex-service men’s and women’s organizations should be approached before a definite decision is made as to who will administer the fund.
– in reply - I thank those honorable members who have discussed the bill, for their very fair criticism. Evidently, they realize that the committee has spent a considerable time in an endeavour to produce a measure which will provide for the distribution of this huge amount in the best interests of all concerned. Earlier, the Government promised that the profits from the various canteens funds would eventually be distributed among servicemen and their dependants. I confess that I was somewhat anxious because the title to the bill does not include the word “ servicewomen ‘’. However, it is made clear in the definitions in clause 4 that servicewomen are covered by the bill. In addition, section 23 of the Acts Interpretation Act specifically provides that “ in any act, unless the contrary intention appears, words importing the masculine gender shall include females “.
– Then why should it have been necessary in clause 4 to define the phrase “ member of the Forces “ ?
– As I have pointed out, it was unnecessary to include the word “ servicewomen “ in the title of the bill. There appears to be a misunderstanding in the minds of some honorable members as to why members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces should derive any benefit from the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Perhaps honorable .members have forgotten that practically the entire original Australian occupation force, and a high percentage of those still in Japan, went direct from Morotai. Many of those now in the occupation force have served in the- Army, Navy or Air Force for five or six years. It was part of the MacArthur-Northcott agreement that Australia should provide canteens and other amenities. Moreover, not all the money in this fund was derived from men who served in World War II. Before 1939, there was in existence an Air Force Welfare Fund, and there was also a Royal Australian Navy Fund Then again, various public subscriptions and donations had been received, which go to make up the total amount now in the general trust fund.
Some honorable members have expressed concern about the membership of the trust, and they have asked whether there will be an opportunity for local or regional committees to carry on in the States. I propose now to give a list of members of the trust, and I am sure that honorable members will accept them as suitable. The list is as’ follows : -
Chairman - Brigadier A. S. Blackburn, V.C., barrister. Served, in 1914-18 and 1939-45 war. Ex-president of Legacy. Present president of South Australian Branch Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Brigadier A. S. Blackburn, V.C., is a past president of the Legacy Club ot Adelaide, where lie has a record of years of personal service on behalf of orphaned children of those who laid down their lives in the service of their country.
Representative of Naval Board - (Not yet nominated) .
Representative nf the Military Board - Adjutant-General (Major-General V. M. Anderson ) .
Representative of the Air Board - AirMarshal G. Jones.
Business Man - Mr. S. B. Holder, formerly Paymaster-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, with rank of Brigadier. Mr. Holder was a Major in Pay Corps during 19 1 4- Itf war and as a member of David If ell and Company has audited accounts of Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund Trust which was created at close of 1914-18 war.
Representative of ex-servicemen nominated by Returned .Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia - Mr. J. A. K. Wicks, secretary, 13 .Essex-road, Surrey Hills. Victoria. Ase 26, served as VX20343, private, 2/2»th Battalion, Malaya.
Representative of Australian Legion of ExServicemen and Women - Mr. B. J. McDonald, LL.B. Solicitor, 15 Arthur-street, Dover Heights, New South Wales. Federal President, Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women. President, New South Wales Branch. Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women. Served as bombadier, 7th Australian Field Regiment.
Representative of Ex-Naval Men’s Association - Mr. J. R. Dalziel. Served as petty officer (sea), Royal Australian Navy. 2 Lexton-grove, Armadale, Victoria.
Representative of Air Force Association - Mr. M. E. L. Jones. Secretary, Automatic Electric Telephones Limited. (Chartered Ai countant.) 9 Harrison -street, Neutral Buy, New South Wales. Served as sergeant. Royal Australian Air Force, Link Trainer Instructor.
Ex-Servicewoman- Miss Clare Stevenson, formerly group officer, Women’s Australian Army Auxiliary Forces.
The Government also intends to appoint a representative of the Disabled Soldiers Association, which includes blinded, limb less, permanently incapacitated, tubercular and partially blinded men.
– In what capacity will Mr. Dalziel serve?
– He will represent the Ex-Navalmen’s Association.
– Why is there to be no representative of the Disabled Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association ?
– That organization was considered, but we found that it functioned only in Queensland, whereas we wish members of the trust to be representative of Australia-wide organizations. Several honorable members haveexpressed their desire that the Legacy Club should be represented on the trust. I know that in South Australia, and, indeed, throughout the whole of Australia, the Legacy Club has done good work, and its claim to representation was considered. I believe that the Legacy
Club will find an opportunity to serve in connexion with the regional committees which are to be set up in the various States.
– Could that not also a pply to the Demobilized Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association?
-No, because it is a single-State organization.
– What about the War Widows’ Guild?
– That organization was also considered, and many representations were received with respect to it. When I was last in Adelaide, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) introduced a deputation to me which made representations on the subject, and I said that I would refer the matter to Cabinet. In my opinion, the comments which apply to the War Widows Guild apply also to the Legacy Club; it will have an opportunity to be represented on regional committees. Moreover, the guild will be represented through various service organizations. I wish to pay a high tribute to the work done by the War Widows’ Guild. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) referred to Mrs. Vasey. I have the highest admiration for her, and I. should like to see her on the trust, but honorablemembers will agree that if every worthy organization that worked on behalf of ex-service men and women and their dependants were represented the trust would be unwieldy.
– Would it not be a more workable body if three high officers representing the services were replaced by representatives of some of these other organizations?
– No. We had a very special reason for placing on the trust high-ranking officers representing the three services, because they would have ready access to the records of exservicemen when necessary. It was believed that they could, in this way, be of great service to the trust in the making of investigations.
Representations have been made to me, as Minister for the Army, and to other honorable members, seeking a grant of money for a proposed Lake Macquarie Memorial Hospital. Provision is made in the bill for allocating money from the trust fund for this and similar purposes if the trust thinks fit. Clause 22 concludes with these words - .. and in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit.
The Parliamentary Draftsman assures me that under that provision an amount of money may be allocated to an undertaking such as the Lake Macquarie Memorial Hospital.
– Can the Minister say what is holding up the appointment of a representative of the limbless and blinded soldiers ?
– The decision to include a representative of the Disabled Soldiers Association has only recently been made. The association has been asked to nominate a representative. All ex-servicemen’s organizations were given the right to nominate persons for appointment as trustees. The nominees of the organizations have been accepted by the Government. If these funds are administered carefully great benefits will flow to ex-service men and women and their dependants for many years to come. The trustees appointed know the needs and desires of ex-service men and women and they will administer the fund under their control in accordance with the desire of the Parliament as expressed in this bill. All requests for grants or pensions which come within the responsibility of the Repatriation Department will be passed on to that department by the trustees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Parts).
– Did the Minister answer the query raised by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) last night as to whether this money will be used for the provision of amenities for the troops in J apan ?
– I dealt with that.
– Will the fund be used for the supply of such amenities?
– The troops in Japan will have the benefit of the £60,000 set aside for members of the forces who served prior to the war or who joined the forces subsequent to the termination of the war. Thus, the troops who enlisted for the interim force and who are now serving in Japan will derive benefits from this special fund.
.- I am in accord with the suggestion that each service should look after its own members. I do not think honorable members can quibble with that. It is only reasonable that thetroops now in Japan should benefit from the expenditure of some of this money. I assume that if any surplus exists at the termination of our occupation of Japan, it will be placed to the credit of the central fund.
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
.- In view of the provision in the Acts Interpretation Act that the term “ servicemen and ex-servicemen “ shall include “ service women and ex-service women “, I am at a loss to understand why it was necessary to define the term “ member of the forces “ in the bill.
– The Minister should satisfy the curiosity of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). At least he should pay her the courtesy of replying to her question.
– It is necessary to define “ member of the forces “ in this bill in order to describe the persons entitled to benefits from the funds constituted by the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) The Governor-General shall appoint, in respect of each fund, trustees of such number as he thinks fit and a chairman of trustees.
.- Last night I foreshadowed an amendment; but I indicated at that time that, if the Minister would assure me that all the trustees appointed would be ex-mem bers of the forces I would not submit it. Having received such an assurance from the honorable gentleman, I do not intend to proceed with my proposed amendment. The Minister has been good enough to recite the names of the persons who are to be appointed as trustees. I compliment him upon their selection, especially on the choice of Brigadier Blackburn, V.C., as chairman of the trustees of the central fund. A more suitable person could not be obtained. The persons to be appointed to represent other ranks include Mr. J. A. K. Wicks, of the 2nd/29th Battalion. Those of us who have studied the history of the war know the splendid achievements of the 2nd/29th Battalion in Malaya. I am not sure whether I know Mr. Wicks, whose name has been mentioned. Whilst we were prisoners of war, both the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and I knew a man named “ Jock “ Wik, who was a resident of Horsham, in Victoria.
– The person selected is Mr. J. A. K. Wicks, of Surrey Hills, Victoria. He was a prisoner of war in Malaya.
– I do not know whether he is the same man. The other names are unknown to me, but they appear to be satisfactory.
. I move -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) The trustees of each fund shall include at least one war widow.”
I am pleased that the list of names furnished by the Minister includes at least one ex-servicewoman. However, I do not believe that that representation of women is sufficient. I promised the war widows that I would press for their representation on the trust. Every article purchased by the troops in the canteens was charged at the full retail rate or more. The Curtin Government assured the troops that they were paying high prices for their requirements so that the profits would he available for themselves, their wives and children after the war, and for the benefit of their dependants if they fell in battle. As honorable members know, there was a great deal of unrest among the troops over the prices charged. Members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Victoria - including, I believe, Mr. Holland - informed General Vasey’s widow that, in their opinion, these funds cannot be properly administered unless a representative of the war widows is included among the trustees who should benefit by her advice and help. That opinion was also held by my late husband some years ago. I mentioned last night that I thought Mrs. Vasey would be a suitable person for such an appointment. All of the trustees should bepersons who, through their own firsthand experience, have an intimate knowledge of the needs of ex-service men and women and their families. The list of names furnished by the Minister indicates that the persons selected possess this qualification. However, the need for the appointment of a representative of the war widows as a trustee is imperative because the sole woman so far appointed is unmarried. What could she know of the sufferings endured by war widows, of their very desperate struggle to live on the wholly inadequate weekly pittance granted to them by way of pension, and of their difficulties in finding homes and caring for their children? Some war widows have to obtain parttime employment in order to supplement their meagrepensions and enable them to care for their families. An unmarried ex-servicewoman, who has never felt insecurity of that kind, can have no intimate knowledge of the needs of the 10,000 war widows and their families scattered throughout Australia. The Government must realize that what.I ask is just and reasonable. There is only one woman among the ten trustees and she is single.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). In my second-reading speech yesterday, I established the claim of war widows for representation on the Services Canteens Trust Fund, and I thought, the Minister was sympathetic. Other honorable members on this side made a plea for representation of the Legacy Club, but I assure the war widows that no suggestion was made that that club could represent them. I do so because I received to-day the following wire: -
Canteens Bill. Object to Legacy as representative of war widows. Not sympathetic to widows’ needs generally. Actual work for only some war orphans. Pension declined 50 per cent. under Legacy’s earlier work.
It is signed “ War Widows Craft Guild “, but I understand that it was sent by Mrs. Vasey. I believe that the representation of war widows on regional committees is not enough. I know that the woman to be appointed as a trustee will discharge her duties fearlessly, but, at the same time, I believe that the special cases that can be presented by war widows require special representation by the war widows themselves, and that is why I support the amendment. I ask the Minister to increase the number of trustees to enable the representation that the honorable member for Bourke desires.
– Once again I support the appeal by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) that war widows be representedon the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Her request is reasonable, and I do not doubt that if Ministers knew the plight of war widows as well as they should, or as well as we do, they would have incorporated in the bill a provision for their representation, instead of having left it to the honorable member to move the amendment. How can a single woman, who has not experienced the trials of widowhood, represent war widows adequately, or as adequately as would a war widow? I do not intend to set out all the cases that I have had placed before me, but only this morning I had brought to my notice one of the saddest of all, the plight of a war widow, with two children, six and five years of age, the second of whom was born a month after her husband was taken prisoner in Malaya. She lives not far from these precincts. Before his enlistment her husband was a minister of religion. When captured he was a corporal. He did such remarkable work for his fellow prisoners that he was promoted to chaplain. When Mr. Forde was Minister for the Army I made representations on behalf of this widow to have the extra money paid to her. The request was refused.
– Order ! The amendment provides for representation of war widows on the board of trustees, and the honorable member must confine his remarks to that subject.
– I am citing a case in order to bring before the Minister the reasonableness of the amendment.
– Having done so,, the honorable member should return to the subject before the Chair.
– It is necessary to direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to this widow’s plight in order to impress on him the reasonableness of the request of the war widows for representation on the trust. This widow, who is now in a government job, is a Bachelor of Arts. She was granted a pension of £4 a week, plus 9s. 6d. a week for each child. As she is working she now receives only 19s. 6d. In other words, her salary is paid out of her pension. That is the reward she gets for having sacrificed her husband and reared two children in the nation’s cause. The facts are too terrible to put before the House in their entirety, but I intend to place them before the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) privately next week. I ask honorable members, however, to accept what I have said as factual. How can any one but a war widow adequately represent war widows? I ask the committee to agree to the amendment.
It appears to me that the Government has not indicated whom it will second to assist in the administration of the fund. A remarkable job was voluntarily done by the Prisoners of War Relatives Association. When I came back “ into circulation “ it was working vigorously, under the chairmanship of Mr. Smith, the famous cricketer. His energy on behalf of prisoners of war was amazing. Any one who met him, as I did, would have been impressed as deeply as I was by him. I knew of the Prisoners of War Relatives Association only when I returned to Australia from Malaya. Brigadier Gallaghan’s wife was amongst the dozens of women working voluntarily with Mr. Smith in the association, which has been disbanded for about, eight months, but
I think the Minister would do well to call upon its former members to help. They have all the details of former prisoners of war and their relatives tabulated. That information would be of great assistance in the administration of the trust fund. Records of the members of the Sth Division, those who returned and those who did not, were kept by a remarkable band of men without “ pips “ on their shoulders. They have at their finger-tips information that Brigadier Gallaghan and Brigadier Blackburn, who were prisoners with them, could not have because their work, splendid as it was, was supervisory. The regimental sergeant-majors, who have a mental picture of almost every man who passed through their hands, are now in charge of their records at Grace Building. One man whom I particularly recommend to the Minister as a person who would be of great assistance in the administration of the fund is Regimental Sergeant-major J. J. James, who has a complete record of every member of the 8th Division, dead or alive. The Minister would be failing in his duty if he did not call on the members of the defunct Prisoners of War Relatives Association and the senior records staff at Grace Building to help.
– The real work of the Services Canteens Trust Fund will be done, not so much by the trustees, who will determine policy, as by the regional committees, which will be established in each State. Therefore, although I will support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), if it should be carried to a division, I think the matter might be overcome if the Minister were prepared to assure the committee that war widows will be represented on the regional committees. There is no logical reason why war widows should not be represented in the determination of policy, but I do believe, as one who has had association with matters like this for a long time, that the real work will be done in each capital city. The Minister and every one with experience of the aftermath of war must be seized with the fact that there is no case comparable with that of a war widow with children. She is in a worse position than any other person can be. Therefore, if the amendment is taken to a division I will support it, but I think the Minister could surmount a lot of his difficulty if he gave an assurance in the way that I have suggested to him.
– I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment. The Government has carefully considered the suggestion that a member of the War Widows Guild should be appointed to the Services Canteens Trust. Honorable members opposite will appreciate that Government supporters are just as conscious of the responsibilities of this Parliament to war widows as they are. The members of the trust will be servicemen and ex-service men and women-
– An exservicewoman?
– Yes. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suggested that the problem might be solved if I were to indicate that members of the War Widows Guild would be appointed to the regional committees. The bill does not make provision for either the Government or the Minister to make appointments to regional committees. These committees will be appointed by the Services Canteens Trust. I assure the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) and other honorable members that I shall appeal to the trust to appoint in each State a member of the War Widows Guild to the regional committee. Knowing the chairman of the trust, Brigadier Blackburn, as I do, I have every reason to believe that the trust will accede to my request.
– The explanation which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has given raises a matter to which I intended to refer later. From my experience in this Parliament, it is usual, when regional committees of this kind are to be appointed, for the government of the day to declare that it has the right to decide who shall or who shall not be appointed members. If the Minister will examine some of the legislation administered by the Department of Commere and Agriculture, he will realize what I mean. These committees are not- merely the selection of the central Commonwealth board; they are appointed in accordance with certain definite methods. In those circumstances, the Government of the day indicates its choice of members. Whilst I am perfectly satisfied with the trust which the Minister has nominated, may I say that, in these matters, the Government must ultimately accept responsibility for what is done. Therefore, the proper course is to accept that responsibility initially, and have the right to say who shall and who shall not be appointed to these regional committees. I simply state those facts for the information of the Minister, because it is obvious, from the attitude of the Government in the past, that all proposed amendments are out of order.
– I assure the honorable member that I shall examine that position.
.- I suggest that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) should make a recommendation instead of an appeal to the Services Canteens Trust to appoint members of the War Widows Guild to the regional committees.
– I shall examine the position which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has indicated, and, if I have the necessary authority, I shall make the recommendation which the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) has suggested.
.- I cannot understand the reason for the failure to allow war widows to have representation on the Services Canteens Trust. After all, a war widow is only a widow because her husband has made the supreme sacrifice. As the greatest sacrifice has been made, there should be some body in which war widows may have confidence to safeguard their interests. A war widow with children is a mother, and only a mother can understand the difficulties and the responsibilities of raising her family. Unless a body is appointed in which she can have complete confidence, the administration of the trust will not be as satisfactory as it should be. If representation on the trust must be confined to ex-service personnel, I am sure that a suitable representative in the person of a war widow could still be found. A war widow should be appointed if for no other reason than the need to convince war widows that their interests will be adequately protected. I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) will give careful consideration to this proposal. Perhaps a suitable amendment could be made in the Senate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Trustees may be authorized to administer other property).
.- I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to explain the meaning of this clause. It reads -
The Minister may, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, authorize the trustees of any fund to administer and dispose of any property transferred to them, which does not form part of the fund, for purposes specified in the instrument and, upon publication of the instrument, the trustees shall administer and dispose of the property for those purposes.
What other property does the Minister visualize, which will need to be administered by the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust? Has the Minister in mind bequests like the McCaughey bequest?
– This clause relates to mess funds and regimental funds which will be closed at a later date.
– Mess funds and regimental funds are dealt with in special clauses of this bill. Does this clause refer to legacies like the McCaughey bequest?
– A fund of that nature must not be confused in any way with the Services Canteens TrustFund. The Minister will recall that after World War I., the trustees of the Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund disposed of the whole of the funds, amounting to £761,746, with almost indecent haste, before it commenced to administer the McCaughey bequest. I do not know whether the trustees acted in that way because they feared that difficulties would arise in handling two separate funds. However, the Minister should give consideration to this matter, because a similar bequest might complicate matters.
– This clause has been inserted because a legacy or bequest might be left at some time to the Services Canteens Trust Fund.
– That explanation raises another point. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) whether the bill provides that such a bequest shall be administered separately from the Services Canteens Trust Fund. A bequest could not be administered conjointly with the trust fund or be absorbed by it. The bill will require additional machinery to provide for the separate administration of a bequest. If the Minister is satisfied that the position is covered, I shall not press my objection.
– I understand that the position is covered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Disposal of mess funds of disbanded war-time units).
– This clause is most interesting. If it. means what it says in so many words, I cannot understand why it has been included in the bill. It states - (1.) The appropriate Service Board shall transfer to the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund all mess funds of disbanded war-time units in its possession except such as are determined by the appropriate Service Minister to be required for -
We cannot object to that provision. The obligation must be discharged. The clause continues -
I should like the Minister (Mr. Chambers) to explain why he expects to obtain any money from these disbanded war-time unit funds. Under the clause, these bodies might consider that charity begins at home, and take the necessary steps to repair existing messes or establish new ones. If they have sufficient money, they might even provide luxurious messes. Some of the Royal Australian Air Force messes, particularly in the Richmond district in New South Wales, were the last word in luxury. The clause either gives some return to the Services Canteens Trust Fund, or offers disbanded war-time unitsan opportunity to make a contribution to the trust fund, or to repair existing messes or build new ones. Believe me, they will find some use for the money! A limit should be placed upon the use of these funds for repairing or establishing messes, and the balance should revert to the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Otherwise, the money in the funds of these units might be expended on a most lavish scale. I urge the Minister to examine the matter carefully, and ascertain whether an authoritative direction might be issued for the purpose of preventing the wasteful use of these funds on the construction of luxury messes.
– The question before the Chair is, “ That the clause be agreed to “.
– I have asked the Minister (Mr. Chambers) a specific question and I shall not allow him to avoid answering it by remaining silent.
– The honorable member asked me to give consideration to the matter.
– The Minister will not ‘“get away” with that. He should make an adequate reply. I do not regard the remarks he has made so far as satisfactory. I wish to know whether the point that I have raised has been considered. If it has not been considered, will the honorable gentleman undertake to consider it and meet the objections that I have raised?
– The clauseprovides that the appropriate service board shall transfer to the Services Canteens Trust Fund all surplus mess funds of disbanded war-time units in its possession, except such as are determined by the Minister to be required for the payment of debts which may be a lawful charge against such funds and for the restoration, repair and improvement of existing messes, or the establishment of new messes. The purpose of the clause is to cover war-time damage occasioned to permanent messes by the very large influx of temporary members of the units who used the messes. An amount of £87,000 is in hand in respect of sums paid over.
.- The provisions of the clause are reasonable, in all the circumstances. There are permanent Air Force messes at Richmond and Laverton. I do not think that much of the war expenditure on canteens has been diverted to the improvement of those messes. There has been considerable retrenchment of Air Force units, and this has meant that some messes have passed out of existence; but new re-groupings will be necessary, and some new messes will need to be provided. It would be reasonable, in my opinion, to permit some expenditure under the provisions of this clause for that purpose. If the surplus funds in hand in respect of the messes referred to in this clause are to be finally handed over, steps should be taken to ensure that messes are left in a fair state of repair.
.- Did the Minister for the Army see a statement in the press yesterday to the effect that the Royal Australian Air Force has purchased a building near the St. Kilda Synagogue in Melbourne, at a reported cost of £79,000 ? Would it be possible for these surplus canteens funds to be “ raided “ in order to pay for that building or for others in similar circumstances ?
– I give the honorable member an assurance that none of the money could be used for that purpose.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Upon, or as soon as practicable after, the prescribed date there shall be transferred to the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund-
all moneys or securities in excess of Sixty thousand pounds under the control of the trustees for the time being of the fund known as the Royal Australian Navy Relief Fund declared by Declaration of Trust dated the sixth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and twentytwo; and
.- I referred, in my second-reading speech, to the provisions of this clause, which will permit amounts not in excess of £60,000 to be expended for the provision of amenities for professional soldiers. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said, the money that has accumulated in the canteens funds was obtained from service personnel actually engaged in war operations. I do not consider that the Government should be permitted to use these sums of £60,000 each, totalling £180,000, in the manner indicated in this clause. Amenities provided for men now in the services should be paid for out of Government funds, and not out of surplus canteens funds. The Minister himself has said that no amount of money can compensate our ex-service men and women for what they endured during the war. I therefore protest strongly against the subtraction of £180,000 from their funds for the purposes indicated in this clause, and I move -
That, in paragraph (a), the words “ in excess of Sixty thousand pounds “ be left out.
If this amendment be agreed to, other consequential amendments will be necessary in the bill.
– As I have already pointed out, the whole amount available for distribution under the provisions of this bill was not derived from canteens funds. Certain sums were obtained from the Royal Australian Navy Relief Fund and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund, and other amounts were obtained from public subscription and private donations. It is not correct to say that the whole amount involved in this clause came from canteens funds.
– Can the Minister indicate what proportion of the money came from other sources?
– I cannot state the amount. Many of the men serving in the Interim Air Force are volunteers, and a large percentage of the Australians in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces went there direct from Morotai. These men contributed, in part, to the funds that are to be distributed by the trustees under this bill. I am not able to accept the honorable member’s amendment.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) should be more explicit. He should tell us what proportion of the funds to be distributed was derived from sources other than canteens funds. How much of the money, for example, came from public subscription? I remind the honorable gentlemen that the public subscribed for the benefit of “ diggers “ who should have any advantages that come from the distributions that are made. The men who were mainly responsible for the accumulation of these surplus funds should be the ones to benefit by this distribution. It would be manifestly unfair to allocate moneys from this source for amenities for members of the permanent forces. I remind the Minister, also, that the men who are at present in Japan are serving under far better conditions than those experienced by the forces during the war. I believe that the “ diggers “ of the last war would be the last to argue that this money should be used to provide amenities for men who are serving in the piping times of peace.
.- I strongly support the amendment. I ask the Minister whether the amenities, that are to be provided by Australia in Japan for British Commonwealth Occupation Forces will be available to other than Australian troops. The Government should not take any money from these surplus funds for the provision of amenities for the troops now serving in Japan. I ask the Minister to answer these specific questions: What amount of money, other than profits from canteens, has been included in the total to be distributed? Will the amenities which . the Commonwealth Government intends to provide in Japan be available for other than Australian troops?
– If I understand the amendment correctly, it will, if agreed to, deprive many members of the naval service who served right through the war and who still have several years to serve before obtaining their discharge from receiving any benefit from the distribution of these surplus funds. The men who enlist in the navy sign on for twelve years. They should not be deprived of benefits which will accrue from the distribution of moneys which they, during their time of service, have helped to. accumulate. These moneys are to be disbursed, I understand, entirely for the benefit of ex-servicemen and women and their dependants. If the amendment be agreed to, those who served during the war and are still in the forces will be deprived of any benefit. It is not open to doubt that the wives and children of men who are still in the forces are, in many instances, suffering hardship because their bread-winners are absent on service, and they themselves have to exist on the limited pay to which their bread-winners are entitled. I do not believe that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) desires to deprive those still in the services of some benefit from the distribution of these funds, yet it seems to be that acceptance of his amendment would have that effect. What I have said in regard to navy personnel applies also to the Air Force personnel. These men should not be precluded from benefits that will flow from the distribution of the surplus canteens funds. I do not think the intention is that they shall be.
– The unsatisfactory feature of this measure is, as the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) explained earlier, that under it £60,000 is to be set aside for the provision of amenities for the troops in Japan. I put it to the Minister that, whatever may be the conditions in Japan to-day, they are the responsibility of the Australian Commonwealth.
– Those who will be entitled to benefit from the main fund will be, not only the men in Japan but also those who served before and those who came in subsequently.
– That is not the point that I am making. I understand that £60,000 is being set aside for the provision of amenities for the troops now in Japan. Is that so?
– It is not so.
– That is the point which I tried to clear up earlier. The Minister’s statement left with me the distinct impression that a portion of the canteens fund, to an amount of £60,000, was to be used to provide amenities for the troops at present in Japan.
– The honorable member misunderstood me.
– I assure the Minister that the amendment of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will have the support of the Opposition, because no member of the Opposition pays more meticulous attention to ex-servicemen’s problems than does that honorable member; and I am sure that he would not submit an amendment without very good and sufficient reasons. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say about it.
– I should like to clear up the impression that is in the mind of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The relief fund, which will be of an amount equal to £60,000 for each of the three services, will be for the benefit of servicemen who served prior to the beginning of World War II., or who enlisted subsequently, and were not provided for under the general trust fund.
– Are they permanent members of the forces?
– They are men who enlisted and who are still serving in Australia in the interim army.
– That raises the point as to what is the interim army. What does the Government intend to convey by that ?
– I do not intend to discuss the composition of the interim army; that is not dealt with by this bill. I point out to the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) that the MacArthurNorthcott agreement provided that Australia should supply the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces with canteenamenities, and we shall continue to do that until the agreement is altered.
– Out of this fund?
– Why, then, is it mentioned ?
– An amount of £60,000 each is to be made available for the benefit of the three services - men who enlisted before or after those who will be provided for under the main fund.
– I have been interested in what the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has said. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made the matter perfectly clear earlier. The answer which that honorable member received from the Minister definitely gave me the impression that this money was to be used for the purpose mentioned. The Minister then bore out what he had said in his second-reading speech, namely->-
The moneys which will be paid into the Services Canteens Trust Fund are principally the profits derived from canteens. It is proposed that, as from a date to be fixed, and which is referred to as “ the prescribed date “, the profits and other assets of the canteens services shall be transferred to the Services Canteens Trust Fund, except such as are required to meet existing liabilities, or for the continuing operation of the canteens services, for the purposes of the interim forces. Australia has undertaken to operate canteens for the whole of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. It is a matter of considerable importance that these canteens should continue to operate in a manner which will permit the supply of goods at reasonable prices to British Commonwealth Occupation Forces personnel.
– That is quite true.
– The honorable member for Barker asked a question in regard to the £60,000. When the Minister had answered it, the honorable member said, “ Then the amount of any profits subsequently derived . will flow back into the fund?” The Minister replied, “ Yes “. Now, the Minister says that this amount is not to be used to continue the canteens services in Japan.
– The £60,000 is for the benefit of the service men and women who served before and after the war.
– The Minister should explain what his second-reading speech means, and also what he actually meant when he answered the honorable member for Barker as he did. He might also relate those statements to the interjection he has just made, which was a direct contradiction of them. In his second-reading speech, he said that the £60,000 was to be used to carry on the canteens services for the benefit of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. I am not arguing against that, because men who fought in the war are now continuing their service in Japan, and I believe that, subsequently, profits from the canteens in that country will flow back into this fund. I want a clear statement as to the purpose to which the £60,000 is to be devoted, and as to what the Minister meant by the statement that he made in his secondreading speech.
– The Minister (Mr. Chambers), in his last statement, introduced a very interesting point, when he said that this money would be used for the benefit of the interim army. If the Parliament is asked to vote money for the use of the interim army, surely it is not unreasonable to seek an explanation as to what that interim army is ! For some time, I have had the conviction that the title “ interim “ is quite inappropriate, and that this force should be described as “ the phantom army “. If that description is correct, it will be somewhat difficult to provide ways and means of administering benefits for the phantoms. I should be deeply indebted if the Minister would tell us exactly what is the nature and strength of this interim army, and in what way the money is to be used to benefit its members. The point raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in connexion with the Minister’s second-reading speech, constituted the reason for my having addressed my two previous questions to the Minister. I want to know in what circumstances and at whose expense the amenities for the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan are being financed. My view is that, if they are being financed as one unit, maybe under some financial arrangement between ourselves and Great Britain, New Zealand and India of which we are not at present aware, and profits are made as the result of the operation of canteens in
Japan conducted by the Australian Commonwealth on behalf of all the occupation forces, then those profits cannot logically come back in their entirety to the Australian Services Canteens Trust Fund, because the British, Indian and New Zealand troops will be entitled to their proportion of them. That is one point which the committee is entitled to have cleared up before it goes very much further. As a matter of fact, there are two or three similar points on which it would be well if the Minister were to give us clear-cut enlightenment.
.- The committee is faced with an extraordinary situation. This matter was raised at the second-reading stage, and we expected that it would be clarified. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has striven to show that what I said was wrong, and that these are not deductions from the general fund, but are moneys which come from other sources. “When I asked by way of interjection, “ What is the amount of those moneys?” the Minister was unable to tell me. If the honorable gentleman were to specify the source from which the £60,000 is to be obtained, the clause would be passed. I can add to what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said. The amenities provided for the troops in Japan cannot be made too good ; but they should be financed by the Government, not by money taken from the pay of servicemen during the war and accumulated in the profits of canteens, which were kept at a high level, the men being told that the whole amount would revert to them. Every member of the Air Force knows of the notice that was displayed in canteens, informing them that all the profits would be returned to them after the war. The Government is definitely deducting this sum. Adding to what has been quoted by the honorable member for Wentworth, I make this quotation from the second-reading speech of the Minister -
The remaining three trusts .established under this bill may be considered together. Each one will begin with an initial amount of £00,000, and their principal purpose will be, as I have already indicated, to provide a means of meeting cases of distress or need outside the ambit of the main fund. These separate service funds will be available for members of the forces who served prior to the war or who joined the forces subsequent to the prescribed date. These funds will be continuing, and, it’ is expected, will be supplemented in future years by direct contributions from other sources which may become available.
That means that the so-called interim army and interim air force will have these funds at their disposal, and that they will be a subtraction from the main fund. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has said that it will be unfair to present members of the Navy, in which there are men who have been retained beyond their period of service because the Government has no policy and is not calling up fresh drafts. When these men are discharged they will become beneficiaries under the main fund.
– Will they be beneficiaries before they are discharged?
– Not unless a subtraction is made from the main fund. This fund is established to assist men who have finished with the forces, and is not intended to provide for the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. We should force this matter to a division, and compel the Government to provide from the defence vote the wherewithal for these amenities.
– There seems to be some doubt in the minds of honorable members about these amounts of £60,000. I explained earlier that all the money in the fund did not represent canteens profits. I said that there had been an Air Force Welfare Fund in existence before the war, and also a Navy Belief Fund.
– How much was in them before the war?
– The Air Force Welfare Fund paid into the general fund £770,000.
– Was all that money accumulated before the war?
– I am not saying anything about what was accumulated before the war, and I will not allow the honorable member to put words into my mouth. I said that £770,000 was paid into the general fund. The Air Force authorities deducted £60,000 for a special relief fund of its own, the balance going into the general fund. The Navy had a relief fund of £204,000, and the naval authorities also deducted £60,000 before handing- the balance over to the general fund. Each of the three services kept back £60,000 to be used for the benefit of those of its members who would not be qualified to benefit under the provisions of this bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22- (1.) Of the funds transferred to the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund in pursuance of this Part, the sum of Two million five hundred thousand pounds and such further sums as the trustees, from time to time, consider advisable shall be set aside by the trustees to be applied in providing educational assistance, including professional and trade training -
– I move -
That, in sub-section (1.), paragraph (b), the word “ who “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “which children “.
The paragraph will then read -
The purpose of the amendment is to clarify the meaning of the paragraph.
– For the moment, I am not concerned with the Minister’s amendment. I have no doubt that it will, as he says, make the meaning of the paragraph more clear. I wish now to direct the attention of the committee to the concluding words of sub-section 2. - . . and in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants insuch other cases as the trustees think fit.
The wording of that paragraph is ambiguous. I had intended to ask the
Minister for an interpretation but he saved me the trouble when he said, in reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), that those words gave authority to the trustees to consider sympathetically a project such as the proposed Lake Macquarie memorial. I submit that the use of trust funds, collected by overcharging servicemen during the war, for the construction of memorials, such as the Lake Macquarie memorial, would constitute maladministration of the fund, and should not be tolerated for a moment. Were such a principle admitted, trust moneys might be used for the benefit of persons other than those regarded as eligible for benefits under this scheme. Sub-clause 2. clearly sets out that the fund shall be applied for the benefits of -
Those paragraphs make it clear that the money shall be applied to the relief of necessaries of a personal nature, and I do not believe that the concluding words of the clause justify using any part of the trust fund for the construction of memorials such as the Lake Macquarie memorial in the electorate of the honorable member for Hunter. I could advance very strong arguments in support of using funds for the construction of memorials in my electorate, and I have no doubt that every other honorable member in this House could do the same, but we believe that the fund should not be used for that purpose. Memorials of that kind are properly financed, eitherby public subscription, or by government grants, or by both.
– The clause provides for the use of trust funds for the benefit of ex-servicemen, but contains no reference to memorials. Therefore, I do not propose to allow a debate on whether or not the fund should be used for the construction of memorials.
– But the Minister for the Army interpreted the clause to mean that the trustees were authorized to consider applications for the use of trust money for the construction of the Lake Macquarie memorial. He agreed that that was an undertaking which might be considered by the trustees, and he quoted the concluding words of the clause in support of his interpretation. If you, Mr. Chairman, now debar honorable members from debating his interpretation of the clause, I cannot see why the bill should be considered in committee at all. The Minister gave his interpretation of the clause, and the honorable member for Hunter replied, “ Thank you very much “. There was no misunderstanding in his mind as to what the Minister meant. Unless the Minister says that ho wrongly interpreted the clause, and that he does not now think that it means what he said it did, we must take it that he still believes that the interpretation which he gave is correct.
– I have ruled that the debate may not proceed along those lines.
– Then I ask the Minister what the clause does mean.
– There is no objection to that.
– If the Minister gives the same reply to me as he gave to the honorable member for Hunter, will you allow me to debate the point?
– I do not think that the honorable member for Wentworth is entitled to pursue a line of debate which I have ruled out of order. I have said that the fund is intended to be used for the relief and benefit of exservicemen.
– You are placing the committee in an impossible position. In effect, you say, the Minister having given an interpretation of the clause, no honorable member may argue that his interpretation is incorrect. The Minister has said that the clause authorizes the use of the fund for purposes which, I am convinced, were never intended. Now you, Mr. Chairman, say that we may not debate his interpretation. That is an impossible state of affairs, one which the Opposition cannot tolerate. I want the
Minister to give a clear indication to the committee of what those concluding words of the clause really mean. During the second-reading debate, and also since the bill has been in committee, honorable members have asked the Minister for an assurance that the fund will not be used for the relief of cases, which should be the direct responsibility of the Government. The Minister gave an assurance, but the interpretation of the clause which he gave to the honorable member for Hunter is in complete variance with -his assurance. It is not the responsibility of the Government to finance’ the construction of memorials, but the Minister has stated that the trustees may consider applications for the use of trust funds for such purposes. Of course, it may be argued that memorials may be used for the benefit of exservicemen - memorials such as eventide homes, clinics, and sanatoriums. I am not arguing against that, because it may be that institutions of that kind would care for necessitous cases which would not be eligible for repatriation benefits. However, a recreation park is another thing altogether. This trust, fund should not be used for the construction of a park, and no amount of argument will change my opinion on that.
This matter might well have escaped the notice of the committee, had not the Minister been in generous mood and said, in effect, to the honorable member for Hunter, “I have listened to your appeal regarding the Lake Macquarie project, and you can make representations to the trustees, who will consider it “. I take a special interest in reminding the committee that, in regard to this clause, there is a query which must be- answered before the clause can be agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has trenchantly criticized my reply to the representations of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) relative to a grant of money from the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the erection of the war memorial convalescent home at Lake Macquarie. I see nothing wrong with it. This clause specifically empowers the trustees to make sums of money available from the fund for the relief or benefit of eligible servicemen and their dependants as the trustees think fit. After hearing the honorable member for Wentworth one would think that I had committed some offence in my reply to the honorable member for Hunter. The trustees may be relied upon to exercise their judgment in these matters. The persons selected for appointment as trustees have been endorsed by both sides of the House. They are all ex-servicemen and public men of high standing in Australia. They are familiar with the provisions of the Repatriation Act, and may be relied upon to administer the fund wisely. They will pass on to the Repatriation Department such applications for assistance as should properly be made to that department. If, in their wisdom, the trustees see fit to make money available for the erection of a memorial hospital that has for its purposes the provision of a haven of rest for some burned out “ Diggers “, they may do so under this clause and I do not believe that an individual in Australia would complain if such a grant were made.
– That is a government obligation, surely.
– I have implicit faith in the ability of the trustees to discern whether or not such an obligation rests upon the Government. I am confident that they will not abuse their trust.
.- The clause provides that after certain obligations have been met the balance of the fund shall be applied, inter alia, in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit. I do not know whether many honorable members know Lake Macquarie or the site upon which it is proposed to erect the convalescent home. I do not believe that a finer site could be selected in the Commonwealth. It lies between Toronto and Teralba.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making an appeal to the Government for the support of any hospital or institution. Such an appeal should be made to the trustees of the fund.
– I am addressing my remarks to the concluding words of subclause 2, which empower the trustees to apply portion of the fund for the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen or their dependants in such cases as they think fit. The trustees should be given an implicit right to finance the erection of what I believe would constitute the greatest benefit that could be conferred on many ex-servicemen in the Commonwealth. I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, would not deny an honorable member the privilege of putting a case for what I might call the flotsam and jetsam of war, ex-servicemen who are suffering and will continue to suffer as the result of their war service.
– Order ! It is not the desire of the Chair to prevent the honorable member from speaking to the clause. The honorable gentleman knows very well, however, that the Chair cannot permit him to discuss matters outside the ambit of the clause. He may touch upon such matters merely in passing.
– I am merely touching on them in passing.
– In his opening remarks the honorable member referred to the desirability of making money available for a certain institution. That is not permissible. He may refer only in passing to the avenues through which the fund might be expended.
– Exactly ; I agree entirely with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. What I was attempting to do was to show the way in which the money might be expended to the greatest benefit of many ex-servicemen. As far as I have been able to gather from the representations they have made to me, the whole of the ex-servicemen’s organizations in the north of New South Wales are desirous of seeing erected upon the shores of that noble sheet of water, Lake Macquarie, a home for the flotsam and jetsam of war, so that they may have peace and comfort in the years to come. The people who desire that home to be built have a lofty and noble conception of their obligations to our ex-servicemen. I join with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), to whom also representations on this subject have been mad« over a considerable period, in wholeheartedly supporting the proposal that moneys from the fund should be utilized for this desirable objective. What is proposed is not merely a non-utilitarian war memorial, or an obelisk, but a haven of rest to which our ex-servicemen may go for quietness and peace in order to recover the health which they sacrificed in the defence of their country. It is essential that this clause stand as printed. I ask the Minister not to use his influence on the trustees but to do all that he can to bring this proposition before them. I trust that before long this institution will be built on the shores of Lake Macquarie. The land has already been acquired and the convalescent home would be of the greatest benefit to ex-servicemen not only in the years immediately ahead but for many years to come.
– I support other honorable members who have advocated the utilization of moneys from the trust for the erection of the convalescent home war memorial at Lake Macquarie. The Minister will remember that, in company with other honorable members representing electorates in northern New South Wales, I have made representations on several occasions asking that money be made available from the canteens fund for that purpose. I congratulate the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) on the speech he has made in support of this proposal. The electors in the Macquarie district have done a great deal of organizing work for the purpose of raising funds to build the institution. They have worked arduously in this worthy cause and should be encouraged by a grant from the fund. I hope that in due course the memorial committee will apply to the fund and that the trustees will treat their application as liberally as it deserves.
– It is highly improper for any body of men to attempt to influence the Government or the trustees in the disposal of moneys lying in the fund. We have been assured that the trustees to be appointed are persons of unquestionable ability and high reputation. Once the fund is vested in them we could very well leave it to them to see that the money is distributed in the best interests of ex-service men and women. I do not believe that this matter should be made a political playground. For that reason I suggest that once the trustees are appointed - and the appointees have met with approval from both sides of the Houses - we can safely leave the matter in their hands.
– I am rather surprised by the attitude adopted by some honorable members in connexion with, this clause, which provides that after meeting the needs of ex-servicemen and their dependants the balance of the fund may be applied for the provision of relief or benefits for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit. When the Minister indicated that it was possible that the trustees might make a grant to the war memorial convalescent home at Lake Macquarie, some honorable members opposite immediately challenged his right to give such an undertaking. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was emphatic in his denunciation of the Minister’s statement in connexion with this matter.
– I believe that the Government should carry its own obligations and not use moneys in the Services Canteens Trust Fund for that purpose.
– The honorable member, too, should be prepared to carry out his obligations. The honorable member for Wentworth takes every opportunity to misrepresent the intents and actions of the Minister and the Government. Before dinner he alleged that there was “ a nigger in the wood pile “.
– So there is.
– If the honorable member thinks that the men and the woman to be appointed trustees are likely to do anything inimical to the interests of ex-service men and women he does them an injustice. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) that a trust composed of men and a woman of the calibre proposed is worthy of the highest confidence. It ill becomes honorable gentlemen opposite to harass the Minister. He brought down this hill in order to distribute surplus canteens funds in the best way possible, in accordance with the desires of the various associations of ex-service men and women. The trust that will administer the fund will consist of ex-members of the services. The Minister has not suggested that the fund may be used in way3 in which it should not be. Many burntout war veterans are loath to go into any institution other than one in which they can mingle with their old comrades.
– Such as the one that the Government has just dispensed with at Caulfield.
– I do not know anything about that.
– It is a pity the honorable member does not.
– If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is so emphatic about the desire of exservicemen to stay with comrades in surroundings with which they are familiar at Caulfield, he must agree with me that they desire a home of that type. So I thank the honorable member for his support of what I am saying in opposition to declarations by some honorable gentlemen opposite that nothing should be done to provide money from this trust fund to build a home for burnt-out exservicemen at Lake Macquarie. The Minister for the Army has done a good job, and I will not remain silent and allow Opposition members to imply that he is not doing his best for war veterans. I say to the Minister, “ Stick to your guns and ensure that the trust shall have full control to use the fund in the way its members deem best in the interests of ex-service men and women and their dependants “.
.- It is very noble of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) to spring to the aid of his caucus comrade from Adelaide, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) ; but what he talked about had nothing to do with the subject, which is that the Minister is trying to interpret the clause in a way that is impossible on a proper reading of its contents. The provision is that the trustees may provide “ relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as they think fit.
He said that if the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) wanted something provided in his electorate there was no reason why it should not be provided if it could be justified, but the Minister has no right to give a direction to the trustees. The fund is to be applied for the education of children of exservicemen and the assistance of exservicemen and their dependants, in illness or adversity, but honorable members are canvassing their electorates about a hospital for worn-out war veterans. They are trying to destroy the purposes of this measure. The money is to be expended on a laudable work and the trustees will, I am sure, spend it wisely. I asked the Minister during the second-reading debate whether any of the money in the trust fund was to be used by the Repatriation Department and he said “ No “.
– I still say “ No “.
– Yes. It is the obligation of the Repatriation Department to build hospitals of the type referred to. The Government would have no right to direct that the money be distributed for the benefit of war veterans, be used in the purchase of bricks and mortar for a memorial hospital. The Minister has no right to say that money in the fund can be raided for the erection of something of that nature at Lake Macquarie or Timbuctoo. He must say that the money is to be expended in the way intended by the people whom he met in conference and who asked him to bring down this bill. The Minister must retract before it is too late. Otherwise the trust will be overloaded with similar applications from all over Australia, many of them, no doubt, laudable. The bill must be left as it is.
– That is what the Minister has said.
– No; he has given a direction to the proposed trustees.
– He has not.
– I know what he said, and I hope that he will retract.
– I have been totally misrepresented by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who said that I have given the trustees a direction. That is totally untrue.
.- When 1 spoke on the second reading, I submitted my interpretation of sub-clause 2 of clause 22, paragraph c, and asked the Minister to make clear the meaning of the phrase - . . and in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit.
In his speech in reply to the secondreading debate the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) indicated his- opinion that application could be made to the trust for money for a memorial hospital at Lake Macquarie and that, in all probability, the money would be made available. I very much appreciated that statement. Then the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that I owed a debt of gratitude to the Minister because he had granted me a concession. That is absolutely incorrect. I think it is just that money from the fund should be expended on the provision of that amenity for ex-servicemen at Lake Macquarie as it has been refused by the Repatriation Department. The honorable member for Wentworth said that its provision was the responsibility of the Government, but the Government has refused to accept the responsibility although deputation has followed deputation on the matter. I believe that when the Menzies Government was in office it refused to provide money through the vote for the Repatriation Department for the erection of a war memorial hospital at Lake Macquarie. Every one knows that, although great numbers of patients are cured in repatriation hospitals, they discharge many in a condition that does not allow them to return to the mines and heavy industries without a period of convalescence. Men in the mines and heavy industries in the locality have levied themselves every fortnight to make a contribution towards the provision of the proposed convalescent home. As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has. indicated, the proposed site is a beauty spot. People convalescing there could enjoy all forms of recreation, including good fishing. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to scoff at the idea, but I defy them to say that there is a more worthy cause than that of burnt-out war veterans, or that men on service’ pensions should not be granted an institution to spend their days among comrades with whom they risked their lives in defence of our country. Honorable members opposite ought to be hastening the provision of every comfort for them instead of scoffing at their plight. It is intended that the proposed hospital should cater for men all the way from Gosford to the border of Queensland. About 500,000 people live in the area, which is more heavily populated than the whole area of some States, all of which have full repatriation facilities for ex-servicemen. I appreciate the support in this matter of the honorable member for New England. He has accompanied me on deputations to the then Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Frost, with the right honorable member for Cowper ‘(Sir Earle Page), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). We are all implicated; so it is not a parish-pump matter. We want something for men who were prepared to give their lives for this country. If it is necessary to amend the clause in order to make it specific that money from the fund should be expended on the erection of memorials like the proposed memorial, let it be amended. If the money can be provided for memorials of a useless kind, it ought to be more easily provided for memorials that will relieve the sufferings of men caused by serving their country. During World War I. and World War II., in order to induce the flower of the manhood of Australia to join the Army, we declared that the country would be ever grateful to them and would never forget their sacrifices. “ We will make a country fit for heroes to live in ! “, was the cry. Wa on this side do not intend to forget the men who fought for Australia. In every way we will help them to get a grant from this fund, which is theirs, because it was created by the canteens overcharging for goods sold to them in Australia and abroad. They have the right to have the money expended for their benefit, as the clause says. I congratulate the Minister on his interpretation of the clause.
.- I do not think any one could quarrel with the provision of “ relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit “, because the trustees must be trusted completely, without direction from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) or any one else. The honorable member for Hunter suggested that a memorial hostel should be erected on the shores of Lake Macquarie. He said that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) was apparently of opinion that an application might be made to the trustees, and that, in all probability, a grant would be made in accordance with the plan which he put forward. In other words, the honorable member was endeavouring to imply that the Minister has practically given a direction to the trustees as to how they shall exercise their “ powers. That is completely wrong. The Minister said- that the trustees will be in sole control of the money. Let us remind ourselves that this money belongs to exservicemen, and should be expended on their behalf. The responsible trustees can expend it without a direction from the honorable member for Hunter or the Minister for the Army-
– Or the honorable member for Henty.
– I was merely remarking that the trustees can expend the proceeds of the fund without the assistance of any honorable member. I am glad that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) interjected. Recently, we heard a touching appeal for the maintenance of repatriation homes for ex-servicemen whom the honorable member for Hunter described as “burntout” men. Presumably, he meant exservice personnel who were seriously ill, or still suffering from wounds. We had such a hospital in Victoria. It was an excellent institution, where sick or seriously wounded ex-servicemen could recuperate in a homely atmosphere.
– Order! That does not come within the scope of the clause.
– The honorable member for Hunter made a great point of saying that a memorial hostel should be established on the shores of Lake
Macquarie, where “ burnt-out “ exservicemen could recuperate. The institution in Victoria, to which I referred, was ideal for this purpose. The Minister for Repatriation closed it, and patients must now go to what is at the moment a military hospital.
– It is not closed.
– The Minister knows perfectly well that, for practical purposes, it is closed.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Henty persists in disregarding the direction by the Chair, I shall order him to resume his seat.
Mr. White. - The Minister for Repatriation was interjecting.
– Order ! The Chair has ordered the honorable member for Henty to direct his remarks to the clause.
– The honorable member for Hunter spoke of the possibility of using the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the purpose of erecting war memorials.
– I did not mean statues. I had in mind a convalescent home.
– The money in this fund belongs to persons who served in the armed forces during World War II., and should be expended on them or their dependants. If the Repatriation Department desires to expend money on these people, and if we consider that certain amenities should be provided, let the Repatriation Department provide them ! Similarly, if the country expresses a desire to erect suitable memorials to the servicemen who died during the war, let us by all means build them, but let us not appropriate money which belonged to ex-servicemen for either of those purposes! We were told that any of the money which is expended on memorials should be expended on the utilitarian kind. In my opinion, this money should not be expended on memorials in any shape or form, but should be disbursed as a benefit to ex-servicemen or their dependants. If this money is to be expended on memorials, I see no reason why they should be purely utilitarian in character. This money should not be expended on projects which merely absolve the Government of responsibility for repatriation and re-establishment. The honorable member for Hunter spoke at length about “burnt-out” exservicemen, and made sentimental appeals on their behalf. For my part, I have never heard a more nauseating and more bogusly sentimental statement in regard to ex-servicemen than that which the honorable member made.
.- When the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) replied to what was termed an “ appeal “, the words which he used were, “ such people could appeal to the trust”. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and other honorable members stated that some of the members of the Services Canteens Trust had been prisoners of war in Japanese camps. I have no doubt as to what is in the Minister’s mind, namely, that members of the trust will do the right thing in distributing the funds. The “ burnt-out “ digger, as I understand the meaning of the term, is an exserviceman who has reached the age of 60 years but is not receiving a pension for his war disabilities. Some of the proceeds of the trust fund might quite properly be made available to such exservicemen. In my electorate is the Myrtle Bank soldiers’ home, which accommodates many “ burnt-out “ diggers. Under this clause, some of these men, where the circumstances warrant, should receive assistance. The trust, under the chairmanship of Brigadier Blackburn, V.C., can be safely relied upon to distribute the funds to the best advantage.
– Much of the discussion on this clause would have been obviated if honorable members had carefully examined clause 8, to which the committee has already agreed. It is futile for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to say that the Services Canteens Trust can expend this money in any way it thinks fit, because clause 3 prescribes the limits beyond which the trust may not move. Other clauses, which the committee has yet to consider, provide that every account of the trust must be submitted to the Auditor-General, who will report annually to the Treasurer, and this docu ment will be laid upon the table of the House. If honorable members will examine clause 8, they will see that the trust has power to use this money for the “ due administration of the funds “. The limits are very narrow indeed. The trustees will have power to receive and consider applications for benefits from the fund, and to invest any part of the fund in securities of the Commonwealth, or on fixed deposit with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or in securities which are trust securities according to an act of the parliament of any State. The trustees will have power also to realize and convert into money any property forming a part of the fund, but honorable members opposite may search this bill from beginning to end without finding one word which will allow the trust to convert any of the money into landed assets. Whatever the feelings of honorable members may be regarding a memorial hostel at Lake Macquarie, I warn them that the moment the trust attempts to spend money on memorials, the Auditor-General will notify it that such expenditure is not within the scope of its powers. Honorable members are guilty of self-deception of the worst type if they believe that the trust will have complete and absolute powers. Clause 8 provides, very clearly and definitely, what the trust may do. Beyond those things, the trust cannot step. The moment it does so, it will break the law, and will be “ pulled up “ sharply by the AuditorGeneral. So much for clause 8. Subclause 1 of clause 22 reads - (1.) Of the funds transferred to the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund in pursuance of this Part, the sum of Two million five hundred thousand pounds and such further sums as the trustees, from time to time, consider advisable shall be set aside by the trustees to be applied in providing educational assistance, including professional and trade training -
Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot construe that sub-clause to mean that the trust is empowered to invest in brick3 and mortar. After having examined clause 8 and clause 22, the Minister should explain to the committee the powers of the trust, in view of the limitations which have been imposed, apparently with the full knowledge of the Government and the consent of this committee, upon its authority. The trust cannot do the things that some honorable gentlemen think it can do.
.- The reason why the committee is in difficulties at the moment is that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) “clowned” this clause before the suspension of the sitting at 6 p.m. Having been a Minister, the honorable member knows enough about this subject to realize that the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) was sincere; but, with frenzied rhetoric, he leapt to his feet, referred to memorials being erected at Lake Macquarie, and used this as a medium for some fierce expressions. We are still experiencing the result. It is regrettable that this subject should be made an object of misrepresentation by the honorable member, and that some honorable members on both sides of the chamber should use it to canvass the measure for something which should be done in their electorates out of the trust finances. Both are wrong, and I disapprove of their action. The sincerity of the Minister is obvious. He considered that he could, within the limits of the clause, say what could be done. This was seized upon by the experienced honorable member for Wentworth who knows the responsibilities of the Repatriation Department for providing hospitals for ex-servicemen. How many hospitals could be built with the’ sum of £4,000,000 in the fund, and how much would be required from the fund for their upkeep? The construction and upkeep of hospitals requires many millions of ‘pounds. As these facts are so obvious, the honorable member for Wentworth has clearly attempted to launch a campaign at the expense of this bill which provides for ex-servicemen. I deplore these tactics. Let us proceed to consider the remaining clauses of the bill. The honorable mem ber for Wentworth - the cause of this disturbance - knows perfectly well that his criticisms and fears are without substance. He has sat grinning at the table since 8 o’clock, as if enjoying a joke.
– I deplore the tone of the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who reminded me of “ Mr. Facing-Both-Ways “. The honorable gentleman condemned the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in one breath, and complimented him in the next. The proposed convalescent home on Lake Macquarie is not a sectional matter.
– I shall not allow a discussion on the Lake Macquarie convalescent home to continue. Honorable members may refer to that project in passing, but it cannot be the main subject of the discussion.
– I entirely agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) referred to the right of the trustees to deal with such a subject, and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) discussed quite freely the proposal to build this convalescent home, which he termed a memorial to exservicemen. I shall abide by your ruling, Mr. Chairman; but I point out that the erection of this building is of very great importance to ex-servicemen in northern New South Wales. It is not a parochial matter. I am not suggesting that the memorial should be built in any particular electorate; but the site on Lake Macquarie is undoubtedly the one on which it should be built.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not change his line of debate immediately I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Then I shall immediately change my line of debate, sir. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) said that there was a “nigger in the woodpile”. That, of course, can have nothing to do with the proposal to build a war memorial on Lake Macquarie. I do not know anything about a “ nigger in the woodpile “ insofar as the Lake Macquarie convalescent home is concerned.
– Order ! The honorable member for New England will resume bis seat.
– I am entirely changing my line of approach, sir.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not resume his seat immediately I shall name him.
– What have I to resume my seat for?
.- I direct attention to one “ furphy “ of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who stated that the trustees of these funds would have no authority to hold real estate. I refer the honorable member to sub-clause 1 of clause 6, which provides -
The trustees of each fund shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and may hold real and personal property and may sue or be sued in their corporate name.
That provision effectively disposes of the honorable gentleman’s argument. The objects of the clause are quite clear. The trustees may set aside an amount of £2,500,000, and even additional sums, for the purposes of providing educational assistance, including professional and trade training -
There can be no doubt, therefore, about the purposes for which this money may be used. If the honorable member for Wentworth had studied the clause closely he would have understood the situation more clearly. We are dealing with the machinery which the trustees will need to operate in order to make their disbursements, and it is essential that machinery should be provided to enable them to deal with any amount that remains unexpended after the principal purposes of their trust have been discharged. It has been suggested by some honorable members opposite that the Government is seeking to give the impression that paragraph b of sub-clauseI will allow some of the surplus canteens funds to be diverted to purposes such as repatriation, the cost of which should be met from Consolidated Revenue. Nothing could be further from the truth than that the Government desires to use any of this money for what are properly the responsibility of the Repatriation Department. Only a warped mind could read that intention into this clause. The fact is that whatever is done under the provisions of this bill will be complementary to the purposes of our repatriation legislation. Honorable members are well aware that there will be many individuals who served in the war, who, in the years to come, will not be entitled to repatriation benefits, but may still need substantial assistance because of the difficulties in which they find themselves. Neither this, nor any other government, could honestly accept responsibilities of the kind that I have in mind, which may not arise until many years after the cessation of hostilities. The Government is not seeking to evade its obligations, and I do not think that we should restrict the trustees of these surplus canteens funds from using the money in an appropriate manner. The trustees should be left as unfettered as possible, so that they may dispose of the funds as they think best. They will, undoubtedly, be persons who are capable of discharging such responsibilities.
– I listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), who declared that the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) concerning clauses 8 and 22 were unfounded. If honorable members will look at this clause they will find that it has absolutely nothing to do with the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Watson. The honorable gentleman claims some legal knowledge,and he should be able to understand the meaning of the clause which he quoted, and which provides-
The trustees of each fund shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and may hold real and personal property and may sue or be sued in their corporate name.
That has nothing to do with the argument of the honorable member for Barker.
However, I take exception to the views of the honorable member for Barker on entirely different grounds. Clause 8 provides -
The trustees of each fund may, from time to time, do all such acts and things as appear to them necessary for the due administration of the fund and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall have power -
to make payments or grant benefits from the fund, either directly or through the agency of any person or association of persons, to or on behalf of any beneficiary or group or class of beneficiaries in such manner as the trustees think fit; and
That makes it perfectly clear that the trustees, in their wisdom, may grant moneys for such specific purposes as have been outlined this evening. I shall not mention the Lake Macquarie convalescent home, but I have no doubt whatever that when an application is made to the trustees of these funds to invest moneys in such a project they will refer to the final provision of sub-clause 2 of clause 22 and it will be argued that the trustees may provide for “ relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit “. That is specific enough for anything. I have no doubt that when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made his appeal in relation to a certain project he had in mind those words. If the honorable gentleman had left the matter there he might have helped the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to some degree; but he added that the Minister had told him that in all probability a grant would be made.
– I did not say that he told me so.
– I took the honorable gentleman’s words down, and they were that “ in all probability the Minister had said that a grant would be made”. He attributed the remark to the Minister. That was a serious statement to make, and it is the more serious because, so far, the Minister has not contradicted the honorable gentleman. The honorable member for Hunter stated that the Minister had said that the trustees in whom he had infinite confidence - and of course we all have infinite confidence in them - could use their discretion with regard to the manner in which they applied these funds. But this is my point, and honorable members generally will appreciate it I am sure: When the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and probably the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), may subsequently come before these trustees with a request for a grant for a specific purpose which I shall not name, the honorable member for Hunter will doubtless say that the Minister had told him, when the matter was being debated in the Parliament that in all probability a grant would be made for specific purpose.
– I do not think that I said that.
– In twelve months time, after the heat of this discussion has cooled, and an application is made to the trustees for a grant from these funds, I have no doubt that reference will be made to the reports in Ilansard in order to ascertain the spirit and intention underlying this clause, and the honorable member for Hunter will doubtless say that the Minister said to him that in all probability a grant would be made. Such a statement might be expected to influence the trustees in the exercise of their discretion to make grants from these funds. The point that I make is that the funds should be used for the benefit of exservicemen, and they should not be used to defray a charge that it is the obligation of the Government to meet. The Government has a duty to perform to ex-servicemen, and particularly to “ burnt-out “ soldiers.
– Every one agrees with that.
– But the honorable member for Hunter is asking that a part of these funds shall be used to discharge what is really a responsibility of th, Repatriation Department. He has told us that he asked the former Minister for Repatriation, Mr.- Frost. for a grant for the purpose that he has in mind and that it was refused.
– That is true.
– That being so, it is necessary that we should impress upon the Government that it must discharge its duty. As the Government has refused to do so in this particular instance exservice men and women are being required themselves to pay for their own institution. .1 do not think that that is the procedure that should be supported by any honorable member of the House. The Furlough House scheme, which was of a similar character, was instituted by means of public subscriptions.
– That applies also to the Lake Macquarie soldiers’ convalescent home.
– If that principle can be maintained, I shall be in accord with the project. Why should the funds of ex-servicemen be used to supplement those that are raised? That is the only point that I make. A high principle is involved. The honorable member for Parkes said that I “ clowned “ this clause. I will not be intimidated by personal abuse by the honorable member. His record while he was editor of the Standard will bear no investigation. Therefore, I take no notice of what he has said in that regard. I have proved that a high principle is involved. If the Government has obligations to discharge, let it discharge them, and not promise honorable members that in all probability it will direct that the funds of ex-servicemen shall be used to build institutions for ex-servicemen. That is a government obligation. Honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber could not support such a proposition. The Minister’s duty is to sav to the honorable member for Hunter, “ I did not say to you that, in all probability, a grant would be made, because I can give no assurance in that regard. What I do say to you is that the trustees, in whom the Government has complete confidence, will exercise the powers that are laid down in this bill. We believe that any application made to them will be considered on its merits.” Unless the Minister is to be empowered to give directions to the trust, he has no right to give such an assurance.
– The Hansard report will show what was said.
– The words were written down not only by me, but also by other honorable members. I was particularly careful to be accurate, because it appeared to me to be definitely wrong that the Minister should promise an honorable member that the funds of exservicemen would be used to discharge an obligation which obviously rests on the Government.
.- In the concluding lines, the clause provides that the trustees may expend money “ in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit”. There would have been no trouble had not the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) imported into the debate a bitter, vitriolic argument. This afternoon, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) whether, under this clause, a memorial hospital committee could apply for some funds, and the Minister replied that any application for assistance would have to be considered by the trustees. The committee in charge of the arrangements for the projected convalescent home could apply to the trustees, who would have the last say, and could either make or refuse to make a grant. That is as far as the matter would have gone had not the honorable member for Wentworth argued bitterly not only against the allocation of the fund in the proper way upon application having been made to the trustees, but also, apparently, against the building of this institution. The matter can be viewed in a most advantageous light when it is known that the committee which is raising funds for this memorial hospital-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to canvass that matter.
– It would appear that whenever an honorable member expresses his views in regard to the rehabilitation of exservicemen he lays himself open to the charge that he is speaking to his own electorate. I have no wish to engage in the squabble in regard to the Lake Macquarie soldiers convalescent home. As far as I can see, it should he sponsored. The trustees should look around to ascertain who are already doing something in the way of self-help, or by public subscription in a suitable area, for the purpose of rehabilitating burnt-out exservicemen. But that is not to say that the Government is relieved of the obligation of undertaking rehabilitation work.
The CHAIRMAN. Order ! The honorable member knows that a debate on the merits of the Lake Macquarie project has been ruled out of order. He is not entitled to proceed along those lines.
– The dominating words of the clause are, “ in the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit”. In elaboration of my theme, I mention that, some time ago, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), as Minister for Works and Housing, did a remarkable job at Mount Keira, above Wollongong, when he assisted old “ diggers “ in their efforts to rehabilitate “ burnt-out “ exservicemen, by allowing them to purchase war-time buildings at Mount Keira. The value of his assistance was not lessened because he had to charge them £1,800. On Anzac Day of last year, I delivered the Anzac Day address at Wollongong, where I met Mr. Gargett, secretary of the Wollongong sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Dawson - the mayor - and his brother, Mr. Morton, and many others whose names I have forgotten. After the service, I was shown the remarkable work that was being done for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen there, by voluntary effort.
– Order ! The honorable member is straying from .the clause.
– Only a few days ago, patients from the Concord hospital were taken down there and were treated free of charge by those “ diggers “. The least the Government can do is to instruct that the £1,800 shall be wiped out or similar assistance given by the trustees of this fund.
.- It is a great pity that there should be mis understanding on this late clause, in view of the considerable degree of unanimity that exists in regard to the bill generally. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) definitely stated that, in all probability, a grant would be made in connexion with a project at a place that I shall treat as nameless. Those were his words; they were written down by several honorable members. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made it perfectly clear that there is no provision in the bill which will permit an instruction to be given to the trustees. I do not agree with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) that, because the trustees of each fund are to be a body corporate with perpetual succession, and may hold real and personal property, they will be empowered to buy and sell property. That is merely a formality. The actual instructions are contained in clause 22. It is most unfortunate that the Minister should have mentioned the permissibility of the trust to invest in bricks and mortar. I accepted his assurance that he did “ not mean his remarks to be regarded as a direction to the trustees. Nevertheless, they are entitled so to interpret them. The trustees will be empowered to give an educational endowment, if necessary, because of their responsibility in respect of education. They could make gifts to the Australian Red Cross Society, whose work is to assist the ex-service inmates of hospitals. By so doing, the point raised by honorable members in regard to the building of hospitals could be overcome. If the Minister will say that he will not endeavour to direct the trustees in any way, that will satisfy the committee.
– I merely say that I gave no assurance to any one that I would direct the trust. From the first to the last clause of the bill there is no provision which would permit me as Minister to direct the trust.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 36 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 25th March (vide page 1120), on motion by Mr. Chifley1 -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill was introduced to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the 25th March. Shortly put, it provides for the appropriation and payment out of Consolidated Revenue of an amount of £25,000,000 for the purpose of a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. Oddly enough, the bill goes on to say that this grant is made as a contribution towards war expenditure of. that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific. As yet, I do not fully appreciate just why those words were added, but, at any rate, they do not alter the net result that a grant of £A.25,000,000 is to be made to the Government of the United Kingdom.
In the course of his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister referred to propositions that had been put to him to the effect that it would be better to make a gift of food and other commodities to the United Kingdom instead of a money grant of £25,000,000. Hie did this, I have no doubt, partly in order to open the door to a discussion of a matter which has exercised the minds of most honorable members for some time past, namely, should we confine our actions to a money grant, or should we, either in substitution for that or in addition to it, take steps to increase the supply of food passing to Great Britain from Australia? I want to direct myself to that problem very briefly.
Everybody in this House, and everybody in Australia, will agree that the need of Great Britain at this time is obvious; that, indeed, it presents one of the important facts in the world in this year. Those who have had an opportunity to read the White Paper circulated recently by the Government of the United Kingdom, with a foreword by the Prime Minister of that country, will not fail to notice the extraordinary gravity of the document. I cannot myself recall, nor can other much better informed observers, any previous document issued by a government referring to the state of economic affairs which was so candid, so disturbing, if you like, and so calculated to make everybody feel that the problem is one which can be solved only by all the people of the British race all round the world taking a hand in its solution.
It is quite unnecessary to stress in this House, and particularly at this time, the sense of gratitude and obligation to Great Britain that exists in the Australian mind. These are, I am happy to. say, the commonplaces of public and private thinking in Australia. Great Britain, as that White Paper indicates, has a great need to increase its exports. I need not go into the reasons for that, nor need I discuss the volume by which its exports should be increased. The fact remains that there is a profound and urgent need for a great productive effort in Great Britain. Side by side with those problems, which are themselves grave enough, the world is presenting problems to Great Britain on the political plane ; and presenting them to Great Britain, not only in its own right, but as the country which is still the principal spokesman for the great family of British nations all over the world. That means that, in this year, Great Britain needs, perhaps as never before, a strong and vigorous foreign policy. If Britain is to give effect to its foreign policy, if its voice is to carry weight in international discussions in a work-a-day world, it must continue to carry great burdens in armaments. All those things Britain is doing.
– Will the right honorable gentleman express an opinion, not only on the need for Britain’s export trade, but also as to where that trade should go? That is an important point.
– I do not propose to go into that now, because it would lead me into a discussion of another matter already listed on the notice-paper. I am not touching upon the subject now in any controversial sense. I assume that there is unanimity among all members on the point. I refer to these great problems because, if Britain is to tackle those great problems, internal and external, it must have a vigorous people. It must, in plain terms, have a well-fed people. Therefore, the feeding of the people of Great Britain, the . making available to them of some of the abundant food resources of the world, has a direct bearing on everything discussed in the British White Paper.
The question then arises, how are we to give our help ? We are exporting food to Great Britain. We have been told more than once in this House that we cannot, as circumstances are, export more than we are now exporting. It is occasionally suggested by people who, no doubt, intend to do the right thing, that some of the food which we send to Great Britain should be a gift. I mention this in order to point out that, as an analysis of the problem up to that point, I agree with what the Prime Minister said in his second-reading speech, assuming for the moment that his first promise was correct. He also said -
We are already sending all available food to Great Britain.
I do not agree with that. That is where I quarrel with his statement. He added -
The only way to increase these exports would he to intensify food rationing drastically. To make a gift of food would not increase the quantity reaching the United Kingdom. It would, in fact, do exactly what the Government proposes - that is, make a money gift. lt is quite true that, unless we increase the present flow of food to Great Britain, all the changes we make in the existing procedure will come down to a gift of money, and nothing else. Therefore, the major problem is, can Ave increase our exports of food? The Prime Minister said that we could not do it without additional drastic rationing. Therefore, I want to say a few words about whether that is a correct summary of the position ; whether rationing is the remedy ; whether rationing is effective: and whether rationing can be made more severe without imposing any real hardship on the people of Australia, and so give greater assistance to the people of Great Britain.
What I have to say on those points can bp summed up pretty briefly. I am sorry that, even at this moment, there are far too many hundreds of thousands of us in Australia who do not have in their minds a clear picture of what the difference is between the British ration and the Australian ration, but if we take a few vital items in the food regimen of each country we shall be able to make a comparison. In Australia, we have double the butter ration of the average citizen of the United Kingdom. In Australia, cheese is unrationed, while in the United Kingdom the ration is 2 oz. a week. On a previous occasion, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated that the Australian meatration, according to the quality of the meat, varied between 2$ lb. and 2% lb. a week. It is well known that the meat ration in the United Kingdom is measured in terms of price, but in terms of quantity it probably does not exceed $ lb. a week, and certainly does not exceed 1 lb. a week. Eggs, which are not rationed in Australia, have become so rare on English tables as to be a curiosity. Eats, which are of vital importance for the maintenance of vigour, are unrationed in Australia, whereas in the United Kingdom, the ration is 1 oz. per week of cooking fat, and 3 oz. of margarine.
Keeping those figures in mind, we should ask ourselves if there is any perceptible shortage of food in Australia, and the plain answer is that there is no perceptible shortage. We have full and plenty, and we are looking across the world at another country where people are living on the bare minimum of subsistence, and living on a much smaller variety of food than the normal. It is a meagre and a monotonous diet. I said a while ago that the meat ration in Australia had been stated by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to be somewhere between 2^ lb. and 2-J lb. a week. Let us see whether that measure of rationing is effective. All we have to do is to take the figures, as I have taken them, for the year 1945-46, which is a good year to take because rationing of meat began on the 1st January, 1944. The year 1945-46 is the last complete year of record, and I take the items beef, veal, mutton and lamb. Of these, “the total consumption in Australia was approximately 565,000 tons, which represents an average per head of 169.9 lb. a year, or 3.27 lb. a week. That increase does not necessarily tell the true story, because we all know that a great deal of meat goes into actual consumption in Australia which does not come into these records at all. Private killing occurs in various parts of Australia. Not every abattoir lias the machinery for keeping complete records and consequently a great deal of approximation is resorted to in the compilation of returns. All the chances are that the true figure, far from being 3.27 lb., would be 4 lb. a week or more. But I shall take the necessarily conservative figures returned in these days because all the inducement is to understate them. Call it roughly 3£ lb. What was the ration; was it 2 lb.? If that be right, 1 lb. a head each week is going into consumption in Australia outside the ration scheme, and that, by itself, is more than double the ration available to the average citizen in the United Kingdom. That is a very formidable fact. I have referred to the problem of meat rationing because, whatever may be said about small items - and there was a great deal of talk a little while ago about small items - here we deal with one of the big vital items in the food problem, and we have been able to test it in the way I have suggested. There are many causes that contribute to the difficulty of food export to the United Kingdom. We have a shortage of shipping. We have aggravated the shortage of shipping by the scandalously slow turn-round of ships in Australian ports. We have here and there, it is true, and sometimes in a fair number of places, bad seasons. We have had stock losses. Important factors of that kind have made their contribution to the shortage of exports. We have also had industrial stoppages. But none of these things will explain away, or make us any more proud of, the fact that, after allowing for all of them, we are managing to eat four times as much meat per head in Australia as is allowed to the people of the United Kingdom, and in these circumstances for us to say, “ We are sorry, but we cannot do any more for you “, is to ignore the vital fact that if the United Kingdom fails we shall fail also, whatever our ambitions and our pretensions may be. All I want to add to that is this: There are two possible courses, and because I lack the expert knowledge to determine which of them is the right one I mention them both. One course is to face up to this rationing problem and say, first of all, “ We shall reduce the ration and, secondly, “ We shall enforce the rationing scale. We shall police this matter and make a real drive against the black market in meat That is one possible course. All I say to the Minister is, that if that course is a practicable one, and if it succeeds in reducing the average consumption of meat in Australia by even 1 lb. a week, it will have the superb effect of adding to our supplies to the United Kingdom, on my own calculation, more than 170,000 tons a year, and it will still leave us with a ration more than twice the size of a ration which does duty in Great Britain at the present time. The other view - it is one well worth investigating, and I have heard it put forward by men of close expert knowledge - is this: Can we maintain rationing at all? There is a great deal to be said for the view - I do not necessarily accept it because I do not speak with expert knowledge - that the issue of coupons for meat has increased the consumption of meat. Coupons achieve a sort of new standard in the community, a new form of currency. People more or less instinctively say, “ I have my coupons ; I must use them up “. It has been known that arrangements have been entered into between housewives and butchers, and I believe that if we were to look into this matter closely we would find on the whole that many people are getting supplies of meat to-day beyond their true requirements because they live up to the coupon standard. It is a great paradox that a measure designed to reduce consumption sometimes does nothing but increase it. In addition, pressures are set up by controls of that kind which take people in the direction of black markets and devious processes, and all these things tend to increase consumption. I do not know what the answer is. If we are to continue to have rationing, let us face up to the fact that the present meat rationing in Australia does not represent a real contribution to the United Kingdom at all. It imposes no real restriction upon us; it involves no real sacrifice by us. I should like to say to the House, and, if it were possible, to every one in Australia, that Great Britain will not go through its trials of the next two, three, four or five years without a great spirit of sacrifice among its people. If there be one thing that leaps to the eye in a perusal of these grim official documents it is that Great Britain in its testing time will need as great a spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as it exhibited during the war. If our contribution to that is to be better than a mere distant applause, we must determine to share in that sacrifice and make it a common one. I refuse to believe that there are very many people in Australia so mean in their outlook on this matter that they would hold it against a government that that government reduced the rations of the Australian people in order to increase the rations of the people of the United Kingdom. But if there are such people, if they make venomous attacks, I say to the Prime Minister once more that we on this side of the House will accept with the Government the fullest responsibility for any unpopularity involved in that course. I do not believe there would be any unpopularity involved in it. Every reason that exists, every emotion that exists in the Australian mind and heart, will be in favour of placing strict rules upon ourselves in order that we may help the United Kingdom at this time, not only with money, but also with something it needs more than money, namely, more food for its people, more variety in its people’s living, more vigour in its people’s bodies and, as a result, more power, more enterprise, and more achievement.
.- The bill before the House makes payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £25,000,000 as a contribution towards war expenditure incurred by the United Kingdom Government in respect of operations in and around the Pacific. In his opening remarks the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated that he could not understand why the Government had chosen to insert in the bill the words “ as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific”. I am surprised that the right honorable gentleman cannot see that such a gracious step is necessary. Would he have the bill described as one authorizing a gift of £25,000,000 and ignore altogether the fact that there had been an immense contribution by Great Britain to the defence of this country in the Pacific ? I hope that in future bills brought down repeating this gift the £25,000,000 will be similarly described as a contribution towards the British war effort in the Pacific. At a time when Great Britain is appealing for help it is most embarrassing that any assistance given to it by those whom it has defended should in any way be described as a gift. In putting these words into the bill the Treasurer showed a more gracious instinct than did the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that there was something improper about them. The right honorable gentleman adroitly evaded the question of British exports. This subject of food for Britain has been used politically. It was so used before each State election. It has been used politically in statements by Opposition members that food and not money is what Great Britain needs. That statement was repeated by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Fremantle said that the British people did not want food.
– I have not said anything of the kind. I shall analyse the statement that this bill does not mean food, but money.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition was heard in complete silence. The next honorable member to interject will be named.
– Is it seriously suggested that a monetary gift of £25,000,000 means that £25,000,000 worth of Australian currency is to be sent to Great Britain? Obviously, it means no such thing, and any person with the slightest knowledge of international trade knows that it could mean no such thing. The Treasurer made it clear in the House in an answer to a question that the £25,000,000 gift to Great Britain would constitute for Great Britain a claim on £25,000,000 worth of foodstuffs in Australia, but, notwithstanding such categorical statements, we have had persistent jibes that it is like sending diamonds to a man on a desert island. The Leader of the Opposition skilfully evaded the question of British exports because the whole crux of this bill is that it exempts the United Kingdom from sending to this country £25,000,000 worth of goods to pay for £25,000,000 worth of goods in this country. Those goods could be used by the United Kingdom or be sent anywhere to purchase additional food. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken to us with real feeling about meat and meat exports from Australia. At the present time the Commonwealth is endeavouring to increase these exports. Insofar as Great Britain does not have to pay with goods for £25,000,000 worth of goods from this country, it can send those goods to Argentina and obtain meat from there. So this monetary contribution, as it is called, exempting the United Kingdom from exporting to this country, releases exports to other sources of food supplies and in that respect increases the stock of food in the United Kingdom. The position of the United Kingdom in relation to this country should be analysed realistically. First we had developed in London a sterling balance of £170,000,000- it now exceeds £20’0,000,000. That balance has accumulated because we have sent goods to Great Britain that, at the moment, it cannot pay for with goods sent here. It has been accumulated in London because we transferred to London our holdings of £113,000,000 worth of dollars. That enabled the United Kingdom to buy goods in, and charter ships from the United States of America. That is a real additional contribution to the United Kingdom’s stock of goods because, if there is one thing that it has .rightly insisted upon, it is that, in its predicament, trade should not be two-way trade as between single countries, but that its problems should be looked at in relation to other sources of supply. By that I mean that it has excluded from the United Kingdom Australian wheat which it would be to the satisfaction of many of us to send there. It has wisely decided that our wheat shall go to India, and that Canada shall supply Britain with wheat which otherwise would have been sent to India from Canada. The shorter distance between Great Britain and north America saves the additional ships that would be needed to take our wheat to the United Kingdom over the longer route. That is sensible. The gift of £25,000,000 releases for export to other countries goods that the United Kingdom would otherwise have to send here. That is another contribution to it in its difficulties. The sterling balance presents us with another factor to consider. This country has £4S9,000,000 sterling worth of British investments on which we pay annually about £A.25,000,000. in interest. That £A.25,000,000 constitutes a claim of £25,000,000 worth of goods in’ this country. So there is a claim this year on £50,000,000 worth of goods in this country that do not have to be paid for with exports from Great Britain. That, of course, is not a solution of the enormous economic problem of Great Britain. For instance, in eight months of this financial year, Great Britain obtained from this country £58,000,000 worth of food and goods, which means that the £50,000,000 involved in the gift and the interest has already been exceeded by £8,000,000. Further assistance, which I hope will be contemplated by the Government, can be given by exempting Great Britain from payment for the goods that we export to it in excess of the payment for £50,000,000 worth of goods that the £25,000,000 gift and the £25,000,000 of interest, give it a claim to. That is, if, in the whole year, the value of our exports to the United Kingdom totals £80,000,000, a debt of £30,000,000 accumulates to Australia in London. Additional assistance could be given by exempting the United Kingdom from exporting goods to us to meet the deficit.
I do hope that the problem will be looked at realistically. The decrying of the grant of £25,000,000 as a mere monetary grant ignores that it can be translated into a gift of goods. It has no other significance. The decrying of the gift is a means of confusing the Australian public. I feel that the desire of the people of Australia to assist Great Britain is widespread and I am certain that it is shared by the Opposition; but no help is given by confusing the people about the effect of the monetary grant and by pretending that it has no significance in the movement of goods to the United Kingdom. We ought to recognize that the great source of supply and the only power than can really solve the problems of the United Kingdom is the United States of America. Since so many honorable members opposite have seen fit to decry the United States of America because, in the natural course of events, it has taken the dominant economic position, it is necessary to stress’ how generous it has been in its treatment of Europe and Great Britain. In the first year of peace it made a gift to Europe of 6,250,000,000 dollars. If that be not generosity, then at least nothing like that generosity has been seen in history.
It made a loan to Great Britain of 3,750,000,000 dollars, on which no interest is to be paid for five years. That means goods that the United Kingdom can send to the United States of America without buying goods in return. It maybe true that, in making a loan instead of a straight-out gift, the United States of America has not met the challenge of the situation as it should have. I do not argue that that may not be true, but, at least, it has been more generous than any other nation has been in history.
We have destroyed our capacity to assist the United Kingdom further by transferring to it our stock of £113,000,000 worth of dollars, which enables it to buy goods and charter ships from the United States of America. That, I have no doubt, has helped it. The Leader of the Opposition, in stressing our need to concentrate more effectively on the physical movement of goods, has said something with which we all agree and which, I am sure, the Government will take into consideration. The policy of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) of expanding meat exports shows that it has already received consideration. Whatever is to be said in the course of this debate about food exports to Great
Britain, I hope that we refrain from bedevilling the public mind about the monetary grant, which gives the United Kingdom a claim on food that it will not have to pay for with exports.
.- I do not propose to reply direct to the attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), but I propose to prove that Australia can and ought to make a gift to the United Kingdom of, not merely £25,000,000 worth of its sterling balances in London, but also of £25,000,000 worth of food. Britain is desperately short of food and money to pay for its external debts. Britain is short of food because it generously divided what it had among the starving European nations. Its peace-time diet is lower than in the worst days of war. Britain is short of money because, with its dominions, it fought alone for a year for civilization. During the whole war it bought goods from other countries on a f.o.b. basis and shifted them mainly in its own ships. I regard this bill as a gesture of kinship, admiration, gratitude, goodwill and sympathy to our Mother Country. It is, as well, an act of selfpreservation to Australia, and of vital importance to the world. If Britain falls, the world and western civilization will go down into anarchy, and Australia with it. Britain will fall if it is not properly fed and nourished, and helped over its financial crisis. The cancelling of debts is like paying the doctor’s fee for treatment. Feeding Britain is keeping the patient alive until fully convalescent.
– It is more important.
– Yes. This measure raises the manner and degree to which Britain should be aided by Australia in this crisis. Help can be given in both finance and food. The double gift will help psychologically and physically. Quick action will double the actual worth of the gift. Australia can afford to forgo £25,000,000 of debts and provide £25,000,000 worth of food, which is, as the honorable member for Fremantle said, as good as an additional £25,000,000 o.ff the debt3, because it will save Britain’s purchase of food elsewhere.
I purpose examining why the position is so desperate in Britain, the steps necessary to save it, and what it the most substantial and practical contribution that Australia can make immediately and over the next two years, a period which is necessary for Britain’s complete restoration to bodily health. The immensity of Britain’s war effort, and the losses it sustained are seen in every way that the position is examined. It is worth placing on record, first, a comparison of the man-power that Britain and the British Empire had engaged in the war. The severity of fighting is determined by the number of casualties. The British Empire had, roughly, 1,300,000 casualties. The United States of America had 1,100,000 casualties. If the casualties of India are deducted, the United Kingdom and British dominions had casualties of 1,100,000 out of their population of 80,000,000, or practically the same number of casualties as America had with its population of 140,000,000. Britain, herself, with 45,000,000 people had a casualty list of 800,000, with 333,000 deaths. The United States of America had, out of its 140,000,000 people, a casualty list of 1,100,000, with 300,000 deaths.
The shipping effort of Great Britain was tremendous and, as with manpower, its losses were great. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Great Britain had 22,000,000 tons of shipping. During the war, it lost 18,500,000 tons, but rebuilt 15,250,000 tons, and to-day has approximately 16,000,000 tons. From those figures, honorable members will see that Great Britain has lost more than one quarter of its pre-war shipping fleet. The value of its exports declined from £471,000,000 in 1938 to £272,000,000 in 1945. Its gold and dollar reserves had dropped from £864,000.000 in August 1938, to £453,000,000 in June, 1945. During the same period its external liabilities increased from £476,000,000 to £3,355,000,000. The capital loss in its overseas financial position totalled £4,17S,000,000. This loss was made up of £1,118,000,000 from the realization of external capital assets during the war, and an increase of external liabilities of £2,S79,000,000.
That was not the only damage which Great Britain suffered. During the war, 4.000,000 houses were damaged, of this number 460,000 were totally destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. Estimated at current replacement costs, the total damage to property was £1,450,000,000. Much of the property destroyed consisted of industrial plants, which were the special objective of the enemy. Apart from the losses from actual destruction, the loss of industrial capacity, which had become less efficient and run down by the deliberate policy of deferring all but the most vital repair and maintenance work, was equivalent to an additional £SS5,000,000. Consequently, the United Kingdom lived by selling its external capital and permitting its internal capital to disappear. According to estimates, the total losses reach the following heights: - Physical destruction on land, £1,500,000,000; shipping, including cargoes, £700,000,000 ; internal and external capital losses, £5,100,000,000; making a total of £7,300,000,000. As the national wealth of Great Britain was estimated to be £30,000,000,000, this loss is roughly 25 per cent, of the total. This estimated loss omits any deterioration of private dwellings, reduction of household inventories and losses of private investment, for which no estimate can be given. During the conflict, war expenditure took 53 per cent, of the national income every year. The national debt more than trebled from £7,000,000,000 to over £23,000,000,000, whereas our national debt practically doubled from £1,295,000,000 to £2,794,000,000.
Having made those statements of Great Britain’s losses, I shall compare briefly the relative losses sustained by Australia. Honorable members will see that we fared much more favourably than did Great Britain. Our casualties totalled 100,000 for our population of more than 7,000,000. That would be equivalent to 650,000 casualties for a population of 45,000,000. Consequently, our casualties, proportionately, were only slightly less than Great Britain’s casualties, totalling 800,000. “We had our share in the fighting from the beginning to the end of the war, in respect of manpower, but not in other respects. Therefore, we should be prepared to give substantial aid to Great Britain in its hour of need. The number of houses in Australia which were rendered uninhabitable, or damaged in any way, as the result of enemy action was negligible compared with the figure of 4,000,000 houses damaged in Great Britain. Total damage to property in Australia was also negligible compared with the total damage to property in Great Britain, totalling £1,450,000,000. The Commonwealth War Damage Insurance Fund has a credit balance of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000.
The industrial capacity of Australia was greatly improved by our war effort. In fact, Australia made definite progress in technical equipment and the mechanization of industry. It is true that because of the shortage of man-power our roads and transport system have deteriorated, but not to a degree comparable with the physical destruction and loss that Great Britain suffered. “When Great Britain’s exports fell so disastrously, the value of Australia’s exports rose greatly because of rising prices due to war-time conditions, even though the volume of exports was not so great as in pre-war years. For example, our exports of butter declined from 120,000 tons to between 40,000 and 50,000 tons, but the price of the commodity increased. The price of wheat also rose. The value of our exports in 1946 was £196,000,000, compared with £122,000,000 in 1938. In addition, Australia benefited from the fact that many hundreds of thousands of American, British and Australian soldiers were located and spent much of their money within our borders.
This record of the damage to Britain, and the comparative escape of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, India and the other sterling creditors gives point to the statement of Dr. Dalton, the British Chancellor of the’ Exchequer, on the 8th May, 1947, when he said that the “mass of debts of Britain must be scaled down. These debts formed an unreal, unjust and insupportable burden.” He showed that of the £3,000,000,000 sterling debts, one-third was owing to India, £405,000,000 to Egypt and £225,000.000 to Australia. Most of this money was spent in assisting the defence of those countries. . Dr.
Dalton pointed out that this enormous war debt had accumulated, first, because Britain had put all its resources into waging and winning the war and, second, because most of Britain’s military effort was made far afield. He said that, at home, they had next to nothing to spare for exports, as almost everything was turned into war machines and fighting men.
Abroad, Great Britain,’ for a long time single banded, maintained arms in the field and built aerodromes, docks and barracks from Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, down the coast of Africa, (strategic points in the Indian Ocean to south-eastern Asia. All that work involved local expenditure which could not be met with either gold or exports. In safe-guarding many countries against invasion, Great Britain accumulated heavier debts. The value of Australia’s exports, however, instead of decreasing by two-thirds, as Great Britain’s did because of the nature of its war effort, increased by 50 per cent. Our total exports in 1938-39 were valued at £122,000,000 and in 1945-46 at £196,000,000 and our credits in London to-day are £A.225,000,000, compared with £A.40,000,000 to £A.50,000,000 at the beginning of the war. Obviously, Australia could afford to make a gift to Great Britain of at least £50,000,000, especially as Great Britain has paid Australia higher prices for nearly all our products. The fact is that Great Britain has paid more than it paid in 1938-39 for a much smaller total quantity of goods.
– Great Britain has also shipped those goods at its own risk.
– Yes, and paid higher prices f.o.b. for them. In 1942, without any request from Australia, Great Britain increased the price of wool by 2d. a lb. That is worth between’ £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 a year for every year since 1942, or a total of between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000 in the last four years. Britain voluntarily increased the price of butter, as the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) announced last December, by 4d. a lb. over a period of three years, and was willing to meet the subsidies that
Australia was paying to Australian producers for the purpose of maintaining the purchasing power of the basic wage. In addition, Great Britain paid high prices for our meat and voluntarily increased by 45 per cent, the price which it paid for Australian meat.
The food position of Great Britain is desperate. I have already pointed out the extraordinary heavy losses that that country has suffered, and the serious position regarding its external indebtedness. At the same time, Great Britain is paying unprecedentedly high prices for food. For example, it is paying to Denmark the unexampled price of 242s. sterling a cwt. for butter, which is equivalent to nearly 3s. Australian per lb. Great Britain has made a five-year agreement with Canada to purchase wheat at a minimum of 7s. 8d. and a maximum price of 9s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. Montreal. Great Britain is using its own ships to transport food to its people and to the people of starving Europe. About ten weeks ago, it made a contract with Argentina. for the purchase of 18,000,000 bushels of wheat at £A.l a bushel in order to feed its people. In July, 1946, it reduced the bread ration by 10 per cent. - it did not have to do that during the war. Great Britain is so desperately short of food that it pays these increased prices. The ration of bacon and ham has been reduced from the war-time quantity of 4 oz. to 2 oz. a week. The meat ration ha3 been reduced. Although Great Britain won the war, its people now have less food than they had during the war. We in Australia are relatively well off for food. Anybody with any moral sense, or any sympathy, or any real feelings for their kith and kin, would surely agree that we should do more, and should ask what more we can do, to help Britain in its present food crisis. According to the best medical advice that can he obtained, the first essential in the ultimate restoration of Great Britain is to ensure that the British people shall be better fed, with a more varied diet, for at least two years, until they can regain something approximating a normal physical condition. During that period the British people need, at the very least, lb. more meat per head weekly. They also need more eggs, bacon, sugar, fats, and especially butter. If shipment is at all possible, we should also send to Britain more fresh fruit, canned and dried fruit in order to provide a very necessary variety in diet and to relieve the monotonous diet on which the British people have had to subsist for nearly eight years. If we do what we should do in this regard we shall be able to restore the physical strength of the British people, so that they will be able to undertake the huge task of increasing their exports to a level which will enable them ultimately to meet their debts.
In my opinion, more will have to be done by America to assist in the unfreezing of sterling. I consider that America will be required to make available another £1,000,000,000 to help Britain through the present crisis, and to save the British people from perishing through starvation. If we assist Britain - and I refer not only to Australia, but also to America and other countries which have any capacity in this regard - it will ultimately be for our own good, for I have not the slightest doubt that Britain will soon regain its position as a great trading nation. I believe that this could occur within the next five years. Britain is capable, in my opinion, of again becoming, within that period, a great importing country and an exporter of special manufactures which other countries will require no matter how industrialized they may become. But we must first provide the means for strengthening the British people to resume their place in the world. We must provide all the butter and meat possible, and we must, by every means in our power, assure the British people of our desire to help them. If we make a generous gesture now I believe that other countries will follow our example. It is essential that Britain shall be provided with additional food immediately, and we should exert ourselves to maintain an increasing volume of supplies as time goes on.
We should not delay until prices can be arranged which may be regarded as quite satisfactory. What we need is an increase of production, and any measures that will stimulate production will be beneficial to both Great Britain and Australia. If by prompt action at present we can increase food supplies to Great Britain substantially in the next three months, six months, or nine months, it will be all to the good. An immediate improvement, even if small, combined with the assurance that the improved diet that will thus be possible will be progressive, will put new heart and body into the British people, who, although they won the war, have seen their diet steadily deteriorate.
I am glad that after the previous discussion of this subject in the House, the Government introduced a plan for improving food supplies from Australia. It is true that the Prime Minister stated that nothing very substantial could be done for some months, but when I urged the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to give a free hand to certain authorities in that department to take steps to improve the position, and he accepted my advice, the Australian Meat Board immediately came forward with a definite proposal. As a result ‘ of this, action was also taken in an organized way in hotels and cafes with the object of introducing one meatless day a week. I understand that as a result 3,500 tons of couponed meat have been made available to Great Britain and also about 1,200 tons of butter. It has been stated by persons associated with the meat trade that black-marketing operations in Australia arc responsible for the loss of from 80,000 to 100,000 tons of meat a year which otherwise might be exported to Great Britain. Something should be done as quickly as possible to remedy this state of affairs. I have previously shown by statistics that Australia could do more to provide essential food-stuffs for Britain, and I believe that the Australian Government could have given a better lead in this regard by direct governmental action. The diffusion of effort that must result from leaving any action in this regard on practically a voluntary basis, and- in so many different hands, will greatly limit, results. Quick and substantial results on the other hand, could be obtained from prompt governmental action and leadership. “We could at once substantially increase our exports of sugar to Great Britain if we would decrease the Australian ration by 2 oz. a week. That would still give us 14 oz. a week which is 6 oz. higher than the British ration, and this would result in from 30,000 to 40,000 tons more of sugar being made available to Britain. The advantage of making sugar available in this way is that it could be transported by tramp steamers, and there would be no need for refrigeration space. I urge the Government to consider carefully the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). If it is decided that better results could not be obtained from an open market in meat, our ration rate should be reduced so that more foodstuffs could be shipped to Britain. It is more important that we should increase our exports immediately than that we. should delay action in order to secure better prices. An increase of production is absolutely essential, and it would be good for the economy of this country.
I have made a case good, I believe, for financial and food aid for Britain without delay. What we have read in the newspapers about the terrible conditions that the British people have had to endure recently in consequence of blizzards, floods and the like, with the consequentloss of stock, and the flooding of farms, which has resulted in retarding cultivation for many months, should surely spur us on to strong efforts immediately. We need concerted government action, for the Government, by the adoption of a nationwide policy, could take control of the whole situation and increase our exports of food immediately. This would promptly improve the diet standard of the British people.
.- In the guise of supporting the second reading of this bill to make a monetary grant of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom in order to help in the adjustment of sterling balances, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has taken the opportunity to attack our meat rationing plan. While the right honorable gentleman was citing his figures, I made a few quick calculations, the result of which I shall place before honorable members. Taking the returns from the abattoirs as a basis, the right honorable gentleman said that our total meat production to cover coupon requirements plus an additional 1 lb. per head per week allegedly to supply the .black-market would provide only an extra 500,000 tons of meat for shipment for Britain. Even assuming that the right honorable gentleman’s submissions were correct, and that what he had to say in regard to the black market was also not open to question, such action would not provide say 50,000,000 people in the United Kingdom with an increase of as much as i lb. of meat a week.
– Would not that be worthwhile?
– I expected such an interjection. It will add force to the other statements that I intend to make. The fact is that on the figures which the Leader of the Opposition gave it would not help the British very much if the Australian people were to forgo the whole of their meat ration so that the meat could be exported to Britain. The Leader of the Opposition failed .to take into account the vital importance of transport in meeting the present situation, but even if transport difficulties could be overcome and that would be quite impossible, and if Australia surrendered the whole of its meat, the British consumers would benefit very little indeed.
This leaves out of account, also, any consideration of the question whether Britain desires Australia to take action of this kind and whether the British authorities would not desire to obtain meat from Argentina, because of its closer proximity to the British market. Even though the Australian people were to surrender the whole of their meat ration, the British people could not benefit fully, for many of the cuts which aye used in Australian households are not suitable for export, as they are of a poor quality compared with the meat that is usually carried abroad in the refrigeration space that is available.
The attack of the Leader of the Opposition on the Government in connexion with this bill was extremely ill advised. The right honorable gentleman’s case has no real merit. The British Government should surely be left free to determine how best it can use the grant of £25,000,000 which this Government is making. The money will absolve the United Kingdom from the necessity to pay for imports of that value from Australia. The British Government may be relied upon to judge how the money can most wisely be expended. Everyone knows that in the process of international trade imports are paid for by exports, but the making of this grant will enable the United Kingdom Government to divert £25,000,000 for exports to non-sterling countries, and the grant will thereby serve a double purpose. It has permitted the United Kingdom Government to say how the amount shall be expended on what is most needed, and has enabled it to transfer exports to non-sterling countries and thus build up badly-needed credits. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said that Great Britain is short of money, and that the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to assist it. Every one must have read only yesterday that the national debt of Great Britain has been reduced by £139,000,000 in the last week. That, statement was published on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr. Dalton, and gives the lie direct to the statements of the right honorable member for Cowper. Recently I was in the British colony of Hong Kong. There, Australian meat was being served to those who could afford to pay for it. That meat had been allocated .to the colony at the direction of the British Ministry of Food. If Great Britain really wanted more meat than it was receiving from this country it could have diverted a large quantity of that which was going to Hong Kong because it was being eaten not by British people, but by Chinese merchants, who could afford to pay the high prices that were ruling for meatmeals, and who could consume as much as they wished, because there is no rationing of meat in Hong Kong. That further illustrates the totally unwarranted nature of the attack by the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with meat planning. The real problem which Great Britain will have to face is that which will commence to be felt after the 15th July. when, under the arrangements that were made with the Government of the United States of America, all sterling balances in Great Britain will have to be convertible into dollars. I should not imagine, nor should any otherhonorable member, that the problems of Great Britain in respect of the feeding of the community, or of stabilizing and again balancing its economies, will be resolved by a gift of £25,000,000, or even of £125,000,000, from this country. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) correctly stated that the only solution of Great Britain’s problem in the present circumstances of global economy is that which will have to be applied by the United States of America. Even if we were to make available to the United Kingdom the whole of the nonsterling credits created by the export from this country of our primary and other products to the United States of America and other hard currency countries, that would cause the merest flutter in helping to right the British economy. Whilst I, and, I believe, most, if not all, other Government supporters consider that this bill, which provides for the transfer of £25,000,000 worth of credits, should be the forerunner of others, as far as this country is able to make gifts within its national economy, no one should be misled into believing that whatever is done in that connexion can constitute more than a dominion gesture. To say to the contrary is to ignore the facts of the situation. The Government is to be commended upon having taken this action. It has inspired the dominion of New Zealand to follow suit. I should like not only that the Government should make a further contribution of this sort to the United Kingdom, but also that the other dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations would emulate it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Board of Missions.
Australian Conference Union of Seventh Day Adventists.
Bamu River Mission.
Catholic Mission of the Divine Word.
Catholic Mission of the Holy Ghost.
Catholic Mission of the Sacred Heart.
Catholic Mission, Samarai.
Catholic Mission, Yule Island.
London Missionary Society.
Lutheran Mission, Finschhafen, Inc.
Lutheran Mission, Madang, Inc.
Methodist Overseas Mission (New Britain).
Methodist Overseas Mission (Papua).
Methodist Overseas Mission (New Zealand) .
New Guinea Mission of Lutheran Church of Australia.
Overseas Chinese Association.
Unevangelized Field Mission.
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 Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
2, 3 and 4 -
l asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What rate of interest is being earned by the millions of pounds of wheat-growers’ money being held by the Government under authority of the Wheat Tax Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Wheat Prices Stabilization Trust Account has been credited with £5,500,000 received from the Australian Wheat Board. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1940, provides for the investment of the funds and accordingly the fund has been invested in Commonwealth short-term securities maturing on 15th April, 1949, bearing interest at 2 per cent, per annum.
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tasmanian Shipping Services.
n. - On the 21st May, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the steamship service to Tasmania. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The Commonwealth Government has under consideration the general question of future shipping policy including proposals to establish a Commonwealth Shipping Line. The matter is still under consideration, however, and until final decisions on a number of points have been made no announcement on this matter can be made.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With respect to each of the following (o) Mr. F. Riley, secretary, Manufacturing Grocers Union. Melbourne; (&) Mr. D. Lovegrove, secretary, Fibrous Plasterers Union, Melbourne; (c) Mr. Nat. Roberts, organizer of the Engineers Union, Melbourne, and (d) Mr. P. L. Coleman, M.L.C., of Victoria, will he inform the House (i) if each of these men was at any time employed by the Commonwealth, (ii) if so, what was the nature of his duties, (iii) when were the respective appointments made, (iv) what salary and/or allowances have been paid to each, and (v) are they still in Government employ, or when did they cease to be so employed?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tasmanian Shipping Services.
n. - On the 16th May, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) asked a question concerning the shipment of wool from Launceston, Tasmania. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
In view of the demand for the shipmentof high priority cargoes such as building materials, coupled with the general pressure on shipping, it is not possible for the Australian Shipping Board to make a special allotment of tonnage for the lifting of wool from Tasmania. However, an equitable space allocation for wool will be made from time to time in the regular vessels assigned to sail from Launceston.
Defence : Technicians.
n. - On the 15th May, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked a question concerning the sending of technicians abroad to gain experience in defence industries. The
Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information: -
The practice of sending technicians abroad to study defence industries is the current policy of my department. It has been followed for some years and several officers are at present studying technical developments in England.
Broadcasting : Parliamentary Proceedings.
l. - On the 20th May, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked the following question: -
I have received by letter complaints from broadcast listeners in Tasmania and Victoria that the debates in this Parliament are broadeast over only one national station in each State; in many localities reception from that station is poor. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to give consideration to having broadcasts made from alternate stations in alternate weeks or to investigate other methods of widening the broadcast in order that people in the outback areas may listen to the debates.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The existing practice of limiting broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings to one national station in each capital city and in Newcastle is in conformity with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act. The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings has considered on several occasions the desirability of extending the range of the broadcasts, and it recently passed a resolution recommending that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting should be requested to inquire into the possibility of extending the transmission of the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings to listeners not encompassed within the service areas of the seven National stations at present used for the parliamentary broadcast. In accordance with the wishes of the Joint Committee, the matter was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the 24th April, 1947, for consideration and report to Parliament. No doubt, the Standing Committee will examine the matter thoroughly in the near future.
Lake Macquarie Soldiers’’ Convalescent home.
– On the 2nd May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me whether I would consider the question of making available the German V2 rocket for exhibition purposes to assist an appeal for funds to build the Lake Macquarie soldiers’ convalescent home. I have had the matter examined as I promised the honorable member and find that, as stated in my reply on the 2nd May, I cannot agree to the request. The provision of a guard would be necessary to prevent the theft of removable parts. Other war exhibits which have gone on tour have suffered severely from the depredations of souvenir hunters. The guard previously provided carried with the rocket a fence which could be erected around it to prevent interference. The provision of a guard and transport would entail substantial expenditure, more especially as I stated previously, if this application be granted, it must be expected that there will be many other applications from all parts of Australia which could hardly be refused once a precedent has been created.
Food for Britain.
y. - In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on the 8th May concerning delays to vessels loading food for Britain, I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and he has furnished me with the following replies to the question raised by the honorable member: -
y. - On the 9 th May, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me whether I would bring to the notice of those concerned the claims of the State of Queensland to participate in the visit of the American Task Force. The honorable the Premier of Queensland has now been informed that advice has been received from the United States Naval Attache that the Commander of the Task Force has arranged for two destroyers, Moale and Walke, to visit Brisbane from the 23rd May to the 28th May.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470522_reps_18_192/>.