18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Petrol - Import Restrictions - Newsprint - Motor VEHICLES
– In connexion with steps being taken to restrict imports from dollar countries, is the Prime Minister in a position to furnish the percentages of petrol imported respectively from dollar and non-dollar sources? Is it not possible to secure Australia’s petrol requirements entirely from non-dollar areas? ls it a fact that the cost of certain supplies of petrol obtained from non-dollar sources is being debited against our share of the dollar pool?
– It is necessary to understand the position in regard to the supply of petrol from Empire sources in order to appreciate what occurs when Australia restricts consumption. It is true that figures indicate that the bulk of Australia’s petrol supplies come from. the sterling area. However, approximately 60 per cent, of the United Kingdom’s petrol supplies come from the dollar area. We must take into consideration the supply of petrol for the whole of the British Empire. Australia obtains most of its petrol requirements from the sterling area, and the United Kingdom obtains the bulk of its supplies from the dollar area; but any general saving in petrol consumption benefits the whole dollar pool throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations. When Australia reduces its petrol consumption it confers a direct overall benefit on thegeneral dollar pool. So that I shall not occupy the time of the House by explaining the position at great lengthy, because I know that it can be easily misunderstood, I shall prepare a statement showing the actual position.
– According toreports from London, which are published in to-day’s press, Reuters financialeditor writes -
The indication by the Australian PrimeMinister that there is some new grave turn in the dollar crisis is mystifying. The report proceeds to refer to thestrengthening rather than the weakening,, of sterling against the dollar, and adds-
At the same time, authorities throughout the sterling area have become more disturbed’ than ever about the dollar position. They obviously have been told something alarming.
In view of the latest announcement of the drastic reductions of imports from dollar areas is the Prime Minister in a position to supply to the House any information that will throw light on the mystifying or alarming factors referred to in the London reports?
– There is nothing mystifying about the position. I offered to supply to the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, a statement for their personal information, because it was a confidentialdocument from the British Treasury,, showing how the dollars that had been borrowed under the Anglo-American loan agreement had been expended. That would be somewhat out of date. No new factors have arisen, except that the availability of dollars has steadily deteriorated. I have not seen the statements that the honorable gentleman refers to as having been published in the London press, but I know the position. A special committee has been set up in London by the Government of the United Kingdom to watch it closely. Australia, and, I assume, the other dominions, will, at the invitation of the Government of the United Kingdom, be represented on that committee. I am endeavouring to carry out my promise to the honorable member for Warringah to table a statement on the matter before the House rises next week.
– The right honorable gentleman promised me a statement yesterday.
– Delay has occurred, not because I am anxious not to provide the statement, but because I desire to provide up-to-date and exact information. I have not been responsible for any alarmist statements. There is nothing mystifying About the position. It has deteriorated and the prospects are bad up to the middle of 1948.
– Is the Prime Minister a-ware that yesterday’s Sydney Sun consisted of 44 pages and that each copy weighed 5 oz. ? Did the edition that reached Canberra contain fifteen full-page and many half and more than half -page advertisements of unessential merchandise, with other pages filled with overwritten social notes and syndicated matter? Did the same newspaper on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday publish issues of not less than 28 pages? Will the Prime Minister, in view of the dollar shortage, arrange for a steeper reduction to be made of the newsprint available to the Sydney Sim? Will he also ascertain whether the Post and Telegraph Act has been breached hy the publishing of a higher ratio of advertisements to news than is permitted ?
– The importation of newsprint from Canada, a dollar area, has been the subject of consultation between the representatives of the newspaper industry and myself on a number of occasions. I put the position to the representatives of the proprietors of the newspapers in the Australian Newspapers Proprietors Association and the newspapers independent of that association, and they at once agreed, although, no doubt, reluctantly, to a 30 per cent, reduction of imported newsprint. I will not go into details of the way in which the reduction will be effected. Some newsprint is on its way to Australia. When the situation grew worse, I again communicated with the newspaper proprietors, and they agreed unanimously to accept a further cut of 10 per cent. One of my officers conferred with the representatives of the Australian Newspapers Proprietors Association yesterday, and I will see its president on Monday to discuss further dollar savings on imported newsprint. Apart altogether from the matter of advertising and propaganda in the newspapers, I am disturbed by the employment aspect. The newspapers employ many people - journalists, printers and the like - and the Government is most anxious to avoid any disruption of industry, particularly in respect of employment. There have been grave differences between the newspaper proprietors on the subject of newsprint restrictions. Wide differences of opinion are held by them and the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself in regard to the proper distribution of such newsprint as is available. The news-paper proprietors, however, have co-operated with the Government in regard to the extent of the proposed restrictions. I pay a tribute to them for that co-operation, though I have no special reason to pay tribute to them on matters generally. How such newsprint as is allocated to the various newspapers is utilized, whether for the printing of editorial or advertising matter, is entirely a matter for the proprietors themselves. I do not propose to interfere with that. All I am concerned about is the quantity of newsprint imported for which dollars have to be provided. Discussions with the newspaper proprietors are still proceeding.
– In reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister indicated that, for the year ended the 30th June, 1947, the dollar deficiency amounted to £31,600,000. That, amount included £6,000,000 representing the final payment due under the lendlease agreement, but no credit was allowed for the £10,000,000 representing the value of our gold production made available to the dollar pool. .Subsequent to that date, import- restrictions were imposed by the Government which were calculated to result in a saving of £18,000,000, or approximately 60,000,000 dollars. An announcement has now been made in the press that dollar imports have been reduced ‘by approximately £29,000,000. Is it a fact that the recent restrictions announced by the Government are calculated to result in a saving in dollars representing £A.29,000,000? If so, will the Prime Minister, in the statement which he is preparing for the information of the House, reconcile the various figures given, namely, those relating to the dollar deficiency for the year ended the 30th June, 1.947, the savings in dollars since that date,, and the reductions now to be made which approximate’ almost the total of our deficiency for the year ended the 30th June, 1947?
– I can easily understand that the figures appear to be confusing. The first reductions were intended to save between 35,000,000 and 40,000,000 dollars. There was an accumulation of requests for import licences for what were regarded as essential materials, capital equipment, and so on, and on that basis the licences were issued. A complete review s’howed that, despite the original reduction, import licences for what were regarded as essential goods still represented a very much greater figure than that for last year, and there had been an overall increase of the quantity of dollar roods which it was proposed to purchase. l t; was necessary, therefore, to review the position, and reduce the gap between our Hollar earnings and our dollar expenditure, so as to reduce the amount of dollars which it would be necessary to ask the United Kingdom to sell us. I will have a statement prepared setting “lit the position as clearly as possible.
– In view of the reductions proposed to be made in imports of petrol and motor chassis, particularly trucks, and the detrimental effect that they are likely to have on primary production, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will examine the whole subject to see whether the quantity of petro] proposed to be admitted will be sufficient to enable our primary industries to be maintained, for many of these industries have been mechanized of late years’. Could: arrangements be- made with the companies concerned which are represented in Australia, or their subsidiary companies, to defer payments for oil, motor chassis and the like? During the last four or five years our primary industries have been conducted on a much more highly mechanized ‘basis than formerly, and a disturbance in the distribution of petrol in respect of them may have serious results.
– I shall examine- the question raised by the right honorable member. The figures that have been given in press reports are not figures that have been fixed by me; they are figures that have been suggested by me, on behalf of the Government, to the various industries concerned. The comments of those who will be affected have ‘been invited. A final decision will not be made, apart from the -cancellation of certain import licences, until next Monday week, when Cabinet will consider the subject after having been informed of the views of the industries which will be materially affected by the suggested reductions. The figures referred to have been suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself as appropriate for consideration. It is evident that some reductions will be necessary. “We are giving attention to the particular question the right honorable member has asked regarding motor chassis and motor vehicles used for primary production. I understand that a special committee associated with thetrade is also examining the subject.
Sales to India
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Dominion of India has offered to buy 35,000,000 bushels of this season’s Australian wheat, and are negotiations proceeding? What price has India* offered’ for the wheat, and what price is Australia asking for it? Has India asked for a long-term agreement for the purchase of Australian wheat in the future?’ Will the Minister ask India to pay im dollars for any wheat sold to that country, in view of the precedent which hasbeen created in regard to the sale of petrol, obtained from sterling areas?” Will the Minister undertake that, before- any long- term arrangement is concluded for the sale of wheat, the terms and price will be submitted to the Parliament for its approval?
– Negotiations are proceeding with representatives of the Dominion of India in respect of wheat supplies. The questions of price and quantity have not yet been determined.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he had made representations to the Government of Canada in connexion with the cancellation of large contracts with Brisbane pineapple canning firms. In order to allay any fears in the Queensland pineapple industry caused by publicity in the press, will the Minister indicate the nature of the representations that he has made to the Government of Canada?
– As I said yesterday, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has communicated with the Government of Canada, through its officers in that Dominion. As soon as we are informed of the result of these representations I shall inform honorable members who are interested in the matter.
Mr. WHITE. An evening newspaper yesterday published a report under the heading, “ Cut-price War in Air Fares “, stating that the general manager of Trans- Australia Airlines, Mr. L. J. Brain, had said that it would be the continuing policy of Trans- Australia Airlines to charge the lowest fares charged by any operator between any two points. In view of the Government’s recent request to airline companies to raise their fares, will the Minister for Air state whether that is the policy authorized by him? Will he announce when the promised financial statement on the first year’s trading operations of Trans-Australia Airlines will be available? Will it be submitted to the House before the commencement of the dis cussions that are pending on the establishment of new intra-state airlines?
– The honorable member is quite mistaken in suggesting that any of the airline companies proposed to raise fares at the request of the Government. He should be correct in these matters. The fact is that a conference was called at the request of the operators to discuss whether or not an increase of fares was necessary. At that conference it was unanimously agreed that fares should be increased. Later some reservations were indicated by one operator, who claimed the right to conduct services at cheaper fares. A statement has been made on that position, which therefore ought to be clear to the honorable member. He should know that the Australian National Airlines Commission, under which TransAustralia Airlines operates, is an independent body which decides its own policy. I agree that Trans-Australia Airlines should supply the cheapest possible service to the general public, and I hope that it will be able to continue its policy in that connexion in future.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government has given any consideration to the establishment of an air service from Melbourne to Christchurch, New Zealand, via Launceston or Hobart? Has any private airline firm yet approached the Department of Civil Aviation to open negotiations in relation to such a service?
-No application has been made for a service such as that, mentioned by the honorable member, although I have read something about it in the press. Like many other statements that appear in the press in regard to civil aviation from day to day, there was no foundation for it, as far as I am aware. If such an application is made, it will receive full consideration. I rather deplore the propaganda that is waged on these matters prior to the submission of an application to the department.
Research Activities - Prefabricated Houses - War Service Homes
– I understand that there is associated with the Department of Works and Housing a research section which is concerned about the construction of various types of houses. I ask the Minister for Works and Housing to ascertain whether examples of the types of prefabricated houses that are available could be erected in Tasmania for inspection, with the idea of their provision for Tasmanian residents. I also ask the honorable gentleman whether he will give a high priority to doctors and dentists, who require homes in order to begin practice in suburban and country districts, so that they may be able, as soon as possible, to make their services available to the public?
– It would be possible to have models of prefabricated houses displayed in Tasmania; but I suggest to the honorable member that probably the concrete prefabricated type would be more suitable in that State seeing that adequate supplies of cement are available. No great advantage would be derived by sending a Beaufort home to Tasmania at present, because supplies of steel are such that we could not increase the construction programme. Indeed, we are experiencing difficulty in maintaining our schedule. However, I shall give immediate consideration to the advisability of having a Fowler house sent to Tasmania for demonstration purposes. The honorable member requested the allocation of homes for doctors and dentists. Unless they are exservicemen and eligible under the provisions of the act, the allocation of houses erected in a State is entirely a matter for that State.
– I have been approached by the secretary of the South Australian Tuberculosis Association, who told me of the deplorable housing conditions endured by the families of some exservicemen. When the war service homes production plan is in full operation in South Australia, will the Minister for Works and Housing give a high priority to families of tubercular ex-servicemen?
– If a tubercular exserviceman desires to take advantage of the War Services Homes Act, he already has the right to be treated as a special case, and may receive a loan for the building of a house under special advance or may obtain a house under the rent purchase system. Pre viously, houses were allotted strictly in the order of application, but six months ago, a system of priorities was introduced. Tubercular cases are now in the same category as blinded soldiers, double amputees, neurotic cases, and cases in which medical officers of the Repatriation Commission advise that the provision of the house is desirable, having regard to the health of the applicant. Therefore, it is not necessary for tubercular exservicemen to wait for the completion of group construction plans. However, plans have been prepared for the construction of a small group of houses in South Australia, and tenders will be called within the next month for another group. It is expected that, by February next, three separate groups, totalling 158 houses, will be under construction, in addition to single houses which are being built in different localities.
– Has the Prime Minister read a report by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, that coal shipments to that State are falling far below the level promised by the Australian Government? Is it a fact that, whereas 52,000 tons of coal were promised to Victoria for the current week, the cancellation of two of the promised ships and the short loading of a third will reduce the quantity actually sent to 36,000 tons? Will the Prime Minister take action to increase the weekly shipments in order to avert another fuel crisis in Victoria this Christmas?
– I have already furnished several replies to statements made regarding shipments of coal to Victoria. I make it clear that the Australian Government indicated that it desired an average of up to 35,000 tons a week sent to that State. The Minister for Supply and Shipping said that he would endeavour to maintain that rate of supply, not in any one week, but as an average, and, if possible, build up stocks to carry over the Christmas period. I have already pointed out that the quantities of coal which arrive in Victoria are subject to fluctuation. One week, the quantity may be 22,000 tons, and another week 42,000 tons, but on an average, any promises, so far as it is possible to make promises, have been kept. I spoke to the Minister for Supply and Shipping after the honorable member for Deakin asked me a question earlier this week about coal supplies for Victoria, and I understand that, despite statements to the contrary, the shipment of coal to that State was proceeding very satisfactorily and in accordance with assurances which we gave as to the amount that we would be able to provide. I am already having a reply prepared in answer to questions relating to this subject, and I shall supply a copy of it to the honorable member for Flinders.
– The Swan Hill branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has a distress account which is registered with the Victorian Patriotic Funds Council. As the Minister for Repatriation is doubtless aware, a distress fund is not publicly subscribed to, but is established by each branch of the organization in order to meet its domestic requirements. Does the Minister propose to bring within the scope of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1947 which deals with patriotic funds, and which this House considered earlier in the week, distress accounts registered compulsorily under the Victorian Patriotic Funds Council?
– The whole matter of patriotic funds will be discussed at a conference between the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and myself in the near future, and a line will be drawn between the funds over which the organization has complete control, and those which come within the category of patriotic funds. These matters will be straightened out in due course, and I do not consider that the organization has any cause to feel apprehensive in this connexion.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to reports in a recent issue of Smith’s Weekly that American wholesale magazine agencies are again looking to Aus tralia as a dumping ground for surplus sex periodicals? Is it a fact that the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations are our only protection against these unnecessary and unsavoury magazines? If so, in view of the importance of conserving dollars and also of keeping this class of rubbish ‘ out of Australia, will the Prime Minister have the position investigated, and make a statement to the House next week?
– Yesterday, the Minister for Trade and Customs and I received a deputation, which the honorable member for Martin and the honorable member for Parkes introduced, in connexion with this matter. Both honorable members are concerned at the importation of various types of American periodicals and comic strips. The Minister for Trade and Customs is now examining the whole field of importations from the United States of America, and the importation of these magazines, in common with other matters, will be considered next Monday week.
– Last Wednesday, in answer to a question which I had asked, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Auditor-General were investigating suspected leakages of petrol tickets. Have those investigations been completed? If so, what did they reveal ? Will any action be taken as the result of the investigations?
– I have received from, the Auditor-General an interim report relating to his investigations. The document is largely explanatory, and deals with the administrative machinery. I believe that I am to receive a further report on the subject. I have also received from the Commonwealth Investigation Service an interim report regarding what is apparently the loss of some petrol tickets. What the number is, I cannot say, but some tickets appear to have been lost. The investigations have not yet been completed, but the Ministers concerned have issued instructions to their departments for tightening up the whole position. The strictest check will be kept from the point when the tickets come from the Note Issue Department until they reach the consumer. In reply to earlier questions, I explained the safeguards applying to consumers. The honorable member may rest assured that the most stringent measures have been taken-
– If a leakage of petrol tickets is proved, will the Prime Minister take any action ?
– Does the honorable gentleman ask whether the Government will take action against a person who has apparently committed a breach of the regulations ?
– Yes, will the Government prosecute such a person ?
– Yes, if we have proof.
– As chairman, I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk and - by leave - adopted.
– by leave - No one in this country will dispute the fact that of all the nations in the British Commonwealth, none needs an increase of population more vitally or more immediately than does the Commonwealth of Australia. It is therefore with deep pleasure that I am able to inform honorable members that, when this current year - the first full year of large-scale, planned immigration - has run its course, Australia will have received 30,000 permanent arrivals. And this in spite of the desperate post-war shipping shortage, which is afflicting Great Britain so grievously, which all nations suffer in common and which is one of the main obstacles to the achievement of our target figure of 70,000 immigrants a year. These 30,000 new arrivals represent all three of the three main streams of immigrants - British, American and European - on which Australia must rely for the new life blood it so urgently needs. They are but the vanguard of the hundreds of thousands, and ultimately the millions, of new citizens who will help push back our frontiers, expand our industries, bring more and more of our virgin soil into production and build us into a powerful nation, secure in our peaceloving way of life.
The progress made in our immigration plans during the current year, in the face of all the difficulties inherent in a world that is still convalescing after the severe illness of a total war, is indeed heartening to me and to my officers, as it must be to all honorable members. But when we turn our attention to that most vital of all factors in population-building - the natural increase of native-born Australians, the picture is far less heartening. In fact, it is grimly disappointing. Preliminary results of the census of June, last, show that the increase of our population from 1933 to 1947 amounted to only 14.34 per cent., compared with an increase of 21.97 per cent. during the shorter interval between the census of 1921 and the census of 1933. The annual rate of increase of the population in Australia during the present century has averaged 1.52 per cent., but results from year to year have deviated widely from this figure. Since the census of 1933. the rate has fallen to the alarmingly low level of 0.96 per cent. per annum. This gravely disturbing decline of the nation’s natural reproduction rate is the direct result of the lowbirth-rate of the depression years, whose bitter harvest we are still reaping. Those years of misery and want cost Australia many thousands of children who would to-day be approaching the marriageable age groups, on whose fecundity the nation’s strength and security should largely depend. The Commonwealth Statistician estimates that in the year 1940, Australia had 644,100 boys and girls in the fifteen to nineteen year-old age groups. Four years hence, in 1951, this total will have fallen to 516,400- a loss of 127,700 young Australians who could have made so great a contribution to their country’s future.
What is the significance of these tragic figures? Their significance is that the population of this vital, pulsating young country is slowly but inexorably moving into the upper age groups - that Australia, although only 160 years old, is becoming senescent in the midst of a world demanding the swift adaptations and vigour of youth. I paint the picture in sombre hues to give emphasis, if emphasis be needed, to the crucial importance, of a. policy of planned immigration to supplement 0111 8 -too-meagre rate of natural increase.
It was with a fail! appreciation of our desperate population problem that I went abroad earlier this year to devote all my energies- to overcoming those obstacles which are still retarding, the full-scale inflow into this country of the new citizens we need to fill in the gaps in our national family which the depression years and two world wars- have caused. And while abroad, I saw at first hand some of the magnificent human material which we are now gaining, and will contin me to gain at on- ever-increasing’ ra-te from those three main streams of immigration immigration from the United Kingdom, from the United States of America’ and from certain -parts of wartorn Europe. I propose to deal with each of these three phases of immigration separately.
Let us first review British migration. In the United Kingdom to-day there are over 400,000” people who are anxious to settle in Australia, Of the 30,000 permanent new arrivals we shall have gained by the end of this year, the vast majority will be from the United Kingdom. It has- been said by defeatists, both in Australia and the United Kingdom, that Britain, cannot afford to let us have migrants because of its own man-power shortages-. The best-informed opinion in the United Kingdom does not share that view. A typical summing up of the United Kingdom attitude was given by the Right’ Honorable Alfred Barnes, M.P., Minister of Transport in the British Government. Speaking as chairman at. a) meeting, of the Empire Parliamentary Association, at which I was guest- speaker in England, he said -
It is a’ short-sighted’ view’ for people in this country to take up- thai- we cannot spare man- -power in the’ shape of emigrants to Australia at the present moment.
Mr. Barnes concluded, by saying ;
We must” not’ allow short-term’ difficulties to- obscure a long-term problem1.
It is not a healthy condition to have an over-populated Britain and underpopulated dominions, and conversely it is mutually beneficial to have all the Dominions of the British Commonwealth increasing in strength from year to year. Britain therefore must help Australia so that Australia can help Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations. That the United Kingdom realizes this is apparent from the fact that a mutual agreement reached between the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom for a free and assisted passages scheme began to operate from the 31st March, last. The flow of British migrants Since then has been limited only by the volume of shipping available to transport them. I do hope that the United Kingdom authorities will understand our need as we press for more and more ships to carry more and more people to this country. “We have no wish to embarrass the United Kingdom Government by seeking large numbers of specialists who are in short supply. Australia’s man-power requirements cover such a wide range in every field of primary, secondary and tertiary industry that we are not obliged to seek workers for” only a few particular occupations. We can, therefore, readily absorb a crosssection of British people without detriment to Britain’s economic structure but with material advantage to both countries. We ha’ve always b’een prepared to accept this fair crOss-s’ection.
Some people fear” that the advent of British migrants will accentuate our already difficult housing situation. I would’ like to allay those fears by repeating’ the’ facts I gave to the House on the 22nd November, 1946, about the system of priorities for migrants’ passages which was approved by the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August; 19’46.
– I rise to order. I think the Minister was- given leave to make a short statement. The statement consists of 25 foolsca’p pages of typescript and it will occupy till- midday. The’ House would be served better if the statement were laid on the table: Honorable memberscould then1 debate conditions in New Guinea- on the formal adjournment motion to be- moved-.
– When the House gives leave for the making of a statement no time limit is imposed.
– The Minister said that it would be a short statement.
-The Chair will not set itself up to decide whether a statement is long or short
– It was a trick.
– I meant that the Minister, not you, Mr. Speaker, had tricked us.
– I asked for leave to make a, statement on “ Immigration - Government Policy “.
– The Minister told us that it would be a short statement.
– I told the Australian Country Party Whip (Mr. Corser) and the Acting Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Earle Page) that if I were not given leave, I had the numbers to suspend Standing Orders. I left them with no doubt that I intended to make the statement.
– The Minister may rest assured that he will not be given leave next time.
– The need for intending migrants to have assured accommodation in this country before leaving Britain was the basis of the highest priority; categories. There are fourteen priority categories, the first three of which are - (i) nominated migrants who can be accommodated by their nominators and are classed as essential workers for Australian industry; (ii) nominated migrants who can be accommodated by their nominators and can ‘be readily employed; (iii) children for existing child migration organizations which have accommodation available for them, for example, farm schools.
It is expected that sufficient migrants will be obtained in the first priority groups to fill all migrant shipping space available for some time to come. Another class of migrants obtaining preference are those engaged in the building trade and the production of materials for that trade. These migrants will greatly assist in relieving the housing shortage; they will not accentuate it. The priority categories also provide that, in the early stages of the British migration scheme, preference will be given to single persons over family units within each category, solely because of transport and accommodation difficulties in relation to family units.
Under the free and assisted passage schemes, many skilled workers have arrived from the United Kingdom to take their place in undermanned industries. I am very pleased to say that child and youth migration from the United Kingdom has been resumed through organizations such as the Fairbridge Farm Schools, Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, the Big Brother Movement, New South Wales, and different religious denominations. In addition to those who are introduced under the free and assisted passage schemes, there is another class of British migrant - those who wish to settle here without any government financial assistance. They represent a considerable body of people and may be expected to arrive in increasing numbers as the shipping situation improves. By arrangement with the United Kingdom authorities and the shipping companies, Australia House obtains a proportion of berths, in addition to migrant berths, on each passenger vessel proceeding to Australia. So that these berths may be allocated to the best advantage in obtaining the key personnel and specialists we most need, committees have been set up in each State, comprising representatives of the .State immigration authority, the Department of Labour and National Service (Commonwealth Employment Service), the Secondary Industries Division of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction and the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. Every application for sponsorship for a priority passage for these key personnel and specialists is examined by the committee concerned, and upon the committee’s recommendation Australia House is asked to sponsor the application. I want to make it clear that the fares of these migrants are paid either by the migrants themselves or by the firms introducing them. The function of the Commonwealth is to obtain priority of passage for them over other full-paying passengers whose early arrival is less necessary from an industrial standpoint.
As I remarked earlier, the only limitation on the number of British migrants who can be settled in Australia is tha shipping capacity available to lift them. Passenger snipping is still in desperately short supply throughout the world. Not only the United Kingdom, but also every allied country suffered tremendous shipping losses from enemy action. These ships cannot be replaced quickly. Moreover, many of the vessels still afloat must be used for meeting commitments in different unsettled areas in the world where occupation forces have to be maintained and supplied and eventually repatriated. Australia is not the only member of the British Commonwealth suffering from lack of overseas shipping for civilian purposes. The shortage is affecting all Empire countries and most foreign nations as well.
The Government realizes that the provision of shipping is the key to our immigration plans and has examined every possibility of obtaining additional transport for British migrants. During my recent visit overseas, I concentrated on this problem. The results will he demonstrated in 1948 when the migrant lift will be substantially greater than has been possible in 1947. I shall describe in some detail and under eight headings the efforts which have been made to secure special shipping, additional to that which will be on the normal United KingdomAustralia run.
First, the United Kingdom authorities agreed to my request to make available Asturias for two migrant voyages to Australia. This ship has a total capacity of approximately 1,750 in cabin and troop deck accommodation. The arrangement with the United Kingdom authorities provided for the vessel to terminate her voyage at Fremantle to enable a quick turnabout. I agreed to the United Kingdom’s request that troop deck berths should be provided on each voyage for 280 Polish ex-servicemen who will be employed with the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission, and for 100 Maltese fullpaying passengers on the second voyage. All other accommodation on the ship has been allotted to British migrants. Asturias arrived at Fremantle on her first voyage in September, and is due here again early in December with another full complement of migrants. Negotiations are now proceeding with the United Kingdom authorities for the vessel to be made available for third and fourth voyages in January and March, 1948, on the same conditions as applied to the first two voyages.
Secondly, the Admiralty has agreed to make available the aircraft carrier Victorious., which could carry 1,000 migrants and make four trips a year, provided that the Commonwealth Government supplies the crew. Unfortunately, the personnel resources of the Royal Australian Navy preclude this. Negotiations are being continued through the Australian High Commissioner, London, with the United Kingdom authorities, on the basis that the Commonwealth Government will agree to a limited number of berths being allotted to Polish ex-servicemen from the United Kingdom and to Maltese, provided the nil-craft carrier is manned by the United Kingdom. If a solution of the manningproblem can be found - and a number of proposals are under consideration - the aircraft carrier should be available for migrant carrying at an early date.
Thirdly, negotiations were reaching the final stage earlier this year to charter the 45,000 ton Cunard liner Aquitania for a period of two years, for the exclusive carriage of migrants to the Commonwealth. They had to be terminated because the United Kingdom Government wished to retain the ship to meet any event of emergency, and also because of the cost likely to be involved. Aquitania is capable of carrying a minimum of 2.000 migrants a voyage and completing four voyages a. year. In London, I discussed with representatives of the United Kingdom Government and the Cunard line the possibilities of obtaining Aquitania. As a result negotiations have been re-opened with the British Ministers concerned on the basis of the Common.wealth Government meeting the expenditure involved in operating the vessel, less the amount which the United Kingdom Government would normally contribute to the cost of free and assisted passages for migrants. The round voyage costs of such a large vessel are high, particularly as virtually no back loading of passengers or freight can be obtained ; -but the Coinmonwealth Government feels that financial -considerations ‘are less important ‘than the need ‘to obtain migrants as quickly as ‘possible. If it is a question of men versus money 1 feel that the issue must be resolved in favour of man-power because we sorely need it. *Aquitania would provide only minimum standards of comfort with large numbers of migrants on board, because it would be a very different ship from .the pre-war luxurious liner on the Atlantic run. In earlier negotiations it was proposed that Fremantle should ‘be the terminal port -but owing to the difficulty of accommodating at Perth the large number of migrants Aquitania would carry and the length of time required to move them to eastern States, because of limited transcontinental rail facilities, it is now proposed that Sydney should be the terminal port. From there, the migrants can be readily distributed to other States. Should the present negotiations be successful, the vessel is expected to be available for the Australian run in April next. I might add that the owners of the vessel are just as anxious to make it available as we are to charter it.
Fourthly, Ormonde has been released from troopship duties and has been converted for austerity travel, -with accommodation for more than 1,100 migrants. The vessel has just arrived on its first voyage to Australia, and henceforth will be used solely for migrant purposes. The United Kingdom Government has promised to make available further vessels -which are at present required for trooping duties, when British Service -personnel ‘are returned to England from India and other countries under the demobilization scheme recently announced by the British Prime Minister. Ranch, and Chitral, formerly used as troopers, are now undergoing conversion, and >when this work is finished they, too, will be used -solely for bringing migrants to Australia. In addition, -we are endeavouring to obtain Strathnaver -and Otranto immediately they are released by the United Kingdom Government and prior to their reconversion.
Fifthly, every possibility of purchasing or chartering suitable passenger shipping in the United Kingdom, Europe, ‘the
United States of America, -nr -elsewhere is being closely followed up. The -dollar position, of course, affects the situation so far as the United ‘States is concerned. It is necessary “to mention, too, that despite frequent public reference to ‘the vast amount of -shipping lying idle in the United States, most of it comprises “prewar or war-built cargo tonnage, which either is not suitable for conversion -to migrant carrying, or cannot be ‘so converted except at very high cost and for an uneconomic number of passengers. I examined this question -with Ambassador Makin and Admiral Smith, chairman of the United -States Maritime Commission, when I ‘was in Washington in August last, and the views I have outlined are those of the Admiral. ‘Contrary to poputar belief, America is itself -very short indeed of passenger ships.
Sixthly, we are investigating the possibility of constructing in Australia special migrant ships, each capable of lifting 1,000 passengers. A committee in London, on which the United Kingdom and Australian Governments and shipping interests .are represented, is also investigating the possibility of constructing in the United Kingdom large ships capable of carrying 2,50.0 migrants each, and completing four voyages a year. These latter proposals relate -to a long-term solution of the shipping problem rather than to meeting immediate needs. The question of building ships to United Kingdom and Australian Government account involves important considerations of policy in both countries, and it may take some time before final decisions are reached.
Seventhly, the question of transporting migrants in substantial numbers by :air from “the United Kingdom is now being investigated and offers -have been received from airline operators in the United Kingdom, the United “States of America, and Australia to .provide special services. This form of transport is quite practicable, even though it raises some organizational : and .financial difficulties. It is realized that it is an -emergency measure to meet exceptional circumstances, .rather than a recognized way of moving large numbers of -migrants -who ‘could ‘be “more economically carried by -sea if the ‘ships were available. Any scheme of large scale air transport for migrants will have to be considered jointly by the United Kingdom and Australian Governments, as it will involve a substantial governmental subsidy of migrants’ fares. The possibilities of air transport are demonstrated by the fact that it has .been calculated than ten DC4 aircraft in regular service could carry in twelve months 10,000 migrants. This would be equivalent to the lift in three years of a ship like Ormonde, which has a capacity for 1,100 migrants per voyage and can do three round voyages a year.
Eighthly, in the case of ordinary passenger ships now travelling between the United Kingdom and Australia, a certain number of berths on each vessel are allocated by the shipowners for free and assisted passage migrants. Negotiations are being carried on at my request by the Australian High Commissioner in London with ship-owners to secure a much higher quota of such berths than has been secured during 1947. I should mention that with a special migrant ship, such as Asturias, as distinct from normal passenger ships carrying a quota of migrants, it has been necessary to agree to terminating voyages at Fremantle to enable a quick turnabout, and more voyages a year. This has made it necessary for the Commonwealth to arrange for the temporary accommodation of migrants at former military camps in Perth, and their onward movement to eastern States by various means of transport. The shipping position is one which will show progressive improvement over the next two or three years, even though that improvement is not as fast as we would like. Nevertheless, I am confident that as the result of my visit overseas, and with successful completion of current negotiations to which I have referred, we shall obtain transport for at least 25,000 free and assisted passage British migrants in 1948. This number is, of course, additional to the total of full fare paying passengers.
During the war years, many thousands of American servicemen visited Australia. Some married Australian girls, and nearly all of them were here long enough to make many friends, and learn to know and like our Australian way of life. Ever since the war ended, many of these
Americans, now discharged and back in civil life, have been looking with nostalgic eyes towards Australia, particularly those whose wives are Australianborn. To tap this excellent source of highly desirable migrants, the Government decided in May of this year to grant financial assistance towards the cost of passages to Australia of accepted American ex-servicemen and their dependants who wished to settle here. Working on the principle that our contribution towards the cost of such passages should not exceed the amount of our contribution towards a British migrant’s passage from the United Kingdom, the Government fixed a scale of maximum contributions under this scheme based on our contributions under the Assisted Passage Agreement with the United Kingdom.
The scheme, however, is not confined to American ex-servicemen, but is available also to all ex-servicemen, of British Empire countries, who are not normally resident in a Dominion which is itself an immigrant-receiving country. It covers travel by air as well as travel by sea. For the time being, the scheme is limited to ex-servicemen of the United Kingdom, Empire countries and the United States of America, but the Government will review it at an early dato with a view to including in it allied cx-servicemen of other countries.
The administration of the scheme abroad is done by Australian representatives, and in important centres, by specially-selected Australian immigration officers. In addition, British consular officials have undertaken to assist in interviewing prospective migrants, and arranging passages from countries where there are no Australian official representatives.
Action has been taken to see that this scheme will not aggravate our present housing difficulties. Again, the three highest priorities have been accorded to migrants who are assured of accommodation, and are classed as essential workers for Australian industry, or readily employable. Of these, the highest priority is given to married ex-servicemen whose wives are Australian-born, or were formerly residents of Australia, and who are essential workers, and have accommodation assured for them. The fourth and fifth priorities cover single migrants who are essential workers or are readily employable.
Although the scope of the scheme is world-wide, it is to the United States of America we must look for the majority of those who will avail themselves of it. Already, 10,000 applications have been received in the United States of America, representing some 20,000 potential migrants. To deal with these applications and to select migrants who will be of the greatest benefit to our economy, trained immigration officers with knowledge of Australian industrial requirements have been attached to the Australian Consulates-General at New York and San Francisco.
The first party of 70 United States migrants to benefit from the scheme arrived in Australia in September, and further parties which have arrived since then have brought the total to 206. While this is a useful start, it is obvious that we will not increase our population by any substantial number while we depend upon the very limited passenger shipping at present plying between America and Australia. With this in mind, I took action while in America recently to institute negotiations with the Matson Line for two additional vessels to be put on the San FranciscoSydney run with the aid of a subsidy by the Commonwealth Government against loss on operation. These negotiations are still proceeding, and if mutually satisfactory arrangements can be made, each ship will be able to carry 3,900 United States migrants a year, based on 650 passengers per voyage, and a round voyage every two months.
Spending dollars to bring American exservicemen to Australia will benefit Australia from a financial as well as a population aspect, as experience has shown that new settlers, after they have realized their assets, invariably have a certain amount of capital to take with them to establish a home or set up a business in their country of adoption. In the case of American migrants, this capital is often substantial, and almost invariably considerably exceeds the amount the Commonwealth is required to pay in. dollars to help to bring them here. It is calculated on average figures at present avail- able that in six months of operation of these two ships, a transfer to Australia of upwards of 2,000,000 dollars will be effected.
As honorable members are aware, at the end of the war, several million homeless or displaced persons were scattered over Europe. Many of them have already been repatriated to their home countries, but many others no longer wish, or are unable, to return to their homelands for (political or other reasons. To-day, there are in Germany some S50,000 displaced persons, mainly of Baltic, Polish and Yugoslav origin. Their occupations are many and varied, and they include . agriculturists, hospital workers, shipwrights, light manufacturing workers, building workers, engineers, as well as dentists, doctors and other professional men. These people, whose normal standards of living have been compatible with our own, and who even now do not. in a large proportion of cases, consist of depressed classes, represent an ideal source of migrants who will fit smoothly into our way of life and who will help to meet Australia’s labour shortages in the fields of industry and agriculture.
Australia is a full member of and a financial contributor to the International Refugee Organization set up by the United Nations and, therefore, has a definite responsibility for contributing to the solution of the displaced persons’ problem. After visiting a number pf displaced persons’ camps in Germany during my recent visit to Europe, I was pleased to be able to sign, on the 21st July, an agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, with the Preparatory Commission of the Internationa] Refugee Organization covering the admission to Australia of displaced persons from Europe. This agreement, which has since been described by the International Refugee Organization as a “model agreement”, provides that the Commonwealth shall have the full right of selection of migrants, which will be carried out without discrimination as to race or religion. Heads’ of families selected may be accompanied by all members of their immediate families, and by such other relatives as are dependent on and reside with them. Any selected immigrant who goes to Australia unaccompanied by relatives or dependants shall, after three months’ residence in Australia, have the right to nominate such relatives and dependants for admission. Approval by the Commonwealth of such nominations will be conditional upon the migrant having satisfactorily demonstrated his worth, and being in a position to receive and support the dependants after their arrival in Australia. All expenses incurred in moving selected immigrants to Australia will be met by the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organization, which will also be responsible for providing transport. The Commonwealth, in turn, has agreed to make an ex gratia payment of £10 in English currency per adult towards the extra cost incurred in moving immigrants to Australian ports as compared with the cost of moving them to South American ports. The Commonwealth Government has accepted full responsibility for the reception of these migrants and their settlement in employment. The migrants themselves, however, are required to remain at least one year in the employment to which they are allocated. It is intended generally to employ them in country areas rather than in the cities, and many will go to rural employment.
Initially it was decided that 12,000 displaced persons should be brought to Australia annually under the agreement, but the Commonwealth is willing to increase this number to 20,000 a year. To implement this agreement, an Australian selection team, including doctors, has been appointed, and operates under the aegis of the head of the Australian Military Mission at Berlin. Migrants are selected on the basis of their suitability for employment and absorption into our Australian community. They undergo medical examination by Australian doctors, including X-ray examinations for tuberculosis, and are subject to a triple security screening. While waiting for ships, selected migrants are accommodated in a transit camp under the Australian flag and are given preliminary instructions in elementary English, arithmetic - including weights and measures, coin values, &c. - and social studies, including our way of life. These studies will be continued during the voyage to Australia.
As I mentioned previously, the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organization is responsible under the agreement for finding shipping to carry displaced persons to Australia. The first ship, General Heintzelman carrying 843 European migrants of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian origin, is on its way to Australia and is due in Fremantle towards the end of this month. This party comprises 729 male and 114 female workers, all of whom are single persons with an average age of 24 years. Later sailings of further parties are scheduled for the 30th November, and the 26th January and the 8th February, 194S. To accommodate these displaced persons until they are settled in employment, a former military camp at Bonegilla, near Wodonga, has been fitted out as a reception and training centre. At this camp the migrants will be given a further course of instruction in utilitarian English, Australian social conditions and other subjects which will assist their easy absorption into the community.
The Commonwealth Office of Education is arranging for the provision of suitable teachers, and it is proposed that each migrant will attend classes of instruction covering a period of from four to five hours daily. During leisure hours, they will be shown films supplied by the Department of Information and dealing with aspects of Australia’s economy. After the migrants have been placed in employment in various States, their education will be continued either by classes in those areas where sufficient numbers of migrants can be assembled, or by correspondence, including the distribution of literature in the more remote areas. The Commonwealth Employment Service has undertaken to co-operate in placing European migrants in employment. Since they will have been selected with a view to meeting our known labour requirements, there will be no difficulty in securing suitable employment with a minimum of delay for all the displaced persons who are brought here. The decision to accommodate these migrants on arrival in a well-organized reception and training centre is an entirely new departure from previous immigration plans. It is, in fact, revolutionary, and is the first experiment of its kind to be undertaken in this country. I am confident that it can only result in much benefit, both to Australia, and to the migrant who will, in addition to continuing his lessons in English, be informed on Australian conditions as well as the benefits and obligations of Australian citizenship.
I also obtained while abroad first-hand knowledge of the prospects of securing immigrants from various northern and western European countries, and discussed with representatives of these countries the problems associated with the migration to Australia of their nationals. I found that Denmark, Norway and Sweden each has a labour shortage as great relatively as our own, and that the governments of these countries are unwilling to encourage their people to emigrate. However, there was no tendency to oppose actively the departure of their nationals, or to stand in the way of those who might wish to settle in Australia provided the numbers wishing to go did not reach large proportions of the populations. While these Scandinavian peoples are highly desirable as immigrants, it is obvious that we can expect only very small numbers of them to come to Australia as permanent settlers in the near future. In any case, they number no more than 13,000,000 all told.
France is in a somewhat similar, if not more difficult, position, being extremely short of manual workers, particularly farm labourers. France has itself adopted schemes of large-scale immigration in an effort to overcome these shortages. Nevertheless, the Director of Administrative Agreements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mousquet) indicated that he could see no objection to the French Government entering into an agreement with the Australian Government for the migration to Australia of French people who were not in employment categories already in short supply in France.
Since my last statement on immigration policy in this House, the Australian Government has entered into agreement with the Netherlands Emigration Foundation, an organization which carries the full official backing of the Netherlands Government, for the migra- tion to Australia of Dutch nationals. This agreement, which was effected by an exchange of letters at the end of last year, provides for the admission to Australia of Netherlands migrants who are required to possess very much smaller amounts of landing money than is usually required of foreign migrants, on the undertaking of the Netherlands Emigration Foundation to set up an organization in Australia to attend to the reception, placement in employment, and after-care of migrants. The Netherlands Authorities are responsible for providing shipping. Initially, it is proposed to bring to Australia farm workers at the rate of 50 per month. When the employment situation in Holland permits, consideration will be given to the extension of the scheme to other categories of workers.
Up to now, the Netherlands authorities have been unable to arrange for suitable ships to carry these migrants to Australia. While in Europe, I visited The Hague and, with the Australian Minister, Mr. Officer, discussed shipping and other problems with the Netherlands Prime Minister and the Director of the Netherlands Emigration Foundation. From them I received assurances of Holland’s keenness to encourage migration to Australia. As a result of our discussions, I feel confident that the agreement with the Netherlands Emigration Foundation will be fully implemented early in 1948, and Dutch shipping interests are now exploring the possibility of chartering migrant ships until their own vessels can be converted back to passenger carrying.
Until recently, the only representatives of the Department of Immigration abroad were the Chief Migration Officer, London, and his staff, situated in offices at Australia House. With the progress of our plans for the introduction of Europeans, Americans, and for increasing the flow of new settlers from the United Kingdom and other countries, it has been necessary to augment the staff of the Chief Migration Officer in London, and to establish offices at Berlin, Paris, New York, San Francisco and New Delhi. In Cairo, an officer of the Department of Information represents the Department of Immigration also.
During my mission abroad, I investigated the necessity for establishing offices also at Oslo and The
Hague. It was proposed that the Oslo office would cover Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but I found that the governments of those countries are no’ keen to encourage their people to migrate overseas; consequently the establishment of an Australian Immigration Office at Oslo would not be warranted for the present. On the other hand, the operation of the Dutch agreement will warrant the appointment of a Commonwealth immigration representative in the Netherlands, and I hope to be in a position to announce soon that my department has a permanent office established a; The Hague.
During 1946, the record number of 7,126 certificates of naturalization was issued to persons of 41 different nationalities. For the first half of 1947, 1,654 certificates were issued comprising 33 different nationalities. In previous years, the number of certificates issued rarely exceeded 1,500 in any one year. The “ranting of naturalization is one of the most effective means of facilitating the assimilation of the non-British members of our population. I would emphasize that naturalization is granted only after full investigation of the applicant’s character and general fitness to become a British subject.
In the statement on immigration policy which I made to the House in November, 1946, I said that the present procedure connected with the taking of the oath of allegiance by applicants for naturalization left much to be desired. The Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council considered this matter, at my request, and has recommended that the administration of the oath should be conducted in open court, accompanied by an appropriate and dignified induction ceremony, which should include the delivery of an address to the applicants by the presiding judge or magistrate. An appropriate form of oath of allegiance, and suitable arrangements for induction ceremonies are now under consideration. The Immigration Advisory Council has also recommended that the Department of Immigration should issue a pamphlet for the guidance of prospective citizens, which would describe to them in simple language our historical background, our mode of government and the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship. I have approved this recommendation and the preparation of the pamphlet is now in hand as part of a campaign designed to accelerate the assimilation of the alien newcomers.
A conference of experts of the British Commonwealth was held in London during February to discuss nationality questions. Representatives of my Department of Immigration and of the. Attorney-General’s Department attended*.. The conference dealt with many phasesrelating to the acquisition, and loss, or British nationality. Among the most, important matters discussed were: (a)the adoption of a system of legislationwhich combines citizenship with themaintenance of the common status of British subjects throughout the British Commonwealth; and (&) the national status of married women. The general view of the conference was that the adoption of a scheme of legislation which would combine local citizenship with the maintenance of the common status of British subjects would be desirable. As such a system would give clear recognition to the separate identity of the particular countries of the Commonwealth, would clarify the position with regard to diplomatic protection, and would enable a government, when making treaties with other countries, to define with precision who are the persons belonging to its country and on whose behalf it is negotiating. It would also enable each country to make alterations in its nationality laws without having first, as under existing nationality laws is now necessary, to consult the other countries of the British Commonwealth and ascertain whether the contemplated alterations would impair the common status.
In regard to the national status of married women, the conference took the view that they should not be under any disability as regards nationality law.
Canada has already passed a citizenship act, which, in addition to providing for the acquisition and loss of Canadian citizenship, provides that all Canadian citizens are British subjects, and that all persons who are British subjects by the law of any other part of the Commonwealth shall be recognized in Canada as British subjects. Following the recommendations of the Nationality Conference, the United Kingdom Government introduced a bill which makes provision for British nationality and for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies. My department, in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department, has the recommendations of the Nationality Conference, the provisions of the Canadian act and the United Kingdom bill under consideration with a view to the submission to Cabinet of a recommendation for the introduction of legislation on similar lines. Both in the Canadian act and the United Kingdom bill, the national status of a woman will not be affected by her marriage. In Australia, we already have an act passed last year which provides that a British woman who married an alien while she was resident in Australia would not, by reason of her marriage, lose her British nationality in Australia. It is satisfactory to know that there is every prospect of Empire-wide recognition being given to this principle.
Representatives of 37 countries met at Geneva during April, to consider proposals for simplifying passport and visa formalities for nonimmigrant travellers including travellers by air. The Commonwealth was represented at this conference by officers of my department. The question of the total abolition of passports and of substituting passenger cards for passports in the case of non-immigrant travellers by air was considered by the conference to be impracticable at present. Of the twenty-six recommendations made by the conference, twenty had already been operating in this country. I have approved of the other recommendations, with the exception of that relating^ to the abolition of entry and transit visas by means of bilateral agreements between countries. This question will receive further consideration at a later date. A recommendation by the International Civil Aviation Organization of the United Nations for the adoption of a universal form in respect of immigration requirements to be completed by air travellers has been approved by me, and action is being taken to amend the immigration regulations to give effect to this. It is intended to apply the amended form to travellers by sea as well as by air.
As I pointed out in a recent statement in this House, the Government in power in 1938 agreed to admit to Australia up to 15,000 refugees from Nazi oppression. A little less than half of that number had arrived when the outbreak of war put an end to such immigration for the time being. The end of the war saw some thousands of close relatives of those who had already arrived in a worse plight than ever, and as all immigrant-receiving countries were being urged to accept a quota of displaced persons, it was considered that Australia should make an initial contribution by agreeing to receive a few thousands of those who had relatives here who could undertake to look after them on arrival and to provide them with accommodation. The grant of permits has not by any means been confined to refugee aliens since the cessation of hostilities. During 1946, landing permits were issued to persons of 43 different nationalities. Up to the 30th June of this year, permits had been issued to the nationals of 32 different countries. British subjects of European race do not require landing permits to enter Australia.
With a view to assisting the reestablishment of the pearling industry, and because a number of Malays, Koepangers and some other Asiatics who were employed on pearling boats before the war were still here on account of war conditions, approval was given for those men to remain in Australia for this year, provided they resumed their employment in this industry. The Government’s policy is to encourage and assist the training of Australians for this work, but such training will take time, and at present there is insufficient experienced Australian labour to man the available pearling boats. It will be appreciated that most of the Australian shell is exported to the United States of America, where ruling prices are high. It is therefore a distinct advantage to Australia to have its dollar exchange position in the United States increased by an amount of at least 500,000 dollars through the sale of pearl shell. Legal advice given recently in connexion with cases where my department wished to rid this country of certain undesirables has indicated that there are weaknesses in the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act. Consideration is now being given to the introduction of legislation which will strengthen our powers in this respect.
On the 10th June, assent was given to the Aliens Act 1947, and by proclamation this act will come into operation as from the 1st January, 1948. The act provides for the registration of all aliens sixteen years of age and over, subject to certain exemptions, who are resident in the Commonwealth on the 1st January, 1948, or who may subsequently enter the Commonwealth for permanent residence. In addition to registering, all aliens are required to notify any change of address or occupation. The act also provides that no alien shall be permitted to change his surname without the consent, in writing, of the Minister or an officer authorized by the Minister. If resident in a capital city, an alien will register direct with the office of the Com-: monwealth Migration Officer of that particular city. If resident outside a capital city area, the alien will obtain the necessary forms from the nearest post office with money order facilities and return them completed to that office. Aliens arriving in the Commonwealth in future will be formally registered before they leave the vessel or aircraft. Persons exempt from this procedure will be displaced persons who arrive under the terms of the special agreement mentioned earlier. As these people will be housed temporarily in a staging camp before being placed in employment, they will be formally registered while in camp.
The register of aliens, as provided for in the act, will be separate for each State. In addition, a complete alphabetical index of all registered aliens in the Commonwealth will be maintained in the Department of Immigration, Canberra. Provision has also been made for separate indexes in each State relating to nationality, occupations and locality. For convenience it has been agreed that the boundaries of each locality shall be the same as for federal electorates. With records of this nature, information will be readily available as to the number, nationality and occupation of aliens residing at any given time in any particular locality in the Commonwealth. It will thus be possible to check to some extent the flow of aliens to any area and to watch how they are being absorbed. The information will also enable the Government to implement its immigration policy on sound and scientific lines. Since the beginning of World War I., many attempts have been made to provide for the registration of aliens, but, after a period, the emergency measures introduced have lapsed. By implementing the Aliens Act of 1947, the Government will maintain at all times a complete record of all aliens residing in Australia. The Government also intends to ensure, as far as possible, that all aliens admitted to Australia will get help to become good Australians and, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Office of Education and the Department of Information, the Department of Immigration will arrange for a system of education of all such aliens. Nothing of this nature has been attempted to date, and both the Australian community and the alien suffered in consequence. If we desire to assimilate new-comers quickly, we must help them. Past failures to do so must not be repeated in future.
Another very important, aspect associated with the assimilation of aliens is the necessity for the “conditioning” of Australians to the reception of migrants. I believe this can be achieved with the assistance and co-operation of the radio, newspapers and the film industry. With the co-operation of the State education authorities, it is also proposed to prepare the mind of the Australian child towards the alien child who will attend the same school. At a recent conference of State Directors of Education and the Commonwealth Education Office full support to such a project was promised by all States. The Government desires to help all aliens to appreciate the privileges and benefits as well as the obligations and responsibilities of Australian citizenship, so that they will be anxious to become naturalized as soon as they have the necessary residential and other qualifications.
Honorable members will have gathered from this survey that the new life blood which will make Australia’s national heart beat with the strong and measured pulse of prosperity and security has now begun to flow. Our target of 70,000 immigrants a year cannot be achieved yet, because of the transport difficulties which I have explained at length. But I have reason to hope that we will gain a minimum of 50,000 new Australians from all sources during 1948 and that in the succeeding years the figure will increase at a rate which will ensure a peaceful and a prosperous future for all who are fortunate enough to share the bounty of this great land. it take this opportunity of recording my appreciation of the understanding and -support I have received as Minister for Immigration from ‘both sides of this House, from members of the Senate, and “from all sections of the Australian community. The question of immigration must always be kept on the highest plane ©’f national policy. It is not a subject for fatuous disputation; rather it is a matter for the best thoughts of every man and woman who thinks of the nation’s future. The Australian people Gan help to ensure the success of our immigration plans by extending a warm friendship to our new citizens, be they Englishmen, or Americans or displaced persons just escaping from yesterday’s nightmare.
These people - let me put it bluntly - are coming to help us as well as coming to share our good fortune. They will help our nation to grow to its full stature of strength and security which only adequate numbers can give. Let us receive them as friends and fellow citizens who have chosen to make our destiny theirs and to share with us whatever dangers, trials of national strength and ultimate triumphs the future may hold in store for us and our descendants. We have not unlimited time to build our strength or plan our future. Our decisions now must be the right ones, otherwise our Australian nation might not survive beyond the lives of the children of this generation.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Ordered to be printed.
– I have received from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The complete breakdown in the proper administration and provision of services in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, and particularly the failure to provide reasonable living accommodation for many white men and women, the breakdown in continuity of fresh food supplies and essentials, and the unsympathetic attitude of the responsible Minister towards Australians attempting to re-establish themselves in these Territories.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– Ordinarily, under the Standing Orders, a period of two hours can be devoted to a motion of this character, but on this occasion that time has been reduced by a ruse on the part of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and his colleague, the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). The Minister for Information has just read a statement consisting of 25 pages of typewritten foolscap, instead of moving for the printing of the paper, as is usually done. Thus, instead of two hours being made available to debate this matter, the debate will, if the House adjourns at 1 p.m., have to conclude at that hour, the total time thus being reduced to 50 minutes. The Government, instead of moving the “gag”, now adopts the tactics of the “ smother “ in order to prevent the ventilation of grievances of people who have no representation in the Parliament. The reason for this motion and the many questions which have been asked about New Guinea and Papua by honorable members on this side of the chamber, is- that those territories are completely unrepresented’ either in the Parliament or in the territories- mentioned, the advisory council having: ceased to- exist since the outbreak of the war-. Therefore, these people have neither spokesmen, organisations, or- any other constitutional, means to ventilate their claims, unless they be taken up by a member of the Parliament.
I submit this- motion largely because of the- misrepresentation on the part of both the Minister for External Territories and the Prime Minister- (Mr. Chifley) himself, with respect to an interview and- discussions which took place between them, and Colonel Allan,, who is a- resident of New Guinea. Efforts have been made to discredit Colonel Allan, by representing him to be an irresponsible person, and as- one whose statements could be disregarded as. having- no foundation.
Because of the importance of this matter, I desire to give some idea of the status of Colonel Allan in New Guinea. He has been a resident of the- territory for more than 25 years. He has been a planter; he has been, and is still engaged in business-; and he has been associated with practically all the activities of the territory. He served in “World War I., and in New Guinea in World War II., he was colonel in charge of the Pacific native regiments. Therefore, he. is a person of some standing. He was also the official representative from New Guinea at the- Returned Sailors-, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia Congress- held in- Canberra a few weeks ago. It was while he was attending that congress that I made his acquaintance, and arranged-, to introduce a- deputation to the Prime Minister-. Certain representations’ were made by Colonel Allan. The Prime Minister said that the Minister for External Territories has since exploded a number of them. I shall show what Colonel Allan said, and what has been done. Colonel Allan- is a fearless man. He might possibly be subjected to intimidation by this Administration, which stops at no. form- of victimization of its critics. If there is. any attempt to victimize Colonel Allan for his statements,, he will, have in his support, not only, members, of the, Opposition in. this
House, but also, the whole w.eight of the Returned Sailors,. Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I warn the- Minister for External Territories andi the Government of the consequences of’ any attempt to victimize Colonel Allan.
This gentleman is one of the few, men who asked, that his name- be mentioned- in the House in connexion with these matters; who asked for a royal commission, and’ who. asked for the right to. appear before any inquiry which the Government instituted in order that he might state the facts. The facts are these : First, there are complaints about food supplies. I have not time to deal with, them in detail, but the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) received a telegram stating that there is a shortage of clothing, rice and; fresh meat for the natives ; that there is no benzine, lubricating oils, bread, flour,, cigarettes or fresh food available for the white settlers or the natives. In addition there is a lack of. copra sacks. The telegram which Colonel Allan despatched is long, and’ I shall not read all of i4. but it contains these words -
I am prepared to affirm all the above before a royal commission or any other inquiry.
That is. the statement’ of a man who has a knowledge o£ the circumstances, and the courage of hia convictions. He has mentioned that white- w.omen in New Guinea, who are> expectant- mothers, are- living in tents, under- the most, appalling conditions’ in. the steaming tropical climate without any conveniences. As the result of these statements; we have made representations in this. House, and the Minister replied: that the- allegations are without any foundation. Last Wednesday evening, he challenged me to produce the names of- any one who was living under such conditions. He added that my information had not. been correct. I ask the Minister whether he will apologize to-. Colonel Allan for the discreditable remarks that he made about him, if I produce the list of names. I have in my hand a telegram which I received from New Guinea last night. I had sent a telegram to Colonel Allan informing him- t-hat the Minister had challenged his statement, and asking him whether he. could furnish the names of pers-ons living, under these deplorable conditions in tents, and so forth. I received the following reply -
Following in or near Rabaul now living mostly in tents, some in humpies built of salvaged black iron, tarpaulins and bush timber. All have been unable obtain building materials. District officer states his instruction not to sell timber sawn by administration. No timber available from other sources. List follows: Morgan and wife expectant mother; Mitchell and wife expectant mother; Barrett, Orr Harper and family, Peterson, wife and child, Rundnagel, Rhoa.des, Limes and wife, Conroy and wife, Gilmour and family, Mrs. Green, King, Fairclough. Catholic mission assured me yesterday many their people still living in tents. Cun obtain list from them in two days. Government Secretary in Rabaul last Thursday, twentieth-
I ask honorable members to note that date -
He was given a list of the above people and told where he could inspect.
Yet on the night of the 26th November, although the Minister is in radio communication with his head-quarters at Rabaul or Port Moresby, he described these statements as lies. I have supplied the list of the people who are living under these conditions, and I challenge the Minister to refute my statement. When he does attempt to do so, as he undoubtedly will, he will say that the statements are an exaggeration. No doubt he will mention that he saw in a newspaper a picture of Colonel Allan standing in front of a tent, and he will allege, as he did a few nights ago, that Colonel Allan was endeavouring to convey the idea that he was living in a tent. We never said that he was living in a tent. The statements which he made were uttered on behalf of his fellow ex-servicemen and other white settlers of New Guinea. He never pretended that he is not living in better quarters than canvas.
Other statements were made in the interview with the Prime Minister. It was pointed out that the Commonwealth Bank, which now has a monopoly of banking business in the territory, because the Bank of New South Wales has not been able to re-open its branch since the end of the war, was refusing advances to settlers on their copra unless they delivered it to the depots of the Copra Production Board. Because shipping was not available . the settlers could not deliver their copra to those depots. The consequence was that copra was piling up on the plantations. When the Bank of New South Wales operated, the settlers could obtain advances to enable them to carry on, but the Commonwealth Bank, which now has a complete monopoly, told the settlers that it was not a trading bank, and that unless they delivered their copra to the depots they would not receive an advance. The Prime Minister was informed about this position. I was present at the interview. Since then, I have not referred to the matter because I considered that it was not proper for me to cio so ; but as the Prime Minister and the Minister attempted to discredit Colonel Allan a few nights ago, I now state that I have received from him a letter referring to the Commonwealth Bank in Rabaul -
The interview hud the effect of making the hank now act as a trading bank. Bequests for accommodation that were refused before ure now being met.
– Then the interview with the Prime Minister produced some results ?
– It certainly produced this result, but the Prime Minister said that the statements of Colonel Allan at the interview were without foundation. However, as the result of the interview, the Commonwealth Bank is now acting as a trading bank.
Colonel Allan also raised the question of natives who had collaborated with the Japanese during World War II. He pointed out that many of these natives had been re-appointed to positions of authority and influence as leaders of various kinds in the native communities. He pointed out to the Prime Minister that the New Guinea native was not altogether an illogical person, that he thought for himself, and that he asked why these collaborators had been re-appointed to their former positions, and where did the loyal men stand. The Prime Minister asked to be supplied with names and other particulars. Well, I have a letter from Colonel Allan dated the 21st November. Since that date the Prime Minister stated that his remarks were without foundation. The letter reads -
I have furnished the Prime Minister with the details of copra production and also a list of names of natives who collaborated with the
Japanese. These details were asked for during my interview, by Mr. Ward. I have sent them to the Prime Minister and I think that he will have passed them to Mr. Ward.
Every detail of the statements he made he has backed up with evidence and names. Therefore, I, as the person who introduced the deputation to the Prime Minister, resent the effort made in this House, in order to defend the rotten administration of the Minister, to discredit a man who has given a lifetime of service to Australia in the Territory of New Guinea.
I again refer to the matter of housing. The honorable .member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has handed me a letter from one of his constituents, who writes -
Another relative (a woman who is a widow of a planter lost on the boat with all those other brave New Guinea settlers) is living in a tent at Rabaul. The rains have started and all her clothes are being eaten by rats or else mildewed and only allowed, when she can get the labour to do it, to build a native thatch house.
This is further evidence of the veracity of the statements by New Guinea settlers and other people in communication with them.
The unsympathetic treatment by the Minister of the dependants of the white planters and public servants who died when Montevideo Maru was sunk ought also to be brought into the picture. Montevideo Maru was carrying to Japan, as prisoners of war, practically all the white men who were in New Guinea when it was over-run by the Japanese. They were Australians who gave a lifetime of service to that country. Many of them had been in New Guinea for fifteen or twenty years. While they were posted as missing and their fate was unknown, their widows received ex gratia payments from the Australian Government to sustain them, but when the Government discovered that they had been killed and were not soldiers but officials of the administration, whose dependants were entitled to superannuation payments, it deducted from the superannuation payments an amount equal to that which the widows had received as ex gratia payments pending determination of their fate. One of them is (he widow of Mr. Harold Page, who was a brother of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page).
There are dozens of points that I could make had I the opportunity, but, as my time is drawing to a close, I must content myself with saying that the settlers of New Guinea think so little of the Australian administration that I recently received from the settlers at Lae a petition asking whether it is possible for them, because of their failure to get justice from their own Government, to petition the Mandates Commission for justice. We all know that that is impracticable, but it is indicative of their resentment of the administration presided over by the Minister for External Territories.
We have raised matters concerning New Guinea in the mildest possible manner, in order to save the Minister from embarrassment. .1 have always framed my questions about New Guinea in courteous terms, but the Minister’s replies have always been abusive. The time has come when opposition members must ask the Government, “What are your plans in respect of white settlement in New Guinea? How much do you care about what is happening there if you have no regard for the welfare of Australians who are endeavouring to people our outposts? What do you intend to do in order to remedy the position?” If statements made about the conditions in New Guinea can be refuted, let them be refuted, not by an ex parte statement by the Minister, but by a select committee of the Parliament or, better still, a royal commission. Colonel Allan is prepared to allow his name to be used. He is the official representative of the exservicemen in the territory. If there should be any doubt as to the truth of the statements I have made - I have no doubt - let them be contradicted on oath.
.- I strongly support what has been said by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). This debate arises from a telegram from Colonel Allan that I read on the motion for the adjournment on Tuesday night. In it he brought to the notice of the House the trials that are being suffered by white settlers in New Guinea. I asked the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) to ensure that supplies were flown to them. In reply,the Minister indulged in his customary abuse, and said that what I had said was a figment of my imagination. He talked about” furpheys “, and endeavoured to defame Colonel Allan. I endorse what was said by the honorable member for Richmond about Colonel Allan. He is one of many men who have given the best years of their lives to the development of New Guinea, which was our protector in the war. The settlers, a great many of whom served in World War I., assisted our troopsto victory. One hundred public servants and planters lost their lives when the MonevideoMaru was sunk. We read recently that 24 white men and one boy were strangled in New guinea by the Japanese. Someof the widows of those men are eking out aslender living by various means in New Guinea, hamperedby an inefficient administration led by an unsympathetic Minister. It is hightime that something was done. About a year ago, I placed on the notice-paper the following notice of motion : -
Thatajointselectcommitteebeappointed toinquireintoandreportuponthe following:-
When eventually it arose for consideration, the Minister spoke after I had spoken and then obtained leave to continue his remarks at a later date, after which he went abroad, where he posed as a great benefactor of New Guinea. According to the Imperial Review, this “ dynamic Labour man is shortly going on another expedition to New Guinea “.
By all means, let him go there to get the facts and act on them. My motion has been brushed aside.
– Do not emphasize that too much. If I had seen that motion onthe notice-paper, I would not have allowed this debate.
-Colonel Allan served not only in World War I. but also World War II., and he fought at Tobruk and New Guinea.I have been told it is a fact that some of those whose lives were lost might have been with us to-day had the Government acted swiftly. A neutral ship was in port. Telegrams were sent to the Government. I was abroad at the time and do not know myself, but I understand that the same Minister was in charge then as now. I understand that, had the Government acted as swiftly as it should have the late Mr. Harold Page, an efficient administrator and headof the New Guinea Public Service, and others might have been alive to-day.
I propose to look at the situation as it exists. Many young ex-servicemen who want to settle in New Guinea are not allowed to do so. Nobody is allowed to go there without a permit from the Minister. The producers are underpaid for their copra, upon which a tax of £6 a ton is imposed, for which there is no statutory authority of which I know. The produce is socialized, taken out of their hands, and sold as the Government wills. The producers are isolated and the morale of the natives is being destroyed. Only the big companies will survive ; the small man will be driven out.
I received this morning an indignant letter in which my correspondent stated that she had read with great indignation the report in the Melbourne Argus of the Minister’s reply to Colonel Allan’s statement. The letter goes into detail about a relative who has for a year been trying to establish himself, and the writer concludes by asking whether the Minister, like her brother, would care to live on kanaka food for a year because of lack of supplies. I have just received another report from New Guinea, in which it is said -
Two-fifths of the available shipping at Port Moresby is out of action. Fifty per cent. of the ^hipping at Samarai is out of action. Fifty per ,cen,t. ,of the shipping at Rabaul is out of action. Two-thirds of the shipping is out of action at Madang.
Mr. Warchope, one of the biggest planters there, a man whose plantation I have visited and a man who is looked on with great esteem, confirmed all that .Colonel Allan said. Yesterday, a fictitious question was asked on this matter. One honorable member asked the Minister if he had any reply to make to a question I had asked. I never asked any question about it; I made a statement cm the motion for the adjournment. In reply, the Minister repeated his abuse and his defamation of the man who was “ game “ enough to come forward and make these revelations. They have all been confirmed by other planters. This statement goes on-
Ninety per cent, of the plantations on the Bougainville coast will have two to three months’ accumulation of copra; by the end pf December, and owing to. the central administration’s demand for preference for shipping foi- Moresby, these plantations will not have iwy bags wherewith to bag their copra. It is a safe estimate that almost eyer.y plantation on the Bougainville coast will have ceased .production by. the end of the year; and by February next, unless, a miracle happens, 75 per cent, of the plantatious will have to be abandoned.
My .correspondent goes, on to say - and this, is the crux of the mattei -
Hie administration at Port Moresby is just not interested in anything outside Moresby.
Tha; is proved by the fact that the Minister. is spending large sums of -money on the building qf a fancy village close to. Port Moresby, for a group of sophisticated natives. When his actions are criticized, he says that those who criticize him are the friends of the exploiter. But if this policy is continued for much longer, only the big companies will survive. Because of the difficulties and embarrassments with which he is faced owing to, the actions of the present Administration, the small man will not be able to continue. If the Minister does not quickly rectify the position by flying in supplies, by attending to these very human problems and by doing a fair thing, the Prime Minister should call upon him to resign. The Prime Minister supported the Minister yesterday, and when questions were asked during the week, the right honorable gentleman spoke of their being asked by irresponsible people. I have numbers of letters here, but one does not get an opportunity to bring them forward except on an occasion such as this.
I have pressed for a select committee to inquire into these matters. When this matter was raised before, it was said that all the honorable member for Balaclava wanted was a free trip to New Guinea. I have been to almost every part of New Guinea, and I wish I could say the same of the Minister. I am prepared to go there at my own expense, as are many members of the Opposition, and to come back and state what I have seen. I prefer to believe the evidence of this witness rather than to accept the customary denials and refutations from a Minister whose reliability in these matters we on this side of the House have never trusted. If a select committee is not set up, then nothing but a royal commission should satisfy the people. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, this great and rich territory will soon have to be evacuated by its white settlers. I have letters here to that effect, and, in particular, one from a man who has been trying to get back on his plantation for years.
– Read it to us.
– I have not the time to do so. I will read it to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who is noted only for his interjections, later.
The Minister says he is going to New Guinea, and I hope he is. I hope he will look at these things and put them right. If he does not, the time will come when he should surrender his portfolio to somebody -who will be more active, o.r when a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the whole of the affairs of this great, valuable and rich territory that is in o,ur custody and which we should develop and govern fairly.
.- The House has just listened to statements made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). They consisted mainly pf personal abuse of myself, and contained no matter based upon fact or for which supporting evidence could be produced. It is somewhat peculiar that, although the honorable members say general uncertainty and unrest exist in the territories, 90 per cent, of their speeches was devoted to quoting what one individual, a Mr. Allan, had said. He happens to he only one of the planters in the Rabaul area. As to the statements made by Mr. Allan, some are in the process of investigation, but those statements which have been sifted have been proved to have no foundation. The honorable member for Richmond,. who has a reputation in this Parliament for making allegations which eventually he has to abandon because the facts will not support them, is again “ barking up the wrong tree “.
The matter has been investigated, and not, as the honorable member for Richmond said, only by the Government secretary. It is quite true that the Government secretary went to the Rabaul area to investigate these charges, but an investigation was also made by another Commonwealth officer, a Mr. Ian MacDonald, from the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. In his report, Mr. MacDonald stated -
No white settler is living in a tent, and should any European in the Rabaul district live in such a state it would only be because of his own volition or inertia.
– I have given the names to the Minister.
– The honorable gentleman can rest assured that a record will be made of the names he has mentioned and that a report will be obtained in respect of these particular cases. I received a report from the ‘Government secretary yesterday. It was claimed that white settlers in the Rabaul area could not obtain timber from the Administration mill - that the . timber was being made available to natives for the construction of native homes but was being denied to white settlers. That was one of the statements made by Mr. Allan and supported by the honorable member for Richmond.
– I did not make that statement.
– The honorable member made it clear that Mr. Allan made it.
– Let us examine the facts in regard to the Government mill at Rabaul and see whether there has been any discrimination against white .settlers. First of all, I am advised that no reasonable request for timber has been refused. As a matter of fact, in one case where a permit was given the person concerned did not even collect the timber, so evidently he did not require it. From the output of the mill in 1947, 152,000 super, feet of timber was made .available to white settlers and 22,000 super, feet was made available through the Production Control Board, and mostly diverted, to white settlers. To the natives, 1,400 super, feet of timber was made available. The timber made available to the natives was log ends, for which there is no great demand and which can be secured at the mill for £2 per load by anybody who requires it. It will be seen, therefore, that the natives have not received any special consideration.
It is perfectly true that numbers of settlers going to the external territories experience temporary difficulty. The housing shortage is acute. Many buildings were destroyed by enemy action, and because of a lack of building materials there is delay in making up the lag. The honorable member for Balaclava criticizes the Administration becau’se it operates a permit system for all people who want to go into the territories. One reason for the institution of that system iis that we want to ensure that settlers have accommodation to go to, and therefore, before a permit is issued, they are asked to give an assurance that accommodation is available for them when they arrive in the territories. Despite our endeavours in this direction, however, we are criticized because people, having furnished the undertaking required by the department, arrive in the territory, and in many cases have to live in very unsatisfactory conditions so far as housing is concerned, until more suitable accommodation can be provided. Many members of the Administration staff have to live in temporary dwellings. Up to the present, 24 dwellings have been erected at Port Moresby and an additional twelve prefabricated dwellings are about to be constructed there. In most other instances, the buildings are of a temporary character. Everybody knows of the difficulties confronting the Administration. The Department of External Territories, in co-operation with the Department of Works and Housing, is carrying out an extensive programme of development.
I shall furnish evidence to disprove the statement that there is widespread dissatisfaction with what we are doing. In the Port Moresby area alone, proposals are being developed for the installation of a hydro-electric plant estimated to cost £100,000. Earth-moving and roadmaking machinery has been sent to Port Moresby from other islands and is now being used in the repair and reconstruction of roads. Generally, the roads are in good condition. Materials are also being obtained for the construction of new wharfs. Salvage materials are being obtained from Finschaven. At Rabaul arrangements have been made for the construction of a new workshop, and -plant has been taken over from the Army and Air Force for the construction of a new township, and for other works in that area. In order to give honorable members some appreciation of the strain placed upon the Government timber mill 1 inform them that the construction of the European hospital requires 50,000 super, feet alone. We have recently completed in the Rabaul area many new buildings, including maintenance offices, customs sheds, stores, machine shops, native quarters and a native hospital. It must be evident that the requirements of these works impose a great strain on the mill. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Administration is not doing its utmost to meet the requirements not only of the natives, but also of the white settlers.
The honorable member for Richmond referred to Mr. Allan’s statement about white settlers living in tents. It was not I who said that Mr. Allan and his wife were living in a tent, it was the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial which published the story in its issue of the 26th September last. This is what the officer who inquired into the matter said in his report -
This snap portrays the grossest exaggeration of the lot. It is a tent erected for temporary use only on an outlying portion of Mr. Allan’s copra estates. Mr. Allan has, perhaps, one ofthe best homes in the Rabaul district, situated some 8 miles from Rabaul, in the Taliligap area.
It is not I who should be accused of misrepresentation, but the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial, which was evidently working in co-operation with a handful of disgruntled planters in the area. I say a handful, because by far the greater number of the planters are satisfied with what is being done. They appreciate the great difficulties facing the Administration and are aware of what the Government is doing to overcome them. While the Government Secretary was making his inquiries in Rabaul he asked the local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia whether it had any matters to submit to him. He was advised that there were none. As a matter of fact, he received many unsolicited statements from residents there praising the good work being done by the local officials, the general administration and the Public Works Department and the shipping section of the Administration.
The honorable member for Balaclava spoke of the necessity for flying food into the territories. It is true that in some towns and villages, particularly in outlying districts difficult of access, there is a shortage of fresh foods ; but there is no desperate situation, as the honorable member would have us -believe. Those who know anything about the great difficulties confronting the Administration and the long period that must be spent in rebuilding and re-organizing in the territories recognize that these temporary difficulties must arise from time to time. The same remarks apply to the shipping position. The honorable member for Balaclava has described it as terrible. The shipping position has been vastly improved and we hope that, early in the new year, shipping facilities will be adequate to meet all requirements. Since the Government resumed civil administration of New Guinea seventeen new vessels have been provided for the interisland shipping service, eight of 300 tons, and nine of 100 tons, andfive additional vessels, each of 100 tons, are now under construction in Australian shipyards and, when completed, willbe sent to the territory. The Administration had experienced great difficulty because of the lack of docking facilities which were destroyed during the war years. That position has also been vastly improved. The figures submitted by the honorable member may have reflected the state of affairs that existed some months ago,but they do not represent the position to-day. Cargo handling and docking facilities are better now than they have been since the end of the war. It is true that delays have occurred in the shipping service between the mainland and the territories. Montoro is sailing to-day with approximately 4,000 tons of cargo, and other vessels will be sailing shortly, including Malaita, on the 5th December. Wayanna is now proceeding to the territory with sufficient supplies of fresh meat and fish to keep the residents going until theother vessels arrive. One would have imagined from the honorable gentleman’s speech that shipping services had been interrupted for many months. In August, Malaita took to the territory approximately3,00 tons of cargo, Montoro inthe same month, took 3,500 tons, Merkurin September took 480 tons, and Malaita, on its second visit in October took morethan 3,000 tons. Full use isbeing made of available shipping and supplies are being despatched as regularly as possible.
The honorable member for Balaclava also referred to unfair payments being made to the planters for their copra. Both the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Richmond referred to what they described as the socialist policy being carried out by the Government in the territory, but in the next breath they said that the only people who would be able to survive would be the big men, implying that the small men would be driven out. On the one hand, the Government is accused of following a socialist policy in the interests of the small man, and on the other hand it is accused of following a policy that will only allow big men to survive. What ridiculous contradiction! The planters now receive a better price for their copra than they have ever received in the past.
Theprice of first-gradecopra on the Austrailian market is now £51 5s. a ton. Out of that amount the planter gets £35 10s., the balance being absorbed by storage, handling, freight and selling charges. The major items are freight, £1 19s. 5d. ; allowance for shrinkage, £111s. 3d. ; and customs duty, £2 7s. 6d. In addition, approximately £6 17s. 6d. is reserved for the stabilization fund. The stabilization fund was approved by the great majority of the planters. One of the great difficulties of the planters in pre-war years was the rapid fluctuations of the prices of copra. On many occasions the price received by them was below thecost of production. The stabilization fund was created to protect the planter in the event of such a situation again arising.
Let us consider whether the planters are at present suffering any great hardship by reason of the prices obtained for copra. As the result of an examination that has beenmade, the costof producing copra is estimated at £20 a ton. The planters get £35 10s. a ton for it, plus an amount placed in the stabilization fund which will eventually go back to them. Altogether, they will get approximately £42 7s. 6d. of the £51 5s.a ton at which the copra is sold in Australia. If things were so bad as the honorable member for Balaclava suggests, and white settlers were leaving their holdings, the production figures wouldreveal the situation. Although Mr. Allan said that the production of copra was decreaseing, the figures show that the opposite is true. The estimated production for the ensuing twelve months is 25,000 tons. That does not indicate that Mr. Allan is the unimpeachable witness that he has been pictured to be.
– He did not say that.
– The honorable member for Richmond criticized the Government’s policy in regard to native labour. I can understand the honorable member, who employs cheap labour on his banana farm, when he can get it, disagreeing with that policy. I canalso understand the attitude of the honorable member for Balaclava, who opposed an increase of pay from 5s. to 15s. a month to natives and who was once associated with afirm which was prosecuted for not obeying an award of the court. mr. White. - That is not so.
– The honorable member for Balaclava may make a personal explanation when the Minister has finished speaking, if he desires to do so.
Mr.WARD. - I know what is disturbing honorable members opposite. They know that the Government’s native policy is a success. The honorable member for Balaclava said that the policy would lead to a complete breakdown of the administration in the territory. There has been no breakdown of the administration, and there is no likelihood of a breakdown. The contrary its the case. Nor is there any likelihood of any departure from the policy of the Government in regard to native labour. That does not mean that the Government is not anxious to do its best to assist white residents in the territory. The success of the Government’s policy has irritated honorable members opposite and they have concentrated their attack on the Administration.
It is said that there is no discipline among the natives, and that they are not offering for employment. During the last twelve months there has been an increase of the native labour available: the number of natives who have offered for service has increased from 20,000 to 30,000. What honorable gentlemen opposite object to is that there is no great improvement of the number of indentured workers, but that an additional number of natives are offering to serve as free workers. Mr. Allan claims that the Government is not encouraging free labour among natives. He said that the Administration was refusing to allow natives, after twelve months’ indentured labour, to offer their services as free labourers. That is not true. The Administration has been instructed to encourage natives to accept employment as free labourers. It is true that a native cannot be engaged as a free labourer to work more than 25 miles from his village or outside his own home district without the permission of the Administration. Certain approvals are required, but only in order to protect natives against exploitation. No honorable member opposite is prepared to claim that there was not exploitation of the natives previously.
Let us now consider land policy in this territory. There has been a lot of loose talk at recent conferences that have been held, and statements have been made about land not being made available to white settlers. New Guinea comprises an area of 59,517,593 acres, of which 58,615,556 acres is owned by natives. Although the Government has determined that there shall be no alienation of native land which will beinimical to the interests of the natives, that does not mean that additional areas cannot be made available to white settlers. The only stipulation is that land made available to white settlers must be made available under proper conditions, approvedby the Administration, and with proper safeguards to ensure that the natives shaft not be unfairly treated.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j.s.Rosevear.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Original questionresolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Pollard) read a first time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1947.
Ministers of State Bill 1947.
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Bill 1947.
Royal Style and Titles Bill (Australia) 1947.
War Service Homes Bill (No. 2) 1947.
Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1947.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1947.
Motion (by Mr. Drakeford) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920- 1936 as amended by the Air Navigation Act 1947.
Motion (by Mr. Drakeford) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an. act to amend the Australian National Airlines Act 1945.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 90 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
Nos. 91 and 92 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 93 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association and others.
No. 94 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 95 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Nos. 96 and 97 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 98 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 99 - Postmaster-General’s Department State Heads of Branches Association.
No. 100 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Labour and National Service - D. I. Glastonbury, R. E. Hurnall.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Postal purposes -
Dalkeith, Western Australia.
Melville, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 1.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471128_reps_18_195/>.